Category Archives: The Secret

Weekly Meditation: Do It Now, Part II

So last week’s meditation was to try and do a little quiet so soul searching and find your purpose in life (short of that divine revelation, to at least focus your goals).

Again, just to reiterate this pair of blogs was inspired by the song “Do It Now” by the great Ingrid Michaelson.

So now that you have some better understanding of where you what your purpose of where you should be directing your life, I hope, we need to put that into practice. (Still don’t know what you want…then I may suggest using this Michaelson song in the meantime as your goal until you have your own purpose figured out.).

First the easy part. Come up with a 5-10 step plan on how you will get that goal (or those goals if you have more than one) done. That should be relatively easy.

And now for the hard part you knew was coming…Do it now. Take point 1 on the list for all of your goals and do it this week.

How is this a meditation? Well meditation is the art of focusing your mind on something…and nothing is more about focus then when your mind and your actions are one and directed toward a very clear goal.

Now I would also suggest, in accordance with the law of attraction that you begin and end each with 10 minutes of visualizing not just following through on that first point but all the way through each point until you achieve your goal. But visualization are not cure for actually getting starting and doing it right now.

“But…”
No.

“But…”
I don’t care
“But….”
You really do not seem to be getting the message…

DO IT NOW. This week. I don’t care what it takes, I don’t care if you need to take a day off work. Even if you need to take a few hundred out of savings. DO IT NOW. And if your first step cannot be done in a week, then clearly you need to break that down into smaller pieces as well.

Now if you’re already in the middle of achieving your goals, this certainly can’t hurt you.  But if, as the song says “you’re living to die” then you need to get out of your morass and start living.

But to move forward this week you need to start working toward every goal you have.

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The Law of Attraction and its detractors

So I’m suddenly getting comments about my blogs about the The Secret and the Law of Attraction. I don’t quite understand it. If you don’t believe it don’t believe in it, why do you need to insult other people’s beliefs? The supreme irony here is that more often than not these are the same people who claim I’m closed minded for critiquing Muslims for their rather backward religion. So let me see, beating up on people for a belief that doesn’t hurt anyone: good; beating up on people for a belief system that leads to tyranny, genocide, and massive human right violations: bad. Am I the only one who is confused?

My argument has always boiled down to two points. The first is that while I know I don’t have scientific proof in favor that the Law of Attraction, there is a preponderance of evidence suggesting that it may likely be true. My second point has been that, let’s for a minute say that I’m wrong about it and the Law of Attraction doesn’t work, then playing on oppositions turf for the sake of argument it still isn’t worth arguing about, it doesn’t cause anyone any harm and it still leads to a better quality of life. For some reason this has been interpreted as a contradiction. Apparently being able to suspend my own beliefs for a hypothetical situation is wrong…despite in any other context this would be considered being open minded. And really I just do it because the detractors claim that following this law hurts people. I can only attack that point if I for a moment play on their premises that it doesn’t work. Obviously if we play on my turf it doesn’t hurt people, but even if you assume it doesn’t work it still doesn’t hurt people. So why attack me for going about it both ways? Oh, I know why it’s wrong, because I then prove that the people arguing with me are still wrong for attacking this. I have a strong respect for defending the truth at all costs, but I also believe in prioritizing. For instance I hate socialism in all its forms. However, while I hate socialism I hate tyranny a hell of a lot more. So do I spend all my time critiquing the economic systems of the U.K. and Israel? Nope. Why, because those two countries are our greatest allies in the fight against tyranny and I prioritize that at the moment there are bigger issues to worry about. Now if we turned Russia, China, North Korea, Venezuela, the majority of the Middle East, Cuba, Mexico, and at least a larger portion of Sub-Saharan Africa into functioning democratic-republics, then yes I would be harsher on socialist nations, but right now I have bigger problems. I complain about socialism mainly in the U.S. because it (A) affects my life more directly and (B) because we are at a point where we might soon collapse if we do not go back to capitalism and if we collapse then we are certainly going to cease being the biggest obstacle to the tyrannies of the world. The same applies with the law of attraction. If you don’t believe in it fine, don’t, I am a huge believer in free will and won’t begrudge you any belief in your own life so long as it doesn’t hurt mine. But even if you don’t believe in it, aren’t there bigger false ideas out there for you to challenge? The rampant misogynism in Western culture? Anti-Semitism? Even among religious beliefs you have homophobia and the culture of fear that so many religions propagate…even if you’re right that the law of attraction, basically the idea that focused prayer can lead to a better life, doesn’t exist this seems to be biggest false idea out there, why attack this one when there are far worse ideas out there?

Now of course I believe it to be true, but we’re still playing in the opposition’s ball park. They claim that they need to oppose this because it hurts people. Really. How? The basic idea of the law of attraction in all its forms can be broken down into a few simple premises.
I. Believe that you and you alone are responsible for your life.
II. Be grateful for what you have to eliminate negative thoughts in your habits of thought.
III. Focus on the end of what you want, not how you are going to get it.
IV. Act as if you already have what you want in life.
V. Believe that the universe will respond to your thoughts and it will come to you.
Now the argument over the science comes into the fifth part and again for the sake of argument, let’s say that is totally bunk. So you don’t get the payoff promised. How do the other 4 parts hurt you? “Believe that you and you alone are responsible for your life.” Now basic psychology tells you that people who take responsibility about their life, that they are responsible for their actions, their thoughts, and the outcomes of those are certainly happier and more productive. The opposite is that we are responsible for our actions, that it’s nature and nurture and chance and fate that determine our life and we aren’t responsible for what happens to us. I think we all have enough experience to know that the people who always take responsibility for their actions are much happier and more productive than people who always blame others for what goes wrong (and even those who never give credit to themselves when things go right).

Now someone might claim that there is a happy medium, people who take responsibility but admit there are things out of their control, and that seems rational on the face of it, but actually it’s not. Because responsibility isn’t so much what happens to us, it’s about how we respond to what happens to us. “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up?” as one of my favorite movies puts it. The actual other extreme is taking too much on yourself. It’s saying that you are responsible for your actions but only looking at the past and not picking yourself up. It’s only dwelling in the guilt, the fear, the blame and being as paralyzed as the people who don’t take any responsibility for anything (if we weren’t playing on the opposition’s field I might also point out that the Law of Attraction will sometimes give you something bad so as to ensure you’re in the right place at the right time to get what you really want, e.g. losing your job which forces you get the want ads in which you find your dream job has just opened up but you would have never seen it if you hadn’t been looking for a new job). And yes this obsession with the past and the blame could be a terrible side effect of taking responsibility for everything in your life. So I guess it is a valid complaint. If only every person who preached the law of attraction also told people that for the law to work they need to focus on what is already good in their life and be grateful for all those good things….oh wait.

Point two of any version of the law of attraction is that you have to focus on what’s good in life. So I guess we don’t have a valid complaint against the philosophy yet.

But maybe this optimistic outlook at what is good in your life is a bad thing. I’m going to assume most of you just rolled your eyes at reading this sentence. For those you who don’t know medical science and psychology have long since proven that optimistic, grateful people are happier, less stressed, healthier, live longer, and have a better quality of life. There are no downsides I have ever heard of to being optimistic and grateful for what you have. So how does telling people that they need to appreciate what they have hurt them? I guess you could argue that if someone becomes too complacent with what they have they’ll be come stagnant…but then you read points three and four and that kind of goes out the window.

Point three and four deal with having goals and acting toward them. Start with the goal in mind and act in accordance with getting that goal. Now it’s been a while since I’ve read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People but I seem to recall these are basic principles of any goal oriented system. Start with the goal and be the change you want to see. Typically speaking isn’t that how you get what you want, even if you the universe isn’t helping you get what you want because of your thoughts, these are still the actions that will result in getting what you want. So what’s the down side? How does this harm people?

So we’re playing on the opponents and there is no harm to a person’s life through the first four required points to the law of attraction. But, the opponents say, it will lead them to depression when they don’t get what they want! They’ll be more optimistic, more goal oriented, healthier, probably have more friends and more efficient in whatever field they have chosen for a profession (which probably means more money). Okay, so if I’m wrong about the law of attraction they don’t have the island they wanted…but they probably have more than they did before they changed their attitude to follow The Secret. I don’t think most people would complain.

Now those that complain that the law of attraction isn’t real will probably say that success in life is highly dependent on luck. But I think we’ve all heard the sentiment that luck is opportunity plus preparation. The first four points deal with preparations that are actually required for success even if you assume that the law of attraction doesn’t work. So there is literally no way this can harm people. All the law of attraction says is that the opportunity is dependent on you being prepared and you looking for the opportunity, that the opportunity literally doesn’t exist until you look for it, it is dependent on you looking for it (kind of the Schrödinger’s cat of destiny).

So please, tell me, someone who disagrees with the law of attraction, how on Earth do you claim that it harms people. That to preach this is wrong. That to make money by selling good psychological practices is a con? How?  By believing in basic psychology that everyone knows leads to better life?  I’d love to hear examples of how this could go be bad…not vague statements about well it could lead people to do have long term problems (which it won’t) but actual examples or at least hypothetical situations.

And of course there is that other point…you know the one where it is a fact of nature. Our thoughts do control our life. They do affect all those literal variables that cascade into the opportunities we can reap the benefits of or eliminate those opportunities before they ever even materialize. Now I will admit that this is an article of faith. I do not have irrefutable scientific data to show that I am right and all who disagree with me are wrong. But the opposition doesn’t have that either. I would say however that the preponderance of the evidence is on my side. There are studies that show prayer works, there are studies that prayer doesn’t work. The funny thing is that when you take a step back you find those who come into the study to prove that prayer doesn’t work prove that prayer doesn’t work and that those seem more unbiased or to show that prayer does work always seem to show that prayer has some effect (Wow, it’s almost like thought effected the reality around it…no I won’t go that far, but I will say perhaps it’s a little hard to ignore the fact that scientists are people and it’s hard to remove bias from people). Also, how do you set up a control group, only find people who have absolutely no people praying for them? Tell the patient “we’re going to perform major surgery, but you can’t pray for yourself.” Atheist in a foxhole? It’s not exact mathematical proof, but there is the suggestion of proof. (Here are a listing of studies done in looking at the effects of prayer…I I find most interesting the ones of people who told that they were being prayed for and then did worse than the control group…do you think that guilt and self hatred which may have put them in that medical condition would have made them feel even worse being told that they were being prayed for and maybe countered the prayers for them?). So I will admit that I don’t have iron clad scientific proof if you admit that you don’t either. It’s an issue of faith (one that interestingly enough doesn’t hurt anyone). Of course my favorite part of this argument against the power of prayer in scientific studies is that it’s just the placebo effect. As most of these studies rely on people not being told they were being prayed for there isn’t a placebo effect present…someone has to know they’re being given something for the placebo effect to be present. But what’s really funny about this is the problem modern science is having with the placebo effect. Apparently for the last decade or so, drugs that have previously been tested when retested show less of an increase over the placebo effect. And when you go back and look at the data it’s not that the drug is less powerful it’s that the placebo effect has been getting stronger over the course of time. So people expecting there to be a change is leading to stronger changes even if there is no real drug present…it’s not just that is seems like expectation is changing reality, but it’s almost like the thoughts of people are getting more focused and thus having a larger effect on reality. But you’d have to be one of those crazy New Agers who believe we are on the cusp of a New Age where there will soon be a major jump in the evolution of the human soul.  But I’m always open to hearing other theories as to why the placebo effect is getting stronger.   Now those who don’t believe in the law will probably argue that science doesn’t support the idea, but this is a foolish understanding of reality.  Things are true whether science and prove them or not.  The earth moved before Galileo, it was round before Columbus, gravity pulled light before Einstein…reality exists before science, just because modern science can’t prove something it’s the worst arrogance to say that just because science hasn’t proven it yet it isn’t so.  Real human life has to admit that science doesn’t know everything, especially when it comes how we live our lives.  Yes it would be foolish to fly in the face of science fact, but what science has not proved or disproved, (things like the existence of God, the soul, the afterlife, or this law), it should not be assumed that just because science hasn’t proven something yet it should not be acted on.

Now I will concede that foolishness in conjunction with surface understanding of the law of attraction could lead to problems. For instance prayer healing, the idea that if you pray hard enough you can immediately fix life threatening problems. You know, prayer works great for a disease like cancer because they take time, and those who preach the law of attraction are very clear that it takes time for effect to appear. In terms of faith healing, it’s often something that requires immediate attention, if you think it’s only a matter of how hard you pray, clearly you don’t understand that there is a time delay issue involved in how the law of attraction works. Further, let’s take an extreme view of the law of attraction, if you attracted this disease you clearly do not have the law of attraction mastered, go get medical attention and with the extra time you have to live and take some more time to get it down. The spiritual text A Course in Miracles draws a line between what it calls miracles (a true understanding that the world is a reflection of our thoughts and the ability to control the world through our thoughts) and magic (an understanding that thinks the world is something more than just an illusion projected by our thoughts, which tries to control things in that illusion through the illusion, science is included in this). A Course in Miracles makes it clear the only way you are going to learn the truth of the world is by living, learning, and growing, you can’t do that if you’re dead. If you’re experiencing problems, especially medical ones, if you know how to control miracles (well you wouldn’t be in that situation) use them—if not, probably demonstrated by the fact that you’re in a situation that could really use a miracle don’t be an idiot and go for magic of science and medicine (you have to appreciate the apparent irony of that phrase). The law of attraction is something that works, but it’s not an immediate fix to problems (unless you’ve reached Enlightenment and then I seriously doubt you’ll be reading this blog if you have). The law is supposed to be used in conjunction with reason not in opposition to it.

Of course the thing that always surprises me is that the argument I made about the first four points of the law of attraction just being good positive psychology aren’t made by my opponent. Instead of arguing against it in totality they should be arguing, “well of course being goal oriented and optimistic leads to a better life, you don’t need any mystical element to explain that” which would actually be a much harder argument for me to refute and I would have to just fall back on “Yes, but my spiritual belief system says that it also affects the world around you and provides you with the opportunities that reflect your attitude. Can’t prove it but that is what I believe, and it’s not worth arguing because you can’t disprove it.” I admit that’s a weak argument philosophically, but it’s an issue of faith and only a fool would think that you apply the laws of science to faith. But no. They take the tack that it hurts people and it must be challenged at all costs. Again I’d love to see an example of where it hur.t someone. I suspect however that it has more to do with the first point. People don’t want to be responsible for their actions. They want to avoid thinking and doing. These are often the same people who argue their life is terrible not because they didn’t get an education or a job or what not, not because of their choices, but because the government didn’t give them this or that, that the system is broken, that life is unfair and we need to make it more fair for the disadvantaged. They dislike it because the philosophy leaves no room for excuses or others to blame. It requires that you think for yourself. It requires that you act in accordance with those thoughts. It requires that you take responsibility for those thought and actions. And for some people that is a horrifying idea.

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New Age Thought for the week

Okay, so I’ve taken a couple weeks off (it was Christmas) and today’s not going to be great writing either but I promise to be back in full form this week starting this week. But for today’s meditation I’m kind of stealing. If you’ve read this blog you should know I’m a believer in the Law of Attraction, the idea that our thoughts do affect reality. And if we can focus those thoughts they can actually change the world around us. This idea is right now best known through the book The Secret and The Power (go buy the books, they’re very good and easy reads and I feel less guilty about taking these two videos by suggesting you should go buy them).

Now one of the biggest ways to influence your life is to start the day off right. We’ve all known those days where we feel it’s going to be a wonderful day, and it is…and those days where we wake up hating the world and the whole day spirals down from there. This is the Law of Attraction at work. What you believe will happen will happen.
So one of the best ways to counter the negative in your life is to start off the day with a positive affirmation or two. I suggest watching both these videos every day shortly after you wake up and shortly before you go to bed. Trust focusing on these will help improve your days.

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The Secret and Pseudoscience

So I recently came across an article in the New York Times critiquing the popular New Age book The Secret and its new sequel The Power. And as expected it laid out the usual skeptical tripe against New Age belief. This partly annoys me, but it also amuses me. New Agers as we tend to believe in a little of everything get hit the hardest when skeptics try to critique belief systems.

(Although you ever notice how elitists will critique Jewish and Christian prayer, Buddhist meditation, Hindu Yoga and all the accompanying beliefs that come with it…but there is one system of belief they never seem to critique. That would be the system with the most anti-Semitic, most misogynist, most bitter, most violent and most hate filled religions, both in terms of what is laughably referred to as a holy book and certainly in practice. I’d name that religion but I have no immediate desire to have a fatwa issued against me…but you probably can figure out which religion founded by a genocidal lunatic I’m talking about. But back to my original point for this cat-walk, isn’t it utterly hypocritical of skeptics to critique beliefs that work for the good and make people feel better, but don’t’ like to critique on the same grounds butchers. But it’s worse that these are often the same people who tell you you’re a racist if you criticize this particular religion. But it might just be because if you insult Jews and Christian and Buddhists and Hindus and New Agers they’ll feel sorry for you for your limited view of the world and not, you know, cut your head off.) But enough of my side comments…is The Secret Pseudoscience?

Well here’s the thing, they can list quite well the psychological points on why people are willing to believe in the Law of Attraction which states that our thoughts create reality. You think about something long enough, good or bad, and you’ll get it. But while you can point to the psychological reason why a person might be drawn to this, even without scientific data to back up that belief, the authors offer absolutely no evidence against the idea that the Law of Attraction is true. They claim that what evidence is given on quantum mechanics is wrong, but the day I simply trust a psychologist on quantum mechanics is the day I trust a linguist on politics. Quantum mechanics is a field that even the people who study it don’t have an idea what it’s really all about. But thought does seem to have some part to play in it. Is it really a terrible jump in logic to believe that thought might create reality instead of the other way around? It isn’t illogical in light of the utterly bizarre things we learn from quantum mechanics. But just because it’s a possibility isn’t scientific proof. At this point I am merely saying that just because you can’t prove scientifically doesn’t mean it isn’t true, nor does it mean it’s true. This is realm of faith. And science should have the common decency to stay out of the realm of faith. Conversely faith should have the tact to stay out of science (i.e. evolution is real, intelligent design for the start of life is still up in the air though).

Further one has to ask the pragmatics of such a critique. If it makes people feel more empowered, focused and goal driven…what exactly is the harm. So you’re out 23 dollars for the new book. If the you bought the first book and the DVD too you’re out about $75. I’ve spent more on a single dinner. Possible positive psychological effect for a relatively cheap price. I fail to see why among all the evils in the world, this is one these author’s choose to attack.

But my favorite part of the criticism is where they reveal that they never really read the book. They’re just making complaints without knowing what the hell they’re talking about (it’s a classic skeptic move). As proof that the logic of the Law of Attraction doesn’t work they offer this very stupid thought experiment, “What if a thousand people started sincerely visualizing winning the entire $200 million prize in this week’s Lotto? How would the universe sort out that mess?” Well, maybe if you read the book you’d have read you’re supposed to focus on what you actually want and not worry about the means. People don’t want to win the Lottery, they just want the money, how is mildly irrelevant. And because your brain would keep going through a thousand different ways you could get the money, you’d never win the lottery that way.

So why attack this area of faith when it really hurts no one? After all if works for you personally use it. If it doesn’t, then skip it. It’s not like we’ll ever have any kind of scientific test that can prove thoughts affect reality….

…oh wait. We do have those tests. We have a large body of research studying prayer. Now not all of the evidence is conclusive and some studies show a greater effect than others, but the general conclusion is that prayer actually does cause a measurable difference in the recovery of patients (even when they don’t know they’re being prayed for). Now, if these studies are correct then there are only two possibilities for how prayer affects the recovery of hospital patients. Either God is up there in heaven with a big clip board and saying “Oh, he only got 99 prayers, he dies–he’s got 2,000 prayers, he lives.”….an illogical way of looking at things. Or option 2, God doesn’t really get involved in this world directly and it’s the thoughts of the prayers that affect reality. Oh that’s the law of attraction. I wonder what would happen if those prayers studies used the principles of The Secret and The Power (i.e. focus only on what you want and don’t think about what you don’t want….I’m sure some of the people praying were praying that the person didn’t get sick, which according to the law of attraction means you’re focusing on getting sick…the universe doesn’t really understand negating adjectives). If they did that I’d be willing to bet a year’s salary that the recovery rates would go even higher.

So. Law of Attraction 1. Bitter psychologists 0.

I hope the two psychologists who wrote this found some happiness in trying to tear down other people’s harmless beliefs…but I doubt they have a concept of what happiness is.

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Filed under Books for New Agers, Faith, New Age, Prayer, The Secret