A few years ago the global spiritual community was hit by a powerful spiritual storm when a few people got together and produced a film entitled The Secret. In this film the producers and actors revealed what they said was a powerful ancient spiritual principle, a “law,” that could bring wealth and prosperity to all. All you had to do was believe!!! This secret law was called the Law of Attraction. The people who proselytized the law said that if you want something in life, all you have to do is think about. If you think about money, you will “attract” it. If you think about a nice house, you will attract that. If you think about war, you’ll attract that! If you want a happy life, just think happy thoughts, said the pundits of the secret, and everything will be OK. According to Louise Hay, Godmother of this ancient spiritual “wisdom,” “Our thinking creates and brings to us whatever we think about… It’s as though every time we think a thought, every time we speak a word, the universe is listening and responding to us.”

It is a nice sentiment to be sure. Who wouldn’t want a universe that responds to our every whim and desire! Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world, everybody seemed agreed. Fast forward a decade and there are a lot of people out there who have come to believe this “Law of Attraction.” And it is not just new agers who have the faith. I have heard everybody from the staunch Christian fundamentalist to motivational business gurus to dyed-in-the-wool atheists echo some version of this “ancient mystical law.” A lot of people out there, and maybe you are one of them, believe that all you have to do to attract wealth and prosperity is think about it and it will be so.

But, and I’m sure you will agree, there is a problem with this. Despite the fact that millions, maybe billions, of people bought into this “ancient mystical wisdom,” the world isn’t anywhere near more prosperous than it was before. In fact, exactly the opposite has occurred. In the past decade there has been a staggering growth in global inequality. While millions of people around the world have tried to attract wealth and prosperity, millions and millions have been thrown into poverty, misery and despair. Inequality is bad and suffering is biblical. At the time of writing this article, 62 people in the world own more than the bottom 3.5 billion people!

Just 62 people, 53 of them men, own as much wealth as the poorest half of the entire world population and the richest 1 percent own more than the other 99 percent put together, anti-poverty charity Oxfam said on Monday. Significantly, the wealth gap is widening faster than anyone anticipated, with the 1 percent overtaking the rest one year earlier than Oxfam had predicted only a year ago…. Last year, the organisation has calculated, 62 individuals had the same wealth as 3.5 billion people, or the bottom half of humanity. The wealth of those 62 people has risen 44 percent, or more than half a trillion dollars, over the past five years, while the wealth of the bottom half has fallen by over a trillion.

And this income inequality doesn’t even take into account the humanitarian crises caused by war (the number of refugees on the planet is at all-time highs[1]), or the economic disaster looming as technology runs out of control. For the first time in our worst sci-fi nightmare, robots and artificial intelligence are set to take over the world. The World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that over the next five years (FIVE YEARS!!), out of control automation is going to result in the net loss of 5.1 million jobs, and with the global economy heaving like a pro-wrestler in cardiac arrest, this number is not being offset any time soon. This loss of jobs is going to cause, despite increasingly desperate efforts to “attract,” increased poverty and expanding human misery

Two-thirds of the projected losses are expected to fall in the office and administrative sectors as smart machines take over more routine tasks, according to latest findings, which are based on a global survey of personnel and strategy executives… Women will be the biggest losers as their jobs are often concentrated in low-growth or declining areas such as sales, office and administrative roles, the report said.

For millions and millions of people there is little hope on the horizon. Despite the global acceptance of this spiritual meme of attraction, it is poverty and misery, and not wealth and prosperity, that is spreading across this planet.

If you are one of the faithful this should cause you to pause. With millions and billions of people attracting prosperity, you would not expect the currently global situation to be unfolding! In fact, with millions of people attracting prosperity, you would expect exactly the opposite. Like a gigantic spiritual experiment spread over the entire breadth of this planet, a million, million minds “came online” and started to attract prosperity. The result of this decade long experiment should have been global prosperity, but it wasn’t. Fast forward a decade and, by all accounts, the cosmic attraction experiment has failed miserably. Despite powerful advocates in the Hollywood media industry, the LOA is a miserable global failure.

So what are we to make of this? In my mind there are only three possible options. Option one is that the Law of Attraction works, but that the Earth system is a closed financial system and there is only so much “prosperity” to go around. This means that if I attract prosperity and I “win,” someone else is going to have to lose. You can wrap head around this by simplifying the economy. Say we have an economy of 10 people and each of these people have a million dollars. In this economy, four of these people hear about the Law of Attraction and four start to attract wealth. As they do that, the “universe” responds and starts sucking the money from the people who aren’t attracting. In this scenario the Law of Attraction works, but it works in an exploitative, zero-sum fashion. You got to get on board with the program, or you suffer as a result.

This scenario, as distasteful as it may be, does seem to explain the global economic crises that threatens the livelihood, and even life, of billions. It does provide an explanation of the rapid increase in global inequality. Back in 2014 Kasia Moreno of Forbes noted that just 67 people owned half the wealth of the planet,[2] and the situation has only gotten worse. As a recent Oxfam report suggests that the number has reduced to 62, [3] with the top 1% now having accumulated more wealth the rest of the world combined!!

The gap between rich and poor is reaching new extremes. Credit Suisse recently revealed that the richest 1% have now accumulated more wealth than the rest of the world put together. This occurred a year earlier than Oxfam’s much publicized prediction ahead of last year’s World Economic Forum. Meanwhile, the wealth owned by the bottom half of humanity has fallen by a trillion dollars in the past five years. This is just the latest evidence that today we live in a world with levels of inequality we may not have seen for over a century.[4]

Perhaps the rich have gotten so rich because they are attracting wealth in a closed financial system. Perhaps they are the only ones using the LOA to their benefit. That doesn’t seem likely though. A lot of people bought into the LOA and a lot of people have been busy little LOA bees so a lot more should be doing a whole lot better than they are. The real reason why the rich are getting so much richer than everybody else probably has more to do, as the Oxfam report suggests, with an economic and political system skewed in favour of accumulation, a massive network of offshore tax havens that help the rich avoid paying their fair share, and an army of “wealth managers” tasked with finding ways to preserve and increase the wealth of the .01%.[5]

The second possible explanation for why the LOA only seems to work for the .01 percent is because only they understand it. The LOA only works for the uber rich because only they have a clue. Everybody else is either confused or messed up. In other words, if you are not a member of the 62-Club, it is your bloody fault. This is in fact the explanations that pundit of the LOA like to proffer. People who make their money on selling LOA materials say that it doesn’t work for most people because most people don’t understand, are confused, or have unconscious tendencies that block the cosmos from giving them their due. John Assaraf (quoted below) is a typical representative of this perspective, but if you search google on the phrase “why doesn’t the law of attraction work for me” you’ll find many representatives of this “blame the victim” point of view.

Or let’s say that you want to release the weight that you don’t want on your body. Or let’s say that you want to find a soul mate that you’re not with right now. It’s not enough just to have the idea, desire or the goal. It’s not enough just to write it down. It’s not enough to have a vision board or to talk about it. What you have to understand is you have to get the conscious mind and the subconscious mind to line up in harmony with each other to create synchronicity and you have to impress it over and over again into the emotional subconscious mind so coherence is created between the two part [sic] of your brain…the reason 99% of people will never achieve the positive results based on the law of attraction is because they think positively, but they have unconscious beliefs, habits and possibly values that are not in line with each other[6]

To be perfectly honest, as a sociologist and as a mystic, I have a problem with the notion that the universe operates on a zero-sum principle, or that it is the individual person who is at fault for the failure of attraction. Both of these perspectives blame the victim for their poverty, and from a scientific perspective that’s just not right. Poverty isn’t something that just happens. As I note in an article entitled What Causes Poverty, poverty is created by the actions of individuals[7]and not by individual failing. For example, the current global financial crises is partly caused by the action of a few rich Arabs in a few oil rich nations (OPEC). Their decision to keep pumping oil despite slack demand is what is causing the crises.[8] You can get all 250 million people in the U.S. on board and attracting wealth, but as long as the OPEC cartel continues to spit out oil at record rates it is not going to do a sniff of good. It is the actions of individuals as they support a global accumulation regime that is the cause of inequality and crises. Even Warren Buffet, one of the richest man in the world, agrees.[9] There’s a class war going on and the poor are losing badly to the rich who are increasingly taking actions to preserve and enhance their wealth.

When it comes to explaining the spiritual failure of the Law of Attraction, I lean towards a third scenario which is that the LOA simply doesn’t work. In this scenario we aren’t the center of cosmic concern, the universe doesn’t respond to our every whim, and simply thinking about something does not automatically make it so. In this scenario, the LOA is at best a hugely naïve spiritual mistake made by a bunch of mostly pale-face wisdom-wannabees lining their pockets by making claims that are just not true and selling these claims to the hopefully naïve, or it is a global propaganda campaign, a global spiritual mind-muck that was designed, like other attempts to muck up the min,[10] to distract you and keep you busy while the elites of the world run away with the money cart. Think about it. A massive global transfer of wealth has occurred in the decade following the release of The Secret. Could it be that The Secret was simply a global ideological campaign designed to keep people distracted while the richest .01 percent of the population ran away with all the wealth of the planet? I am not going to address these issues here, so you are going to have to decide for yourself; but it is something worth thinking about. Either the LOA is true and all the poor people of the world are to blame for the current situation, or the rich have been taking action in a global class war that the masses are losing, and badly.

So where does this all leave us? Hopefully it leaves us in some doubt about The Secret which frankly I believe is elite propaganda. But does this mean all spirituality is a total lie. Certainly if you talk to some sociologists the answer is yes. Karl Marx thought religion was an opiate, Max Weber felt it was an ideological tool of the ruling class, and Berger thought it was an embarrassing stupidity,[11] but I don’t think so. I believe that despite the fact that the elites use religion and spirituality for their own purposes, there is something there worth looking at. I call this “thing” that is worth looking at the Authentic Core. For me the authentic core isn’t community, as Durkheim[12] might say, or ideology, as Marx and Weber might suggest. For me the authentic core is mystical experience, religious experience, or connection to what I call the Fabric of Consciousness. It is this mystical experience that is the authentic core and it is this core that we (and by “we” I mean anybody interested in Authentic Spirituality[13]) should be looking at. And I’m not the first one to say so. Over the decades several scholars have taken serious interest in the “authentic core” of human religious experience. William James felt that mystical experience was the bedrock of religion.[14] Wayne Proudfoot called religious experience ubiquitous and stated that “Religion has always been an experiential matter. It is not just a set of creedal statements or a collection of rites.”[15] Heriot-Maitland noted that “the origin of a given tradition can often be traced to an initial transcendent encounter, moment of revelation,”[16] Abraham Maslow, a psychologist who spent the bulk of his career looking at “peak experiences” writes:

The very beginning, the intrinsic core, the essence, the universal nucleus of every known high religion… has been the private, lonely, personal illumination, revelation, or ecstasy of some acutely sensitive prophet or seer. The high religions call themselves revealed religions and each of them tends to rest its validity, its function, and its right to exist on the codification and the communication of this original mystic experience or revelation from the lonely prophet to the mass of human beings in general.[17]

Stace echoes all this when he points out that Vedantism, a leading philosophy of India, is an intellectualization of a “reality rooted in mysticism.”[18] As I note in Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Money and the Economy, “Stace, who is one of the biggest contributors to the study of mystical experience in modern times, called mystical experience ‘a psychological fact of which there is abundant evidence.’ He further went on to say that ‘To deny or doubt that it exists as a psychological fact is not a reputable opinion. It is ignorance and very stupid.’”[19]

I admit that I believe there is an authentic core, which is mystical experience. I also believe that this mystical core is something worth looking at. As I note in an unpublished article entitled Dangerous Memories: Slavery, mysticism, and Transformation,[20] and as I elaborate in some detail in Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Money and the Economy, this mystical core has big global potential. The problem is, there are a lot of obstacles in the way of getting to that core. For one, this mystical core is buried under a lot of crap. There is a lot of what I would call opportunistic corruption, a lot of personal self-delusion, and a lot of plain spiritual silliness (a lot of it located prominently on Hollywood Boulevard), to contend with. The LOA is just one example. The LOA buries the authentic core under the misguided impression that spirituality is about attracting prosperity at the same time as it helps elites of the world distract the people, obscure their agenda, and run away with the money cart. The LOA is an example of opportunistic corruption. It is an example of people using spirituality for their own narrow, and in this case decidedly venal, agendas. They take what is there and bend it, corrupt it, and simply lie about it to suit their own agendas. But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t an authentic core. It just means that religion and spirituality are complex, multi-facet, and (I have to conclude based on my own work) not well understood.

So what do we take away from this article and where do we go from there. There are two things we should take away from this article. Thing one, the LOA may not be what you think it is. At best it may be a fantastical representation of a spiritually deluded mind; at worst it may be active elite ideology. The second thing that you should take away from this article is that just because the LOA may be false, delusional, propaganda doesn’t mean other aspects of religion/spirituality are also false and/or delusional. Buried deep inside of the false and delusional exterior is a mystical authentic core. As a practitioner, student, or sociologist of religion, this authentic core is what you really need to look at.

References

Assaraf, John. “Why the Law of Attraction Doesn’t Work for Most People.” http://johnassaraf.com/why-the-law-of-attraction-doesnt-work-for-most-people.

Berger, Peter. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. New York: Anchor Books, 1969.

Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. New York: Free Press, 1965 (1912).

Heriot-Maitland, Charles P. “Mysticism and Madness: Different Aspects of the Same Human Experience?”. Mental Health, Religion & Culture 11, no. 3 (2008): 301-25.

Hirschler, Ben, and Noah Barkin. “A World Divided: Elites Descend on Swiss Alps Amid Rising Inequality.” Reuters News Wire, 2016.

James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study of Human Nature. New York: Penguin, 1982.

Jones, Sam. “One in Every 122 People Is Displaced by War, Violence and Persecution, Says Un ” The Gaurdian, June 2015.

Marx, Karl. A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970.

Maslow, A. H. “The “Core-Religious” or “Transcendent” Experience.” In The Highest State of Consciousness, edited by John White, 339-50. New York: Doubleday, 2012.

Moreno, Kasia. “The 67 People as Wealthy as the World’s Poorest 3.5 Billion.” Forbes, March 25 2014.

Nebehay, Stephanie. “Refugee Numbers at Record Levels Globally, According to the Un.” CBC, http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/un-refugee-estimates-2015-1.3371047.

Oxfam. “An Economy for the 1%.” Oxfam, 2016.

Peter, Thomas. “Robots, New Working Ways to Cost Five Million Jobs by 2020, Davos Study Says.” Reuters News Wire, 2016.

Proudfoot, Wayne. Religious Experience. California: University of California Press, 1985.

Shammas, John. “Who Are the 62 Billionaires That Have More Cash Than Half of the Planet’s Population?” The Mirror, January 18 2016.

Sharp, Michael. The Great Awakening: Concepts and Techniques for Successful Spiritual Practice. St. Albert, Alberta, Canada: Lightning Path Press, 2007.

———. The Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Authentic Spirituality. St. Albert, Alberta: Lightning Path Press, 2010.

———. The Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Money and the Economy: Accumulation and Debt. St Albert, Alberta: Lightning Path Press., 2013.

———. “What Causes Poverty.” The Socjourn, July 8 2012.

Sosteric, Mike. “Dangerous Memories: Slavery, Mysticism, and Transformation.” Unpublished.

Stace, Walter Terence. The Teachings of the Mystics. New York: Mentor, 1960.

Stein, Ben. In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning. Vol. September: New York Times, 2006.

Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Roxbury Press, 1904 (1995).

End Notes

[1] Stephanie Nebehay, “Refugee Numbers at Record Levels Globally, According to the Un,” CBC, http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/un-refugee-estimates-2015-1.3371047; Sam Jones, “One in Every 122 People Is Displaced by War, Violence and Persecution, Says Un ” The Gaurdian, June 2015.

[2] Kasia Moreno, “The 67 People as Wealthy as the World’s Poorest 3.5 Billion,” Forbes, March 25 2014.

[3] For a list, see John Shammas, “Who Are the 62 Billionaires That Have More Cash Than Half of the Planet’s Population?,” The Mirror, January 18 2016. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/who-62-billionaires-more-cash-7197275

[4] Oxfam, “An Economy for the 1%,” (Oxfam, 2016).

[5] Ibid.

[6] John Assaraf, “Why the Law of Attraction Doesn’t Work for Most People,” http://johnassaraf.com/why-the-law-of-attraction-doesnt-work-for-most-people.

[7] Michael Sharp, “What Causes Poverty,” The Socjourn, July 8 2012.

[8] See http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-23/saudi-arabia-s-solution-to-global-oil-glut-pump-ever-more-crude

[9] Ben Stein, In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning, vol. September (New York Times, 2006).

[10] (Sharp, 2013)

[11] Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970); Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Roxbury Press, 1904 (1995)); Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (New York: Anchor Books, 1969).

[12] Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (New York: Free Press, 1965 (1912)).

[13] What is authentic spirituality? As I explain in The Great Awakening: Concepts and Techniques for Successful Spiritual Practice, and The Rocket Scientists Guide to Authentic Spirituality, authentic spirituality is spirituality that leads to mystical connection. See Michael Sharp, The Great Awakening: Concepts and Techniques for Successful Spiritual Practice (St. Albert, Alberta, Canada: Lightning Path Press, 2007); The Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Authentic Spirituality (St. Albert, Alberta: Lightning Path Press, 2010).

[14] William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study of Human Nature (New York: Penguin, 1982), 6.

[15] Wayne Proudfoot, Religious Experience (California: University of California Press, 1985), xi.

[16] Charles P. Heriot-Maitland, “Mysticism and Madness: Different Aspects of the Same Human Experience?,” Mental Health, Religion & Culture 11, no. 3 (2008): 302.

[17] A. H. Maslow, “The “Core-Religious” or “Transcendent” Experience,” in The Highest State of Consciousness, ed. John White (New York: Doubleday, 2012), 339.emphasis added

[18] Walter Terence Stace, The Teachings of the Mystics (New York: Mentor, 1960), 30.

[19] Ibid., 14. For the complete discussion see Michael Sharp, The Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Money and the Economy: Accumulation and Debt. (St Albert, Alberta: Lightning Path Press., 2013).

[20] Mike Sosteric, “Dangerous Memories: Slavery, Mysticism, and Transformation,” (Unpublished). For a copy of this paper email me at [email protected]