Origins in the New Thought Movement

It's impossible to deny the types of connections that the ideas behind the law of attraction have to the New Thought Movement, which began gaining tremendous amounts of public support in the 1890s.  This movement suggested multiple ideals for living a successful life, many of which were related to various religions and similar organizations.  However, many of these thought processes are similar to that of the law of attraction including:[1]

  • divine thought is a force for good
  • sickness originates in the mind
  • "right thinking" has a healing effect

Although a lot of the founders of this movement were deeply involved in Christianity, and saw this as an extension of their faith, many of the people that believe in the Law of Attraction trace it back to early 1900s believers like Ernest Holmes.  Holmes was the author of several books detailing these radical ideas, his primary and best known work being The Science of Mind, which was published in 1926 (later revised.)[2]

Ernest HolmesCredit:

"God gives some more than others because some accept more than others." -Ernest Holmes

"Think and Grow Rich"

In 1937, Napoleon Hill came out with perhaps the most well-known book of all time when it comes to becoming independently wealthy, Think and Grow Rich.  This book, despite its title, is really about much more than just accruing a bit of money.  The real theme behind the book is much more akin to that of a spiritual self help book, and strives to get the reader to have a different outlook on life, not just with finances.  This philosophy is something that that something that the author claims is a quality found within several of the most successful business people of his day, including his personal mentor for many years, Andrew Carnegie, arguably one of the most influential figures of his time and the best example of philanthropy for anyone who has become wealthy and successful.[3]

 Napoleon HillCredit:

"Any idea, plan, or purpose may be placed in the mind through repetition of thought." - Napoleon Hill

Relations to Placebo

 You have probably heard placebo referenced before for medicinal purposes.  When a placebo is administered, a patient is essentially given a dummy medication, like a sugar pill.  However, the patient is told that the "medicine" will heal them of their ailments, and in some cases the willpower of the recipient is enough to heal them: truly a testament to the power of the human brain.  When the recipient has healed themselves through a dummy medication, it then becomes known as a "placebo effect".[4]

There have been some truly remarkable stories about the placebo effects throughout the years, including victims of cancer experiencing miraculous recoveries from what appeared to be certain death.  Dr. Bruno Klopfer, one of the most influential scientists of the field, actually got into some trouble when his cancer "treatment" was discovered to be a fraud, as he would simply administer water injections as cures.  Amazingly enough, patients saw their progress regress after finding out the truth.[5]

The Law of Attraction Today

Clearly, the Law of Attraction has becomes very popularized in today's society, with releases like the 2006 film The Secret relaying the theory to the masses.  In many ways, this level of publicity has weakened the scientific argument behind it, although now parts of the law are attributed to quantum mechanics.[6]

There are also internal conflicts among those who subscribe to this belief.  For instance, many different believers have their own theories on how best to utilize the law of attraction to manifest personal desires.  Depending on which of these theories you hear, it may be easy to simply dismiss the law of attraction as just another hogwash, feel-good, conjecture.  You would be hard-pressed to find a teenage boy that doesn't want a new Ferrari, and yet Italian sports cars are not just being spontaneously created left and right.

Ferrari 458Credit:

To combat this counter argument, many modern believers take on a more relaxed belief to the theory.  For example, someone that really desires a new car may try and use the power of their mind to attract it.  Through this positive thought process, the person may receive some sort of promotional item about the car they want being affordable, and within their price range.  Just as with almost everything associated with this type of science and psychology though, there is never really any way to provide hard evidence in order to discern what spurs from positive thinking and what is just plain luck.

The one real undeniable argument that the law of attraction has going for it is that parts of its mythology are echoed with many famous and successful people.  Those that are in a position to talk about their life achievements almost always tell the aspiring populace to believe in themselves, and their ability to have and do whatever they want.  

We as humans may not ever be able to prove if positive thinking actually attracts desires.  However, we can say with a reasonable amount of certainty that negative thinking doesn't.