Is the Law of Attraction a real and true universal principle? Or is it just hype and pseudoscience, marketed by energetic salesmen of snake oil?
KEYWORDS: Abraham-Hicks, arguments, beliefs, emotions, feelings, law of attraction, Neil Farber, philosophy, pseudoscience, psychology, scientific evidence, Seth, thoughts.
Therefore, I thought it would be an excellent idea to take a look at what those arguments really amount to, to see if there is something in his account that really disproves the existence of the Law of Attraction.
Since my personal experience of the Law of Attraction is that it is a 100% real principle, I don’t need any evidence that it is true. I know it is. Furthermore, I also have no scientific or philosophical reasons to believe otherwise.
The main focus of this article is therefore the question whether or not Farber has a strong case. For that sounds, to me, virtually impossible. So that will be very exciting to find out: Is his argumentation solid? Does he prove that the Law of Attraction is false?
- PART 1: INTRODUCTION
- 1.1 A Philosophical Question
- 1.2 Why 14 Arguments?
- 1.3 Authorized Accounts of the Law of Attraction
- PART 2: THE ARGUMENTS
- 2.1 Metaphysical Pseudoscience
- 2.2 No Purpose
- 2.3 No Action
- 2.4 No Plan
- 2.5 No Date
- 2.6 No Challenges
- 2.7 No Compassion
- 2.8 No Support
- 2.9 Mindless
- 2.10 Blame Yourself
- 2.11 Blame the Victim
- 2.12 We’re Not Perfect
- 2.13 Placebo Effect
- 2.14 Anecdotal Evidence
PART 1: INTRODUCTION
This article is meant for those who are new to the Law of Attraction. Another target group are those who may have already tried it out, but for some reason have not succeeded in getting the kind of results that they wanted.
Note, though, that because of the nature of this question (which involves the idea of whether or not Law of Attraction is “pseudoscience”), this article is written in a more academic and technical style. Readers who are not so academically inclined may therefore simply skim this article or just go straight to the conclusion.
Before we go on to evaluate the 14 arguments presented by Farber, I would like to say a few things about how I will proceed.
A Philosophical Question
First of all, this is an article about a philosophical and scientific question, and not about a person. I personally have no connection with Farber, so I do not know him in any other way than as the author of the article that I am discussing here.
In other words, this article is only about the existence of the Law of Attraction itself: Is the Law of Attraction proven false, using robust scientific and philosophical methods?
Why 14 Arguments?
Some experienced professional philosophers and scientists may question my idea to discuss 14 different arguments in the same article. This is not normally how the scientific or philosophical enterprise is conducted. Normally, the academic author must focus merely on one quite narrow question, which he or she then must elaborate on as exhaustively and accurately as possible.
One reason I am doing it is because Farber himself did it. So in terms of methodology, I am not using a standard worse than he is. That, of course, does not mean that our way of doing this is the “gold standard” of philosophical or scientific exposition. Of course not. But our articles are not to be published in any peer-reviewed academic journals either, so we’re both good in that respect.
Another reason is that I am very interested in the topic itself. If someone could present a rigid and robust account of Law of Attraction that would somehow indicate that it is not true, that would, in my view, be a philosophical feat in itself. So I am very interested to see if any of his 14 arguments have any merit.
Authorized Accounts of the Law of Attraction
One of the difficulties with the Law of Attraction, both for the general public and for Farber himself, is that there are so many versions of it available. And most of these versions do not really portray Law of Attraction as it really is. One may sometimes get the feeling that the authors themselves do not know how it really works, or that they have never really lived it, or that they themselves never have been successful with it.
So this is why I am in this presentation so often mention the phrases “authorized” and “non-authorized” in the connection with the term “Law of Attraction”. For when discussing the Law of Attraction we must carefully distinguish between these two main groups of accounts.
Note though that some “non-authorized” are better than others. Among the better “non-authorized” ones is Byrne’s first book (see my book review of The Secret). So it may very well be used as a beginner’s book to get some initial feel for what the Law of Attraction is all about. But I doubt anyone can use it to manifest anything with, except, perhaps, their frustrations.
So in order to really master the law of attraction and be able to slowly mold one’s life into a form where one gets more and more control of one’s happiness and success in life, one has to go to the authorized accounts. There is no other way.
As far as I know there are only two authorized accounts of the Law of Attraction available on this planet right now. There may perhaps be one or two more in addition to that, but if there are, I am not currently aware of them.
The most popular account is the one by Abraham-Hicks. They have published six main books on the subject, and any one of them may serve as an excellent introduction to the Law of Attraction. However, if you have a choice, I do recommend that you start with their first book, which is titled Ask and It Is Given.
The other authorized account of the Law of Attraction is represented by the books by Seth. Best books to start with would probably be Seth Speaks and The Nature of Personal Reality. These are not normally classified as Law of Attraction books, but they still contain lots of material that is wonderful to know. Note though that the language in these is more technical and academic in style than in the books by Abraham-Hicks.
PART 2: THE ARGUMENTS
Here are Farber’s 14 arguments and my response to them. Note also that they are presented in the same order as Farber did. So if you want to read his article in parallel, it will be easy for you to do so.
1. Metaphysical Pseudoscience
Farber’s first argument is about Law of Attraction as “metaphysical pseudoscience”. Here’s one of the points that he is making:
“LOA proponents claim that it is based on scientific theory. It is at best, metaphysical pseudoscience with conclusions based on erroneous, unfounded, and often incorrect assumptions.”
But that is of course not the whole argument. He then also goes on with many examples of “non-scientific” ideas that he claims are presented by some Law of Attraction authors: “Thinking burns up brain matter”, “Higher altitudes have more oxygen…”, “Electrons have positive charges”, etc.
The question, though, is this: What is his argument, really? Well, since his presentation is informal, we have to reconstruct it, as I have done in my article called Law of Attraction Arguments, Part 1: “Metaphysical Pseudoscience”. So it goes something like this:
P1.Some authors say that the Law of Attraction is based on scientific theory.
P2.But as we can see in the examples, many authors on the Law of Attraction make obviously non-scientific claims.
P3.So the Law of Attraction is metaphysical pseudoscience.
Proposition 1. This is, in my opinion, basically true. Some, or even many, authors and practitioners of the Law of Attraction are claiming that it is based on science, or that it is “scientific” in some sense. But such claims are, of course, only made by those who have their own non-authorized variety of the Law of Attraction. The authors of the authorized versions of the Law of Attraction are saying no such things.
Proposition 2. Sure, at first sight, the examples seem to indicate that many authors are presenting non-scientific claims. But the problem is that Farber does not give us a single reference to any of those ideas. Therefore, it is not evident that they were uttered by Law of Attraction authors, or by anyone else. So Proposition 2 cannot be considered true. And if P2 cannot be considered true, then we are done. For if P2 is not necessarily true, then we cannot conclude P3. Because of this, his whole argument falls apart.
And even if we were to accept P2 as true (which is not proven, so far), it still would not follow that Law of Attraction is not true. It may, perhaps, indicate that some of the non-authorized accounts of the Law of Attraction are pseudoscience. But what would that prove in regard to the authorized version? Nothing.
Also worth noting is this. Using words such as “metaphysical” or “pseudoscience” does not automatically make something false. Some things labeled as “metaphysical” or “pseudoscience” may still be true, even though many scientists don’t like those things to be true. And trying to discredit other theories is nothing new. It is often seen in the history and sociology of science (Kuhn 1996, p. 5):
“Normal science, for example, often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments.”
Summing up: Farber’s argument does not work. And the fact that most scientists consider the Law of Attraction to be nonsense does not make it less true, either. Therefore, the Law of Attraction could still be 100% true.
2. No Purpose
Farber’s argument about “no purpose” is hard to evaluate, since it’s so short and cryptic. But here are some of his points:
“The Universe sets your life purpose. You pick the specific goal based on wants; not values. This is one reason there is less passion driving goal completion — because these are not deep-seated principled goals.”
So his argument probably goes something like this (see also my dedicated “No Purpose” article):
P1.Some authors of Law of Attraction are claiming that the Universe is setting the life purpose for each and one of us. Consequently, according to such authors, we do not have to have as a goal to be morally or ethically compliant, but we can simply follow our wants and desires in life.
P2.Because of this lack of moral or ethical framework, there is less passion in the life of those people who follow the Law of Attraction. For all they care about is getting their wealth and material abundance so that they can live a very happy life for themselves.
P3.So it makes them less interested in participating in society to support ‘the human project’.
P4.And if a theory of the Universe does not support “the human project” and its advancement, then that theory is false.
P5.Therefore, Law of Attraction is false.
It is hard to evaluate this claim since I am not entirely sure what Farber is saying. But if I have decrypted his argument even approximately right, then I think it is not a very good argument. I mean, the fact that the law of gravitation is non-ethical (or non-moral) in nature does not preclude it from being true. So why would it disqualify the Law of Attraction?
Another point to consider is also that there are different accounts of Law of Attraction. And most of these have little to do with the real Law of Attraction. So, for example, the idea that “The Universe sets your life purpose” is not found in the authorized accounts of Law of Attraction. For the Law of Attraction teaches that the individual is free to choose anything as their “purpose of life” when they are here on Earth.
Yet another point is this. Even if a sincere follower of the authorized version of Law of Attraction would admit that he or she is living their life based on their own wants and desires (as opposed to adopting the societal norm of moral and ethical values), it does not necessarily lead to less passion overall.
Here is what Abraham-Hicks say (Money, and the Law of Attraction, p. 102): [note 1]
“As you begin to positively focus, getting to feel so good about so many subjects that you often feel passion rise within you, you will begin to feel the power of the Universe–the power that creates worlds–flowing through you.”
In fact, the whole idea of the Law of Attraction is that when we progress toward more and more happiness, we will get more energy and passion than we had before. But, of course, our passion will not normally be about helping other people in need, or about “contributing to society”, but rather about our own personal sense of accomplishment, happiness and well-being.
3. No Action
Here is what Farber is saying in regard to his “no action” argument.
“While it is obvious to most that action is a necessary component of goal achievement, it is completely inconsistent with a belief in LOA.”
What, exactly, is Farber’s argument? Well, I think it is constructed something like this (see also my post on the “No Action” argument):
P1.In order to reach their goals, a Law of Attraction practitioner must think and live as if they already have reached those goals.
P2.So the practitioner must refrain from action to achieve those goals. For by acting to achieve a goal, the practitioner would show the Universe that he or she does not have full faith in the process.
P3.And one proponent of the Law of Attraction publicly admits that we should not create through action.
P4.But it is obvious to most people that action is a necessary aspect of reaching goals.
P5.Therefore, Law of Attraction is not true.
This is not a bad argument, as a whole, if it were the case that the Law of Attraction operated like that. But it doesn’t. There is nothing precluding a follower of the authentic Law of Attraction to take action. But the action should be inspired. That is the philosophy.
Farber mentions a quote by Abraham-Hicks (“You did not come into this environment to create through action”) as some sort of proof for that his statement that action is “completely inconsistent” with Law of Attraction.
But Abraham-Hicks are not saying that action is not needed, or that action shouldn’t be performed. Their intention with that statement is to point out that the real creation is not done in the physical act, but in our mental activities (The Law of Attraction, p. 105):
“You are mostly physical-action Beings at this time because you do not yet understand the power of your thought. When you are better at applying your deliberate thought, there will not be so much action for you to tend to.”
So Farber’s representation of the authorized accounts of Law of Attraction is false (but maybe it correctly depicts the non-authorized accounts that do not describe the real Law of Attraction accurately?). Thus, so far, there is nothing that proves, or indicates, that the Law of Attraction is not true.
4. No Plan
Here is the essence of Farber’s argument about plans and planning:
“If the best way for me to achieve my goals is to live as if I’ve already achieved them, then there is no reason to make further plans to do so! Making plans shows the universe that you doubt its ability and lack faith.”
Here’s my reconstruction of his whole argument (see also my comprehensive “No Plan” article):
P1.In order to reach their goals, a Law of Attraction practitioner must live as if they already have reached those goals.
P2.Thus, there is no reason to make new plans. For making new plans shows the universe that you doubt its ability and that you lack faith in the process.
P3.But scientific studies show that this way of thinking results in greater short-term satisfaction but less motivation and a lower chance of achieving goals.
P4.And if scientific studies show something, then that is how things truly are.
P5.Therefore, Law of Attraction is false.
Since Farber typically does not give full references when he portrays the Law of Attraction philosophy, it is hard to say whether or not any author actually has said anything like it.
But whatever the case may be, it cannot, of course, be the case that a follower of the Law of Attraction should not make goals or not have plans. If one is inspired to set new goals and make new plans, then one should naturally follow that impulse.
And Farber’s idea that you show the Universe that “you doubt its ability and lack faith” by making plans seems thus not very solid. What I can see, when we make plans we might very well show precisely the opposite, and indicate to the Universe that we indeed have faith.
For since we trust that the Universe will bring us the things we want, sooner or later, we can make plans to “irresponsibly” just call our boss to take vacation tomorrow with short notice, in order to go to the Zoo (with their newborn Huacaya alpacas!), and then also enjoy a wonderful evening together with our friends.
For at the Zoo, or in the company of our friends, we might, for example, meet someone who has a friend who has a friend who can help us get exactly what we want. And if that scenario doesn’t play out at those particular occasions, we’ll still have a good time anyway.
It’s Not about Productivity
Also, an important thing to note here is that the authentic versions of Law of Attraction are not really accentuating “accomplishments” or “end results” or “goals” (in a productivity sense) as something to focus on. We are not here to “fix what’s broken” or to “be productive” or to “save the world”.
Rather, we are here because we are explorers, and because we want to find new things to be excited about. We may engage in various experiments, such as testing a new condo, testing a new girlfriend, or testing a new Ferrari: Which one revs our own engine the most?
So we can decide ourselves exactly what we want to explore and how to explore it. But the common denominator is that there necessarily must be happiness, fun, and excitement in the mix, on an ongoing basis. So we don’t take “goals” or “efficiency” very seriously (in a productivity sense), unless, of course, they make us happy and keenly interested along the way.
And “goals” (in the sense of acquiring material possessions : getting that condo, getting that car, and other status symbols) are for “ordinary” people who are struggling in human society to compete and get recognition. Law of Attraction followers are typically more laid-back that way. They go with the flow, and are the happiest people of them all.
All in all, Farber has not succeeded in disproving the Law of Attraction with this argument. What about his his next one?
5. No Date
Here is how Farber ends his “no date” argument:
“While goal-setting research supports the importance of establishing timelines to achieve success, LOA experts assert that it would be inappropriate to set a deadline for the universe to achieve your goal.”
So I think he says something like this (see also my dedicated “No Date” article):
P1.A practitioner of the Law of Attraction must live as if they already have accomplished their goals.
P2.When you live as if you have already accomplished your goals, there is no reason to have timelines or deadlines.
P3.And according to some Law of Attraction experts, the Universe manifests things instantly anyway, so there is no need for any timelines or deadlines.
P4.But goal-setting research shows that establishing timelines is important for success.
P5.Therefore, Law of Attraction is false.
Timelines are, of course, important in society. Without them, many grand projects would never reach their milestones, or be completed at all. I mean, who would ever build a modern subway station, or a mega skyscraper, or a moon rocket, without it first being meticulously outlined in a project plan with a detailed timeline?
So Farber, of course, has a point about the need for deadlines and timelines. But he does not show us his sources. Thus, when he says “goal-setting research” we don’t know how that research has been conducted, or who the researchers were, or what that research was about.
In any case, whichever study (or studies) he is referring to, it is almost irrelevant from our perspective. So we can easily admit that in most “normal” situations (whether in big infrastructure projects or in projects carried out by individuals), planning is helpful.
Individuals and Efficiency
But the fact that most individuals may benefit from planning, does not prove that some (exceptional) others may be even more efficient, although they are not using any elaborate plans and deadlines. For if an individual only gets the right ideas at the right times (as students of the Law of Attraction so often do), then he or she might proceed much more quickly than most other “ordinary” people.
And that is what the Law of Attraction is all about. It is about maximizing the clarity of one’s own mind so that one quicker and more easily can navigate in one’s life, thus minimizing various obstacles and hindrances along the way, and thus paving the way for quicker success. Such clarity can be achieved by any sincere practitioner by several techniques taught by the authors of the authorized accounts of the Law of Attraction.
Now let us now return to Farber’s idea of “inappropriateness”. What can we say about that? Well, we can acknowledge that the authorized accounts of the Law of Attraction very well may discourage the practitioner from setting deadlines. But the motivation behind that recommendation is simply that it serves to increase the efficiency of the individual, not diminish it.
So there is something about skipping deadlines that may radically increase one’s efficiency, according the authorized accounts of Law of Attraction. And what is that? It is the minimization of the “worry-factor”.
For in order to be maximally efficient (and simultaneously happy and joyful!) one must have a clear mind. And one cannot have a clear mind if one worries about a deadline (or about anything else). Thus, in order to avoid slipping down into the negative realms of N1 (“weakly negative”) or N2 (“medium negative”), most beginning and intermediate-level students of the Law of Attraction would typically benefit from having no deadlines.
This way, they will typically become more efficient and successful than “ordinary” people with fancy Filofaxes and detailed project plans. And, not to forget, the students of Law of Attraction will also simultaneously enjoy the journey more, since their share of positive energy is typically much higher than most other people’s.
So by adopting the ‘no deadline’ philosophy, the student can easier avoid negative territory, and thereby continue being more productive (and more happy!) than most other people.
In short, Farber’s argument does not prove that the Law of Attraction is not true.
6. No Challenges
This argument is quite similar to argument number 4 above, as can be seen here from Farber’s conclusion at the end of his argument:
“There are many goal-achieving benefits to acknowledging and planning for challenges that may arise. Unfortunately, a belief in a law of attraction does not allow for you to accomplish this.”
Farber’s argument goes something like this, as I am reading him (see also my post on the “No Challenges” argument):
P1.Authors of the Law of Attraction typically advice their students not to focus on problems, since the philosophy is that if they focus like that, they will get more problems, since problems attract more problems.
P2.Planning for challenges may bring many ‘goal-achieving benefits’.
P3.But the students of the Law of Attraction will not get such benefits, since they avoid planning for challenges.
P4.This must indicate that the Law of Attraction is a false principle.
My response is this. Farber’s representation of the Law of Attraction is basically correct (proposition 1). But that doesn’t lead to the conclusion he is trying to make.
For students of Law of Attraction are not like “ordinary” people. So whatever research has been made on such matters does not apply to such students. Unlike other people, students of Law of Attraction are in control of their mind and their clarity, and thus are not attracting the same amount of negative energy as “ordinary” people do, who typically are immersed in preventing problems and worrying about them all day long.
So “ordinary” people, who typically are at N1 (“weakly negative”) or N2 (“medium negative”) might very well get a little soothing of their negativity by planning ahead. For instead of their constant worrying without a plan, they can now do some constant worrying with a plan instead. And that just might make their lives a tiny bit better. So the existence of a plan may give them some slight hope that they actually might be able to escape that which they are constantly worrying about, even if it, most of the time, nevertheless manifests anyway.
For a student of the Law of Attraction, the situation is much different. Typically he is nicely situated in positive territory, typically at P1 (“weakly positive”) or P2 (“medium positive”). And here he is basically free from worry. He knows that he is in a very good situation, and he knows that the more positivity he can generate, the better his life is going to be.
But having achieved a certain positivity level is not a guarantee that his life is going to be wonderful. For if the student stops his spiritual practices, he will soon “fall down” into negative territory. And one efficient way of “falling down” is to start thinking negatively, i.e. about what could go wrong, and why it could go wrong, and how it could go wrong, and when it could wrong, and for how long it could go wrong, etc.
Therefore, introducing the idea of “a plan to avoid problems” is a good way for such a person to start worrying about challenges and all that comes with it. And the more he thinks about that, the more his positive spiritual energy will diminish, until he is down into negative territory like most “ordinary” people.
Thus, even though “ordinary” people might benefit from such planning, students of the Law of Attraction are typically not benefiting; they may in fact worsen their condition. This, however, is not an indication of that the Law of Attraction is false. On the contrary, as I have explained, the different effects for different people is perfectly consistent with the philosophy of the authorized version of the Law of Attraction. [see also arguments 4 and 5 above]
In other words, Farber’s argument against the Law of Attraction does not work very well.
7. No Compassion
In argument 7 Faber brings up the point of compassion:
“While research shows that charitable work, empathy, and volunteering are beneficial to both the giver and receiver, avoid these things if you believe in LOA.”
Here is how I understand Farber’s argument (see also my “No Compassion” post):
P1.Authors of the Law of Attraction recommend their students to refrain from associating with negative situations involving poverty or helping the needy. For that association will bring more poverty and neediness into the students own lives.
P2.But research shows that charitable work and empathy are beneficial both to the giver and receiver.
P3.So those authors’ recommendation to not associate with negative situations is nonsense.
P4.Hence, the Law of Attraction is a bogus principle.
Where is the Research?
My response is this. First of all, Farber’s representation of Law of Attraction is here correct. That is what it teaches. But there’s no problem with that, from a philosophical perspective.
The real problem in this argument is thus not what the Law of Attraction teaches or not teaches. The problem is the statement “While research shows…”. What research is that? When was it conducted? Who wrote it? Farber doesn’t mention anything about that. So we have seen no evidence so far. Thus, the argument it not a good one.
And even if we were to find out the name of the research or the names of the researchers themselves, there would be little to gain. Why? First all because no advanced student of the Law of Attraction would contemplate the idea of working in such an environment.
So even if an article could be found that supported the general statement that working in negative situations is beneficial for both the giver and the receiver, it would have little to do with the Law of Attraction student. For no such student could have been part of such a research project.
How Is It Beneficial?
Another problem with Farber’s argument is that he has not specified in what way it would be beneficial to the person who is giving it. What exactly does the giver gain by associating with poor people or people in trouble? Respectability? Admiration of others? Free soup?
The upshot of all of this is that while there may be some benefits for “ordinary” people who typically believe that society and respectability and admiration of others are important aspects of life, it has little value for a student of the Law of Attraction, who typically is selfishly engaged in his or her own happiness project.
Law of Attraction as a Potential Threat
Therefore, argument 7 does not constitute any problem for the thesis that Law of Attraction is true. But it does succeed in communicating the point that Farber, and others, are dissatisfied with the idea that Law of Attraction promotes selfishness and a non-empathic lifestyle.
So in reality it’s not really an argument that proves Law of Attraction to be false. Rather it is an argument that indicates that Law of Attraction is a potential threat to an orderly and organized human society, as it is currently manifested.
8. No Support
Here are the last two sentences in Farber’s “No Support” argument:
“Research shows that support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Weight Watchers, or breast cancer support are beneficial. The LOA incorrectly predicts that you will make your problems worse.”
This is my reconstruction of Farber’s argument (see also my “No Support” article for more details):
P1.Authors of the Law of Attraction typically recommend their students to stay away from people who are not happy or not healthy, since such association will be counterproductive for the students.
P2.Support groups for people with mental or physical illnesses consist of people who are not happy or not healthy, or both.
P3.Such students should therefore avoid support groups for people with mental or physical illnesses.
P4.But research shows that such support groups are beneficial.
P5.Since the recommendations from such authors do not match what the research shows, the recommendations don’t work as predicted by those authors.
P6.Consequently, the Law of Attraction is a bunch of nonsense.
Here is my response. It may benefit people who are already having these diseases or issues, in that they meet other people who have the same condition. So there may be some psychological relief from such association, especially initially. But even if that is true, it doesn’t mean that they will be cured from their respective illnesses or conditions.
Thus, attending such meetings may very well have some temporary soothing effect. But the effect is not strong enough to substantially shift their energy. So they keep talking about the same problems with others and thereby “cement” their negative energy and their disease. And that is exactly what the Law of Attraction philosophy teaches.
So Farber’s conclusion is simply wrong. The authorized philosophy of the Law of Attraction does correctly predict what will happen. People attending such meetings seldom move away from their diseases or conditions, for their basic negative energy (that is the real cause for their condition or issue) still remains.
Also, the Law of Attraction does not claim that all people will worsen their situation by talking about their condition. People who are starting off healthy and very positive are basically the only ones who would risk their health.
People who are already sick may not get sicker, but just keep re-manifesting similar diseases all the time. So those already in the negative half of the negativity-positivity spectrum might not experience a decline in their health. Why? Because they are already so unhealthy.
Here are some of Farber’s thoughts on the topic of “mindfulness” (my square brackets):
“This [the philosophy of Law of Attraction described in Farber’s previous paragraph] is the definition of mindlessness. Being fully aware of and attentive to the here and now is mindfulness and has been shown to produce powerful health and wellness benefits, such as greater life satisfaction and happiness.”
Here is how I have interpreted Farber’s argument (see also my separate post on the “Mindless” argument):
P1.Mindfulness is the nice practice of an increased awareness of, and attentiveness to, the present moment, as it plays out in one’s surrounding physical world.
P2.And the beneficial quality of mindfulness is also documented in various scientific studies, which confirm that greater satisfaction and happiness is indeed achieved by those who practice it.
P3.But the students of Law of Attraction typically spend lots of time in their private fantasy dream world, as they want it to manifest in the future. So instead of living as normal people do, such students live their lives without regard for the present.
P4.So such students do not practice mindfulness but mindlessness.
P5.Therefore, such students will not experience the satisfaction and happiness that those who practice mindfulness are experiencing.
P6.Hence, the Law of Attraction is a false principle.
What can we say about this argument? Well, one thing we can say is that Farber does not really know the philosophy of the authorized version of Law of Attraction. Or, if he knows it, he doesn’t show it in his presentation.
So his points about practitioners of the Law of Attraction not making plans and not engaging in action are simply wrong. Such practitioners do make plans and they do engage in action. But when they do, they do it in a different way than “ordinary” people do it. [also see argument 4: “No Plan”]
Another point is this. The fact that mindfulness might be leading to greater satisfaction and happiness is no guarantee that there are not other processes that might deliver a similar (or even greater) amount of satisfaction and happiness.
And, as seen also in some of the previous arguments (no. 5 and no. 6), Farber seems to think that all people are equal, and that the same “prescription” (in this argument, “mindfulness”) would result in approximately the same effect for different people. But it doesn’t work like that.
That’s because people are not equal in terms of their emotional status: some are emotionally unstable and highly negative and are suffering from chronic diseases (N2 and N3), while others are brimming with positive energy and are as healthy as a herd of horses (P2 and P3). And we all know that healthy people don’t have to take the same medicine as sick people; in fact, they don’t have to take any medicine at all.
To sum up: Farber has not proven that Law of Attraction is not true. The only thing he has proven is that he does not really know what the authentic Law of Attraction amounts to.
10. Blame Yourself
The meat of Farber’s argument named “blame yourself” seems to be this:
“This assumes that you not only control your thoughts and actions, but also those of everyone around you…and nature. The fact is, you don’t. Sorry to break that to you.”
Farber’s whole argument (not just the quote above but also everything that comes before it) is difficult to make sense of, so I will not present all the propositions here (but see my dedicated article on the “Blame Yourself” argument).
In any case, he seems to say (based on his first sentence) that the Law of Attraction is built on the premise that you not only control your own thoughts and actions, but you also control the thoughts and actions of everyone else in your surroundings, as well as nature (lines 4 and 5 in his text). And then he says “The fact is, you don’t”.
The Dynamics of the Universe
So what is he saying? His idea is presumably that there is something fishy going on with the Law of Attraction. Because for it to work properly, the dynamics of the universe must be such that each person can actively hypnotize others (by their thoughts only) into doing what he or she wants. But that, Farber says, is not how it works in real life. So Law of Attraction must be nonsense.
My response to this is quite simple. Farber’s depiction of the dynamics of the universe has no resemblance to the teachings of the authorized accounts of the Law of Attraction. The authentic version of Law of Attraction clearly states that there is no assertion going on anywhere. In other words, one person can only control his or her own consciousness and emotional state; they cannot control other people’s consciousness and emotional state just by thinking some thoughts.
Therefore, the philosophy of the real Law of Attraction perfectly aligns with Farber’s own statement: “The fact is, you don’t.” Thus, Farber has misunderstood the philosophy of the real Law of Attraction. And he has presented nothing in this argument that would in any way discredit or invalidate the Law of Attraction.
11. Blame the Victim
Here is the essence of Farber’s “blame the victim” argument:
“Children getting killed by terrorists, sick babies in the intensive care unit, victims of floods, hurricanes, natural disasters, the Holocaust — yes, their fault. We all know deep inside that this is ridiculous to even suggest. However, it is a basic, fundamental premise of the LOA.”
Farber’s whole argument is quite long after having reconstructing it, so I will not publish it here in this section (but see my article on the “Blame the Victim” argument).
The main point in my response to Farber is that there is no solid argumentation going on here for establishing anything about the truth or falsity of the Law of Attraction. All Farber is doing is committing the philosophical fallacy of “appeal to majority”, which works like this (Kelley 1994, p. 131):
“The fallacy of appealing to the majority is committed whenever someone takes a proposition to be true merely because large numbers of people believe it (regardless of whether those people actually constitute a majority).”
So the perceived “ridiculousness” of Farber and his many friends is irrelevant. It does not have the power to prove that Law of Attraction does not exist.
12. We’re Not Perfect
Here is an important part of Farber’s “We’re Not Perfect” argument:
“If you are only going to be satisfied with perfect results — perfect health, perfect body, perfect family, perfect marriage, perfect friendships, perfect kids, perfect house, perfect job, perfect life; you are in for a perfect disappointment. Research studies support this.”
So here is how I read Farber (see also my dedicated “We’re Not Perfect” post for more details):
P1.The Law of Attraction is a perfect law of the Universe.
P2.And that law says that there is no such thing as an unrealistic goal.
P3.Therefore, a student of the Law of Attraction should be able to create a perfect life for himself or herself.
P4.But life is not perfect. It can be great and fantastic and amazing, but not perfect.
P5.Fantasizing and striving for perfection may make you feel good in the short term.
P6.But research shows that such fantasizing and striving for perfection actually reduces your chance of getting what you want, and thus results in more unhappiness and blaming.
P7.So the Law of Attraction is a perfectly false law.
I think this is one of Farber’s best arguments. So let’s see what we can say about it.
As Farber points out, Rhonda Byrne does say the following (Byrne 2006, p. 131):
“You can think your way to the perfect state of health, the perfect body, the perfect weight, and eternal youth. You can bring it into being, through you consistent thinking of perfection.”
So, as we can see, Byrne not only points out that we can achieve a very wonderful state of health, but she actually accentuates the whole idea of “perfection”. This is, in my opinion, an exaggeration and plain hype. And this is one of the reasons why I have since long categorized Byrne’s books as non-authorized. For our lives will never come to “perfection” (in the sense that most people would understand that word).
But the authorized version of the Law of Attraction does not claim such things. Sure, Abraham-Hicks often use the word “perfect” in various contexts. But their teaching is also always accompanied by the idea that there is “contrast” (i.e., problems) lurking around every corner, soon to be manifest. And we can never get rid of contrast, no matter how “advanced” Law of Attraction practitioners we are.
This is simply how the Universe is set up. For in order for us to create new desires (which increases the level of joy in the whole Universe), we must experience resistance in the form of “contrast”. Thus, when we know what we don’t want, we are ready to search for that which we do want. So we are experience explorers, doing the “dirty work” here on Earth, finding new things to be excited about.
The typical scenario is that while the practitioner very well may experience a very wonderful life (with an emotional profile that is substantially more positively charged than the ones of most “common” people), he or she will often temporarily “get out of balance” because of such “contrast”.
So while his or her relationship or financial status may be in very good order, perhaps there is some small health issue (maybe a small wart on the big toe has manifested in the summer heat?). Or maybe their health and money situation both are extraordinary, but their supermodel partner has just broken up with them (but another one is soon to come).
Thus, in the authentic accounts of the Law of Attraction, the focus is not on creating some “status quo” Cinderella world. Rather, the focus is simply on feeling good. For if we can just learn to feel good, in all circumstances, our lives will be more and more amazing every day. But don’t expect some snapshot Disneyworld “perfection”. It won’t happen. Or if it happens, it won’t last for very long. And that’s good. For it’s a dynamic experience we are here for, not stagnation or regurgitation.
Where does this leave us with Farber’s argument, then? Well, we can confidently say that it has nothing to do with the authorized accounts of the Law of Attraction. So while it may have indicated that some of the non-authorized versions of the Law of Attraction are hyped, it has not affected the authorized versions in terms of their validity.
13. Placebo Effect
Here is the “finale” of Farber’s “Placebo Effect” argument:
“Is a belief in a law of attraction any better than rubbing a rabbit’s foot, tossing a coin in the fountain, or pulling apart a wishbone? Test it yourself; the answer is no!”
Here is how I understand his whole argument (see also my separate post on the “Placebo Effect” argument):
P1.Placebos are inactive, ineffective substances, usually in the form of a pill.
P2.But when people use placebos in experiments, studies have found that they install a faith in the person who takes them. In fact, the greater expectations the person has who is taking such a placebo, the greater the chance of a positive outcome.
P3.So the positive effect is not created by any biochemical reactions of the placebo pill interacting with the body, but by the person’s own strong belief.
P4.This effect is found also in some practitioners who believe in the Law of Attraction teachings. And it is also found in other circumstances, for example when rubbing a rabbit’s foot, or tossing a coin in the fountain, etc.
P5.So a belief in the Law of Attraction is no better than a placebo pill or the rubbing a rabbit’s foot.
P6.Therefore, the Law of Attraction is false.
There are several important things to be said about this argument.
Farber makes a couple of good points in the first half of this argument. There he concludes that the placebo effect is a result of the person’s strong belief, and not an effect of the pill itself. Sure, that sounds right.
The second half of the argument is also good. For the conclusion that he makes is basically correct: A belief in the Law of Attraction is no better than a placebo pill or rubbing a rabbit’s foot, for the purpose of inducing the placebo effect.
Thus, one does not have to believe in the Law of Attraction in order to manifest anything (where did he get that idea from?). Sure, absolutely! We all have manifested everything around us from the day we were born, without knowing about the Law of Attraction. So that’s all correct.
Also note that I emphasized the phrase “for the purpose of inducing the placebo effect” above. So although a belief in the Law of Attraction is not a causal factor for a particular manifestation, such a belief can still be extremely useful in other circumstances, for example for educational purposes or motivational purposes (e.g., self-talk, etc.).
Summing up: What Farber has shown us is that the placebo effect is real. But what he seemingly do not understand is that the placebo effect is the Law of Attraction in action. So by proving the existence of the placebo effect he has also at the same time proven the existence of the Law of Attraction.
14. Anecdotal Evidence
Here is the core part of Farber’s “anecdotal evidence” argument.
“Evidence that the LOA is an effective way of attaining goals is anecdotal, nonscientific, and self-reported. This fact does not prove it doesn’t exist. But closely scrutinize whether you want to invest time, money, and energy into something that is ineffective and potentially harmful.”
Since I think the gist of argument 14 is already in the quote above, I will not list the reconstructed argument (but feel free to consult my dedicated article on “Anecdotal Evidence” to see my complete reconstruction).
At the end of his text (i.e. not in the quote above) he talks about success rate in regard to the Law of Attraction. He says this: “The failure rate is huge!” and then he refers to John Assaraf who, according to Farber, has estimated the success rate to about 0.1% (but Farber does not tell us in which book or publication John Assaraf has said this).
This figure is of course hard to evaluate. One reason is that he doesn’t actually spell it out: success rate of exactly what? But presumably this discussion is about manifesting things (nice cars, beautiful homes, or attractive partners, etc.). So it is presumably some combination of those things.
And if that is what he is talking about, then that sounds very reasonable. Why is that reasonable Because manifesting such things (cars and condos, etc.) is difficult, and takes time.
And that is why the authorized account of Law of Attraction is recommending that one should not focus on such manifestations. The main focus must always be simply to feel good and aim to feel better. And when you really, really, REALLY feel good, you will not care whether or not the manifestations will be there. So then they can come!
Summing up: As Farber himself says in the quote above, he does not disprove the Law of Attraction in this argument. So argument 14 is a no-go, in terms of potentially casting doubt on the Law of Attraction.
As I noted in the beginning, my expectation was that Farber would have a very hard time disproving the authorized version of Law of Attraction. For in my experience, it is definitely a 100% valid principle.
And I was right. Farber did not succeed in proving it is false, neither in a conclusive manner, nor in a “loose” manner. In fact, he almost succeeded in proving it is TRUE (although he most probably did not realize it at the time), as seen in argument 13 above.
All in all: we are good. The Law of Attraction is real.
- The existence of passion might also be understood as a “productivity” or “creativity” indicator: “When you focus long enough that you feel passion, you harness more power and you achieve greater results” (Money, and the Law of Attraction, p. 102).
- Byrne, Rhonda (2006), The Secret. London: Simon & Schuster UK. [Link to book]
- Hicks, Esther and Jerry Hicks (2004), Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires. Foreword by Wayne W. Dyer. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc. [Link to book]
- Hicks, Esther and Jerry Hicks (2006), The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham. Foreword by Neale Donald Walsch. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc. [Link to book]
- Hicks, Esther and Jerry Hicks (2008), Money, and the Law of Attraction: Learning to Attract Wealth, Health, and Happiness. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc. [Link to book]
- Kelley, David (1994), The Art of Reasoning. Second Expanded Edition. New York and London: W W Norton & Company. [Link to book]
- Kuhn, Thomas S. (1996), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Third Edition. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. [Link to book]
- Roberts, Jane (1994), Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul. A Seth Book. Notes and cover art by Robert F. Butts. Reprint edition. San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing; and Novato, CA: New World Library. [Link to book]
- Roberts, Jane (1994), The Nature of Personal Reality: Specific Practical Techniques for Solving Everyday Problems and Enriching the Life You Know. A Seth Book. Notes and cover art by Robert F. Butts. Reprint edition. San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing; and San Rafael, CA: New World Library. [Link to book]
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