When the New Age Movement came into prominence during the late 1970s, nobody knew that by the end of the 20th Century, the New Age Movement would become the third largest religion in America. The New Age’s allure and appeal stem from the perceived breakdowns of the economic, political, cultural and religious systems in the world, underscoring the great disappointment in the promise of the various systems that were born in the Age of Enlightenment. Pollution, wars, economic downturns, military repression, the failure of Democracy, has forced people to re-evaluate their lives by taking a look at alternative spiritualities.
Even in its earliest stages of development, New Age Movement has been linked to the New Thought Movement of the 19th century as well as the mind cure and Human Potential Movements which saw increasing popularity in American culture with the advent of various self – improvement courses related to prosperity building (such as the Dale Carnegie courses) or releasing one’s inner power and ability (such as L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics and Scientology crusades or Werner Erhard’s EST).
Central to the New Age belief system is the notion that human beings no longer have to search “out there” for the divine, because human beings are divine already. Praying to God is no longer necessary since humans are all “gods” that share the same divine essence. Reincarnation, creating one’s own reality, meditation and attaining higher consciousness are the main preoccupations of those participating in the New Age Movement.
The New Age message descends from a variety of sources: Neopaganism, Spiritism, Theosophy, New Thought, Ascended Masters Teachings and so forth – therefore it cannot be defined into a single doctrine. There exists no single defined set of New Age belief, Articles of Faith or a centralized administration. Truth and authority are located within the charismatic leadership of authors, channelers, healers and motivational speakers.
As far as channelers are concerned, New Agers attach great emotional and spiritual significance to the messages these entities speak and write through human beings, evidenced through the popularity of books by Jane Roberts, J.Z. Knight, Neale Donald Walsch and Jerry and Ester Hicks. Which brings us back to the Law of Attraction. A chief feature of the New Age version of the Law of Attraction is the same as ritual magic of old; empowerment. The leaders of the New Age have marketed this desire for empowerment by treating the Law of Attraction as a marketable commodity. There is much to choose from in the wide variety of books, courses and seminars that present the law of attraction as an empowering tool for self-realization.
Channeled Sources of the Law of Attraction
During in the 1960’s, Jane Roberts allegedly channeled a being named, ‘Seth,’ who claimed that reality and the mind did not exist independently of each other, thus consciousness has a real effect on one’s own reality. Seth presented the famous New Age maxim of, “You Create Your Own Reality” through your thoughts, feelings and beliefs.
A Course in Miracles, is a classic New Age tome allegedly channeled from ‘Jesus Christ,’ teaches that spirit, mind, and body are interrelated, and “proper” mental attitudes will help one become more effective with their life. This type of “reality manipulation” has been spoken about before in the 19th and 20th centuries in the writings of Quimby, Atkinson, Hill and Bailey. Thus the trajectory of the human search for empowerment has come a long way from the old days where ritual magic and incantations were used to manipulate natural and supernatural forces – which finds its fullest expression as the New Age principle of reality manipulation within the Law of Attraction. As divine humans, we are to use our divine mind, which is the only creative force in existence.
In 2006, Rhonda Byrne created a colossal marketing tsunami with her hit DVD, The Secret. Appearing on Oprah drove in book sales as well, as you could not visit your local neighborhood bookstore without seeing a gaudy display of The Secret near the cash registers. Promoting The Secret in a documentary style that mixed conspiracy theory, self-improvement and motivational speaking, made The Secret irresistible to many people.
The ‘Secret’ that changed Rhonda Byrne’s life was, of course, the Law of Attraction. She came across Wallace Wattle’s book, The Science of Getting Rich during a difficult time in her life and to her credit, turned her inspiration into a worldwide marketing sensation after an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Byrne’s “secret” was that she just recycled earlier New Thought and Theosophical teachings, placing it in a shiny wrapper and made a fortune. In the DVD version of The Secret, Byrne presents a roll call of “philosophers,” entrepreneurs, “visionaries” and self-help gurus who tell the viewer that The Secret can be revealed to anybody. Bob Proctor, one of the “philosophers” on the DVD, appears and announces that you can ‘get anything you want’ health or wealth – with The Secret.
So, what is The Secret? It’s the Law of Attraction, of course – “the Greatest Law in the Universe.” “It always works,” claims one of the Law of Attraction gurus featured in Byrne’s production. They adamantly assert that thoughts emit a magnetic field that draws events to you. Add intense emotional charge, and what you attract happens faster, and it doesn’t matter if it is positive or negative events. Feeling Good, is your duty. Feeling bad, well, that’s verboten.
Abraham and Esther Hicks
One of the featured narrators on The Secret DVD is Esther Hicks, who channels the non-physical entity “Abraham,” who Hicks describes as an “infinite intelligence.” Hicks appeared in the original release of The Secret, but later had a falling out with Rhonda Byrne, and she was edited out of a new version the next year. Hicks was the only self-help presenter on The Secret who was paid for her appearance, receiving $500,000, according a New York Times interview.
According to the Abraham-Hicks official website, husband and wife team Jerry and Esther Hicks describe themselves as “living a fairy-tale life.” Jerry suffered from poor health as a child and lived in extreme poverty. His life turned around after reading Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich.
The former acrobat and stunt man became a very successful Amway distributor when he met Esther during one of his Amway presentations and later married. Esther spent a period of meditation for nine months, after which ‘Abraham’ appeared in Esther’s consciousness and began communicating with them. Abraham has been described as a “nebulous mist,” “a group consciousness from the non-physical dimension,” “the great masters of the universe,” and so on. The Abraham-Hicks site claims that the modern teaching of the Law of Attraction “all started here!” But various points of the Teachings of Abraham can be traced back to other sources besides those found in New Thought and Theosophy and in New Age. It’s clear that the main features of the Law of Attraction hasn’t changed much since the earlier proponents Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, Helena Blavatsky and Alice Bailey said much of the same things.
But as the most well-known advocates of the Law of Attraction, The Hicks have taken their Abundance message to the world while traveling in true rock star fashion in their one and a half million-dollar tour bus. Even the death of Esther Hicks’ husband, Jerry (in November, 2011) has failed to erode or tarnish the Abraham – Hicks’ popularity.
The Dark Side of The Secret
However, there have been a few beings who may have followed the Law of Attraction too closely, and have taken great risks in doing so. Consider the case of one of the Self-Help Gurus that appeared in The Secret, James Arthur Ray, a frequent guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”. Ray held a Spiritual Warrior seminar in Sedona, Arizona, charging nearly 10 thousand dollars a head to attend a “Break Your Boundaries” workshop. At the end of a physically and mentally taxing five-day regimen that included intense fasting and a “game” where Ray reportedly donned white robes and played God, Ray conducted a sweat lodge ceremony where approximately 55 people were crammed into the steaming hot for hours. Law enforcement officials say that when people became ill and began to pass out, Ray coaxed them to stay inside, apparently to move beyond their discomfort and to “break their boundaries.” As a result 3 people died and 18 were hospitalized in the sweat lodge catastrophe. Controversy ensued when it was reported that Ray fled the scene before talking to authorities.
Ray was later brought to trial for manslaughter, but was only convicted of felony negligent homicide. Ray served nearly two years before being released in 2013 and is presently conducting seminars on dealing with personal crisis.
The Law of Attraction holds out the promise of wealth, health and happiness. The message of “Creating Your Reality” and “Everything Is Yours To Have,” has given people who same sense of empowerment Attraction Magic gave the ancient Mesopotamians thousands of years ago. It’s been a very long road through the centuries and eras that we’ve traveled, but the trajectory of empowerment that is the principle of the Law of Attraction – which appeared in various forms such as the ritual magic prayed and performed to curry favor from the Gods of the ancient Sumerians – to the postmodern proponents of the Secret, who beseech the Gods who reside within the human mind – has been completed. According to the Law of Attraction, we have finally met the Gods that we used to worship. And they were us!