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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Is the "Law of Attraction" compatible with Catholicism?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, 
         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

The "Law of Attraction", LOA, seems to be nothing more than this:  think positive thoughts and positive things will happen to you. i.e: "Think it, and make it so."  We "attract" good things by our good thoughts/feelings.

We are all familiar with its corollary:  if you think negative thoughts, then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy and, indeed, negative things will happen to you.

The LOA is a New Age concept that can be found in Wayne Dyer's writings, the 2006 book/movie "The Secret", author Marianne Williamson's books, and, of course Oprah has been a big proponent of the LOA.

It may seen like an innocuous at worst and helpful at best philosophy to live by:  what's wrong with thinking positively?  Who does that hurt?...In fact, our common sense seems to tell us that there are indeed some truths to the LOA. As Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin maintains, "Our thoughts do affect our outlook, and if you have a positive outlook, positive things are more likely to happen to you."  However, he adds, "But that happens in a natural manner. You can't magically attract things into your life just by thinking about them."  This, he says, is superstition.

In fact, the LOA is indeed not compatible with Catholicism. In the 2003 Vatican document, "Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life", the Church states, "The widespread New Age conviction that one creates one's own reality is appealing, but illusory...Our limitations are a fact of life and and of being a creature." 

There is no scientific evidence that the LOA is true.  There are no scientifically reproducible, demonstrable results that this phenomenon, or "law", is occurring. The only "proof" we have is anecdotal.  "I woke up thinking I was going to get a raise today, and it happened!"

Not very scientific.

The LOA is incompatible with Catholicism because its main axiom is that we are able to "manipulate the universe" and, in essence, control God.  Its philosophy seems to be borne from a Pantheistic worldview, in which everything is "energy" and all "energy" is God.  According to former New Age devotee Sharon Lee Giganti, the LOA seems to be a modern day form of ancient magic and sorcery.

Incidentally, how does the LOA work if, say, a teenager is using the LOA to attract a shiny new red convertible, and his parents are using the LOA to visualize him not getting a shiny new car, who's going to win this tug-o-war in the LOA world?

Another problem with the LOA is that it may serve as a catalyst for dismissing the poor and downtrodden.  Did they not attract these hardships on themselves, according to the LOA?  And, of course, this, too is contrary to Catholic social justice which mandates that we treat the poor and downtrodden as we would serve Jesus himself. "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me.--Matt 25:35

So if we ought to be cautious about entertaining this LOA, how is this different from prayers of petition?  Aren't we in essence doing the same thing as invoking the LOA when we ask God to, say, give us a raise?  I think the difference is that in our prayers of petition we surrender control to God, rather than to ourselves. "Please, God, help me to get the raise that I deserve", acknowledges that God is in control but where we understand that God gives us the "dignity of causality". That is, God allows us to "cause" this event by our asking for this event, while the LOA seems to be operating under the mantra, "My will be done" not "Thy will be done."

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Fr. Mitch Pacwa comments on The Secret

Catholics Come Home

Catholic Bible online

Catechism of the Catholic Church online

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15


  1. Seems the incompatibilities between the Law of Attraction (LOA) and Catholicism are a result of misunderstandings with the LOA:

    "The LOA is incompatible with Catholicism because its main axiom is that we are able to manipulate the universe and, in essence, control God"

    That's not what it means at all. You only have control of 'your own' destiny; not everyone else's and certainly not God's. God can help you if you think positively (i.e. have faith) by helping to draw abundance and the best outcome of a situation (except when a lesson needs to be learned to help you become a better person). It's not scientifically provable because it involves mostly 'personal experiences' that are obviously not reproducible by someone else whereas everyone experiences the law of gravity the same way. Does not make the LOA any less real though.

    "That is, God allows us to "cause" this event by our asking for this event, while the LOA seems to be operating under the mantra, "My will be done" not "Thy will be done."

    I view at the Law of Attraction as the mechanism God uses to answer your prayers. It requires faith and patience to get what you want; God knows what makes you happy better than you do. God is fully aware of how you feel and shares your emotions with you.

    "Another problem with the LOA is that it may serve as a catalyst for dismissing the poor and downtrodden. Did they not attract these hardships on themselves, according to the LOA?"

    It doesn't dismiss the poor and downtrodden at all. People with more are still expected to help the poor just the same; not use the law of an attraction as an excuse to ignore a beggar in need. People are born completely unaware of the law of attraction and do not realize how their actions impact their future. They can learn like anyone and start attracting more positive events into their life.

    Shame that there are so many dividers between faiths and a sense of close-mindedness among religious folk thereby preventing someone from seeing the broader picture of how our universe works and how God operates in our lives. I am Catholic too but decided to open my mind to other possibilities.

    1. Thanks for your interesting comments, djn. Let me address your last point first: do you not see the irony in your objection? It certainly sounds as if you're saying, "I don't think it's correct to point out where other people are wrong--it just creates division. So let me point out that you're wrong to do this."

    2. What you are describing, djn, is quite different than the LOA. You seem to be describing..."prayers of petition", and having faith that God is in control, which are, of course a good and holy and very Catholic thing to do.

      But that is NOT the LOA.

      This is the LOA: the idea that your thoughts will control the universe. And if you embrace this, then that is, indeed, contrary to the Christian ethos and as a Catholic you should run as far away from this as you can.

  2. I did a quick look up of the exact definition for the Law of Attraction and got this: "The idea that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts a person brings positive or negative experiences into their life". To me it sounds like you can only control your own destiny; not necessarily being able to use thoughts to control what the universe does. That would be disastrous if it were true as we only have a limited viewpoint (and there would be conflicting requests all the time) whereas God sees all and knows what is best for each of us.

    Here is how I use the LOA on a more personal level. Before I endeavour on something such as a trip somewhere or going biking, I ALWAYS imagine the occasion going extremely well before I set out and then continue re-enforcing that thought in mind. In a sense I am praying for safety and enjoyment. As a result, things do end up going seamlessly and sometimes even better than expected. Likewise, I try and only focus on what will bring joy into my life and those around me such as friendship, fun events, etc while avoiding negativity such as dwelling on what I lack or allowing grudges against others to form.

    1. Thanks for your comments, djn. Firstly, can we clear up the contradiction here between what you seem to be permitting for yourself and what you're objecting to in others? IOW: Is it ok for BOTH OF US, not just you, to point out where there are disagreements in beliefs, without being accused of causing friction and division?

    2. As far as the "exact definition" of the LOA--by whose authority to we defer to this definition?

      At any rate, by this definition, it certainly sounds as if one believes she can control the universe by her thoughts--else, how does one "bring positive or negative experiences" into her life without....controlling the universe.

      Imagining one's trip as going well WILL NOT, in any way shape or form, create this reality.

      That is superstition.

      You have no power to create this reality by your imagination.

      That's like the Emperor's New Clothes. He imagines the reality that he's dressed in finery. But he's actually....

      buck nekkid.

      No amount of imagining is going to change the reality.

    3. To clarify, when I mentioned "dividers", I was referring how a Catholic (or someone from any religion) and another from a different faith may have disputes due to differing viewpoints (most notably on how to worship) rather than simply finding the common ground making it easier to understand one another. I am doing the same by showing how believing in a positive outcome using the law of attraction is no different than offering a prayer to God for good fortune on your venture. You are not changing the universe yourself, you are asking God to provide you with a clear path up ahead by only thinking of the outcome you want and not stressing over the numerous ways things can go wrong.

      "Imagining one's trip as going well WILL NOT, in any way shape or form, create this reality."
      As I said, it's not about imagining how your venture will but rather starting out with an optimistic mindset and "believing" that God will provide what is needed to ensure it goes positively.

      My point differs from your example with the emperor in that he was trying to change something that has already happened (i.e. he's already naked and that certainly cannot be changed by thought alone). The law of attraction only affects upcoming events such as if that same emperor was doing a trip around his kingdom and believed 100% that he would have safe passage in which case God can ensure the universe supports him.

      Try it next time you go somewhere. Before you begin, think of your trip going really well but leave all the specifics to God and you may be surprised. I will provide an example in my own life. I remember visualizing a positive outcome where everyone is happy before going Go-Karting for a friend's birthday and it went exceedingly well. We got there perfectly timed in that there was no lineup, we had the full course to ourselves (a crowd of people did come just after we left though), and after finishing up, someone came by and handed all of us a free bottle of water which was a nice bonus.

    4. I thank you for your comments and insights, djn.

      So I think we are agreed that if there are points of similarity, we should embrace those points, and where there are diverging opinions, of which someone may be wrong, it may be necessary to re-direct these mistaken individuals.

      So we are agreed that being optimistic will help one see what is good in the situation.

      We we are disagreed is that by invoking the LOA you can change the reality.

    5. That's right. Focusing on what you want (and not doubting yourself which is the hardest part) while asking God for a change will lead to a more favourable outcome in your life according to the Law of Attraction. However, you cannot change what has already happened as it is now a part of your reality.

      For example, the emperor cannot invoke the Law of Attraction to cause clothes to miraculously appear on his body but he can believe he will have them down the line and may unexpectedly come across a tailor or finds out the next day that somebody had made new garments for him.

      Nice talking with you and thanks for your insights as well. I posted here because I wanted a fellow Catholic's insight on the Law of Attraction.

    6. Nice chatting with you as well, djn. But I am going to visualize (heh!) you changing your position to that which is consonant with Catholicism, for what you have embraced is absolutely NOT what Christ taught.

      It is, in fact, a rather sinister approach--exactly what the Devil ordered--when one "focuses on what you want", rather than surrendering to that which the Creator wants.

      "You focus on yourself and your wishes" has been the sibilant whisper of the serpent since the beginning of humanity.

      Rather, the Christian ethos says, "deny yourself, and in denying yourself, you will find true joy".

      What a magnificent gospel we have!!