You’ve undoubtedly heard of the new age philosophies “The Law of Attraction” or “The Secret”—the belief that positive or negative thoughts attract positive or negative experiences into one’s life.
The ideology asserts that focusing on something and truly believing you will have it means the thought will manifest itself into physical reality. For example, if you ask the universe for five million dollars and have faith that it will come into your life, your dream will come to fruition.
These newer theories rewrite the old Norman Vincent Peale book The Power of Positive Thinking, originally published in 1952, which promoted the idea of succeeding because you picture yourself as successful—an idea akin to self-hypnosis.
As a Baha’i, I do believe that the power of positive thinking can work at times—but I also yield to the greater power of an omnipotent and loving Creator. I know I have free will, but I think of surrendering to God’s will as essential, since His plan is greater than ours could ever be. While I do think I can co-create my destiny with God, I believe that ultimately He has the final say—which will undoubtedly benefit me spiritually in the long run.
You’ve heard the stories of unlucky lottery winners winning millions of dollars and then losing it all, or forever dealing with greedy family members?
They show that relying on externalities such as money, beauty, fame, etc. for happiness only offer contentment on a temporal level—and often leave the individual spiritually starved. Ultimately, we seek out these material things because we want to feel loved, seen, valued, etc.
Instead, why not go directly to the source—our Creator? In this sense, the Law of Attraction has validity, because we must give love in order to receive it. We must open our hearts and allow God’s love in.
Growing up, my mom provided the example of God’s love as the sun, and a person holding up an umbrella to block the sunshine. God’s love was always there—but I needed to remove the spiritual barriers which made me feel far from His grace:
O Son of Being! Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 4.
The Law of Attraction describes positive or negative thoughts bringing about corresponding experiences in the physical world, and I have found this dynamic generally true in my own life. When I have a bad attitude and focus on the negative, I feel stuck in a rut of darkness—and I tend to attract individuals and situations which mirror my perspective. Fortunately, the opposite is true, too: when I am reflecting God’s light, I feel joy in my being. I experience the magic of flowing with life’s journey. I meet angels along my way, and doors open unexpectedly. Many of us have experienced similar situations where a change in attitude transforms our outward circumstances. The Baha’i teachings mention the Law of Attraction in that light:
So it is with the great body of humanity. The wonderful Law of Attraction, Harmony and Unity, holds together this marvellous Creation.
As with the whole, so with the parts; whether a flower or a human body, when the attracting principle is withdrawn from it, the flower or the man dies. It is therefore clear that attraction, harmony, unity and Love, are the cause of life, whereas repulsion, discord, hatred and separation bring death.
We have seen that whatever brings division into the world of existence causes death. Likewise in the world of the spirit does the same law operate.
Therefore should every servant of the One God be obedient to the law of love, avoiding all hatred, discord, and strife. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 139-140.
Even if you disagree with the Law of Attraction’s validity, doesn’t it feel better to be a happy, positive, and loving person as opposed to a cynical, closed-minded, and depressed individual? I realize that life is not always so black and white, but as the great leader Mahatma Gandhi said:
Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.
The Baha’i writings confirm that God wants us to be happy and to focus on the positive aspects of life, even amidst the most terrible situations:
Anybody can be happy in the state of comfort, ease, health, success, pleasure and joy; but if one will be happy and contented in the time of trouble, hardship and prevailing disease, it is the proof of nobility. Thanks be to God 364 that that dear servant of God is extremely patient under the disastrous circumstances, and in the place of complaining gives thanks. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 363.
I want you to be happy … to laugh, smile and rejoice in order that others may be made happy by you. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 218.
Modern science has shown that a positive outlook and attitude makes people healthier, happier, and more empowered. It boosts your energy, your motivation, and even your performance. We can always choose happiness by focusing on the bright side of even the most difficult of circumstances. Gratitude is key. The more we are thankful for God’s blessings, the more they abound.
In a sense, then, the Law of Attraction works. I believe it is our purpose as spiritual beings to emanate God’s virtues and spread joy and love in service to humanity. This starts with each of us. Considering our own spiritual well-being, we must love and care for ourselves in order that we may serve our fellow man. If our cup is empty we will have nothing to give, but if our hearts are ablaze with God’s love, our souls can light the world:
Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness. But when sadness visits us we become weak, our strength leaves us, our comprehension is dim and our intelligence veiled. The actualities of life seem to elude our grasp, the eyes of our spirits fail to discover the sacred mysteries, and we become even as dead beings.
There is no human being untouched by these two influences; but all the sorrow and the grief that exist come from the world of matter—the spiritual world bestows only the joy! – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 109-110.