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New Thought Beliefs
Law of attraction · Life force
New Thought Beliefs
Law of attraction · Life force
The law of attraction is the name given to the belief that "like attracts like" and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results. This belief is based upon the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from pure energy, and the belief that like energy attracts like energy. One example used by a proponent of the law of attraction is that if a person opened an envelope expecting to see a bill, then the law of attraction would "confirm" those thoughts and contain a bill when opened. A person who decided to instead expect a cheque might, under the same law, find a cheque instead of a bill.
Thomas Troward, who was a strong influence in the New Thought Movement, claimed that thought precedes physical form and "the action of Mind plants that nucleus which, if allowed to grow undisturbed, will eventually attract to itself all the conditions necessary for its manifestation in outward visible form."
From 1901 to 1912 the English New Thought writer James Allen wrote a series of books and articles, after which his wife Lilly continued his work. Allen is best known for writing "As a Man Thinketh" in 1902.
In 1906, William Walker Atkinson (1862–1932) used the phrase in his New Thought Movement book Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World, stating that "like attracts like." The following year, Elizabeth Towne, the editor of The Nautilus Magazine, a Journal of New Thought, published Bruce MacLelland's prosperity theology book Prosperity Through Thought Force, in which he summarized the principle as "You are what you think, not what you think you are." 
The book The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles espouses similar principles — that simply believing in the object of your desire and focusing on it will lead to that object or goal being realized on the material plane (Wattles claims in the Preface and later chapters of this book that his premise stems from the monistic Hindu view that God pervades everything and can deliver what we focus on). The book also claims that negative thinking will manifest negative results.
Richard Weiss states in his book, The American Myth of Success, that the "principle of "non-resistance" is a popular concept of the New Thought movement and is taught in conjunction with the law of attraction.
The phrase "law of attraction" appeared in the writings of the Theosophical authors William Quan Judge in 1915, and Annie Besant in 1919. Besant compared her version of the 'law of attraction' to gravitation, and said that the law represented a form of karma.
Israel Regardie published many books with the Law of Attraction theme as one of his prevailing Universal Laws. His book, The Art of True Healing: A Treatise on the Mechanism of Prayer and the Operation of the Law of Attraction in Nature (1937), taught a focused meditation technique to help the mind to learn to heal itself on both a physical and spiritual level. Regardie claimed further that The Law of Attraction was not only a valid method for attracting good physical health but for improvement in any other aspect of one's life.
Napoleon Hill published two books on the theme. The first was The Law of Success in 16 Lessons (1928), which directly and repeatedly referenced the law of attraction and proposed that it operates by use of radio waves transmitted by the brain. Then in 1937, he published Think and Grow Rich, which went on to become one of the best selling books of all time, selling over 60 million copies. In this book, Hill insisted on the importance of controlling one's own thoughts in order to achieve success, as well as the energy that thoughts have and their ability to attract other thoughts. In the beginning of the book, Hill mentions a "secret" to success and promises to indirectly describe it at least once in every chapter of the book. It is never named directly, for he says that discovering it on one's own is far more beneficial. Many people have argued over what the secret actually is, some claiming that it is the law of attraction. Hill states the "secret" to which he refers is mentioned no fewer than a hundred times, yet reference to "attract" is used less than 30 times in the text. Most students of the book claim the secret is hidden in its title: THINK (i.e., thoughts).
After this, the book Three Magic Words (1954) by American author U.S. Anderson became a forerunner of the current claims regarding the subconscious mind and the law of attraction. This work was expanded upon by W. Clement Stone in Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude.
The Secret (2006) was a film based on the law of attraction. It was then developed into a book of the same title in 2007. The movie and book gained widespread attention in the media, from such diverse outlets as Saturday Night Live to The Oprah Winfrey Show in the United States; Winfrey devoted two episodes of her show to discussing the film and the law of attraction, talk show host Larry King also discussed it on his show with Bob Solis, but criticized it for several reasons, pointing to the sufferings in the world and asking: "If the Universe manifests abundance at a mere thought, why is there so much poverty, starvation, and death?"
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Skeptical Inquirer magazine criticized the lack of falsifiability and testability of these claims. Critics have asserted that the evidence provided is usually anecdotal and that, because of the self-selecting nature of the positive reports, as well as the subjective nature of any results, these reports are susceptible to confirmation bias and selection bias. Physicist Ali Alousi, for instance, criticized it as unmeasurable and questioned the likelihood that thoughts can affect anything outside the head.
The Law of Attraction has been popularized in recent years by books and films such as The Secret. This film and the subsequent book use interviews with New Thought authors and speakers to explain the principles of the proposed metaphysical law that one can attract anything that one thinks about consistently. Writing for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Mary Carmichael and Ben Radford wrote that "neither the film nor the book has any basis in scientific reality", and that its premise contains "an ugly flipside: if you have an accident or disease, it's your fault." 
Others have questioned the references to modern scientific theory, and have maintained, for example, that the law of attraction misrepresents the electrical activity of brainwaves. Victor Stenger and Leon Lederman are critical of attempts to use quantum mysticism to bridge any unexplained or seemingly implausible effects, believing these to be traits of modern pseudoscience.