History of the Law of Attraction
Wikipedia has an extensive discussion of the law of attraction.
In 1879, the New York Times was the first major newspaper to use the phrase, describing the wagon trains of the Colorado gold rush as "moving in obedience to some occult law that overcomes all obstacles in their progress to their destination".
A physical "energy of attraction", 1902
As early as 1902, references to something similar to the law of attraction can be seen particularly in discussion of matter formation. John Ambrose Fleming an electrical engineer and turn of the century physicist described "every completed manifestation, of whatever kind and on whatever scale" as "an unquenchable energy of attraction" that causes objects to "steadily increase in power and definiteness of purpose, until the process of growth is completed and the matured form stands out as an accomplished fact".
The New Thought Movement, 1904 - 1907
Thomas Troward, who was a strong influence in the New Thought Movement, claimed that thought precedes physical form and that "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".
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. The following year, Elizabeth Towne, the editor of The Nautilus Magazine, a Journal of New Thought, published Bruce MacLelland's book Prosperity Through Thought Force, in which he summarized the principle, stating: "You are what you think, not what you think you are."
The "law" in Theosophy, 1915 - 1919
The phrase "Law of Attraction" appeared in the writings of the Theosophical authors William Quan Judge in 1915, and Annie Besant in 1919.
Before Think and Grow Rich there was the original "Law of Success in 16 Lessons". It was so controversial that it was suppressed and the book was not allowed to be distributed. The good news is that this unabridged version is available today, and lower on this page you will see a picture of the front cover with a link to where you may purchase it.
"Think and Grow Rich", 1937 (This is the watered down version of the "Law of Success in 16 Lessons" mentioned above.)
In 1937, author Napoleon Hill published his book 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, he discusses the importance of controlling your 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, Napoleon 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, but there is a general consensus that the secret he referred to is, in fact, the Law of Attraction.
Mid 1900s to 2000
By the mid 1900s, various authors addressed the topic and related ideas under a range of religious, occult, and secular terms, such as "positive thinking", "mental science", "pragmatic Christianity", "New Thought", "practical metaphysics", "Science of Mind"/"Religious Science", and "Divine Science". Among the mid 20th century authors who used the term were Florence Scovel Shinn (1925), Sri K. Parvathi Kumar, (1942) and Alice Bailey (1942). Author Louise Hay in 1976 released a pamphlet in which she links various diseases and disorders to certain thoughts and states of minds. This list was included in her 1984 best-seller book You Can Heal Your Life, in which she promotes positive thinking as a healing method.
Other proponents of the Law included Wallace Wattles, Robert Collier, and Helena Blavatsky, who all published books in the early 1900s.
The "law of attraction" in the 21st century
In 2006, a film entitled The Secret (2006) was released and then developed into a book of the same title in 2007. The movie and book gained widespread attention in the media from Saturday Night Live to The Oprah Winfrey Show in the United States. The same year the Hicks' The Law Of Attraction was on the New York Times best seller list.
The success of the film and various books led to increased media coverage. Oprah Winfrey devoted two episodes of her show to discussing the film. Talk show host Larry King also discussed it on his show but criticized it for several reasons. He pointed to the sufferings in the world and asked: "If the Universe manifests abundance at a mere thought, why is there so much poverty, starvation, and death?"
This is similar to a common criticism that the law only works because most of the anecdotes cited in books and movies are about people who live in a culture that has paths to allow people to overcome adversity, while this is not true for much of the world.
In August 2008, Esther and Jerry Hickses' book Money and the Law of Attraction: Learning to Attract Health, Wealth & Happiness appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list. See "Getting into the Vortex" illustration on this page.
Unschooling advocate, Dayna Martin, incorporates the Law of Attraction into her approach to radical unschooling, a parenting and homeschooling philosophy.
The Law of Attraction applied
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