Thursday, March 24, 2011

Abraham Hicks Sells Used Thought

Esther and Jerry Hicks
In Part 3 of Oprah's XM interview with Esther Hicks, Esther claims that she'd never heard of the "Law of Attraction" till her interaction with Abraham. Similarly, her husband Jerry says in The Law of Attraction (a New York Times best-selling title that reworks 1988 recordings with Abraham), that he had never heard the words "Law of Attraction" prior to he and Esther's Abraham experience. In their 2006 attempt to trademark the phrase, they even included a statement from the Project Coordinator of Abraham-Hicks Publications, who writes that Esther and Jerry “arbitrarily” created the term.

Despite their alleged ignorance of the so-called “Law of Attraction,” their version of the “law” bares a remarkable resemblance to the same “Law of Attraction” discussed during the early 1900s New Thought movement, pioneered by authors such as Thomas Troward, William Walker Atkinson, Ernest Holmes, Charles Fillmore, William Juvenal Colville, and Elizabeth Towne. In Glints of Wisdom by William Juvenal Colville, Colville explains the New Thought “Law of Attraction” by stating, “Everything is a link to attract that which is like itself.” In John Benjamin Anderson’s analysis of the New Thought movement, New Thought: Its Lights and Shadows, he summarizes various authors’ definitions, saying, “It [thought force] draws to itself or to its thinker…that which is like unto itself.” Esther and Jerry’s definition--“That which is like unto itself is drawn”--is incredibly similar to Anderson and Colville's. In fact, the major difference between theirs and Anderson's definition is that “like unto itself” and a different tense of “draw” are rearranged. Anderson's book also discusses popular New Thought examples that were used to illustrate the metaphysical law. For instance, New Thought authors used the phrase "birds of a feather flock together" and described thoughts as being like magnets. Esther and Jerry's materials use these same examples.

(left to right) Fillmore, Atkinson, Hill
More interesting than these similarities, though, is Jerry’s self-admitted exposure to New Thought authors, such as Ernest Holmes and Charles Fillmore, whom Jerry praises as his early mentors in he and Esther’s first book, A New Beginning I. Holmes and Fillmore were highly influential figures in the New Thought movement, and both discussed the “Law of Attraction.” Unity: Volume 108, Issue 1, an early Fillmore publication, says, "We attract to ourselves that to which we give our attention." A Synopsis of the Teachings of Abraham, on Abraham-Hicks' website, more-than-similarly says, "you are attracting the essence of whatever you are choosing to give your attention to." Esther and Jerry's book The Law of Attraction restates this as, "That which you give your attention that which you draw into your experience." Jerry also praises the work of Napoleon Hill, who authored The Law of Success—a book that discusses the “Law of Attraction” by name and in detail. Through these authors alone, Jerry had easy access to materials on the New Thought “law."

These authors are not the only way Jerry could have been exposed to the “Law of Attraction,” however. He was also a top Amway distributor. Amway distributors are known for their promotion and marketing of motivational, New Thought concepts from authors like Napoleon Hill, Norman Vincent Peale, and Charles F. Haanel (all of whom discussed the “Law of Attraction”). Robert Fitzpatrick and Joyce K. Reynold’s book, False Profits, discusses the importance of New Thought concepts to Amway's motivational materials, and in Barbara Ehrenreich’s condemnation of the current positive thinking movement, Bright Sided, she writes that "in the early 1980s" (Jerry was still with Amway then) distributors were even “expected to buy a book a month” from authors who promoted and perpetuated New Thought teachings. Jerry, having been a top distributor, would have been subjected to this same New Thought literature—much of which discusses the “Law of Attraction.”

With Jerry’s Amway past and his self-admitted study of various New Thought authors, it’s easy to see how he could have encountered the New Thought concept “Law of Attraction” prior to he and Esther’s experience with Abraham. It's also likely that he would have been exposed to other New Thought ideas. In Richard Weiss’ 1988 book, The American Myth of Success, Weiss writes, "New Thought further encouraged a “take-it-easy" approach to life with its principle of non-resistance.” Weiss says that the “Law of Attraction” and the principle of non-resistance (sometimes referred to as the "Law of Non-resistance") were usually taught in conjunction with one another. He explains that the principle of non-resistance was about not forcing things to happen. “Receptivity rather than struggle,” he writes. In William Walker Atkinson's 1911 book, Practical New Thought, he gives the analogy of life being like a stream. He explains that rather than rowing upstream and struggling against the current, people should let the current carry them--or even row with it. Esther and Jerry use this same analogy to discuss their version of the "Law of Non-resistance," which they call the "Law of Allowing." Like the "Law of Non-resistance," the "Law of Allowing" encourages Weiss’ statement about “receptivity rather than struggle.” Florence Scovel Shinn, a very successful advocate of New Thought ideas in the early 1900s, said in her book The Secret Door to Success, “the law of non-resistance is an art.” Coincidentally, Jerry and Esther’s "Law of Allowing" is sometimes referred to as the “Art of Allowing.” This concept of the principle (or law) of non-resistance is also discussed by one Jerry’s mentors, Ernest Holmes.

Jerry and Esther claim that they had never heard of the “Law of Attraction” pre-Abraham, but it is clear that Jerry had easy exposure to these words via his favorite authors--Ernest Holmes, Napoleon Hill, and Charles Fillmore--and his past with Amway, a major proponent of New Thought materials. He and Esther’s (or Abraham's) “Law of Attraction” and “Art of Allowing” are indiscernible from the New Thought ideas of “Law of Attraction” and the "Law of Non-resistance." Their materials also incorporate popular examples and analogies from the New Thought movement. However, they continue to claim these ideas were inspired via some means other than the authors who made them famous nearly a hundred years before Jerry and Esther were even around. If Esther has received this wisdom from the nonphysical perspective known as Abraham, it is interesting that they are regurgitating (and seemingly plagiarizing) the very old ideas of the New Thought movement.

Anderson, John Benjamin. New Thought, Its Lights and Shadows; an Appreciation and a Criticism. Boston: Sherman, French &, 1911. 42.

Atkinson, William Walker. Practical New Thought; Several Things That Have Helped People ... Chicago: A.C. McClurg &, 1911.

Colville, W. J. Glints of Wisdom, Or, Helpful Sayings for Busy Moments: Being Abstract from Lectures with Reflections, Statements, Meditations, and Mottoes. New York, U. S. A.: Macoy and Masonic Supply, 1910.

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. New York: Metropolitan, 2009.

Fitzpatrick, Robert L., and Joyce K. Reynolds. False Profits: Seeking Financial and Spiritual Deliverance in Multi-level Marketing and Pyramid Schemes. Charlotte, NC: Herald, 1997.

Hicks, Esther, and Jerry Hicks. "About Jerry and Esther Hicks and the Law of Attraction." Home of Abraham-Hicks Law of Attraction -- It All Started Here! Web. 23 Mar. 2011. <>.

Hicks, Esther, and Jerry Hicks. Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2004.

Hicks, Esther, and Jerry Hicks. The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2006. 133, 137.

Hicks, Jerry, and Esther Hicks. A New Beginning I: Handbook for Joyous Survival. San Antonio, Texas: Abraham-Hicks Publications, 1996.

Hill, Napoleon. The Law of Success. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2008.

Shinn, Florence Scovel. The Secret Door to Success. Radford, VA: Wilder Publications, 2007.

Weiss, Richard. The American Myth of Success; from Horatio Alger to Norman Vincent Peale. New York: Basic, 1969.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Abraham's Chicken/Dog Story Changes

*All bold statements have been bolded by Kyra

Abraham's memory is not so great. Take this example from a common Abraham Hicks story about how Snuggles the dog nearly ate Renegade the chicken:

August 26, 2007 Sedona, AZ
"And Jerry had a sensing of something going on, went out on the back porch and looked, and there is Renegade, apparently already dead and ready to be Snuggles's lunch (although Snuggles really did not care for it. He just killed her for the fun of it, it seemed). And Jerry had a shotgun (that he had never fired) for just such an occasion. And he shot it into the air to get Snuggles attention. (And blew a hole in his favorite tree, by the way, and the telephone line.) And Snuggles dropped Renegade. And Renegade shook herself off and got up and came home quickly. And Esther said, 'Abraham, I thought Snuggles had killed renegade. I thought Renegade was dead. And we said, she wasn't dead, she was just getting ready to be dead.'" (This same version is retold in the May 12, 2007, Gaithersburg, MD workshop.)

Mexican Cruise (January 24, 2010)
"And one day, Jerry felt a very strong urge to go out, and he went out. And sure enough, Snuggles had Renegade. And Renegade was hanging like a limp rag, and Snuggles was running away. And Jerry yelled, 'Snuggles!' And because Snuggles is a domesticated dog and therefore prone to some human guilt, Snuggles dropped Renegade...when Jerry yelled...and when the chicken hit the ground, she just shook herself off and ran home. And Esther said, 'Abraham, I thought Snuggles (sic) was dead. And we said, Snuggles (sic) was just ready to be dead.'"

From the 2007 telling to the 2010 telling of this adorable little story, Jerry seems to have lost his gun. Initially, I was going to give Abe the benefit of the doubt and say that it was another time that Snuggles had attempted to eat Renegade. However, I find it hard to believe that Esther repeatedly said to Abraham every time Renegade was caught by Snuggles, "I thought Renegade was dead." It's odd to me that three years after telling this story 3 times (at least, I have heard it more elsewhere), that "Abraham" would have forgotten the gun and explained that Jerry's yelling worked because Snuggles was a "domesticated dog." Also, in the 2010 recording, Abraham mistakenly calls Renegade Snuggles at the end of the story.

For reference, in Esther and Jerry's interview with The Independent, published in 2007 (the same year as the Sedona, AZ version) they retell the story, with the gun.

The Independent Interview
"We had chickens for a few years. We had this one chicken, Renegade, who wouldn't stay in the yard. She went to the neighbours', where there were dogs. And sure enough the neighbour's dog..."

"Snuggles," says Jerry.

"Snuggles got her. Jerry saw that. Didn't you shoot a gun..."


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Where Angels Go To Die: Faith Healing

I was watching Lisa Ling's Our America. It was an episode on faith healing, an industry notorious for charlatanry and corruption. Skeptical from the beginning (particularly when Ling said that she planned on taking a very unscientific approach on the subject), I found myself pleasantly surprised. There were no "I can walk!", "I can see!", or "I can hear!" moments. In fact, at the end, (spoiler alert) Ling acknowledges that Steve (a paralyzed man she was chronicling) and the woman with cancer (the mother of two other women featured in the show) had no noticeable physical benefits from attending the faith healing event. While Ling does not use this fact to deny the usefulness of faith healing (and in fact, ends suggesting that there are other benefits to the "hope" faith healing provides), the episode brought up an issue that--to me--is more problematic than the ineffectiveness of faith healing.

The two women, who's mother has been diagnosed with cancer, believe that when they bring their mother to the faith healing event, she will be healed by God. When Ling inquires as to why they are not opting for medical treatment, they explain that they can no longer afford the chemotherapy. Having personally known others who have found themselves in similar situations (delaying or avoiding treatment because of the cost), I was able to really relate to their situation. Here were people who had been perfectly willing to go the route of conventional, effective treatment, but because of their financial situation, had been unable to do so. Similarly Steve, the paralyzed man featured in the episode, could not receive any major benefit from the medical community. They could not make him walk again. They could not fix him. In fact, as he even mentions, it is really expensive to be paralyzed.

Both stories pointed out a glaring issue---not in the world of faith healing--but in the way America deals with the sick. In this nation (as in all of them), there is a high price to health. This leads many to seek out alternative, cheaper forms of treatment. Here are people, at the what may very well be the most difficult point of their lives, and they are grasping at straws, reaching for someone or something that can give them hope. And the predators of quackery come out of the woodwork. They market themselves to these desperate people. They prey on their weakness and take what money they have left. And of course, I fuss at the charlatans, because it isn't right what they are doing, but at the same time, shouldn't I be fussing at the medical community for denying wellbeing to those who cannot afford it?

I am by no means trying to suggest that there is any value to turning to faith healing. In fact, I think going down that path offers more harm than any benefit it could ever offer. I'm also not saying that there will not always be those who will turn away from medicine for religious reasons. However, good people, who cannot afford to be well, find themselves spending their last moments kneeling before charlatans and con artists. And it will continue to be this way until we find a way to make medical treatment easily and readily available to anyone who needs it. I'll admit that it is getting better, but it's certainly not good enough. And until we, as a people, can offer medical treatment to all, we will have to remain helpless witnesses to the weak as they spend their last days pleading to God and hucksters for a cure.

Caroline Myss: Biggest Hypocrite in the World

A quick peek at Hay House's sister-website, Heal Your Life, led me to an article by one of my favorite authors (and by favorite, I mean favorite to pick on), Caroline Myss. It's called It's not Just about the Cookies. In the article, Myss describes a conversation she had with a CEO of the Girl Scouts of America (who unfortunately was attending one of Myss' events). Myss made it clear to said CEO that the only thing she associated Girl Scouts with was cookies. The CEO went on to explain to Myss the charitable nature of the Girl Scouts and how their goal is to make these girls into future leaders.

The most interesting part of the article came when the CEO asked Myss, "What do you think the biggest obstacle is to inspiring girls to becoming leaders in our society?" She went on to explain "The majority of girls feel that in order to be a leader in today’s society, they have to become liars and they do not want to compromise the values they are learning as Girl Scouts in order to become leaders."

It's clear that this idea struck a chord within Myss. In her article, she agrees that there are too many who have acquired their power through lying and that we need "worthy", honest leaders. She writes:
"Like our Girl Scouts and probably our young Boy Scouts, we should be looking for any evidence of integrity and refusing to settle for anyone who has to rely on negativity and lies in order to qualify to lead."
I can't figure out why Myss--who talks down to her audiences on a regular basis, harps about all the things they are doing wrong, and condemns them for any number of their personal faults--would want people to refuse to settle for negativity. And if people were to look for "evidence of integrity," they need look no further than Myss' suspicious "PhD" from a defunct diploma-mill no longer appears on her books (or any of her materials, for that matter). Even more dubious is her claim in Anatomy of the Spirit that her spiritual assistance led to a man being totally cured of HIV (of course, she has no proof of this). So why in the world would Myss want people to refuse leaders who have "to rely on negativity and lies"? Wouldn't that put her out of a job?