Monday, May 05, 2008

Let's Get Metaphysical...or Not.

The New York Times just dubbed Louise Hay, occult icon and publishing guru, the Queen of the New Age.

The article is worth reading to get a synopsis of the savvy marketing done by occult businesspeople. Occult publishing is definitely a business, and for Hay House publishers, it's to the tune of $100 million last year. I think that sometimes people tend to envision crystal-laden, patchouli-scented hippies when someone mentions "occultists." The truth is that the people who market alternatives to the Bible to the masses have to have their fingers on the pulse of what people want. If you don't want to hear "Thou Shalt Not," then they cater to you.

It's nothing new for occultists like Louise Hay or Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret, to tout positive thinking: it's the idea that you can think into existence whatever you desire. Mel Lawrenz, reviewing The Secret in Christianity Today, explained:

The secret is simply "the law of attraction." Think about wealth, and you will become wealthy. Think about that new car, and it will come. Think about getting a good parking spot, and one will open up. Think about your ideal weight (really, dwell on that number, write it on your scale), and you will attract that reality to yourself. Byrne reports that since deciding her "perfect weight" was 116 pounds, she has reached it, and nothing has moved her from it, no matter what she does or eats.

"Thoughts are magnetic, and thoughts have a frequency," the book assures us. "As you think, those thoughts are sent out into the universe and they magnetically attract all like things that are on the same frequency. Everything sent out returns to the source. And that source is you."

Now here's the bad news: Whatever happens to you—the good and the bad—was attracted by your thoughts. Appendicitis? Auto accident? Poverty? You brought it on yourself.

It's the nasty underbelly of "positive thinking" that you don't hear about when the occult writer or speaker is telling you what a fabulous life you can dream up. If things don't go as you dreamed, you must not really have done a great job of thinking positively. Louise Hay, a legend in New Age circles and publishing giant, knows it must be your fault.

But while Hay may have hedged about whether positive thinking could cure AIDS, in her writings she was adamant that thoughts — not just sexual behavior — could help cause it. "Venereal dis-ease," Hay writes in "You Can Heal Your Life," using her eccentric spelling, "is almost always sexual guilt. It comes from a feeling, often subconscious, that it is not right to express ourselves sexually. A carrier with a venereal dis-ease can have many partners, but only those whose mental and physical immune systems are weak will be susceptible to it." And that mental weakness can be self-loathing, hating one's looks or just a fear of aging.

In person and in print, Hay mentions these causes only to play them down: "In no way am I trying to create guilt for anyone"; "this is a time for healing, for making whole, not for condemnation." But she cannot escape her own logic: if our thoughts create our circumstances, then we are always, in the end, to blame. When I asked her if, since people's thoughts are responsible for their conditions, victims of genocide might be to blame for their own deaths, she said: "I probably wouldn't say it to them. I don't go around making people feel bad. That's not what I'm after." I pressed harder: Did she believe they are to blame? "Yes, I think there's a lot of karmic stuff that goes on, past lives." So, I asked, with a situation like the Holocaust, the victims might have been an unfortunate group of souls who deserved what they got because of their behavior in past lives? "Yes, it can work that way," Hay said. "But that's just my opinion."


She doesn't want to, you know, make people feel bad or anything, but victims of genocide are to blame for their own deaths?

I find that sentiment nothing short of terrifying. It's illogical, and it's always kind of frightening to be presented with bold, profoundly illogical thinking (where do you go with someone you can't reason with?), but this is in another realm of nonsensical.

Don't be fooled about where Hay and other occult writers get their material.
I was curious what sort of research Hay does before adding new items to her list. “I seem to do my best channeling on the computer,” she told me. “People would write me letters: ‘What about this?’ ‘What about that?’ I’d just type and send it off and people would write me back and say, ‘How did you know?’ ”

That technique — it was once called channeling, although the term fell away as New Age became more mainstream — is still a favorite in the Hay House family. Wayne Dyer has written 33 books by going where his pen is led. “I write them by hand and without an outline,” he says, “and I have written them by just letting it come. I know about automatic writing. I don’t know where it comes from. . . . I am just an instrument, and it keeps flowing."

Yeah...from the demons.

I like what Berit Kjos writes in her expose of The Secret:

It does matter what you think and imagine. When we set our minds on self-empowerment and self-focused idolatry, the consequences can be devastating. Again and again, God's Word shows His concern over the corrupting influence of our rebellious thoughts:

"GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:5

Lawrenz ends his CT review by contrasting The Secret's secretly bleak outlook with God's offer of "help and hope":

Contrary to the real gospel, The Secret proclaims: "The universe is supporting me in everything I do. The universe meets all my needs immediately."

Byrne says she is most gratified to hear of children discovering The Secret. But having raised two kids, I've always thought that one of the most important lessons young people must realize is that the universe does not revolve around them, that they are not God. When we believe in a God above us, apart from us, beneath us, and for us—then we find help and hope.