The Law of Attraction and Catholic Christian Though [1/4]   Leave a comment

Introduction

Since coming back to Catholicism this issue has been something a nagging side issue that I have sought to resolve. On one hand I have heard it solves every problem, and on the other hand I have told it is mere pseudo-witchcraft, the truth I think lies somewhere in the middle. When I began to try and integrate my increasing Catholic faith with things I have learned before coming back into the largely Christian fold, I tried to integrate The Law of Attraction with Catholicism and what I knew about the deeper Christian Tradition through a Catholic Online Forum and the fruits of said discussion I would like share with you today. I knew that people from The Law of Attraction school of thought wanted to cite some Christian Material as justification for their philosophy, so I wanted to take the time and discuss that with the reader today as well. After the scriptural and patristic discussion I wanted to discuss where else I had seen this issue of a person’s desires being discussed in light of the Christian Tradition. Finally I am intended to offer my final educated position on the matter as well as the criteria and procedure as to when one should consider using The Law of Attraction as a Christian.

A Forum Discussion

During my dialog with Christians who came from the more religious background to belief in the Dogmatics of the Church, there was fruitful debate on a thread regarding this issue. In this section I want to share with you today what that discussion looked like as I begin to formulate my understandings of the relationship between an Intellectual Catholic on his path of return and this Law of Attraction.

The First Issue that I had to contend with is the issue or relationship between Catholicism, Jungianism, and Synchronicity. Initially I contended that,

“Psychologically speaking, Carl Jung in his book ‘Synchronicity,’ describes Synchronistic events as the coming together of Psychic [the inner realm of thoughts and feelings] and Material [external of the individual] events in a seemingly acausal way, a meaningful coincident. Psychologically speaking if one practices the Law of Attraction, what it seems to do is make the mind more sensitive to what it is looking for in its day-to-day interactions with the Physical World.”

The reply was given to me in the overall form of criticizing the New Age Movement through a Vatican Document which actually went to get at the Heart of Jungian Thought and The Secret. In summary there are 3 Points that could be made from this Vatican Document: (1) The New Age Dogma that one creates one’s own reality is appealing, but illusory. (2) The most poignant and problematic consequence of the acceptance of the idea that people create their own reality is the question of suffering and death: It’s peoples fault for “attracting” suffering into their own lives. (3) Our limitations are a fact of life, and part of being a creature.

When it comes to Point #2 I am left to wonder however, as to those religious devoted who wonder what wrong they did in their own lives when they were tried by suffering, and is this equivalent to “attracting” suffering through some mental thought of their own. A part of me feels like this is a Victim Mentality, but another part of me feels like as if The Suffering God allows to come down upon us is for a transformative and redemptive purpose whereas, the suffering I allow through my own thoughts seems to be chaotic and purposeless. Now this does not mean that God’s Permitted Suffering will make sense to us either, but the framework through which we interpret said suffering is different.

Nonetheless, back on to the issue of Synchronicity. A Synchronistic event is something that one might see as a meaningful coincidence, between will and the manifestation in full or in part to a given goal that the will was been working to realize. Is Synchronicity as defined, Biblically speaking, plausible? I contend that yes it is. How so? Consider the Old Testament Stories, in almost all the OT Stories God’s people are in trouble, someone arises to counter the suffering wrought on God’s People and through this one individual who has a personal desire to help God’s People, God favors that individual and he accomplishes his mission through various highly meaningful coincidences that allow his will to accomplish God’s Will on a path of least resistance.

I believe that these Synchronistic Events are summed up best in the New Testament by John the Baptist when he said, Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. (Matthew 3:3) In the Psalms it is said, “Lead me, LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make your way straight before me.” (Psalms 5:8) In the Proverbs it is written that we, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

By these things it would seem to me that Synchronicity is a prevalent feature of how God’s Will Operates in Our Lives, when paths are made straight as opposed to crooked, the path our desires take to manifest come more easily and effortlessly. This allows for Synchronistic events in our lives to occur since the ease of manifestation allows for the desires to manifest in full or in part to a given goal that the will was been working to realize. This is why I believe that Synchronicity is indeed something that a Christian can incorporate into their worldview, it should be noted however that is a means to perceiving God, and it is not God. So Jung is not entirely wrong, he’s just not entirely right since other parts of Jungianism do indeed run into qualms with Christian Doctrine.

After debating over Jungian Synchronicity I then wanted to discuss the Relation between Modern Psychotherapeutic Methods, Eastern Mystical Christianity, and Thoughts. In The Law of Attraction, thoughts are key to all things, but in the Eastern Christian tradition and in modern psychotherapeutic methods they are equally as pivotal in the development and health of the person.

In Christianity we often juridically state the phrase, “Repent and the Kingdom of Heaven Will be Yours!” However, if we look at the Greek behind the word, “Repent” we see the word, “Metanoia” which comes from the root words, “Meta-” which means, “To Change” think of Metamorphosis and “-Noia” or more precisely, “Nous” or Mind. To change your mind, this mind is not just a mental or intellectual thing, but is the whole of your person. Change not only your mind and the way you think, but change your whole life and the Kingdom of Heaven will be yours, this takes time to make a complete 180-Degree turn, but it usually starts with ones thoughts. Your thoughts in Christianity do determine how the rest of your earthly life will be lived and whether or not your saved after you die, this is why Self-Reflection through the Catholic Examination of Conscience is something of importance and why the Eastern Christian Mystics often talked about Nepsis and Mindfulness, or Watchfulness.

In Modern Psychotherapeutic Methods, there are certain therapies in which Thought processes are reinforced by new behaviors, creating a healthier cycle both in life of the mind of the individual and in the body as well. There are many methods but at their root they all seem to draw from CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which attempts to diagnose the faulty thought processes and said psychosomatic effects and then seeks to change the faulty thoughts for a new thought process that both aim toward the extinction of unhealthy behaviors and psychosomatic symptoms as well as the creation of healthier behavior free of psychosomatic symptoms. The biggest usage for CBT is often in Phobias and OCD cases.

In Jungian Psychology, another Modern Psychotherapeutic Method I discussed in the forum how Jung had helped me return back to the Faith. Jung proposed there are archetypes of the mind, that hold some influence on the individual psyche as well as typologies found within the psyche and that in trying to understand them we can come to a better appreciation and understanding of who we are. While I certainly believe introspection and self-reflection are keys to wisdom, I do believe that nothing makes sense without the Light of an Intelligent, Mysterious yet All-Loving Christian God. Certain points that helped me bridge the gap between my interests in Jungian thought and Christianity resided in the following topics:

(1A) The Archetypes of the Shadow and The Self. The Self is clearly the fullest realization of personhood within you, for a Christian the Self is projected unto Christ and as a Christian I am called to become like Christ, to put Him on thus realizing my own Selfhood, people do make differentiations between Self with a “S” and “s” the small-s denotes the conscious ego in its current state of varying levels of maturity, but the Big-S denotes the actualization of ego maturity and potential, the Self is present but unconscious in all peoples, it is “The Inner Man” as St. Paul calls it in the 3rd Chapter of Ephesians, it is my conscious ego however that ought to seek to incorporate The Self into conscious life as much as possible.

(1B) The Shadow then is in need of being reintegrated into the person so that they may become whole I saw as having some vague reference to Christ’s message to “Love Thy Enemy” and “Resist Not Evil,” plus I saw it as having reference to what St. Paul said to the Romans, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Surely, that which man holds contemptible in his mind, he will find contemptible around him and we must work to breakdown that hatred and contempt, even Christ showed this when he essentially acted as the Shadow to the Pharisees and Sadducee’s when Christ helped the rejected people in society.

(2) The Next topic was founded in Alchemy, which is not physical rather Jung “psychologized” it into an expression of the development of the psyche and in effect the whole person. I saw as a vague reference to Christ Turning the Water into Wine (aka Lead into Gold) to testify to Christ’s power to Transform the Soul from something base and fallen to something Uplifted, Valued, and Illuminated. To speak of being illuminated I know that even in the Christian Mystical Tradition, “Illuminatio” was a stage along the Mystics Path. I saw the Vessels holding the Water as the Human Person and the water as the essence of the person; Christ’s Transformative power on a person should not be undermined or minimized.

(3) Finally there is the topic of the 4 Types of Psychological Typologies in the Psyche, with special significance to “Intuition,” because to Jung Intuition was the perception opposed to Sensation, which to me found resonance to St. Paul’s statement that, We Walk By Faith, Not By Sight found in 2nd Corinthians.

Now is the mental and emotional life of the individual something of note? Should we be mindful of it? Should we examine it more deeply? I think anyone can tell you that the answer to all 3 is Yes! Was it not Jesus who said, “Where your heart is, there your treasure will be also”? I believe He did, of course he made it clear that our Heart, or the entirety of who we are as a person, ought to be on God at the end of the day rather than on things that will not last. Nonetheless it is true that, thoughts and emotions as well as subsequent actions get the ball rolling to bring about what we desire, we might not be able to mystically attract them however, it certainly makes our entire being more sensitive to opportunities in getting what it is that we want.

The issue of Suffering as presented in the Law of Attraction framework is a puzzling one, although it is different from Theodicy. There are 2 Issues which people in the forum discussion did bring up that I agree with. The First issue would be does that mean the people in Africa who are starving simply need to imagine food and they’ll get, in other words what about extreme suffering of utter poverty, can these people just pick themselves up by whimsically doing so? What about someone who is dying of cancer, is it there fault for attracting cancer into their lives, especially if they were optimistic people? This seems to threaten to undermine the whole Law of Attraction Metaphysic and I do agree that it is undermined to what degree I am still not sure, but the metaphysic is threatened. Another issue that I agree with although not explicitly stated in the forum discussion is that, the “spiritual” Law of Attraction has essentially created the conditions in which materialistic consumerism wins the day, keep in mind it is the very people who hyped up the Law of Attraction who essentially reduce the universe down into a catalog (see, The Secret on DVD) and exploiting this tool of spiritual living for rather vain materialistic purposes.

The accusation is present as well that The Law of Attraction is either full on Witchcraft or some type of Pseudo-Witchcraft, if it is the case that The Law of Attraction is this then it is expressly forbidden in any Christians life, as stated in The Catechism of the Catholic Church,

“All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others — even if this were for the sake of restoring their health — are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity. (CCC 2117)”

However, I have argued that Thoughts, Emotions, The Internal Affairs of Our Mind and Life, as well as Synchronistic events do have a place in Christian thought. This is not to necessarily spiritualize all of it, but it certainly has a place. The Law of Attraction if removed from a high flying metaphysical outlook has no occult or supernatural powers to tame, even if there was a moderation then the only power is this Impersonal Selfless Giving Love but such a force is not tamable since it cannot be contained for long. Nonetheless, it would seem incapable of harming people at least directly and I do not see a location in which demons are able work in such a metaphysic, with the exception of the subtle influence on our own desires. There are no charms, no divination, and the only practice seems to be visualization techniques. Although if misunderstood or misapplied, one could say that one’s credulity was exploited.

However in spite of the good that I have mentioned, I do contend that The Law of Attraction (LoA), seems to be the premier spiritual religion of an increasingly secularized and consumerist modernist West. How so? Well I went over earlier the consumerist aspect, by reducing the Universe to a Catalog, but with regards to a Modern Secularized Western Society I would say that the danger lies in making Truth Subjective and if Truth is made subjective, or whatever I choose to make of it, or in this case think of it then Truth is no longer timeless it is no longer Objective, there is nothing to conform myself to, except to a lonely constantly changing and contingent reality called, myself. This seems to be where the Modern Secularized West is right now, with nothing being done for Timeless purpose or in some quarters the rejection of the Timeless.

Likewise, another concern of mine lies in what I have had my friend tell his Father, as making equivalent The Law of Attraction to The Christian God Himself. This equivalence ought not to be allowed for I see it as Idolatry, at best the Law of Attraction is a tool, a means to something and at worst just New Age Ravings based on illusions, although even I like to see The Law of Attraction as a tool. In light of this, does it make sense to worship a hammer or use it for its express purpose of helping to building things? The LoA is described as an Impersonal and Unintelligent Giving Force in the Universe, it is like a Formula, but real Intelligence is more than just a simplified Formula, Intelligence possesses Will and Self-Understanding, this what the Christian Trinitarian Godhead is and at its core is a Mysterious Selfless Love that only knows how To Give but this giving is not unintelligent for it aspires not just to give for whatever whims and fancies the creation wants but rather to give it what it needs first and what it wants second, and at the end of the day it needs the God who formed it.

At the end of the day when I asked if goal setting is bad and if NLP combined with CBT could work to bring about the same thing in people’s lives the answer seemed to be that there was no quarrels. I think that at the end of the day a high flying metaphysic of how this Law of Attraction works is what concerns followers of Christ. Now I still hold however that Patristic Writers and Early Church Figures could elucidate more on this topic and as such I will be discussing them in the second part of this essay. I also contend that there is contemporary aspect of Catholic thought that may help as well.

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