by Matthew Butler
August 17, 2014
Matthew Butler is a
freelance writer with a BA in Journalism, an open mind
and a keen interest in defending personal freedom and
uncovering the truth.
He's been exploring
spirituality and consciousness for 10 years and writes
at The Conscious Reporter about issues that affect and
suppress human potential, consciousness, alternative
beliefs, and the right to free expression of
spirituality in the
The law of attraction is a wildly-popular modern mystical belief
hyped as the secret to fulfilling your every desire.
It has big celebrity endorsements, and
commercial products rehashing its claims sell in abundance. But
beneath the glossy facade there's often an agenda pushing
egocentrism and greed in metaphysical garb, which limits
consciousness and subverts spirituality for shallow materialistic
Many spiritual traditions have arisen throughout history and
although they have their differences, a common recurring principle
is that greed and spirituality don't mix. Renowned spiritual
teachers like Jesus or Buddha did not promote greed in
their teachings or lifestyle - quite the opposite: they showed that
greed and egocentrism had to be overcome.
Greed has been seen in many spiritual traditions as an obstacle or
trap that prevents us from understanding and fulfilling a higher
purpose to life.
Because it makes us selfish and obsessed
with transient things, it has long been taught that renouncing
selfish desires, and selflessly helping others to do the same, is
necessary to attain salvation or liberation.
But this principle is increasingly turned on its head in the world
of commercial spirituality.
Some want to have it both ways - a
spiritual or metaphysical pursuit in their lives and all their
material desires fulfilled - and those selling this message (and the
corporations behind them) can make a lot of money out of pushing
this false promise.
But at what price?
Marketplace of Spiritual Ideas
Those who look beyond rigid constraints of traditional religious
institutions have a seemingly unlimited range of alternatives in
what has broadly been termed 'New Age' spirituality which intersects
with the 'mind-body-spirit' and 'self-help' scene.
Having the freedom to explore alternative and diverse spiritual
beliefs openly in society is a wonderful thing.
But in today's era of mass consumption,
savvy people have realized they can make a lot of money by selling
messages that cater to people's spiritual longings in the most
commercially appealing way.
The new age scene is diverse, with grass-roots and genuine elements,
but like many other alternative social movements, there are those
who will inevitably seek to exploit it and use it for commercial
In this process spiritual ideals can be
co-opted and commercialized, as corporations, and the authors they
support, seek to tap the market for profit.
This commercialization inevitably influences the message as the most
appealing messages get the most corporate backing, and the most
appealing messages tend to be a more palatable candy-coated version
of spirituality with all the hard and difficult parts taken out.
Having commercial interests direct the course of spirituality goes
against the very essence of spirituality, so it is not surprising
that the message is not only distorted, but can even be completely
inverted by this process.
The Law of Attraction
as mystical greed
This is perhaps most apparent when you look at the popularity of
refashioned teachings about the,
'law of attraction'
...for which there are a number of
products on the market, some widely successful and endorsed by
You can't always
manifest what you want
The underlying premise is that 'like attracts like' and you attract
whatever you think, so you can change your thoughts to change what
you attract in life.
So if you think of positive things you
will attract them, while if you think negatively you will attract
Obviously there is some truth to that - to a point. If you have
angry thoughts all the time for example you are more likely to act
angrily and provoke others to anger and therefore attract anger back
to yourself. So changing negative thought patterns could change the
circumstances you attract to a degree.
However, the law of attraction is often presented as a sort of
magical Aladdin's Lamp that can give you everything you want and
desire. If you think of a new car, it will materialize.
If you think of an attractive new
partner, or a great new job, you can get that too. If you think of
getting rich, it will happen. You just have to think it and believe
in the outcome and it will 'manifest'.
The universe will provide whatever you
desire if only you think it and believe - a sort of mystical power
born of greed.
Not all proponents of the law of attraction are that blatantly
materialistic about it, but there is no denying that some of the
most popular versions of this theory dangle the carrot by promising
wealth, success, and the fulfillment of all desires.
Now one obvious danger with this thinking is that it can encourage
People can't have everything they want,
and claiming they can gives people false hope.
But another major problem is that this
sort of teaching can easily encourage selfishness, self-indulgence
and greed and the view that the the universe is somehow mystically
designed to metaphysically reward self-centeredness - while
perpetuating the view that success and happiness are measured
through what you acquire in the world.
When taken as a means to fulfill every desire, this belief can
become completely anti-spiritual - a sort of metaphysical
materialism, or greed with a mystical gloss, giving people a
supposedly mystical way to manifest all their worldly desires while
Encouraging people to seek happiness through external things,
through consumption and status, conveniently suits the corporations
nicely, but it goes against essential spiritual principles.
Since when was greed a mystical path to happiness? The fictional
Gordon Gecko famously said "greed is good", but he was a Wall
Street stockbroker whose greed took him to jail.
His sentiment is not found in real
Spirituality Don't Mix
The Temptation of Christ
Ary Scheffer, 1854
Jesus rejecting 'all
the kingdoms of the world and their splendor'
We only need to look at well-known spiritual teachings to see how
inverted some of the most popular metaphysical self-help teachings
about the law of attraction really are.
Jesus famously said:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures
upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves
break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in
heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where
thieves do not break through nor steal: for where thy treasure
is, there will thy heart be also…
No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one,
and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the
other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Clearly, the law of attraction
encourages some people to put their heart in the wrong place… in
Mammon - the allegorical God of
It is also written that after fasting for 40 days and nights in the
wilderness, Jesus was tempted by the devil and offered "all the
kingdoms of the world and their splendor" which he turned down for
the kingdom of heaven.
He also said the kingdom of heaven is
within you, and that it's difficult for a rich man to find it.
'The Worship of
by Evelyn De Morgan
about the trappings
Various spiritual devotees and teachers of many persuasions see
renunciation of worldly desires as a necessary step toward spiritual
There are various examples of this in
Buddha is renowned for making the observation that desire was the
source of unhappiness. The more we crave things, the more unhappy
and dissatisfied we become because our desires can never be sated.
Liberation was to be found by freeing oneself from attachment to
desire, not indulging it.
He gave up his wealth to seek enlightenment and teach. Saint Francis
also famously gave up a comfortable life to become closer to God and
lived his life in selfless service to others.
Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna taught that breaking your attachments
and doing your duty in the world selflessly without seeking rewards
was the way to liberation:
"Therefore, without being attached
to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty,
for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme."
That didn't mean you had to become a
beggar, but he clearly explained that being attached to an outcome
and to the senses, and to chase worldly rewards, was a futile way of
Yet big-ticket marketers of the law of
attraction often teach the opposite of that, encouraging people to
focus on and believe in getting all the things that they want,
rather than seeing these very desires as delusions which trap them,
suppress consciousness, and prevent them from awakening and
attaining peace within.
Missing from this world view is that life is a school in which we
learn and that hardship and suffering are part of the process
through which we self-realize so that consciousness can awaken.
The circumstances needed for this are
not always going to be easy, and when you look at the lives of
famous spiritual figures you can see that they often went through
Facing difficulties is a part of life,
and what we need to grow is not always what we want.
Those who believe they can manifest all
their desires through positive thinking and believing in the outcome
don't seem to be aware that the more you chase after your cravings,
the more you tighten the net of your own enslavement, when you could
be using life to break free of these limitations.
Greed has consequences in people's lives, because it shuts the door
to real spiritual happiness and love, but it also has terrible
consequences for the world.
The world is being trashed because of
greed, as people selfishly strive to get what they want with little
regard for the consequences. And with people in such a self-centered
condition the masses are easily divided and manipulated by the
powers that be.
Turning spirituality - which offers a
way to break free of this mess - into a focus of greed and
self-indulgence is truly harmful.
This of course suits the corporations in our economic system just
fine, who depend on people's perpetual despair, dissatisfaction and
desires to drive them to chase happiness and fulfillment through
But those who want inner freedom and a
genuine awakening of consciousness should not fall into this trap.
NOTE: Read also "Tips for Thriving in 'The Matrix'."