Saturday, November 23, 2013

Did Ayn Rand Channel the Secret Law of Attraction?

I was reading the introduction to the 35th anniversary edition of Atlas Shrugged the other day, and a number of quotes taken from Ayn Rand’s related journal entries struck me (bold highlights are mine):

  • I must show in what concrete, specific way the world is moved by the creators.  Exactly how do the second-handers live on the creators. Both in spiritual matters—and (most particularly) in concrete, physical events. (Concentrate on the concrete, physical events—but don’t forget to keep in mind at all times how the physical proceeds from the spiritual.)
  • [I]t is proper for a creator to be optimistic, in the deepest, most basic sense, since the creator believes in a benevolent universe and functions on that premise. But it is an error to extend that optimism to other specific men. First, it’s not necessary, the creator’s life and the nature of the universe do not require it, his life does not depend on others. Second, man is a being with free will; therefore, each man is potentially good or evil, and it’s up to him and only to him (through his reasoning mind) to decide which he wants to be. The decision will affect only him; it is not (and cannot and should not be) the primary concern of any other human being.
  • [A] creator can accomplish anything he wishes—if he functions according to the nature of man, the universe and his own proper morality, that is, if he does not place his wish primarily within others and does not attempt or desire anything that is of a collective nature, anything that concerns others primarily or requires primarily the exercise of the will of others.

To the extent one can sum up the foregoing as asserting that some type of essentially limitless creative power exists within humans, which is exercised via thought or reason, and need not – in fact should not – concern itself with the success or suffering of others, this sounds an awful lot like some of the rhetoric associated with “The Secret” or “The Law of Attraction.”  For those not familiar with the law of attraction, here is an excerpt from a review of “The Secret” that might help (for a version of the law of attraction presented by a disembodied spirit, as channeled by Esther & Jerry Hicks, go here – you might also want to check out Frank Pasquale’s post on the false advertising implications of The Secret here):

Supporters will hail this New Age self-help book on the law of attraction as a groundbreaking and life-changing work, finding validation in its thesis that one's positive thoughts are powerful magnets that attract wealth, health, happiness... and did we mention wealth? Detractors will be appalled by this as well as when the book argues that fleeting negative thoughts are powerful enough to create terminal illness, poverty and even widespread disasters.

I am certainly not the first person to have considered the possible connection between Ayn Rand’s philosophy and the law of attraction.  For other examples, go here (“Homage to Atlas Shrugged & Ayn Rand” page on “Powerful Intentions,” which describes itself as “a unique Law of Attraction Online Community”) or here (“50 Prosperity Classics,” citing Ayn Rand, The Secret, and Esther & Jerry Hicks).  The Atlas Society itself suggests (in a post entitled, "False Beliefs and Practical Guidance"): “If practical advice from ‘law of attraction’ preachers helps you keep focused on your goals, then use it.”

Anyway, I have not spent a lot of time researching this question (readers that have made it this far are likely now thinking either, “good” or “you’ve already spent way too much time on this”), but I would be curious to hear from anyone who knows of some better sources that either associate Ayn Rand with, or distinguish her from, the law of attraction.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/business_law/2013/11/did-ayn-rand-channel-the-secret-law-of-attraction.html

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