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Why Doesn’t the “Law of Attraction” Always Work?

When a metaphysical “law” proves inconsistent

Mitch Horowitz
4 min readJan 8, 2020

Is mind the ultimate reality?

Generations of mind-power mystics, from Ernest Holmes and Neville Goddard to Joseph Murphy and Florence Scovel Shinn certainly believed so. Murphy articulated that thesis to a global audience with his book The Power of Your Subconscious Mind. Since the book’s publication in 1963, however, new complexities have entered our lives.

For one thing, we live longer, and hence must contend with social and health questions, from eldercare and end-of-life issues to mental decline and chronic disease, which were less common to earlier generations. Also, we understand more today about the genetic, hereditary, and biological factors in wellness, health, and longevity.

Most positive-mind mystics did not close their eyes to science or discount its advances. Murphy himself was a trained chemist. But, again, the minister believed that all of our knowledge is superseded and governed by the ultimate law of mental creativity. Or what is sometimes called the “Law of Attraction.” (For my part, I prefer the term selection.) When faced with life’s complexities — and seeming contradictions — we may question this point.

What about natural disasters, wars, and famines? I believe that it is wholly insufficient to ascribe such things to some kind of national karma. On the spiritual path, we can measure things only through personal experience. If you haven’t been through such calamities, that is reason enough not to pass judgment. Judging the suffering of another person, or nation, is tantamount to throwing a stone rather than gleaning a truth. I do not believe that the law of karma is intended to flatten complexity.

I once saw a post on social media in which someone surmised that the events of 9/11, an earthquake, and a financial calamity (which never arrived) were part of America’s karmic debt. That same person later posted that his house was demolished in a hurricane. I would never attempt to extend his karmic logic to his own experience. To do so would be gruesome — and, I believe, false.

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So is mind the ultimate reality? My personal belief is that Murphy was right — consciousness…



Mitch Horowitz

"Treats esoteric ideas & movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness"-Washington Post | PEN Award-winning historian | Censored in China