Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

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Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby manas » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:19 am

Hi all,

I came across this video while searching for something else, but watched it anyway out of curiosity. The so called 'Law of Attraction' is a very popular New Age belief, and I wonder how one could respond to someone who espoused this philosophy (assuming they were willing to engage in a civil discussion).




The basic gist of it I think, is that our own consciousness sends out it's beliefs about life and reality as it pertains to us personally, and that the 'Universe' then sends our own volitions back in the form of our unfolding 'life'. So, all of our good and bad experiences are not due to the ripening of past thoughts, speech and actions, but rather, are being created by us ourselves, by the particular 'signal' we keep broadcasting out (according to this dodgy philosophy). By the way, they say that we are not always aware of our core beliefs, which nevertheless get broadcasted out and become our reality, because our consciousness goes much deeper than what we can overtly see in day to day life (that bit may be correct, because it's true that we are not aware of the entire contents of the mind at all times; it takes a lot of meditation and purification to be able to see the mind more fully, but) - I can see a few dangerous ideas spouted in the video - particularly the one about there being no fixed, absolute standard about what is right and wrong - but I was wondering, how could we help someone who had been seduced by this? It's quite common nowadays.
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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby BlackBird » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:29 am

I don't think it's 100% wrong. As the Buddha says - Kamma is intention. If you intend your mind in a certain direction, you will get corresponding results. But it's certainly not like you can build a cardboard 'dream wall' and fill it with cars and mansions and beautiful women and expect it all to come your way since you want it to be that way. The Secret is a bit of a sham, given. But the kind of vibes you send out do have an influence on what happens to you.

Challenging new age thinkers with logic has never been a very effective tool, since they tend to to eschew it in the first place to take up such mystical fluffy beliefs. But if they're a rational thinker, I would look at talking of the more ridiculous elements of the 'law of attraction' and at least get them to consider that it may not be true. Bringing them back from blind faith driven absolutism to a healthy agnosticism is probably the best you can achieve with some people, or if they're anything like my mum (who was a firm believer in the secret for a while) you just have to give it time, and eventually they forget all about it.

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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby Alex123 » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:30 am

One could say that "why things that we want do not happen and what we don't want happen."

But I am sure that person could reply simply that "one didn't want it hard enough." and this cannot be refuted...


There is even worse belief: If you think positevely, you can eat whatever unhealthy food you want and it will all be OK. Just be positive!
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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby manas » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:42 am

BlackBird wrote:I don't think it's 100% wrong. As the Buddha says - Kamma is intention. If you intend your mind in a certain direction, you will get corresponding results. But it's certainly not like you can build a cardboard 'dream wall' and fill it with cars and mansions and beautiful women and expect it all to come your way since you want it to be that way. The Secret is a bit of a sham, given. But the kind of vibes you send out do have an influence on what happens to you.

Challenging new age thinkers with logic has never been a very effective tool, since they tend to to eschew it in the first place to take up such mystical fluffy beliefs. But if they're a rational thinker, I would look at espousing the more ridiculous elements of the 'law of attraction' and at least get them to consider that it may not be true. Bringing them back from blind faith driven absolutism to a healthy agnostiscism is probably the best you can achieve with some people, or if they're anything like my mum (who was a firm believer in the secret for a while) you just have to give it time, and eventually they forget all about it.

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Well said, Jack. Sounds like you also have seen it first hand (fluffy New Age thinking). I used to go to places where it was abundant. Some of them were very nice, helpful people by the way. But let's just say that sense restraint wasn't a strong point for them (nor was it for me at that time either though...) :toilet:

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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby manas » Sat Mar 23, 2013 1:00 am

Alex123 wrote:One could say that "why things that we want do not happen and what we don't want happen."

But I am sure that person could reply simply that "one didn't want it hard enough." and this cannot be refuted...


There is even worse belief: If you think positevely, you can eat whatever unhealthy food you want and it will all be OK. Just be positive!


Someone I know once dismissed my version of rebirth according to kamma and that past kamma can still have a bearing on the present no matter how positively we think right now, as 'old world thinking'. lol.

I am reminded of Venerable Moggalana, one of the two chief disciples. His mind must have surely been broadcasting more love out to the world than anyone alive on this Earth today. And yet, despite the vastness of his merit and positive volitions (and utterly purified mind), near the end of his life he was sadly beaten (almost to the point of death) by bandits - while an arahant. Whether or not this story actually happened or not, it seems to instruct us that no-one, not even the most purified person, is *completely* exempt from experiencing the results of previous unwholesome actions, even if they were performed many, many births ago. (am I understanding this correctly?)

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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby BlackBird » Sat Mar 23, 2013 1:26 am

manas wrote:(am I understanding this correctly?)


Perfectly.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby Mojo » Sat Mar 23, 2013 2:00 am

BlackBird wrote:I don't think it's 100% wrong. As the Buddha says - Kamma is intention. If you intend your mind in a certain direction, you will get corresponding results. But it's certainly not like you can build a cardboard 'dream wall' and fill it with cars and mansions and beautiful women and expect it all to come your way since you want it to be that way. The Secret is a bit of a sham, given. But the kind of vibes you send out do have an influence on what happens to you.


Pretty much the way I feel about it as well.

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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Mar 24, 2013 12:28 pm

BlackBird wrote:Challenging new age thinkers with logic has never been a very effective tool, since they tend to to eschew it in the first place to take up such mystical fluffy beliefs.


Unfortunately that's been my experience too. What I've found particularly frustrating on occasion is the inability or unwillingness to clearly explain jargon.
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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby BlackBird » Sun Mar 24, 2013 12:47 pm

porpoise wrote:
BlackBird wrote:Challenging new age thinkers with logic has never been a very effective tool, since they tend to to eschew it in the first place to take up such mystical fluffy beliefs.


Unfortunately that's been my experience too. What I've found particularly frustrating on occasion is the inability or unwillingness to clearly explain jargon.


Perhaps because they themselves do not understand it? I find that is often a symptom of those drawn to mysticism, instead of seeking to explain and understand, they are quite content wallowing in ignorance of a matter for as long as they don't understand it, it can continue to hold a magical power. The pleasure for them is in the non-understanding.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby Alex123 » Sun Mar 24, 2013 1:14 pm

manas wrote:I am reminded of Venerable Moggalana, one of the two chief disciples. His mind must have surely been broadcasting more love out to the world than anyone alive on this Earth today. And yet, despite the vastness of his merit and positive volitions (and utterly purified mind), near the end of his life he was sadly beaten (almost to the point of death) by bandits - while an arahant. Whether or not this story actually happened or not, it seems to instruct us that no-one, not even the most purified person, is *completely* exempt from experiencing the results of previous unwholesome actions, even if they were performed many, many births ago. (am I understanding this correctly?)

:anjali:


Good point. Also, the Buddha himself experienced "sharp and racking pains" and even had attempt on his life (by Devadatta). Decadatta tried to throw a big rock at the Buddha, but even though he missed, a sharp splinter came from a rock and hurt Buddha's foot to the point of blood.
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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby Mr Man » Sun Mar 24, 2013 3:04 pm

BlackBird wrote:
porpoise wrote:
BlackBird wrote:Challenging new age thinkers with logic has never been a very effective tool, since they tend to to eschew it in the first place to take up such mystical fluffy beliefs.


Unfortunately that's been my experience too. What I've found particularly frustrating on occasion is the inability or unwillingness to clearly explain jargon.


Perhaps because they themselves do not understand it? I find that is often a symptom of those drawn to mysticism, instead of seeking to explain and understand, they are quite content wallowing in ignorance of a matter for as long as they don't understand it, it can continue to hold a magical power. The pleasure for them is in the non-understanding.


Do you think it is different with Theravada Buddhists?
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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby polarbuddha101 » Sun Mar 24, 2013 3:15 pm

Do you think it is different with Theravada Buddhists?


I would gander that for some it isn't and for some it is.

(Edit: Just to clarify I'm not talking about the difference between secular and traditional buddhists. I'm just saying that I imagine that at least some theravada buddhists like to throw around jargon and profess things without understanding what they're talking about)
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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Mar 25, 2013 12:06 pm

Mr Man wrote:
BlackBird wrote:
porpoise wrote:Unfortunately that's been my experience too. What I've found particularly frustrating on occasion is the inability or unwillingness to clearly explain jargon.


Perhaps because they themselves do not understand it? I find that is often a symptom of those drawn to mysticism, instead of seeking to explain and understand, they are quite content wallowing in ignorance of a matter for as long as they don't understand it, it can continue to hold a magical power. The pleasure for them is in the non-understanding.


Do you think it is different with Theravada Buddhists?


I haven't found Theravada Buddhists to be all that mystical. ;)
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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby Mr Man » Mon Mar 25, 2013 12:54 pm

Hi porpoise
What does the wink mean. Does it mean the proceeding statement is meant as a joke? Thanks :smile:
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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:28 pm

Mr Man wrote:Hi porpoise
What does the wink mean. Does it mean the proceeding statement is meant as a joke? Thanks :smile:


Sorry, I can see I in hindsight I was being a bit obscure - it was intended as a reference to the ongoing debate between traditionalists and secularists within Theravada.
By all means read it without the wink.
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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby SamBodhi » Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:02 pm

One possible way to look at this is to encourage a "new age thinker" to consider that the universe doesn't speak our language. In other words, how much of our attraction is defined simply by the words or other conventions we use. In that context, it would be hard to imagine telling a blade of grass to call my best friend and tell her I care for her. It might be a positive thing for me to think and a positive/skillful thing for her to hear, but if the vehicle I use is not in accord with the laws set up by the human society, then humans in that society will not understand it apart from their own imagination.

I agree with BalckBird that intention is an important aspect of this. To use my example above again, my intentions were pure in wanting to express something to my best friend via a blade of grass, but it wouldn't actually be until I told her (or a third party informed her of my conversation) that I would be able to make those intentions known to somebody other than myself. What is going on here is a somewhat positive personal examination of skillful intentions. However, what gets lost in the teaching of the "law of attraction" is the myriad of other possibilities. Consider for a moment that it is true that sending out "positive vibes" is a realistically viable option for human interaction. If that were true, one's own experience is the only manner of evaluating whether or not the universe wouldn't prefer to send back those positive vibes after countless eons, for example.

I am reminded of one of my favourite lines concerning mindfulness, “Days and nights fly past, fly past: What am I doing right now?” (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/meditations.html#watch). The idea is not to so much study the universe and nail down just how a concept like the law of attraction might work, but to be allowed to examine your own intentions.

Just my thoughts. Hope I didn't get off topic in my rambling. Been a rough couple of weeks lately. This place is a great one and I'm glad to be here.


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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby marc108 » Mon Mar 25, 2013 6:11 pm

new age philosophy tends to be hard to disprove because it has all these loopholes that cant be disproved. re: if you arent attracting what you want something inside you that you are unaware of must be causing it. the law of attraction fails quite easily under simple experimentation... try it and it doesnt actually work lol. :jumping:

i also think people tend to drop moral relativism when they become the targets of the immoral actions they claim to feel neutrally about. re: new agey people tend to be neutral about things like stealing, until someone steals all their stuff!

it's really really difficult to get someone to question such an egocentric philosophy... who wants to give up the idea that they are the center of the universe and are inherently owed everything and anything they want!
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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby Viscid » Mon Mar 25, 2013 8:35 pm

It is the egocentrism inherent in this New Age thinking which really bothers me. It is obvious that we aren't being individually catered to, no single one of us is the absolute center of the world. There are other people out there suffering, striving. If there was some sort of connecting principle in the world-- some principle which shapes the world in a very unobvious way, it must be applied to everyone equally. I am willing to admit the possibility that the world is as it is to maximize some aspect: goodness, fullness.. something like that. But to say that the universe caters to one person simply because they are more desirous is completely disgusting.
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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Mon Mar 25, 2013 10:25 pm

I think some of you are misunderstanding the theory behind the Law of Attraction. Of course, this trend began with Napoleon Hill's classic book Think and Grow Rich, though the idea has been around forever.

The Law of Attraction isn't wish-fulfillment. In other words, you can't wish for a jaguar and you'll get it. Or to live forever. The idea is that the "universe" has a storehouse of good things set aside for you, and if you send out a positive message that you're ready to receive your share--it will come to you. So if you do not get something for which you've asked, you're either asking for something not yours (the wrong car, person, or house) and/or aren't prepared to receive it. So if I ask for Catherine-Zeta Jones, I probably won't get her. However, if I ask for the person who is meant for me, the opportunity will be presented to me. And as a matter of fact, in this case, it did. I met my soulmate through a series of events that would appear to be miraculous.

I find the theory, in its original, unbastardized form, to be quite in line with the Buddha's teachings (such as we have) concerning kamma.

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Re: Some dangerously misleading New Age thinking

Postby Viscid » Mon Mar 25, 2013 10:48 pm

BubbaBuddhist wrote:The idea is that the "universe" has a storehouse of good things set aside for you, and if you send out a positive message that you're ready to receive your share--it will come to you. So if you do not get something for which you've asked, you're either asking for something not yours (the wrong car, person, or house) and/or aren't prepared to receive it.


This type of magical thinking is a fairly revolting vestige of theism. 'God rewards his obedient children with goodies.' It is absurd to say that everyone who had starved to death in a famine was unworthy of food, or that those children dying of cancer are simply not 'prepared' to be cured. Incredible tragedy happens to even the most deserving of individuals, and any principle of the world must account for that.
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