I want to thank all those who came up to the plate to explain to me how they would explain my questions about The Secret. It turns out they were almost unanimous. The way to understand ‘The Secret’ or ‘The Law of Attraction’ is that it says – with a new twist on the Hermetic Axiom – as within, so without. I’ll go into why this is a somewhat new twist later.
The Hermetic axiom does say ‘as within, so without’. In the law of attraction this is said to mean that what we have inside us will manifest outside. Internal conflict will cause conflict in our personal lives. Abundance on the inside will give us abundance in our physical lives as well. The key is, so my commentators agree, to find inner peace or balance: the outside will take care of itself (the assumption seems to be that a person who is at peace on the inside is more productive on the outside). Some of the people commenting say that the law of attraction isn’t about money at all, though they understand why I would come to that conclusion.
The traditional interpretation of the Hermetic Axiom is holistic. The Emerald tablet says:
What is below is like that which is above. [about the source of the hermetic axiom]
Or in the words of the Bowen text about studying Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine (this text is attributed to Blavatsky):
As is the Inner, so is the Outer;
as is the Great so is the Small;
as it is above, so it is below;
there is but One Life and Law;
and he that worketh it is ONE.
Nothing is Inner, nothing is Outer;
nothing is Great, nothing is Small;
nothing is High, nothing is Low, in the Divine Economy.
This is exemplified for instance in what Confucius said about peace:
To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order;
to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order;
to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life;
and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.
Confucius (also known as K’ung-fu-tzu, master Kung or Kǒng Fūzǐ)
This type of hermetic thinking was quite usual in the ancient world. It’s known in India as well. Traditionally it also explains practices like astrology, alchemy and healing.
In astrology the direction is usually seen as starting with the universe (the stars) impacting the lives of nations, kings and individuals. The forces of the stars determine the potentials in the lives of people. This can work on the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual levels – depending in part on the ways in which the individual decides to deal with these forces.
In healing the idea has traditionally been that the source of illness is to be found in lack of harmony. This lack of harmony can be in the family life for instance, in diet, or in climate. Traditional solutions include meditation, herbs, tonics and talismans.
The main theme in traditional Hermeticism is harmony. Harmony between people will bring health. Harmony in the family follows harmony in the soul. Harmony in the country follows harmony in the home and so forth.
Wealth as an object hardly seems to be part of the picture. In premodern interpretations the individual is not the main object of discussion. There is always a preoccupation with the relationship between the individual and the whole. That whole can be the nation, the family or the universe – and all these are interconnected.
The contrast with the tradition of the law of attraction is, I hope, clear. It focusses on the individual. Individual peace of mind will bring happiness. The needs of the community, the nation, the world aren’t mentioned – probably not thought about. This context does get mentioned as an instrument. Give and you will receive – it’s clear that most of this giving happens in the neighbourhood, or to good causes, or by recycling or whatever.
I am glad the people commenting here agree that if giving isn’t done from a place of authentic generosity, it’s not a spiritual practice (though still better than not giving at all). Still that aspect of it gets stressed a lot. In fact, I plead guilty: I tend to write like that in other forums as well.
It is simply true in a social sense. One cannot expect to receive unless one gives. But that doesn’t make poor uneducated people rich. Poor uneducated people generally have less to give. This means less is expected of them spiritually, but it also means on a social level that wealth is not very likely to come their way (though some exceptions win the lotery or get help from tv-programs).
Alright, I think I now understand ‘the secret’ and ‘the law of attraction’ reasonably well. Do you all agree?