Loolwa Khazzoom: What is the line between magical thinking about one’s spiritual prowess, vs. the act of truly manifesting change through intention, energy, and spirit?
Larry Dossey: I think that spiritual maturity is a very real phenomenon. There are certainly people who are at different points in their spiritual paths, in their spiritual maturation. Discernment is the word that always comes up in spiritual work. Certainly, people can fall into ego inflation, arrogance, selfishness, and when they do that, they can fall into aggrandized perceptions of themselves and their power.
I think that as long individuals look to the welfare of other people and not to themselves, they usually will be on pretty safe grounds. As long as something is done out of an instinct and motivation of love, compassion and empathy, and the welfare of someone else, that is a pretty safe place to be. I think it is pretty simple.
I really take issue with all these folks who are running around pronouncing the magic in The Secret, the “Law of Attraction” and so on. That just covers up selfishness.
LK: OMG I love you. This is so my soapbox. Please continue.
LD: Is it really good for people, the culture, the planet, the society, and the earth in general for everyone to have a million-dollar-a-year income, three houses, and an Olympic-size swimming pool in their backyards? Most of the people who are latching onto this Law of Attraction are self-oriented people, who I think are narrow-minded and often quite arrogant. I just really have trouble with that whole idea, and it gets back to what I am saying: If you do something for someone else, not for yourself, and if you do it out of love and compassion, that is a pretty good way to stay safe on how to use your intentions, wishes, wants, and will.
LK: I have seen The Law of Attraction used against me, and I have seen it used against friends of mine who are really doing valiant, heroic efforts to heal. They are getting hit in the face with this “you have attracted it to you” crap. One of the things that I have always felt is that there are so many factors going on. Yes, there is the piece of what can I do, what is in my control, what can I shift – whether attitude or action. But there is a whole lot of stuff that is out of my control, and I am willing to accept that. I am willing to accept that there is an extent to which I have no power over things outside of me, and all I can do is optimize my response to them. Can you please talk about that, because this thinking in the spiritual movement really irks me.
LD: I think it has absolutely gone wacko. It begins with a brilliant insight that we are responsible for a lot of what happens to us. But this brilliant insight then goes off to ridiculous extremes. So we start out by saying that we are responsible for what happens to us to some extent and then wind up saying that we have caused everything that happens to us. That is irrational. That simply is not logical.
Three years ago, I was thrown from a horse for the first time in my life and ended up breaking my back — way up in the remote, primitive areas in the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming. Many of my friends said, “You caused this yourself, you know, carrying too much load. You are trying to do too much. You broke your back. The horse was just trying to be there.” Give me a break. How do they know what spooked the horse? Where they there? The arguments fall apart when you unpack them.
I have a friend who has chemical sensitivity. Some of her friends did this Law of Attraction number on her, and it just flattened her. It is really a blame-the-victim type of attack. So I called up the friend who dumped on this dear woman. “There are several thousand chemicals in the environment,” I said, “so I assume that when you told my friend she caused this herself, you have personal knowledge that she did not come into contact with any of these substances that cause chemical sensitivity, right? You have that information?”
The woman was speechless. Then I told her, “Without basic information like that, how can you be so judgmental?” The conversation ended with this woman getting angry at me as well as at my friend. I just get so tired of the stupidity that is inherent in this overall point of view. It’s silly. It’s also irrational and inhumane.
LK: Thank you. I have told people who have pulled this stuff on me, “You know, this is emotional violence. Given what I have been through, and given that I am doing everything in my power to heal, and given that I have been really hurt by a healthcare system that is rotten at its core, your pulling that crap on me is emotional violence. I don’t have enough stuff to deal with? Now I have to deal with the stress of you telling me that this is all my fault?”
LD: I would eliminate those people from your life.
LK: Oh I have.
LD: Good. Enough said. You get my drift. I would just say to you, you go girl! I think you are right on target.
LK: Why do you think it is taking off? Why do you think the Law of Attraction is so huge now, and that people are calling it science?
LD: It is bogus science. It is not even worth dignifying with the term “science.” Look at the phenomenon of distance healing: There is some science for you. That science is valid. Studies on distance healing indicate that we can participate in creating reality, because our intentions, thoughts, wishes, and prayers affect reality. We have hundreds of studies to prove this.
We cannot be the sole architect of whatever happens to us. We can, however, influence what happens – both to other people and to ourselves. Reality-creation is a mutual effort. We participate in each other’s reality. In the same sense, we are partly responsible for what gets attracted to other people.
Larry Dossey, MD is a physician of internal medicine and a NY Times bestselling author, who has written numerous books anchoring the holistic health movement in the world of science. He is the executive editor of the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine; he is the former Chief of Staff of Medicine at Dallas Hospital; and he is the former co-chairman of the Panel on Mind/Body Interventions at the Office of Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes Of Health.