Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Power of a Single Thought rev and ed by Gay Hendricks and Debbie DeVoe

The Power of a Single Thought, the second book in the TBC, edited by Gay Hendricks and Debbie DeVoe is divided into three parts. The first part is a modernization of James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh. The second part includes various exercises, some written and others meditative. The third part is Allen’s text in its original, not contemporized, version. There is also a cd which, as in the previous text, reiterates the exercises included in the text. I chose not to listen to it so I will not review it.

Because of the time in which it was written, Allen’s original text is very male dominant and the contemporary version that the editors present removes most of the floral language while changing the gender in some of the examples. This likely makes the text itself more accessible to the modern reader. I was resistant to read this text because I know it is one of the writings to which a lot of Law of Attraction aficionados refer as being seminal. However, even before the first chapter is finished, it is apparent that to make this text align with the teachings of the Law of Attraction, one must twist and pervert the meaning of the text. Allen does indeed suggest that our thoughts influence our experiences but not in the extrapolated manner that some teachers have taken it. Rather, he explains how our thoughts are revealed through out circumstances. In other words, how we respond to the experiences of our lives reveal our inner thoughts, our character and values. In fact, the words “Law of Attraction” only appear in the contemporary version as an inserted subheading and do not appear in the original text at all. What’s more, the word “attraction” itself does not appear even one time in the text.

A careless reader could take certain portions out of context. For instance, one could argue that the following is an argument for the Law of Attraction within the text:

The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves, and also that which it fears. It reaches the height of its cherished aspirations. It falls to the level of its unchastened desires - and circumstances are the means by which the soul receives its own.

Taken in context, the meaning changes. For example, a person who is afraid of poverty may respond in a variety of ways. One person may choose to learn how to manage their money, take responsibility for their spending habits, and even learn skills to help them draw more affluence from employment opportunities. These choices are a manifestation not so much of fear but of character, how this one person responds to the fear. Another person, faced with the same fear may choose to spend carelessly, taking what they have when they have it and buying whatever they fancy which ironically results in the experience of poverty. Like the person who gets a paycheck on Friday, goes out drinking and partying over the weekend, and barely has enough to buy food for the rest of the week on Monday. Another person, facing the same fear of poverty, may choose to save their money, investing it cautiously, or even hording it. Such miserly actions do not reduce the fear, the need to prepare for the inevitable rainy day. Nothing is ever enough and the more saved, the more may be needed in the event of an incident that may never occur. If it does, the individual experiences it with a sense of justification and self-righteousness that is no more real than the fear itself had been.

In other words, shit happens and how we deal with what happens determines who we are, reveals what we are, but does not define us. We create our world not in literal terms, which is what has been misconstrued and misapplied, but our response to our world does influence how we perceive it.

The exercises in the second part of the text are good, not great. They lean dangerously close to the extreme of Law of Attraction. The reader who wants this text to affirm the teachings of the Law of Attraction can do so with ease, especially with the included exercises. It is unnecessary and, unfortunately, I have little doubt many readers will happily do so. But for those readers who have the sophistication to read openly and not impose preconceived notions or force the text to mean more than what the author (and editors) intended, there is nothing here that confirms the teachings of the Law of Attraction.

Note: The text of As a Man Thinketh is available online.

2 comments:

  1. I do agree that I can to an extent at least choose how I react to something. It is the extremes of the 'law of attraction' that troubles and even angers me.

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  2. I think it is alarming that people are so quick to embrace these teachings without measuring and weighing them. Some spiritual paths encourage students to test the teachings, to question and assess based on experience. If this can be true of spiritual paths then surely it is all the more true of any teaching.

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