Law of Attraction, Divine Retribution

Photo: Wheel of Fortune, detail, by Edward Byrne-Jones. Source (x)

When I started this blog, I wanted it to be a place for me to spread my wings by practicing my interpretation and jotting down my astrological musings; and if I’m true to that, it means from time to time, I’m going to have opinions that people don’t like or agree with, and today, this is that post.

I didn’t want to write it because of what will likely be its controversial nature, and because it’s anti-populist. It is, in my quintessentially Uranus-On-My-IC nature, against the grain of what I perceive to be the majority of voices in the blogosphere when it comes to astrology. But sometimes the hard things are necessary, as Saturn teaches us — and this post is necessary because it’s a foundational element to how I perceive life itself, astrology’s role in it, and thus how I interpret the stars and life. If I don’t write it, it’s a disservice to anyone visiting this blog who might want to know ahead of time what I think about this subject, as the Law of Attraction is an important topic to some people. That said, I welcome all different belief systems and might even change my own mind in the future, but just because someone has a different viewpoint doesn’t mean they shouldn’t feel welcome in my sphere.

Got it? Okay, good. Because now, we talk about the hard things, about the dark and gritty underbelly of astrology and Law of Attraction.

For those who don’t want to slog through my reasoning (as follows below), here’s my stance, short and simple: I do not subscribe to the Law of Attraction. I do not believe it. I do not practice it. I do not support it, and cannot.

What follows is the reasoning:

Let’s define Law of Attraction first. A reading of various opinions online describes a general idea of what Law of Attraction is and does, according to most people: the idea that by concentrating your desires in alignment with what you want out of life, you attract those things to you. General consensus is that you should act positively to get positive things in your life. Throw in astrology, and what we have is a concept that we can use the energies of the planets to help propel us in that direction.

Naturally, some people have variations on this definition, but on the whole, that’s Law of Attraction in a nut shell.

Law of Attraction is the kind of magical thinking that recurs in various societies depending on their stage of advanced civilization. In our current paradigm, we live in an age of amazing wonders: who in all of history is having it as easy and comfortable as we moderns in the first world? Many of us enjoy a kind of safety, comfort, and leisure, unimaginable to people struggling for survival in history’s timeline. This is an important thing to understand if we are going to put the Law of Attraction and its popularity in context, because the Law of Attraction is very much a product of this time.

Particularly in the Roaring ’00’s of recent years, the lifestyle for most people in the first world is one provided by access to easy credit. Money flows with ease if you have a Visa, a Mastercard, an American Express card. Jobs were available if you wanted one, (for a vast majority), and the rise of the Internet has had a near magical effect on all of us. If we want to communicate, it happens in a blink of an eye as compared to the sluggish mail system of old. Has there ever been a better age for immediate gratification? We want something now, and we can have it — it’s merely a credit charge or a mouse click away.

This era of easy, credit-fueled money, is inextricably linked to our idea of fate. It is no mistake that as a civilization becomes more advanced and puts its citizens at ease and plies them with all kinds of media and entertainment, while freeing up more time for leisure, than it would appear to you that all you have to do is wish for something, and it can happen. That, with a positive attitude, and it would seem all of life can change just because you think about it differently.

However, to an Ancient Greek rebuilding his village from a plague, attempting to get his harvests in on time, whose resources are few, whose entire way of life could collapse because of bad weather — he believes in a fate that controls him. The Greeks understood much better than we what fate truly is — forces which move us, no matter how much positivity, how much good feeling, how great our deeds and how charitable our acts, when the time has come, we must bend to the demands of forces greater than us, or be broken in return. Our prayers, money, well-wishing, is not enough to alter our circumstances.

This is likely hard to accept for we moderns. The ancient world and its bent toward fatalism, seems foreign, antiquated, and people still speak of it as though they were ignorants stumbling through the dark ages. Yet, they were fundamentally just like us, gifted with the same brains, same potential intelligence, the same physicality. They were just like us. The principle difference is that we have access to a financial system and abundant energy resources that spans the globe and information that can be accessed in mere seconds, and a complex society that sees to most of our needs, insulating us from death, destruction, and suffering. Even depression is no longer a foe to be feared. With a doctor’s prescription pad, your heavy sadness can be uplifted with the motion of a pen. Truly think of how amazing that is, that we need not even mire ourselves in sadness if we do not care too.

Of course we believe in the Law of Attraction. We’ve never seen it otherwise. We’ve never been subject to slavery, never been subject to extreme need and poverty that put us at the mercy of others, never been caught in the maelstrom of the fates where nothing we did mattered.

This is why I cannot support Law of Attraction. Instead, I support the Wheel of Fortune, and I should know: I’ve ridden the Wheel up and down several times, and all at a very young age. By the time I was 25, I’d suffered through more events out of my control, and shaping my life without my permission, than I can give voice to here.

Law of Attraction implies that I did something to deserve the upheavals in my life. I didn’t think enough positive thoughts. I’m too cynical, too pessimistic. By feeling bad, I attracted the bad. (Now that I’ve posted a pessimistic post, I will no doubt attract pessimistic comments!) I adjure you to really think deeply about what this implies. That I deserved to be born to parents who would move me all over the country. That I deserved to suffer the death of a parent at a young age, and that I deserved to watch another go to prison. That I deserved to struggle in poverty and squat in a trailer park when I had no other place to go — because I didn’t concentrate my desires appropriately. Or likewise, that millions of people whose homes were foreclosed upon must have brought this on themselves, or conversely, just weren’t thinking the right thoughts, the happy thoughts. That the homeless people I pass on my commute, if only they knew of Law of Attraction, they might uplift themselves from their struggle. Or those family members who died of cancer incurred their own disease because of their flawed thinking, and others survived it because they were “optimistic.”

This is a fallacy of the worst kind. No one deserves these things. We have a human right to be angry when we are wronged, we have a human right, indeed, an obligation, to be sad when terrible things arrive on our doorstep, and a right to be cynical and disillusioned when we are betrayed by our fellows.

I know quite a lot of Wiccans and pagans who practice astrology who also subscribe to Law of Attraction. What makes it interesting is that the Law of Attraction smacks of the type of thinking you might see in organized religions who like to speak of Divine Retribution. Remember when Jerry Falwell said that people dying of AIDS was God’s punishment of the homosexual community? I’m sure people will be quick to insist that Law of Attraction is nothing like Divine Retribution, but I see them both as two sides of the same coin: Law of Attraction has better PR, as it focuses exclusively on the good, on chasing after reward — for after all, what’s wrong with wanting more out of life? Nothing, of course. Many of us strive for better lives. How does that hurt anyone? It doesn’t. Yet, by saying good deeds/positive thinking will bring reward is to imply that doing the opposite gets you in trouble, because after all, to have something bad happen to you means you must have deserved it. Just because the Law of Attraction doesn’t have a by-line explicitly stating that, doesn’t mean it’s not a logical progression of its concept. (And in some spaces, it is explicitly stated that bad thoughts bring you bad things, depending on whose definition you stumble onto.) Divine Retribution is the dark sister of Law of Attraction.

Law of Attraction also ignores wealthy criminals who happen to be CEOs and good people who, through no fault of their own, are crushed by terrible circumstances. Their thoughts weren’t bad. They were not pessimistic. Some of the greatest people I’ve had the pleasure to know had next to nothing. Dirt poor, whose hearts were too big for the world, and this was likely a result of their suffering. Their suffering is not what attracts suffering. Their suffering  made them better people, people worth knowing, people with dignity, people who had transformed Saturn’s lead into a luminous gold. To believe in the Law of Attraction is to ignore the many people who exist in opposition, or even, in spite of it.

Law of Attraction is a seductive idea. We all want to believe that by committing an act as effortless as changing our way of thinking, we can rearrange our reality. After all, there’s nothing sexy about the idea of all of our events being predetermined, a heartless fate that awaits, a Wheel which when it turns, will crush you after you ride it to the top. But because a concept is unpalatable does not invalidate it. That is, if anything, a critical sign that the Law of Attraction is deeply flawed — because it is so seductive, you want to believe it, and most of all, we are in love with our independence, with how easily we can rearrange our lives. We feel, and behave, as gods, with limitless pleasures and distractions at our disposal, rearranging our environments to alleviate our discomforts, no matter how trivial. But that ability depends on our modern day conveniences, our internet, our money, our mobility. Take these away, and do we, in fact, have as much free will as we thought? Or does it seem, without all of our technology, that life controls us, much more than we control it?

I believe in fate. Because I know without all of these external wonders we have accrued and leveraged, I have no power over anything. I understand the deep humility of my station in life: I am a very small, infinitesmal speck of dust in the oceanic void of galaxies and space. And I am content with my speck of dust.


While I came to this analysis on my own, as in all things, we often arrive there with helpful clues from other sources. Resources which helped inform my viewpoint:

Podcast, The Extraenvironmentalist with Morris Berman
“Existence determines consciousness, not consciousness that determines existence.”

Bright-Sided, by Barbara Ehrenreich

Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles






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