The power of positive thought is nothing new.
Plato held that the realm of ideas is more real than that of matter.
I have been reading that the scientific empiricism and religious skepticism of the 17th and 18th centuries led to a backlash called “New Thought”. A gentleman by the name of Phineas P. Quimby is often credited as the earliest proponent but before you turned around twice Mary Baker Eddy was founding “Christian Science” and the New Thought movement became the philosophical Hula Hoop of the 1860s.
During the great depression two books of the same vein were published, “How to win Friends and Influence People” ( Dale Carnegie-1936) and “Think and Grow Rich” (Napoleon Hill-1937). With life turning to crap for so many it must have been hopeful to believe turning your life around was a self help book away.
New Age Aquarian philosophy has embraced many of the tenants of New Thought along with the kitchen sink:
Quite naturally a backlash is forming and a new book “Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America” is the tip of the counterblast.
I wish life came in ribbon wrapped Oprah packages.
It doesn’t. I declare this a new age of unreason.
Magical thinking is “real purty”. Telling people with cancer they caused it is not. Telling the desperately poor they alone are responsible for their situation is not. There is a line forming to punch zealous advocates of positive thinking in the nose.
To be fair this is a complex issue and there are wonderful things about a positive upbeat attitude, self confidence and seeing the glass half full. Because it is a complex issue reducing it to bumper stickers and becoming an ideologue, no matter how well intended, is ugly.
Animals are (gratefully) exempt from “The Secret” and the “law of attraction” thinking. If an animal develops serious illness no one blames the animal for negative thoughts. No one tells the animal it called its own misfortune. No, we love the animal and do what we can to heal it. Bullshit is a disease reserved for the “crown of creation”.
Let me leave you with a scathing review of Oprah’s favorite book “The Secret”. It’s worth a read: