The best explanation of how the Law of Attraction actually works

Every spiritual school seems to have its own explanation of how the Law of Attraction actually works. Many of these are confusing and contradictory, and yet – as we shall see – many of them still work, because they correctly make use of certain principles, even though they seem to be mostly unaware of what those principles actually are.

I am here offering an explanation of the Law of Attraction that appears to tie all these schools of thought together, and cast a new light on things that will help us to understand the Law of Attraction in a different way. My primary source is, as usual, Thomas Troward – although I will also rely heavily on personal experience to extrapolate Troward’s teachings. I will begin by quoting from a remarkable chapter of Troward’s Edinburgh Lectures, where he delves into the two main aspects of the human mind – the subconscious and the conscious, or as he here calls them, the subjective and the objective.

From The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science, lecture 4:

A long series of careful experiments by highly trained observers, some of them men of worldwide reputation, has fully established certain remarkable differences between the action of the subjective and that of the objective mind which may be briefly stated as follows:

The subjective [subconscious] mind is only able to reason deductively, and not inductively, while the objective mind can do both. Deductive reasoning is the pure syllogism which shows why a third proposition must necessarily result if two others are assumed, but which does not help us to determine whether the two initial statements are true or not. To determine this is the province of inductive reasoning, which draws its conclusions from the observation of a series of facts…”

Innumerable experiments on persons in the hypnotic state have shown that the subjective mind is utterly incapable of making the selection and comparison which are necessary to the inductive process, but will accept any suggestion – however false – but having once accepted any suggestion, it is strictly logical in deducing the proper conclusions from it, and works out every suggestion to the minutest fraction of the results which flow from it. As a consequence of this it follows that the subjective mind is entirely under the control of the objective [conscious] mind. With the utmost fidelity it reproduces and works out to its final consequences whatever the objective mind impressed upon it; and the facts of hypnotism show that ideas can be impressed upon the subjective mind by the objective mind of another as well as by that of its own individuality…”

Under the control of the practised hypnotist the very personality of the subject becomes changed for the time being; he believes himself to be whatever the operator tells him he is: he is a swimmer breasting the waves, a bird flying in the air, a soldier in the tumult of battle, an Indian stealthily tracking his victim: in short, for the time being, he identifies himself with any personality that is impressed upon him by the will of the operator, and acts the part with inimitable accuracy.”

In summary, the conscious or objective mind possesses the faculty of inductive reasoning – or observing facts and determining truth from falsehood – while the subconscious or subjective mind only reasons deductively, which is the faculty of calculating what consequences follow when certain initial facts are assumed.

The subconscious mind is essentially our connection to the Universal, undifferentiated mind, or the mind of God. God does not deal in truths or falsehoods; God simply creates. If God decides that something is true, then it becomes true, and our subconscious minds operate in the same way. Hence, if the conscious mind is put to sleep via hypnotism and a sufficiently skilled hypnotist impresses a certain suggestion upon it, then the subconscious accepts that suggestion and works out the logical consequences of it. The subconscious mind does not evaluate the truth or falsehood of the suggestion; it simply responds by working out the conclusions that follow if the suggestion is true.

The subconscious mind has no ideas about itself and no concept of limitation. It conceives of itself as being precisely what is conveyed to it by external suggestion; typically the external suggestion of our conscious mind – this is how all visualisation and self-suggestion works. To take a common example, if you visualise yourself as a millionaire and feel the truth of it so palpably that it becomes real to you, then you are programming the subconscious mind just like the hypnotist who convinces his subject that he is a bird flying in the air. Once the subconscious has accepted the suggestion of the visualisation, it will manifest as a physical reality, provided that no stronger contrary suggestion is impressed upon the subconscious to undermine the initial suggestion.

And here is where most people fail in programming their subconscious. They allow external circumstances to program the subconscious with contrary suggestions to their visualisation. We see the destructive effects of contrary suggestions in the hypnosis example – when the hypnotised subject returns to his normal state, his conscious mind resumes its observation of facts, finds that the subject’s body is not covered in feathers, and the hypnotic spell quickly wears off due to the stronger contrary suggestion received from the observation of the senses and reasoning of the conscious mind. Similarly, if the would-be millionaire awakes from his visualisation and then proceeds pinching every penny as he previously did, his actions are impressing the idea of lack upon the subconscious. If he instead begins to spend as though money were no object then he is acting consistently with his visualisation. But if he spends in this way for a few weeks, fails to see results, and then panics, then he has undone all his good work and may in fact end up further back than where he started from, as his panic will form a powerful suggestion of lack that the subconscious will respond to.

Hence, most people simply do not have the consciousness required to successfully carry out such a spectacular manifestation, and so the Law of Attraction becomes like all other too-good-to-be-true schemes like foreign currency trading. In theory, it holds an easy solution to all of our problems. In reality, its tremendous simplicity can be supremely complicated to grasp.

But then, the Law of Attraction was never meant to be the saleable commodity it has become. Its enticing promises have invited exploitation from opportunists, who have often stripped out every other teaching of the spiritual life and focused solely on the promise of riches. But it was never meant to be taken out of the context of our wider spiritual development. It’s not a magical formula for getting stuff; rather the ability to use it is the natural consequence of an increase in spiritual understanding.

Yes, Christ said “ask and ye shall receive” – but he also said “seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all other things shall be added unto you”. Not only will our spiritual powers naturally unfold as a result of our increased knowledge of the Universal Spirit, but our desires will begin falling into order, and we will discover that the legitimate use for all spiritual laws is doing good for others and evolving our souls. This does not mean we cannot ask for particular favours, monetary or otherwise – but they should fit into the grand scheme of our spiritual development, and not simply be directed towards creating a comfortable, luxurious life. And as our spiritual development unfolds, our consciousness increases – and in this higher state of consciousness, things tend to come to us without us even needing to ask.

With that said, we are certainly entitled to use our spiritual powers, provided that the end goal of our efforts is in conformity with the will of universal love. In Chapter 5 of the Edinburgh Lectures, Troward offers a suggestion as to how to overcome the negating effects of existing circumstances that we encountered earlier. He encourages us to reflect that there is a spiritual prototype of our completed goal that already exists on the metaphysical plane. As spirit has no concept of time, it follows that the spiritual prototype of our visualisation must exist as an already accomplished fact, here and now. By focusing on the existence of this spiritual prototype as an already accomplished fact, we are taking our attention away from external appearances and secondary causes, and focusing instead on first cause. By reversing our mode of thinking in this way and focusing on the originating principle rather than the secondary results that flow from it, our world will begin to change – just as a change in a shadow inevitably follows upon a change to the object that casts it. We need to view the spiritual world, where we are truly rich in every way, as the real world, and the physical world the mere reflection of it.

And despite the insistence of many Law of Attraction teachers, it is not strictly necessary to visualise anything. The advantages of visualising are that – if palpably felt – it conveys the truth of the visualised outcome very powerfully to the subconscious mind, and also helps us to get very clear with exactly what we are trying to manifest. But for those who struggle with visualising, it is possible to obtain results purely through the power of belief, as long as we hold fast to the belief and do not plant a contrary suggestion in our subconscious by entertaining doubts or acting as though the belief were not true. Explicitly religious people typically do not visualise; but many successfully manifest favours simply by their belief in the power of prayer. Christ said “Believing ye shall receive”, not “After visualising, ye shall receive”. In the end, belief is the funnel through which everything flows. Believe that an outcome will occur, and you are powerfully programming your subconscious to expect it. Believe that your methods are faulty, or you’re not skilled enough at them, or you took a crucial misstep, and you’re programming your subconscious for failure. Hence certain Law of Attraction teachers who prescribe specific methods as being absolutely necessary to the creative process sometimes set up unhelpful negative expectations in the minds of those who find their methods difficult to replicate.

Furthermore, many of the different schools seem to directly contradict each other on certain points. Most notably is the question of whether we should continue thinking about a goal after we have visualised it, or whether we should simply set the intention and then let it go. And here it is helpful to understand the principles behind the teaching, in order to decide which method is going to be most suitable for you.

Generally speaking, if you are good at visualising and able to form a vivid, believable, lifelike picture of your goal fulfilled, then you should visualise it once and then drop the matter. Your vivid mental picture will deeply impress upon your subconscious mind, and it will immediately go to work to bring the vision into physical manifestation. You should await the results with calm and confident expectancy; anything else that you add to it from that point onward is only likely to retard its progress. If you do use any other technique to keep your mind on track, such as Troward’s suggestion mentioned earlier, it should only be to chase away doubts, rather than to speed up the process or increase its effectiveness.

If you are unable to form vivid mental pictures, then your subconscious may require some additional programming. It will act upon whatever is impressed upon it the most vividly, and so if you are unable to do this with a mental picture, you can do it with frequent reminders of the goal, such as palm cards with your goals written them in present tense, or some other form of regular affirmations. The only drawback with this method is that you must be able to evoke the feeling of the wish fulfilled on cue – at least to some extent – and avoid any negativity concerning that subject. For example, it may be relatively easy to indulge in positive feelings concerning a romantic relationship; but for most people who don’t yet have such a relationship, this will also stir up feelings of loneliness and discouragement. It is also very important to avoid any sense of trying to hurry the speed of the manifestation by the use of these methods. The end game is to convince the subconscious that the goal has already been fulfilled by vividly conveying to it the feeling of the goal fulfilled. If we attempt to hurry it in any way then we are only impressing it with our own impatience. This is why, despite their potential, so many people find affirmations to be useless or even counterproductive.

My recommended method for those who cannot vividly visualise (and also for those who can – along with continuing their visualisation methods) is to use the principles of Emmett Fox’s The Golden Key. It’s a mere brief pamphlet – shorter than this article even – but its power has been proven by the thousands that have used it over the decades since it was first published.

The formula is simple: don’t think about the problem, but instead think about God. So if you are trying to manifest a relationship, rather than visualising your own perfect relationship, just know that it is all in God’s hands, and then meditate frequently on God’s love without any specific reference to your own loneliness, and without any specific expectations. Rather, maintain a confident expectancy in the ability and willingness of God to bring you all good things. If you are trying to manifest wealth, instead of visualising yourself swimming through a tank full of money, meditate frequently on the infinite abundance of God, and expect all good things to come to you. If you are trying to advance spiritually, meditate frequently on the infinite wisdom, goodness and intelligence of God, and know that all these things will come to you.

Fox prescribes this as a remedy for dissolving any difficulty, but it can be used as a means of attaining goals, too. If you feel the need to stick scrupulously to Fox’s original formula, then simply phrase the goal as a difficulty and ‘golden key’ it. If you are trying to manifest a relationship, ‘golden key’ your loneliness. If you are trying to manifest money, ‘golden key’ your lack. If you are trying to advance spiritually, ‘golden key’ your spiritual stagnation.  If you need further instructions on how to think about God, read Fox’s The Seven Main Aspects of God.

The beauty of Fox’s technique is that it works directly with belief in absolute spiritual principles, rather than concerning itself with evoking feelings or changing existing circumstances.  See, often by thinking about goals that are yet to be fulfilled, we activate old programming, old negative expectations, and past negative emotions. This is what Law of Attraction teacher Esther Hicks calls ‘blocked pipes’ – it’s negative energetic residue that can sabotage our attempts to feel positive about our goals. It’s much easier to program our subconscious to expect all manner of good things to come from the Universal Spirit, than to program ourselves for very specific things – especially when we have many blocked pipes. By powerfully affirming our belief in spiritual principles, we are raising our vibration and denying any additional energy to our existing unfavourable circumstances.

Don’t get me wrong – visualising and affirmations work well for many people. But Fox’s techniques work for everyone, when persisted in.  At the end of the day, we don’t even require a technique at all. Christ made the whole matter incredibly simple – according to him, it is all a matter of asking and believing:

Therefore I say unto you, all things whatsoever you ask when you pray, believe that you shall receive and they shall come unto you.” Mark 11:24.