Raised Roman Catholic and spending twelve years in the Catholic school system, I was fully indoctrinated in Christian dogma, values and world view. I attended Sunday bible lessons and was taught the value of daily prayers, kneeling beside my bed, saying, “God bless mommy; God bless daddy; and God bless Chum, (our beloved Golden Cocker Spaniel)”. I tried to reconcile my flowering interest in astronomy and quantum physics with the traditional notion of a God who had created the universe and remained fully aware of every single thing in it, including my thoughts, hopes and fears, I was aware of the danger of sin, either in ‘thought, word or deed’ because He would know and treat me accordingly.
At age eight a crisis of faith led to an appointment with the priest, whose unsatisfactory answers ended with feelings of disappointment and rejection as he told me to ‘leave the church and don’t come back until you find your own answers.’ This became my personal ‘vision quest’.
I came of age in the sixties, learning to dance listening to the Beatles, who also introduced me to yoga, meditation and drugs. A hippy, following Lennon’s exhortation to ‘give peace a chance’ I began practicing meditation and found much comfort in Buddhism, which stressed the value of guarding one’s thoughts, words and deeds, because they affected one’s karma.
At Unity church, I learned of Charles Fillmore’s idea that ‘God is what you think’. I vicariously met many ‘new thought’ authors and adopted the self-help philosophy of James Allan’s “As a Man Thinketh”, Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich”, Wallace Wattles, “The Science of Getting Rich”, and Charles Haanel’s “Master Key System”, which changed my life and helped reconcile my earlier insight of the value of monitoring my own thoughts, words and deeds. My daily prayers became daily affirmations and daily visualization exercises.
The ‘New Thought Movement’ included William Walker Atkinson’s, book, “Thought Vibration, or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World”, and Wallace Wattles’ 1910 work, “The Science of Being Great” which inspired Rhonda Byrne to write “The Secret” which became a favorite of Oprah’s and a publishing phenomenon.
In the mid 1990’s researchers at Harvard University proved one idea from Wattles’ 1910 book to be scientific fact. He wrote, “Any talent you possess may be increased; you can multiply the brain cells in this particular area until it acts as powerfully as you wish.” Researchers proved that, contrary to previous beliefs, brain cells can indeed be influenced to grow and amazingly, simply thinking in a ‘certain way’ can cause these brain changes to happen. This discovery launched the new science of ‘neuroplasticity’. It also breathed life into the new field of positive psychology. Suddenly, thinking, long considered to have no scientific validity since the time of Descartes, is at the forefront of the behavioral and neurosciences. After more than 100 years, will the Law of Attraction find a place as a valid philosophy for living a better life?