Similarly, there is a naiveté about how the universe works that’s quite popular today. Just as the ego in some Christians enjoys the illusion of having God on a leash, there are some religious and pseudo-religious people today who believe they can harness the Divine laws of the universe for their own wishes and self-aggrandizement.
These persons are practitioners of what has become widely known as the Law of Attraction. This is a spiritual and universal law to be sure. But, it’s hardly “the secret” that a recent book by that title would suggest and it’s hardly a new law. It’s been around for a long time, although it, as with the name for God, goes by many different names. The Law of Attraction is known in the New Testament as the Law of Believing, or the Law of Asking and Receiving. One can find some form of this law in virtually every culture and religion.
The Law of Attraction has its roots in quantum physics. Simply put, the law states that your thoughts dictate your reality. Like everything else, thoughts are made up energy waves that attract like energies in return. Positive thoughts, for example, operate at higher energy or vibrational frequencies. So, when you think positive thoughts, you both broadcast and receive, or attract, positive results. Conversely, negative thoughts vibrate at lower energy frequencies. When your thoughts are charged with negativity, you get negative results.
Essentially, Saint Paul pointed to the same spiritual law in his Letter to the Philippians. Although he knew nothing of either quantum physics or the Law of Attraction per se, he wrote:
“I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”[1]
In other words, today’s thoughts manifest tomorrow’s realities. The Buddha himself said, “All that we are is the result of all that we have thought.”
The Law of Attraction operates in this world with as much reliability as the Law of Gravity. The former is a spiritual law, the latter a physical. While neither can be seen with the naked eye, their effects are witnessed and even somewhat predictable. For example, the Law of Gravity makes it possible to predict with uncanny certainty what will happen if you leap from the fifty-fourth floor of high-rise in Manhattan. The Law of Attraction makes it possible to predict the kind of life you will live by the kind of thoughts you think.
If you think angry thoughts, for example, it shouldn’t surprise you to frequently find yourself in volatile, even hostile situations. You’ve heard of “road rage?” Angry motorists triggering or, you might say, attracting a similar rage in other drivers.
Take another example. If you think your life is not going to work out for you, why would you be surprised when it doesn’t? What you expect, you experience. When you begin to realize that this is how life works, you’ll get real cautious about the kinds of thoughts you think. Why? Because, as Wayne Dyer puts it, “You’ll get what you think about whether you want it or not.”
The Law of Gravity makes possible life on this planet. But, it’s also the law that brings down a plane whenever there’s a loss of power. There’s an equally unattractive side to the Law of Attraction, at least where the ego is involved. Some practitioners of this law, for example, make the mistake of believing it guarantees that, whatever they want and are willing to give their undivided attention, they will get. They believe, if they hold the thought of what they want in their minds with resoluteness and have no doubt whatsoever, what they want is on its way.
Just as no Christian can use Jesus’ name to get anything he or she wants, you cannot use the Law of Attraction to land a career, the house of your dreams, the career position, the income you desire, and so on. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve your life or your life situation, whenever ambition is driven by ego, then the desires usually become self-serving, self-centered and self-obsessed. Neither God nor God’s laws can be so manipulated.
“What is ego?” you ask.
I will describe in detail later what the ego is, as well as its insidious nature. For now, however, just remember that the ego is a little monster who resides within the psyche of every person. No one is without one. It is problematic and dysfunctional—problematic because it is the principal cause of human unhappiness and discontent; and, it is dysfunctional because it is only interested in its-self. In its more extreme forms, ego manifests as insanity.
It was not that many years ago when religious people were prone to label persons who had very dysfunctional egos as either insane, even demon-possessed. Since they had no other way of explaining strange and aberrant behavior, they assumed these people were under the control of an evil power they called Satan, or the Devil. We know now, however, that Satan is really a kind of alter ego or the dark side of one’s personality.
This alter-ego, or the Devil, has many other names, too. In Islam, for example, it is called Iblis. It was Mara over whom Siddhârtha Gautama finally prevailed at his spiritual awakening under the Bodhi Tree. Because he successfully triumphed over his own alter-ego, The Buddha, which means Enlightened One, has been the source of spiritual inspiration to millions of people. What many believing people in my own religious tradition do not know is that they, too, have an alter-ego, a little demon inside each of them, and it is dysfunctional, too, even insane. The difference is only in the degree of insanity.
So, here’s the bottom line. Whether it’s something you “wish to attract” as a pseudo-religious person or “pray to receive” as a person of faith, whenever your ego is present, and it is present more often than it is not, the Law of Attraction is interrupted. That is, it is corrupted and the law ceases to operate as you might desire. The same happens to the efficacy of prayer when those who pray do so in an attempt to manipulate reality.
James, author of a New Testament book that bears his name, understood this. While he did not know to use the words ego or Law of Attraction, he was well acquainted with the realities beneath and beyond those terms. He wrote, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.[2] He might have put it this way: “When you want something and believe you’ll get it, either through prayer or focused thinking, but you do not receive it, there’s a simple reason why: it is because your wanting and craving is only for yourself.”
“Then, how can I know when ego is present?” you ask.
This and a host of other questions related to the ego, I’ll answer in my new book, The Enoch Factor: Sacred Art of Knowing God.
[1] Philippians 4:8-9
[2] James 4:3, NIV

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, thinker, activist, and innovative spiritual leader. He boldly calls for a new kind of spirituality, one that connects people to God and to other human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religious background. “The survival of humanity,” says Dr. McSwain, “requires an end to the insanity of assuming, ‘We’re in; You’re out!’ ‘We’re Right, You’re Wrong!’ ‘We’re the Chosen Ones, You’re Not!’” Whether addressing a gathering of worshipers, corporate executives and company employees, seminar/workshop participants, or the keynote speaker at a convention, Dr. McSwain "has that rare gift of inspiring others to be more generous than they ever dreamed possible,” writes one observer. “He gives others the satisfying sense of belonging deeply to God and God’s plans.”