How Materialism posing as Mysticism subverts Spirituality and limits Consciousness

The law of attraction is a wildly-popular modern mystical belief hyped as the secret to fulfilling your every desire. It has big celebrity endorsements, and commercial products rehashing its claims sell in abundance. But beneath the glossy facade there’s often an agenda pushing egocentrism and greed in metaphysical garb, which limits consciousness and subverts spirituality for shallow materialistic ends.

Many spiritual traditions have arisen throughout history and although they have their differences, a common recurring principle is that greed and spirituality don’t mix. Renowned spiritual teachers like Jesus or Buddha did not promote greed in their teachings or lifestyle – quite the opposite: they showed that greed and egocentrism had to be overcome.

Greed has been seen in many spiritual traditions as an obstacle or trap that prevents us from understanding and fulfilling a higher purpose to life. Because it makes us selfish and obsessed with transient things, it has long been taught that renouncing selfish desires, and selflessly helping others to do the same, is necessary to attain salvation or liberation.

But this principle is increasingly turned on its head in the world of commercial spirituality. Some want to have it both ways – a spiritual or metaphysical pursuit in their lives and all their material desires fulfilled – and those selling this message (and the corporations behind them) can make a lot of money out of pushing this false promise. But at what price?

The Marketplace of Spiritual Ideas

Those who look beyond rigid constraints of traditional religious institutions have a seemingly unlimited range of alternatives in what has broadly been termed ‘New Age’ spirituality which intersects with the ‘mind-body-spirit’ and ‘self-help’ scene.

Having the freedom to explore alternative and diverse spiritual beliefs openly in society is a wonderful thing. But in today’s era of mass consumption, savvy people have realised they can make a lot of money by selling messages that cater to people’s spiritual longings in the most commercially appealing way.

The new age scene is diverse, with grass-roots and genuine elements, but like many other alternative social movements, there are those who will inevitably seek to exploit it and use it for commercial purposes. In this process spiritual ideals can be co-opted and commercialised, as corporations, and the authors they support, seek to tap the market for profit.

This commercialisation inevitably influences the message as the most appealing messages get the most corporate backing, and the most appealing messages tend to be a more palatable candy-coated version of spirituality with all the hard and difficult parts taken out.

Having commercial interests direct the course of spirituality goes against the very essence of spirituality, so it is not surprising that the message is not only distorted, but can even be completely inverted by this process.

The Law of Attraction as mystical greed

This is perhaps most apparent when you look at the popularity of refashioned teachings about the ‘law of attraction’, ‘positive thinking’ and ‘manifestation’ for which there are a number of products on the market, some widely successful and endorsed by prominent celebrities.

The underlying premise is that ‘like attracts like’ and you attract whatever you think, so you can change your thoughts to change what you attract in life. So if you think of positive things you will attract them, while if you think negatively you will attract bad things.

shutterstock_128164493 (crop 2)

You can’t always manifest what you want

Obviously there is some truth to that – to a point. If you have angry thoughts all the time for example you are more likely to act angrily and provoke others to anger and therefore attract anger back to yourself. So changing negative thought patterns could change the circumstances you attract to a degree.

However, the law of attraction is often presented as a sort of magical Aladdin’s Lamp that can give you everything you want and desire. If you think of a new car, it will materialise. If you think of an attractive new partner, or a great new job, you can get that too. If you think of getting rich, it will happen. You just have to think it and believe in the outcome and it will ‘manifest’. The universe will provide whatever you desire if only you think it and believe – a sort of mystical power born of greed.

Not all proponents of the law of attraction are that blatantly materialistic about it, but there is no denying that some of the most popular versions of this theory dangle the carrot by promising wealth, success, and the fulfilment of all desires.

Metaphysical Materialism

Now one obvious danger with this thinking is that it can encourage delusion. People can’t have everything they want, and claiming they can gives people false hope. But another major problem is that this sort of teaching can easily encourage selfishness, self-indulgence and greed and the view that the the universe is somehow mystically designed to metaphysically reward self-centredness – while perpetuating the view that success and happiness are measured through what you acquire in the world.

When taken as a means to fulfil every desire, this belief can become completely anti-spiritual – a sort of metaphysical materialism, or greed with a mystical gloss, giving people a supposedly mystical way to manifest all their worldly desires while encouraging egocentrism.

Encouraging people to seek happiness through external things, through consumption and status, conveniently suits the corporations nicely, but it goes against essential spiritual principles.

Since when was greed a mystical path to happiness? The fictional Gordon Gecko famously said “greed is good”, but he was a Wall Street stockbroker whose greed took him to jail. His sentiment is not found in real spiritual teachings.

Greed and Spirituality Don’t Mix

The Temptation of ChristAry Scheffer, 1854

Jesus rejecting ‘all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour’

We only need to look at well-known spiritual teachings to see how inverted some of the most popular metaphysical self-help teachings about the  law of attraction really are. Jesus famously said:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also…

No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Clearly, the law of attraction encourages some people to put their heart in the wrong place…in Mammon – the allegorical God of Greed.

It is also written that after fasting for 40 days and nights in the wilderness, Jesus was tempted by the devil and offered “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour” which he turned down for the kingdom of heaven. He also said the kingdom of heaven is within you, and that it’s difficult for a rich man to find it.


‘The Worship of Mammon’ – allegorical painting by Evelyn De Morgan about the trappings of Greed

Various spiritual devotees and teachers of many persuasions see renunciation of worldly desires as a necessary step toward spiritual enlightenment. There are various examples of this in many traditions.

Buddha is renowned for making the observation that desire was the source of unhappiness. The more we crave things, the more unhappy and dissatisfied we become because our desires can never be sated. Liberation was to be found by freeing oneself from attachment to desire, not indulging it.

He gave up his wealth to seek enlightenment and teach. Saint Francis also famously gave up a comfortable life to become closer to God and lived his life in selfless service to others.

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna taught that breaking your attachments and doing your duty in the world selflessly without seeking rewards was the way to liberation:

“Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme.”

That didn’t mean you had to become a beggar, but he clearly explained that being attached to an outcome and to the senses, and to chase worldly rewards, was a futile way of living. Yet big-ticket marketers of the law of attraction often teach the opposite of that, encouraging people to focus on and believe in getting all the things that they want, rather than seeing these very desires as delusions which trap them, suppress consciousness, and prevent them from awakening and attaining peace within.

Missing from this world view is that life is a school in which we learn and that hardship and suffering are part of the process through which we self-realise so that consciousness can awaken. The circumstances needed for this are not always going to be easy, and when you look at the lives of famous spiritual figures you can see that they often went through great difficulties. Facing difficulties is a part of life, and what we need to grow is not always what we want. Those who believe they can manifest all their desires through positive thinking and believing in the outcome don’t seem to be aware that the more you chase after your cravings, the more you tighten the net of your own enslavement, when you could be using life to break free of these limitations.

Greed has consequences in people’s lives, because it shuts the door to real spiritual happiness and love, but it also has terrible consequences for the world. The world is being trashed because of greed, as people selfishly strive to get what they want with little regard for the consequences. And with people in such a self-centred condition the masses are easily divided and manipulated by the powers that be. Turning spirituality – which offers a way to break free of this mess – into a focus of greed and self-indulgence is truly harmful.

This of course suits the corporations in our economic system just fine, who depend on people’s perpetual despair, dissatisfaction and desires to drive them to chase happiness and fulfilment through continuous consumption. But those who want inner freedom and a genuine awakening of consciousness should not fall into this trap.

About Matthew Osmund

Matthew Osmund is a freelance writer with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, an open mind and a keen interest in defending personal freedom and uncovering the truth. He's been exploring spirituality and consciousness for 10 years and writes at The Conscious Reporter about issues that affect and suppress human potential, consciousness, alternative beliefs, and the right to free expression of spirituality in the world.


  1. Thank you for the article Matthew. This materialistic connected society we live in makes it very hard to realize our true selves. A lot of distractions, misinformation, and people selling everything under whatever name to win a few bucks. All of them are unconscious and they are counting on us being unconscious as well.
    I have left my job a couple weeks ago and turned another offer down in a big city, because it impedes my happiness , my well-being and self-realization. Changing careers to go a direction that is in harmony with my happiness (reflexology). No where did I read it, no where was it sold to me, just based on my experience, and listening to a long forgotten voice inside me. It is encouraging to see that there is a website like the Conscious Reporter that publishes articles which are really important to helping us realize to what point we let society manipulate us, and to what point it is acceptable for people in society to do this.

  2. Matthew writes: “Turning spirituality – which offers a way to break free of this mess – into a focus of greed and self-indulgence is truly harmful” is an agreeable statement, but what Mr. Osmund seems to presume (and I base such on his use of the Buddha, St. Francis, etc) is that “spirituality” is something that could be applied to any one of those people he names. “Spirituality” and the “spiritual” are nebulous terms and this plasticity is something that the marketplace utilizes to its “advantage.” If one were to ask the Buddha “are you spiritual?” the question probably would not make sense. The whole idea of the spiritual/spirituality is an invention of enlightenment thinking (the term was coined in French, then picked up in English). It is category of modern thinking. The problem is that spirituality has become equated with the individual. Each individual has his or her “own” spirituality–his or her (and I have heard it defined as such many many times) own “brand” of spirituality. Moreover, as a modern category of thought and identity formation, as soon as someone says “I am spiritual,” that person is giving him/herself a label. And that’s what spirituality is: just another label. No different than Polo or Ralph Lauren. And in many respects, it is a status symbol as well. How many times have you said yourself, or heard someone say, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” There’s an unstated hierarchy there and, in my opinion, an often unconscious arrogance there as well. Now how “spiritual” is that? Not very. Then again, maybe not. So has the marketplace usurped the spiritual? Sure it has. Why? Because it is just another commodity so why wouldn’t the marketplace use it? Spirituality does not free one from the mess. Quite the contrary, it makes one even more unaware of participating in it–which is even more dangerous.

    • Hey Josh,

      Some of my thoughts. I think when someone says yellow bird, red car or a Ralph Lauren t-shirt then other people will know what that person is talking about. Even when someone says I felt angry in traffic or I was nervous just before a job interview then people would still know what you’re talking about. But when you experience or go through things that are not so common to an everyday person’s life and try to describe it to them, then they might not know what you’re talking about. Also there’s often a lack of terminology for it. Then they’ll have to try to understand you as best as they can through the things they’ve experienced themselves. When someone says ‘God’ for example the images that come up in one’s mind and their understanding can be vary greatly from person to person.

      When the writer of this article mentions spirituality he might mean a certain type of spirituality, or use the term in the way it is most commonly understood.
      I do also think, unfortunately, that many people misuse the term spirituality as what they’re doing is something different. This kind of misleads and confuses people and ruins words/language in my opinion. Perhaps also because as a society we’re not so focused on spiritual things we correspondingly lack words to describe the differences more accurately.

      However, things beyond the ordinary, life beyond the body, feelings beyond what we normally feel, divine beings, supernatural events, inner change, a different way of perceiving life, a journey to reach higher things (etc.) do exist. And when talking about these things you can only use the known words that best describe it, if you want people to (kind of) understand what you’re saying.

    • hi Josh, I find what you are saying to apply more to commercial spirituality rather than a truer altruistic spirituality.

      • Yes David I agree with you, but commercial spirituality can easily absorb what you call “truer altruistic spirituality.” Look what it’s done to yoga. Yoga is a multi-billion dollar business, when in its “truer” form (whatever that means) it was a means of rejecting society and its norms.

        • As you imply Josh and I agree, “truer” includes being not for profit, and obviously that changes when it becomes commercial. The selling corrupts it let alone any changes or omissions made to the original to make it more commercial so I choose to avoid those things.

          However, I think there is still a value in exploring consciousness and questioning reality and looking for the answers to the big questions about life as a personal spiritual search without having an ego about being a spiritual person whilst avoiding the commercial spirituality trap.

          Unfortunately a lot of people on this planet at this time are not interested otherwise if they were it would just be the norm of life and no need for a special word like “spiritual” to describe it. So what you seem to be really bemoaning is the state of this world and the need for a label of spiritual and the commercialisation of it but that does not wipe out ones own inner search through non-commercial means.

  3. LOA only works when it is for the benefit of others, or used to improve others’ quality of life. That is what I experienced. You have to go outside of yourself, it encourages altruism. When you become an agent of love, then the universe responds. Many people wonder why they practiced LOA and it didn’t work? I think this is the reason. Just MHO.

  4. Sound observations and definitely a balanced approach. A virtuous mind, that is one that considers the happiness and welfare of others, is trending toward peace of mind. A non-virtuous mind, one that is not considerate of the happiness and welfare of others, is trending toward agitation and mental suffering. The practice of compassion is the real magic.

  5. Great article Matthew. I’ve recently watched a video on happiness. Money certainly adds to your happiness and quality of life if it means meeting basic needs but in excess it makes no difference. Community and helping each other, on the other hand, makes a huge difference to one’s level of happiness.

    It is sad that today exploitation of others for financial gain is almost the new religion.

  6. Excellent article, thanks Matthew.

    I really love this quote.

    “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also…
    No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

  7. Well put Matthew and very true, the problem seems to be this idea of the law of attraction( which can work) has somehow been distorted to fit in line with spirituality were in essence most people pursuing these type of ideas are basically in it for the material side of things which really is not conducive for the spiritual work

  8. It is quite sad to see how greed effects people. In my family there is a lot of money which was gained through various forms of usury and having the right “connections” and this puts added pressure on the progeny to live up to those standards. But it takes a certain materialistic mentality to achieve such success.

    It seems nowadays it is increasingly difficult to simply work 40 hours or so a week and being entitled to secure living conditions for that reason alone. That is not to say everything must be given to us, but there are certain things which can be achieved if money were viewed in a more rational way. Now people who barely work can earn six figures while people who actually work very hard get paid the least money. No longer is simple hard work rewarded with the guarantee of shelter. Instead manipulation through derivatives, fractional reserve banking, usury, etcetera, determine someone’s material comfort whereas much of the rest of humanity must slug it out for the scraps. Even a single person who works full time often has to take a second job just to rent a room! that is completely insane but it is becoming the expectable norm and anyone that points this out as a serious social issue is accused of being lazy and envious, while the real lazy ones and the real envious ones are buying their empty summer homes that they visit a couple weekends a year! But these are issues no one must speak of, it seems. Meanwhile the petty criminals are fed and sheltered in the prisons, people who have no aim to work at all are given welfare checks to win votes for greedy politicians who do the best they can to eliminate jobs!

    It is truly an insane world. If people just thought more spiritually perhaps they would better understand money, because it seems spirituality enhances our ability to comprehend the material world.

  9. Hi Matthew – thanks for this post. Having worked at a library for many years in the past, I saw firsthand just how popular the books, audio tapes/cds, and videos on this subject were. It was always a bit disheartening to see people taking them out and feeling as though this would lead to spirituality (when in reality, as you mentioned, it’s more merely a means through which to try to “get what you want/desire”). It’s a shame that these are what are most popular in society as opposed to the actual spiritual teachings that are in some ways so readily/easily available now as opposed to in the past. I think most people who are really searching – as opposed to those who are pursuing greed-based improvements anyway – will see through all of it eventually, as it doesn’t bring what they were really looking for in the first place.

  10. Jesus, Buddha, Sri Ramakrishna, Paramahansa Yogananda and the other liberated souls all teach that we must renounce the temporal for the eternal. Paramahansa Yogananda said that fulfillment of any particular material desire seems necessary only if we lack conviction that we can find complete fulfillment of all desires in God. This is what Jesus meant when he said that the kingdom of heaven is like unto a field, where a man goes and sells everything he has, and buys that field.

  11. We are all killer monkeys living distorted delusional lives with a psychopathic psychosis…
    Our alleged intelligence is overshadowed by our imbecilic concepts and constructs of a monetary based economy based on debt and enslavement of 99% of the population to %1 that owns 40% of the wealth. Imbeciles who let morons dictate and run their world into extinction…

  12. Sometimes you get what you ask for, sometimes you get what you asked not to receive, and perhaps sometimes you also get exactly what you deserve in some sense, but in the final analysis there is a Diamond Law which oversees the entirety of this process, and in the end everyone DOES get what they deserve: sometimes it is Good, sometimes just “good”, sometimes just “evil”, and sometimes really evil. But in the cases of True Good and actual evil, these things are not so simple as “you get what you deserve no matter what”. Because some of us Know what these terms really mean, and really live by them. When you truly do, then “getting what you deserve” is different than when you don’t. Let those with understanding, understand.

  13. We live in a world of hardship. The pricipalities in high places who run this operation have made it a lot more ardous and dysfunctional than it needs to be, to benefit THEM of course.

    Now, it’s natural for people to look for ways or means to improve their situation under that sort of unjust power. The Law of Attraction, or Secret was thus a real eye-opener for a lot of people.

    But I don’t feel that this natural striving to want to be more abundant in life and garnering more income in order to rise above mere existing in life is a sign of “selfish” or “greedy” thinking.

    Tapping into the Quantum Energy Field to help us become who we choose to be IS spiritual because the Creator put it there for our use.

    If people get greedy than that is an issue for their Karma to play out and doesn’t deserve judgement.

  14. I am afraid, you are confused. The LOA has absolutely nothing to do with mysticism and it is insulting to the latter to even insinuate that. It has all to do with materialism, though, its greedy, delusional incarnation.

  15. Another great article, thanks.

    The law of attraction type spirituality has been popular for some time now. I recall reflecting on this type of spirituality years ago I thought it would work – that you will get what you desire. For example if you spend all day wishing for gold you may not actually receive the physical gold but you will become a person that really wants gold. That was what you desired.

  16. When I first got into exploring spirituality practically I dabbled in quite a lot of different things. At one point, I remember reading up on rituals to attract your desired outcome — be it a job you want, a new partner, general wealth, etc. A person close to me was getting set to perform a ritual to help them get their dream job. They offered I join them and ask for what I wanted too, but I declined. It didn’t feel right. I remember reflecting on it a lot though, and wondered what if this ritual actually works? What will be the outcome? What if I get the job just because of the ritual, when in reality it was meant for another person who needed it more? What if that person is suffering as a consequence? etc., etc. I just couldn’t reconcile how I can manifest something without the higher knowledge of the consequences of such an action.

    In addition to the great points you brought up in the article, Matthew, I think many people don’t realize the problem with getting everything you ever wished for and how it could potentially affect others and how it can even backfire in the future (or perhaps in their materialistic/power pursuits, they simply don’t care).

  17. Thank you for writing this. I allowed myself to be sucked in by this philosophy for some years in my youth. It started with the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. I have read many of these kinds of books and swallowed their ideas hook, line and sinker. These ideas start with child-like wish fulfillment fantasies and formalize them into various methods by which a person may supposedly attract the objects of all their desires.

    This results in delusion, as you suggest, but I can say from experience that the price for believing these ideas is high. First, it leads to what is called ‘magical thinking’. Magical thinking is the belief that a person can change physical reality by thinking in a certain way, and/or performing certain rituals or thought processes. When someone realizes that they bought in to this cognitive error, the effect on that person’s worldview is devastating. Imagine walking around thinking we have the god-like power of changing physical reality just by thinking about it! Imagine believing that every sick, unhealthy, or unfortunate individual we meet is that way because of the way they think! That is the bottom line of the ‘law of attraction’ philosophy.

    Another cost is the terrible waste of time. Instead of learning a new skill to get a higher paying job, or becoming a better person to attract a wonderful companion, a person can waste years trying to ‘manifest’ these desires. In place of seeking knowledge and understanding, the person continues to dwell on childish desires in the most selfish way possible.

    Internally, there is the problem of the self-reinforcing feedback loop a person sets up to support this belief system. The books that espouse these ideas tell the reader that if they don’t get what they want, then they simply don’t ‘believe’ enough. Eventually, the person trains him or herself to be so single-minded and focused that they become obsessed and blind to results. This keeps the person from ever pausing and reevaluating their course in life, since all doubt must be banished. Failure is not blamed on having unreasonable goals but rather, on lack of belief. The person trains him or herself out of all reasonable methods of self-evaluation and decision making.

    Sorry if this became a rant, but I get angry because I know these ideas are attractive, but poisonous. They are dangerous, and for the financial gain of a couple of bucks, someone that sells these books can ruin a person’s life for years at a time. They lure people away from true spirituality, which I believe (my opinion only) is based on surrendering to what is real, rather than controlling reality. I have actually gone on and challenged a couple of the authors of some of these books to a polite and intellectual debate, but I have never gotten a single reply.

    Thanks again for the article!

    • Hi Chuck,
      I’m really grateful that you chose to share your experience because I found it very helpful to understand this issue on a deeper level. And as you explained in more details the “delusion” that comes with it, the belief in a ‘magic world’, the selfishness that eventually comes from it, and especially the waste of time incurred from being stuck in this belief that a certain way of thinking is going to change the world, it just goes to show why this article matters so much. So thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Chuck, that’s a really interesting perspective.

    • Hi Chuck, many thanks for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to explain all that and share your thoughts and experiences. It really highlights the problem and pitfalls with this approach to life and spirituality and how it doesn’t really lead to happiness. Hopefully your personal experience with this can serve as a guide to help others to understand.

      I really like your description of spirituality as surrendering to what is real. I agree wholeheartedly that spirituality is all about seeing reality. Take care 🙂

    • Hi there Chuck,

      Thanks for sharing. I have had a similar experience and I appreciate reading your perspective.

    • It’s unfortunate you went through that Chuck spending your energy and time, but it seems you learned a lot from it, have overcome it and gained understanding. Thanks for sharing your experience and all the best to you in your journey.

    • Hello Chuck,

      I too want to thank you for sharing your insights from past experience. I have never felt comfortable about the precepts behind LOA, it has always had a very selfish ring about it to me. It is all about ME, ME ME in the end and the person does not see reality objectively. And it seems your experience really confirms this.

  18. I have enjoyed and received this article gratefully, it has reiterated many of my current thoughts on those I have met on my path. I often meet people who are not of the gratitude mind and yet they think they are spiritual. They see it as an opportunity to make lots of money from others misery. I am feeling very uncomfortable with this. I am psychic and an empath and the more I meet the more uncomfortable I am feeling. The material is using the spiritual as an excuse to make money from those who are lost.

    • Hi Elaine,
      I feel the same, and it is a sad thing to see.. Some people may not realize that this is what they are doing or what they are doing thinking it is spiritual. Because I also feel that the term ‘spiritual’ has lost some of its original meaning, and now encompasses all sort of thing.

      But greed/desire is definitely on the opposite w=of what spiritual is, that’s really in a sense simple, yet many can justify it in many ways..

      Hopefully, this article can help raise questions about the hidden motives behind this materialism passed and sold as spirituality.

    • Thanks for you comment Elaine. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said it is about making money from people’s misery and exploiting those who are lost and looking for something. It is very sad and I can understand why you feel uncomfortable with seeing this.

  19. A very interesting article.
    A beggar is a beggar, a parasite a parasite. In modern society if a person renounces a job, or being a productive member of society, part of the status quo, then they are asking for trouble. A man is expected to work and provide for a partner and children. If they don’t do this it is seen as a weakness and lack of masculinity. It is also seen as thoroughly irresponsible and often assumed that such delinquent is inept and incompetent. Such losers have no place in society and should be thrown out the city (excluding priests etc of main stream religions).
    Of course, such an attitude is quickly followed by begrudging having to work, feeling like a slave and paying extortionate taxes. It seems you just cant win with misery.
    So why do spiritual people, fakirs, appear dependent on the good will and charity of devotees, or simply those feeling pity or compassion? Aren’t spiritual people putting all their trust and faith in the ‘universe providing’? If everyone did that there would be no one working and supporting them, because everyone would be working for their spiritual salvation and not material sustenance.
    If we want, or have the desire to be spiritual full time, aren’t we dependent on material gifts? So we renounce greed but in doing so put ourselves in a position of being dependent on those who haven’t? It seems a bit hypocritical. You cant renounce that which you are dependent upon. So what’s the solution? What’s your definition of greed versus selfishness required to provide our basic life necessities and where is the line and definition of responsible?

    • Shane,
      It’s not about giving up everything in the search for spirituality. Jesus was a carpenter, he had a job to support himself but instead of lounging around watching TV in his spare time he invested it in helping others. It’s balance, no life is worth more than another but sadly in this day and age it seems to be the case. Most people striving to be rich don’t see the poor as equals but as a burden on society and are not deserving of the same rights or help. Spirituality isn’t bought nor is it something you only get when your broke and expect hand outs from mainstream society. It isn’t every really ever fully attained, it’s really a journey that takes the focus off oneself to helping others find that path. I hope that one day this world will stop saying me, me, me and start saying what can I do to help others. Once your time is up the good character of a man is judged on what he has given back not what he has taken.

    • Hi Shane,

      I think you are bringing some issues into this which go a fair bit beyond the topic I was trying to address in this article.

      I’m not suggesting it is wrong or selfish to earn a living to meet our necessities. You can have a job and not be greedy. I hope so anyway, otherwise I’m guilty 😉

      I was just drawing a distinction between pursuing spirituality for a spiritual aim, versus using a supposedly ‘spiritual law’ for a material payoff, making the acquisition of things (rather than awakening) the aim of life.

      I don’t think having material things is wrong in itself, or that a person inevitably becomes spiritual by giving them up. I believe it’s important our needs are met, but that is quite different from living to acquire and get everything we desire as the purpose of life.

      As I see it it’s the attachment to material things which is the issue, and greed arises when the acquisition of more and more stuff is the focus and purpose of life. Consumption goes way beyond meeting necessities in our society. Tying spirituality into that mindset is what I see as problematic.

      What I think we are supposed to renounce is the inner state of greed. We meet our material needs, and material things come to us, but they should not be the overriding focus of life because life is so much more than that. I believe this what Jesus meant when he spoke about the lilies of the field and said to seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all other (material) things will be added onto you.

      If awakening consciousness is the aim of life, there is faith our material needs will be met as we seek to awaken and help others to awaken. They might be met through a suitable job or from donations when a person works to help others full time as the case may be. But as I see it, the main thing is that when spirituality is the focus of life you use the material to serve that, rather than putting your life in service of the material.

      The basis to popular representations of the law of attraction seem to be an inversion of that.

    • Shane, I don’t think greed really has anything to do with whether someone works in a job or not. Earning a living doesn’t make someone greedy (as Tony pointed out, Jesus was a carpenter) and receiving donations doesn’t make someone dependent on the greed of others.

      The law of attraction is about trying to attract what you desire and want, rather than what you actually need. It’s different from the ‘universe will provide’ view in spirituality where someone who genuinely devotes their life to awakening places faith in the divine that they will get what they need, rather than what they want. The whole purpose of life is to awaken, so it makes sense that someone who devotes their life to that and selflessly helping others to do so would be looked after in a cosmic sense.

      If everyone was to work for their spiritual salvation, I don’t think it would fail at all as you suggest, but quite the opposite. If you had a spiritual society based on mutual cooperation and care for others, it could ensure everyone’s spiritual and material needs are met.

    • I would say Shane, do what you can with common sense, but put your trust in the divine who will always come to your aide. So as someone increases their resolute on the spiritual they may very well see how the universe supports them. But for starters, we begin at the beginning, and have to make our way through the jungle of societal norms..

    • Thanks all for the comments.
      It seems to me the article was highlighting the secret deception of fraudulent gurus selling and teaching pseudo magic (on the pretext of increasing spirituality) to acquire wealth and possessions.

      • Hi Shane, I see what you mean. But it’s not only that people sell this message to acquire wealth and possessions (although that certainly happens and there are many selling this message). It’s also that people in society are led to believe or want to believe that they can acquire wealth and possessions through using these techniques, which perpetuates the delusion that material gain is the focus off life and that is what ‘success’ is. So the approach shifts from awakening to self indulgence in the way people view and approach ‘spirituality’. It’s this popular off-kilter materialistic approach to spirituality that many people are attracted to that I was trying to highlight.

  20. A refreshing antidote to a lot of misleading information out there. Personally I have felt that a huge part of my learning about choosing spirituality in life has been linked to a struggle against materialism. I went through the ‘law of attraction’ hype when searching for spiritual teachings, but it felt very empty and seemed to feed delusion, as you say. It is hard for people to break free from materialistic and selfish thinking, as we are brought up with it inherent in our society, but it is so important if we want any chance of the blessings of true, raw, real spirituality. Thanks for a great article.

  21. I have heard / read some strange things about proponents of the law of attraction. For instance a main figure in the law of attraction movement suggesting that those who died in the 2006 tsunami had somehow attracted it to themselves because they were all thinking about it. Or people who are wanting to lose weight being told to ignore obese people.

    While I feel that our mind and intention are powerful things it’s sad that internal development has been replaced by the quest to fulfil our desires under a charade of doing something spiritual. I don’t think trying to get what we want all the time leaves us in a good position at all. I think it just makes us self centred and selfish as you highlighted in the article Matthew.

    I played around a bit with this sort of stuff about 15 years ago and had some results but interestingly they all backfired and getting what I thought I wanted turned out to be a really bad thing.

  22. I think many/most people try the ‘law of attraction’ stuff without a care for spirituality – it’s purely a materialistic approach. But the fact is when we go after material things, the desire grows endlessly rather than being satisfied. It works the same with any attachment or addiction that is fed.

    Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna put it quite clearly. Greed and attachment don’t bring fulfillment or happiness. Strange that it’s so rampant in the world.

  23. This is a wonderfully clear analysis of the so-called “mystical materialism”. It really highlights how this philosophy misleads people on a personal level and how corporations have subverted and are cashing in on people’s spiritual longings.

    I hope this message gets spread far and wide.

  24. Thanks for the article. It’s good to see the ‘law of attraction’ clearly analyzed. When using it for material ends, it is definitely not something spiritual. Personally, I’ve often felt uneasy asking for specific things (praying or imagining it, or in other natural ways). Doing that felt as if I know what’s best for me, which I don’t, and apart from that it seems like it’s a way to cut short on a learning in life – escaping situations and hardships I don’t like.

    Having said that, I imagine that many people would be happy to have their desires fulfilled. I just hope that they are not under any illusion of doing a spiritual work.

    • Hi Aleks, same here… I also feel like I don’t want to pray for specific things, but rather, to only pray to be in-line with the will of my Higher Being. Of course, that does not mean I shouldn’t be trying things actively and see how they work, etc.. Just the desire aspect and expecting things to be a certain way must be gone I guess. I also found all this has a lot to do with faith. If a person does not have a real faith in the spiritual, they will try to find their own ways around it.

  25. Thanks for simplifying this topic Matthew; it’s greatly appreciated and needed.