Fifth in a multipart series addressing how those on a spiritual path can encounter, make meaning of, and respond to terrorism.


It has become popular in many spiritual circles to embrace the Law of Attraction. From the Abraham/Hicks material to The Secret, it seems to have become an established “fact” that our thoughts are the cause of all we experience.

I must admit I have mixed reactions to the Law of Attraction. This has to do with there being a strong form and a weak form to it. The strong form states that our thoughts cause everything that happens in our lives, that nothing happens to us that we have not called to us by our own thoughts. This means all we have to do is change our thoughts and our lives will change. While this provides a positive, proactive message, it also communicates serious blame. If you have cancer, your thoughts caused it. If another car hits yours, your thoughts caused the accident. If you are poor, your thoughts manifested your poverty. If you experience depression, your thoughts caused it (as opposed to your thoughts being a reaction to feeling depressed). And relevant to this series on Spirituality and Terrorism, if you are a victim of terrorism, your thoughts caused your being the target of that terrorist act.

At this point on my spiritual path, I’m not buying the Law of Attraction in its strong form. For me it doesn’t pass the discernment test. Of course I could be wrong, but it seems that the causes of what happens in our lives are more complex that my individual thoughts calling to me every experience. Here are some examples:

  • What if before this life my soul chose to contract cancer for the lessons I would learn that would help me open my heart and grow in compassion and faith?
  • What if the person whose car hit me exercised her free will by texting while driving just before ramming into my rear bumper?
  • What if institutional oppression and racism contribute to creating poverty for millions of people, and I am one of these individuals?
  • What if my body is genetically predisposed to changes in brain biochemistry from hormonal swings that produce postpartum depression?

So let’s consider the weaker form of the Law of Attraction as expressed in the words channeled by Esther Hicks from the entity known as Abraham. (For an exploration of the phenomenon of channeling you may wish to look at my recent book, Joyfully Shattered: A Physician’s Awakening at the Crossroads of Science and Spirituality,  which describes a number of my experiences being exposed to channeling phenomena as a scientist and a skeptic.) Those channeled words were: “The essence of that which is like unto itself is drawn.”  In this formulation, the dynamic of “drawing” is not absolute. Instead our thoughts create tendencies and opportunities, rather than dictating actual events. This formulation allows for multifactorial causes for specific situations and experiences, of which my thoughts are but one. In this sense I do co-create my life, but I alone do not create my life. Changing my thoughts can have an impact. But this change does not create a one to one correlation to what will then happen in my life.

Let us now apply this line of thinking to terrorism. We will address the issue of free will for those who perpetrate terrorism in a later entry in this series. For now we will focus on the victims of terrorism. Why did someone happen to be near the Boston Marathon finish line or the check in counter in the Brussels airport when a bomb went off? Is this something their soul (and perhaps those of their loved ones) contracted for before this life? Perhaps. Could the free will choices of the perpetrators have had nothing to do with who the eventual victims would be? Possibly. Could the fear thoughts of some of the injured and dead have called in this experience while others nearby were struck though only for being bystanders? Maybe. Did some or all of the victims have some karmic debt to repay through this event? Plausible. Could every single individual’s location and degree of involvement and injury have been meticulously orchestrated by an army of unseen spirit guides for some yet to be understood higher purpose? Yes, this too is possible. And could there exist a degree of randomness that is part of the very fabric of our universe and not tied to thoughts, will, or karma? Of course.

So how are we to make meaning of who is and is not a victim of terrorism? Is “victim” even the wrong word due to the individual’s participation to a greater or lesser degree in the dynamics that ultimately led to their injury or death through an act of terrorism?

For now, I subscribe to the weak form of the Law of Attraction. This means there is culpability for the perpetrators of a terrorist act. There is a quality of being a victim for those harmed by the act. But I hold there may also be an unknown connection between the thoughts (or karma or pre-incarnation contracts, etc.) of those caught in the violence and their finding themselves in that particular location at that particular time. As I say in the opening paragraph of Joyfully Shattered: A Physician’s Awakening at the Crossroads of Science and Spirituality, the world is a far more wondrous and mysterious place than most of today’s scientists are telling us.