When I was in my teens and twenties I read new age books, saw gurus, and embarked upon growth oriented adventures from Sweat Lodges to 48 hour chants, to juice fasts to colonics. I thought I was edgy and new age, but in reality most of the spiritual adventures and books I read, while enlightening and new to me, were actually created from ancient rituals and philosophies.
I was grateful that some authors rewrote the philosophies using modern language because it made the information relevant to modern life. On the other hand, some principles seemed to have been made weaker by repackaging. I'd like to touch on both sides of the coin when ancient wisdom is viewed through the 21st century lens.
A good example of an old principle that maintained its relevancy because of a modern rewrite was "Act As If" or "Fake it Until You Make It." German Philosopher, Immanuel Kant, 1724-1804, first introduced this concept more than 200 years ago. However, he said, "...although our knowledge originates WITH experience, it does not all arise OUT OF experience. Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a general natural law." It is still relevant today, however a simple language update makes it more accessible. Funny - I thought I made this up in the 80s.
In this case, modernization kept the maxim relevant, however some principles do not fare as well. Our society, for better or worse, places a great deal of value on money, external beauty, and instant gratification. Some philosophies are significant today, but are filtered through a fast food mentality weakening these powerful and divinely inspired truths.
The perfect example is the hugely popular and widely misunderstood Law of Attraction (LOA) first introduced by Hermes Trismegistus, thought to have lived more than 5,000 years ago. The LOA is described today as, "like attracts like" and "think it and it is yours." In other words, the thoughts in your head create your external reality.
Trismegistus' principles were brought into the 20th century in 1912 by The Three Initiates in their book, The Kybalion: The Seven Hermetic Principles. Since then it has been recycled hundreds of times. (Shakti Gawain wrote Creative Visualization in the 70s, I wrote Step-by-Step Miracles in the early 90s, Deepak Chopra wrote The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success in 1998, Ester and Jerry Hicks wrote Ask and it Shall Be Given in 2005, and Rhonda Byrne wrote The Secret in 2006, to name a few.)
The law of attraction is valid, so why doesn't it always work? The problem may be that the modern filter strips away some of the nuances in order to appeal to our hurry-up society. This filter may have diluted it in several ways.
First, the law was intended to influence a person's emotions and vibration to attract people and opportunities, more so than to magically materialize a corvette as many modern LOA interpretations might indicate.
Second, the law is more powerful when used in tandem with the six other principles that are mostly ignored by today's authors. (Download the Kybalion to read the list of seven.) Many of the principles, especially the law of attraction, require personal work making it less appealing than the magical notion of close your eyes and "think it and it is yours."
Third, it is difficult to create a situation if you feel undeserving or unworthy of it. Therefore, in order to create something new, you must first make sure your foundational belief around what you feel you CAN have and deserve is in line with what you want. We also cling to what is familiar, even if we aren't happy with it. I am not saying the LOA doesn't work as it is taught today, because it does for some. I simply suggest, the law is more powerful in its original form alongside the other principles.
What would it look like if we stripped away the modern filters, kept the language current, and combined the intent of Kant and Trismegistus into one to-do list? It might look something like this:
Step 1: (LOA)Think of how you'd like to feel, not what you'd like to have. Focusing on your feelings, rather than making an object the key to your happiness, puts you in life's driver's seat. We can't always control our environment, but we can control how we respond to it.
Step 2: (Kant) Ask yourself, "How would I act and treat people if I felt that way?" Act that way now. For example, think of a time when you were in love. How did you treat people and respond to life during that time period? Were you forgiving and generous? Were you emotionally available to lend a hand? Don't wait. Take charge and start the ball rolling.
Step 3: (Me) Notice the changes in your life from taking on this stance. Express daily gratitude. No matter how difficult life may appear in any given moment, there are always gifts in our lives. Every day find at least three things to give thanks for and share your gratitude and generosity with those around you - especially to those less fortunate.
If our ultimate goals are to be healthy, happy, and to care for ourselves and family, in addition to making a difference in the world, I suspect that by implementing the intent of wise and ancient principles, we can harness real power and make profound and lasting changes in our lives.