Donald Trump and the Law of Attraction

September 7, 2017

Norman Vincent Peale, get-rich-quick scammer and author of The Power of Positive Thinking, was pastor to Donald Trump when Trump was a young man. Trump held the connection until Peale’s death in 1993 and often spoke warmly of him.

Peale & Trump in 1993. (Sorry for blanking the face, but this is my blog. You can still tell it’s him.) Source

Peale’s philosophy is part of a wider tradition that started in mid 1800s in the US, and perhaps best known today from the 2006 feature-length advertisement, The Secret, and known as the Law of Attraction. It is a form of Christianity obsessed with miracle-working. (It is also at the heart of much alternative medicine — Louise Hay’s cancer quackery lies squarely in this tradition too.)

This has been given some coverage in the media, as affecting his positive thinking, his egotism, and his lying,  but I argue here that Peale’s influence is profound, and may be at least one key to understanding a great deal of Trump’s behavior; especially behavior that is often otherwise inexplicable.

According to some of Peale’s (and Trump’s) Christian critics, Peale

reduced Christianity to a checklist of behaviors that, if followed, would guarantee pragmatic benefits. As he proudly stated, “We have made the mistake of thinking that Christianity is a creed to be recited. On the contrary, it is a power to be tapped”. It was a faith in the effects of faith.

It is indeed as much a program for behavior as it is a philosophy: habits of thought that are to be internalized and acted out until they become second nature to the practitioner. It is unclear whether or not Trump has indeed internalized this program and is acting out a kind of atrophied version of it. But his behavior — including those aspects that commentators find most baffling — is exactly what would be expected from a practitioner.

Trump’s declaration that John McCain is not a war hero “because he got caught” not only shocked but above all baffled nearly everyone. But it would be entirely unsurprising for a practitioner of positive thinking or the law of attraction. (They might not put it as harshly as Trump, but it follows logically that McCain, no doubt by indulging in fearful thoughts, manifested getting captured — there is nothing admirable in that. They would also think he manifested his cancer now too.)

This is what Esther Hicks, an initial creator of The Secret, said recently of Trump, seemingly unaware that Trump was already in this game when she was still selling Amway to her fellow Mormons:

Have you ever listened to Donald Trump talk? Do you ever hear him say “I hope it works out”? What do you hear him say? This is a juggernaut. This is a massively wonderful idea…. This is the best building that’s ever been built… I hire the best people and I get the best results and things always go well for me.” In other words he does not allow himself to talk about what went wrong or may not go right. He’s trained his vibration, and because he’s trained his vibration, things work out well for him, relative to the vibrations that he’s trained… Anybody who has succeeded at anything came to a place of expecting success. So the question is, how do I expect success in a venue where I have never had any experience? …Or how do I expect success when I haven’t been trained in that particular arena? And we say, You train yourself into expecting it… And you only intent is to take an emotional journey that feels really good. And before you know it… you start getting ideas; you start feeling inspiration that’s such perfect timing that when you make those phone calls things line right up. The universe organizes circumstances and events to accommodate you, but you’ve got to line up the energy first, or nothing happens in action that will please you.

Positive thinking is not merely an attitude that leads to success; it is believed to be an actual force that is set in motion by thought. Thought itself is a power that forces certain events to occur.

A central idea to this is the notion that “we create our own reality“: that by setting ourselves inside a bubble of our own positivity, we create a reality for ourselves that consists exclusively of success and happiness.

As one Law of Attraction teacher (apparently a “former high school psychology teacher”) says in an article titled Donald Trump: Law of Attraction Master:

we each get to create our own realities regardless of what anyone else is doing

This teacher, however, says she is not interested in politics, because:

I don’t see my government or my politicians as having any control over me anymore, so how they choose to conduct themselves doesn’t really matter to me.

The teacher continues:

I think we can all learn a thing or two about deliberate creation from Donald Trump.

This bubble must be maintained, however by the positive power of affirmations. Again, Trump’s demand that his staff provide him twice daily with a folder of ‘positive’ media coverage, including shots of him looking powerful, is exactly in accordance with Peale’s teachings. (These days they would call it a vision board.)

As one critic of Peale writes,

The mastery Peale speaks of is not the mastery of skills or tasks, but the mastery of fleeing and avoiding one’s own “negative” thoughts.

Trump’s relations to policy advisors often appears bizarre, yet is also exactly what one would expect from a practitioner of Peale’s teachings. If you believe you can create your own reality, then why bother with experts? You can manifest everything you want just as you visualize it. Don’t listen to doubters and critics with their complicated thoughts and weighty fears. Just do it. You know more about ISIS than the generals, believe me.

According to The Art of the Deal, Trump doesn’t plan or prepare at all. He simply walks into a meeting and ad libs. (Note that this book was not written by Trump, but is rather his ghostwriter’s interpretation of Trump’s behavior.) This might seem like a recipe for disaster — as indeed it is, as shown by Trump’s catastrophic business failures. But in the short-term, it is effectively identical to a very confident bluff. This is especially so if others in the room are not expecting anyone to be bluffing, and assume that everyone knows what stakes are and cares about the outcome.

This would leave a practitioner free to focus on simply maintaining dominance on an interpersonal level, without regard for strategy or what gets destroyed in the process. Such a practitioner is also free to come back tomorrow and assume he has a clean slate and nothing that he said yesterday is valid.

Such behavior is also likely to cause great chaos, and chaos suits this kind of actor perfectly. While everyone else is trying to stop everything from going up flames, our protagonist, with his assured belief in his ability to create his own reality can appear like he is the only with any control — unburdened as he is by concerns about long-term consequences. (Needless to say, trusting such an actor with access to and power over the vast resources of the most powerful state on earth is not likely to end well for anyone.)

Such behavior would have political commentators scratching their heads and trying to discern which political strategy the practitioner is using. They may, after eight or ten months throw up their hands and declare there is no strategy. But there is. He is trying to create his own reality.

If Trump did indeed internalize this philosophy, there is every chance it has so much become second nature to him, that he has forgotten the ideas behind it and it has devolved into a set of habitual behaviors.

They might deem the practitioner mentally unstable, but he isn’t. They may ascribe a narcissistic disorder or psychopathy to the practitioner, and they may well be right, as such a psychology is well suited to success in business. But the power of positive thinking very effectively simulates a psychopathic mentality, where empathy is obliterated by the idea that victims have themselves have caused all their own suffering, and shows of sympathy are merely a sop to lame social conventions.

Words are seen as creative powers in themselves. For Peale, this is the power of God, the power of the Word. Put to service in this manner, words become more like blank checks than indicators of a common reality. Lies cease being lies and turn into affirmations of creative intent. To the outside world — to non-believers — this looks very much like lying. Yet it isn’t quite, and the subtle non-verbal clues that usually accompany a lie are confusingly absent. For a comparison, compare Trump’s calm, assertive demeanor while lying, to his son’s quite terrified performance on Fox News. (For a clip of Trump lying, google “Donald Trump”.)

Believing your own myth is not just a danger with this stuff; it becomes an attraction in itself. If you feel like you’re an expert, then you’re an expert. This is especially easy if you don’t really know what expertise looks like, and would have no way of processing expert advice even if you did hear it.

This is perfectly summed up a law of attraction teacher, and star of The Secret, James Arthur Ray. (Ray, convicted of three counts of negligent homicide for cooking his victims to death by confining them in a fake sweat lodge under false pretenses, is also a compulsive and semi-literate twitterer.)

James Arthur Ray: “If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it.”

With this mentality, a practitioner could easily wind up explaining that the person he consults with most on foreign policy is himself. “I have a very good brain.” Such an expert can be eminently qualified to simply open his mouth and see what comes out, declaring in assertive tones that, yes, he would have a deportation force to round up 11 million people; he would punish women who have an abortion; he would allow Saudi Arabia to have nuclear weapons; and yes, indeed he did fire the head of the FBI to stop the Russia investigation…. and so on.

Anyone who has ever met a dedicated fan of The Secret or the law of attraction, will have noticed this person does seem to live in a fantasy world or alternative reality. It is indeed a kind of cult, with believers avoiding the company of those who indulge in “negative” thoughts and emotions. Similarly, critics of Positive Thinking find these teachings instantly repellent and exclude themselves. Interaction gets swiftly polarized.

A similar dynamic appears with Trump’s followers. For them, what comes across from Trump is not a policy agenda or explicit promise of a better life. Rather, they get the feeling of winning. And they have indeed won, and will be getting drunk off it for the rest of their lives. The media keep waiting for “his base to crack”, but they won’t. Nor are they a “base” — which implies something will be built on top of it. What they are is followers, and though they would not perceive it so, they inhabit Trump’s alternative reality with him, and they love it in there. They are still winning, exactly as Trump promised, only much better. And they won’t be getting sick of all that winning any time soon.

Posted by Yakaru


  1. OMG, Yakaru, this is mind-blowing! Did you come up with it or discover it somewhere? I’d not thought of it, but it makes perfect sense. The business world is rife with this crap, and you describe exactly how someone putting the LOA into practice behaves. As you say: “the power of positive thinking very effectively simulates a psychopathic mentality”. Psychopaths rise in business and politics, the LOA is a how-to, whether you started out one or not, and there he is, Psychopath in Chief. The scum de la scum has risen to the top. Shows the method works, anyway. Now we need an antidote. We have to hope he doesn’t think waging war on NK will be a great success and make him a tremendous hero. Somebody needs to find a way, any way, to make sure he doesn’t think that. Yeah, any way. And then the human race needs to find a way to stop breeding psychopath leaders before we all expire.

  2. …oh yeah, “given some coverage in the media”. I’ll have to check those links out. Thx.

  3. For people who already have an impression of how damaging belief in the loa is, it is kinda mind blowing! I’m glad someone else also thinks so too.

    I’d already figured out that Trump was just repeating the basic motivational speaker schtick in his political campaign, and even that hasn’t been covered nearly enough by the media, and then I found out about his connection with Peale. Then I googled it and found all the loa folks creaming their jocks about him.

    The occasional mentions in the media of this theme only ever get one superficial aspect of it. It’s often reported that in the Art of the Deal it was said he doesn’t prepare, and that seems mad enough, but in fact it’s far worse.

    There are several key aspects, all of which one needs to get the whole picture — miss out the fact that it’s a behavioral program, and you miss the compulsive and irrational aspect of Trump’s behavior.

    Apart from that, his behavior is the same as every other loa scammer I’ve come across. I think the Republicans have realized he is indeed mad as a hatter, but they haven’t figured out that there is this particular method to it. I hope they can keep him somewhat under wraps. Thank christ he’s as stupid and ignorant as he is. (I always thought he would win, but I didn’t realize he is that clueless.)

    I will be writing more about this….

  4. When Trump was but a presidential candidate, a friend and I were discussing his chances.
    My friend liked his bold (yet tiredly right-wing) messages.
    I sensed a rising rebellion of sorts. It seems to me that the Left had been more the rebels a long time ago, speaking against an older, conservative style. For some reason it felt to me that the big wheel had turned and that the the Right would now rebel against a long term of progression.
    It seemed to me, a foreigner with little if any knowledge of American politics, that Clinton had some serious likeability and corruption problems and that although I disliked Trump, he would be the rebellion of the Right, especially with his apparent strong stance on things like national security and economic gain.
    Like lettersquash, I had not thought of a LOA connection. Personally, had no knowledge of Norman Vincent Peale and enjoyed absorbing the rational and balanced description you have provided us.

    Opinions vary on the exact motive of the North Korean dictator, from a punk who seeks only to be a bigger fish in the pond of Earth to a seriously dangerous, explosive threat to the rest of the world.
    Do views on the scale of his true motives group closely with the scale of politically Left to Right?
    Am I clueless to the realities of American politics?

    I have long understood the fallacy of the LOA and it’s foul use by practitioners of psuedo-science/medicines, but now understand Trump’s behaviour and words better than I did.

    All the best,

  5. Thanks for your thoughts Woody!

    I was convinced right from the start Trump would win, as soon as it was clear that he would get the nomination. I knew he’d pull all this crazy shit and just blow Clinton out of the water. She got more votes of course, but it is insane that the guy was and still is so popular. (He’s around 5% or something in Germany.)

    The danger, I think with NK is that Trump has no idea what nuclear war means or what deterrence is. He has no idea of the stakes he is suddenly playing for as president, but thanks to his loa delusion, believes he’s the greatest expert and the smartest person in the history of the world.

  6. Interesting stuff Yakaru. I hadn’t realized the roots of this went back so far with him. The Christians he’s hanging around with these days are similar – they’re all preachers of the prosperity gospel, which naturally appeals to him. Trump is the classic user – he’ll use anything that furthers his cause, including whatever form of religion serves his purposes best. That earlier link was a very good fit for him.

  7. I should have realized it myself a bit sooner. Having written about the behavior of several classic loa scammers here, it should have been clear to me that the same warning signs are all over Trump’s behavior as well.

  8. On another thread, “@Bunny” left a comment that is also highly relevant to this post. I will simply quote it here, and encourage readers to read her earlier, quite heart-wrenching comment on that thread as well.

    @Bunny wrote:

    I have been researching this (positive thinking movement).
    Norman Vincent Peale and Trump, not surprising, the entire philosophy seems to make you unempathic, narcissistic, and intolerant.

    I believe that Positive Thinking is being funded at a very high level. Eg. Templeton Foundation for one, another Dale Carnegie funded Napoleon Hill , supposedly, Wall street funded Evangelicalism see Kevin Kruse’s book,

    Wall street has a vested intersst in pushing a certain type of spirituality.

    Two books i ran into which i will probably purchase and am passing along:
    “Surge of Piety: Norman Vincent Peale and the Remaking of American Religious Life” by Christopher Lane

    Peale was funded by some high rollers.

    Much more recent:
    “The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold us Well-Being”
    by William Davies

    This is scary scary stuff. (just read the preface on amazon)
    Basically they have devices to monitor your “well being” including if you are thinking “happy thoughts” based on physiological data.In future, not showing satisfaction and being chirpy enough at your job, could get you fired.

    And of course you probably know about Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Brightsided”.

    As economies become worse worldwide, they are pushing this happy clappy positive thinking view, which quite frankly IS sadistic.

  9. Positive thinking obviously works, I didn’t vote for him and he still won. In fact less then 50% voted for him and he won. I honestly don’t care for Trump as a president, but I can see he “does” what he says. Isn’t that a good enough reason to give him some credit? The LOA isn’t some hocus pocus witchcraft. It works as long as you stick with it.
    Interesting take on the connections between Trump and Peale.

  10. The law of attraction doesn’t exist and doesn’t work, and you are running a scam.

  11. Strong words for someone who doesn’t know how to use 90% of your brain. I came here to have an unbiased conversation and it’s obvious you aren’t capable of understanding how much control you really have. If you want to go through life believing you are a victim of circumstance then that’s all you will be is a victim.

  12. What a bizarre comment. You don’t know anything at all about me or my spiritual background or life experiences, yet you blab out your negative judgments about me and assume I suffer from brain damage. What on earth are you talking about?

  13. You sell yourself short, youve no idea what the human mind can do. No one even knows what 100% utilization of the brain would accomplish. Yet you make assumptions about what it can and can not do. “Spirituality” is no more real or fake then the LOA. The miracles that manifest from Christianity are supposed to have come from God. Why is it more reasonable to assume that any “god” like entity watches over us like sheep? Why would any god be more likely to exist then another? Theres so many variations on religion yet they all claim to be truth.
    In regards to the victim comment. I dont claim to know all there is to know about LOA. Many people seem to have different ideas about what the details of it are. I believe that I am in control of my life. No one else. Im not a helpless person who is constantly plagued by circumstances that run my mind or my actions. Those who are, become helpless victims.

  14. Seeing as you think you know so much about me, I’ll say what I think.

    Someone has told you that the law of attraction exists, and you believed them. And they told you how to ‘check it for yourself’ and you believed that too. Doing for oneself is one thing — you’re just a victim of manipulation, which can happen to anyone. But by promoting it or (far worse) using it as a pretext for taking money from other people, you cease to be a victim of scam and become a perpetrator of one.

    But putting that to one side, what on earth makes you think that I only use 10% of my brain? And what on earth is that even supposed to mean?

  15. I’ve paid $10 whole dollars for one movie, that’s all I’ve spent on the supposed scam. I’ve personally received no compensation for my blog (I’ve invested little time at this point). Let me ask you this… if I don’t believe in an idea wouldn’t that mean the same for what you believe in? How do I know your church or cause isn’t a scam? I don’t believe as you do so if I give offering to your church have I been scammed? I’ve wasted hundreds of 💵 on beer and gambling so what makes this such a waste? The USA is the land of the consumer so why would I feel bad for giving someone what they want? 80 billion was spent on the lottery last year (http://money.cnn.com/2017/08/24/news/economy/lottery-spending/index.html). Yet 99% have nothing to show for it. No one will go bankrupt by reading a blog or believing the LOA, yet people will spend all their money and mortgage their house to gamble.
    What makes your beliefs so much more accurate?
    We are all immersed in so much negativity it’s no wonder people are afraid to do anything out of the ordinary. It feels “safe” doing what we’ve always done and allowing the media to feed us all the terrible things that happen in the world. Yet no one stops to think about how all the bad news we are fed is terrible for our state of mind. There’s so many mentally twisted people killing each other and it boils down to being fed this crap from the media. From the teasing in school, to the violence in games, to the radical propaganda being aimed at people who’ve lost hope…. Why is it so few can see this issue? Poverty, hopelessness, crime, they all stem from negative beliefs acquired from their peers and their environment. They say it’s about guns…. lol it’s not about guns it’s about people who gave in to all the negative influences around them. Who gave up on life and made it on the news by spewing out the same things we’ve being soaking up since birth. I won’t let my kids watch violence. They don’t need to have their subconscious minds warped by that garbage….
    The 10% comment was intended to imply you are ignorant of your true potential. Yet after a bit of research I see that it’s a myth people only use 10% of their brain. I admittedly didn’t know what I was talking about on that particular subject.

  16. Thanks for qualifying your financial status with your website. And thanks also for the note about the 10% claim.

    With the loa, what I’ve noticed is that there are two different versions of it.

    The first is the ‘hard’ version which is promoted by people like Rhonda Byrne, Esther Hicks, Bob Procter, etc. Here, the loa is a real law “just as real as the law of gravity”, (despite the fact that if it did exist it would disprove the law of gravity); and which you can utilize like any force of nature.

    Then there is the ‘soft’ version which more honest people retreat to — which hedges on whether or not the loa is a really existing physical force, and sticks to the more common sense idea that stress is bad for you and obsessing about bad things is a bad strategy for planning.

    The first version is far easy to sell, as it appeals to greed and offers ‘heightened powers of manifestation’; but also triggers deep fears. (The first 5 minutes of The Secret is a text book example of how they do this.)

    The second shifts away from the indefensible and entirely deceitful lies embedded in the first version, but still uses the same kind of deterministic and bombastic language (you *will* develop the power to control your own destiny, etc), and also keeps the habit of slicing the world up into “positive” and “negative” as if these are objectively existing qualities.

    You appear to be using this softer version of the loa, but I don’t know if you actually believe that it really is a “law” that really exists and which is really active in the physical universe where the laws of physics apply. Do you?

    If what you are really advocating is just more careful planning and more care in what one pays attention to in daily life, then why call it the loa? It’s a nice piece of packaging and highly popular, but unless you believe the claims of superpowers, then that’s not really what you are promoting. Anyone want to associate themselves with hucksters and liars like Rhonda Byrne or Esther Hicks, or catastrophic parasites like Trump?

    As for what I believe, what I aim for with this site is encouraging people to explore ideas about spirituality and their personal life freely and openly, without being bankrupted or killed as has happened to countless people (including friends of mine). None of the famous spiritual teachers at the moment warn people of the dangers, which is what I am doing here.

  17. […] in the United States of America. While Boris Johnson doesn’t seem to be following the Law of Attraction and isn’t likely to have been in the pastoral care of Norman Vincent Peale, he’s similarly touting the power of positive thinking to solve the Brexit impasse (by […]

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