There’s a popular idea making its way around the pop-spirituality and personal development circles. The nub of the idea is that we human beings shape much of reality through our thoughts. This idea, a blend of true science (mostly quantum physics, the darling of newthought/new spirituality), pseudo science, and New Ageism, suggests that all the world is energy, that our thoughts are also energy—somewhere on the electromagnetic spectrum—and that our thoughts can thus interface with and shape the energy around us. In essence this means that we shape or create the reality around us. This idea is, of course, a prominent part of the movie, The Matrix, and is also the basis of The Secret (which calls this idea the Law of Attraction), and What the #$*! Do We Know? among other such books and films. You can see a concise introduction to this idea in the video below, in which this idea is called the “Holographic Universe.”
“Is Reality and Illusion? The Holographic Universe” from www.finerminds.com
Many popular spiritual and personal development gurus are now teaching some form of this idea, suggesting that one must simply think and believe certain thoughts in order to create the life one wants. The Secret is the most blatant and materialistic voice in this strain, suggesting that if one thinks about getting bills in the mail, that’s what one gets, and if one thinks about checks in the mail, that’s what one gets. The Secret goes on to suggest that if one wants, say, a new car, one imagines every detail of that car: look, feel, smell; one imagines oneself actually driving the car, making it as real as possible in the mind; and sooner or later, one’s thoughts shape reality – one gets the actual car. Other teachers are less crassly materialistic, but no less emphatic that human thoughts shape reality. This has become such a well accepted idea that almost anyone who has spent much time with popular spiritual or personal development material probably believes some form of the “thoughts become things” mantra.
What’s interesting, and, moreover, relevant for the point I’m about to make (yes, I’m actually going somewhere with this), is that a slightly different form of this idea swept the more or less traditional Christian world at least a full generation ago. Known generally (and often derisively) as the “name it and claim it” theology, this idea suggests that Christians have only to demand that God provide a certain thing (sometimes quoting Bible verses like stipulations in a contract) and then believe that one has it, and it will be so. This theology is still taught by some popular Christian teachers, especially among those with Pentecostal and charismatic leanings.
The vast majority of Christian teachers have rejected “name it and claim it” theology, and with good reason. Too many “name it and claim it” teachers sound like hucksters (whether they are or not), and too many people have named and claimed but not received, making Christianity look like just one more case of false advertising.
And yet . . . what are we to make of a passage of Scripture such as John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you”? At least at face value, does this passage not appear to suggest that we can have whatever we wish, make so whatever we think or imagine? Or to put it in contemporary terms, does this passage not appear to suggest that we can create our own reality, simply by speaking it?
There is obviously a problem with the overt narcissism and materialism of The Secret—imagining fancy homes and cars into existence doesn’t do much for one’s spirituality. And, like the name-it-and-claim-it theology before it, The Secret has real problems dealing with the many billions of people in poverty and all the others who must surely imagine and wish for and think about better circumstances—but whose thoughts have never become the things they thought about. Name-it-and-claim-it, The Secret, the Law of Attraction, the holographic universe—call it what you will, it so often seems not to work.
But that pesky passage in John 15 is still there, almost teasing us. And I think that what it suggests is that the name-it-and-claim-it and The Secret folks are actually on to something—they have it at least partly right. No doubt, given the staying power of these ideas, they must seem to work for some people, in more ways than can be explained by mere chance.
What I propose is that this is not a holographic universe, at least not in the way the video above uses the term, but a royal one. God is not only Creator but King. What God commands, is. God continually issues royal decrees, and sees them carried out—the universe responds to God’s royal authority. Moreover, God has delegated some of that royal authority to human beings—especially those who follow God and live as God’s children. Like royal regents, like princes and princesses, we carry God’s authority into the world, and issue commands for the universe to operate in accordance with what God wills. We make requests of the High King, and find that those requests are sometimes granted, indeed, are always granted when we are abiding “in” God—acting in harmony and “sync” with God.
What we don’t know is why requests that seem to be God’s will, such as justice for the poor and healing for the sick, are not always granted. But that is the nature of the royal universe; the sovereign has the absolute right to grant or deny our requests. We don’t like that; it doesn’t seem fair, especially to us who have been raised in a the heady American atmosphere of rights and entitlements. We must accept that the universe is not a democracy. God decrees what God wills, and has good reasons for it—and it is that authority to which God’s realm (the universe) responds.
That means, though, that we sometimes can be co-creators of reality with God. Sometimes, we can bend the rules of the universe, making things happen that some traditions call miraculous, because we are acting on God’s authority—or receiving God’s blessing on our requests. This is a universe—sometimes—in which our thoughts become things, in which our minds shape reality, in which we have whatever we ask. The true secret is knowing on whose authority and by whose will such things come to be.