Abraham-Hicks, the popular Law of Attraction ideology, is touted as “The Secret Behind the Secret.” Their bestselling book on manifesting your desires currently has a nearly 4.2 star rating on Goodreads from over 17,000 ratings. But is this actually a legitimate way to unlock the heights of success and human potential? Or is it a cult or scam?
The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) has a list of characteristics that are associated with cultic groups. Below, I have included the entire list (in blue text) and given my own description (in black text) of the Abraham-Hicks ideology based on my years involved and my observation of others who were also deeply committed.
I have observed how A-H lures people in with grand promises and coaches followers to replace their natural internal functioning with rules and superstitions that keep them preoccupied. I maintain that the A-H teachings rely on many spiritual ideas that are truthful, established, and helpful. These ideas can benefit many people and have done exactly that. However, Abraham-Hicks mixes these ideas in with falsehoods and partial truths that mislead, confuse, and cause harm.
Despite this and everything I’ve written below, I do not conclusively label Abraham-Hicks as a cult. I agree with ICSA’s statement in their FAQs that, “Tagging a label on a group is not as important as understanding it.” I have compiled the list below to do exactly that: serve as a reference guide that may help others understand the hidden elements of this too-good-to-be-true ideology.
For further reading, my previous articles comparing Abraham-Hicks with cult tactics are as follows:
- Encouraging Laziness and Passivity
- The Language of Non-Thought
- Unquestioning Commitment to the Leader and Ideology
Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups
The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
In the Abraham-Hicks system, the teachings are explicitly stated to be law and ingrained as such in the minds of followers. Group members reinforce this with each other: “That’s the way it works. It is law.” They display unquestioning commitment to these “laws” and to the leader.
Further, the belief system has rules built-in dictating that members soothe doubt and other “low vibe” emotions by reaching for better thoughts and constantly working up emotions of joy, belief, and certainty. When Abers are experiencing doubt and uncertainty, they believe they are not being the deliberate creators that they strive to be, nor are they on track for receiving the goods from the universe.
Read more at my previous blog post here.
Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
This is built right into the A-H Teachings. There is an extreme focus on limitless potential and how to achieve it solely through conscious control of one’s “point of attraction.” Because each person supposedly has ultimate conscious control over their point of attraction, success or failure rests on each person’s shoulders and depends on how well they stay on track, mentally and emotionally.
The flipside of a belief system that says you control every aspect of your experience is fear, fear of what you’re attracting when NOT vigilantly on track. This is where punishment comes in. Doubt, disbelief, and questioning are all signs of a poor point of attraction, and the punishment is the unwanted manifestations that Abers believe they are attracting when they are not mentally and emotionally “On.”
This question is also examined in this blog post.
Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
Realize that mind-altering practices are not always presented as such. Trance states are natural and people feel just like themselves in these states. Even a speech delivered by an authority can function as a hypnotic induction. Abraham employs liberal use of hypnotic techniques with lectures (sermons), speech patterns and tone, pacing, repetition, persuasive speech, and complexity and confusion to slip past a person’s critical factor. Even now, as a non-believer, I find it very difficult to stay mentally alert if I listen to an Abraham recording for research purposes.
Abraham has even said that the lecturing process brings the group “up to speed” during workshops. Group members consider this to be a positive thing, like receiving a tune-up if they’ll just let themselves relax into it (also known as, surrendering power to the all-knowing Abraham, whom they have faith will shape their minds into understanding his teachings more perfectly so they can have a better life).
Hypnosis is a powerful tool that can be used ethically to help, but it can also be employed surreptitiously to gain power and influence over another. Consider being wary when a group wants access to your mind in an altered state (but doesn’t call it what it is) or needs to lull, disarm, or soothe group members in some way to attune them to some perfect belief system.
The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
Yes to the first sentence, no to the examples given.
The Abraham-Hicks teachings extensively detail how members should think, act, and feel. This is the very foundation of the teachings and is also where thought-control factors in heavily. This control is far more subtle than telling followers what to wear or who to marry.
Instead, there are detailed instructions as to what your thoughts and emotions are for and what must be done with them. The average day of an Aber is layered with emotional acrobatics and constant self-talk in the hopes of staying on a “high flying disc” and improving their “point of attraction.” They are taught that lingering on a topic with the wrong focus creates unwanted, while a positive focus creates more of what is wanted, so Abers learn to be vigilant with how they think, feel, and act.
The A-H teachings also use a Question and Answer set-up. An Aber sits in the “hot seat” at a workshop and asks Abraham for wisdom and guidance in relation to a problem or general question. Abraham is viewed as the authority on how the world works, how to handle all types of situations, and how people must think and feel if they want to use their unlimited power as a “deliberate creator.”
The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
Esther Hicks has the exalted status of channeling Abraham, who has the exalted status, so he claims, of being a non-physical collection of leading edge beings, source energy, universal consciousness, a version of Christ consciousness, and so on, with any number of non-physical experts from across time supposedly joining in to answer questions that are pulled forth by the power of the group’s asking.
Abers are considered special as well, for they are the leading edge creators deliberately doing the important work of harnessing “the power that creates worlds” by deliberately using their focus. They believe that “nothing is more important than that you feel good,” and by doing so, they will not just create an amazing life for themselves but also raise the vibration of the planet and help humanity. Paying attention to topics only with positive focus and refusing to participate in anything that could be considered “pushing against” a topic is far, far more powerful than voting or raising awareness or noticing problems.
The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
There are the Abers who are the “conscious creators,” proud and grateful to be in the know. And there are the non-Abers, who may be referred to as “muggles.” You’re in the club or you’re not. In my experience, there is a definite feeling of superiority present, but not any ill will towards non-Abers. In fact, many group members would likely be delighted if their friends and family “woke up” and joined the club.
There is conflict with wider society because Abers have learned a very specific set of rules and beliefs and feel that only other Abers can truly understand them. Abers may no longer wish to associate with those who do not share the mission to watch their thoughts, focus on topics in positive ways only, and feel as good as possible at all times. Doing so (associating with non-Abers) begins to feel like a poor use of time and like a set-back to every goal.
Think of it this way. If you are made to believe you can control everything in your life by doing xyz, then it becomes crucial to do xyz as often as possible. And any time spent NOT doing xyz (like a regular conversation with a non-Aber) or worse, doing the OPPOSITE of xyz (a “negative” conversation with a non-Aber) provokes extreme apprehension and tension.
The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
Abraham is not accountable to any authority. Members involved are taught that they are only accountable to themselves and feeling good, and literally nothing is more important or powerful than that. Abraham says, “you are an extension of pure positive physical energy, therefore there is nothing more important than that you feel good,” and this is treated as the ultimate authority, the highest law of the land.
The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before they joined the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
Yes to implying the ends (in this case “joy” or “feeling better”) justify the means. This does not necessarily, but could, result in unethical behavior/activities.
What I have seen most often is that an Aber may maintain their high ideals but will lose a normal sense of how to go about living their principles because they have entered an ideology where integrity or good judgment need not show in any sort of objective reality, only in their own subjective world of feelings (i.e. whatever feels best IS best). Abers live by the words, “There is nothing more important than that you feel good.” They are also taught that they never get it wrong and that guilt and shame are only indicators that they are improperly focused.
These guidelines can be empowering at first, considering the kind of lives that people live when they don’t make decisions that feel right for them. And yet A-H manages to overdo and oversimplify the prescription. Deceit, avoidance, and addictions, for example, are all decisions that might feel best in the moment but have consequences over the long-term.
Doing away with all normal or objective measures of good or bad, functional or dysfunctional and replacing it all with “it’s only how you feel that counts” can have really any consequence on individual behavior.
The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
Yes to inducing feelings and using subtle forms of persuasion to influence members, no to specifically using shame and guilt.
The teachings relieve a lot of shame, guilt, and negative feelings for people, which makes it an attractive ideology, and even quite helpful up to a point, for people who may be berating themselves in this way.
What is induced, rather than negative feelings, is an extreme focus on HOW you’re thinking/feeling, SHIFTING how you’re thinking/feeling, and living from POSITIVE states.
The belief that thoughts and emotions are crucial naturally leads to hypervigilance, fear of negative thoughts and feelings, and an ever-present pressure to be in a certain state. That is a way to influence and control people, and in fact, group members internalize the rules and control themselves in accordance with the ideology.
Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends and to radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before they joined the group.
No, it is not a requirement. However, it is a common result.
As a byproduct of the teachings, an Aber is likely to feel that time with “muggles” is ill spent. These conversations may feel low vibe or unproductive. Or worse, conversations with the uninitiated may induce fear and worry in the Aber, as I explain in my Amazon review of the Abraham-Hicks books:
“It isolated me from other people: I felt like I knew more than non-Abers, plus I didn’t want to waste any time talking about normal subjects in non-Abraham-like ways. After all, it could increase my resistance, make me feel something less than good, and mess up my vibration and my manifestations!”
When other people are perceived as “bringing you down,” the result is to move away from those relationships.
And what about personal goals and activities, do those radically change as well? Yes.
- Abers are taught that the world inside their heads is the one that really matters, so group members may spend an inordinate amount of time doing mental and emotional exercises in order to create a perfect life
- Because members are taught that they can “have, be, and do” literally anything, goals may shift into fantasy territory–dreams of sudden talent, superstar fame, billionaire-level wealth, physical perfection, teeth that straighten themselves, eyes that change color, defiance of gravity, and so on.
- A-H teaches that the purpose of life is joy and fun, so Abers may turn towards a pleasure-seeking lifestyle
The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
No, this is not a tenet of the teachings, but it could be the overall goal.
The A-H teachings do not focus on recruitment, but Abers are made to feel that they have found the ultimate Truth of life, so they do tend to want to turn their friends and family on to A-H as a cure-all for everyone’s problems.
On a larger level, I do believe that a huge following is the goal of Abraham-Hicks. The belief system is made up entirely of elements that have mass appeal, including huge, feel-good promises, no bad news, and the idea that life can be simply controlled by the individual. This grandiose ideology includes promises like, “There are no limits,” “you can be, have, and do anything,” “you have the power to create worlds,” and “it can all be effortless.” What’s not to like?
The group is preoccupied with making money.
Abraham-Hicks, The Secret, and other Law of Attraction philosophies do unmistakably focus on money and material achievement. Promises of “abundance” can mean any kind of abundance, but it certainly includes a strong focus on material and financial abundance, even if some systems, like Abraham-Hicks, will claim that happiness is the only real goal.
Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
No, they are not asked to do so. But yes, that may be the result.
This is another one that is a byproduct of what is taught rather than a stated expectation. An Aber may devote much of their spare time to doing Abraham-approved exercises, plus listening to Abraham tapes in their home, their car, and in their sleep. From an Aber’s perspective, why not spend your time doing the most important thing, which is cleaning up your vibration, understanding the teachings even better, and attracting everything you could ever want?
Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
No, this is not stated. But yes, this may be the result.
Again, this is not stated but is certainly a byproduct. Abraham-Hicks hammers home the idea that everyone is always attracting, and the importance of one’s “point of attraction” and how they feel. Abers become hypervigilant about how they feel, how other people make them feel, and what kinds of conversations they are focused on. Naturally, group members will begin to distance themselves from anything that is not considered conscious creation, like a regular conversation with a regular person. Eventually, Abers become most comfortable with others that share in the same belief system.
The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
Many Abers certainly cannot imagine life without Abraham. And they may not fear reprisal from the group, however, they fear that the dreams they have invested in will not occur if they don’t keep up with A-H, they fear unwanted manifestations will arrive, and they fear not having all the power and control of a deliberate creator. In other words, they fear the possibility of being a regular person, marooned in a regular existence, with no magical VIP pass exempting them from the usual rules of life.
What do you think about these similarities between cultic groups and Abraham-Hicks? Have you noticed these same warning signs or others? Share your thoughts in the comment section.