Although not explicitly mentioned by name, ideas similar to the Law of Attraction appear in early Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist writings.
Leading thinkers have long believed that it is possible for our thoughts to shape our reality. These spiritual authors and teachers suggested that what we offer to the world around us inevitably shapes what we get in return.
However, the core teachings associated with the modern Law of Attraction practices didn't emerge until the early 19th century. This was when the New Thought Movement began.
In this guide, we’ll explore the biographies and theories of the major members of the New Thought Movement, charting the history of the Law of Attraction from its earliest origins right up until the present day.
We'll take a closer look at the specific contributions of each New Thought author, with an emphasis on their most enduring contributions and the key messages that you should take from their writings.
“The trouble is in the mind, for the body is only the house for the mind to dwell in . . . If your mind has been deceived by some invisible enemy into a belief, you have put it into the form of a disease, with or without your knowledge. By my theory or truth, I come in contact with your enemy and restore you to health and happiness.” – Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
Phineas Parkhurst Quimby was an American inventor who is widely viewed as the founding member of the New Thought movement.
He was born in the early 19th century and was one of seven children. Although he grew up with little money or education, his experience of severe health problems in childhood later inspired him to work on developing cures for common medical ailments.
When he realized that excitement could dull pain, he began to suspect that the mind affects the body in significant ways.
Phineas Quimby's quotes indicate he was convinced that mental-aided healing could have broader applications.
Therefore, in 1859 he opened an office in order to further pursue these treatments (before ultimately passing away in 1866).
Some people view him as the first person to begin work on psychosomatic illnesses. These are now a widely recognized (and treatable) phenomenon.
The most famous Phineas Quimby books are compilations of his writings, which set out his views on disease and recovery. For those studying the Law of Attraction, Phineas Quimby's work helps to emphasize that you have the ability to shape your own experiences.
He also discusses the negative impact of false beliefs (particularly about the self). This is also the central teaching of many modern Law of Attraction practitioners.
“The Universe is worked and guided from within outwards.” – Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
Often referred to as Madame Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was a highly controversial spiritual teacher in the 19th century. Born in Southern Russia and raised by her maternal grandparents, she was quickly recognized as a highly gifted individual who appeared to have a deep capacity for intuition and empathy.
Some suspected she had occult or psychic powers, such as the level of her insight (though others claimed she was a fraud). Treated as a guru and spirit medium, she traveled all around the world during her lifetime. She ultimately died in 1981 after contracting a severe form of influenza.
Helena Blavatsky believed in an ancient religion that was once universal and argued that all later faiths grew from this religion. Helena Blavatsky books include The Secret Doctrine, which is likely her most influential work. In her work on mysteries and predictions, Helena Blavatsky mentions a principle that it broadly similar to the Law of Attraction.
It essentially states that people are who they think they are in their hearts. This principle once again emphasizes how our self-perceptions shape our identities and our realities, indicating that flexibility of thought can be used to create a better life.
“To say a thing ‘must be', is the very power that makes it.” – Prentice Mulford
Prentice Mulford was an American author who significantly advanced the New Thought movement. After working as a miner, he earned a job at a weekly newspaper and later became a lecturer and humorist.
He died at age 57 in 1891, but his work is still popular today. Some view him as the first writer to begin properly developing the Law of Attraction. Communicating in a clear, direct style, his ideas are easily digestible and remain relevant. He also tended to offer real-life examples in support of his claims, drawing from his own experiences and those of others in his life.
Many of his essays and books arguably formed the basis of our contemporary Law of Attraction principles. In particular, Prentice Mulford's quotes from Your Forces and How to Use Them are often used to illustrate how our thoughts impact the world around us.
In his books, Mulford discusses the Law of Attraction at considerable length. He takes this discussion beyond the early applications proposed by Phineas Quimby. Mulford's books and works include: Thoughts Are Things; The Gift of Understanding; Gift of Spirit.
Prentice Mulford was one of the first New Thought authors to consider that the Law of Attraction could influence not just physical health but also opportunities and material acquisitions.
“By thought, the thing you want is brought to you; by action you receive it.” – Wallace D. Wattles
Wallace Delois Wattles played a key role in popularizing the messages of the Law of Attraction. In addition to being a major member of the New Thought Movement, Wallace Wattles is enduringly popular, perhaps in large part due to his famous 1910 book The Science of Getting Rich.
As you’ll see in any Wallace Wattles biography, he was born in the American Midwest. He then traveled to collaborate with other New Thought leaders. He gave lectures in Chicago and wrote several monographs focusing on how our thoughts can influence everything from our health to our career prospects.
Wallace Wattle books are praised for being highly readable. In The Science of Getting Rich, Wallace Wattles encourages readers to try out his practical advice and offer feedback, rather than simply creating an image of himself as a guru. One of his most significant contributions to modern Law of Attraction practices is the technique of creative visualization.
This is a practice in which we imagine all the details of the life we want to create. While this meditative exercise has been updated and enhanced since Wattles first proposed it, it remains one of the most common and powerful techniques used by people working with the Law of Attraction.
“All persons ought to practice their visualizing power. This will react upon perception and make it more definite. Visualizing will also form a brain habit of remembering things pictorially, and hence more exactly.” – William W. Atkinson
William Walker Atkinson is one of the most prolific New Thought Writers, with over a hundred books to his name (sometimes published under pseudonyms).
He was born and raised in Maryland and was a highly successful lawyer until the stress of his profession led to a mental and physical collapse.
In his search for healing, he connected with the existing New Thought literature and was inspired to do further work on how we can reshape our reality by changing our thinking. With the assistance of Sydney Flower, Atkinson edited a New Thought magazine and founded a school of mental science.
He also took up an editorship at New Thought journal and continued to practice law in later life.
For William Walker Atkinson, Law of Attraction work centers largely on the concepts of willpower, concentration, and personal magnetism.
He draws from the teachings of Hinduism, and his published work includes collaborations with Hindu scholar Baba Bharata.
Many of our contemporary beliefs surrounding vibrations owe a debt to Atkinson. He helped to introduce the concepts and vocabulary required to think about how we raise and lower our vibrational frequency through our actions, and made crucial connections between our vibrations and our success.
“To acquire love… fill yourself up with it until you become a magnet.” –
Charles F Haanel was an American author and is often viewed as a mysterious figure in the New Thought movement. He started his career in publishing in 1885, subsequently writing several important works on the Law of Attraction.
Charles Haanel is primarily known for his books The Law of Attraction In The Thought World and The Master Key System (which sets out a range of practical principles and offers advice on how to apply them).
In any Charles Haanel biography, it’s also always worth noting that he influenced other New Thought Writers, especially Napoleon Hill, who felt his work followed that of Haanel.
When we look at the current Law of Attraction literature, we can see several significant places in which Haanel's work has been crucial. In particular, he developed the idea of attracting abundance and prosperity. He explored how these concepts relate to more than just financial success.
In addition, Haanel underlines the power of positivity. You'll often see this at the center of the modern Law of Attraction guides.
The thought is that if you cultivate a positive, generous mindset, you receive more positivity in return. Consequently, this creates a feedback loop that maximizes your chances of attaining a happy, satisfying life.
“There is something in the universe that responds to brave, intrepid thought. The Power that holds and that moves the stars in their courses, fights for the brave and the upright. Courage has power and magic in it.” –
Ralph Waldo Trine was a critically acclaimed author, philosopher, and spiritual teacher. He grew up in Northern Illinois in the mid-to-late 19th century.
Trine went on to study history and politics at both the University of Wisconsin and John Hopkins University.
When he later became a special correspondent for the Boston Daily Evening Transcript, he got married. In addition, he began to devote more of his time to metaphysical seminars in the area. Those who knew him viewed him as a thoughtful, considerate man. According to them, he was interested in helping people rather than achieving fame.
New thought quotes from Ralph Waldo Trine often focus on his belief that thought can be life-transforming.
Similarly, his books on this topic are among the best selling in the Law of Attraction genre. In his book In Tune With the Infinite, he explored themes that are said to have inspired Napoleon Hill to write Think And Grow Rich.
Some of Trine's most enduring contributions to the current Law of Attraction practice include the idea that the Law of Attraction isn't something that you invoke. Rather, it is constantly at work, but your influence can change what you attract. He also suggested that working to form specific habits can play a key role in manifestation.
“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” –
A popular journalist, lecturer, and self-help author in the New Thought Movement, Oliver Napoleon Hill was born in 1883. He later achieved fame following the publication of his book Think and Grow Rich. Though he had a complex personal life and several tumultuous relationships, following his own advice eventually led him to a happier life.
Napoleon Hill’s Law of Success popularised the use of Law of Attraction principles. It was especially popular and suited for those looking to improve their careers, as well as their finances. He believed that people could create a “rags to riches” narrative in their lives. In this way, success was possible for everyone. He cited Ralph Waldo Emerson as a major inspiration.
Napoleon Hill quotes often focus on the fact our expectations play a crucial role in determining what happens to us. His legacy in current Law of Attraction practices includes this message. In other words, if you expect to fail or to struggle, then this is what you will see in your life.
Meanwhile, if you work on truly believing that your potential is limitless, your reality will change to meet these expectations. In addition, his emphasis on identifying a person's “true purpose” endures in contemporary manifestation techniques. This often focuses on discovering core values and talents.
“Success is achieved and maintained by those who try and keep trying.” –
One of the most modern New Thought authors was William Clement Stone. He was a philanthropist and author of books on Law of Attraction techniques. Stone was born in Chicago in the early 20th century. Although he dropped out of school to become an insurance salesman, he subsequently became extremely successful.
Stone credited his achievements to the principles he learned in Napoleon Hill's Think And Grow Rich. His own books include The Success System That Never Fails and the equally popular Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude (a co-authored monograph with Napoleon Hill).
W. Clement Stone is among the writers who both advocate and embody the power of positive thinking; emphasizing that we can only get what we want if we are confident in our capacity to attain it. He is well-known for the motivational phrase “If you think you can, do”.
Similarly, he lived in accordance with the phrase (seizing opportunities as they arrived). He also popularized the Law of Attraction technique that focuses on flipping negatives into positives. Believing that every difficult event can be the seed of a positive one, he encouraged people to rewrite their life narratives; this way they could evoke feelings of gratitude rather than a sense of being victimized.
“I’m so excited for what is about to come next for you. I’ve dedicated my life to this work and you are about to learn the exact same strategies that I have used to help many people all over the world. I’m talking about real folks – just like you – who are looking for a way to make the amazing Law of Attraction work for them in a consistently positive way. Now, I’m going to help you do the same. With love, Katherine Hurst“
The men and women you just read about really did make an impact on the world and more specifically, on The Law Of Attraction community. They have certainly influenced me!
We are still learning about ourselves, about our species, our solar system, and our power. For example, did you know that the electrical field within your heart is 60 times greater in amplitude than your brain waves? And you can use this in your manifestation practices!