But is this system actually teaching a legitimate way to unlock the heights of success and human potential? Or is it a scam or a cult?
The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) has a list of characteristics that are associated with cultic groups. Below, I have included the entire list, comparing the Abraham-Hicks (A-H) group point-by-point.
I am writing this evaluation based on my own experiences from being involved, as well as my observations of others who were or are deeply committed to these teachings.
I have observed how A-H lures people in with grand promises. Followers are then coached to replace their natural, internal functioning with rules and superstitions that keep them preoccupied.
I maintain what I've said before: the A-H teachings rely on many spiritual and psychological ideas that are helpful. These ideas can benefit many people and have done exactly that. But Abraham-Hicks mixes these helpful ideas in with falsehoods and partial truths that can mislead, confuse, and harm followers.
In spite of this, rather than conclusively labeling A-H as a cult, I agree with ICSA's statement that, "tagging a label on a group is not as important as understanding it."
I have compiled the list below to do exactly that: compile a reference guide that will help people understand hidden elements of this popular 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. Law of Attraction is hammered home repeatedly as "the most powerful law in the universe." It is said to be, among other things, "the power that create worlds," supposedly superseding any other laws or forces in existence.
Group members have internalized the belief that A-H is teaching them facts, and they reinforce this with other members: "That's the way it works. It is law." They display unquestioning commitment to these "laws" and to the leader.
Another reason group members display unquestioning commitment is because they are taught to actively suppress all doubt. Members are heavily preoccupied with improving their "point of attraction" by soothing "low vibration" emotions like doubt and disbelief. Members strive to feel hope, certainty, and joy so that they can manifest good things from the universe.
Therefore when Abers feel doubt, they think they are improperly focused and talk themselves back into enthusiasm and certainty.
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 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 flip-side 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 seen as 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."
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.
A-H 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 rational mind. Even now, as a non-believer, I find it very difficult to stay mentally alert if I listen to a recording for research purposes.
Abraham-Hicks has even said that the lecturing process functions to bring the group "up to speed" during workshops. Group members consider this to be a positive thing, like receiving a beneficial tune-up to better align themselves with the teachings. They have faith that, if they surrender to the "all-knowing" Abraham, they can have their minds shaped into more perfect understanding.
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. Be 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 a supposedly perfected 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 very 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 constant self-talk and emotional monitoring 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.
As a further example of leadership dictating how group members should think, act, and feel, the teachings also use a Question and Answer set-up in workshops. An Aber sits in the "hot seat" at a workshop and asks Esther, who is supposedly channeling Abraham, for wisdom and guidance in relation to a problem or 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 tap into 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 supposedly channeling Abraham. And Abraham has the exalted status of supposedly being some kind of universal Christ consciousness and collection of non-physical beings, with any number of non-physical experts being called forth from across time by the power of the group's asking, in order to advance the leading edge of thought.
Abers are considered special as well, for they are the leading edge creators doing the important work of harnessing "the power that creates worlds" by deliberately using their focus.
Members not only feel like an elite group lucky enough to understand Abraham-Hicks' teachings for their own lives, they are also taught that they are aiding the whole of humanity as well. They are taught that refining themselves with positive thoughts and feelings is far, far more powerful for improving the state of the world than, for example, voting or fighting for change or noticing problems at all.
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 then there are the non-Abers, who may even be referred to as "muggles." Either you're in the club, or you're not.
In my experience, there is a definite feeling of superiority present, but there is no 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 want to associate with people who do not share their mission of heavily monitoring thoughts and emotions and focusing only in positive ways. Doing so (associating with non-Abers) begins to feel like a poor use of time and like a setback to their life goals.
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. Any time spent NOT doing xyz (for example, having a normal conversation with a non-Aber) or worse, doing the OPPOSITE of xyz (having 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).
Esther Hicks is not accountable to any authority. Members involved are taught that they are also not accountable to any authority, only to themselves and to feeling good. Abraham-Hicks says, "You are an extension of pure positive physical energy, therefore there is nothing more important than that you feel good."
This is treated as the ultimate authority and highest law of the land, while society's usual rules and values are actively dismissed and even mocked.
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 result in unethical behavior or activities but certainly can.
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. Yet A-H manages to overdo and oversimplify the prescription. Deceit, denial, avoidance, overindulgence, cheating, 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" radically changes a person's value system and can have really any consequence on an individual's choices and treatment of others.
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 focusing on the use of shame and guilt.
The teachings actually 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 are low in self esteem and high in self criticism and/or shame.
Rather than A-H inducing negative feelings to influence or control, members are trained in an entire system dictating what to do with their thoughts and feelings. Group members are told how to think and feel in order to supposedly avoid negative things and manifest positive things.
This system is internalized to the point that members become hyper-vigilant. They end up controlling themselves as well as each other by only allowing themselves to think and feel in the prescribed ways.
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, which induces fear and worry in the Aber.
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, 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. They believe A-H has the legitimate solution to every life obstacle. As a result, Abers do tend to proselytize to get their friends and family on board.
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 feel-good promises, no bad news, and the idea that all life circumstances can be easily 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 Law of Attraction 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 is the likely 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 "vibration work," as discussed in my post about wasting a lot of time with A-H exercises. Group members will also listen to Law of Attraction tapes in their home, their car, and in their sleep.
From an Aber's perspective, why not spend your time doing what you've been taught is the most important thing: cleaning up your vibration, understanding the teachings even better, and therefore attracting more of everything you 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 it is certainly a byproduct. Abraham-Hicks hammers home the idea that everyone is always attracting, and the importance of one's emotions and "point of attraction."
Abers become hyper-vigilant 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-Hicks. 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?