Nov. 29, 2009 — -- Wayne Dyer, best-selling author and lecturer, is one of the world's preeminent proponents of the power of positive thinking.
Dyer often tells audiences that he is his message.
As a child, he was abandoned by an abusive, alcoholic father, then lived in orphanages. He went on to write 25 books, including the mega best seller, "Your Erroneous Zones," which made him a talk-show regular who now makes millions selling DVDs and giving speeches.
Dyer's central theme is that you can attract whatever you want, be it money, love, even improved health through your thoughts.
"You must assume the feeling of the wish fulfilled," Dyer, 69, tells his followers. "In the process you begin to attract experiences that match up to what your imagination is offering. This is the great secret of those who are able to manifest into their life, almost effortlessly, what they would like to have."
Dyer says he has been doing this his entire life.
Positive thinking, which has become increasingly popular through books like Rhonda Byrne's, "The Secret," which was heavily promoted by Oprah, is often criticized as dangerous psychobabble.
ABC's Dan Harris first sat down in September with the now-single, father of eight, who lives in Maui, Hawaii, to discuss Dyer's philosophy.
Harris: The problem I have with the wish fulfillment stuff that you talk about, and positive thinking generally, is that if you invert the logic, then the bad things that are happening to us, and happen to everybody, must be the result of thinking incorrectly.
Dyer: It's not about correct or incorrect thinking. It's about alignment. When you see a tsunami hit, as one did not too long ago, and you see people just washed out to sea, it's not like, you know, thousands of people were just thinking incorrectly and got washed out to sea. They were aligned with that energy that came in there. This is the way this universe works.
Harris: You argue that we can take affirmative action to get into our lives the things that we want into our lives. So isn't the reverse of that logic that if something bad happens to us, it must in some way be our fault?
Dyer: Well it depends what you mean by fault. If fault means blame, and you know, assuming that I'm being punished, I don't think fault works that way at all. I think that everything that happens to us, everything that comes into our life, it's essential to take responsibility for it if you want to change it.
Wayne Dyer: Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Will Not Stop Him
This guru is now facing a major challenge to his own philosophy. While ABC News was filming its story, Dyer, who has preached that you can change your health -- even your DNA -- through the power of thoughts, announced to followers that he is seriously ill with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a disease he initially said he could beat. When Harris sat down with Dyer a few weeks later in October, however, he had changed his tune slightly.
Harris: Do you think that the fact that you are now ill is going to be grist for the people who have punished you, who say, "Look, here this guy's been telling me that if I change the way I think, I can get what I want? Well, something bad just happened to him so that proves that his whole philosophy is off or he must not be living correctly.
Dyer: First of all, I'm not ill at all. Life itself is a sexually transmitted terminal disease. So, you know, I don't think of it as, as any punishment at all. I'm thrilled with it.
Harris: Isn't what you're talking about now sort of a slightly different and less aggressive tactic than you've talked about in your books and your speeches?
Dyer: It might be less aggressive, I just don't think of it in terms of winning and losing. I certainly hold to the view, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. When you look at an illness as the presence of something in your body, when you look at it as a punishment for what you've done, uh, you know, I don't think that your body can go into a healing mode, nearly as well as it can if you take a much more peaceful approach to it. I do think that I probably am more peaceful about all of it, about everything in my life than I was maybe 30 years ago, when I was writing more about healing ourselves of those kinds of diseases, But my experience in life has shown that when you have an attitude of peace about something, that your body has a much better chance of healing it, than it does if you get aggressive and angry and hurt and depressed by it. It's just my experience.
Harris: Watching you speak the other night, you said things like, "You need to believe it to see it." You also said, "You need to assume the attitude of the wish fulfilled in order to get what you want." So are you saying that your wish is not necessarily to, to have this disease go away?
Dyer: No, it's not, it's not about having the disease go away. It's about my being able to, my wish is to be able to live each and every day from as healthy and positive a perspective as I possibly can. And I think I can do that whether leukemia decides to live within me, or whether it's not there. And I'm not going to be deciding whether I'm going to be happy everyday on the basis of whether a white blood cell count has gone up or gone down.
Harris: Has the disease forced you to rethink anything you've talked about over the years?
Dyer: It's brought me more in touch with my mortality. You know, that that this body is like, ultimately it's something that we're going to leave. And it's also a reminder of the importance of the invisible part of myself. That I'm not nearly as attached to this body of mine as I once was. I guess as it starts to wear away, and things start happening to it, you become less and less attached to it, at least I am.