Do I Know The Secret? Well, Yes, as a Matter of Fact . . . .

The Secret
Kelly Baker

Do you know the “secret”? As part and parcel of my religion classes, all students have to complete a field visit. One current student is fascinated with The Secret, a book written by Rhonda Byrne, and he wanted to visit a worship site, in which believers practiced the esoteric knowledge Byrne brings to light (for $23.95). His interest sparked my interest, and it seems that many Americans are buying the book to improve their minds, and by extension, their lives. According to Slate:

There are now 5.3 million copies of the book in print in the United States, and publisher Simon & Schuster says it is selling about 150,000 a week. A separate DVD version has sold at least 1.5 million copies. Groups have formed to discuss how to best live by The Secret's rules. It is a No. 1 best seller in Australia, England, and Ireland, and it is scheduled to be translated into 30 languages.

As far as I can tell (since I have not yet bought or read this work), this is a book that highlights the importance of positive thinking as the key to having the universe work for you instead of against you. Valerie Frankel, from MSN, notes:

As The Secret explains, "You are like a human transmission tower, transmitting a frequency with your thoughts." What's more, it continues, the universe follows the Law of Attraction, and "like attracts like, so when you think a thought, you are also attracting like thoughts to you." Ergo, to be happy, just think happy thoughts. The book's experts suggest counting your blessings and "wrapping every thought in love" in order to connect with the "strongest positive frequency in the Universe." If you're feeling blue, you're supposed to reverse the negativity with "secret shifters," such as hold­ing a baby, playing with a pet, listening to a joyful song, or watching a funny movie.

Though originally skeptical, Frankel finds the focus on positive visualization helpful, but not a cure to all that ails.

On the other hand, Emily Yoffe, from Slate, finds the book disturbing because its mantra appears to be “perfect thinking equals perfect life, and imperfect thinking equals an imperfect life.” She writes:

At this point I should add that The Secret is not only drivel—it's pernicious drivel. The obvious question that arises from its claim that it's easy to get what you want, is: Why do so many people get what they don't want? As Byrne writes, "Imperfect thoughts are the cause of all humanity's ills, including disease, poverty, and unhappiness." Yes, according to The Secret, people don't just randomly end up being massacred, for example. They are in the wrong place because of their own lousy thinking. Cancer patients have long been victims of this school of belief. But The Secret takes it to a new and more repulsive level with its advice not just to blame people for their illness, but to shun them, lest you start being infected by their bummer thoughts, too.

Americans, as you probably already know, have embraced various forms of therapeutic culture from Phineas Parkhurst Quimby’s “mind cure” to “water cure” to talk therapy, and The Secret appears to be a reworking of previous trends in American religious history that focus on the centrality of the mind for harmony with universe, control over matter, and positive visualization. From Christian Science to Norman Vincent Peale to the magic of Oprah to name a few, Americans have delighted in the ability to correct your life path by focusing on your thought. The Secret proves to be an extension of these.

In the September issue of the JAAR (available online with a subscription), Catherine Albanese highlights the importance of metaphysical religion in American religious history. In her introduction to three articles on metaphysics, “Awash in a Sea of Metaphysics,” Albanese lays out the concerns for the ‘North American metaphysician’ as magic, mind, and salvation (584-585). “Metaphysicians have used ‘mind’—their own and others’, including God’s—as instruments to walk a fine line between spiritual expansion and this-worldly comfort and success (585). Proponents of The Secret follow this model and seek to improve their mental as well as physical well-being through practices of the mind. Metaphysics remain popular, as does the allure of potential of the mind to control our circumstances. The Secret proves to be another instance in this long tradition.

Do I know The Secret? Yes, I do, and it seems fairly familiar, indeed.


Dr John Curtis said…
The Secret is the latest and by far the worst example of a HIGHLY profitable trend where self-help gurus with fabricated new age titles and little relevant education, credentials or legitimate expertise brainwash us into believing that they know what is best for us, our marriages and our families.

Often their only contribution to society is introducing some exotic sounding, new age philosophy. However, they often cleverly form an incestuous group of like-minded “experts” who cross-promote each other by swearing their success is due to following the beliefs of another member of their “cult!” All the while, they ply the airwaves jockeying for an ever-larger audience by appearing in the national media to garner third-party endorsements.

The Self-Help Movement has become the Self-Destruct Movement by diminishing or destroying our critical thinking skills to choose and evolve on our own. We have given up the freedom to build healthy lives, marriages and families based on our unique history and life experience. Instead many victims, blinded to the value of their own life experiences, are attracted to the latest secret in self-help, in an attempt to find out what they should think, feel and how they should act... this is the definition of a cult.

The solution is a return to our (common) senses! The best way out of this learned “self-helplessness” is to go cold turkey. Stop following ALL self-help gurus now. Begin, instead, to reclaim your natural, God-given ability to think for yourself. The common sense that was once readily available to all of us is still there free of charge and waiting to be applied to just about any challenge we might face in life… all you have to do is use it.

Please, let's all work together to stop the flock of "sheepeople" who blindly move from one UNPROVEN concept to the next, looking for the answers to life's challenges that you already possess and that is the OBVIOUS!
DEG said…
I learned The Secret to life on a warm summer evening, on a train bound for nowhere. I met up with this gambler (who'd made a life out of reading people's faces) and, for a taste of my whiskey, he gave me this advice:

"You got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away and know when to run. You never count your money when youre sittin' at the table. There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done."

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