Monday, March 26, 2007

The Secret

In the print edition of National Review [April 2, 2007], Jason Lee Steorts summarizes the "thesis" of The Secret, the current best-selling non-religious [or, at least, non-Christian] version of the "health and wealth" gospel.
The Secret isn’t much of a secret, but here’s an executive summary in case you’ve missed it. An Australian TV producer named Rhonda Byrne recently began moonlighting as prophetess-in-the-desert. In this more exalted station she made a film and wrote a book, both called The Secret and both claiming to reveal The Secret. The Secret to what? Why, to everything: wealth, health, relationships, happiness, world peace. Want to be a millionaire next month? Consult The Secret. Feel like eating whatever you wish and having 8 percent body fat? It’s in The Secret. Need to re-grow that diseased kidney? The Secret tells you how.

This Secret works according to something called the law of attraction, which governs the Universe (a word always capitalized by Ms. Byrne, who uses it much as a Christian or a Jew would use “God”). “The law of attraction says like attracts like, and so as you think a thought, you are also attracting like thoughts to yourself.” Not merely thoughts: “If you can think about what you want in your mind, and make that your dominant thought, you will bring it into your life.... Your thoughts become things!”

...“Thoughts are magnetic, and thoughts have a frequency. As you think, those thoughts are sent out into the Universe, and they magnetically attract all like things that are on the same frequency. Everything sent out returns to the source. And that source is You.”

The Universe, then, will give Me whatever I want if only I think about it with sufficient frequency and intensity. It makes no difference whether my wish is good or bad. “The law of attraction ... is as impartial and impersonal as the law of gravity.” It is “the mightiest power in the Universe.” It is also colossally stupid: “The law of attraction doesn’t compute ‘don’t’ or ‘not’ or ‘no,’ or any other words of negation” — so if I think, “I don’t want to catch the flu,” I’m actually telling the Universe, “I want the flu and I want to catch more things.” (The example is Byrne’s.)

There is no limit to the audacity of the conclusions Byrne draws from her silly little premise. “Write out your perfect weight and place it over the readout of your scale, or don’t weigh yourself at all.” That’s Byrne’s advice on how to svelten up, since, you know, obesity comes from “thinking ‘fat thoughts.’” To enrich yourself, go to The Secret’s website and download a “check” from the Bank of the Universe. Fill out this check with the amount of money you’d like to have, put it somewhere you’ll see it regularly, and you’ll be on the Forbes list in no time. .... Elsewhere, Byrne says medicine is okay, but only for its instrumental value in “eliminat[ing] pain, which then allows the person to be able to focus with great force on health.”) Whatever you do, don’t think about how to achieve your goals: “When you are trying to work out how it will happen, you are emitting a frequency that contains a lack of faith .... The how is not your part in the Creative Process.”

There are 3.75 million copies of this nonsense in print. Oprah Winfrey devoted two shows to it. .... The Secret is the top-selling book and the top-selling DVD on Ms. Byrne has no doubt become a very rich woman.
Source: National Review, April 2, 2007, pp. 40-41

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