Why “The Secret” is no path to riches

A friend had been pestering me about this motivational fad called The Secret. It started out as a video in 2006, and then the producer of the video wrote a book that came out in 2007. It immediately became a hit, earning endorsements from famous TV personalities like Oprah Winfrey.

The Secret Author Rhonda Byrne as featured on The Australian magazine
The Secret Author Rhonda Byrne as featured on The Australian magazine

The Secret has been used in network marketing seminars and other programs related to “getting rich quick.” A friend invited me to a network marketing business, and this is one of the things taught in the seminar (although my friend already believed in The Secret beforehand). Believers will claim that it is true (as my friend does) and that it helps them do better in life, most especially by giving them wealth. All thanks to the Law of Attraction, which is the core of the belief system.

But after watching the video and reading more on the topic, I saw lots of problems.

What’s with The Secret?

The Secret has been associated with a spiritual movement called New Thought. It holds that humans have control over reality. The Secret posits that humans generate thought waves that alter the reality of the world around them. Governing this is the Law of Attraction, wherein whatever one thinks, that is what he will attract. For example, if a person thinks that his boss will give him a raise or promotion the next day, that will become true. If a person fears being robbed or murdered, then these will happen. One guest speaker in the video itself even claims that all he did was visualize checks coming in the mail, and he claims that it happened – with no explanation on where the checks came from (the speaker was David Schirmer – more on this later). The program claims it had been kept a secret from humanity, and thus many people suffered in life because they didn’t know it. So now, the Secret is revealed to you, and all you need to think of something and it will become reality.

The problem is, there is little proof that it actually works.

There is a lot of criticism against The Secret, saying that it is nothing but a feel-good show created to make money for the author (so, on second thought, it is a path to riches, but only for Byrne). Adherents claim that it is consistent with orthodox Biblical doctrine, but close study reveals that it is not. Even the Christian Research Institute, an organization known for exposing frauds in the Christian world, thumbed it down as unsound and based on false doctrine. Clearly all orthodox Christian entities who stick to sound doctrine reject it.

Perhaps this is the worst problem with The Secret: if your mind can control reality, it means you are god (yes, the book actually says this). This is obviously is what the Serpent told Adam and Eve, and thus, the so-called Law of Attraction is against orthodox Christian doctrine. It attributes a power to humans that they certainly do not have, and only caters to their narcissism and arrogance. It causes people to refuse to accept that there are things they can never control.

I can use a personal example to demonstrate that this so-called law isn’t a law. Back in 2009, I entered a model airplane in my scale modeling group’s annual nationals contest, without expecting it to win. I just let it sit there for a week and picked it up at the end, satisfied that people looked at my work. Later on I was told that I actually won 3rd prize for its category! All the time, my mindset was that I would not win, but it turned out that I did. I came home with a trophy, because my model plane was a quality build. Proof that what you think does not always become reality, which is actually a good thing.

A Whip for Flogging others

The danger with The Secret is how it is used to vilify and manipulate other people. For example, a Secret believer has a friend who says “even if I visualize, I still didn’t get what I wanted.” The Secret believer might go ballistic and say, “You fool! You don’t believe enough! There’s something wrong with you, you’re the one with the problem! You’re stupid, you’re negative!” In other words, the believe tries to guilt trip the non-believer and paints them as the “bad guy.” This is similar to the prosperity gospel, which is also taught in network marketing groups. If someone is poor, it means they are sinful; if they are rich, it means they are holy, because God promised physical riches. Again, this goes against sound Christian doctrine. So The Secret and other “self-help” ideas may actually be tools for manipulating people.

Critic Barbara Ehrenreich also quoted a serious victim-blaming message from The Secret. Rhonda Byrne is thought to have implied in the book that those killed in the 2004 Asian tsunami sent out waves that attracted the tsunami to them. Thus, Byrne says victims of disasters are the cause of their own deaths! Certainly no one can prove that tsunamis are caused by human thought, and this belief encourages cruelty rather than positivity.

Barbara Ehrenreich’s Smile or Die:

Ehrenreich also says The Secret and various “positive thinking” messages were used to silence the people who warned about the subprime mortgage crisis before it hit in 2008. Thus, it implies that The Secret can be a tool for quelling dissent. Byrne wrote in the book, “if you are criticizing, you are not being grateful. If you are blaming, you are not being grateful. If you are complaining, you are not being grateful.” Some might see this as positive, but I would disagree. The first one, criticizing is necessary when pointing out the errors of someone who is actually in the wrong. So if Byrne is against criticizing, then she may be for shutting up people.

Many writers say The Secret only rehashes old ideas about getting rich with new twists. It drew from The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, and more. Most of these books draw on the idea that thoughts can change reality, although The Secret makes its own explanation on how it works.

A commenter pointed out that The Secret may have derived the idea of visualization from a book by Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics. Maltz is a plastic surgeon who tried a motivational approach with his patients. Maltz claims to have tested three basketball teams doing free throws: before the actual session, one practices free throws, the second team does nothing and the third team does not practice but visualizes themselves doing free throws. He claims the third team did the best. However, I find this questionable.

Cracks in the Wall

The Secret seems to be showing cracks in the wall through people who participated in the video. This may be proof that it isn’t really what it’s flouted to be.

Rhonda Byrne later had a fallout with one of the film’s major contributors, Esther Hicks, leader of The Abraham Movement. Byrne then had Hicks edited out of subsequent versions of The Secret. Hicks later uploaded a Youtube video explaining her side, though she admitted that she’ll have no more to do with The Secret, despite Byrne’s earlier admission that Hicks provided the initial inspiration for it. That’s why on the Internet, one will find an original version and an edited version – which doesn’t make sense if The Secret is supposed to be good and all its believers are good people, right? Next, Byrne got into a legal tussle with Secret director Drew Heriot and Internet consultant Dan Hollings over royalties. Now, if you really believe in The Secret, you wouldn’t go to court with people you worked with on it, would you?

Here’s something uncomfortable: one of the guest speakers on The Secret video, David Schirmer, a self-proclaimed financial guru, was exposed to have owed money to several former students and investors. Despite claims that he earns millions of dollars, he is unable to pay his debts to them! Watch this if you love something cringeworthy, where a person becomes confronted all of a sudden with the fraud he committed:

And it doesn’t stop here. Bob Proctor is said to be defrauding money from many people as well, and Joe Vitale and Michael Beckwith are not really “doctors” as they claim to be. I’d not be surprised if everyone else who figured in The Secret video is having similar problems.

Conclusion

The problem with The Secret is that it takes questionable mysticism and puts it into a motivational formula that panders to people’s narcissism and sense of entitlement. It’s mere feel good content that, when put into practice, flounders. The Secret claims that the Law of Attraction always works. However, the truth is more likely that it does not, and never has it been proven that human thoughts can change reality. Humans can change reality with action, and such action does not always guarantee 100% success. That’s why you try and try again until you succeed… or find something better to do.

But the biggest problem with The Secret is saying humans are god. No, they are not and can never be.

Here’s in short my conclusion on The Secret or the Law of Attraction:

It is not a secret.
It is not a law.
Humans can control their thoughts, but they cannot control reality with their thoughts.

I do agree with some basic tenets of positive thinking, that people should control themselves, get rid of bitterness, hatred and other negative emotions, and be calm and positive. This is actually very basic, and one doesn’t need The Secret to know these common sense ideas. The Secret adds too many other beliefs to this that are questionable and may even cause harm.

And The Secret for me can never be positive thinking. Real positive thinking for me is coined in the Serenity Prayer:

Accepting the things one cannot change;
courage to change the things one can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Stick to sound principles, and stop thinking of get-rich-quick schemes.

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About ChinoF

I stick with this blog because I believe, as my cohorts do, that many things Filipino embrace as part of their culture keep their society backward. And blogging freely to show that in a truly decent society, with true freedom of speech, even nobodies have a voice.

21 Comments on “Why “The Secret” is no path to riches”

  1. Another revelation: another Secret guest James Arthur Ray was jailed for negligent homicide. He subjected three people to a heat endurance test which claimed their lives in 2009. The Sweat Lodge ceremony that he performs was probably one of this attempts to prove the Secret… but it ended up disproven. With tragic results.

    And the guy even had the thick face to restart his “self-help” business.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44ZFNPFJuyY

    Thanks Gogs for this.

  2. I didn’t even have to see read “The Secret” to know it’s a load of bullcrap. The only “reality” one’s mind can affect is one’s self. Of course, influencing others is a totally different matter; it’s easier to manipulate other people when they are less intelligent than you are.

    That’s why it’s the smart ones who scam, the not-so-smart ones who gets scammed.

  3. “Stick to sound principles, and stop thinking of get-rich-quick schemes.” Right on the button ChinoF! I think that these get-rich-quick schemes are what motivates some people to get into networking or multi-level marketing.

    1. For the score, I’m not against network or multi-level marketing. The thing is, I think it can do better without the motivational trickery or pseudo-religion.

  4. I’m okay with positive thinking, but having positive thinking without gathering facts or feasibility will only be delusional.

    If a person wants to earn something, he should work hard for it. There is no such thing as “get rich quickly”. Go to that path and you’ll be surrounded by schemers and scammers who also taught this “secret”.

    So much for positive thinking. Always remember that the tricksters will attack the least you know it.

  5. The trouble of those “get-rich-quick” books, are the: Authors are the ones getting rich quick.

    I can tell you for sure, how to get rich in the Philippines. Go into Po;itics; be a Congreeman, Senator, etc…Engorge yourself like a Swine with Pork Barrel Funds; like the others. This will surely make you rich…

  6. There’s no such thing as get rich quick! If it does it’s a scam. Who says networking is easy? One of the things I learned in it is that the potential ratio of getting a client 100 : 1. Out of 100 people you talk to there is a slight possibility that 1 will do business with you. The only thing that I tried with “the secret” is about envisioning what you want in life and by doing a dream board you get to focus what you want in life. That’s your aim and that’s what you want!

  7. I go by the saying that fortune favors the well prepared and those bold enough to dare stake a claim on what they want.

    There are times, though, that some of those who seem to be best prepared to lay claim to one kind of fortune or another balk at the chance thinking that they don’t deserve it and so pass up the opportunity to do just that.

    There are ways in which motivational books like The Secret can help people get over the hesitation to go for something. Perhaps that’s the secret of The Secret.

    1. Perhaps, but I think The Secret is basically hogwash. Other books like M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled or Dale Carnegie’s book have sounder principles. Perhaps the visualizing thing is a good aid for some. But that’s something others have already mentioned. The Secret virtually plagiarizes others’ principles, while inserts some of its own stuff that is very questionable. But on general life, you are right… fortune favors the well-prepared indeed… but truth favors those with proper discernment.

    2. I can see what Paul means now. You mean, The Secret is a solution to being lazy and mendicant. Unfortunately, it isn’t. The Secret actually encourages mendicancy, because it espouses the belief that the mind changes reality without action. There are other better beliefs that promote action rather than mendicancy. But they all acknowledge that mentally preparing yourself is only one-fourth the way, the three-fourths have to be completed by action. And the better beliefs acknowledge that success is not absolute – meaning, it’s not 100% assured when you want it, hence the saying “try and try again until you succeed.” Unfortunately, magical voluntarism is no solution for mendicancy.

  8. OK, there is a term for believing you can get anything you want if you really want it: MAGICAL VOLUNTARISM. As long as you want it, you will always get it if you really want it. So that’s The Secret, isn’t it? It’s nothing but indeed pandering to capitalist greed attitudes.

  9. What does science tell about the Law of Attraction? It tells that LoA doesn’t work. Do you need a proof by scientific evidence? Read this:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vanessa-van-edwards/law-of-attraction_b_2082921.html
    http://www.heatherkappes.com/?page_id=68
    http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/06/23/confirmation-bias/

    Just let scientists make their own work. For the sake of the truth, for the evolution of our species and our culture,please, don’t mix science with mystical woo.

    Yes, I will always save my emotions. i’ll never force myself to think positive. I don’t need it. I’ve always earnt from my mistakes and sometimes even sufference was a useful tool for improving my life. I’ll never set aside someone because of negative thinking. I won’t fear to be contaminated by negative thinking, but I’ll listen people and I’ll try to offer my help. I don’t program my brain like a robot, I just use my heart, in a natural manner.

    How dare can we struggle for discovering the right way to use LoA, while so many people are starving? Don’t be selfish. If we think that LoA is useful, then let’s try to use it for knowing ourselves instead of wishing a new car. My life is wonderful, my wishes are normal. Friends, I don’t need LoA at all.

    Jerry Hicks passed away because of cancer. Although he believed in LoA he used the mainstream medicine for trying to heal. Why? Perhaps because several people used LoA and died faster then the ones who used the mainstream medicine (eg. Kim Tinkham).

    Do we still think that using LoA is a good and rensponsible advise? When it is useful? When it isn’t? Do we feel rensponsible when we advise people to use LoA? Are we really offering a good service to humanity?

    1. I didn’t know that about Jerry Hicks. Anymore examples that show LoA doesn’t work? These need to be exposed, aside from those examples of David Schirmer and James Arthur Ray. Thanks for mentioning this.

  10. it’s all bullshit, another form of brainwashing. I don’t trust these so called “motivational speakers” and the like. That’s why they’re called “con artists”, confidence man/artist which means they’ll approach you with all enthusiasm and confidence just to have you believe in them hence the term “brainwashed”.

    Sadly most of our kababayans are gullible with these kind of scams. I ain’t falling for that bullshit. The only thing that works is getting your education and don’t give up pursuing the career you always wanted, it’s more satisfying than having only tons of cash. It doesn’t matter if you own a yacht, a sports car or a fucking mansion, then what?

  11. One main criticism that others (like Jack Canfield, I believe) have about it is that it lacked the NEXT step after Thought: ACTION.

    1. Think about what you want in life…
    2. …and you’ll find ways to work and earn it.

    That second part (which should happen automatically if you have a burning desire for something) is missing from the book/movie.

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