The Hubris of 'The Secret'

As a cancer survivor I'm not sure I buy the 'create your own reality' stuff in 'The Secret.' And if it's true, what about God?

When I was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, I was afraid to tell my New-Agey friends and acquaintances. Mainly, I was afraid they would say, "Why did you do that to yourself?" Not out of cruelty, but from a genuine desire to help me see how I had "created my own reality," a central tenet of New Age thinking. Thankfully, no one said any such thing. (Though one woman did ask if perhaps I should have just ingested a lot of wheatgrass instead of having chemotherapy.)

This choose-your-own-adventure thinking has caught fire recently with the wild success of "The Secret" book and DVD by Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne. There are already 400,000 copies of the book in print and Simon & Schuster just announced they’re printing two million more, which is what happens when Oprah champions your book in two separate shows and says this is how she’s lived her own life for years.

The book and the documentary-ish film are essentially the same: a compendium of talking headsphilosophers, life coaches, and authorsall talking about how the essence of our thoughts affects, nay, creates, the world around us through the power of quantum physics, energy, and our interconnectedness. It’s similar in a lot of ways to "What the Bleep Do We Know," but without the narrative Marlee Matlin part.


Except this time the production values are bettereverything looks very luxe and DaVinci-code-esqueand the heads are all hitting the same point home over and over: If you "align" yourself by feeling good, the Universe (New Age-speak for God) will provide limitless abundance. This is illustrated in numerous dramatizations: a woman wraps her thoughts around a necklace in a window, pretty soon it appears around her neck; a gay man who’s harassed for his homosexuality starts practicing the secret and soon finds people are offering him new respect.

The "secret" is kind of like prayer on steroids: Instead of a personal God processing and granting requests, a web of energy simply bounces your mindset back at you in material form. As one of the teachers in the film, Mike Dooley, sums it up, "Thoughts become things."

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Valerie Reiss
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