The beauty of speculative theories about the nature of life and the world in general is that they can be much more satisfying than good old objective reality, which could leave you feeling like the most logical conclusion is to lie down in the road. Religions, philosophies, self-help programs all add up to a big theme-hotel of fantasy chambers in which you can choose to wait out the duration of your worldly sojourn. You can choose to believe that other living things are demonic nightmares, that the chirping of the birds is the laughter of Satan, and that human sacrifice is the main imperative. You can choose to believe that a handful of magic stones you sold your computer in order to buy from a psychic have the power to fix all your problems. Whatever it is, if you can will it strongly enough in your mind, you can believe it.
Enter The Secret. Having grasped the basic principle that all systems of belief use concentrated fantasy to wrench from the miserable heap of trash that is humanity some kind of radical change in outlook and behavior, the teachers of The Secret tell us how we can use the power of positive visualization to "attract" the stuff we think about. If you lie in your bed and visualize being hit by a bus the next time you step outside, that's what you'll get. Adepts in the ways of The Secret like to say that you are "manifesting" what you think about. If you stand outside a McDonald's and think hard enough about a piping hot McRib, eventually you will manifest that.
The spiritual principles in The Secret manifested themselves straight to DVD in 2006, when Rhonda Byrne, an Aussie who bided her time as a TV writer and producer before uncovering the secrets of the universe, bestowed ultimate knowledge upon the huddled, soul-sick masses of the world. Several months after the revelatory DVD blazed its lightning trail of psychic power across the screens of lucky viewers, an eponymous book appeared to fully expound on the supreme postulates of mind manifestation. In under a year, this book had sold over 19 million copies. The Secret facebook page has two-and-a-half million likes. Basically, if you piss off The Secret's initiates, there's a good chance the combined mind power of that many people concentrating at once will end you. It is with cautious tread that one attempts any evaluation of this belief system.
The Secret in a nutshell is that one's thoughts manifest themselves on the physical plane by attracting things like what is thought about. The basic paradigm is that if one thinks about, for instance, her lack of money, the thought energy of focusing on this undesirable circumstance will in turn bring about more poverty. If, on the other hand, one were to focus on the relative superabundance of wealth already in one's possession, as if, for example, the naked person sitting under a tree were to focus not on the lack of clothing but on the ample shade furnished by the leafy fronds above, this wealth-affirming thought energy would in turn attract further wealth.
The underlying ideology of a "law of attraction" as some kind of metaphysical principle boasts a history of popular fascination dating back to the first decade of the 20th century. In March 1904, in Edinburgh, Scotland, one Judge Thomas Troward, a retired English judge who had served in India during the second half of the nineteenth century, and who had in retirement devoted himself to the study of laws of cause and effect, whatever that means, presented a series of lectures describing in the most officious academic style the power of thought to influence the world of matter.
His argument boils down to a grand mythology about how a nucleus of thought attracts to itself like entities of all stripes until at last the thought kernel becomes real in the plane of matter. In other words, if you think really hard non-stop about exposing yourself on the train, that will eventually happen for real. Troward points out that none other than J.C. himself endorses The Secret. "For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith." Mark 11:23.
I tried The Secret out for two days, using the power of my mind to attract the outcomes I desired. In one instance, I had agreed to go with a friend to her friend's apartment, and after the required time of polite friendliness, I was desiring to make an exit. Having matured beyond the stage at which I might have found it acceptable just to get up abruptly and leave, I began to envision an amicable and timely good-bye. Within a few minutes, I sensed that the hostess was becoming a bit antsy, which I took as a sign that she had begun to contemplate the movement of her guests out the door. Soon thereafter, the companion with whom I had arrived and with whom I hoped to be leaving went so far as to stand up from her chair. This was an unambiguous sign that departure was imminent, At this point there was an interruption in the form of an interminably long Billy Joel song from the iPod rig, and all three of us got distracted. Not too long after that, my friend and I, hostess cooperating, rose in tandem and hugged out a satisfying good bye.
Looking back on this experience, I would say The Secret worked. There is some difficulty in asserting unconditionally that the power of my concentration on leaving was the factor that led to us leaving. Perhaps we would have left anyway, even if I had spent the whole time barking like a dog. Regardless, even just pretending I had a secret power to influence my surroundings to do my will was a lot of fun. I would recommend anyone try using The Secret at least for an evening. It's harmless, and it might work. That said, I did get the feeling I was standing in the shallow end of the pool.
3 out of 5 stars.