Atria Books, 2006.
OK, I confess. I finally broke down, abandoned all reason, and shelled out a lousy $30 to buy The Secret. Mind you, it was on sale, marked down from $35, so that was some consolation.
Of course I tried to do what the book suggests: use the Law of Attraction to get whatever you want. Unfortunately it did not work for me. I told the gal at the counter I wanted to get the book for free, and was using the Attraction principle to create my own reality.
She did get a chuckle out of that, but still demanded cold hard cash, insisting that moolah, not some Attraction mumbo-jumbo, was the only way I was going to get the book. Thus I am $30 poorer, and still not able to script my wishes into reality. Oh well, guess I just gotta try harder.
On a more serious note, this book is skilfully marketed to convince people that some new truth is about to be revealed here. But nothing of the sort takes place. It is simply a flashy repackaging of some very old ideas: new age thought, eastern religions, the human potential movement, positive thinking, pantheism, cosmic consciousness, and so on.
The message is simple: you and I are God, are energy, are the universe, are perfection, are spirit, etc. As such, “you can have, be, or do anything you want”. That’s it. Want a brand new car? Visualise it and receive it. Think and feel that you already have it.
Want a perfect partner? A new home? Perfect health? A new job? A million dollars? A new waistline? It’s all yours. Just claim it. Receive it. No more negative thoughts. Just think happy, positive thoughts and anything you desire is yours. It is the creative visualisation message made popular in the New Age Movement: you create your own reality. You script your own destiny.
Of course this mind over matter thought has been around for ages. Indeed, Byrne assembles 24 “great avatars and amazing teachers” here whom she quotes and rephrases. Some have already passed on, however, which is curious, since we are promised in this book both perfect health and “eternal youth”. So why have they carked it?
Indeed, many such questions arise. We are told we should always be grateful; we should always say ‘thank you’. But to who? It seems to ourselves, since we in fact are God, the universe, energy, the all. We are the ones who make our own reality. Everything that exists is the product of our thoughts, our feelings.
And given that “you deserve to be happy,” then just claim all those goodies you have always longed for. Got bills to pay? No probs! Got cancer? No worries. It will all disappear if we simply want it to.
But wait, there’s more. It is not just personal greed that is being pandered to here. It is not just my own dreams that can come true. The big issues of life are also a piece of cake. Want to end global hunger? Easy. Just think happy food thoughts. Want to end all war? Couldn’t be simpler. Just feel and think peaceful thoughts. And you thought some problems were just too intractable. Foolish you.
Indeed, you can have a lot of fun when you are the centre of the universe. You can have a blast being God. You can really groove on being perfection. Isn’t it great that it is all about you? Consider this closing thought of the book:
“The earth turns on its orbit for You. The oceans ebb and flow for You. The birds sing for You. The sun rises and sets for You. The stars come out for You. Every beautiful thing you see, every wonderful thing you experience, is all there for You. Take a look around. None of it can exist, without You. No matter who you thought you were, now you know the Truth of Who You Really Are. You are the master of the universe. You are the heir of the kingdom. You are the perfection of life. And now you know The Secret.”
And her very last line? A paraphrase of Star Wars, no less: “May the joy be with you!” Gee, almost makes me feel like soaring through the air, forming some new galaxies, and creating other worlds.
If it all seems a bit familiar, that is because it is. It is just old-fashioned Eastern thought, repackaged and resold to a gullible new generation. It is plain old monism and pantheism with a facelift. It is just more New Age thought in drag. It is simply positive thinking in a new dress.
And if Christians find it to be vaguely familiar, it is because we have heard it all before. Way back in the garden the tempter told our first parents, “you can be like God”. They fell for it, and we have been falling for it ever since. Unfortunately it does not work that way. There is only one God of the universe, and we are not it.
But instead of humbling ourselves and bowing down to our creator, our redeemer, and our judge, we would rather worship ourselves. And that is exactly what this book is all about: self-worship. In the Bible it is called idolatry and sin. It is not to be celebrated and promoted, but repented of and forsaken.
One day Byrne – like all of us – will stand before our maker, and our foolishness, pride and presumption will all melt away. All our self-deception and lies will be exposed, and there will be no magic wand to get us out of that situation. There will be no mind over matter to wish that reality away.
Byrne and others like her may be raking in the dough right now. But that money, just like these bogus teachings, will evaporate in an instant when they finally meet the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And no amount of wishful thinking will prevent that awesome moment from taking place.