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A review of The Secret. By Rhonda Byrne.

May 24, 2007

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.

secret 1On 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.

[1008 words]

33 Responses to A review of The Secret. By Rhonda Byrne.

  • Keep up the great work. It is really important that the truth about these books comes to light. l liked the point you made about the tempter. It certainly gives credence to the paradox ‘history repeats itself’. The tempter reuses all the same stuff. It just goes to show how relevant the Bible still is all these years after it was written, its importance in terms of understanding what is going on today.
    Matthew Mulvaney

  • Thanks Matthew
    Yes, nothing new under the sun.
    Bll Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Maybe we can employ this method against global warming.
    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Found your blog googling for a Christian review of “The Secret”. Very helpful. Thank you.
    John

  • Many thanks John
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill for the critique. The Bible warns us of deceptions, of evil being called good, of lies dressed up as truths and this is a perfect example of it. It wouldn’t surprise me if this is being embraced solidly by many Christian churches, and promoted for its practical application of God’s laws.

    However it runs contrary to the very core of scriptural teaching: we have sinned and fallen short of God’s holiness and deserve death, yet he through total sacrifice raises us up, not to be like God to be loved by God, to worship Him, and obey Him according to His purposes and commandments: to be like Him by serving one another and loving other no matter what their faults or mistakes or whether they are ‘attractive’ or not.

    I know if I got what I deserved I’d be dead, but instead I get grace, and forgiveness.

    Funnily enough I don’t read of Jesus surrounding himself with the ‘right’ sort of attractive people, but instead spent himself ministering to those who were meek, poor, and outcast.

    Garth Penglase

  • I have not read the book but she may have a point here in terms of, we reap what we sow. The law of attraction is true in the sense that we will attract positive outcomes if we think positive. The reverse will be true if we think negative. If more people are encouraged to think positively, it may attract a more positive world.
    John Mathai

  • Thanks John

    See my parallel article on this for a response to your point (Nothing New About “The Secret”). While there may be a modicum of truth in the ideas expressed in this book, for the most part, it is rank pagan nonsense, which has nothing to do with biblical Christianity.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Indeed she does have a point John, unfortunately a lie dressed up as a truth. Just like karma, it *is* a twist on the Biblical truth of “we reap what we sow* which is biblical. There is a fundamental difference. When we sow love we will reap love etc. and if we sow in the appropriate time, water the seed with the same care we will reap a harvest from it – our children are a testament, good and bad, to that principle at work.

    But attracting things from the universe through our own positive energy to satisfy our worldly desires is not the same thing. And the concept of direct one to one relationship of good action done = good action returned at some time in the future is bogus. Otherwise *every* drug dealer and crime figure would end in jail, hospital or dead and every long-suffering carer and social worker would be in perfect health and financially well off.

    In the Book of Ecclesiastes the author laments that the righteous suffer while the evil seem to prosper, and that indeed is the fact about this temporal world. But he also notes that God is not mocked and that in His justice people will receive their right reward the way that He see fit.

    There are many false dreams that this world has to offer, but in the end they are all just folly. But faith, hope and love endure.

    Garth Penglase

  • Thanks Bill, Your reviews save me a lot of time and money. I know I can trust what you write. God bless you.
    Dawn McGregor

  • Many thanks indeed Dawn
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • No-one seems to have mentioned the “Christian” version of this heresy – the “confess it and you’ll possess it” theology that was quite common in pentecostal circles in the 1970’s. Like all these heresies, they contain a core of Biblical truth, but the emphasis is always on “me” as the centre and highest reason for it all. I find that the devil doesn’t usually start me on a complete lie, but a part-truth to get me started, then gradually takes me further and further into the twilight land of lies. I am reminded that the central letter of Sin is “I”, and what did the devil say in Isaiah 14, in that classic expose of what he is like – 5 times “I will”. Surely there is a lesson here for us all. God bless you Bill, it is good to have you back in Oz.
    Ian Brearley

  • Thanks Ian
    Actually in my other article on this topic (Nothing New About “The Secret”), I do mention the Chrsitian version of this sort of thinking.
    Regards,
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thank you Bill for your review of the book ‘the secret”
    not that I would buy it or even read it but for those who have or may be considering your review is excellent
    It would be too much of a coincidence to believe this book was independently written the money probably comes from the same pool as all the other anti God propaganda
    May god continue to give you the strength and the resources to keep up the good fight
    shalom
    Ken Gregory

  • Sheesh, it’s like one after the other… “101 ways to be God! Get yours now!”

    Thanks for the article… I am personally depicting the book and writing about it myself. My problem is that I can barely get through a chapter at a time without getting angry and I quit reading it for about 2 weeks!

    Keep up the good work,

    In His Truth,
    Jason Woodward

  • Good Day Bill,

    Found your article very interesting. Just bought the book and movie yesterday, and I am on the 20th page more or less. I have to say that your article helps keep me in check, and helps to maintain a realistic outlook on all this. I am a simple Hispanic origin homemaker in Florida, trying very hard every waking hour to make my local, bilingual bridal magazine successful. I do have dreams of one day finally making a profit and covering a larger region of my state, and positive thoughts do help me on a daily basis not to give up. However, as we read the book, we must remember the difference between realistic goals and delusions of grandeur. Yes, you can think yourself positive to death, but without any hard work or effort there is real danger of a great fall. Persons reading this book need to do so with a good balance check in place. Nevertheless… a little positive reading can do some good, as long as we realize as you said, that there is a higher power than us some where out there moving us. There might be something we have always called destiny, or luck, or as they say “is not what you know, but who you know.” Some things maybe changed in our destiny and some may be not. Who really knows the real secret here? All I know is that along with that I read in this book called “The Secret”; I need to continue to remind myself, that without sacrifice, perseverance and consistency, all my positive thinking will not give fruit at all. So all skepticism aside, I will give myself a quick positive fix reading the book, but will not sit around and meditate positive thoughts all day. Instead, I will just apply some of those principles and go about my daily work, keeping in my heart the ever popular thought of living the “American Dream” of business success.
    Have a positive day,
    Isabel Albuerne
    Editor and Publisher of
    Florida Weddings and Special Events Magazine

  • I was given this book by a well-meaning friend who seemed to thinks it was great because of Oprah’s backing. However, when I started reading it, Colossians 2:8 seemed to shout out loud to my soul: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human traditions and the basic principles of his world, rather than on Christ.” I pray for those who will be led astray by it.
    Marsha Hicks

  • As a majority world Christian I appreciate a message that reminds me that my actions and thought processes can make a difference to my life and that of other third world people. Many majority world people are trapped by a world view that disregard the role of human effort in life. We tend to think ‘I’ll get by; no problem (Hakuna Matata).’ We are conditioned to think there are too many factors at play in the universe for our own puny actions to matter. We tend to think the spirit world, luck and providence determine the future more than our own actions. This leads us to serious problems – not least wooly thinking which makes us easy prey for the sort of emotive and airy fairy tosh that is The Secret. That said it does raise an important question – how do you get Majority World people to see that there is a way to improve their lot? Unfortunately The Secret does not deal with that problem – it only adds to our confusion because it suggests that we are poor becase we have attracted poverty to our shores. Only one ignorant of the history of colonialism and its modern day agencies such as IMF and WTO can blame our poverty on our negative thinking. This book like prosperity gospel before it will deceive many people and I am appaled to think how many in the majority world will swallow this sugar coated pill of opium of the masses only to wake up from their stupor to find that yet again a not very intelligent Westerner has pulled a fast one on us. My prayer is that the church in the third world will teach the Bible faithfully because whenever it is taught faithfully the Bible does the Work of God which leads to an all round Shalom and leaves no regret.
    Wanyeki Mahiaini

  • Hi there Bill,
    If a non believer applies one of God’s laws to their lives they will derive a benifit… for example in they work hard they will get a positive result. But the issue here is that without Jesus Christ as the central focus it is useless and temporary. I have not fallen for this one. I think its going to appeal to people who don’t want to depend on God but rather on their own abilities. The focus is I and not God like you say, and even if there were some benifit from using the secret method, where is the purpose, peace, and joy? If you get that car you wanted, how long before you want a better one, or a better partner. No what God gives lasts for an eternity, but the things of the world are passing and temporary.
    Etienne Cilliers

  • This was given to me by an all bubbly reader. As I started reading the book, way into the first two chapters I began to reckon something was amiss, why? It was all guiding me to I, I, I and that just did it. I do not exist for I, I exist for God!
    Raymond Maliko

  • Thanks for your commentary. I want someone to write the book “The Real Secret”. I think 1 Cor. 13:2 says it best. You can have the faith (really important) that moves mountains, but without love – of Christ and His Body (the real secret) you are nothing.
    All real truths are established by God and while this “truth” is hot it could be used as an evangelistic tool to draw the unsaved to the beauty of a relationship with all the benifits, with their Maker.
    Linda Ruberto

  • Thanks Bill, for exposing The Secret for what it is…just another counterfeit of God’s Truth. I am writing my dissertation how Christians are led away from The Truth of God and into New Age philosophies and other doctrines of error. I would be interested to know what percentage of Christians have purchased The Secret book or DVD. Do you happen to have any statistics on this?
    Marsha Rano

  • Thanks Marsha

    I don’t have any stats just at hand, but I will keep my eyes open, and if I find any I will let you know.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I finished this book yesterday and I decided to totally recommend it on my blog… but after I read your review i came back to my senses… some stuff are good, but others are WRONG.. like when the author said she discovered she didn’t need to know what’s happening around the world… that’s totally ridiculous.
    Great review by the way.
    Zawan Ushari

  • I had someone come into my work and tell me about this book. When I went to look at the reveiws I found this page. I must say that you are absolutely correct. Everyone looks for a way of idolizing ourselves as God. There is coming a judgement day and we shall be judged. If you want success, love, happiness and riches….When you get to heaven, you will have these things. Just Thank God you are here and trust in him. Put your life in Gods hands. He will see you through.
    Barbara Lang

  • Fascinating commentary. A member of my youth group was very concerned about a friend of hers who was reading “The Secret”, and even with her limited knowledge of The Word, realized something was not right about this book, and without reading the book myself, I pretty much nailed what it was about, and almost quoted your commentary before I even read it. This is age old stuff, dices of various religions pieced together to create a new religion based on human good. In the end, it is all asceticism…the belief that you can get to “heaven” based on good works, which is all religion is. Christianity is relationship, not religion. All religion actually produces separation from God, it is based on works, and not God’s grace. That is why Jesus said, “Whom the Son sets free, he is free indeed”. Thank you for your wonderful insight into this book, and for giving me a useful tool in combating the devil’s mind games that he tries to use in our culture.
    Scott Tibbetts

  • Dear Mr. Muehlenberg,

    Thanks for sharing the Christian point of view, which I believe is that God is the centre and we can only reach him through The Way which Jesus Christ has shown.

    Any ideology or book which does not agree to this is Satan’s counterfeit to fool the gullible.

    Bill your writing strengthens the believers – on the other side we have opinion leaders whose popularity is used by Satan to sway the masses with such deception.

    Peace be with you brother,

    R. Renolt, India

  • So if you believe the Bible — believing Rhonda should not be too big of a stretch. Perhaps the Secret gives hope to some people and thinking positive is— well—kind of a positive thing.
    I enjoy your writings.
    Denis Oberkirsch

  • Thanks Denis

    But it is a stretch, and of massive proportions. Anyone who has actually read the Bible and her book will see that they are light-years apart. The biblical message has absolutely nothing to do with merely thinking happy thoughts and going on your merry way. It has everything to do with getting us to acknowledge that we are sinners who have rejected God and are heading for a lost eternity. Only when we agree with God about our lost condition, and accept in faith and repentance what Jesus has done for us at the cross can we get right with God and turn our lives around. Indeed, the Bible says we are dead in our sins. Dead people cannot do anything, let alone save themselves. But I write about this further here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2007/05/23/nothing-new-about-%E2%80%9Cthe-secret%E2%80%9D/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Excellent reading….had a good chuckle.
    Col Reed

  • I am so glad I found this commentary on THE SECRET. No matter how deceiving it is, when we go back to the truth found in the Word of God, the truth shines like a light that consumes all forms of deception. It is indeed a reminder that we should take every thought captive to Christ and we should BEWARE OF FALSE TEACHINGS! Thanks to this site for speaking the truth!!!
    Andrienne Boado

  • I thank my God for your review. I am a Christian, but sometimes it is so difficult for me to “feel” the Anchor. I am a Travel Nurse and checked this out at a local library thinking maybe some word or phrase she has to say will sink in and help me understand why, when so many others have this “peace that passeth understanding” I simply do not possess it. Had it more at 10 years of age than now at 55. I did keep thinking I have read much of this in the bible. Thank you for wonderful review.

  • This book was utter rubbish, plain and simple. The notion you can get anything you want without working for it is ridiculous. I wonder how well The Secret worked out for her when she got sued?

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