Rhonda Byrne's The Secret Isn't the Answer to Life
Copyright 2007 by Gretchen Passantino.
The Secret, a best-selling book, block-buster DVD, audio CD, web site, & related merchandising & seminar phenomenon, has blasted across cyberspace & the television airwaves in the last year, promising "the secret" to personal fulfillment, financial success, relationship abundance, & spiritual enlightenment. And it fits the old adage, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." In fact, once the fluff, Aussie accent, high production values, & esoteric vocabulary are removed there is literally nothing left. Even though it has been endorsed & extolled by many public luminaries, such as Oprah Winfrey, Larry King Live , & Ellen DeGeneres, The Secret is really nothing secret & nothing new: it is a splashy version of the prosperity, motivational, self-help mantra popularized by the 20th century sales guru W. Clement Stone (1902 - 2002), "conceive, believe, & achieve" - anything, anytime, anywhere, by anyone.
The Secret Defined
The Secret is defined by author & Australian television producer "Rhonda Byrne as "The Great Secret of Life is the law of attraction." She explains, "The law of attraction says like attracts like, so when you think a thought, you are also attracting like thoughts to you." She provides the analogy, "Thoughts are magnetic, and thoughts have a frequency. As you think thoughts, they are sent out into the Universe, and they magnetically attract all like things that are on the same frequency. Everything sent out returns to the source - you." Byrne concludes, "Your current thoughts are creating your future life. What you think about the most or focus on the most will appear as your life" (all quotes are from the book, page 25. All quotes in this article, unless otherwise noted, are from the book because it is the easiest to source, but the same teachings pervade all of the media forms of The Secret).
Some Promoters of The Secret
Among the motivational speakers who promote The Secret through Byrne's multi-media avalanche are Jack Canfield, author of the mega-industry Chicken Soup for the Soul series & Neale Donald Walsch, author of the best-selling Conversations with God.
The Secret Is Not Christian
Although The Secret is said to work for anyone, no matter what their religious beliefs or practices, the world view assumed by the promoters of The Secret is absolutely contradictory to the Christian world view.
The most important error of The Secret is that is promotes a self-centered faith rather than a God-centered faith. The Secret is all about how to achieve your own goals; how to increase your own wealth; how to attract all good things to yourself. The goal of life, according to The Secret, is self-indulgence, self-aggrandizement, & self-centeredness.
Contributor Joe Vitale says, "You are the masterpiece of your own life. You are the Michelangelo of your own life. The David you are sculpting is you" (23). Byrne makes this perfectly clear, proclaiming, "There is a truth deep down inside of you that has been waiting for you to discover it, and that Truth is this: you deserve all good things life has to offer" (41, italics original). She concludes, "All good things are your birthright! You are the creator of you, and the law of attraction is your magnificent tool to create whatever you want in your life. Welcome to the magic of life and the magnificence of You!" (41). Similar affirmations abound in the book, like "You are the heir to the kingdom. Prosperity is your birthright, and you hold the key to more abundance - in every area of your life - than you can possibly imagine. You deserve every good thing you want, but you have to summon it into your life" (109).
By contrast, the Bible reminds us that God in Jesus Christ is the creator, sustainer, & purpose for the universe. Paul reminds us that Christ has all of the preeminence (Col. 1:18). The writer to the Hebrews explains that the only glory we humans have for ourselves is because of our identity with Christ: "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom & through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering" (Heb. 2:10). In Romans Paul explains that the glory God has prepared for us is not self-indulgent & materialistic, but instead, "God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified" (Romans 8:28-30).
The Beliefs Behind The Secret
The worldview presented by The Secret is not only self-centered rather than God-centered, but it also assumes many other beliefs contrary to Christianity, including pantheism, the impersonal nature of God, & that the self is in some way divine. The Secret promotes the inherent goodness of humanity and human salvation through self-actions. Important Christian doctrines are irrelevant to The Secret. It discards as irrelevant the doctrines of atonement, forgiveness, mercy, & grace. All suffering & evil is said to be natural products of self-determination (like the eastern view of karma). All ethics are relative ethics. There is no innocent suffering in The Secret. All those who suffer have caused their own suffering by their own "confession" of negativity in their lives.
The Secret's God Is Impersonal & Cartoonish
The Secret is very confused about the nature of God. At times it seems as though God is identified with the "law of attraction" or even "the universe." At one place, God is said to be like a Genie who can answer your "catalog orders." At still other times, God is You, yourself - the self you create with your manipulation of the law of attraction. None of these views of God can be reconciled with Christianity.
The Secret identifies God as impersonal in statements like this: "The law of attraction is a law of nature. It is impersonal and it does not see good things or bad things" (Bob Doyle, 13). "The law of attraction is a law of nature. It is as impartial and impersonal as the law of gravity is. It is precise and it is exact" (27). "Trust the Universe. Trust and believe and have faith" (57).
God is Your Personal Genie, According to The Secret
A step up from the impersonal God of nature, the universe, or the law of attraction (pantheism), is the novel comparison in The Secret to God as a Genie, a story-book character who grants your wishes on a whim.
The picture is explained in the book this way: "The Genie has simply answered your every command. The Genie is the law of attraction, and it is always present, and always listening to everything you think, speak, and act. . . . You are the Master of the Universe, and the Genie is there to serve you. The Genie never questions your commands. You think it, and the Genie immediately begins to leverage the Universe, through people, circumstances, and events, to fulfill your wish" (46).
This Genie is also compared to a dream catalog. Promoter Joe Vitali says, "This is really fun. It is like having the Universe as your catalogue. You flip through it and say, ‘I'd like to have this experience and I'd like to have that product, and I'd like to have a person like that.' It is You placing your order with the Universe. It's really that easy" (48).
You Are God, According to The Secret
At other places, The Secret makes it clear that you are your own God, your own creator, the only significant being in all of existence. We find, for example, "You are the creator of you, and the law of attraction is your magnificent tool to create whatever you want in your life" (41). "You are the creator of your life, and so begin by intentionally creating your day" (76).
The Secret makes no pretense that humans are created by God to worship, serve, love, and obey Him. On the contrary, promoter Lisa Nichols promises, "You are eternal life. You are God manifested in human form, made to perfection" (164). Byrne goes so far as to say, "You are God in a physical body. You are Spirit in the flesh. You are Eternal Life expressing Itself as You. You are a cosmic being. You are all power. You are all wisdom. You are all intelligence. You are perfection. You are magnificence. You are the creator, and you are creating the creation of You on this planet" (164).
The Secret concludes with this bold claim: "You will Be the power, you will be the perfection, you will Be the intelligence, you will Be the love, you will Be the joy" (182). "The earth turns on its orbit for You. The oceans ebb and flow for you. The birds sing for You. The sun rises and it sets for You. The stars come out for You. Every beautiful thing you see, every wondrous 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 to the Kingdom. You are the perfection of Life. And now you know the Secret" (183).
The Secret Denies Sin & Moral Responsibility
According to the Secret, there is no such thing as right & wrong, good & evil - there are just the inexorable laws of the universe working themselves out in people who create their own reality through their own thoughts. By this reasoning, those who appear to be successful & happy are so because they have used the law of attraction to their own advantage. Those who appear to be suffering & sorrowful have become that way by their own self-destructive use of the law of attraction. Byrne points out, "The law of attraction doesn't care whether you perceive something to be good or bad, or whether you don't want it or want it. It's responding to your thoughts."
There is no room for pity according to The Secret, because, promoter Bob Doyle explains, "The only reason people do not have what they want is because they are thinking more about what they don't want than what they do want" (12). Byrne adds, "The law of attraction is a law of nature. It is impersonal and it does not see good things or bad things. It is receiving your thoughts and reflecting back to you those thoughts as your life experience. The law of attraction simply gives you whatever it is you are thinking about" (13).
If one adopts the philosophy of The Secret, one comes to the conclusion that anyone who is victimized must have wanted to be a victim. Byrne explains, "Often when people first hear this part of the Secret they recall events in history where masses of lives were lost, and they find it incomprehensible that so many people could have attracted themselves to the event. By the law of attraction, they had to be on the same frequency as the event. . . .those thoughts of fear, separation, and powerlessness, if persistent, can attract them to being in the wrong place at the wrong time" (28). There is no other explanation for evil & human suffering according to The Secret: "Nothing can come into your experience unless you summon it through persistent thoughts" (28).
It is no surprise, then, that The Secret's inexorable, impersonal, self-centered focus is remarkably like the ancient eastern law of karma, that the wheel of debt & credit turns eternally as souls progress cyclically through punishment & reward: "Just like the law of gravity, the law of attraction never slips up. . . . there are no exclusions to the law of attraction. If something came to you, you drew it, with prolonged thought. The law of attraction is precise" (36).
The Secret's God of Self-Indulgence
The core & circumference of the teachings of The Secret is egotism - yourself & your own desires trump everything else in existence. Even the practice of gratitude, highlighted in the materials, is not gratitude to our loving heavenly Father for his creativity, his preserving power, his forgiveness, mercy & grace. It is a mental exercise of cheerfulness that produces no works of charity for the good of others & no thankfulness to God for his blessings. Instead, as Byrne quotes early promoter Wallace Wattler, "The daily practice of gratitude is one of the conduits by which your wealth will come to you" (78). Byrne concurs, adding, "When you think you don't have enough to give, start giving. As you demonstrate faith in giving, the law of attraction will give you more to give" (108).
As an ultimate twist to the eternal plan of redemption centered in Christ, The Secret creates a counterfeit Jesus. The only comment in all of the materials about Jesus Christ is this daring fabrication: "Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Jesus were not only prosperity teachers, but also millionaires themselves, with more affluent lifestyles than many present-day millionaires could conceive of" (109). No wonder Byrne concludes, "You are the heir to the kingdom. Prosperity is your birthright, and you hold the key to more abundance - in every area of your life - than you can possibly imagine. You deserve every good thing you want, but you have to summon it into your life" (109).
By contrast, the Jesus who actually existed & whose ministry & teachings are faithfully recorded in the Bible was self-sacrificing, humble, and compassionate. He revealed that we, who are created in God's image & for His glory, can only be fulfilled by receiving Christ as Savior, experiencing regeneration by the power of the Holy Spirit, & yielding ourselves to God's kingdom power in our lives.
God did not create the world as our personal Genie or mail order catalog & he did not send His Son Jesus to make us wealthy, but because He loved us: "God so loved the world that he gave his one & only Son, the whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Jesus did not bring a plan to turn us all into millionaires, but to reconcile us to God: "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32). Jesus has not promised us material riches, but spiritual renewal & everlasting life: "Come to me, all you who are weary & burdened, & I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you & learn from me, for I am gentle & humble in heart, & you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy & my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).
The purpose of our lives, the only way we can be truly fulfilled, is not by "materializing" our selfish desires, but instead our purpose is to surrender everything we are, & everything we have, to God: "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit & they are life" (John 6:63). When we surrender to the Lord, we will find the true meaning of our existence. It is no secret. When we possess the true purpose of life, we can join the apostle Paul in declaring, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, & I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any & every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:11-13). When we are secure in our love of God & His plan, then we can "not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer & petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God" (Philippians 4:6). Finally, when we reject the self-indulgence of The Secret for devotion to God, our focus will be completely different. After the same manner as Paul, we will meditate on "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable," & in doing so, we will experience, "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding" & which will "guard our hearts & minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7-9).