I finally saw “the Secret”. I can’t even pretend to be diplomatic here: it appalled and offended me. Here’s why:
1. The underlying theme is utterly narcissistic. Not once, not even once, was there mention of service to others. Of any – even minimal – accountability to others with whom we share this planet (much less this universe). It was entirely focussed on “you can have this.” “you can have that”. Your life should be incredibly wonderful, and if it’s not, you only need start focusing on what you want to get the life “you deserve”. “The Secret”, it claims, “Gives you Everything you want”. Tell that to Benazir Bhutto. Tell that to Aung San Suu Kyi.
2. It perpetuates consumerism. Not once, not even once (sensing a theme here?), did it say, “Stop this Madness! We already freaking HAVE enough! Life isn’t about having more money, more cars, a bigger house, people! ”
In a world where we are increasingly confronted with the impact our consumption is having on our environment, The Secret seems hopelessly 20-years-ago. I guess the authors haven’t heard The Story of Stuff.
3. It insults the universe. Throughout the movie, we are repeatedly enjoined to consider the universe as a catalogue which we flip through, and choose what we want. Our ultimate smorgasborg if you like. Consider the universe our personal catalogue? Consider the universe our personal catalogue? Are you freaking kidding me? How ’bout: be completely blown away, humbled, awestruck by how insignificant we are in the universe? To be specific: we share this universe with 300 species of squid which dwell on the ocean floor, which grow to, oh, around 43 feet, and which only need one tentacle to make very short order of any one of us. Or then there’s the magnificent tiger which can, and does, maul a man to death in minutes. And that’s looking inside earth. Look outside, and the appropriate response to planets and galaxies, immense and inhospitable – even NASA calls them spooky – the appropriate response surely is for us to shut up in awe, not consider it ‘our catalogue’. The Secret puts us pre-Galileo, in which we thought we were the centre of the universe. Give me a break.
4. It insults our critical thinking skills. Drawing on some mysterious phenomena, it asks us to make logical leaps that I simply don’t buy.
A. Yes, there is something called the placebo effect. It is so inconsistent, that scientists still use fake pills as a control, to validate the results of a drug pill. Now whatever we think of medical scientists, they’re not that stupid to keep using anything that will usually, much less always, result in self-suggested healing. Yet The Secret asks me to make the leap from the placebo effect to something like “therefore the mind can heal the body”. I will acknowledge that the mind seems to sometimes play a significant role in healing (and The Secret is making no claim that any self-respecting TV Healing Evangelist doesn’t make) but don’t ask me to make any firm conclusions until we have a lot more evidence.
B. Yes, we are made up of Energy. But don’t ask me to make the leap from being made up of energy to “therefore all I need to do is create mental energy waves, and I can attract whatever physical thing I want, to me”.
C. It also asks me to accept statements by authority figures… with credentials from where? Where do you go to get a PhD in Metaphysics? And Jack Canfield wrote a delightful, wildly successful book (Chicken Soup) – that makes him an authority on “the laws of the universe”? Oh – and let’s not forget that this ‘Secret’ has been suppressed – by who? when? where? how? That is never explained. But it was ‘suppressed’, so it must be a powerful truth, right?
5. It insults those it claims to emulate. The Secret claims to be following in the footsteps of the likes of Beethoven, Emerson, Lincoln. These are remarkable people who deserve better than to be associated with dribble like “The Secret”. And their lives were anything but full of “everything they wanted”. Beethoven had a brutal childhood, was turned down by Mozart as a pupil, as an adult was plagued by debt, could not get regular financial support even though his genius was recognized, likely suffered from bi-polar, and ended up deaf. Emerson lost his son to tuberculosis, risked his reputation (and paid a price) for speaking out as an abolitionist and challenging religious notions of the day, and likely struggled his whole life with repressed homosexuality. And Lincoln? Don’t get me started! These men did not have anything like what The Secret promises, and I’d bet my house on the fact that they would scoff at The Secret. They were passionate, they struggled profoundly with life, and in their own ways left us legacies borne of courage and strength. What an insult to associate them with such a self-centered message as ‘The Secret will give you anything you want”.
I’m a money coach. I help people take hold of their cash flow and start aligning it more intentionally with their values. I very much desire that my clients get ahead. But make no mistake: this money coach is not about dictating to the universe exactly what kind of life I demand of it. Rather, I’m doing what I do because moving from being broke or having an unhealthy relationship to being in the black, solidly, opens a lot more possibility for wise, compassionate use of money.
The “secret” is no secret at all. It simply plays on our culture’s desire to have more, do more, be more, get more. Been there. Done that.