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Unraveling the Secret

As I write this, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, is the No. 1 Advice book on the New York Times bestseller list. I first heard about The Secret as a documentary/educational DVD discussed on an Oprah Winfrey television program in early February 2007. The video was actually released in March 2006 by PrimeTime Productions of Australia, claiming to make history as the first video released worldwide at the same time with pay-for-view capabilities to every computer user. If you are a fan of the mind-bending quantum physics DVD called, What the Bleep do we Know?  you will probably enjoy exploring The Secret. This transforms that awesome energy of the Universe into a cosmic genie to serve your personal desires.

Even if at this point you have not encountered someone who wants to discuss this book/DVD, I believe you need to be aware of its message and influence. The topic has already surfaced in my Sabbath School class, and in a support group that I facilitate. Many others have seemed very curious when I have mentioned my research into The Secret.

The First Oprah Winfrey Program | More details about The Secret

Oprah Winfrey announced that her panel of guests who are included as some of the teachers appearing in the DVD, believe that: “Once you discover The Secret, you can immediately start creating the life you want…They say you can have it all and you hold the power to make it happen.” Oprah proclaimed that The Secret is how she has lived and what she has tried to teach through her TV program.

Rhonda Byrne, the author and producer of The Secret, revealed that it is about the Law of Attraction, “the most powerful law in the universe and it’s the law by which we are creating our lives.” Like attracts like. Whatever energy one projects into the universe results in a process called “manifestation” where one eventually receives a similar energy in return. Byrne explained that she discovered The Secret at the end of 2004 after her daughter gave her a copy of The Science of Getting Rich, by Wallace Wattles (1910). She then read hundreds of books and audios and in several weeks on the Internet, she had traced The Secret back through history. Consequently, her life has been changed.

The panel discussed quantum physics, spiritual growth, forgiveness and gratitude, plus stories of personal application of The Secret for change and success. Oprah said, “We create our own reality by the choices we make and our choices are fueled by our thoughts. We attract what we think into our lives.”

James Arthur Ray, philosopher, commented, “It’s an exciting time: spiritual traditions and science are now in total agreement.”

Dr. Michael Beckwith, visionary, reminded everyone, “Everything is energy—energy is never destroyed—never created. There’s enough for everyone. This awareness eliminates competition, stealing, envy, greed because there’s enough good on this planet for everyone.”

The Secret DVD

The video begins with Rhonda’s dialog about her personal existential search. Then a rapid series of historical suspense scenes represents the conspiracies, stealth and deception that kept The Secret in the hands a powerful few over the centuries. Rhonda asserts that the greatest people in history knew The Secret and all she wanted to do is share it with the world. Therefore, she began searching for living people who know The Secret, and one by one, they “began to emerge.” She claims that The Secret gives you everything you want; you can have, do or be anything you want; you can have whatever you choose, no matter how big it is. Miracles take place from knowing how to apply The Secret. This is the Secret of Life!

Most of the film is a carefully woven collection of interviews by The Secret teachers who represent living proof for the success and application of “The Law of Attraction” (you will eventually receive whatever energy you project into the universe). The panel includes entrepreneurs, teachers, a Feng Shui consultant, financial strategist, investment trainer, authors/lecturers, metaphysicists, quantum physicists, a physician, a visionary, psychologists, a therapist, and several philosophers.

Also included are real life stories of people who by applying The Secret, acquired massive wealth, cured themselves of cancer or had other situations of healing, and overcame many difficult obstacles. Sprinkled throughout are supportive quotes from famous historic people. Each application segment opens with images of someone typing that word—a particular area of discovery such as: life, health, relationships, wealth, the world, you.

The teachers spend a lot of discussion on the LOA, how a thought has a frequency, vibration or magnetic signal that draws a parallel back to you—it’s always working whether you believe it or understand it. James Ray says, “The universe is the genie—sometimes called your Guardian Angel, your Higher Self—or any label. Every tradition has told us there is something bigger than us. The genie always says, ‘Your wish is my command.’”

A New Era: Gratitude, Visualization, and Creating

Gratitude and visualization are two important tools. Denis Waitley, psychologist, suggests, “When you visualize, you materialize…If you’ve been there in the mind, you’ll go there in the body.” The whole life changing process briefly is: Describe what you want. Believe that you deserve it and it’s possible. Believe that you have it. Each day close your eyes, visualize your desire, and feel the feeling of already having it. Then focus with gratitude on what you already have and really enjoy it. Finally, go into your day and release it, trusting that the Universe will find a way to manifest your desire.

The last three interview quotes in the DVD are especially indicative of the overriding message. Fred Alan Wolf, quantum physicist says, “We’re moving into a new era. The last era is not space; it’s going to be mind.”

Hicks adds: “You are a Magnificent Creator and you are here by your powerful and deliberate wanting to be here. Go forth giving thought to what you are wanting…Most of your time will be spent collecting data on what you want. Your real work is to decide what you want and focus upon it, and when you focus on it you’ll attract it and that’s the process of creating.

Beckwith addresses how thinking properly “…will take over your life—feed you, clothe you, guide you, protect you and direct you, sustain your existence if you let it. That is what I know for sure.”

The final image in the DVD rolls by with the words: FEEL GOOD.

The Second Oprah Winfrey Program

Eight days after the first program, Oprah produced a second program on The Secret as a reaction show after “millions watched the first show and thousands of people” responded and “wanted more.” During the second Oprah program, Dr. Michael Beckwith and James Arthur Ray returned to enlarge upon The Secret and answer audience questions. Beckwith acknowledged that “people are seeking to come out of a sense of victimhood…they want to take more dominion over their lives. There were stories of marriages helped, business success and people making better choices in their lives.

One audience member who identified herself as a Christian questioned The Secret’s seeming emphasis on “self” and wondered, “Is God anywhere in this?” Dr. Beckwith answered a resounding, “Absolutely.” He believes that in a limited way The Secret describes how God works and His presence. The Secret doesn’t contradict any religion but goes underneath the culture and explains “sacred laws that many teachers have brought us.” Oprah said that The Secret is one of the Universal Principles that explain that our choices have consequences so that is how it is integrated into her belief as a Christian.

Another woman mentioned a quote from Neale Walsch in the DVD, as saying that “you’ll stand in judgment to no one ever.” She questioned whether anyone would have to answer for their actions. Beckwith responded that our choices limit us—it’s not as though we go to hell. He again quoted Jesus, “the Kingdon of Heaven is at hand now.”

Heaven, Hell, and True Wealth

Later the Christian commented that she believed in Heaven and Hell. Ray and Beckwith both pressed that point that the Kingdom of Heaven is within and that there is no external heaven or hell—both are experienced internally. Beckwith said, “You are either participating in the realm of ever-expanding good or cutting yourself off.” He went on to press the point of being a participant and not an anticipant. “The presence and the power of love is everywhere in its fullness and we’re discovering ways to participate in that flow rather than put life on the Lay-away Plan—not some future good, no, it’s happening now.”

Ray and Beckwith spent more time explaining true wealth and how to move beyond a bad experience by practicing forgiveness. Ray specified how true wealth isn’t just about money. He identified five key areas of Harmonic Well-Being: financial, relational, intellectual, physical and spiritual. What you intend to create in each of those areas can result in true wealth. Beckwith also clarified that The Secret is not positive thinking but “affirmative realization through right action.” Oprah proclaimed that if you are struggling you are “moving in the wrong direction,” and Ray agreed that life is not meant to be a struggle.

Research and Unravel

My husband purchased a copy of the DVD online and we decided to view it with some friends. We experienced mixed reactions with lots of discussion. Early on, I wondered about the background of the producer and teachers of The Secret. By tracking The Science of Getting Rich, (the first book that Rhonda Byrne read setting her on the path of The Law of Attraction), one can find a free online copy of the old manuscript. Wattles details the process of “Manifestation,” (by thought the thing you want is brought to you; by action you receive it).

The preface by Wattles claims that a monistic theory of the Universe is of Hindu origin and has gradually been “gaining acceptance in the western world.” He says it is the foundation for all Oriental philosophies and “of those of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Schopenhauer, Hegel and Emerson. The reader who would dig to the philosophical foundations of this is advised to read Hegel and Emerson for himself. You might recall that Hegel was into mystical and religious philosophy with a pantheistic legacy. Emerson, a New England Unitarian minister/poet, ended up denying the divinity of Jesus and became one of the founders of American Transcendentalism. He was heavily influenced by, and wrote about the Sanskrit holy writings, with strong shades of non-dualism or Asian mysticism.

Abraham, Jerry and Esther Hicks

On Rhonda Byrne’s website, she lists a lot of “connections” including one to Abraham-Hicks. By Googling Abraham-Hicks, I found Esther and Jerry Hicks’ website. Esther Hicks is one of the major speakers in the version of The Secret DVD that we watched. However, she is not listed with the teachers on The Secret website. Since 1986 Esther Hicks has been conducting workshops while channeling a group of “non-physical entities,” collectively called Abraham.

The Hickses seem to have been deeply influenced by Jane Roberts, an American psychic who channeled an entity named Seth, and wrote a series of books as part of the New Age movement in the 1980s. The Teachings of Abraham boil down to 12 basic messages. These include: You are a Physical Extension of that which is Non-physical (you are in essence, bringing heaven to earth); You are here in this body because you chose to be here; The Universe adores you, for it knows your broadest intentions; You may appropriately depart your body without illness or pain; and You can not die; you are Everlasting Life (your natural state is that of Foreverness).

The Law of Attraction

Hicks’ latest book is The Law of Attraction, with a forward by Neale Donald Walsch, another author and Secret teacher. One particularly telling point of teaching from the LOA states: “Everything is valid and everything is truthful, because Law of Attraction lets everything be.”

Further interesting findings included the copy of a letter to supporters, supposedly from the Abraham-Hicks website explaining why the Hickses withdrew their intellectual property rights from all further work after the initial The Secret interview. One very positive link between the works of Hicks and The Secret is a statement in that on-line letter:  “We think that ‘The Secret’ clearly and beautifully presents Abraham’s Law of Attraction in a way that is easy to understand.”

Abraham-Hicks teaches that your emotions are your very own GPS (Global Positioning System). They describe it as “a rock-steady, unfailing and unerring ‘personal navigational device’ to get you where you want to go.” “All is well. You did not come here to fix a broken world. The world is not broken. You came here to live a wonderful life. And if you can learn to relax a little and let it all in, you will begin to see the universe present you with all that you have asked for.” – Abraham (from the Abraham-Hicks Publications website).

A network of worldwide LOA forums and communities have formed, where I assume people gather to share connections and ideas or to just be with other positive energy people. One may encounter those sites or blogs while traveling the Internet.

Dr. Rev. Michael Beckwith, a main speaker on the Oprah’s The Secret programs, is an admitted former drug dealer and founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, California. The Center is a trans-denominational spiritual community “whose doors are open to all seekers in search of authentic spirituality, personal transformation and selfless service to humankind.” Beckwith seems to be strongly influenced by his associations with the Dalai Lama and Hindu leaders.

My Response

I could see lots of applications for many of the concepts presented. I truly appreciated the emphasis on gratitude and forgiveness. As a student of human behavior, positive and cognitive psychology, and an appreciator of the mind/body connection, I was intrigued. I have often quoted Rom. 12:2, to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is…” My own response to The Secret was tempered by a strong dose of “red flags.” One really needs to view or read this material at least twice to acquire all the nuances of philosophy.

During the first time, you may be impressed with the images, the personal stories of success and the fantastic promises. Viewers may feel their heads are exploding and miss some of the powerful assertions that appear during the final segments. The total concept did not seem to represent a Christian worldview even though there were many ideas that could be supported by use of Scripture (Matt. 5:28; Gal. 6:7-10) or seemed to illustrate ideas I had read from Ellen White (by beholding we are changed!). Here are some of my Red Flags:

Red Warning Flags

1. What happened to all those people in the past that had The Secret but it did not lead them into harmony with the rest of the universe? Denis Waitley said, “Leaders in the past wanted to keep The Secret and not share the power. So they kept people ignorant of The Secret. I suppose they used The Secret in reverse and the results were negative energy for those around them. Why is the time safe now for the whole world to be trusted to use this power in a non-competitive way?

2. Since when can we trust the desires of our own hearts and our feelings? Scripture states that evil or sinful desires exist; that humans do not think like God and that the unregenerate heart is deceitful: Jer. 17:9, 2 Pet. 2:10; Prov. 9: 9-10; Prov. 19:21; Isa. 55:8, 9. I did not hear an acknowledgment of sociopaths or for those whose passion is to destroy others. And I still believe that love is a decision or I would have felt my way out of marriage, motherhood and senior parents long ago!

3. As I first viewed The Secret I was immediately troubled for the many women and children that I have worked with from incest and domestic violence situations. I acknowledge that people are often re-victimized by their own defeated attitudes. What, however, is the explanation for why seemingly innocent or child victims are abused and tortured? Is it the consequence of their parents or community energy? I do not see any acceptance for the notion of sin and how it affects our lives.

4. I was also conflicted by the story of the woman who evidently cured herself of breast cancer by surrounding herself with humor, positive energy and low stressors. Even while acknowledging the amazing power of mind and body, I am aware of the damage done to cancer patients and their families when they cannot seem to “conjure up” the needed attitudes to change the course of their illnesses.

5. Gratitude is a major piece of creating good vibrations to send into the universe, however, to what or whom are we being grateful? The Universe is often spoken of as It. Further, it is spoken of in analogy as a wish-granting genie or catalog of desires. That is not a personal Creator/Redeemer.

6. The strong emphasis on the unlimited power, the infinite nature of the mind, and immortal existence of the self. Where have we heard that before? Genesis 3: 4, 5 and 1 Tim. 6:16 come to mind. Hicks even claims that our bodies have distracted us from who we really are. She says, “…you are that which you call God.”

7. My purpose is whatever I say it is?—the mission I give myself, according to Walsch. Check out Ps. 37:4-6, Prov. 3: 5, 6; Luke 9:23, Matt. 28:19, 20.

8. Is there really a great cosmic secret? God has not kept secret from us anything necessary for our well-being and salvation. There are mysteries that have not all been revealed at once but in God’s time and only through His Holy Spirit. 1 Cor. 2:6-15, Eph. 1:9. The mystery of salvation was not fully understood until Jesus Christ offered to die in our place so that we might be back to relationship with God. This mystery revealed meant everyone. Jews and Gentiles has access to God. Col. 2:2.3, “… Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

9. Salvation by thinking, feeling and doing. If you haven’t checked out the field of Science of Mind, an amalgam of religion, philosophy and health, this seems to be what is being offered to many congregations in buildings that used to be known as churches.

The Secret warns that we should not become a part of any material, thought or group against something. And that indeed may be where my church and Christianity as a whole has turned people off or away. We have been fighting evil, shouting, “don’t” and still living out of fear of the retribution of God. Beckwith says, “Begin to speak about what you are for and move in that direction.”

Filled with Gratitude

So if anything, I come away more strongly for my Savior. I come away with a humbled heart and even more thankfulness for God’s sweet and precious Word. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘the righteous will live by faith.’” Romans 1:16, 17.

I am filled with gratitude for the God who created a plan whereby I can be with the author of love without fear, now and forever. He has first loved me, and drawn me (John 6:44). Through Jesus and through His promises I can participate in the divine nature thereby escaping evil desires (2 Pet. 1: 3, 4). I am being transformed into his likeness, with ever-increasing glory through the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).

That is no secret!

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About Karen Spruill

Karen Spruill

M.A., L.M.H.C., graduated from Andrews University with a B.A. in Mass Communications (1974) and an M.A. in Community Counseling (1995).

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