May 4, 2007


Dangers of The Secret

(Listen to this editorial being read)

Do you want to know a secret? Enough to pay almost $60 for it? Plenty of people do.

Simon & Schuster has hit a gold mine with The Secret.

Thanks to Oprah Winfrey, Larry King and others, the book ($23.95) by that name has been at the top of the bestsellers list for three months.

And, of course, if you have the book you really should buy the DVD ($34.95). The publishing company has reprinted 1 million copies of the book—a record.

What is the secret? It’s what the book’s author, Rhonda Byrne, calls “the Law of Attraction.” It’s a law that only a few historical figures knew—people like Plato, Galileo, Einstein, Lincoln and Churchill, for example. You know, the really great people. Naturally, they wanted to keep the law a secret from the hoi polloi.

It’s a secret, by the way, that, according to Byrne, the Catholic Church did its best to keep. The Church certainly doesn’t want the masses to learn it.

This “Law of Attraction” says simply, “Like attracts like.” If you think positive thoughts, positive things will happen. If you think negative thoughts, negative things will happen. It’s all up to you. If you want something badly enough, and really focus your attention on it, you’ll get it—especially if it’s something like a new car or a larger home.

Byrne says that she uncovered the secret when she read The Secrets of Getting Rich, written by Wallace D. Wattles and published in 1910—almost 100 years ago. Apparently, she had positive thoughts about publishing a bestseller. The “secret” for doing so is actually well-known: determine what lots of people want to read and give it to them. Obviously, there are plenty of people who want to know the secret of getting wealthy.

Haven’t we heard all this before? Of course we have. Norman Vincent Peale’s book on The Power of Positive Thinking was a bestseller for decades. And it’s hard not to hear the preachers who assure us that we’ll get wealthy if only we listen to them—and, of course, send money to help their ministry.

We’re certainly not opposed to positive thinking. In fact, we wholeheartedly encourage it. But we would venture to suggest that there is more to life than thinking positive thoughts. Frankly, we find the whole matter superstitious and part of the New Age nonsense.

It came from the New Age movement, according to an article in the March 25 issue of Our Sunday Visitor, which reported on the success of The Secret.

It said that Byrne stumbled across Esther Hicks, a New Age guru who had already taught the “Law of Attraction” for 20 years. They teamed up, and Hicks narrated the original DVD released in 2006. Hicks insisted, though, that it wasn’t really her doing the narrating, that she was merely channeling a collection of otherworldly spirits who call themselves “Abraham.”

Hicks and Byrne subsequently had a falling out, and the present DVD was produced without her narration—or, presumably, “Abraham’s.”

Sometimes lost in the idea of thoughts controlling events is the idea that negative thoughts cause negative events. This means that the individual is to blame for all the suffering that comes into his or her life. If you’re sick or poor or have a bad accident, it’s because you weren’t thinking positively. This can be dangerous stuff.

Byrne is right about one thing: The Catholic Church has opposed this type of thinking ever since it opposed Gnosticism, an early heresy that taught that Jesus and only a few of his followers, including Gnostics, shared a secret knowledge.

We agree with the editors of Our Sunday Visitor who editorialized about The Secret. They wrote: “In contrast to the self-centeredness of this year’s ‘prosperity gospel,’ the real Gospel asks us to lose our lives so that we can save them. It warns against putting one’s faith in material possessions, and it asks us first and foremost to recognize that God is creator and master of our universe. In short, the real Gospel asks us to be humble before God, while this ersatz gospel would make us gods.”

— John F. Fink

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