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Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor
Dissecting "The Secret"
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|This is the second in a series of articles that examines a craze called "The Secret." If you've thought that The Secret offers something Good or even Great, then what I will share in these articles will be Greater — not because I say so, but because the weight of evidence supports this conclusion.|
| 1 - When the Head is Out of Harmony with the Heart
2 - Getting The Universe to Book Your Appearance on Oprah
3 - Hedonism Hiding In Sheep's Clothing: Twisting True Principles
4 - Faith as Feeling-Filled Visualization of what You Want
5- As a Man Thinketh in his Heart, not his Head
A comment I hear frequently from those who have seen “The Secret” is this:.It’s based upon true principles. In this article, we will examine a key premise of The Secret to see if it can pass the test of being true.
500 hundred years ago, many people believed the earth was flat? And due to this erroneous assumption, some would not venture upon the seas for fear of falling off the earth's edge. Truth is there was no “edge” from which to fall, for the earth is round. I call such false premises:
Entering into an issue with unsound assumptions leads to second-class solutions. Mark Twain’s pithy wisdom applies:
It’s not what you don’t know that makes you a fool,
In light of this, let’s examine certain suggestions from "The Secret" DVD presentation. The following description comes from a Newsweek article. Pay attention to the implications embedded in the images:
In a dramatized interlude in the film, a young woman ogles a necklace in a window, and the next thing you know, it's around her neck. A child imagines himself with a new bike, and it appears outside his door. No need to do a lot of boring chores or get a newspaper route: the universe provides.
Contrariwise, a worrywart who obsessively checks the locks on his bicycle returns to find it stolen; the law of attraction has called down on him just the predicament he hoped to avoid.
A financial consultant reliably finds parking, just by visualizing an empty spot—which implies, by another law of the universe, . . . his thoughts can induce someone else to leave.
This last image described by Newsweek suggests that by using The Secret, other people are "caused" to accommodate your well-visualized wants—parking spaces will open up due to your sufficiently-focused thinking. The Secret generally suggests that jewelry and bicycles (not to mention money, flashy cars, and big houses) will also be drawn into your life. "You can have, do, or be anything" by applying The Law of Attraction says metaphysician, Joe Vitale—who adds "it's really that easy."
The Secret maintains that "the universe" will supply your wants as you affirmatively focus thoughts and feelings (and occasionally action may be required). But as people are vacating parking spaces, to accommodate your well-visualized arrival, the burning question arises: Are these people pulling out of parking spaces because the universe is "causing" them to do so? And if not by "cause," how does the universe do it?
Ah hah! The question of how? Well, Secreteers simply say that it's not your job to wonder why—that's the job of "the universe."
This implication of causal manipulation calls to mind a scene from the movie, "Clash of the Titans," where Greek gods are gathered upon Mount Olympus and are moving mortals about as pawns upon the chess board of life. Here's where a logical problem arises:
If "the universe" can cause other people to move about in ways to accommodate your well-visualized wants, THEN on the flip-side of this same coin, the universe can also cause you to be moved about too—beyond your will—like a pawn in the plan of someone else's vivid visualizations. Exactly how the universe can get other people to cooperate with your visualizations, needs to be reconciled with the empirically obvious reality of human free will.
Sorting Out Assumptions of The Secret with a Practical Example
Here’s an illustration of a free-will conundrum created by The Secret, and ironically, it happened on the Oprah show where The Secret was being promoted. James A. Ray, a teacher of The Secret, said this:
“Six years ago I put it out to the universe that I was going to be on this show (Oprah), and the action that I took was to work on me, to become a better me . . . and guess what? You guys (Harpo) called me. It works.”
By expanding the implications of Ray's testimonial to all earthlings who can conjure up feeling-filled affirmations, this means that “the universe” has one hell-a-va scheduling dilemma for booking appearances on Oprah.
Conceive the chaos created by hundreds of thousands of people putting out to the universe their emotion-drenched images of appearing on Oprah! How is "the universe" going to accommodate all these people who are harnessing the "impersonal" powers of the Law of Attraction.
Side Note: The teachers of The Secret use the word "impersonal" because, the Law of Attraction supposedly works like the Law of Gravity; so whether people have good or evil intentions "the law of attraction will give you what you want every time . . . it always works every time with every person."
Now, this is where one premise of The Secret falls apart, and a Flat Earth Assumption appears!
On the flip-side of James Ray’s action-supported-visualization to appear on Oprah . . . are Oprah’s own personal wants, visualizations, and affirmations. Was Oprah mesmerized beyond her free will as "the universe" supplied James Ray's visualization?
Add to this mind-manipulation-montage a myriad more Secreteers investing vivid visualizations to be booked on Oprah: Hence, does Oprah simply exist to be everyone else's booking-puppet, or can Oprah use The Secret too? Is it possible for Oprah to "attract" who she wants to appear on her show? Can Oprah "imagine" certain people away from her show? And if so . . . we've got a colossal conflict of interest—a colliding mess of mental energy.
Now remember, the Law of Attraction supposedly works like gravity; this means that hundreds of thousands of people who visualize appearances on Oprah (people who correctly apply the principles of The Law of Attraction) should expect the universe to provide. Again, what we have here is a massive logistical mess for scheduling guest appearances on Oprah!
Another teacher of The Secret, Michael Beckwith, states: "what you think about, you bring about." So, the logical problem is exposed—Do The Math: (260 Oprah shows per year) X (the remaining life expectancy of Oprah) = NOT ENOUGH SHOWS to accommodate all affirmatively-focused wanters. Given this inevitable logistical logjam, will "the universe" pull a bait n' switch and book each Secreteer on Montel, Maury, Tyra, Dr. Phil, or Ellen, . . . instead of Oprah?
So much for the Law of Gravity analogy, . . . the words Flat-Earth Assumption come to mind.
Reconciling The Law of Attraction with the Obvious Reality of Free Will
Truth is, “the universe” does NOT do bookings for talk shows, and in most cases, neither does “The Creator of the Universe” (Although Joseph and his technicolor dreamcoat landed a good gig on the Pharaoh Show, with Heavenly help). But The Secret's portrayal of "the universe" is clearly NOT the same as The Bible's portrayal of "The Creator of the Universe"—explained in the very next article.
The Creator of the Universe is the very author of our "free will." By Divine Design, human beings have been placed in an earthly context to choose for themselves, and it is empirically clear that the exercise of "free will" includes moral influence and impact—meaning, every human choice inevitably impacts ourselves and others towards betterment or detriment. In contrast, The Secret delivers what you want regardless of moral motivations of selfishness versus compassion.
For this earth life to be a genuine moral context just as the Creator intended, "free will" must be real. This is precisely why it is impossible for the universe to "cause" human behavior beyond people's ability to choose. And when the Creator of the Universe DOES intervene in the lives of His children, He does so primarily and initially by invitation—and it is up to each individual to "take up" that invitation.
This is necessarily so: It is abundantly clear that human beings are free to violate the Creator's command of "Thou shalt not kill." Evidence to the fact that human beings are free to resist doing good, and are free to choose evil, is overwhelming in light of such man-initiated tragedies as the holocaust, 9/11, and the slaughter in Rwanda.
The teachers of The Secret suggest that such evil events occur because people wallow in negative thinking—similar to the guy in the film who negatively obsessed about his bike being stolen, and thus, his bike was stolen. Based upon the assertions of the DVD, The Secret has created a logical conundrum that completely fails to account for human "free will."
Finally, if the Law of Attraction operates like the Law of Gravity then why isn't the very author of "The Secret" able to affirmatively enroll the universe in bringing about a positive review for "The Secret" on the CBS Evening News, wherein it was reported to a nationwide audience that The Secret is just "old hot air in a new balloon."
Due to real limitations created by human "free will," there are a myriad of wants that you and I will NEVER be able to cognitively create with feeling-filled visualization—the universe will NOT supply them, and neither will the Creator of the Universe. For example, of a 100,000 that tried (with most certainly a few hundred equipped with The Secret, and visualizing their brains out), still only only a handful are chosen to compete for the coveted crown called American Idol.
Once 24 contestant make it passed the preferential "choice" of the judges, each contestant must then face the "free will" of the voting public—unless you erroneously image that "the universe" can mesmerizes millions to vote in the Best Visualizer—as opposed to the Best Singer. Maybe that explains Sanjaya's mysterious, logic-defying rise to American Idol prominence: He knows The Secret!
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And now to a paradigm that complements and confirms your directly-lived experience of "free will." Here is an excerpt from my book, Changing Your Stripes:
Everything Happens for a Reason? Lurking beneath the seemingly innocuous phrase “everything happens for a reason,” is a crucial philosophical question: Fate vs. Free Will. Many people are schizophrenic on this issue; on the one hand, they eagerly agree that we humans are “free to choose,” while on the other hand, they paradoxically pursue an irresistible itch to have their cards read, palms perused, horoscopes scoped . . . or to have some soothsayer psych-them-out about a future that is falsely assumed to be “set in the stars.”
The idea that everything happens for a reason implies that life is largely driven by forces of Fate; therefore, things happen “for a Reason” (with a Capital “R”) and people are just passive passengers going along for a predestined ride. So when unexpected or unwanted earthly episodes occur, we wonder, “What is the Reason this happened?”
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The direct explanation for so many of life's unwanted twists and turns is NOT necessarily because of some higher Reason, but most often because un-reason-able people are capable of making un-reason-able choices . . . and those lower decisions, in turn, set in motion un-reason-able results.
The reality of living in a world of “free will” is that chaos and confusion can be chosen over calm and clarity. Even barring evil intentions, people are still free to make inept, awkward, and dopey decisions; accordingly, from clumsy or chaos comes consequences that can be un-reason-able. In this life, some things really do happen “for no good reason at all”—awkward, unintended, and unfortunate “accidents” actually do happen, because of human error.
The idea that “there are no accidents” is a contradiction to the realities of God-given free will and self-responsibility. When people incorrectly conclude that “everything happens for a reason,” it logically follows that all undoubtedly dopey decisions are really meant to be . . . and written in the stars. Reality Check: Many awful outcomes occur by accident or by evil intent, and do not happen for a good reason—in terms of how the misfortune was initiated, or set up.
Still, hoards of dopey-decision-makers assume that they are released from personal responsibility because a Higher Reason had to happen—it was set in the stars! The truth is that Higher Reasons unfold directly because people willingly fulfill inspired responsibility—as opposed to being passive puppets.
News Release: the Holocaust and 9/11 did not have to happen, and neither did a million other man-made tragedies.
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Your freedom to choose exists by Divine Design. Life's Highest Reasons are realized by learning to respond with patience and compassion in the face of unfair accidents and intentional abuses (Changing Your Stripes, pages 36-38).
I’m just starting to Dissect The Secret. This posting goes to one fundamental premise: That what the Secret is teaching clearly conflicts with the empirical experience of human free will. There is much more to come. Read the next article: Hedonism Hiding in Sheep's Clothing: Twisting a True Principle.
* * * * * * *
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