“The Secret” – a review by Carolyn Baker


Richard Moore

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³The Secret²
Creating a Culture of Cheerfulness as Rome Burns
by Carolyn Baker
March 29, 2007

A friend recently asked me what I knew about The Secret, and I had to confess, 
absolutely nothing. A couple of days later, another friend asked the same 
question, so I decided I¹d better investigate this supposedly revolutionary new 
book and DVD that have taken the country by storm. As I did so, I discovered 
that nothing about The Secret is revolutionary or new, but that it's rather a 
glitzy, twenty-first century redux of what has come to be called in metaphysical
circles ³New Thought.²

While aspects of New Thought have their roots in ancient teachings, it is for 
the most part, uniquely American -- its roots in this country stemming from the 
transcendentalist movement of the late-nineteenth century. Among those giving 
birth to New Thought in America were Mary Baker Eddy, founding mother of 
Christian Science, Emma Curtis Hopkins, Ernest Holmes, and Charles Fillmore. 
What was ³new² about New Thought at the time of its inception was its departure 
from Calvinistic, shame-based Christianity which taught about the inherent 
sinfulness of man, proclaiming instead man¹s innate goodness and perfectibility 
through the use of the Divine Mind which the transcendentalists believed resided
at his core.

The New Thought movement emphasizes the supremacy of the mind over the body and 
material existence. While most adherents of New Thought do not deny the reality 
of corporeal existence as did Mary Baker Eddy, who insisted that ³there is no 
life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter,² they overwhelmingly revere 
the spiritual over the material and believe that physical, corporeal reality is 
a manifestation of mind. In other words, that our thoughts and attitudes create 
our external reality.

Ancient and indigenous teachings also incorporate the latter but acknowledge 
that alongside the light, the good, the true, and the beautiful exists the dark 
side of existence, which is as authentically real as the light and not merely 
created by the mind. Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, and most native religious 
teachings worldwide not only acknowledge the dark side, but insist that it is an
inherent part of human existence that must be faced and worked with in order to 
fully experience the blessings of the light.

In a nation so thoroughly marinated historically in exceptionalism and 
superiority from the moment Europeans set foot on North American soil, for 
example, the Puritan attributions to the New World such as ³a new Jerusalem,² ³a
city set on a hill² and ³a light unto the world,² we would expect to ultimately 
witness the proliferation of belief systems that exempt Americans from the same 
kind of suffering endured by fellow humans in other parts of the world.

It¹s All About Me

In Sibling Society (1996) Robert Bly astutely describes American culture as one 
of children who have never matured into adulthood and where ³adults cling to 
self-absorbed adolescent values, television talk shows have more clout than 
elders, children are spiritually abandoned to fend for themselves, and in the 
place of community we have built shopping malls.²

I can think of no more apt description of The Secret than this, for it is first 
and foremost all about me and what I want.

Only children and adolescents believe that they can, as The Secret insists, have
anything they want. Rhonda Byrne of Prime Time Productions, one of the principal
filmmakers and author of the book The Secret, says she was inspired by reading 
The Science Of Getting Rich, a 1910 book by Wallace D. Wattles, a New Thought 
transcendentalist, which proclaims that one¹s wealth or lack thereof is a 
product of one¹s thought and attitudes. Positive thinking attracts good things; 
negative thinking attracts a lack of such.

When I hear these concepts, I can only return to: How uniquely American! Can you
imagine telling twelve-year-old girls in Chinese sweatshops -- the ones who work
sixteen hours a day for pennies, live in squalor, may get raped at any moment, 
and sometimes are found dead at the ripe old age of twenty at their sewing 
machines from working themselves to death -- can you imagine telling them that 
their situation is the product of their thoughts? Examples of such ghastly human
suffering are countless in a world where millions of human beings live on less 
than two dollars a day.

Although the documentary is highly endorsed and supported by Oprah, for whom I 
personally hold great respect, let¹s not forget who Oprah is: none other than 
one of the wealthiest people on the planet. Clearly, she was not born with a 
silver spoon in her mouth, and she arrived where she is today through hard work,
but no one disputes that she had an abundance of good fortune that poor black 
women rarely experience.

But how would Rhonda know about the teeming masses of earthlings living on two 
dollars a day? It appears that she isn¹t looking. Perhaps she¹s too busy 
attracting the next mansion, world cruise, fifty karat diamond, or documentary 
project. For Rhonda, like so many Americans and citizens of the developed world,
and yes, like a typical two-year-old, seems to have no sense of limits. It¹s no 
³secret² (pun intended) that millions if not billions of human beings on earth 
hate America -- for innumerable reasons, but for one in particular: We seem to 
have no sense of enough-ness. Enough is never enough, and since Christopher 
Columbus stepped off his ship onto Caribbean shores, European settlers and their
descendents have almost never had a sense of limitation -- from sea to shining 
sea and the philosophy of Manifest Destiny that justified genociding millions of
Native Americans, which this nation¹s politicians and financiers took to the 
rest of the world. Nor do they reveal any signs of tempering their voracious 
appetite for the world¹s resources beyond our shores. In fact, it has never been
as out-of-control as in the present moment.

Acknowledging The Pain

Individuals in America¹s sibling society are not bad human beings, nor are they 
inherently greedy, but they have been acculturated to grow up to be good 
consumers, which has now become synonymous with good citizenship. Sadly, The 
Secret only offers more of the same: buy this DVD, this book, so you can become 
wealthy enough to buy whatever you want in the future. Ignore what consumption 
is doing to yourself and the planet, just consume more!

During the Great Depression there were Ponzi schemes and dance marathons. In 
every era of economic hardship, some quick fix or magic bullet appears and 
proliferates. The Secret is classic pie in the sky -- so very 1980s a la Louise 
Hay and Terry Cole Whittaker, wrapped in twenty-first century panache and 
special effects, guaranteed to lighten the heart of any middle or working class 
individual steamrollered by sub-prime meltdown, maxed out credit cards, 
overwhelming medical bills and child care expenses, ever-increasing gas prices, 
perhaps still paying off student loans, unable to save a dime, and finding any 
talk of pensions or retirement savings nothing less than laughable.

In my recent article, ³In Debt We Trust,² I referred to Danny Schecter¹s DVD of 
the same title which opens with a congregation in an African American church who
have created a program to rid themselves of all debt. They ³created their own 
reality² not only by thinking positively, but by looking squarely in the face 
the evil of debt in their world and constructing a program of ³Coming Clean² in 
order to liberate themselves from it. Unfortunately, this is precisely what ³The
Secret² is unwilling to do, choosing instead to ignore human suffering and 
injustice locally and globally, with total disinterest in the economic warfare 
being perpetrated on individuals and communities worldwide.

Don¹t Bother Me With Causes, I Want The Solution

Another characteristic of a sibling society is its unwillingness to explore 
causation. After all, a sick child doesn¹t want to hear how they caught a cold 
because they didn¹t put on their jacket; they just want mommy or daddy or the 
doctor to take the cold away. The Secret is perfect for siblings because they 
need not trouble themselves with anyone else¹s suffering or how their own 
suffering was caused by forces outside their own minds. They don¹t want to hear 
about how the United States government has been waging economic warfare on them 
for decades, how the military industrial complex is bankrupting their nation and
will abjectly impoverish their children and grandchildren, how rather than 
spending more and acquiring more debt, they need to trim down, conserve and -- 
oh that horrible adult word that siblings hate so much -- sacrifice. They want a
solution, and they want it now. Never mind the trillion-dollar deficit and the 
trillions missing from the coffers of the United States government that was 
stolen from them.

Understandably, no one prefers to explore the causes of middle and working class
debt and economic drain. It¹s an enormous can of ugly, smelly, and sometimes 
lethal worms that, once examined, confirm that no matter how bad we think things
are now, they are really much worse than we had imagined. The awareness that one
is living in a decaying, rotting, collapsing empire, and that all the strategies
for making it better that one has been taught such as voting, working harder, 
and marching in the streets aren¹t working because they have essentially become 
meaningless, is enough to compel almost anyone to run right out and buy The 
Secret and meticulously follow its instructions.

This week Truth To Power published historian Chalmers Johnson¹s article ³Is The 
Empire About To Collapse?,² in which he speaks of his latest book Nemesis, the 
name of the Greek goddess of hubris and retribution. Johnson believes as I do 
that 231 years of American hubris is coming to a tragic end. The tragedy, in my 
opinion, is not that the empire is collapsing, but that so many innocent, 
well-intentioned, hard working people will pay such a ghastly price for it, and 
not because they weren¹t thinking pleasant thoughts. I¹m reminded of the scene 
from Titanic in which a group of women, including Molly Brown, sat in a lifeboat
and watched the ship split apart and crumble into the sea. One woman remarked 
that absolution was needed for what had happened, to which Molly replied, ³There
is no absolution for this.²

Another movie scene comes to mind, an all-time favorite of mine from the 
seventies, They Shoot Horses, Don¹t They? The scene is a dance marathon during 
the Great Depression where dozens of working class men and women have come to 
dance for several days in order to earn a pittance for their grueling efforts. 
As the couples dance without sleep or, rather, just keep moving endlessly around
the clock on the dance floor, wealthy spectators sit comfortably in the 
grandstands taking bets on who will endure, occasionally tossing coins in the 
direction of the dancers. A bitter, cynical young woman (Gloria) played by Jane 
Fonda, partners with a guileless young man (Robert) played by Michael Sarrazin 
whereupon dialog between them ensues, becoming increasingly philosophical and 
continuing throughout the marathon. Gloria, has lost all hope, perhaps because 
she has refused to deny the darkness of a society engulfed in economic 
catastrophe. She also sees through and resents the master of ceremonies of the 
marathon who manipulates the dancers to increase their physical and emotional 
exhaustion in order to entertain the wealthy spectators. What is worse, at the 
end of the marathon, numerous expenses are deducted from the final prize, 
leaving the winners with nothing -- a set-up from start to finish. Gloria¹s 
anger has clearly energized her and allowed her to survive a difficult life. 
Unfortunately, she allows it to destroy her, and after she and Robert depart, 
she attempts to shoot herself but cannot do it. She then asks him to shoot her, 
and he does.

Although Gloria was filled with toxic bitterness, she saw through a system that 
was stacked against the working class by a ruling elite aloof from but 
entertained by the struggles of the lower classes. In that sense she never lost 
her humanity or her dignity. Tragically, she was a loner who had no support or 
validation for the truth she saw and therefore became overwhelmed by the 
darkness she refused to deny.

They Shoot Horses Don¹t They? depicts not only the economic suffering of the 
Great Depression but also that of the economic tsunami that appears to be 
engulfing the United States. Those who have refused to face the truth of that 
deluge because they prefer to remain distracted by American Idol and the death 
of Anna Nicole Smith, are likely to face the same consequences as the gullible 
dance marathon participants who had no clue regarding the causes of the Great 
Depression and the set-up in which they were ensnared. Others, wallowing in 
narcissism and pretty thoughts, may opt to join the ruling elite in the 
grandstands, ignoring the human anguish of the ones beneath them dancing on the 
treadmill of the American debt industry. The third option is that the Glorias 
among us refuse to be destroyed by our own and others¹ suffering and resist. The
first step of resistance is thoroughly understanding what we are resisting, then
gathering the necessary support to resist, and finally, building economic, 
emotional, and spiritual lifeboats to navigate the approaching storm.

Let me clarify: I have no problem with people becoming and remaining prosperous.
I do not champion the ³poor and proud² mentality. What I find offensive and 
inexcusable is the unwillingness of purveyors and devotees of The Secret to look
at the other half of reality -- the dark side -- theirs and that of their 
government, move beyond their terminal narcissism, and resist the economic 
holocaust being perpetrated on them and the rest of the world by a fascist 
empire. Not to do so is to remain a sibling for one¹s entire life, and if 
America¹s middle and working classes need to do any one thing in this moment, it
is to grow up and face adult reality. I know of no more shining example of this 
than Catherine Austin Fitts who is dedicating her time and energy to teaching 
people how to become prosperous, not by distracting themselves from injustice 
and economic warfare, but by teaching them to become intimately acquainted with 
it in order to wisely create options of prosperity for themselves and their 
loved ones.

Similarly, Michael Hudson, historian, professor, former Wall St. financial 
analyst, and author of Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American 
Empire offers critical insights into the empire¹s downward spiral toward 
economic meltdown and may be heard on KPFA¹s ³Guns And Butter² program speaking 
on the topic of ³America: Host Or Parasite?².

As for documentaries that address reality, a wiser and more mature approach, 
from my perspective, is that of Tim Bennett¹s and Sally Erickson¹s DVD What A 
Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire about which I wrote an extensive article 
earlier this month. Rather than offer a sibling soporific, this documentary 
addresses head-on the nightmare that humans have created on so many levels, 
especially on the level of making the planet uninhabitable, but rather than 
inviting the viewer to escape into isolated, self-absorbed consumerism on 
steroids, it presents the opportunity to join with others of like mind and heart
to reverse the lethal trajectory on which the human race is spinning out of 
control. Just as the last thing we need at this moment in history in the face of
fossil fuel depletion is a ³solution² that involves consuming more oil, the last
thing the human race needs in the face of the perfect economic storm is an 
indulgent ³I can have anything I want² perspective that ignores the empire¹s 
evils and perpetuates the very mega-consumerism that is annihilating the planet.

Carolyn Baker, Ph.D. is author of a forthcoming book, Coming Out from Christian 
Fundamentalism: Affirming Life, Love and The Sacred. Her recent book, U.S. 
HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook! Didn¹t Tell You, is 
available at her website: www.carolynbaker.org.

Other Articles by Carolyn Baker [links in original - rkm]
* In Debt We Trust as the Economy Goes Bust: A Return to Serfdom?
* Dysfunctional Government, Dysfunctional Family
* Rejecting Tapeworm Economics and its War on Families
* Christian Fascism: The Jesus Gestapo of St. Orwell
* Everything Your Denial Keeps You From Seeing Children Of Men
* Why I'm Smiling: New Kids on the Block Confront the Imperial Bully
* When History Becomes Chopped Liver
* Ted Haggard and Fundamentalist Christian Soul-Murder
* Different Disaster, Different Response
* The Religious Right: Pushing A Deadly Addiction
* The Religious Right: An Anti-American Terrorist Movement

* Ward Churchill And The Imminent Destruction of American Higher Education

* Dominionist Dementia: What's Jesus Got to Do With It?
* Hello: You Are Now Living in a Fascist Empire
* Stepford America

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