Mar 6, 2007

Telling “The Secret”: The truth and the lies behind the best-seller

by Hilary Dyer, Opinion Editor
“The Secret,” by Rhonda Byrne, is currently number one on the Wall-Street Journal best-sellers list. A conversation I had with someone who had read the book sparked my interest. When I went to a local bookstore to look over a copy, it was completely sold out. After finding out that “The Secret” was also in film format and was being presented at a church in Lynchburg, I decided to attend the viewing and see what principles were behind it. According to its Web site, the unveiling of “The Secret” is supposed to usher in a “new era for human kind.”

The film explains “The Secret” and proceeds to explain how to apply its philosophies to your individual life. The film consists primarily of commentary by experts on “The Secret” such as Jack Canfield, the author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and Rev. Michael Beckwith, a spiritual instructor on the practice of “New Thought-Ancient Wisdom.”

After viewing the film, I came to the conclusion that while there were elements of truth presented in “The Secret,” there was also a lot of unfounded humanistic ideology.

Jesus said that He is the truth (John 14:6). Therefore, wherever we find truth, it makes sense that we should be able to find its root in the Scriptures. In the film, viewers are instructed to practice the process of asking, believing, and receiving. If it sounds familiar, it should. In Matthew 7:7 (NIV), Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” In John 15:7, Jesus repeats the concept, with further instruction—“If you remain in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”

However, propagators of “The Secret” have twisted the truth. Instead of asking God, you put an order in with the universe. “Declare what you would like from the catalog of the universe,” said Canfield. According to the film, if you are continually declaring what you desire, that thought will reverberate through the universe. Based on the energy transmitted by the thought and by the law of attraction, eventually these things will be attracted to you. “The law of attraction is you generating the feeling of having it now and keeping that feeling in order to attract it,” said Canfield. In the film, a woman is shown looking longingly at a necklace in a store window. In the next scene, she is shown receiving the necklace. In another scene, a young boy has picked a bike out of a catalog and a few days later, the bike is sitting outside his door.

This whole principle of putting in an order with the universe reminded me of a similar ideology asserted by many evangelicals today—the “name it and claim it” movement along with other versions of the “prosperity gospel.” Although this movement uses Christian terminology, it also promotes the concepts of health and wealth. Such beliefs are completely unfounded in the Christian faith. Rather, the Scriptures are full of passages that admonish those undergoing hardship.

Byrne refers to the law of attraction as the most powerful law in the universe. To begin with, an author making a statement of such scientific magnitude so flippantly is both unprofessional and irresponsible. While Byrne and the others advocate the role of the law of attraction in relation to energy in the universe, they neglect to properly address the laws concerning energy — the first and second laws of thermodynamics.
The first, the law of conservation — states that energy cannot be created or destroyed — only transformed from one form to another. The only mention of this law is made briefly when referring to spirituality. In the film it’s said that the way most physicists define energy and the way theologians define God is one and the same.

The second — the law of entropy — states that every time energy changes into a new form, some kind of waste and loss of energy occurs and thus the universe is always moving towards disorder and running out of energy (the biblical foundation for this law is found in Psalm 102:25, 26). This law which declares that there is constant loss of energy and a continual movement toward disorder in the universe, seems to contradict the statement that “you can create your own universe,” which was repeated throughout the film. The statement is also a direct contradiction of Jeremiah 10:23 — “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps (NIV).”

According to the film, if God is defined as energy and humans are created in the image of God, humans are also constructed of a “field of energy.” And as with God, the energy of humans can be used to create.

“The Secret” also twists the Christian belief that man was created in the image of God. According to the film, if God is defined as energy and humans are created in the image of God, humans are also constructed of a “field of energy.” And as with God, the energy of humans can be used to create.  “You are God manifested in human form…you were created in the image of the thing that created — so you too have the power to create things that are good — you have the power to do that,” said Beckwith.

There are other major problems with the philosophy found in “The Secret.” For instance — pain. Consider all the tragedies and injustices that have been done to the innocent and the good throughout history. In the film, Canfield’s response is “so what?” He states that 85 percent of the population is a victim in one sense or another. “You are the designer of your destiny, the outcome is whatever you choose,” said Canfield. The statement also conveys the complete disregard for the presence of evil in the world by “The Secret.” What about the victims of the Holocaust or the young girls in Uganda still being kept as sex-slaves? If the law of attraction as dictated in “The Secret” were applied, then the Jews attracted the genocide to themselves, and those enslaved also deserve that destiny.

“The Secret” advocates that humans who are caught in less than desirable circumstances ought to adopt an attitude of gratitude in order to contest the bad energy they are attracting and replace it with good. This is another principle that is rooted in Christian belief. I Cor. 5:16-18 (NIV) says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for your life.” The following verses (I Cor. 5:21-22) command believers to “test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

As some members of our society embrace and promote the philosophies of “The Secret,” I advise you to also take that passage to heart. “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” If all truth is God’s truth, then the facets of truth found in “The Secret” — when returned to their Scriptural root — can and should be embraced. But the evil depicted in “The Secret” — humans creating their own universe and dictating their destiny, and God as a passive mass of energy — must be denied and put aside.

Contact Hilary Dyer at hadyer@liberty.edu.

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