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To Call This Pseudo-scientific Is An Insult To Pseudo-science
The Secret - Rhonda Byrne
Member Name: MagdaDH
The Secret - Rhonda Byrne
Advantages: pretty book pleasant to handle
Disadvantages: mercenary, trite, repetitive nonsense contravening truth, reason and ethics
I won't keep you in suspense. The secret of "The Secret" is to think positive thoughts: think that you have what you want to have all the time, visualise it, be grateful for it in advance and feel positive feelings as the thinking itself won't cut it without them. Y'know, "you have two sets of feelings: good feelings and bad feelings. And you know the difference between the two because one makes you feel good and the other makes you feel bad."
There. No need to buy the book. Honestly, there is nothing else there: most of the 160+ pages are filled with continuous, ad nauseam, unbearable repetition of the ideas summarised above. They don't even provide the normal padding of countless inspirational case stories (there are a few, but not that many). It is just a plain, in-your-face, mercenary, repetitive regurgitation of the think good thoughts - feel good feelings - be grateful as if you already had what you want sequence.
The main idea of the "law of attraction" (or You Are What You Think) gets applied to money, relationships, health and The World, but nothing new gets said. The last chapter develops the New Age ideas of spirituality and in a way is the most acceptable part of the book althought it is characterised by breath-taking solipsism ("You are the creator, and you are creating the creation of You on this planet", "You are god").
The abdication of reason is so absolute that it takes a while to actually believe it can be really happening. I had read the whole thing, hoping that eventually it would be revealed that what we are talking about is more of a metaphor: that what "The Secret" advises is really positive thinking, affirmations, visualisation of goals; ideas made mainstream by treatment techniques like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: that one's attitude and expectations often result in self-fulfilling prophecies. That fear and lack of self-confidence can block fulfilment. That day-to-day, others sometimes treat us the way we think we deserve to be treated. That generally, we tend to be more happy and more successful if we have positive outlook and believe things are possible.
But it most empathically doesn't limit itself to the above. Instead, "The Secret" claims that the only thing between you and *anything* you want is your negative thoughts (or lack of positive ones). The rich are rich because they think of themselves as rich so they keep and attract more money. It obviously has nothing to do with inherited wealth nor with ability, talent, hard work or social connections.
Even mass death is the result of people believing that they can be in the wrong place at the wrong time (and then finding themselves thus). The book doesn't devote much to such grim subjects, though - there is perhaps a paragraph about that and it singularly fails to address instances of mass suffering caused not by being in a wrong place at the wrong time (as in a case of a natural disaster for example) but by active, deliberate pursuit of evil ends by other human beings as happened during the Holocaust, Rwandan genocide or Khmer Rouge murders to pick just three random, obvious examples.
On some levels, "The Secret" is quite funny, in the way somebody with enough cheek to stand in front of you and say the most unimaginable bullshit without blinking an eye can be funny: kind of post-infuriating funny. Amongst the most choice statements included is a claim that according to the Bible, Jesus "was a prosperity teacher" who lived "a more affluent lifestyle that many present day millionaires could conceive of "(I am NOT making this one up, it's on page 109). Or that Albert Einstein came from a particularly poor and humble background and the fact that he managed to achieve anything is entirely due to his knowledge of The Secret (in fact, his father was a salesman and later on a co-owner of an engineering company).
But these are, really, minor quibbles. What recurs throughout the book is the most appalling abuses of scientific terminology I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of Bad Science. I can understand it. Science is one of the great success stories of our age: people tend to believe science and scientists, and statements with a scientific tint to them are thought to be more credible. But the terminology and concepts presented in "The Secret" go beyond mere misuse and make very successful strides into the land of pure nonsense. Just random picks: it mentions somebody watching the DVD of The Secret many times "in order to absorb the message right into the cells of her body." It constantly refers to the law of attraction which is, apparently, the heart of the Secret and has been known to scientists and artists (there is a nice selection including Socrates, Pythagoras, Newton and Beethoven: anybody is strongly advised to look up the manner of demise of these famous people before judging them as being partial to a mystery of universal happiness). Of course, the law of attraction doesn't exist. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of external forces reacting in any ways to one's thoughts. Despite Byrne's reassurances, we cann't make the planets move according to our wishes by thinking about it and neither we can avoid aging.
Couching the idea in pseudo-scientific terms like "emitting this frequency into the Universe" doesn't make it any more viable. You cannot emit a frequency (frequency is always of something) and thoughts do not, generally, get emitted anywhere (unless we shout them out really loud or broadcast using machinery). Statements like "The feeling of love is the highest frequency" you could emit do not make sense at all as factual statements - however appealing they might be in a metaphorical sense. There is no such a thing like "vibrations of mental forces". Modern physics' proposition that vibrations of so-called super strings is at the basis of all matter (or energy) DOES NOT translate into large-scale stuff like human bodies, brains or even (huge in comparison to strings) atoms. I doubt that my spirit is so big (or small, depending on how you look at it) that it fills the room, but I'm pretty sure that I am not an energy magnet or a transmission tower and I am very sure indeed that I do not electrically energize anything, thank you very much.
Quantum physicists empathically DO NOT tell us that the entire Universe emerged from thought. All diseases are NOT a result of stress. Healthy emotions do not guarantee a healthy body (though they might help recovery). Aging is not caused by thoughts, and even if you believe you can't catch something you still can if you are exposed to the infectious agent (as countless examples of babies, children and animals suffering from infectious diseases attest). And the oil in Belize was not created by the belief of the team that discovered it.
I could go on for much longer. But I think that by now you, gentle reader, have a pretty good idea of what "The Secret" is about. Apart from the fact that it's definitely Not My Thing as far as its New Age spirituality goes, it's also trite, mercenary, repetitive and full of mumbo-jumbo that abuses scientific language and human reason in equal parts. In fact, The New Age spirituality (in the last chapter) is just about the only part of the book that is somehow, touchingly, bearable: it has this quality of heady madness that makes one almost wish that it was true - and as a wonderful, poetic metaphor it might be. But it still doesn't mean that not watching the news and thinking positive thoughts of abundance will make the war, famine and inequality disappear.
And here we come to the important question: does it matter? After all, most people who read this stuff will use it as any other motivational tool - just as I thought it would be like in the first place, of will cheer themselves up with the idea of One-Mind-One-Friendly-Universe.
But I think it matters. It matters, because it is another embodiment of the persuasive modern idea that it's all in the mind and that the social and material worlds doesn't matter (though if you want this million bucks you will get it by visualising a cheque, there is even a pdf to download). That problems most people have are a result of their emotional trauma or negative thoughts or communication breakdowns or lack of parenting and interpersonal skills or something like that. That we should look inward and change our minds, instead of looking outward and trying to change the world. That those who are exploited, killed, robbed, enslaved, exterminated and abused; run over by the metaphorical - and literal - tanks are responsible for their sorry situation, and that the best thing they could do is to start thinking positive thoughts, develop self esteem and start "emitting frequencies of love and abundance".
Despite being lazy, politically inactive and a pacifist I am, after that experience, tempted to say, bring on the revolution.
Hardback, 160 pages, published by Simon & Schuster Ltd.
Summary: 160 pages of beautifully produced bullshit
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