In 2007, there was a super-popular DVD, The Secret, based upon the best selling book of the same name. In The Secret author Rhonda Byrne tells us that the key to life is to know the secret... which is that the law of attraction works.
If you think about something, says Byrne, it will come true. That's the secret.
But is this really news to most Pagans and Wiccans? Haven't most of us known this for a long time? From the first time we cast our own spell, focused our intent, or sent energy out into the universe, we were aware of the law of attraction. Like attracts like, whether on a magical scale or a mundane one. Surround yourself with good, positive things, and you'll draw even more good and positive things toward you. On the other hand, wallow in despair and misery, and that's what you're going to invite.
The concept of the Law of Attraction is not a new one, nor is it one invented by Rhonda Byrne. The phrase "law of attraction," meaning like attracts like, was first used in a book published in 1906 by occultist William Walker Atkinson, who was part of the New Thought Movement. A number of authors since then have cultivated followings based on this principle - one of the best known is Napoleon Hill, whose Think and Grow Rich series has sold millions of copies.
It is important to note that while the law of attraction is a popular theory in the metaphysical community, there is no scientific basis for it. Technically it is not a "law" at all, because for it to be a law - in scientific terms - it would have to be true every time.
The Secret contains some decent advice, but is also worthy of some criticism. Byrne suggests that if you want to be thin, think about being thin. Don't even look at fat people, because that sends the wrong message. She and the "secret teachers" also recommend avoiding sick people, so you don't get too depressed by their unhappy thoughts.
Interestingly, in August 2007, Hatchette Publishing's FaithWords imprint released The Secret Revealed: Exposing the Truth About the "Law of Attraction". Marketing material promised that The Secret Revealed would "discuss the Law of Attraction as typical of many false religions and movements throughout the centuries." Despite the feel-good message of The Secret, some groups have called it anti-Christian.
From a marketing standpoint, The Secret is sheer genius. It's an hour and a half of self-help experts telling people that the way to get what they want is to ... well, want it enough. It tells us to stop focusing on negative things and think about the positive -- excellent advice for anyone.
What did our readers have to say about The Secret?
- PlaidEarthWorm said: "Positive thought and visualization should be followed by positive action. You can only think yourself thin if you keep your mouth closed, and haul your behind around the gym a few times. Use your positive thinking to strengthen your willpower, but don’t rely on it as a save-all. Rituals and spells can put the energy of your desire out there, but you just don’t wait at home thinking, hey, the universe will just drop what I want into my lap."
- Willow said: "I find great positive in helping others balance their life. I think this book sells selfishness and teaches irresponsibility, if you only look out for your own wants and needs how do you keep the balance?"
- Author Sirona Knight said: "It’s called intent, and it’s no secret. Most pagans who actually practice magic know that thought is energy, and when you focus your thoughts long enough, with enough power, thought energy manifests into reality."
- Kathleen said: "The Secret didn’t teach me anything new, just gave it new emphasis. It is interesting people are calling it un-Christian as this principle is a primary one in the Bible. It seems to be a universal principle in most major religions. I am amazed at the marketing genius that made millions of dollars on a truth that has been known for many years."
- ATGirl said: "I believe that there IS power in positive thoughts, but bad things DO happen to good people. I think the Secret goes WAY too far and makes us who believe in this stuff – to an extent – look like idiots."