I Netflixed The Secret thinking it was some sort of conspiracy theory thing—I love tearing those things apart. Instead what I get is this terrifically massive, horrifyingly huge, and just over the top horseshìt. It is an infomercial on some experimental drug that can only be dreamed up in a Philip K. Dick story—and even that is stretching it.
In a nutshell, the plot is that the universe runs on one simple law: the law of attraction. What you do is this: think positively about the things you want and you will get it. If you want the perfect job, think about it and it will happen. Want to win the lottery, then it will happen if you want it enough and visualize it enough. It takes about a score of people who look like people rejected from a hard-sell demo because they were TOO excited, to explain that the only thing you need to do to get what you want is to think about it and it will come to you via attraction. The opposite isn’t quite true, and this is where the strange becomes absurd. If you DON’T want something and you keep thinking about that, only negative things will happen because you have sent your message out to the universe that you are negative and deserve whatever horrible things happen.
That’s it. And how many obvious flaws can you see?
Oh this is so much fun. First, what a wonderfully egotistical way to make shlubs feel so very special because everything they think enough about will come to them. It’s not magic, it’s . . . well . . . it’s . . . um . . . ok well it is a little magic. But see it’s the secret, THE secret, THE SECRET, say it with me over and over and . . . Um. . . it’s not secret anymore. Oh well, there goes my special relationship I had with the universe where I controlled everything just by thinking about it. Now everybody can do it. Second, it is all about getting what you want. What you want and what you need are totally different things. Further, this piece of crap says that if you are worried about debt you will just attract more. Well, um, not so much. You get into debt (except in cases of seriously unexpected consequences due to lack of or inadequate levels of health insurance and similar circumstances) because you buy crap that you don’t need. If debt attracts debt, it means you have a spending problem and that is no secret. Third, there is no mention at all about what happens when your want bumps into my want. Or even worse, where your want runs into my don’t want. Imagine it like this. I really really really want you and think of nothing but you, only you. Now, you know this because I’m stalking you. Now what you really want is for me not to be around. Who wins? Well the cops get to decide if my attempt to rape you is part of The Secret or if I’m going to have to use your version of the secret to make sure I’m not raped while I’m in prison. Wow, lucky I have this secret thing.
Here are some of the things that made my jaw drop (who said them is of no importance since all of the people are interchangeable).
First: “No one knows how electricity works.” Actually a rather large number of people know how it works, what it is, how to make it perform the tasks you need and so on. I understand much of the basics of it. So this “concept” is employed to say “you don’t need to know how the secret works, it just does, like turning on a light.” Now, think about turning on the light, think hard, no harder, no even harder. Darn, the light is still off.
Second: “The universe is your catalog . . . the universe will rearrange itself to meet you.” This needs no explanation (if I attempted one it would stretch for pages).
Third: “Our physiology creates disease to give us feedback to let us know when we have an imbalanced perspective.” Yep, and a “MD” said that. Apparently people with ALS have such a skewed view of the world that they deserve uncontrolled muscle atrophy. People who get HIV or AIDS due to bad blood product must really be at odds with the universe. Or—and this will factor in a moment—someone REALLY wanted you to become ill.
Prima facie this concept fails. However, the film actually contains its own undoing and I want to cover that before I go on to make a few more catty comments. One person says this: “You don’t know how [your order from the universal catalog arrived] until” after it gets there. This means that you have to have thought about it before—this concept of “before” is all important. Especially when you consider that all “you are now is residual” from your past experiences; apparently if you look backwards you are looking at your failures. Well here is the problem. If you are made of the residuals of your past, and you think of something you want, that thought is immediately in the past, therefore residual therefore part of your past and so on.
There is also one other gem. There is no way of knowing when your order will arrive. This is my favorite because it explains the way I view this notion. We create patterns; this is how we survived early on and most of it sticks around today even if not as important. Long ago our ancestors saw this bush with red berries, that one with black. Some folks ate the red berries and got sick or died. Some people ate the black berries and enjoyed themselves and didn’t die. The simple pattern recognition is that those berries are more likely than not, going to cause some serious problems. It survives today in the Western world as rationalization. If something good happens and you know the pattern, you can make it happen again (Skinner’s operant conditioning). If something bad happens and you don’t know the pattern to undo it, the bad stuff will keep happening (Skinner again).
The secret is that few people put that sort of thought into the events in their lives. “I have too much debt” they say while eating a $15 lunch. “I hate men.” Men walk by and he/she sneers. Is it any wonder they go to bed sans a man? You don’t have to think some secret thing to learn to stop eating out when you don’t have the cash for it. If you learn to smile at someone, maybe you can start a conversation. This last may not happen often, but it will happen more often than if you just stare down a guy.
Now a little more on illness and accident. Some short term illnesses are stress related, usually related to a weakened immune system. I can see how someone could conclude that this mechanism is a way of ending the stress for a short while (except when you have no insurance and no paid time off, so the illness just makes it all worse). It can cause long term illnesses or conditions like hypertension. The problem is that not all hypertension is related to stress and not all stress causes anything at all. Type one diabetes, any palsy, CF, and a host of other genetic and non-genetic illnesses are not a feedback loop telling you that you have perspective imbalance. The notion of this by itself is insulting.
Accidents are exactly that. Most accidents occur based on one law—wow another secret. The law is that no two objects can reside in the same space at the same time (quantum physics allows for the extremely limited possibility that this law might, once, in one place, one time only, not apply). One car hits another car; a glass of milk falls to the floor. The cars will have damage and there is likely going to be milk and broken glass on the floor. It is absurd to say that these things happened because you weren’t in a proper state of . . . let’s just call it what it is: not in a state of such self-importance and self-delusion that bad things happened to you.
I normally say that you cannot use extreme events to argue against something (what I usually call the Hitler Card); but this secret crap is so extreme it calls for it. According to the rules this group sets down, then Hitler and his kind loved a special way so that they could start a war, kill millions and some in horrific ways (who apparently didn’t love enough in the other direction to stop it). So WWII was either a planetary perspective imbalance, or a general act of history that repeats every so often. Twenty million people died of the Spanish Flu. WOW that is an ENORMOUS number of stressed people whose feedback loop not only made them sick but infected those around them. This means I have to ask the question: is the negativity you have as contagious as the flu? And if so, is positivity an antidote by itself? If this is true then instead of a Ronald McDonald house, they can just pay for positive thinkers and childhood cancer would be a thing of the past (I think that is a supersized number 4).
Now for something a little less huge with regards to victims, but nevertheless an explanation of what one wants isn’t what another wants. Jeffrey Dahmer killed a number of men. He went to jail for an inappropriate relationship with a Laotian boy of 16 (a few years before his final prison term). Apparently what Mr. Dahmer REALLY wanted was this boy’s younger brother (aged 14) whom Jeffrey killed after the cops returned the naked and drunk teen to Jeffrey after believing it was a gay lovers’ quarrel.
The obvious argument is that they didn’t know the secret. But even still, since the secret is that you attract what you want, then while Hitler and Dahmer may not have known the secret, they seemed to make it work for them for a while (how and when are not at all important, the desire is enough if you think about it well enough). And there is the psychological theory that serial killers want to be caught. If that’s true, then the Russians coming for the first and the police coming for the second was just what each man wanted. Thanks universe, I really needed that.
I will reiterate here what I said at the beginning. This DVD is no different than setting through 100 minutes of a hard-sell pitch for you to buy a timeshare in Florida. Well it is a bit different. I doubt the screaming salesmen actually tell you that the universe will rearrange itself to meet your wants. The only difference is that they don’t ask you for money—that comes to them because they order it from the cosmos, so they don’t need yours.
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