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An audio production and recording of Michael Shermer’s booklet, The Soul of Science, is now available for free thanks to the generous donation of recording artist John Wagner, who contacted the Skeptics Society and offered to donate his services by making this booklet available to a wider audience free of charge. In this week’s eSkeptic, we present Ingrid Hansen Smythe’s skeptical analysis of the movie The Secret, which was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show last month and on Larry King Live last November. The Secret is a simple New-Age notion that is the subject of a recent and wildly successful book by Rhonda Byrne and DVD by Rhonda Byrne of Prime Time Productions. This is excellent news indeed for those of us who previously thought that something like aging was not optional. Those who speak most of illness have illness, those who speak most of prosperity have it, etc. It’s OK that thoughts don’t manifest into reality immediately (if we saw a picture of an elephant and it instantly appeared, that would be too soon). What you think and what you feel and what actually manifests is always a match — no exception. If you turn it over to the universe, you will be surprised and dazzled by what is delivered. One needn’t quarrel with the psychology behind some of The Secret’s hysterically cheery rah-rah motivational coaching.
Imagining that we are like magnets is not an especially harmful mental exercise in metaphorical thinking, but when metaphor slips into metaphysics, problems with The Secret become glaringly apparent. The testimonial of the editor of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Jack Canfield, provides an excellent example of the first system (ask-believe-receive) getting the credit for the second system (idea-action-results). Perhaps the believer in The Law of Attraction imagines that to use both systems in conjunction is more powerful than using just the one.
Besides scientific gibberish, The Secret DVD props up faltering dogma by relying on charismatic representatives and a lot of smooth talk, which is so expert and cleverly edited it is easy to miss the false premises, tautologies, red herrings, straw men, non sequiturs, and other varieties of fuzzy thinking.
It is the business of both laws to explain why good and evil befall us, and both laws come to the conclusion that the fault is exclusively ours. When dealing with instances of extraordinary evil, however, both The Law of Karma and The Law of Attraction break down rather spectacularly. It gets worse, for what can the believer in karma or The Law of Attraction possibly say about an event such as the Holocaust? The Secreteers say that “There is no such thing as coincidence… Everything happens by principles and laws in our universe.”24 How can this be true in the face of such evil?
Given the moral defects, the lack of scientific backing, and the various philosophical shortcomings, how is it that a significant number of people still believe there’s something to The Law of Attraction?
In another instance, an advocate of The Law tells us that he posted a picture of his dream home on what he calls his “vision board”, forgot about it, found the vision board five years later, and was astounded to discover that the home he was currently living in matched the one he had visualized. Since individuals are constantly interacting with one another, this means that there is an inconceivably intricate dance of billions of people (and, possibly, animals, since many of them are capable of positive and negative emotions), interacting in ways that fulfill the requirements of The Law at all times. A psychotic killer might feel very good upon terminating his victim, but good feelings can be created by morally questionable activities even by those of us who are not criminally insane.
In the tradition of the bestselling The Physics of Star Trek, acclaimed science writer Jennifer Ouellette explains fundamental concepts in the physical sciences through examples culled from the hit TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off, Angel. The Secular Student Alliance is holding its 7th annual conference at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) on April 20–22, co-sponsored by the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard.
Like according to her I was planing on having an accident and since I wasn’t thinking positivly about it I deserved it.
However, thanks for debunking this drivel, particularly the rather suspect notion that the human mind contributes to illness.
I just found this article and I really liked the way you faced this subject, cause it’s actually breeding a legion of dumb people. What really annoys me is the fact that this supposed power can be used both for good as for evil. The movie generates and justifies the craving for money, beauty and power (not to mention relationships, seducing the wanted one, etc)…how much more vanity can you add to that?
No matter how beneficial or useful something is, it should never be at the cost of misinformation. I recently watched a DVD version of the secret, and in that presentation, there was a sustained image of exactly what you appear to deny; there is a genie on that video. I agree that The Secret is absolute bunkum, but your representation of karma is far off the mark. Regarding the debunking – you are committing the same error that you are being critical of. Thus I want to know a real secret; How did this culture of consumption and personal desires become status quo? I pray that Christians (true followers of Jesus Christ) do not fall for this man made self help false way of living according to the truth. The angle you did not discuss in your otherwise excellent article is that these Law of Attraction pushers are making A LOT OF MONEY at the expense of greedy, gullible people.
Did you all negative thinkers really believe that your life will change just by seeing the film, you have to study this to really understand how it works and what’s been holding you back from your success. That is why Jesus said it is very difficult for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (the system of manifestation) ….
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Shop at Amazon using our affiliate links, and the Skeptics Society will receive a small commission from your purchase. People around the world have been talking about a movie so powerful that it can change the course of your life. Subscribe to O, The Oprah Magazine for up to 72% OFF what others pay on the newsstand — that's like getting 19 FREE issues! We are grateful to John for his outstanding production and reading (music included!), and for making the printed page come alive.
Ingrid Hansen Smythe is a freelance writer with a BMus, a BA in religious studies, and a Masters degree in the nature of religion. The secret is “The Law of Attraction” that asserts what you think creates what you feel, and these feelings flow from your body as magnetic energy waves over vast distances, which then cause the universe around you to vibrate at the same energy level as your feelings. If these thoughts are attached to powerful emotions (good or bad) that speeds the creation.
No rules on time; the more aligned you are with positive feelings the quicker things happen. For instance, their “Don’t Be A Negative Sourpuss” philosophy has its roots in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a psychological approach to altering maladaptive, unrealistic, and negative thoughts in an effort to change feelings and, as a result, behavior.
The Secret relies heavily on fuzzy thinking, and nowhere is this fuzziness demonstrated better than by the fact that The Secret is actually proposing two completely different systems for achieving one’s goals and then blurring the line between those systems — in effect, selling the system that works on the back of the one that doesn’t. He tells us that he visualized earning $100,000 (even writing the desired amount on a bill worth far less and tacking it to the ceiling above his bed) and focused his mental energy only on the goal of attaining the money. Canfield attributes his success to knowing and applying the principles of The Secret — he literally attracted 100,000 dollars through good feelings, positive energy, and the power of visualization. It seems to me that this is like a woman using some form of birth control and then lying back and affirming “I will not get pregnant! For example, we are shown a man visualizing himself attracting a car and — no surprises here — magically getting the car. However, even if The Law of Attraction was logically consistent and scientifically sound, the moral implications of a Law such as this are alarming.
In neither system can there be accident or coincidence — we are all at all times getting exactly what we deserve, and what we have attracted.21 The Law of Attraction seems particularly suited to the modern temperament though, given that with karma, you might have to wait a thousand lifetimes to get the good things you deserve, whereas with The Law of Attraction everything is possible in this lifetime. Imagine a particularly hideous situation — a healthy young girl is raped and tortured, hacked to pieces, her remains stuffed into a plastic bag and thrown in the trash. Again, the believer in karma is forced to say that each and every individual got what he or she deserved and that karmic justice was served. Part of the reason must certainly be the powerful testimonials coming from celebrity figures such as Oprah Winfrey, a woman who attributes her success to her mighty powers of attraction, and not to the stupefyingly enormous Oprah industry which she, and many thousands of others have worked so hard to put in place. What harm is there in believing in things that are not literally true as long as the desired result is achieved?

If one begins to doubt the power, or even to harbor negative thoughts in one’s unconscious mind, one is assuredly on the road to ruin.27 The Law of Attraction requires uncritical acceptance of, and unwavering belief in, a doctrine that has been revealed by alleged authorities, which is interpreted literally, not metaphorically, and is at the extreme end of credulity. This does sound amazing, except that he also tells us that he spent an entire year renovating the house that is currently his dream home. Imagine the fellow in the DVD who claims that “Wealth is a mindset,” speaking to an open-air audience in Calcutta or Bangladesh or Rwanda. Children who have visited a science center with a stationary bike attached to a generator soon discover that they barely have enough energy to power a 40 watt bulb for even a short time, let alone an entire city for a week.
There is no doubt that unexpected results have been surprising physicists for a hundred years, when it comes to the very small, and that it is fiendishly difficult to measure interactions between elementary particles because the measuring apparatus has to be taken into account.
Surely the composition of such a dance would be a mind-boggling task for even the most accomplished choreographer. An example of this is amply demonstrated in The Secret DVD, in which a girl is shown laughing with glee at her pet — a cat, who has his head stuck in a small bag and is backing up and shaking his head in an attempt to get the thing off.
Ouellette writes the column This Month in Physics History for American Physical Society News, and her articles have appeared in publications from Discover to Salon. However, I do think you misrepresent the Buddhist idea of Karma somewhat in your comparison. No sense attributing the proliferation of cancers to toxic environments, food stuffs, etc..
If it were that easy, we’d all be Jesuses, Buddhas, whomeva, walking around on this paradise filled world. If the law of attraction as explained in this movie is considered along with the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and the ancient teachings of the I Ching etc.
There is a specific purpose for every person in the world and with the right attitude the universe will help you get there.
The Law of Attraction manual by Abraham was suggested to me by a psychic, who was unable to provide me with any meaningful advice. I recall he was a fairly loyal stand up guy and had all sorts of crap thrown his way just to be tested. The traditional Copenhagen interpretation does have a causal role for the observer; interpretations which lack wave function collapse (such as the many-worlds interpretation) and objective collapse theories (such as the Penrose interpretation) do not. This movie, The Secret, was created by Australian Rhonda Byrne, and she says that if you follow its philosophy, you can create the life you want—whether that means getting out of debt, finding a more fulfilling job or even falling in love. He has won hundreds of Addy Awards for his work in music and advertising, including top honors as a finalist in the New York Film Festival. If not, the first thing you need to know is that The Secret isn’t a secret, and this in itself should set your skeptical alarm bells ringing, since whenever the very name of a thing is a contradiction of the thing itself, it is easy to imagine that the bridge up ahead may be washed out. If your feelings are negative, negative experiences will inevitably flow right back, positive feelings elicit positive experiences. It is hardly revolutionary to claim that attitude and negative feeling-states can have an impact on goal attainment. On the one hand, we are told that all that is required to get what we desire is to ask, believe, and receive. He tells us that he had absolutely no idea how he was going to get the money — he simply focused on believing that he would get the money, somehow. Is it possible, however, that this is a misattribution, and that the actual reason for his success is that he suddenly remembered that he had written a book, got it published, and subsequently earned money from it? I will not get pregnant!” It seems obvious that it is the birth control, and not the positive thinking, that is getting the job done.
But here an objection arises — if everybody knows The Secret, won’t there be a mad dash for all the good stuff and no one will get anything? The mind is actually shaping the very thing that is being perceived.”18 Here, then, we have an authority on the subject telling us that our minds create reality. What the believer in karma is forced to admit, as morally repugnant as it may be, is that this girl deserved what happened to her. The question, therefore, is this: is he living in his dream home because he wished it, or because he renovated it? If I affirm, for example, that there is an elephant in my garden shed, by affirming it have I increased the likelihood of its existence there by 100? If disease exists to teach us to be more loving and grateful, one has to wonder why even dinosaurs got bone cancer.
However, it is by no means clear that the collapse of a wave function in anything more than a convenient mathematical metaphor for something which we can explain with equations, but not with words (although David Z.
And what happens if I believe in The Law of Attraction, and reap the benefits from it, but my husband, with whom I live, doesn’t believe? The girl thinks this is hilarious, and her laughter is apparently generating good feelings which will bring more good things into her life — but what is the experience of the cat? As far as I understand it, Karma is more a belief in cause and effect, not an indictment of victims. I was beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with me for thinking it is an overly simplistic and arrogant notion. What about those people who spend their lives taking care of a sick relative or disabled child, a single mother struggling alone, someone with learning disabilities, or someone battling schizophrenia or cancer. So I’ll offer that sometimes, for some people, and in limited doses, the secret is a good idea to have.
Lebron James might be an excellent basketball player, but he trains very hard, all the time, the same is true for any success in life Therefore be humble and hard working.
Many people do not have the right motives and so are not truly harnessing the power of the universal laws. She’s out of business, in financial ruin, and is the love slave of some reincarnation of Jesus, who by the way, is in jail in order to work out karma stuff. Within hours of airing, The Secret became a bestselling hit, heralding its gurus Joe Vitale and James Arthur Ray. The Watch OWN app is free and available to you as part of your OWN subscription through a participating TV provider. In 1995 the New Mexico Advertising Federation presented him with The Silver Medal Award for outstanding contributions in advertising. Who among us has not had the experience of trying to accomplish some task, only to fall prey to our Inner Idiot who keeps telling us, “You’ll never learn this,” or “You’re an impostor,” or “You hate this,” and these irrelevant messages lead to avoidance of the task, depression, and the dreaded self-fulfilling prophecy. For example: A little boy wants a bike, he believes he will get a bike, he gets a bike (as dramatized in The Secret DVD).
Certainly affirmations alone do nothing to prevent pregnancy — any woman who believes otherwise is undoubtedly a mother.
First, however, it seems obvious that a universe without sentient minds perceiving it is entirely possible, given that this was the story on Earth for the first 13 billion years. There is no innocent suffering in a universe where we all, at all times, are getting what we deserve. Nothing which accrues to a doer on account of his actions is ever lost and nothing accrues to him on account of anything other than his actions.”23 What about those who hold the belief that, through your feeling-state, you attract either positive or negative events? Why does the believer in this alleged “law” jump to credit The Law of Attraction for a little boy magically receiving a bike from the universe, or for a motivational speaker landing a spot on the Oprah show, but fail to mention dead girls stuffed into plastic bags or six million Jews butchered in concentration camps? The image that instantly leaps to my mind is of an angry mob running down a man in an Armani suit as he sprints to the safety of his private jet. Proctor is referring to brain waves, which are so weak they require electrodes attached to the skull to measure them, and therefore seem even more unlikely to provide much illumination. Or what if he does believe in The Law but is clinically depressed and is incapable of generating happy feelings?
It is one of distress, and it is this distress which the girl is using to generate her own positive feelings. Just an excuse for insane greedy people to give their mad desires a somehow beautiful tone.
Our carnal minds want to run the show but the Holy Spirit will if you daily submit and humble yourself and turn away from sin (being wise in your own eyes).
Not only is these peoples suffering disregarded, but they are also to blame for it according the thinking behind Secret.

If you want your boss to give you a raise, you need to be of higher value to your boss than the money they will part with. The idea is that if you find what you really want to do in life, it won’t seem like hard work and you will reap the rewards of giving value to people. I don’t know of too many people who have truly tried the aforementioned method, however I am currently trying it and am very excited by the results I am seeing but it is a long process.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help rid the individual of unhelpful self-talk, and this inevitably leads to more successful living — no supernatural intervention required. For four weeks he had no breakthrough ideas but then, one day in the shower, he remembered that he had written a book and, if it was published (particularly if he sold 400,000 copies and he made a quarter on each) he just might achieve his financial goals.
The post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this therefore because of this) fallacy would appear to be working overtime in the minds of enthusiastic Secreteers.
The Secreteers seem to think that positive affirmations and happy feelings affect the probability of an occurrence, but it would seem that the only odds that are being improved in the above example are the odds of having a pretty lousy time. Not everyone wants the same things, we are told — and here there is a visual of an Indian snake charmer, followed by a little Chinese woman in a boat with a bunch of domestic fowl. Second, it would seem that this particular proponent of The Law of Attraction is using an understanding of quantum physics based more on the questions that Schrodinger was trying to answer, rather than on the answers themselves. The Law of Attraction might be said to be the lazy person’s karma, since karma is based on doing, whereas the Law of Attraction is based on feeling. The believer in karma must also conclude that this event is in some sense good because this girl rid herself of an enormous amount of bad karma and is bound to come back to a glorious life next time around.
Here is a little visualization for the believer in the Law of Attraction: Imagine looking each of those six million Jews in the eye and telling every one of them that due to the negative feeling-states they were each projecting, they were all, in effect, asking for it. The Secreteers are fond of saying that everything is energy, and back this up with the equation E=MC2.
No self-respecting monk I have ever had the pleasure to interview would suggest that the victims of oppression did anything to bring about their fate.
Romans 8:1 There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.
If the law of attraction ALWAYS works, wouldn’t secreteers be morally obliged to do this? Too many people want results immediately, and as this doesn’t happen, they consider this to be useless information for fools to believe in, but if used correctly, I truly believe it works. Now that I want a career, I have to answer some hard questions and face up to the realities of the rejection. I suspect in their need to make a commercially lucrative concept out of this, the proponents have overexcitedly pushed materialistic examples that would find quick appeal, but ultimately what it alludes to is the power of positive thinking. Here are a few titles she touched that turned to gold, but not without a dash of drama and controversy along the way. In March 2007, Vitale claimed on Larry King Live that Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old murder victim, “attracted” her own horrific death, leaving viewers a bit skeptical of the practice he preaches. He has mixed and assembled the audio for more than 20 documentaries for Turner Broadcasting, Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, Hallmark and producer Ned Judge. Likewise, a philosophy that claims we are always getting what we ask for, and that nothing is accidental, must also believe that this girl in some sense deserved what happened to her because she attracted this evil to her.
The Secret’s proponents want to claim for it the unchanging status of a physical law of the universe. Proctor is referring to the burning of a body, which would undoubtedly light up a small section of a city — but not for a week. Furthermore, the leap from being able to influence an electron going through one of two slits to being able to influence an entire mail-order universe is unquantifiably vast.
I’m not white, blonde nor do I have a passport from a first world country, and my fiance stole all my money.
But the good news, Eeyore, is this: if you can only alter your thoughts, and therefore your feelings, you can actually cause the universe around you to vibrate at a positive energy level and the desires of your heart will come to be realized! After all it is true that, at the quantum level, a scientist has great difficulty recording and measuring particles and their interactions without changing the results of the investigation.
Surprising effects that work reliably well at the very small (such as electron tunneling, the foundation of semiconductors) utterly fail to work at the very large (such as BMW tunneling, in which a fully-formed BMW disappears from the factory and appears in your driveway, merely because you asserted that you wanted one).” Steve Hansen Smythe, from private email correspondence. Eckhart Tolle’s writings are fantastic and provide a complete holistic view of the larger concept. All you have to do is Ask — Believe — Receive.2 You just have to visualize what you want, feel good about it, and then ask the universe (and ask once only, oh ye of little faith) — and whatever you can imagine can be yours. You’ve got to act on it.”6 So, a little boy wants a bike, he gets a paper route to earn money to get a bike, he gets a bike.
There’s more than enough creative ideas, there’s more than enough power, there’s more than enough love, there’s more than enough joy.”10 So in one breath we’re talking about attracting a car — with the next breath we’re suddenly talking about attracting love and joy and other emotions sans wheels or an engine. Accept that fact; it’s true.”) One might protest that a young girl has not yet developed the “magnetic powers” to attract anything to her — but one must then ask at what age do these powers develop, and does it really make the situation any less tragic? Pity the believer in The Law of Attraction, therefore, who is in the unenviable position of having both to congratulate a little boy on attracting a bike, and also explain to all those other unfortunates that, due to their negative feelings, they attracted an airplane piloted by terrorists, a tsunami, muscular sclerosis, cancer, genocide. Proctor is referring to “psychic” energy which frustratingly, like imaginary energy, cannot be scientifically measured, tested, quantified, controlled, or studied. I would recommend them as mandatory reading for anyone with curiosity about this whole area of discussion. Add to the above the following quote: “Wise people have always known this … Why do you think that 1% of the population earns around 96% of all the money that’s being earned? Is it because the scientist perceived the experiment and, as a result of perceiving, changed the results? If a 12-year-old boy can attract a shiny new bike, can a 12-year-old girl attract a rapist and killer? The secret might be a good starting point but sooner or later it becomes clear that there is more to it than sitting down and thinking about what you want, opening the door and finding it there waiting for you. It would seem the answer is yes, since there are 12-year-old girls who come to such a brutal demise. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. The second scenario is the one that most of us recognize as the only one that will actually work, in which a person has an “idea,” then acts on that idea, and then gets the desired results. Perhaps, though, 12 is too young to attract such powerful evil; is it really better, though, if we imagine the rape, dismembering, and plastic-bag-stuffing of a 25-year-old woman? Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? To put it in crudely simplistic terms, as soon as the scientist switches on the light to see what’s going on, other particles, like photons, get in the way.
These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. It is the photons that are responsible for messing up the results, not the thoughts of the experimenter.19 This explanation has the obvious disadvantage of being extremely boring and must be ruled out on the basis that it doesn’t support the “create your own reality” claim.
Can we really feel comfortable ever saying that people attract fatal accidents, illness, trauma, and death? The deeply offensive racial overtones are hard to ignore, as are the sexist slurs — for instance, during the delivery of the above quotation, the visual is of a boardroom full of white, cigar-smoking male executives. Evidently social inequality and injustice, a lack of resources, several thousand years of patriarchy, oppression and inequality between the sexes — all the usual explanations as to why people don’t have money are incorrect.
Social factors are irrelevant in a world where “You are the only one who creates your reality.

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