Recently, a friend of a family-member of mine posted on Facebook that she’d just watched “The Secret” for the first time and it left her in tears. That family-member replied with instructions of where she could find more “Secret” references. I don’t mean to be rude or insensitive, but ideas, just like viruses, can infect people and do real damage – and the idea “The Secret” conveys has damaged my family, so I feel compelled to speak up against it.
“The Secret” is a damaging mind-viruses of our day. If believing or hoping something into existence really worked then a lot of bad things would be true, not just good things. But more importantly, you could see actual evidence that it influences outcomes in objective studies. It does not. In fact, believing and hoping something to be true is the basic mechanism by which many, many bad things have happened in human history due to self-deception, “Selective Perception,” and, ultimately, mass-delusion.
We’re not talking about “The Placebo Effect” here. We’re talking about “The Secret’s” ideology that by obsessively wishing for something to happen in your life, The Universe will (eventually?) grant that wish like some cosmic genie (in the DVD, said genie actually makes several appearances). Apparently, if you believe strong-enough for long-enough almost anything will happen for you.
These viral ideas (eg, religion) are attractive to us for a reason, but it is not a virtuous reason – not unless they are ultimately grounded in objective truth. If “The Secret” brings tears to your eyes, there is a deeper and more meaningful reason you feel that. I urge people not to settle for “comforting” beliefs. Truth and reality must ultimately be our comfort. If not – if whatever we each separately imagine and wish for is “our reality” – then you have really just conceded that your life is truly as meaningless and whimsical as your latest imagination… and what could possibly be more depressing than that? What meaning does such a life really have?
“The Secret” is a deception. Life does have meaning. There are no cosmic genies waiting around to capriciously grant your most fervent wishes. Reality is what it appears (through the process we loosely call science). The Universe does not condescend to us to grant either our desires or what is “best for” us. We have to take responsibility for our reality and make it happen. A positive attitude is productive, helpful, even great! But believing that wishes come true, ultimately, only because you wished for them, is just a recipe for self-deception, a “house-of-cards.” It is just frivolously waiting for some random event to give you some glimmer of validation that “The Universe” really does grant you your dreams.
Sorry, but consider that if that’s how it works, you’re casting a horrible, awful insult at everyone that has tried and believed but not succeeded… at everyone that fell along the way… at, most lately, thousands of Japanese who, apparently, didn’t wish/believe hard-enough, and so were killed by the tsunami or had their half-fulfilled dreams reduced to rubble by it. Should the survivors pick themselves up and start again, if they are able? Of course! Will that be easier if they have a positive attitude? Definitely. But many are not going to be able to restore their pre-tsunami lives, for one reason of another, none of which has anything to do with lack of belief in “The Universe.” It is the height of arrogance and foolishness to think for one moment that the people that fail do so because they haven’t wished hard enough…
In fact, like prayer – which is usually harmless (even if you believe in God, you implicitly believe that most the people on the planet are – and that ever lived were – praying to the wrong God, and so wasting their time…) it is when life really gets hard that we most need to stop relying on imaginary beliefs and take deliberate action to deal with the problems at hand. It is at these times that supernatural “faith” and “belief” do the most harm by suppressing a certain and significant amount of real action in favor of pointless prayers and other forms of willing God or “The Universe” to provide.
Finally, if “The Universe” did it for you, then you deserve none of the credit. If the Universe merely “set up the conditions for you” and your belief gave you the final push, you still don’t really deserve the credit. What is more hollow than “achievement” without actually achieving it? Does a test have any point if you only passed it by cheating?
“The glory and thanks be to God,” some say, but then why did God hand out the test in the first place? If God did it knowing (he is all-knowing, right?) it would only really be to his own glory, what kind of person is God? Isn’t he some kind of self-congratulatory egotist? Isn’t that the being we’re really talking about if he places you in tests that you “overcome” only after a little (or a lot) of help from him, and then requires that you thank him for said help? If you want to worship that, you’re living in a slave-mentality. I propose that either the test is yours to overcome on your own and God will praise and honor you if you pass it, or there is no “test” – or “tester” – and the real meaning of life is to simply help each other wherever we can, simply because there’s no such thing as a human being that doesn’t like a little help and companionship (of one flavor or another).
To believe that some cosmic force is intervening in your life may make you feel less lonely and, somehow, more loved, it ultimately plays the role of a bad parent, granting you gifts you did not earn and do not deserve. At least (if you believe in “The Secret”) that’s how you will ultimately assign value to your life’s “accomplishments,” whether consciously or subconsciously. This is a recipe for more depression – and ever more band-aids, sustaining books, and motivational DVDs (hence, the “dealer” sales-model unfolds). Mental viruses like “The Secret” just setup an addictive, manic-depressive cycle built on creating an artificial “support-system” outside the one you should really be addressing.
For your own good, don’t take that drug. Choose for yourself to do something good for others. Accept that you did it, not The Universe. Do it because you love other people, not because the Universe will grant you good karma in return. If your motives are to serve other people, you will feel better about yourself and have true meaning in your life – for the right reasons – because of the genuine, pure-affection from your fellow human beings – not out of (your estimation of) the adoration of some unseen cosmic genie or imaginary friend.