Inwardly I groaned because I knew this wasn't going to end well. So everyone else in the room starts to talk about positive thinking, how it's awesome, how they know people who think positively and not negatively and how they never get parking tickets as a result etc. Finally I could take it no longer.
"If you ask me it's a crock of shit. What does it mean for rape victims? It says they bring it on themselves, that they are to blame for being raped."
I know. Subtle aren't I? Anyway, there was a sudden chill in the room as I dared to question the power of positive thought. I was asked if I'd read the book - I've read excerpts but refuse to give the promoters of this crap any money by buying the book or renting/buying the DVD (incidentally, the book came after the film). I have read many of the comments from people like Joe Vitale and Rhonda Byrne however; they are some of the big names in the marketing of The Secret and its origins. I've read articles about The Secret and the Law of Attraction. I've argued with more than a few followers of both on different blogs. I know what it is - and I know how it's followers tend to interpret and use it.
I was told that the book doesn't actually say that, I argued that is exactly what it said if you bother to look past only the positive side of it that you like the look of. I was told that I was only saying that because I was a pessimist (to the sound of people agreeing that this must be the only reason I criticise The Secret). The brief argument ended with me re-asserting that I thought it was a crock of shit and everyone else leaving to go back to work in a stony silence.
No one likes a skeptic it seems.
So this here entry is going to be my first blog post on The Secret and the Law of Attraction, it isn't going to be my last as you will see. There is already a lot of skeptical commentary on this and I'll provide links to some of this below, you'll see where many of the following ideas and criticisms arose from, were inspired by or were stolen from!
To start with, here are two good general introductory articles:
The Law of Attraction
What's wrong with it, briefly?
Well, explaining what is wrong with it briefly is not easy, but I'll give you the gist of it here and we'll go into more detail later. Ah screw it, we'll just do the details now. Pay attention.
First, it blames the victim. That isn't something that I have just read into it - that's a central tenet of both The Secret and the Law of Attraction (LOA). They just don't tell you that part because then you wouldn't want to spend money on all of their products. That's not positive after all.
Here is Joe Vitale, one of the charlatans who promote this crap:
I’m constantly saying that you must get clear of the limiting beliefs within you in order to attract your intention. Counter-intentions will always trip you up. Be aware of your thoughts when things don’t work out for you. Those are what you need to get clear of. Those are the beliefs that attracted what you got. [my emphasis in bold]
When bad things happen to you, its because you were thinking about them. You attracted what happened to you through your thoughts. You attracted your rape.
He goes on (and on, and on):
I’m a neurometaphysician ... Neurometaphysics is the science of how your thoughts create your life.
Your thoughts create your life. If you were interred in a concentration camp and starved, your thoughts created that life for you. It was your fault. Starving African famine victim? Your thoughts did that to you. Family been ethnically cleansed? Your thoughts. The victim is to blame. And those aren't my words; they are the words of one of the most high profile promoters of this bullshit. Don't blame me for pointing out the unpalatable truth. They don't want you (for the moment assuming you to be a believer in the LOA and Secret) to sit down and think about the negative aspects of what they are claiming - they just want to have you focus on what you want and how you can easily get it.
Not convinced that The Secret blames the victim yet? Here's Rhonda Byrne herself:
The law of attraction is that each one of us is determining the frequency that we're on by what we're thinking and feeling, if we are in fear, if we're feeling in our lives that we're victims and feeling powerless, then we are on a frequency of attracting those things to us ... totally unconsciously, totally innocently, totally all of those words that are so important.
If you've been raped, it's because you've been thinking about it. Whatever crap has happened in your life, it's your fault. Consciously or unconsciously.
So, what's the second thing that's wrong with The Secret? It's all about selfish lazy greed. It panders to our laziness. "Want a shiny new sports car? Don't want to have to actually work for it like everyone else? Well, now you can just will it to happen and the Universe grants it to you." It's all about getting you what you want without any of the hard work in between. The central principle of The Secret is not a philosophical or scientific notion, it is a marketing gimmick. "Hey, always wanted something that you don't have? Want to get it easily? Well we have THE Secret to getting it, and all you have to do is buy this book/DVD/very expensive seminar ticket and we'll tell you how to get everything you've ever wanted by simply thinking positively about it."
Third thing wrong with The Secret - it promotes the frankly criminally insane belief that you can cure yourself of serious illness through positive thinking. "Got cancer? Don't want to go through the painful process of surgery and chemotherapy and drug regimens? Well, cure your pesky tumour with funny movies and positive thoughts." And yes, that does appear in the movie version of this tripe. People have given up conventional medical treatment to wish themselves better. Oprah herself was witness to that when her promotion of this drivel blew up in her face and a woman came on her show and pronounced she'd given up her medical treatment to cure herself by positive thinking.
Fourth thing wrong - it's nothing new. The potential tangible (and not metaphysical or supernatural) benefits of positive thinking are well known, tying that to the Universe granting your wishes is nothing new. It's been called prayer in just about every religion since the dawn of religion. Oh, sorry, didn't you see the similarities? Replace God with the Universe and kneeling down and talking to the ceiling with positive intention and you've got yourself prayer by any rational standard. The Secret is nothing but prayer and common sense given sexier sounding names and marketed pretty cleverly. And the ideas presented in The Secret are nothing new; Rhonda Byrne stole them from various sources. She admits her inspiration for this came from a 1910 book called The Science of Getting Rich (are you, dear Secret believer, getting uncomfortable with all this greed yet?) by Wallace D. Wattles. Another author called Vanessa J. Bonette claims Byrne plagiarised her book Empowered for the New Age for a lot of the ideas presented in The Secret.
Fifth thing wrong with The Secret - you can't prove the existence of the LOA one way or the other since, as Joe Vitale says, it is always on: When good things happen it's the LOA. When bad things happen it is the LOA. When nothing happens it is the LOA.
You can't prove it exists or does not exist - which is a sure fire sign that it is pseudo-scientific crap. Some have claimed that the LOA is a scientific law just like any other scientific law, but if it was we could test it. If there is no way of testing it, it isn't science. If you can't establish a potential way to falsify it, it's not scientific. What is the difference between something you can't prove to exist or not exist, and something which doesn't exist? Absolutely nothing. You (assuming you to be a Secret believer still) can no more prove that it is the LOA at work than I can prove my claim that what you say is the LOA is actually the workings of intra-dimensional super beings that look a lot like giant Haddock but are completely undetectable. Both theories or ideas are therefore completely pointless.
Sixth thing wrong with The Secret - it often turns it's supporters into rabid fundamentalists. They take this thing to heart and they take it seriously and woe betide anyone who raises an objection - as you'll see in the links below there are some real douches that follow this stuff (not the people I was arguing with by the way - they are all Good People). I was taken aback by how strongly people reacted to my criticism of it. Incidentally let's clear one more thing up. Being a pessimist or not has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not I and other skeptics think The Secret is a crock of shit. This is just the ad hominem fallacy - you call us a name but you don't deal with the argument, and calling us names allows you to justify (in your mind) ignoring the arguments presented and going on believing. Doesn't work like that I'm afraid. I am a pessimist, but The Secret is still bullshit and I can explain why quite clearly.
There is a lot wrong with The Secret - I haven't even mentioned the complete lack of a mechanism by which this whole thing is supposed to work. I haven't mentioned the fact that this thing treats the Universe like a sentient entity. I haven't mentioned the problem of conflicting intentions from different people. I haven't mentioned the morality and ethics of the whole thing, or what this universal Law of Attraction would mean for crime and punishment. I haven't mentioned the potential conflict between the 'scientific' LOA and other established scientific notions (can my positive intentions allow me to fly? How or why not?). I haven't mentioned the fact that it flat out contradicts known scientific fact and theory.
The 'good' book
Now, the criticism that I haven't read this stuff is certainly justified. So, I'm going to. Got myself a library membership, going to check the book out. And just for you dear reader I am going to read it, and hopefully come out the other end still resembling myself and not the Joker. I'm also going to blog it, just like I am doing with the Bible. Only without as many quotations, I don't plan on spending time arguing fair use in court with someone you know is going to be quick to fire off lawsuits.
The things I do for the two or three people who actually read this. And would it hurt you to comment every now and then? Jeez.
In the meantime, I found an excerpt online and here's a taster of what to expect.
From Newsweek, The Secret and your body.
The first thing to know is that if you focus on losing weight, you will attract back having to lose more weight, so get "having to lose weight" out of your mind.Wait, what now? In order to lose weight we have to stop thinking about losing weight? How is that going to work exactly?
It's the very reason why diets don't work. Because you are focused on losing weight, you must attract back continually having to lose weight.
No, the reason diets don't work is because almost all of them are nutritionally unsound and set unrealistic targets, and they are entered into by people with unrealistic expectations and/or next to no willpower. The second sentence doesn't even make sense. You know, when I was at university taking philosophy classes I came to the conclusion that a lot of people think philosophy is hard and interesting because they don't actually understand it. I found that when you did understand it, it was neither. I am beginning to think that something similar is happening with The Secret. It sounds smart and people don't really understand it, so they assume it must be good. That second sentence is pure gibberish.
The second thing to know is that the condition of being overweight was created through your thought to it.
Oh really? So, all the science behind weight gain and loss, nutrition and metabolism, that is all meaningless then, is it?
To put it in the most basic terms, if someone is overweight, it came from thinking "fat thoughts," whether that person was aware of it or not. A person cannot think "thin thoughts" and be fat. It completely defies the law of attraction.
To the first part, bullshit. This claim contradicts everything we know about nutrition and metabolism and exercise. We know why people become overweight, and it isn't because they just think about it. Like the joke goes, it's not water retention it's cake retention. To the second, well it would yes. But the LOA is made up crap. Here's more of the blame the victim mentality - "Hey fatty, stop thinking fat thoughts and you'll be thin." Boy, it's a good job that overweight people don't have any self-esteem issues already. Oh wait...
Whether people have been told they have a slow thyroid, a slow metabolism, or their body size is hereditary, these are all disguises for thinking "fat thoughts."
Tell me, dear Secret believer, do you honestly believe this? This sentence is claiming that medical science is wrong about causes of obesity. Do you really, truly, believe that doctors are just covering up for fat thoughts when they tell someone there is a physical problem that causes their weight problem? How do you explain the scientific tests that show weight problems are directly related to a physical problem, like a thyroid problem? How do you explain medical treatments that help counter act the physical problem and reduce weight? I'm not asking because I'm a pessimist, but because I don't like listening to bullshit.
If you accept any of those conditions as applicable to you, and you believe it, it must become your experience, and you will continue to attract being
Of course you'll be overweight YOU HAVE A MEDICAL CONDITION WHICH IS SCIENTIFICALLY VERIFIABLE AND INDEPENDENT OF YOUR THOUGHTS. Refer to earlier comments about not being able to prove the LOA one way or the other. In the example Byrne is using (weight loss) she is demonstrating that there is basically no difference between the LOA existing and it not. She picks something we know exists, and claims it is not actually those things but the LOA. Take the LOA away though, and the problem still exists. There's no difference between the LOA existing and it not. On the other hand, there is a difference between the thyroid existing and it not. Test it, if you dare.
After I had my two daughters I was overweight, and I know it came from listening to and reading the messages that it is hard to lose weight after having a baby, and even harder after the second baby.
No, it didn't. Once again, we have verifiable scientific reasons for weight gain during pregnancy. It has nothing to do with you thinking you are going to be fat during pregnancy.
The most common thought that people hold, and I held it too, is that food was responsible for my weight gain. That is a belief that does not serve you, and in my mind now it is complete balderdash!
No, not just food actually. Food and activity levels. Food and metabolism. Food and medical conditions. We have the scientific evidence for this. Byrne is simply asserting that all we know about the body, metabolism and nutrition is WRONG. All of it. She says it's balderdash. She is an irresponsible uneducated know nothing halfwit. Do you really believe her? She was/is a TV producer for crying out loud. And you're going to take medical and dietary advice from her?
Food is not responsible for putting on weight.
Oh come on. Seriously? Is this a fucking joke? You're going to sit there and tell me this stuff is genius? She just contradicted everything we know about food and the human body. Sports nutrition? Bullshit apparently. Anorexia and bulimia? Bullshit apparently. High carb food for energy? Bullshit. Slow release energy foods? Bullshit. Sugar, potassium and protein - forget everything you know. Rhonda Byrne says you can think yourself full of necessary caloric intake. If being an optimist means you fall for this shit, I'm glad I'm a pessimist.
It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight.
She is a retard. Why does food put on weight? I thought it was you putting on weight. She can't even write a coherent sentence, never mind think (look carefully at the wording and subject of that sentence). Assuming she just mangled her English, what's her proof? How did she come by it? Come on people, think.
Remember, thoughts are primary cause of everything, and the rest is effects from those thoughts.
And Secret believers want to tell you that The Secret doesn't blame the victim. What does this sentence mean then? If thoughts cause everything, then thoughts cause everything. The bad things that happen to you as well as the good things. Thoughts cause rape, genocide, oppression and violence. The victims' thoughts cause whatever happens to them.
But let's examine this a little deeper. Your Secret believer is going to say "Hey, it's an impartial law just like any scientific law. It doesn't do good or bad." But hang on I will reply, if thoughts cause everything, and that is what Rhonda Byrne specifically says, then how do you explain child abuse? How does a child who knows nothing of sexuality, violence or abuse think about it and therefore cause it to happen to them? Or does your LOA grant the wishes of the abuser with no regard for the child? There is nothing optimistic about this bullshit, so don't you dare patronise skeptics with claims that we're simply being negative. The LOA and The Secret are amoral selfish excrement.
Think perfect thoughts and the result must be perfect weight.
Think child abuse and the result must be child abuse. Yeah, this Secret is so positive.
Let go of all those limiting thoughts. Food cannot cause you to put on weight, unless you think it can.
Pure crap that contradicts established and observable fact.
The definition of the perfect weight is the weight that feels good for you. No one else's opinion counts.
More nonsense. People can feel good and be dangerously overweight, is that a perfect weight for them because they feel good? Or could they die from a weight related condition like diabetes? How perfect is type 2 diabetes?
You most likely know of someone who is thin and eats like a horse, and they proudly declare, "I can eat whatever I want and I am always the perfect weight."
Oh you've got to be fucking kidding me. Her evidence for this half arsed theory is a soccer mum cliche about people who say "I can eat whatever I want and do without getting fat." Guess what genius? When I was a teenager I said the same thing and I was stick thin. Then I grew past puberty and my metabolism altered and, guess what? I carried on eating the same shit and became 4 stones (56 pounds) overweight. Look at that. I single handedly overcame this universal law and I wasn't even trying.
To attract your perfect weight and body using the Creative Process, follow these steps:
Oh, I can't wait.
Step 1: Ask
Get clear on the weight you want to be. Have a picture in your mind of what you will look like when you have become that perfect weight. Get pictures of yourself at your perfect weight, if you have them, and look at them often.
Actually, this is pretty standard advice for anyone wanting to lose weight. It is not groundbreaking. It is not an earth shattering revelation. It is not new. It is not original. It is NOT a secret.
Step 2: Believe
You must believe you will receive and that the perfect weight is yours already. You must imagine, pretend, act as if, make-believe, that the perfect weight is yours. You must see yourself as receiving that perfect weight.
This is just dressed up positive thinking with some LOA specific nonsense thrown in. It is not groundbreaking. It is not an earth shattering revelation. It is not new. It is not original. It is NOT a secret.
Write out your perfect weight and place it over the readout of your scale, or don't weigh yourself at all... Attracting the perfect weight is the same as placing an order with the catalogue of the Universe. You look through the catalogue, choose the perfect weight, place your order, and then it is delivered to you.
Goal setting, nothing new. NOT a secret. Then throw in some crap about the Universe sitting waiting for you like a glorified mail order department.
Make it your intention to look for, admire, and inwardly praise people with your idea of perfect-weight bodies. Seek them out and as you admire them and feel the feelings of that-you are summoning it to you.
Isn't this what happens with teenage girls developing anorexia due to unrealistic weight goals set by societies portrayal of women? Doesn't this strike you as grossly irresponsible?
If you see people who are overweight, do not observe them, but immediately switch your mind to the picture of you in your perfect body and feel it.
Oh yes, don't look at the fat people because they'll make you fat. Now she is blaming other people for your problems too. This woman is a real piece of work, and this is a far from positive message. Remember, these are her words, not mine.
Step 3: Receive
You must feel good. You must feel good about You. This is important, because you cannot attract your perfect weight if you feel bad about your body now... As you think perfect thoughts, as you feel good about You, you are on the frequency of your perfect weight, and you are summoning perfection.
More feel good nonsense that basically means nothing.
I am convinced that if we can eat our food in the present, entirely focused on the pleasurable experience of eating, the food is assimilated into our bodies perfectly, and the result in our bodies must be perfection.
Of course, her conviction means poop in the face of the evidence. And the evidence is overwhelmingly against her. She doesn't even have any to start with.
The end of the story about my own weight is that I now maintain my perfect weight of 116 pounds and I can eat whatever I want. So, focus on your perfect weight.
Bullshit. Does anyone here really believe that Byrne could eat chocolate cake, fries, deep fat fried burgers and wash it all down with a gallon of soda for every meal and not get fat? I thought not. And here's the postscript to my own little anecdote above. I don't practise the LOA. I have done none of the things that Byrne recommends as necessary for weight loss and guess what? I've lost so much weight my clothes don't fit anymore. What did I do? I ride my bike to work almost everyday. I cut down on the beer and soda. I watch what I eat. I exercise.
All of which means The Secret and The Law of Attraction are both a crock of shit.
Law of Attraction not working for Joe Vitale
Secret Write Off
The 'law' of attraction (not)
The Missing Revenue Source
Oprah's Ugly Secret
Here's the Secret, blame the victim
The Secret may fade, but stupidity is forever