ESCAPING "THE SECRET" (2007)

Is there any escaping The Secret? The book is number one on Amazon.com, and the DVD has become a big hit at house parties in Vancouver. The recent blessing by Oprah has taken The Secret from a blip on the pop culture radar to a media mothership with a wallet- seeking tractor beam.

The glitzy, Australian-conceived production is devoted to the "Law of Attraction," a supposed universal law in which like attracts like. The contributors to The Secret insist that good thoughts will draw good things to you, and that science proves it. In the film's dramatic sequences, a boy sees a bike in a store window, and by concentrating, eventually gets it as a gift from an adult. A young woman focuses on a gold necklace, and a suitor eventually drapes the selfsame jewelery around her neck. A guy visualizes sitting in a new Porsche, and soon finds himself in the driver's seat.

The Secret is big on manifesting wealth. Creator Rhonda Byrne says she was inspired after first discovering the Law of Attraction in a 1910 book called The Science of Getting Rich.

"Let go of all those limiting thoughts," she writes in the book. "Food cannot cause you to put on weight, unless you think it can... 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.' And so the Genie of the Universe says, 'Your wish is my command!'"

Both the book and the DVD are full of this sort of witless solipsism. It's the age-old wine of magical thinking poured into a hip, high-production bottle. The film's participants are identified mostly as "visionaries" and "metaphysicians," even though the majority hail from the world of U.S. business management and motivational speaking.

It all may seem like harmless piffle, but there's a dark side to this, as when The Secret's talking heads warn that negative thoughts can result in car accidents, illness and all sorts of dire consequences. This create-your-own-reality idea has long been in circulation in New Age circles, and anyone with a hard-core New Age friend or relative is likely familiar with their condescending, judgmental rap. Cancer, a bad car accident, or any other life- altering downer, is your own fault, brought about by negative thoughts or karma. They may not say it outright, but the inference hangs in the air: you've failed to love yourself enough or think the right thoughts, and your fingerprints are all over the psychic crime scene.

The Secret's Oprah-friendly upgrade to the create-your-own- reality paradigm is like crystal meth for New Age bullies. But that's not the worst of it. Its message disconnects the viewer or reader from any ecological, economic and political connections, other than an imagined cosmic hotline between the ego and its Care Bear cosmos. And then there's the insistence that the Law of Attraction is endorsed by science, when it's not. The Secret simply gives spiritual narcissism a lick of new paint, lacquering the ego with quantum pseudoscience. Yet at the same time, The Secret is radically, even proudly, anti-intellectual. "How does it work?" barks one of the participants in the film about the LOA. "Nobody knows. Just like nobody knows how electricity works. I don't, do you?" (Actually, there are plenty of people who know how electricity works, and if they didn't, others would still be reading self-help books by candlelight or kerosene.)

But what's truly scary is where the philosophy of The Secret maps over a bizarro offshoot of neocon thinking. In 2004, a "top Republican aide" to Bush shared an insight with New York Times reporter Ron Suskind.

"The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded, and murmured something about Enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality... We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"

While the Empire looks beyond its borders with a twisted kind of positive thinking, dreaming up one farcical war of liberation after another, the middle class consumer targeted by The Secret is counselled to turn inward. Look to your navel, or even further south, and dive straight in, while focusing on that Porsche, jewelry, monster home, etc. Become your own pirate radio for good vibes, broadcasting a bling-seeking signal that is in keeping with the West's global resource wars.

As the late, great Robert Anton Wilson once said of the New Age scene's carnie aspect, "There's a seeker born every minute."

Geoff Olson

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