Saturday, April 28, 2007

"The Secret" Book Review (Part II: A Biblical Response)

In the last post I tried to keep my criticisms of "The Secret" to a minimum. I was mainly trying to give a picture as to what the Secret is and what it all entails. Here I will turn to a critique. I will firstly give a critique from logic and then I will plunge a stake in the heart of this ideological Dracula by contrasting it with the Bible.

I.) A General Critique

There are numerous problems with "the Secret", I think it is fairly obvious to anyone who has seriously looked at the ideas being presented that these notions simply do not reflect reality. Then again perhaps not. I think the first reply we will hear given to anyone who begins to doubt or question "the Secret" will be as a commentor said on the last post: "Have you tried it?"

i. Impossible to disprove by "Testing"
Well, by "trying" the Secret you will find that it will always come true. You naturally have doubts that you will win the don't. Yet you naturally hope and think you will win $20! Irregardless of the outcome you will always be able to point back to either negative or positive thoughts and say: "Wow I guess this is true!"

Either way the theory is validated. In the first case you need to think more positively, in the second you need to keep it up and guard from negative thoughts. I think this is the case because you are always thinking both negatively and postively simultaniously, in saying yes "I want X" you are equally saying "No I don't want Y".

ii. How do they know this stuff?
This has to do with just how the authors even know these things. In the book the topic of the Secret is treated as though it is ancient wisdom handed down which they have unearthed after much study. My simple question is how do they know how the Universe operates? One of the lines that sticks out to me and is really central for HOW to use the Secret is this:

"When you focus your thoughts on something you want, and you hold that focus, you are in that moment summoning what you want with the mightiest power in the Universe. The law of attraction doesn't compute "don't", "not" or "no" or any other words of negation. As you speak words of negation this is what the law of attraction is recieving:
'I don't want to spill something on my outfit.'
[Universe hears}'I want to spill something on my outfit and I want to spill more things.'"

My question is simply how do the authors know this? Is it written up in the sky: "I the Universe do not hear the word NOT even though I had to use it to explain that I can not compute it!" How did this knowledge become known to humans is what I am getting at. I am sure the author did not come up with this on her own, but I am asking how anybody can know it is a true statement apart from "testing" it.

iii. Numerous Appeals to Authority
One of the most blatant logical fallacies commited by "The Secret" authors is the appeal to authority. This is evident throughout the book not only by the beefy credentials of the authors themselves but also the appeals to historical greats as "secret bearers". Basically history is skewed to make those who were succesess practicers of "the Secret", which of course was the foundation for their success.

"The greatest teachers who have ever lived have told us that the law of attraction is the most powerful laDoes Chuck Norris know 'The Secret'?w in the Universe.
Poets such as William Shakespeare, Robert Bowning, and William Blake delivered it in their poetry. Musicians such as Ludwig van Beethoven expressed it through their music. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci depicted it in their paintings. Great thinkers including Socrates, Plato..."

The authors make no attempt whatsoever to support these claims, they just make them. Socrates practiced the Secret. Oh ok, I guess you have guys with Phd's contributing to this book so they must be right. Also they want to lump all the religions together and say they all really taught the Secret:

"Religions, such as Hinduism, Hermetic traditions, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and civilization, such as the Babylonians and Egyptians, delivered it [The Secret] through their writtings and stories." (p.4)

Now I will take up the teachings of the Secret v. Christianity shortly, however in this instance the point is merely that the authors are making a wild appeal to authority. All the religions of the world taught the Secret. As did all of the civilizations that were great, like the Babylonians and Egyptians. Yet again they give no serious evidence of these seemingly massive claims.

iv. Bereft of any morality
One of the things you will find in the book is that there is no real ethic behind it all. Although there are commands to be full of gratitude, when you really logically put it all together you are really just thanking yourself. It is self worship. With this sort of an inflated view of self, where self really is the ultimate because self is in fact God, there also logically follows an erasing of any moral accountability.

This is one of the greatest struggles of eastern and pantheistic thinkers, they have no way to establish the catagories of right and wrong in an objective sense. This is because objectivity does not exist, all that is is God. If that is the case then the evil that exists (or rather what we often call "evil") is part of God. Hence in Hinduism you see the worship of "Kali" a god depicted with skulls for a necklace and horribly sculpted. This is because in pantheism "evil" is just as much part of God as "good".

That said there is no possible objective standard of morality in pantheism, behaviour such as selfishness cannot be viewed as "wrong".

v. Appeal to Desire
"Get Rich or Die Trying"
is the title of one the most popular rap albums in the past few years, that says a lot about the love of money in our culture. Really at heart the message of "The Secret" is targeting selfish covetuous desires. We live in a culture where the most ubiquotous apetites are for money, sex, longevity, and feelings of importance. The Secret is here to say all of those desires can be fulfilled if you apply the metGet your Siberian tiger's milk-tonic here!hod. It is here to cure what ails ya. The book is riddled with testimonials of people who have had success in all of those areas by practicing the Secret.

Now as I am about to get to, Biblically having these desires in and of themselves are not necessarily wrong. It is not wrong to want to be able to provide for your family, it is not wrong to want a good spouse, it is not wrong to not want cancer, and it is not wrong to know that your life is valuable.

The problem comes when we start isolating these things as an end without God in the picture and talking about these things in forms of "I deserve". It is this inflated view of self that "the Secret" is keying on in our culture. Really it is what almost all advertising is geared towards. The Secret is here to affirm people in their covetuousness and to ultimatly give a methodology to fullfill their apetites.

II. So What's Wrong Biblically?

Well, if you read the first post in which you start to get an idea of the overall worldview that the Secret entails you run into numerous problems if you are going to believe the Bible. Despite the repeated claim on Oprah and even in the book that "The Secret" was not at all in conflict with Christianity, that simply is not the case. What we have are two different worldviews, two distinct views about who/what God is, two distinct views about who/what we are as humans, two seperate views on morality, and conflicting views on God's relationship to suffering. I will take these up point by point and try to be as brief as possible.

i.Who/What is God?
The Secret says:
"So whichever way you look at it the result is still the same. We are One. We are all connected, and we are all part of the One Energy Field, or the Supreme Mind, or the One Consciousness, or the One Creative Source. Call it whatever you want, but we are all One." (p.162)

"You are God in a physical body. You are Spirit in the flesh. You are Eternal Life expressing itself as You. You are a cosmic being. You are all power. You are all wisdom. You are all intelligence. You are perfection. You are magnificence. You are the creator, and you are creating the creation of You on this planet." (p.164)

This is a form of Pantheism, all is God and God is all. You and me, the deer, the trees, the earth, and well as they would say the Universe itself is God. Hence the emphasis on language about how we are One. Also God is impersonal, more of a force then a person. This is why the author meditates instead of prays.

The Bible says:

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Gen 1:1)

"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." (Acts 17:24-25)

God is not seen as being part of nature but rather above and over nature as the creator of nature. Nature is not divine, God is wholly other and is distinct from what He has made. God is personal and to be sought relationally.

ii.Who/what are Human Beings?
The secret says:

"How does all of this make you a spiritual being? For me, the answer to that question is one of the most magnificent parts of the teachings of the Secret. You are energy, and energy cannot be created or destroyed. Energy just changes form. And that means You! The true essence of You, the pure energy of You, has always been and always will be. You can never not be." (p.159)

This is just another angle at from which the author approaches her pantheism. Note the capital Y's on "You", this is how New Age pantheists refer to us as divine.

The Bible says:

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Gen 1:27)

Human beings are creatures. They are not divine. Human beings are not part of nature but are over it because they are unique creatures made in the image of God. Humans have not always existed but all have a beginning.

iii. Money
The Secret says:

One thing I will point out is that this book teaches us to love material things:

"Start to say and feel, "I have more than enough." "There is an abundance of money and it's on its way to me." "I am a money magnet." "I love money and money loves me." I am receiving money every day." 'Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.'" (p.107)

Of course we are really saying thank you to ourselves when you put this stuff together:

"It is not people who are giving you the things you desire. If you hold that false belief, you will experience lack, because you are looking at the outside world and people as the supply. The true supply is the invisible field, whether you call that the Universe, the Supreme Mind, God, Infinite Intelligence, or whatever else." (p.163)

The author even tries to point to the Bible and say that this love of money is quite in line with Christianity:

"If you have been brought up to believe that being wealthy is not spiritual, then I highly recommend you read The Millionaires of the Bible Series by Catherine Ponder. In these glorious books you will discover that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Jesus were not only prosperity teachers, but also millionaires themselves, with more affluent lifestyles than many present-day millionaires could conceive of." (p.109)

The Bible says:

"Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness."
(1 Tim 6:6-11)

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."" (Heb 13:5)

We are not to lust after things but be truly content with what we have. So what about this talk about all the "Bible Millionaires"? Well, it is true by an agrarian culture standard men like Jacob and Abraham and Isaac were rich. However, it is complete rubbish to suggest they enjoyed a life that modern millionaires couldn't fathom. Well, maybe that is true. If by that you mean modern millionaires couldn't fathom being a goat herder for a thousand goats as being "rich". The lives of these men were in no way lavish.

As for Jesus being a prosperity teacher that is just ridiculous, I will simply point to His own words:

"And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." (Matt 8:20)

"No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him." (Lk 16:13-14)

I also recommend to anyone interested the dialogue in Luke 12:13-34. There is simply no way you could see Christ's teachings as prosperity orientated unless that is what you want to make them. This is why you will find that they only cite the Bible one time in this book (horribly out of context of course).

iv. Suffering
The secret teaches:

"Often when people first hear this part of the Secret they recall events in history where masses of lives were lost, and they find it incomprehensible that so many people could have attracted themselves to the event. By the law of attraction, they had to be on the same frequency as the event. It doesn't necessarily mean they thought of that exact event, but the frequency of their thoughts matched the frequency of the event. If people believe they can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they have no control over outside circumstances, those thoughts of fear, separation, and powerlessness, if persistent, can attract them to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

You have a choice right now. Do you believe that it's just the luck of the draw and bad things can happen to you at any time? Do you want to believe that you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time?

That you have no control over circumstances?Or do you want to believe and know that your life experience is in your hands and that only all good can come into your life because that is the way you think? You have a choice, and whatever you choose to think will become your life experience.

Nothing can come into your experience unless you summon it through persistent thoughts."

All suffering is brought upon by ourselves, the way we interact with the Universe. The only things that can come into our lives are things we summon. With this sort of view all suffering whether it is cancer, genocides, rape, child molestation, Katrina, Virginia Tech, etc, all of these were necessarily brought into people's lives because they brought it in.

This is the price you pay in order to believe that you shape all of your reality by your positive or negative thoughts. You have to take the good with the bad. So yes, every good thing that comes someones way is caused by themselves, however every tragedy is not really a tragedy but something they willed into their lives unwittingly through thought.

The Biblical view of suffering:

"Jesus wept." (John 11:35)

This is the shortest verse in the Bible and it comes in the context of Jesus going to the tomb of Lazarus the man He is about to raise from the dead. He wept over the whole abnormality of death and what the fall has done to the human condition.

"Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it." (John 11:38)

The Greek word translated into "deeply moved" is the word ἐμβριμάομαι "embrimaomai" it literally means indignant. Jesus was angry. Jesus was angry at death, or rather the effects of the fall on humanity.

Suffering, and death are not normal. We are not living in the world as God originally made it. This is a fallen world. Cancer is NOT normal. Hurricanes destroying peoples homes is NOT normal. Gunmen shooting people for no reason is NOT normal. These are the effects of the fall on human life and all of creation. We look to the day when all of creation will finally be fully put right again as Paul writes in Roman 8.

There is much more to say about the Christian view of suffering but this is the hallmark difference between the Christian view of suffering and all other worldviews, in the Christian view suffering is NOT normal. We live in a world that has been effected with the fall of man.

Whether it is Atheism, or Pantheism, or any other worldview for that matter suffering will be seen in some sense as normal and just naturally part of being human. Christianity can look at suffering and say "This is not right!" And we can fight suffering with a reasonable base without fighting God.
III.) Conclusion

Well, my main goal in this was to simply portray the ideas presented in "The Secret" and simply show what they really entail and how that these ideas are simply not Christian. This is a worldview, this is not just a get rich quick technique. These people are serious, they really believe in their pantheism.

However, no matter how serious they are if we adopt the Secret philosophy we are left we some pretty unsavory views on life. Sure running around thinking you're God is probably the biggest self esteem high you can get, but it comes at a price. If everything and everyone is God then what is is right.

So that means Tornados, angry gunmen, Aids sufferers etc are all really just part of what is normal. Biblically none of this is normal, but is a result of the fall of man. One of the things about India and the application of Pantheism is that there are casts and there are some people you just do not help out because they are getting theirs karmaically so to speak. That is the logical end folks.
Christianity gives us freedom to call suffering wrong. It gives us a foundation for compassion. Also we have a foundation say that the sort of self absorbtion propigated in the Secret is wrong. In the end Biblically we know why the Secret is successful:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.[...] For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica." (2 Tim 4:3-4, 10)

I don't know how many people I have known that have seen the Gospel knew it was true had their questions answered and turned right back to a love of the world. And finally, not to be apocalyptic:

"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people." (2 Tim 3:1-5)

I think these Biblical warnings fit "The Secret" philosophy perfectly.


E. I. Sanchez said...

For a moment, I thought the Secret was Dan Brown's new novel. I thought you might have gotten an early copy.

Anyway, this book and movie will be hot because people want to feel good. The law of attraction seems lovely until bad things start to happen. Then it is not called the law of attraction anymore. Is it bad Karma then?

I wonder what Einstein would say to this assertion: "You are energy, and energy cannot be created or destroyed. "

1. - Doesn't the big bang say we just came to be? Is that "Created energy"?
2. - And isn't the universe running out of Energy?

Finally on the money issue: I know some people that have been praying for God to send them money. Trust me, it doesn't work. The more you ask for money, the less likely it is you'll get some. Unless you cheat, steal, or work really hard...

The Secret's view of Suffering is illogical as you have demonstrated.

Good review...

BigTex71 said...

"You are God in a physical body. You are Spirit in the flesh. You are Eternal Life expressing itself as You. You are a cosmic being. You are all power. You are all wisdom. You are all intelligence. You are perfection. You are magnificence. You are the creator, and you are creating the creation of You on this planet." (p.164)

Just what I thought... I am a GOD!


Bob said...

Hey, thanks for the comments.

"2. - And isn't the universe running out of Energy?"

You are right, some physicists have termed this the "Big Chill" because the thermal energy in the Universe is being transferred into different forms and eventually we will run out (the suns will all burn out). Unless as some physicists say the universe is an open system and energy can be God.

BigTex said:"Just what I thought... I am a GOD!


chuckle, yeah the only problem is that so is the Virginia Tech shooter.