Atria, 2006, 198 pages, ISBN 978-1-58270-170-7
Yes, your honour, I am possibly the worst possible person in the world to review The Secret.
As I stand before you explaining what would motivate me to write about a book that I found obnoxious and exasperating, I confess that I am guilty of crass materialism in all facets of my personal philosophy. I believe that hard work and self-confidence are the way to get what we deserve. I don’t place any trust in purveyors of pseudoscientific woo-woo. I am allergic to much of the self-help literature. I don’t even watch Oprah.
I have read The Secret. I found it at a used book-sale. The type of book sale where they weigh your box, charge you by the pound and don’t ask to see what’s inside. I can’t imagine that I paid more than a dollar for it.
Well, maybe a bit more, given how it’s printed on heavy paper. Amazon tells me that it has less than 36,000 words, but they’re all set on glossy photo-paper, and every page has a faux-scroll background, with color icons to introduce every contributor and full-color pictures of them at the end. This is a really well-designed product. It’s not a book as much as it’s a slick piece of Da Vinci Code-inspired marketing designed to sell other derivatives of itself. Most of those derivatives, I assume, must try to sell the book in return.
Oh, yes, your honour, I have understood The Secret. The Law of Attraction is nothing more than wishing hard enough to make things come true. Was that a spoiler? Well, what can I say: You can probably read any page in the book and grasp as much, given how it just keeps repeating its basic points over and over, adding up potentially fraudulent, delusional or bias-confirmed anecdotes until they’re meant to look like data. It’s all wrapped up in quantum pseudo-science spouted by professional cloud-peddlers –including my own favourite crackpot Fred Alan Wolf, who provides a telling link between The Secret and What the Bleep Do We Know?
You could describe my overall reaction to the book as a mixture of exasperation and cackling sarcasm. It’s actually intriguing in how it sets up a delusion that makes The Secret seem so important and all-powerful: It’s linked with safely dead figures such as Einstein, Shakespeake and Mother Theresa, then puts up a baroque system of negative belief meant to immunize believers against skeptics: According to the book, harbouring any doubt at all about wishful thinking will make it fail. It’s then your fault if it doesn’t work. If that’s not a cult-like indoctrination device, I’m not sure what is.
In fact, I would propose that The Secret is a really handy pseudo-religious device to keep the proletariat down. It’s a straight-up money transfer from the readers to TS Production LLC, and a way to keep the dissatisfied wishing for more. If it doesn’t work, it’s not because the universe doesn’t work like that: It’s because their own faith in The Secret isn’t strong enough. They can either reinforce it by buying another TS Production LLC product or blame mysterious elites for keeping The Secret a secret.
What annoys me the most about The Secret is that it actually trivializes a lot of useful behavioural techniques. Self-confidence is always a performance-booster, positive thinking can help in identifying opportunities and moving expertise from the conscious to the subconscious is a mainline to mastery… there’s a lot of common-sense in here, but it’s wrapped in pseudo-conspiracy theories, slick marketing packaging and insidious memetic content. The Secret is probably not dangerous in that it reaps its rewards from the same people periodically picked clean by other new-age money-grabs… but it’s always a disappointment to realize that despite the demonstrable rewards of hundreds of years of rational thought, there is still a substantial appetite for such nonsense.
Now, I understand that I’m about four years behind the times in blathering indignantly about The Secret. People have moved on, much like copies of The Celestine Prophecy are gathering dust on so many bookshelves. But, you know what? When The Secret was hot, I wished for a way to read it without paying any money at all to the hucksters at TS Production LLC. I could have borrowed it from the library, mooched it from a credulous friend or gone digging through recycling bins, but I just waited and the Universe sent a copy ripe for picking at my favourite book sale. HOLY CRAP IT WORKS!
Never mind, your Honour, I rest my case.