A whole lot of folks have been talking about The Secret, the book by Rhonda Byrne. This is not surprising, since the idea that we can control what is in our lives by telling the universe what to do is deliciously narcissistic.
But The Secret gets it wrong from the get-go. It is based on the Law of Attraction, which, very simply stated, argues that your thoughts control your outcomes. You attract into your life what you think about, whether it is good or bad.
Control your thoughts? The speed of unconscious thought is too fast to monitor or control—that is why it is called “monkey mind” in Buddhist mindfulness practices. And I don’t want to be in a universe that bends and runs to every thought I have, let alone all the thoughts we humans have collectively!
It is not the Law of Attraction but the law of greed that The Secret espouses. And this is the part of The Secret that really disturbs me: It encourages us to focus on ourselves rather than see how we are part of a larger world in which we have real purpose.
The Secret states, “Everything that is coming into your life you are attracting into your life” (p. 4). This premise thereby judges victims of rape, incest, abuse and disease as having attracted such horror.
Poverty has nothing to do with any “-ism” or social and economic injustice: “The only reason any person does not have enough money is because they are blocking money from coming to them with their thoughts” (p. 98).
And there is no need for comprehensive health care as much as there is a need for all of us to practice The Secret. After all, The Secret tells us that “You cannot ‘catch’ anything unless you think you can, and thinking you can is inviting it to you with your thought” (p. 132).
The Secret also says that our resources are unlimited. So I guess I can stop recycling and I can stop advocating for environmentally friendly legislation and stop signing those petitions. And since I can think myself to perfect health and body, pass the potatoes and the gravy, please!
The Secret meets us in the shallowness of privilege and entitlement, but it drowns in the depths of ideas like Mahatma Ghandi’s “be the change you want to see.”
There is also this statement from Paul: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
It is not enough to think differently, we must act differently.
Because the only way to get different results is to do something differently!
Inez Torres Davis is director for justice, Women of the ELCA.