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The Secret

Oprah loves it; it was outselling the latest Harry Potter book, and it caused consternation amongst book buyers when they’ve found empty shelves where this book should have been.

If you want a new job, or a gorgeous girlfriend, this is the book for you.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne is currently no. 4 in the Eason’s bestsellers list. Fundamental to the book is ‘the secret’ – the law of attraction: if we think negatively we attract negative things, if we think positively we attract positive things.

Let me say that there is a grain of truth in this – there always is in error, that’s what makes it believable. We all know that if we think lowly of ourselves that affects our bearing, our health, our confidence, and a host of other areas. But Byrne is saying more than that: “Nothing good or bad can come into your experience unless you summon it through persistent thoughts… There isn’t a single thing that you cannot do with this knowledge. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, The Secret can give you whatever you want.”

The whole idea is hugely attractive to us because we all like control. We want to play at being gods. But it’s hugely mistaken, hurtful and destructive.

The Secret has nothing helpful to say to the victims of evil. According to it, if we have experienced evil, we have somehow brought it on ourselves. Not only is that untrue and unhelpful, its logically incoherent. It gets into a tangle because it makes us the reference point of right and wrong, instead of having some universal standard. Think of the paedophile who implements the teaching of this book in order to get what he wants. Now, if he wants what he wants to the point where the universe has to comply, how can that abuse be a result of the victim’s negative thinking? The universe had no choice but to give the abuser what he wanted.

The Secret endorses and spiritualises selfishness. Byrne warns against speaking to people who are suffering illness or misfortune in case we begin to think negatively. We aren’t to make sacrifices because sacrifice reinforces a belief in doing without, rather than getting all you can. We are always to place ourselves first.

The Secret defies rationality. Are we able to eat what we want and just think ourselves thin? Are we able to do without medicine and heal ourselves? Byrne even says that the law of attraction can grant immortality. Yet the people who teach this law seem to be ageing at the same rate as the rest of us.

The sad thing is that this book is doing so well, confirming people in their selfishness, and providing no real solutions for the deep problems of life. The reality is that we are not gods who control the universe; we need the God who is in control. The answer to our problems isn’t a self-centred secret; it’s a Jesus-centred solution. Without him we are only dust, but with him we can become sons and daughters of God. Without him we can have no self-esteem; with him we have God-given esteem. Without him we remain guilty; with him the past can be forgiven, the present transformed and the future filled with hope. And that’s no secret.