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The Law of Attraction and 'The Secret' by Rhondda Byrne: Book Review

Updated on November 14, 2015

What Is The Secret?

If you haven’t heard of the book called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne yet (or its sequel The Power (Rhonda Byrne)), or the Secret CD, then just what kind of a hole in the ground have you been living in for the last few years? The book – and latterly the film – is a work based on the theory of the ‘Law of Attraction’, highly popular of late amongst ‘metaphysicians’. (Not to be confused in any way with actual physicians). Some people claim increased success, joy and fulfilment in life, through application of the principles of The Secret.

The 'Law of Attraction'

So what is the Law of Attraction all about? Stated simply, it amounts to the theory – or assertion – that things, and thoughts which are alike, are attracted to each other in this universe. In effect, this means that if you think negative thoughts of doom and disaster, then you bring appropriately similar events upon yourself. On the other hand, if you think big positive smiley thoughts

Are You Thinking Positively?

The positive thoughts include feelings of gratitude for the good things you are already blessed with in your life. But also, regarding the good things you would like to ’attract’ to yourself, you should think of them in the present sense, as if you already had them, in order to produce the positive feelings to attract them. (This is in order to avoid attracting a state of permanent ‘waiting’ for good things to manifest.

Does The Secret Work?

We are warned also that it’s of no use to make negative statements about the bad things we want to keep out of our lives. “I really don't want my little shack to be blown away in a hurricane” isn't going to do the trick. According to 'The Secret', all the universe hears in this statement are the words 'shack' and 'hurricane'. What do you think supposedly happens next? That's right, your little shack is history as a mighty typhoon sweeps through your neighbourhood! (Look, I said it was just a theory, right?)

How well do the analogies used by the contributors to 'The Secret' hold up when tested against their models? Well, I find the entire basis of the Law of Attraction a mite suspect, for a start. What is this assertion of the attraction of similar things based on, anyway? It's certainly not related to magnetic attraction, which is precisely the attraction of opposites, negative and positive ,north and south. Is it merely a matter of relying on proverbs and 'self-evident' common sense? 'Birds of a feather flock together'? To which I can only say, 'Opposites attract'. In other words, mere assertion proves nothing.

Is there any other scientific basis for 'The Secret'? The contributors make much play of the issue of the observer producing results on the outcome of subatomic experiments, claiming the analogy carries over into the world of neuronal messages and real-life events. Again,my response would be, saying it's so doesn't necessarily make it so! I'm also a little doubtful about some of their endorsement landgrabs, claiming that well-known historical figures were believers in 'The Secret' or the 'Law of Attraction'. Albert Einstein, a 'Secret' practitioner/believer? Really? Is there any documentation to that effect? The book certainly doesn't provide any beyond a bald assertion.

Let's just hypothesize for a minute that there is very little hard scientific evidence for the theories espoused in 'The Secret'. Can it be useful in our everyday lives in any case?

One of the main criticisms of opponents of the 'Law of Attraction' in general and 'The Secret' in particular, is the emphasis on thoughts rather than deeds. The idea that pretty and hopeful thoughts alone, not backed up by sweat and hard work, could be sufficient to realize one's dream just isn't any more than a fairy story to the more hard-headed and practical amongst us.

But if we take that as read, then can 'The Secret' be beneficial when combined with solid, practical action? Certainly it's hard to see how it could do any harm: an 'attitude of gratitude' as American's might put it, is going to foster a lot more optimism and energy than moaning and complaining about every thing that is going wrong in your life. Whether it is likely to actively 'attract' good things by itself is a whole other matter. However I do think that the positive mindset it could engender is more likely to lead to positive action, as opposed to negative and depressed thoughts. And once you start taking positive action, who knows where you'll end up?

On the other hand, some modern 'positive psychology' books, such as The Survivor Personality by Dr Al Siebert and books by Martin Seligman, posit a useful evolutionary role for pessimism. Pessimists, they argue – or pessimistic moods and traits in fully rounded individuals – may lead to more realistic assessments and effective gameplans when dealing with difficult circumstances.

What areas of life is the philosophy of 'The Secret' applied to? The book covers such areas as money, health and weight, asserting that the Law of Attraction can have powerful positive effects in all of them. (I find the notion that caloric intake has nothing to do with weight gain while thoughts have everything, particularly hard to swallow!)

'The Secret' is a book that stirs up powerful passions (and the Secret DVD), both amongst its supporters and its denigrators. Personally, I do believe it has the potential power to be a useful influence in the lives of many individuals – as long as they take a dose or two of salt whilst reading, and remain mindful that every positive thought needs to be counterbalanced by a positive action. Just my two cents, guys!

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