The Not-So-Secret

Book Review

Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, published over a year ago, still holds a spot on Barnes & Noble’s bestseller racks, and ranks second in book sales at I finally read it yesterday. I’m getting ready to preview Henry Cloud’s soon-to-be-released DVD, The Secret Things of God, which he prepared in response to this book. (Dr. Cloud’s book of that same title is already available.) I’ll be viewing his DVD soon after I write this, and at some time soon I’ll post a review, but I can’t help jumping in with some of my own reactions first.

The Secret says we can all have a better life: better relationships, better health, better finances, better success, better everything. All it takes is better, more positive thinking, for “The Law of Attraction” guarantees we will attract whatever we think. If we expect bad things, we’ll attract them; if we count on good things coming our way, they assuredly will.

This is but one of eight spiritual guidance/self-help books currently in Amazon’s top 25. There’s a reason they sell so well: we all want better lives. We want more joy and success, less pain and loss. We (many of us) want more spiritual lives.

So I greet books like these with a sense of familiar recognition, a kind of appreciation for the desire that drives them. I wrote once before of one author’s view that materialism–the philosophy that denies any genuine spiritual reality behind the physical world–may be reaching its “expiration date.” Do you yearn for something spiritual to improve your life? I have the same longing, and I lament the loss of spirituality in our modern age.

So I wish Rhonda Byrne had really told us the true Secret for spirituality and joy, but sadly, she has not.

Like other New Agers at least as far back as Fritjof Capra, she tries to bridge the world of spirit and science through quantum mechanics (pp. 156-157):

“Let me explain how you are the most powerful transmission tower in the Universe. In simple terms, all energy vibrates at a frequency. Being energy, you also vibrate at a frequency, and what determines your frequency at any time is whatever you are thinking and feeling. All the things you want are made of energy, and they are vibrating too….

“Here is the ‘wow’ factor. When you think about what you want, and you emit that frequency, you cause the energy of what you want to vibrate at that frequency and you bring it to You! As you focus on what you want, you are changing the vibration of the atoms of that thing, and you are causing it to vibrate to You….

“When you think about and feel those good things that you want, you have immediately tuned yourself to that frequency, which then causes the energy of all those things to vibrate to you, and they appear in your life. The law of attraction says that like attracts like. You are an energy magnet, so you electrically energize everything to you and electrically energize yourself to everything you want.”

Her bridge won’t bear that weight. Clearly she wants to explain how the law of attraction works. There is no prayer-answering God in her worldview, so there has to be some other causal link between our minds and the things that happen to us. Her law of attraction does not say that if we are responsible, optimistic, and hard-working, we’ll see good things as the fruit of our good labors. Her law of attraction says that good things will come our way just by our expecting them, just by having a positive hope regarding what we want. There’s a great example of this right before that last quoted passage:

“I never studied science or physics at school, and yet when I read complex books on quantum physics I understood them perfectly because I wanted to understand them.”

You need not understand quantum mechanics as well as she thinks she does to know that the mysterious “frequency” of which she speaks must have (literally) unbelievable information-carrying capacity, as well as amazingly high power. It can read our thoughts to bring us a Mercedes instead of a lawn mower. Its power radiates outward to the drunk drivers of the world and lets their befuddled minds know to stay far from us–or maybe instead (she doesn’t quite say) it works on their cars to prevent them coming our way.

It’s a muddled mess, actually. Again, I can appreciate the desire to bring science and spirituality together into one happy household. We Christians know about seeking scientific evidences for God. We do not, however, try to make science actually do the spiritual work of our worldview. This seeking for support in quantum mechanics seems a desperate maneuver for legitimacy.

There is little warrant for this worldview, yet it attracts an awful of people. Maybe it’s because it lets us think so highly of ourselves:

“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).

“The earth turns on its orbit for You, The oceans ebb and flow for You. The sun rises and sets for You. The stars come out for You. Every beautiful thing you see, every wondrous thing you experience, is all there, for You. Take a look around. None of it can exist, without You. No matter who you thought you were, now you know the Truth of Who You Really Are. You are the master of the Universe. You are the heir to the kingdom. You are the perfection of life. And now you know The Secret” (p. 183, the closing words of the book).

There’s plenty of feel-good power there. I can appreciate the need for it: in a messed-up world of failures and loss, sometimes all we want is to feel better about ourselves, and to have things go our way a bit more than they do. But we are not God in a physical body. We are not all power. We are not all wisdom. We are not perfection. The oceans do not ebb and flow for us, and the world could exist without us, as it did for long eons before we were born.

There has to be a more honest, more realistic, and better way to find what we’re looking for in life. And there is. It is the open secret, the true mystery revealed, the genuine way to living the life we were designed to live. It’s not based on false science but on spiritual reality. Its good outcomes are not delivered through some concocted electrical frequency, but through a personal relationship with an all-powerful Person who loves us. There is hope, and there is reason to be optimistic and positive, and there is a God who really answers prayers. Pain, loss, and death are unavoidable, but there is also resurrection. There is abundant life and genuine spiritual beauty in the true God, revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne. 2006:Atria Books/Beyond Words; 216 pages.