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imageNow that Rhonda Byrne’s runaway bestseller, “The Secret,” has garnered more than 2,400 reviews on, the crack DharmaCafé editorial team has decided to swing into action and offer its own review of the book.

by Roger Savoie

Everybody’s talking about “The Secret”—so much so, it might be said, that the “secret” might not be considered such any longer. “The Secret” is now a bestselling book and a wildly popular DVD; it has even featured on Oprah. But what actually is it?

“The Secret,” it seems, is basically the “power of attraction”—the capacity to attract to yourself anything you desire, by means of your creative thought. As we’ll see, this is far from a new concept. What is new about it, and what is attracting people in such momentous numbers, is its successful convergence with American consumerism.

“The Secret’s” creators claim that, using this power of attraction, you can achieve the American dream pretty much straight away—the house, the car, success, money, love, power. All you need to do is change the way you think, be more positive, and discipline your inner mental processes. This, they say, will be enough to change your life—and it might even make you “spiritual”.

Most of you will have heard the popular saying “You become what you think”. I’m a firm believer in this saying—so long as its conditions are properly understood and met (more on that later). If we really consider it, most of us can feel the evident truth of this principle. If John thinks he’s useless and incapable of success, if he’s constantly repeating in his mind and to others that he’s good for nothing, he has no chance of achieving anything worthwhile. Conversely, if Mary puts her attention on achieving tenure at her university, if she works to clear her mind of doubts and obstacles about this goal and puts all her energies toward it, presuming it will happen, chances are it will. 

Fundamentally, for both John and Mary, it’s the same principle in action, a fact of life anyone can verify: in the long run, you become what you put your attention on.

People who write books on positive thinking usually try and make us believe that the capacity to think positively, and to effect change in our lives by doing so, is a great new secret. Even a cursory look at history, though, will reveal that it’s an ancient principle.

As far back as a hundred thousand years ago, the first nomadic shamans of the magic cultures knew and used this principle, as did, in more recent times, the prophets of the mythical cultures. Major religious figures, such as Buddha and Jesus, while transcending the magic and mythic ideologies, still recognised and spoke of this phenomena in one form or another. As Jesus says in Matthew, “Ask, and it will be given.”

In our modern world, however, where scientific materialism has become the unquestioned dogma, knowledge of this principle has, to a certain degree, been lost, which is why people are so excited: they feel as if they are discovering a truly magic secret, one that, up until now, has been completely hidden. With society transfixed by the scientific point of view for several generations now, the notion of creative thought really does seem like quite an innovation—even if it can’t be proven, or even tested, by the scientific tools of the day. Were it to be proven, or even more widely known, this principle would surely upset the countless devotees of the “God of Reason”—who among them would want to admit that some interior, invisible force possesses special powers? Rational thinkers—who now, by and large, carry the positions of greatest weight in our power structures—might fear that such a belief as “The Secret” espouses, if it really caught on, might even unseat them. After all, they couldn’t support it, or acknowledge its existence—they would instantly lose their cachet, and become just another one of those discredited religious/new age/psychic/spiritual believers. Admitting that a non-rational force really exists, or that there are any things in the universe that they can’t account for or explain or control, would be tantamount to ideological suicide.

Take Mary, for instance. Now a tenured university professor, Mary can’t really deny the power of prayer. But, after a lifetime in the halls of academia, the word “prayer” makes her nervous, so she prefers to use the words “positive thinking” or “creative thought”. Calling it something else, she feels, might endanger the very position this principle helped her attain.

When it comes down to it, though, the law is the law. It makes no difference whether Joe the plumber is a materialist, a religionist or a spiritualist; if Joe puts his constant attention on his intention to become a real, bona fide plumber, he has every chance in the world of becoming one. By the time I was ten years old, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t waver in this thought, and eventually I became one.

These days, such an intention is a little too modest for most. Most of us, believers and non-believers both, want to be millionaires. If we put our unflinching concentration on such a goal, as many among us do, we can perhaps develop the disposition and work at creating the events that eventually achieve this end. But how profound is this, really? Though the principle at work is mysterious, it is really just putting in action a psychic process, for which the power of attraction is just one name. None of this, though, should be confused with a spiritual process—spirituality, as we’ll see, involves a lot more than thinking positively.

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