Comments

  1. Mitchell says

    As far as pseudosciences go, the Secret is more the “magic feather” variety than the “destroy your life through lies and fear” variety. Training your brain to accept success is essential to achieving it, whether you’re doing it and expecting “The Universe” to answer for your hard work or whether you’re doing it with faith in your own abilities, that belief is still an important step. It’s a psychological training wheel, and considering the state of education right now, “prayer (which is sadly what this is) + work + independent optimism” is still better than “prayer + subcultural indoctrination”. Give me one person with this book for every one person using Dianetics and the world will be a better place.

    Dude is spot on funny about it though. I wish I had a 32 sided dice…

  2. says

    You’re right, this is a less damaging belief than any religion, Scientology or otherwise. My chief concern with The Secret, though, is the idea that if you get cancer, it’s because you weren’t thinking happy enough thoughts. It turns an unfortunate event into a moral failing. And they are even careful to say that isn’t the case — that you can’t extrapolate such a moral failing from your unfortunate events. But when they say “just visualize yourself in a sports car, and you’ll get a sports car — everyone who’s gotten one has visualized themselves in one and the universe sent them the opportunity to get one”, the logical thing that follows, is that the universe sent you cancer because you were negative instead of positive. Look at the woman who wrote to Oprah after her show on The Secret, saying that she had breast cancer, but she was going to stop medical treatment and use The Secret to try to get better instead, all because of Oprah’s show.

    Positivity can be uplifting. But it is not universally uplifting. There are studies showing forced positivity can be psychologically damaging, through cognitive dissonance. And that’s exactly what The Secret, as a positivity training wheel, creates. Sure, it can be good in some select circumstances. But believing, no matter how earnestly, that the universe gives you what you think about, if only you’ll think about it hard enough, is prayer. And we already know prayer is nonsense. :)

    Long story short, yeah. Be optimistic. But don’t expect your optimism, or negativity, to “attract” anything. The universe is deterministic — things happen because people make them happen, not because this universe has any sort of reward or punishment system. And people make them happen because they are inclined to do so, from past experiences, due to the specific chemistry and physical makeup of their brains. If you can shift that makeup into positivity, and it produces a happier lifestyle, great. Good for you. But no external force is rewarding your efforts outside of your own efforts.

  3. says

    In case you haven’t noticed, I tend to generally rail on delusions, even comforting or seemingly harmless ones. And I’m equal opportunity in that respect. If it’s deluded, it’s of no value to me. If it’s in direct contradiction with reality, it’s of even less value than that.

  4. Mitchell says

    And I tend to be more of a “pick your battles carefully” sort of stripe. :) I accept that right now, in the process of not knowing everything. _I_ have delusions. And I think a universal acceptance of scientific method as the primary means of interacting with our society and understanding of the universe, as a cultural shift, is a delusion in itself. I think we have to take slower steps than that. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s the BEST result, but there’s battles I can help come to an end in my lifetime and ones I can’t. So people with delusions that train them into psychological channels for growth, as opposed to to ones make them more afraid, make them more judgemental, make them hate, should be left alone for those bigger fish. Any person who is looking for a place to shove their fate and not think about their problems will find it in our culture. That woman who listened to Oprah (the New American Jesus) is still more likely to accept an experimental treatment if she “sees it as an opportunity from the Universe” than someone who does the same thing but prays to Jesus instead and does nothing. When picking between the lesser of two evils, it’s still important to choose the lesser.

    Also, those studies show that that dissonance is a result of people directly suppressing negative emotions, because they knew that wasn’t true. However, I think that should be an expected part of bringing about psychological habit change. If you’re not used to handling your finances and taxes, yes, it’s going to be stressful. Yes, it’s also going to be more stressful to tell yourself “I can do this, I am a person capable of this” when every part of your brain tells you suck at it. But the results will be much higher than giving in to that feeling of suck and increasing your likelihood of quitting. And I think that is the the key element in inducing positive change in ones life, even though its harder on the brain. Exercise is harder on the muscles than rest. That’s not damage, that’s growth. Though its good to have some scientific evidence stating “hey, smiling through the pain doesn’t make it anything aside from pain”. But I certainly don’t think that’s psychological “damage.” Yeah, personal responsibility isn’t always a cakewalk, but it gets more shit done than blaming it everyone but yourself, which there’s wayyyyy too much of in America.

    *Just realized he’s talking more about American politics and culture now than science and will /rant*

  5. Mitchell says

    I just realized, according to my own arguments, how fucking devious the Secret is. It’s certainly going to get more results than any other sort of prayer, which will feed its viral marketing through 0% of its own merit. Magic Feathers don’t seem to harmless to me when they are used to sell more magic feathers. Fuck me and my economics!

  6. says

    Mitchell,
    I was pleased to see your last comment – that saved me a few hundred words. It is exactly viral marketing – it was put out by internet viral marketing wizzkid, Dan Holings –

    Dan Hollings, internet strategist behind the over-the-top successful online marketing campaign for “The Secret” movie, is the author of a new internet strategy book, Before The Big Bang.
    http://beforethebigbang.com/

    Last I heard he was suing Rhonda Byrne for nonpayment of his cut of the royalties. (He jokingly refers to himself as “Mr Universe”, the true source of Byrne’s wealth.)

    The Secret is actually much worse than it appears. Google Secret star James Arthur Ray (or look at virtually any post on my blog) and you’ll see he’s on a triple manslaughter charge for deaths he caused in his seminars, He was lucky to get away with a fourth death, which he concealed from participants and even some other staff members. He charged the credit account of one victim for a $10,000 workshop she’d paid for in advance but couldn’t attend because she was already dead.

    David Schirmer (also from the film) has been banned from offering financial services by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission. (He had a habit taking peoples lifesavings and promising to invest it for them. Of course he just pocketed the lot.) Here he is locking himself in the mens toilets when questioned by an interviewer.

    http://vimeo.com/4820117

    Most of the others are involved in legal disputes with each other, and all of them without exception are evil scammers who steal peoples money and lie as they breathe.

    And The Secret is not about positive thinking or good planning. It states specifically that the Law of Attraction is proven by quantum physics, that Einstein knew of it and used it in developing his famous formula. Again and again they insist that the LoA is a physical force, and rock solid science like space travel or atomic weapons.

    And they use fear to tell people that if they don’t use it for them, it will turn on them. Any “negative” thought will materialise in their lives as a negative event. Any criticism of this idea is a negative thought, which is why Secretards get so freaked out when you point out their errors.

    Byrne and Ray are both on record saying the Jews were responsible for creating the holocaust, and I know people who have spent years in therapy because they believed that their negativity was what caused them to give birth to a handicapped child.

    People plan their whole lives around this nonsense and finish up losing everything because they overestimated their nonexistent powers of manifestation. The only people who make anything out of it is the people selling it, and they sure as hell don’t try and follow their stupid teachings.

    The Secret just tied together the most easily marketable aspects of New Thought and found the most ruthless and talented manipulative scammers to sell it on film.

    And incidentally, the guy in the video should have pointed out the stupidity of claiming the Law of Attraction “works like magnetism”. They keep using that metaphor, even when it’s pointed out to them that in a magnet, a positive attracts a negative. So it’s a totally stupid idea, with an even stupider analogy.

  7. says

    I take back what I said about this being less damaging than Scientology. Same MO, same endgame. Different set of wacky beliefs and pseudoscience pasted over top, is the only difference.

    Yakaru, you are win, top to bottom. I suspected as much during the astrology dust-up, and I have confirmation both in this comment and in your blog post on James Ray’s trial (which I’ll link since you were humble enough not to). Cheers, sir.

  8. Mitchell says

    All good stuff though it feels a little ad hominum for my taste. Though I never mind hearing about more corrupt wealthy businessmen to rail against, I was talking about the ideas presented in the book and the people who believe them. It looks like there’s more people being hurt than I thought though, most of the people I have met who have read it have been the “tried and it’s bullshit” variety or the “tried it, then I realized it was all just me working harder” variety, both good things IMO. I’m sure watching a friend of my sit waiting for her cheque for a mortgage payment she wished for come in the mail might make me feel differently.

    Instead of turning this into a Scientology versus Secret atheist diatribe (which doesn’t help Jason’s original post any) I’ll just provide my Obligatory Operation Clambake link. Education is key!

    http://www.xenu.net/

    I’m sure it’ll been read before of course, but giving perspective where I can.

  9. says

    I suspect most people would do what you said, try and realize it’s bullshit, or try and realize it’s just them working harder. It’s not those people we’re looking out for, in suggesting this is crap in a public forum. They are swayed by evidence, and were open-minded enough to try it for themselves before passing judgement, and when they came to that judgement, they judged it correctly according to that evidence.

    The major moral failing of Scientology (at the risk of dredging back up the comparison you so rightly tried to put to bed) is that they make you pay a hell of a lot more money, and fully integrate you into a cult-like institution, before they let slip with the clearings, the trillion-year-old despot, the DC-9s and soul-catchers, and the nuclear bombs in volcanoes. This particular scam at least has the common decency of feeding you the line of bull after a comparatively small fee (e.g. the book / tape), then letting you let selection bias do the work of convincing you it’s true, or figuring out it’s bull, all on your own.

    Xenu.net probably has a very large role in making me start to despise delusion as a whole. And yeah, I’m sure I have delusions of my own, but I actively work to winnow most of them out and excise them from my worldview wherever I can. The particular delusion that I have, that my one voice can actually make a difference in creating more adherents to the rationalists’ worldview, is one I would like to leave intact, though.

  10. says

    Thanks for the compliment, Jason…

    Actually I think there are some interesting similarities between scientology (or any true cult) and The Secret. Cults work to socially isolate their members, whereas The Secret (and all those aligned with that stuff) try and isolate people intellectually. I find it quite fascinating to look at how they manage to somehow immunise people against allowing contradictory information from entering their consciousness. Much of it is done by flooding the market with all that quantum tripe etc, but a lot of it also done subtly through fear.

    I focus on the James Ray case a lot because it reveals the workings behind the scenes. (He’s also based his entire defense against the manslaughter charges on the idea that it was a “tragic accident” – so the LoA is bunk when it’s his ass on the line.)

    @Mitchell,
    Yeh I probably get a bit foamy about this stuff. I express myself more carefully when discussing it with friends who believe in it.

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