I don’t watch Oprah enough, so I haven’t seen much open endorsement of the nonsense behind that unbelievable bestseller, The Secret. There must be a lot of closet believers, though, because that piece of well-whipped frothy BS sold 19 million copies. Now the author has cranked out another, similar excretion: The Power, nicely reviewed in Newsweek. Both have the same premise, that the Universe really, really loves you and wants to give you everything you wish for, if only you concentrate and ask.
The Power is a distillation of the central insight of The Secret: the “law of attraction.” It’s still true, apparently, that you can get anything you want, from parking spots to cures for obscure diseases, just by wishing for them and pretending they are already in your possession. But there are some new observations in The Power, such as the importance of being nice to your water. Researchers in several countries, she writes, “have discovered that when water is exposed to positive words and feelings such as love and gratitude, the energy level of the water not only increases, but the structure of the water changes, making it perfectly harmonious … When water is exposed to negative emotions, such as hate, the energy level of the water decreases and chaotic changes occur.” Since “the inside of your head is 80 percent water,” you can see how important this is.
It sounds like it’s been updated by tossing any ol’ recent woo claim into the stewpot, like that magic water silliness. She’s also added old stuff, like the patriarchs from the book of Genesis.
Death, like poverty, is subject to the law of attraction: “[P]eople once lived for hundreds and hundreds of years,” she writes, citing “ancient texts” as her authority. “So what’s happened? People changed what they believed.”
You know, some of the smartest people in history have asked what the core principles of the universe are, and they’ve often been people with deep cultural roots and an entirely human predisposition to hope that the cosmos revolves around them. And in every case, they’ve failed to find evidence of the beneficent love and charity that they had hoped would come sleeting in to Earth from the farthest reaches of the firmament, and instead found only impersonal forces like gravity and electromagnetism and cosmic rays and deep forces that draw particles together or fling them apart. We live in an impersonal universe where hydrogen vastly outweighs our brains and where the dominant environment is an icy cold emptiness filled with unbreathably attenuated gases and pierced by scattered photons and fleeting subatomic particles.
The real secret is that the universe doesn’t give a goddamn about us, doesn’t dream, doesn’t wish, doesn’t hope. The real power is that science gives us the tools to wrench the pointless detritus of reality into the shape that we dream of, to impose our wishes on the substrate. We don’t achieve that by lying abed and hoping really hard, though — we do it with work and real knowledge. The shortcuts of lotus eaters like Rhonda Byrne are entirely illusory.