In the past several months as I've been speaking across the country, many people have approached me and asked with some degree of excitement in their voices, "Bo, have you seen The Secret yet? Oh, you'll love it! It will change the world! Let people know about this!"
So I did watch The Secret, as well as an Oprah show that featured its "teachers," and I think we all need to reflect very deeply on the message that is passing for wisdom these days. "New Age" centers, "New Thought" Churches, the Christian "prosperity" movements personified by the likes of Joel Osteen, and now Oprah's enormous fan base, are really falling off the deep end into a pseudo-spirituality that is not just a little self-indulgent, it is primarily about selfishness and materialism.
The Secret itself is a childish exaggeration of a minor energetic principle - "The Law of Attraction" - which simply means what most of our grandmothers have said to us at one time or another: "If you think negative things, your life will be negative. Keep your mind on positive things, and you'll attract more positive things and people into your life." That's pretty basic stuff, who could argue with that? It's true. Got it? Be positive!
But to frame this as The Secret, as the "greatest power in the universe;" to open the film with suspense-movie scenes of scholars and monks throughout history desperately trying to hide this "secret" for future generations while they are being pursued by armies and assassins; to claim that every great man or woman from Jesus to Thomas Edison knew this specific "Secret" and now you and I are finally going to be let in on it, oh, pleeease!! It's a minor part of life; nothing profound about it. Both teams in the Superbowl should "think positive" and visualize winning, but only one is going to win, because being positive is not everything!
The way we think factors into our lives along with many other realities such as our past karma, genetic and acquired strengths and weaknesses, the needs of our family or society, the politics of the age we live in, our willingness to work hard, and of course, God's plan for us.
And maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I thought God was the greatest power in the Universe. I thought the best things in life are free. I thought we're supposed to dedicate our lives to the greatest good. I thought God gives us a Peace that worldly riches can never give. Not so in The Secret. This film and a lot of the pop-spirituality I see these days has become so self-centered that the religion it most closely exemplifies is... Satanism. I'm not being sarcastic. It's true.
I know the word "Satanism" conjures up images of abusing children and sacrificing animals, but the actual Church of Satan has never endorsed that stuff. In fact, two of the "Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth" are:
Do not harm little children.
Do not kill animals unless attacked or for your food.
So suspend your media images of Satanism. The biggest difference between Satanism and other religons is simple: Classic religions put God at the center, and Satanism puts the self at the center. The Great Religions share a theme of unselfishness. Satanism's theme is selfishness. The Great Faiths say we are here to love our neighbor and serve God's creation. Satanism says we are here to please ourselves, and creation is here to serve us - exactly what is emphasized in The Secret. All of you who have seen The Secret and have jumped on the bandwagon about how wonderful it is, please take this comparison seriously. You are unknowingly leaning toward Satanism.
"The Secret" and Satanism
Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, wrote: Satanism is the only religion which serves to encourage and enhance one's individual preferences. Since Satanism is essentially a religion of the self, it holds that the individual and his personal needs come first.
Now read an exchange on Oprah between Lisa Nichols, one of The Secret "Teachers," and an audience member:
Nichols: So, you serve everyone else, don't you?Audience member: You got that right.Nichols: So, make 2007 the year that you show up in the now for YOU! (thunderous applause) Now repeat after me: I choose today, to give myself, the best life ever!!Audience member: (repeats it, to cheers and applause)
Honestly, that would qualify as a nice Satanic initiation. The following (in blue) are principles of the Church of Satan, followed by teachings from The Secret:
Satanists do not worship a living deity.The Secret makes it clear that the Law of Attraction (not God) is the most powerful force in the Universe, and it is amoral and "scientific." One man in the film says he wants lots of women, three or four a week, and is shown how to attract them into his life, and he succeeds. When he decides he wants one lasting relationship, he changes his thoughts and again attracts what he wants. No higher or lower desires, just whatever we want. If there is any object of worship implied in The Secret, it is personal success. Big houses, lots of money, fame, glory. There is no greater God to worship, no sanctity in serving the poor, the unfortunate, the sick. Just have a good time. That's the lure of Satanism.
Major emphasis is placed on the power and authority of the individual... rather than on a god or goddess.
One so-called "metaphysician" of The Secret, Joe Vitale, tells us "The universe is merely your CATALOG." You just "shop" for whatever income, product, person or experience that you may want by thinking and visualizing constantly of it. Cut out pictures of a car, a house, whatever you want, and post them on a "vision board," do rituals to affirm that you will receive it. Satanists do a lot of this kind of stuff. They call it Ritual Magic. Please don't do this.
Satanists believe that "no redeemer liveth" - that each person is their own redeemer, fully responsible for the direction of their own life.
Just to make sure we know there is no need for God in this new theology, Neale Donald Walsch, of "Conversations With God," appears in The Secret to tell us there is no such thing as God's Will for you - You are entirely in charge of whatever you want to do. That's exactly what Anton LaVey says! No God to surrender to, no God of Love, no God to guide us or to humble ourselves before.
Another "Teacher," Esther Hicks, tells us we entirely create our own reality. That exceeds even Anton LaVey's view. I guess our young men and women dying in Iraq, and all the Iraqi victims of this crazy war, are just creating their deaths with negative thoughts? Along with all those hungry kids in India, millions dying of AIDS in Africa? Nothing more complex about Life than to "ask, believe, and receive"? How dare you be so arrogant, Ms. Hicks? How dare you!
Enough, Bo! What's the point?
But The Secret did not arise in a vacuum. It's just the latest descent of pop-spirituality into a materialistic, self-centered new theology truly similar to Satanism, that seems to be taking hold in many churches, spiritual centers and households. It's a theology of "Me First;" a theology of entitlement ("I deserve everything good in life and I should not have to struggle for it); a theology of disconnection from
Most of all, it is a theology of "prosperity and abundance" where lip service is paid to words like peace and joy, but the bottom line is GETTING RICH, no two ways about it. In fact, even gratitude and forgiveness are explained merely as strategies to attract more success into your life. It's always about you. I'm sorry, that's just not deep religion.
And neither is it responsible politics. At a time when the world is at war over oil, clean air and clean water are fading memories, and Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth begs us to take seriously the jeopardy our planet is in, this new theology says not a word about living more simply or about wanting less consumer wealth. It does exactly the opposite, and encourages us to think and get rich. This theology of the self cuts us off from any sense of responsibility for ecology or conservation. None of that is our problem, it is just "scarcity consciousness." These "teachers" actually say with a tone of scientific authority "The universe has plenty of resources for everyone to have everything they want!"
Well, maybe the universe has unlimited resources, but the Earth clearly does NOT. Many species are already extinct, rainforests already damaged beyond repair, icecaps already melting, from our relentless consumption of resources. It is more than immature; it is viciously irresponsible to entice us to want more luxury and wealth instead of encouraging deeper happiness from living more sustainably and simply.
One of The Secret's "master" teachers, Jack Canfield, shows off photos of his $4½ million-dollar house, his "wife to die for," and his exotic vacations. That's a "master!"? A rich guy who brags about his life? How much petroleum does it take to sustain Canfield's mansion? How many little brown kids around the world work like slaves to produce the products such a household consumes? How many maids and gardeners take care of his estate? Why doesn't he tell them The Secret so they can get rich? It's all just so sad.....
The biggest sorrow about this new theology is not just that it echoes Satanism, but that it robs us of the greatness of our Spiritual Adventure. If life is just a catalog of our petty worldly desires, then where is higher consciousness? Where is holiness? Where is the "dark night of the soul" and our subsequent transformation? Is there truly no spiritual journey? Just a shopping spree to get the stupid external props that we think will make us happy?
Do use the "Law of Attraction" in your daily life - pray first thing every day to be less selfish, to love thy neighbor, to be humble, to keep God in mind all day, to have constant faith in Life's ultimate Goodness. We can use a hammer to build a house or to beat someone to death. The "Law of Attraction" is just a hammer. Please don't use it to beat God to death in this weird age when the tiny egoic self's worldly desires become your god. This is no "Secret" at all. It is the classic road to Hell.
The source of all happiness is to cherish others
more than I cherish myself.
The source of all suffering is to cherish myself
more than I cherish others.
-- Buddhist Scriptures