I just read an article on Medium “One Book Explains Everything That’s Wrong with America in 2020, “The Secret” inscribed a toxic ideology we must undo.”
It was very well-written; the contents were important, relevant, timely. I clapped. I read the comments. But, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. Why? Because just as when The Secret came out, I wanted to scream “ ‘the law of attraction’ isn’t her’s (Rhonda Byrne’s) to write about! It isn’t a new concept and she is stealing U.S. Anderson’s work.” Worse, she perverted it, sold it short, made it simple, stupid, and trendy, and got rich at the same time. That just pissed me off; it still pisses me off.
U.S. Anderson’s book Three Magic Words changed my life. It was the first book I read on metaphysics. And the first book that spoke of things I’d held in my heart since I was a child… the connection of human beings to each other and all things, the Universe, God, the power we’d have if we recognized these connections and honored them instead of living disconnected lives, the importance of critical thinking and how our beliefs shape our lives.
Until Three Magic Words, I didn’t know I wasn’t the only one who thought these thoughts; this book made me realize I wasn’t alone. I was so amazed, so touched I memorized a passage from the first chapter, and to this day I use it to calm myself. The Law of Attraction is so much bigger than “pssst… I have ‘a secret’… just think positive and you’ll receive everything you ever wanted…” It’s like equating an ant with an elephant. No, scratch that, how many paramecia would you need to equal an elephant?
The author of The Secret goes on Oprah, sells reams of books, and creates a tribe of followers, as Jessica Wildfire noted. The ideology of the book doesn’t encourage the tribe to invest in compassion, the goodness of heart and soul, community or sharing, etc. It doesn’t ask them to lay any groundwork, set goals, courageously look inside themselves to contemplate and understand the difference between wants and needs, fantasy and reality, desire and joy. Just focus on attracting what YOU want.
After the book was published at the end of 2006, and for years thereafter, every time I spoke with a friend, colleague, neighbor and they started a sentence with “Hey, I just read a great book…” I cowered in fear of the next words I would hear. It got to the point where I wondered if I was conjuring up these words through the “law of attraction!” Eventually, the hoopla died down. But today I glanced through my Medium recommended reading list and poof… there it is… The Secret!
Of course, I had to read Wildfire’s article, and as I said earlier, I enjoyed it, I have no gripe with it. But I got angry all over again, and it’s worse than it was before because the world is in such a terrible place, some of which, might be due to The Secret’s kool-aide-drinkers. Her article suggests we need to undo the damage done by the book and its tribe. I believe we need to do a whole lot more than undo the damage. We need to tell people to read things like Three Magic Words instead.
Even if we could undo the damage, it would be insufficient. And we can’t go backward; just like we will never “go back to normal” after COVID. We need to build something new, something different, something better. People need a different framework to operate from, a new Weltanschauung (worldview) because the reason The Secret was so successful was that it filled a void in people’s lives.
I can only speak for Western Society, and more specifically the United States, but the void I speak of is one that I felt for most of my life. I thought I was supposed to fill it with love- a soulmate, a life partner, and so I searched, but sadly, I was always denied. So much sorrow and pain and angst; why couldn’t I find my one true love that would banish the void? Then suddenly last year, the void was gone. OK, the void wasn’t suddenly gone, I just suddenly realized it wasn’t gnawing at me anymore. Oh, what sweet relief! It felt as if I had been banging my head against a concrete wall for decades, and then just stopped.
My missing void was the result of two years spent nurturing myself, exploring my heart and soul, and deciding to live in sync with my dreams, passions, and beliefs. I discovered my purpose and my path, and in so doing filled my void with ME. The ME that is the outgrowth of my soul and the person I came to life to become. And that person is beginning to live the treasure of her own existence, spiritually connected to the soul of the world.
The void is a hungry ghost at the core of our being that can’t be satisfied with money, things, people, even love. It will suck up all of that, swallow it whole and come back even hungrier for more. It is the part of us that craves a purpose to this earth-bound existence, and connection to the universe around us. The fact that so many of us are carrying this void around inside is evidence of a spiritual crisis bigger than the pandemic and just as threatening as climate change.
Like COVID, you can’t identify carriers by sight, so it’s impossible to know how statistically significant the void is or how widespread. But it isn’t contagious, and wearing a mask won’t help at all. The void grows deep inside us, and we’re each born with the seeds to germinate it. Thing is, we’re also born with the cure, and it isn’t The Secret.
Our pre-COVID world was already totally upside down, but most people just didn’t see it because they weren’t looking in the right place… inside! On the outside, everything seemed fine, if you lived in the right neighborhood, had money to decorate your life with things, acquire possessions, and entertain yourself. No need to look inside. Pretty houses and buildings, green lawns, homes full of stuff, and more stuff, everything was AOK!
Everything was AOK if you weren’t a person of color, living in poverty, or part of some marginalized group. If you were, then you were fighting for social justice, racial equity, poverty relief, jobs, decent housing, the right to survive, eat food that won’t kill you, raise your children without fear. Not a whole lot of time to look inside and ask yourself questions like “Who am I really, what am I supposed to do with my life and how will I know when I figure it out?”
Either way, living in a world where everything appears fine, or in the one where it doesn’t, there is little time or inclination to “go within”. But everything I’ve read and learned about spirituality in my lifetime tells me “if you do not go within you go without.” If WE do not go within, WE go without. And that is exactly the trajectory we are all on, humanity, the planet, all of us. We have no choice but to go together, because we are all on fire, literally, and figuratively.
Still, I believe we can fix it, I am an eternal optimist, I believe in the power of the human soul, our God-given life, the seeds of genius our souls were born with. Not in the way Rhonda Byrne describes. I believe in something much older, described by ancient cultures and myths. I learned of the concept that we were seeded at birth from another genius — Michael Meade — a brilliant but humble man who changed my life — pivoted it in 2015, on November 11th to be exact.
I heard him speak at Bastyr University and he said that the only thing God will ask each us when we get to heaven is “Did you become yourself?” Hearing those words, I got goosebumps and tears welled up in my eyes. Every message I’ve ever received, every sign I’ve ever noticed, every vision I’ve ever had, about my purpose in life, my mission, suddenly made sense. All I need to do is to strive to live up to the gifts I was given at birth, and everything will be OK. It was this epiphany that I credit with the beginning of the end of my void.
Yes, I believe this with every aspect of my being. I KNOW it to be true, in my bones. What if everyone could discover their purpose, and connect to the spirit of the Universe? What if everyone searched within, their heart, mind, spirit, and soul, did the hard work of understanding themselves and their mission on earth? I’ll tell you one thing, we’d have a tribe of people very different from the hungry ghosts that swallowed The Secret.
The void can’t be sated through the Law of Attraction, it can’t be stuffed with things you attract into your life, it can only be fulfilled from the inside out. The void only goes away when you understand yourself, what you are here to do and be, and decide to act on that knowledge. When you live in sync with who you are and who you are here to become, the void caves in on itself; it leaves you in peace, happier, less stressed, and able to show compassion to yourself and others.
A tribe of void-less beings could help build a post-pandemic, post-apocalyptic world where we work together to heal the terrible wounds we each helped to inflict. I ask you to consider this world as a possibility. I ask you to read Three Magic Words, or Michael Meade’s Fate and Destiny. Not ready for metaphysics or mythology? Read The Alchemist, or Gardens from the Sand. Don’t like parable? Read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, or The Crossroads of Should and Must, or even The Little Prince.
It’s easy to see why The Secret went viral. Human beings like easy and hate change. But you don’t get very far if you aren’t willing to go through the tough stuff. And one way or another, we are going to have to go through the tough stuff, that is very clear at this point in human history. The question is, will we learn enough to save the planet and build a better world? The answer is in the choice each and every one of us will make. Let me be clear. We are being called to go within. You are being called to go within. If you do not go within, you will go without. If you do not go within, WE will go without.