Secrets of “The Secret”

A blockbuster movie that raked in billions, a book that has refused to budge from the international bestseller lists, a new way of living, a guaranteed path to success and the aftermath – a veritable global phenomenon. It is hard to summarize the full impact that The Secret has had on society.

To begin with, The Secret is a self-help DVD produced by Prime Time Productions. A brainchild of a native Australian, Rhonda Byrne, it is presented in a documentary format, and was initially distributed online via streaming media. It was a success on the internet, and this caused the DVD sales to ascend. The success of the DVD reached unprecedented heights and soon after, a book was released on the same subject.

The Secret which, according to its tagline, ‘has traveled through centuries to reach you’, promises its viewers and readers the sure-shot fulfillment of all their deepest desires – be it mercenary, health-related or relationship-centric.

It features prominent thinkers and self-help specialists from across continents (Bob Proctor, Jack Canfield, Lisa Nichols etc) who explain and endorse the inner workings of the great secret. It also includes a host of effective visuals, music and real life experiences that strengthen the audience’s understanding and faith. The Secret also states that some of the greatest thinkers and leaders throughout history, including Leonardo Da Vinci, Alexander Graham Bell, Helen Keller, Albert Einstein and Ralph Waldo Emerson, were practitioners of the great secret. Furthermore, to substantiate this, a host of quotes and statements made by these individuals that promulgate their understanding of the secret are revealed in the course of the film.

Despite its bold packaging and all its promises to reveal unto the audience a great novel technique of achieving success, the much touted ‘secret’ is astoundingly simple. The common man has been aware of it through centuries. And this great, allegedly hushed-up ‘secret’ is mentioned an innumerable number if times in Holy Scriptures. And any spiritualist or life-coach worth his/her salt will be a well aware of the same secret.

What is the secret? Simply put, the secret refers to the law of attraction. The notion that thoughts become things and that we bring about what we think about. It states that in order to achieve success, one must think positive, and when one thinks positive and believes that he will obtain what he desires, then the universe will conspire to make his dream his reality. In a nutshell, this great secret is nothing more than positive thinking.

The fact that positive thought and visualization is beneficial cannot be denied. However ludicrous it may seem at first, there is a great deal of truth and substance to it. Being a former cynic myself, I have come to realize that positive thinking does not only guide one towards the right course of action, it also enables one to gain control over ones own mind and thoughts, and of course, an optimistic attitude has innumerable health benefits (it helps combat stress related maladies).

The truly baffling aspect of The Secret is how a self-help program, that ostensibly doesn’t have much to offer, garnered such success. It is then when one comes to understand the brilliance of the marketing and the packaging of the books and DVDs. Right from the title and the tagline, to the manner in which the story of the secret unfolds is absolutely riveting. The DVD begins with Rhonda Byrne describing exactly how her life was falling apart, then a dramatic pause, followed by the line

“…Little did I know that out of my darkest despair, would come the greatest gift…”

One then sees the image of a woman gasping as she opens a book, presumably the book of the secret. Byrne then goes on to claim that the secret has been hidden from the common man for centuries, and only the great thinkers had access to its bounty and were able to enjoy its fruit. This series of images, strategically placed at the beginning of the film compel the viewer to believe that some great mystery is being solved before their eyes. As Donavin Bennes states, “It was an incredibly savvy move to call it The Secret”. We all want to be in on a secret. But to present it as the secret, that was brilliant.” Another prominent critic states that the packaging of the film was “emphatically cinematic” and that it focused on “emotion rather than logic”. This is startlingly obvious in the manner in which the simple law of positive thinking was disguised in the garb of an exaggerated, life-changing, never-before-revealed secret.

The book has been severely criticized for its over-exaggeration and the fact that it cashed into sensation rather than reason. Various religious groups have also been quick to condemn the book, stating that the belief that one only needs to rely on his own thoughts (and not look to any external force for help) negates the role of a supernatural God, and dissolves the belief that one needs to pray. Life-coaches claim that The Secret focuses less on the emotional contentment factor and more on the money factor. It provides half an hour worth of tips to readers on how to increase their income via the usage of good mental vibrations. Eyebrows have also been raised at Byrne’s accumulation of wealth. The monetary tinge that the book contains causes spiritualists to scoff at it.

However, despite all the criticism and slander that The Secret faces, there is no denying the fact that somewhere, hidden in the glitzy packaging and overdramatic hyperbole’s, there lies a great power in it. Thousands of books on positive thinking are published year after year, and for some reason, The Secret stood out from amongst the others of its kind.

Despite the fact that everyone – ranging from the saints in the Scriptures to our own grandmothers – insists that we think positive, we only chose to listen to Rhonda Byrne. In spite of the fact that thousands of books insist that one must ‘feel good’, it was only after finishing reading the secret did I actually feel the rush that self-help books are supposed to provide. Herein lays the true secret of The Secret, a mystery that is unlikely to be unraveled anytime soon.

Rayman Gill

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