The Secret’s Little Secret
A Fractured Fairy Tale
The Secret, a DVD and book about the “law of attraction” (LOA), is the latest New Age fad to make a big media splash. The producer, Rhonda Byrne, and five participants recently appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to promote it.
The central premise is that if we learn “the secret,” then all our dreams will come true. At its best, it’s a highly simplified version of perennial truths found in all the major wisdom traditions. At its worst, this made for prime time version can easily be misunderstood by those groomed to consume the latest “pop psychology” quick-fix. Such is the nature of daytime television.
Interestingly, the original project and DVD featured Ester Hicks who has channeled Abraham for over twenty years and explored the LOA in bestsellers like Ask and It Is Given (2004). This “little secret” was edited out of the final DVD now making the Oprah rounds, because the original contract was changed when the original show wasn’t picked up for TV in Australia. That forced the producers to take a new marketing angle that didn’t include the Hicks. (Ester and Jerry Hicks’ version of the story was available on the director’s website: Drew Heriot.)
While the project claims that there have been many teachers of the secret from Aristotle to Winston Churchill over the millennia, the producer’s version of “the secret” was formulated by a channeled source, namely Abraham. It’s based on the idea that “like attracts like,” a variation of “you reap what you sow.” There are three basic steps: 1. ask, 2. believe, and 3. receive. Ironically, Oprah also mentioned Jane Roberts’s New Age mantra, “you create your own reality” (YCYOR), without attributing the source. I wonder if she knew that mantra was coined in The Nature of Personal Reality (1974), a book written by Jane’s channeled source named Seth?
Why is it that the phenomenon that produces these ideas still can’t be authentically attributed on prime time TV? The Secret’s appearance on Oprah reveals a trend we saw in What the Bleep?, another New Age success story based on a channeled source, J.Z. Knight and Ramtha, that refused to address the channeling phenomenon in the movie (see my review in the Essays section).
To suggest that the ideas are important by themselves and that the source doesn’t matter is intellectually and ethically dishonest. In academic writing when you don’t properly attribute the primary source of ideas it’s called plagiarism. Or if you found out a $10,000 donation to your favorite charity originally fell out the back of a Brinks truck, would you demand its return? We cannot separate the two without ultimately fracturing the holistic integrity of All-That-Is.
Thus, the source and the ideas have an intimate relationship that, when separated to pass muster on prime time TV or elsewhere, inevitably tells an incomplete story – a “fractured fairy tale” where the ideas are made public, but the source is safely tucked away in the closet. That’s why it’s important to cite the primary source, particularly when Oprah mentions YCYOR, or Rhonda Byrne promotes a project originally designed around the teachings of Abraham.
What is Channeling?
To discuss channeling with any integrity raises some very thorny issues, especially in light of how traditional religious and modern scientific worldviews currently understand it.
Jane Roberts’s three Aspect Psychology (1) books are filled with first-hand accounts of how traditional and modern theories were unsatisfactory to explain her transpersonal experiences with the Seth Material. For example, the Judeo-Christian traditions call channeling “speaking in tongues” or glossolalia. In the Bible, God “spoke” through various prophets. In the Qur’an, an archangel “spoke” to Mohammed.
On the other hand, modern scientific worldviews consider channeling a dissociative identity disorder. It’s labeled a serious pathology because it violates the integrity of the individual defined as one ego-one body. So it’s very easy to get lumped in the same camp as Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggert, Osama Bin Laden, and others because religious traditions also deal with metaphysical assumptions that modern and postmodern sciences have shredded and rejected.
However, research shows that various forms of channeling have existed for over three thousand years. Psychologist Arthur Hastings points out in With the Tongues of Men and Angels (1991) that channeling occurred in the cult of Astarte in eleven hundred BCE. In Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources (1998) psychologist Jon Klimo outlined many socially acceptable contexts for non-pathological dissociative states:
“Throughout history and among various peoples, channels have been named according to what they do. Besides the term ‘medium’ and the more recent ‘channel,’ other names have included shaman, witch doctor, healer, and medicine man in native cultures. They have also been called fortune-tellers, oracles, seers, soothsayers, savants, and visionaries. In religious contexts, they have been known as priests, gurus, prophets, saints, mystics, and holy ones. And in the esoteric schools they are called light workers, initiates, teachers, adepts, or masters. The majority of mainstream psychologists and psychiatrists would probably regard the channels as hallucinating, delusional, suffering from dissociative identity disorder (once called multiple personality disorder), schizophrenic, or simply as persons with runaway imaginations, or even as downright frauds.” (2)
Still, there’s no working model of how to best proceed. What if, as a hypothesis, channeling is simply another “developmental intelligence” similar to music, emotions, morals, mathematics, linguistics, interpersonal, spiritual, and many others identified by research scholars like Howard Gardner, Lawrence Kohlberg, Jane Loevinger, James Fowler, and many others?
The Science of Channeling
We need an authentic postmodern science in which to better explore and demystify the channeling phenomenon: one that occurs within acceptable rational, empiric-analytic parameters, but one that includes data verified by what the perennial sages knew as inner senses, deep intuition, or the eye of spirit. The integral theory of Ken Wilber outlines a method to do just that (Kosmic Karma and Creativity, still in pre-publication). So we may see someone who can explain channeling on Oprah some day without an over-reliance on religious metaphysical assumptions, defined as “thoughts and beliefs without any direct experience or evidence to back them up.”
In the long run, one of modern science’s enduring strengths is that all data is open to verification or falsification, and anything less is really just dogma in disguise. So we very much want to include the best of modern scientific methods while at the same time acknowledging their limits. Postmodern theorists like Teilhard de Chardin, Huston Smith, and Michel Foucault have shown that modern science has its own form of metaphysics and dogma called scientism that now form a “religion of science.” They showed that we are never able to avoid all metaphysical assumptions, for example, an explanation or acknowledgment of who or what preceded the Big Bang. Therefore, we must seek to minimize them and at the same time articulate them as best we can, because when we try to eliminate all metaphysics, we end up with yet another fragmented, incomplete scientific method that doesn’t embrace and include some allowance for the very mystery of its own Source.
Wilber’s integral theory outlines an integral post-metaphysics, one that is based on a scientific method open to verification and falsification but requires the use of outer, mental, and inner senses. Interestingly, this is very similar to what Seth calls high intellect in relation to dream-art sciences in The “Unknown” Reality, Vol. 1 (1978). This method holds the promise to better explain what channeling is, who is really coming through, and what their native reality may or may not be like. However, that could require years of research, and millions in funding. But if the National Institutes of Mental Health budgeted only five million dollars a year for ten years, imagine what insights could occur? That’s just a fraction of what the Bush Administration has spent on its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a question of ongoing social, political, and economic priorities.
The Secret Goes Mainstream, or Does It?
So where does that leave us? Very much in the closet, as far as channeling goes, I’m afraid. On the bright side, the ideas are beginning to find their way into the mainstream and are here to stay. The Secret has successfully commercialized the LOA into a consumable form. But will it spur authentic transformation, defined as a push into wider stages of overall development, in a large segment of the population? Or is it just the latest New Age fad? A little of both perhaps? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, back on Oprah, spiritual entrepreneur James Ray identified three important elements to “the secret” – thoughts, feelings, and actions. This represents the individual’s interiors (thoughts and feelings) and exteriors (actions or behavior). If you just sit on your couch potato butt imagining your soulmate, financial independence, ideal weight, etc. and take no action, then your desires won’t manifest. That’s right on, because he included the interior and exterior factors in reality creation. He also had a sense of the individual in relation to the collective, and came closest to articulating key elements of “the secret.”
Ray also mentioned that the spiritual traditions and science were now in total agreement, though he didn’t really clarify. Daytime TV doesn’t really allow for great detail after all. If you check the landscape, however, science and religion are still in the midst of their centuries old battle for domination, not integration! So he still needs to clarify just how this “total agreement” works. It turns out to be one of the central issues in moving from a modern to postmodern, metaphysical to postmetaphysical science, as we saw earlier.
Oprah then went on to show how “the secret” works. There were three segments that included successful testimonials on how we can all gain financial health, great love lives, and lose weight. But at no point was there any detail provided for any sort of collective application to, say, politics, education, economics, social issues, etc. This formulation of “the secret” is “person-centered” – designed to appeal to individual problems and not collective policy issues. In that sense, it’s mostly pop psychology designed to fit between sound-bytes and commercial breaks, but one that introduced the concepts and planted seeds to motivate those ready to explore further. That part is a plus, but I would like to see more applications.
All the panelists were successful business folk, so by implication “the secret” is involved in that, which is well and good. Healthy business practices are very, very important. Just learn basic business practices, and you can use “the secret” to create your own business. But that’s a loaded statement, and wasn’t really explored by Oprah. Why not do a show on using “the secret” to allow people to create their own small businesses? Obviously, that begins to get away from a person-centered approach and moves into collective-centered approaches. They are more complex, and require more complex solutions and relationships that may not fit the format.
While several folks on the NWV forums expressed delight at the ideas we explore from Seth, Elias, Kris, and others were going mainstream, I am still underwhelmed. It is a step forward for the ideas, but the source that produced them – the channeling phenomenon – still remains in the closet. So don’t get out those party hats just yet. It’s a positive sign, but there is still much work to be done.
Different Worldviews Have Different Versions of the Secret
Decades of research in developmental psychology have discerned eight main worldview systems common to all human beings (3). They unfold in hierarchical fashion similar to seedling, sapling, and tree stages, and each worldview stage “transcends yet includes” its predecessors. As such, the seedling is still present in the sapling, though the tree is not yet present. Tree-ness exerts a “pull” on the sapling, but doesn’t appear full blown overnight. The growth process includes forays into tree aspects as they gradually emerge, and like all growth, occurs in fits and spurts with occasional regressions based on overall life conditions. Thus, no one is simply at one stage and all stages overlap, because they don’t manifest in strict linear fashion.
Together, the dynamics between these worldviews – seen from a systems view – creates all the collective human politics and conflict we see on the world stage. By definition each worldview stage develops different abilities, which in turn develop different belief systems. (4) Some agree, some conflict. In this context, we begin to discern seedling, sapling, and tree versions of “the secret.” Each believes their version to be true, and within the limits of its current worldview it is. Therefore, there isn’t a single, absolute version of “the secret.”
So what we saw on Oprah mostly reflected a modern worldview (ORANGE in Spiral Dynamics/Beck and AQAL/Wilber). ORANGE beliefs include a strong, grounded rationality that rejects metaphysics and channeling because it relies on five senses only methods. Since we still can’t explain it all yet with modern rational methods, as we saw earlier, it’s easier to sanitize that part of “the secret” in effect, becoming The Secret’s little secret.
The focus on material wealth as “evidence of success” is another core value of ORANGE “strive-drive” worldviews, and The Secret is a healthy expression of that. The next wider worldview is postmodern GREEN. It focuses less on the importance of material “trophies” like SUVs, supermodel wives, big houses, bling-bling, etc. than ORANGE worldviews. But GREEN still focuses on wealth creation. It is less ostentatious and more aligned with many ideas in the Seth Material. For example, GREEN worldviews were the first to promote and legislate ecological, civil, gay/lesbian, women’s, and animal rights, multiple spiritual paths, and more.
The Law of Attraction
Let’s return to and examine The Secret’s version of the LOA, because the scientific explanations on Oprah were not very compelling. For example, Bleep physicist Fred Alan Wolf pointed out recently on his blog that in terms of quantum physics and the LOA, “opposites attract and like repels.” (5)
So what’s really going on with the “birds of a feather” aspects the LOA attempts to describe? In physics terms, it’s more like sympathetic resonance. For example, if you hold down the keys of a C Major chord at middle C on a piano, and then hit a loud C in the left-hand bass, when you damp those left-hand strings you’ll hear ALL the keys of that right-hand chord making a sound without having been struck! The acoustic energy has been transferred because those same tones were already vibrating as harmonics on the left-hand strings.
Put into human terms, like the characters in The Wizard of Oz, the qualities for success are already innately present in us all. However, we may need a jump-start to get own “strings” humming that song of success. In all cases, we will define our personal and collective success through the lens of our overall stage of development.
In physics terms, the “Law of Attraction” is really a kind of energetic transference that makes our innate tone/beliefs/behaviors resonate more strongly. It is our own ability to amplify them from within. So it’s not an attraction in physics terms (opposite forces attract, like force repel). Calling it a “law” makes it sound scientific, and yet the physics are clearly contradictory.
All of which points out that the Law of Attraction is really a misnomer, and more accurately could be called the Law of Resonance because we’re not really attracting anything outside of us, we’re simply tuning up, harmonizing, and playing our own natural tune. When played at sufficient positive volume, we will find others playing a similar tune, and that synergy often leads to totally unexpected breaks, insights, solutions, growth, and fulfillment.
The counterpart, and here’s the rub, is when our tune has sufficient negative volume we find others who synergize in negative ways. So “the secret” cuts both ways. Essentially, the tunes are neutral. It’s our intention, beliefs, and behavior in relation to social and cultural factors that conspire to co-create the positive or negative outcomes. Either way, once we really get jamming, we’re actually transferring, resonating, and helping others to jump-start their own Kosmic symphonies in harmony with our own.
It’s always our choice whether we wish to play a negative or positive tune. That’s the horrible beauty, the double-edged design inherent in “the secret.” There is a shadow side that we also need to fully acknowledge and embrace within all worldviews. Therefore, the more we “face up to the abilities of consciousness,” the more we wake up and confront the shadow elements that act as roadblocks and detours from realizing our deepest desires. That’s another key part of learning to effectively use “the secret” that didn’t make it into Oprah’s show.
Still, “the secret” seems to work, so what’s going on?
First, we need to stop using pseudo-physics to validate “the secret” and focus on the psychological, behavioral, cultural, and socio-economical sciences behind it. Clearly more research needs to be done on how stages of development factor in. Do neonates, infants, children, juveniles, adults, and seniors all use “the secret” the same way? What are the common elements? What are local cultural differences and what are universals to all people?
Second, we’re trying to understand the mechanics of reality creation, the how. While there may never be a modern scientific model that is adequate, there are emerging postmodern methods as we saw earlier with the potential to shed light on the mechanics of “the secret” down the road. We need to support their continued development and funding as best we can.
What is Seth’s Version of The Secret?
In the meantime, without calling it a science of any kind, we’re left to explore Seth’s version. Clearly he taught a version of “the secret,” but how would you define it? Through the lens of The Nature of Personal Reality (1974) or the forty-plus books Jane Roberts and Rob Butts wrote taken as a whole? I take the latter approach because I find most definitions based on NPR very limited. All too often they focus on person-centered creation to the exclusion of collective co-creation. And that’s something we need to avoid. With that in mind, here’s a condensed version of “the secret according to Seth”:
We create our realities, all of them, through a combination of personal and collective knowing, being, and doing.
- In terms of knowing, “you get what you concentrate upon, there is no other main rule.”
- In terms of being, we are multidimensional, spiritual beings creating a physical experience, one of many.
- In terms of doing, “the point of power is in the present.”
In other words, all conscious creation is action in the moment point by individuals within a collective.
How Do We Define Success?
“The secret,” then, is how to focus specific actions necessary to achieve success, and we will define that from the developmental limits within a spectrum of worldviews. Your definition may be quite different than mine, but just as valid as long as it works for you.
Various testimonials on The Secret DVD, Oprah, and elsewhere generally define success in terms of strongly focused desires properly aligned with innate intents, beliefs, behaviors, cultural, and social factors that create what we need.
Mick Jagger said something similar, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time, you just might find you get what you need.”
In my experience with “the secret,” the universe always provides what I need, not always what I want. The difference here is learning to align with my innate intention. How can we better learn to do that? One way is to explore the typology of intention Seth called “families of consciousness.” Elias has greatly elaborated on them, too. (6) They help us identify with our own innate purpose and meaning in life. Once properly tuned up our strings of success will hum away. Guaranteed.
However, because our innate intents – there are nine of them – are “different but complementary” each will define success in unique ways that may, at times, result in conflict within the same worldview stage. So not only is there a vertical disconnect between developmental worldviews at different stages, but also a horizontal disconnect based upon “different but complementary” intention. So “the secret” will never scale up into collective co-creation that produces Utopia. This a naïve Utopian view, because it doesn’t adequately factor in how stages of worldview development and intention work on a global scale.
It is only at the TEAL worldview where we finally understand there will always be worldview dynamics and conflict to some extent due to the fact that six-plus billion people are simultaneously creating their realities through different worldview stages and intents. And that’s when success is defined in positive terms! Add the complementary shadow and negative aspects, and you begin to sense why the collective creates so much conflict at times. Moreover, TEAL is an emerging worldview, a new worldview at this time, embraced by only two percent of the global population. But it is beginning to outline new solutions to current problems. As Einstein said, “The significant problems we face can never be solved at the level of thinking that created them.” So it will take some time. (7)
In the meantime, until we develop postmetaphysical sciences to better explain “the secret,” we can still explore the basics of personal and collective knowing, being, and doing. Eventually, as we begin to take full responsibility for everything in our lives, we cease being the victim of McDonalds, banks, spouses, bosses, children, the oppressor, the environment, weather, and on and on. Only then can we manifest forms of personal and collective abundance, fulfillment, and remembrance that will help minimize the inherent conflict within the dynamics of differing worldviews and intents. By learning to use “the secret” we can make it easier for those who follow. This is the essence of what Seth called a practicing idealist (8), but that’s yet another part of “the secret” you won’t find anytime soon on Oprah.
Other Versions of The Secret (With a Dash of Tongue-in-Cheek )
Elias: “It matters not.”
Teddy Roosevelt: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
Rene Descartes: “I think therefore I am.”
Werner Heisenberg: “The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa.”
George W. Bush: “Stay the course!”
Ken Wilber: AQAL-5 (All Quadrants, Levels, Lines, States, & Types)
Teilhard de Chardin: “The whole of life lies in the verb seeing.”
Rumi the Cat: “Is it time to eat yet?”
Kurt Gödel: “Any theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete.”
Heinrich Zimmer: “The best things cannot be told.”
Douglas Adams: “42.”
Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
Proverbs, 23:7: “As we think in our hearts, so we are.”
Emily Dickenson: “The only secret people keep is Immortality.”
Yiddish proverb: “Love thy neighbor, even if he plays the trombone.”
Albert Einstein: “Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.”
Shankara: “The world is Illusory; Brahman alone is real; Brahman is the world.”
Scarface: “Secrets? We don’t need no stinkin’ secrets!”
The Fourfold Path, Zuni People: “Show up. Pay Attention. Tell the truth. Stay open to the outcome.”
Bhagavad-Gita: “Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.”
Nick Helfrich: “All-That-Is is All-That-Is.”
Basho: “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.”
Alfred E. Newman: “What, Me Worry?”
(2) Klimo, p. 103.
(3) For more information follow this link to an article on Emerging New Worldviews.
(4) For those interested in how Elias’ ten foundational belief systems relate to stages of development, they form a horizontal dimension or typology found within each major stage of development. So we will be able to track the ever-increasing vertical embrace or widening awareness that occurs within each worldview system by examining the specifics of these ten belief systems in each stage.
(5) According to Dr. Wolf, “… regarding the movie The Secret and the LOA talked about in that movie. Do like things really attract each other? Actually in quantum physics we find that like doesn’t attract like, and if you notice I never made that point in the film. Like charges repel each other (+ repels + and – repels -) and unlike charges attract (+ attracts -). The better metaphor might be resonance, that two things that vibrate together have more energy as compared to two things that vibrate out of phase with each other in which case they have no energy.” Retrieved February 07, 2007 from http://fredalanwolf.blogspot.com/2007/01/update-to-those-who-blog-012707.html.
(6) For more info, see Seth’s nine families of consciousness and Elias’ essence families; an overview.
(7) Interestingly, this is also a way to imagine what Elias calls “the shift in consciousness,” a mass event to be completed by the year 2075 that propels humanity into a new collective worldview stage. For more info, see Elias’ shift in consciousness; an overview.
Seth’s version includes a transition or shift in collective human consciousness toward greater use of inner senses and a more individualized type of spirituality – without “outside” mediation – by the year 2075. This is one of the few predictions in the Seth material couched in terms of a religious and spiritual reformation intended to push calcified translative religions toward authentic transformational formats. Seth Discussed in detail in Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul (1972).
(8) Seth combines the insights from The Nature of Personal Reality (1974) and The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events (1981). Taken together, they include four moral imperatives:
- “Thou shalt not violate” (Nature of Personal Reality)
- “We have never told anybody to do anything, except face up to the abilities of consciousness.” (Mass Events)
- A call to Practicing Idealism (Mass Events)
- “The ends don’t justify the means.” (Mass Events)
The first and fourth are the innate, natural deterrents that let us know when not to repeat behaviors that violate. The second and third are clarion calls to personal growth, realization, and transformation toward worldcentric and postmodern worldviews. The former entreat us to act in harmony with natural law, the laws of the inner universe, and the latter to avoid fanaticism, murder, and other violations to achieve our goals in life. Scale that up to six billion people in varying stages of moral development, and we have a frothy mix indeed.
Seth does not provide a complete moral theory in these two books, because he couldn’t possibly explore every variation, but instead presented a general outline. However, when we integrate his cosmology (involution/evolution in physical, subtle, and causal fields), knowing (high intellect that combines physical senses, reason, and inner senses), being (I-I-I), doing/moral imperatives, along with research on moral development, we find a broad framework in which to adequately outline a moral and ethical approach.