In this episode, we dig into "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne. We also explore the foundation of the Law of Attraction. Jess shares *a* witch's perspective on the book and the universal law it aims to teach.
Listen to This Week's Episode:
[0:02:25] Greetings and Overview
[0:03:01] What is "The Secret"?
[0:05:15] History - The Kybalion and the New Thought Movement
[0:10:03] The Law of Attraction
[0:11:10] The Good, Bad, and Ugly of The Secret
[0:11:58] The Secret: The Good
[0:16:12] The Secret: The Bad
[0:23:28] Are people to blame for what happens to them?
[0:26:17] A Witch's Perspective of The Secret
[0:29:45] Conclusion / Wrapping Up
[0:30:29] Call for Listener Feedback
[0:31:02] Future Episodes
[0:32:11] Closing Credits
Notify me of future episodes
Be the first to hear of new Spiritual AF Sunday episodes, directly to your inbox!
What We Cover in This Episode
- What is "The Secret"
- How the Kybalion and New Thought movement influenced "The Secret"
- The Good, Bad, and Ugly from the book
- The question that people keep asking (are people to blame for the bad that happens to them?)
- A Witch's Perspective of "The Secret"
In 2006, Rhonda Byrne’s book, "The Secret" helped bring the Law of Attraction to greater public awareness. Before that, this concept was limited to a few self-help books, for instance, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.
The Secret has been met with praise and criticism from readers; some claim that it gave them insight and hope, and others say that it feels too good to be true.
In today's episode of Spiritual AF Sundays, I delve deep into The Secret, exploring the concept of the Law of Attraction. I go further by looking at this principle's origin within the New Thought movement. I've reviewed the book, sharing what I dislike and dislike and giving a witch's perspective on the Law of Attraction.
Now there's a lot of good and bad internet chatter regarding The Secret, each side has valid points. Further, I've also seen people jump to some conclusions about The Secret and what it offers or what it implies. So it's essential to have an honest conversation about The Secret and explore the good and the bad from this book.
Join me for today's episode of Spiritual AF Sundays as I take a closer look at Rhonda Byrne's book, The Secret, to see if the Law of Attraction is worth the hype. Sit back, get your favorite beverage, and get ready for this episode of Spiritual AF Sundays, The Secret: a Witch's Perspective.
And welcome back.
My name is Jessica, also known as The Mystic Geek, and today we're going to be talking about Rhonda Byrne's The Secret, and then along with that, some of the underlying factors, meaning the Law of Attraction, where that came from, the New Thought movement, my view is on the book, what I like and don't like, and then also some perspectives I can give as a witch, not THE witch, not a speaker of all the witches, but just a witch, when it comes to some of the principles brought up in this book, and what to keep and what to say, "you know what, this may not be for me." So with that, let's begin.
What is “The Secret”?
What is The Secret? This is a book that Rhonda Byrne put together in 2006 after some life events. And after doing some soul-searching, as it were. What she came up with was looking at the Law of Attraction and how this is something that a lot of people in the past successful people believed. Her theory was that because they believed in the Law of Attraction and utilized its principles, it helped them get to where they are, where they were in that day and age.
I was about to say, "where they are today," but most of those people are dead. We're talking about people from the past like Beethoven, Churchill, or Abraham Lincoln.
From looking at the book, I'm going to be upfront on this one; there are itty-bitty snippets of quotes from those individuals. The vast majority of the book itself is either Rhonda Byrne's own writings, or she brings on these experts who believe and espouse the teachings of the Law of Attraction.
We don't have much proof of this "secret" that all of these people from the past allegedly knew and practiced. This is more of a conjecture. This is more theory-based on quotes that line up with Rhonda Byrne's beliefs and what she's trying to express.
Now as for The Secret, the naming of the book, this is a wonderful, creative, crafty marketing scheme. Because who does not like a good secret?
By alluding to it as a secret, she is saying that this is either not known by people or was intentionally kept from people. That's a way of luring others into this.
And even today, she still has a pretty solid following. I looked up The Secret on Facebook as a Page, and this page has about 8.7 million followers. And not only that, but she posts a couple of times daily on this page. That tells me this is an active following, even seventeen years after the initial book was published.
The Kybalion and the New Thought Movement
All right. Let's talk about the rabbit hole of beliefs or the layers of onions for this; either way, it's fairly complex. So for you to understand "The Secret," you need to have a better understanding of the Law of Attraction. To better understand the Law of Attraction, you need to know more about the New Thought movement from the 19th century.
To better understand the New Thought movement from the 19th century, you also need to understand belief systems from other cultures, including the Kybalion.
So you're probably wondering what the Kybalion is.
This book was translated and compiled in 1908 by “The Three Initiates,” though there are beliefs about who the author is. And the idea is this is the writings of Hermes Trismegistus, which I'm sure I butchered the name, but the idea there is it's meant to be "Hermes the thrice great," and that comes from someone going through it and reading the Egyptian hieroglyphics elsewhere, and it said the "great, great, great." Which could also mean the greatest, but whatever.
The idea here is Hermes Trismegistus was a fictional Egyptian sage. If they weren't believed to be fictional, people believe he existed and was the author of various hermetic writings.
What do I mean by Hermetic?
Hermetic is various occult systems attributed to Egypt, Kemetic to Hermetic.
Many people looking into these things at that time thought there was a connection between the Egyptian god of knowledge, Thoth, and Hermes, the messenger/trickster-ish god from Greek mythology.
You have these writings that were compiled in the 1900s, add in a little bit of the New Thought movements to "fix" things up and make them a little bit more palatable for the audience of that timeframe, and you have the Kybalion.
In the Kybalion, there are seven principles to the universe; laws, but they're not human laws. They're believed to be more: this is how the universe works, and mystic people need to understand these laws to better navigate the world around them.
A few of these laws come up as points of interest when examining the New Thought movement and the Law of Attraction.
First is going to be the Principle of Vibration, so the idea there is everything has a frequency; everything has a movement.
In addition, there's also a Principle of Cause and Effect; basically, everything happens because something else initiated it. And it is part of the occultist's, the magus's job, to rise and ascend so that they are no longer the individual being affected, but rather the person causing the things.
There's also a Principle of the Mind or mentality, which focuses a lot on how reality is constructed through thoughts.
So you could probably guess where this is all going here. We get the New Thought movement, which was in the 19th century, so the 1800s onward. It was predominantly United States based, and there was a lot of fascination with beliefs and practices considered occult or mystic from other cultures.
So we're talking Egyptian, Chinese, Hindu, Buddhism, anything outside and different practice-wise than the heritage of the people that were believing and practicing it, which were white people; I'll just call it out there. Some claim that they had direct tutilage from those lineages, but that was never confirmed.
The big thing about the New Thought movement is it focused on the mind; go figure, right? And not just with the mind but aspects of thought versus belief or thought versus belief versus consciousness. A huge component was that the mind affects the body, and the mind affects reality.
If you follow that along and they're very obvious on it, they're pretty blunt on it that they believe that dis-ease, not just disease, but dis-ease, is caused by a person's thoughts and that by "right thinking," whatever that means, that a person's dis-ease could be resolved.
The Law of Attraction
So with that, now we can get into the whole concept of the Law of Attraction.
So the Law of Attraction is not listed as any of the seven principles in the Kybalion, the text I mentioned earlier. This is actually, put together, pieced together from a couple of different principles in there, mainly the Law of Cause and Effect, so that everything that happens, there's something that caused it, and the Law of Vibration, meaning everything has a frequency, and everything has a movement.
This means that we could look at the cause of various events, the vibrations of the person leading up to and at the time that the event happened.
So not just looking at, are bad actors in play? But also looking at the relative state of the individual as to whether or not something bad happens to them.
This is where it gets interesting, and we'll talk more about this later. But we'll put a pin in this until I get into my thoughts on the overall themes here; I'm just relaying what I found so far.
The Good, Bad, and Ugly of The Secret
Let's get into the good and bad of The Secret now.
Fair disclosure here: I only got through about 80 pages out of the 180. At the same time, this is a bit of a pain in the butt to read through. It needs to be more solid text or narration from a single author. What happens is snippets and pieces from various writers with commentary from Rhonda Byrne.
So it's like you're jumping back and forth on different things. I had a hard time concentrating. I am surprised I got through 80 pages. What I did for the rest was each chapter had a summary with a bunch of bullet points, and if those bullet points intrigued me, I went back to look further at what was discussed in that chapter.
The Secret: The Good
I think the biggest positive of this book is that it encourages people to look at their life and see their life as changeable versus coming at it from a victim mind frame where you believe everything is happening to you and you have no agency. Granted, there are people out there who do not have a lot of freedom or cannot make drastic changes in their life. However, that is different from the universal standard. A lot of us, even if it's a small thing or even if it is reframing our thoughts about a situation, can change that version of what we call "reality."
There was also the aspect of how our thoughts and feelings are connected, which is true. We tell ourselves various narratives, which lead us to evoke various feelings. Our thoughts can evoke feelings; likewise, our feelings can invoke thoughts depending on our situation. If we feel something, we may interpret what is happening around us in a certain way. So there is that connection there.
Further along that lines, it is important to be aware of one's thoughts. Understanding a line of thinking is important so you can be aware, pivot, and redirect it. That's another thing they bring up in the book, which is truthful; that is valuable information.
They also have us take a look at the whole concept of gratitude. A way of shifting your thoughts away from the negative would be to look at the positive that is going on in your life. This is not to say to bypass to ignore those negative feelings spiritually, but rather than allow yourself to continue in that cycle of negativity and ruminate about things that you can't necessarily change, there is an encouragement for you to look at the positive that's happening in your life and to feel grateful and feel joy about it, versus just letting it sit on the sidelines there.
Another vital thing that is mentioned is the significance of asking for what you want in the framework of manifestation; through the Law of Attraction, it is the belief that you are asking the universe for what you want. It's essential to be able to ask for what you want, whether it's to the universe, whether it's to a spiritual being, or someone in the flesh.
Many of us are trained to mute our desires to push them down so that asking for what we want, outside of when we were children with Santa Claus, feels very alien. And this is a practice that helps us because if we don't ask for what we want, no one's a mind reader, so it's not going to happen likely.
Whereas, if we can ask for what we want from another person in the universe, we allow ourselves to want it. And second, we are seeking guidance or seeking support to get those things. Granted, we are still determining if the universe will provide, and we don't even know if our friends will provide if we ask, but it still is essential to at least honor and acknowledges that aspect of our humanity. Which is to desire.
There is one more positive bit from this book, and that is in the section that talks about relating with others. They focus more on appreciating others, looking at the positives, and looking at what they bring to us versus constantly focusing on the negative and complaining.
Granted, if someone's being an abusive asshole, that's one thing. That's different from what this is talking about here. This is talking about the partner who doesn't do the dishes, the partner who leaves their toothbrush on the sink, or someone who does just because of how the personality is or how they're wired, or they do things that may be a little bit annoying.
If they are a deal-breaker, that's one thing. If it's just that minor petty annoyance, that's more on us and our framework and how we perceive things versus actually doing it intentionally. So that's where The Secret is more about focusing on the positive and beneficial parts of the relationship rather than allowing yourself to continue down a spiral of complaining and negativity.
The Secret: The Bad
I also want to identify and discuss the parts of the book that I considered challenging, some might even say problematic, based on their content or how they frame certain issues.
So of them is actually from the first chapter called The Secret Revealed. The writer of the section is Bob Harris, the teacher, and founder of the CentrePoint Research Institute, and he's talking about his email correspondence with one of his students named Robert. Now he brings up that Robert is gay, Robert faces and experiences homophobia, he fears walking down the street because of how people react to him, and he tried getting into stand-up comedy, but he can't, or he has challenges with that because the people he interacts with when he goes to perform ridicule him for being gay.
And the writer of this, Brian, says to Robert that Robert needs to look at what he's focusing on. He calls out Robert as being very passionate and says if you focus or passion towards other things, that could change your outcome. And the end of this anecdotal story is that Robert does change his.
The focus on his passions and then realizes through that or recognizes that his coworkers are no longer harassing him and that he can walk down the street safely. That he has fewer issues. Now that he's focusing on things other than the hate directed at him.
I can see two sides to this.
On one side, when we focus on a specific topic or issue, we become more aware of that thing in our lives. For instance, the game of, well, think about the white cars. Well, what are you going to see more often? You'll see many more white cars, but your brain is tuned into that.
However, this story is framed because it makes it sound like Robert stopped homophobia and his life by not thinking about homophobia. And that is a dangerous line of thinking they have because it doesn't always work out that way. If he goes and says, "la-la-la homophobia doesn't exist," bad things can still happen to him. That's simply how the world works, or at least how I believe the world works. Positive thinking isn't necessarily going to stop other people from taking action, showing their ill will, or showing that they are bad actors.
Remember how in the beginning, I mentioned that the Law of Attraction is rooted in New Thought Movement and how the New Thought movement thinks that everything in our reality is in our heads?
So, if we're sick, that is something in our mind that we can resolve. The same goes for weight within The Secret. Yes, they cover that topic here quite a bit.
There's a full section here in the chapter, How to Use the Secret, called The Secret of Your Body, and in this is where Rhonda directly writes for the reader about her own experience and her struggle with weight, and how she went through and started focusing positive thoughts or utilizing her thoughts to affect her weight. For instance, "food cannot cause you to put on weight unless you think it can." So it needs to consider the science of calories and the metabolism there. And it's saying, instead of focusing on losing weight, focusing on yourself being a perfect weight is how she phrases it, and that the universe will respond.
So we have this whole concept of disease as well. This comes up in a later chapter called The Secret and Your Body. She goes back to the whole thought of how the disease is something that is caused by the mind or the mind's concept of reality. It's a point where there's in summary. It says if you're feeling unwell, talk about it only if you want more.
We are going back to the whole concept of our thoughts, and purely our thoughts shape our reality. So we avoid bad things from happening by avoiding thoughts about it or focusing more on the positive and not allowing ourselves to focus on those negative aspects of reality there.
When we look at the Law of Attraction through the lens of The Secret, it comes across as a highly individualistic principle. And what I mean by this is it focuses on the self. It focuses on the building one’s wealth, Focuses on one's health. Focuses on greatening one's relationships. It focuses on feeling better about the world, but it doesn't focus on the community around that person or the world around them.
The whole concept of cutting negativity out of one's life is part of the book. And in one of the later chapters, Rhonda brings up how she stopped watching the news because she doesn't want to bring that negativity into her life. And she also points out that the news and the negativity are in the news as part of this endless consumer-consumed cycle, which in a sense, is true. But it also denies that we are tribal creatures. We are creatures of community. We are creatures of connection. Yes, it can be great to build up all these things for ourselves, but to be so self-sufficient, we just need to change our thoughts and, through that, our frequency to get what we want. It is a very selfish, westernized way of thinking versus recognizing how we are all interconnected.
I also want to address the bad science brought up when people talk about the Law of Attraction or The Secret. Often, they will say that thoughts attract similar energy, like magnets.
That's not how magnets work. Magnets have opposite polarities on them. Now what happens is the opposite attracts. So if we were to use magnets and how magnets work, it would be like bad things happening to good people who think positive things are good things happening to people who think negative things. That is different from how this works either way on this.
So again, magnets, a bad scientific allegory on this one or metaphor. I don't even know. What I would say is when we're looking at "like attracts like" that is more of a relational type of energy.
When we take a look at relationships between people, we are drawn to sameness, we are drawn to familiarity because we see ourselves in other people. Tribalism is a basis of connecting with others who are similar to you so that you have that in the group, the people who have shared beliefs, shared values, shared visions, and in the out-group, meaning the people who fall outside of that norm or outside of that culture. That is where sameness attracts sameness, but not magnets. Magnets attract opposite things, okay.
Are people to blame for what happens to them?
Now, before I give my thoughts on this book in more detail, I want to share one passage that I found to be a hot-button topic among various readers on the Internet. So I'm going to share this paragraph with you, and then I'll share my thoughts and reactions to it and my beliefs, which will jump into my thoughts about the whole book. Okay. Okay.
So here is that passage.
"When people first hear this part of The Secret, [meaning the Law of Attraction], they recall events in history where masses of lives were lost and they find it incomprehensible that so many people could have attracted themselves to the event.
By the Law of Attraction, they had to be on the same frequency on the event. It doesn't necessarily mean that they thought the exact event, but the frequency of their thoughts matched the frequency of the event. If people believe they can be in the wrong place at the wrong time and they have no control over outside circumstances, those thoughts of fear, separation and powerlessness, if persistent, can attract them to being in the wrong place at the wrong time."
There are those who've read that section of the book and, after reading it, came to the conclusion that Rhonda Byrne was blaming the Jews for the Holocaust or even blaming the victims of 9/11 for what happened to them.
Before going further, I want to clarify the word blame here. They use the word blame, but I want to ensure we're all on the same page and what that means. So the idea of blaming is to assign responsibility or fault but to do so from a moralistic framework. To say: "A caused B, and A is bad for causing B. A is at fault for causing B."
That was not Rhonda Byrne's intention. I think that when she's going through this from the framework of the energetics of the Law of Attraction, The Law of Frequency, taking a look at individuals. They have those beliefs, and those beliefs carry a frequency with them. And it's through that frequency that collective bad events were drawn in on that. That's the theory that she has. She's not blaming them for the actions she's not saying shame on you for thinking that you caused this to yourself. She's trying in a pseudo-scientific method to justify what happened above and beyond the belief that bad people are bad people.
She's trying to look for the subtle energy as to why these things happen.
Not the best way of doing that, but we'll talk about that in a moment.
A Witch's Perspective of The Secret
All right, so if you've got this far, you're probably wondering what a witch's perspective is on the Law of Attraction. Before going forward, I am NOT the spokesperson for witchcraft, my tradition, or whatnot. I’m speaking for myself. Just in case anyone wants to use that against me or try to oversimplify things because that shit happens.
Anyways, so my stance on this. This book could be better. The good thing I found in it is it explains the importance of mentality and the importance of the mind when it comes to bringing about the things you want. Reminding ourselves that we are not beholden to our past; we are not locked in when it comes to a certain life path or things out there. That we have the power to change things. That is a beneficial lesson there.
That being said, some of the pseudoscience in here is grating. G-R-A-T-I-N-G. The whole use of the magnet metaphor drives me wild because I know how magnets work, and like attracts like is not a magnet thing. The bringing up of the story of how someone, through positive thinking, stopped homophobia in their life. That could have used more context as to what exactly happened versus simplifying it as "they wished, and it happened." The views when it comes to our health when it comes to our weight are pretty concerning. Even though I am an energy worker and believe magic is real, I'm also a strong believer that if you can, see a doctor. Science is also a thing. So that is where I differ from this.
Another aspect of this one is the focus on the energetics, purely focusing on a thought, on individualistic things, and on how the energy causation and effect. That doesn't help us here and now. We are a spiritual world, but we are also a physical world. Yes. We are individual beings connected through this messy web we call humanity. And those are things that need to be focused on.
When you have an audience and people listening to you, it's essential to recognize that your voice carries weight, and people don't always read the whole frickin manual, if you know what I mean. People are always going to dumb things down, and if you're just some rando on the internet saying things, it's not going to matter as much as if you are someone who now has multiple bestselling author books.
Another important aspect of this to bring up is when Ronda realized that she had some power to sway culture. And the way she swayed was more focused on people focusing on themselves versus looking at the world around them.
Heck, bringing it up in her book how she doesn't listen to the news. That others may look at and say, "Oh, well, the news is too low vibe for me. I'm not going to follow current events," and thus disconnect themselves from the greater world. That is an issue. Maybe it was not intentional on her part, but it did have ramifications there.
Am I going to burn the book? No, I'm not going to. I respect what she has done. She has helped people gain greater awareness of their ability to change their lives, reframe what they see as their reality, and improve things for themselves.
I would not recommend this book to someone new to their self-improvement journey. This is something that I would hand to someone further along and then ask them to critically analyze this book and assess what they find truthful versus not in it.
So not necessarily a self-help book, but more of a book to help others figure out their spirituality to discern what is good and not good there.
Call for Listener Feedback
Alright, I'm curious if what I said invoked any strong feelings, good, bad, or otherwise. As always, we are open to feedback. You can email me directly at jess @ themysticgeek.com Otherwise, I do have my voice recording platform at speakpipe.com/themysticgeek. Either way is a great way to get ahold of me. Share your thoughts and feedback about this episode if you have any questions or if you have any ideas for subsequent topics along those lines.
So that now brings us over to what the next episodes will be like.
I am still trying to figure out what I will do for episode number nine. A lot of stuff is going on right now in various spaces. I'm wondering whether or not to bring that up or whether to go with a different topic altogether. I will probably figure this out the Friday night before episode nine is supposed to go live. So we will see.
Let's talk about the following episode: Sunday, February 19th. I have a whole bunch of individuals lined up for the following episodes when it comes to interviews. The first one will be Kathleen Donnelley Israel talking about the pilgrimage she made called "Walking the Camino." So we'll talk more about what the Camino is, what it is to walk this pilgrimage, to the various experiences she had, which will be in two weeks, a February 19th.
With that, I hope you have a Spiritual AF day and don't keep us a secret!