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The Secret

August 15, 2007

There’s a movie, and a book out there called “The Secret”, which has become quite popular.  Millions of copies have sold, and a lot of people are talking about it. One group seems to believe in it devoutly, and others say it’s “wishful thinking.”   Well I think it’d be a fun run-down to get to the bottom of whether it’s worth believing in, or not.

Well let’s first examine what this so called ‘secret’ is. We can state “the secret” quite quicky.  It’s simply this:  You envison what you want in your mind, then there’s this magical energy (they use a genie to illustrate this) that brings what you want into existence.  You pull it into you step by step, as you follow this almost divine leading, while this genie is molding reality and making a path for you to get your innermost desires.  They say that you will draw in what you want like a magnet.

The wishful thinking crowd look this philosophy over and are sceptical about this genie and question if the world is really run by this benevolent mystical being.  It doesn’t seem like this “genie” is out to help you.  After all, what about the laws of physics, and the way things work.  You can’t just think something in your head and the laws of physics will bend to your will.  It doesn’t seem to work that way.  And in this point, they are correct.

Now we see the others who believe in “the secret”, and they say, “Well, it works!  I’ve seen people use it, and it really helped them out.”  And to this, I will also concede, because this ‘secret’ is not entirely false.

So what’s right about it, and where are its problems?  Well it has two main points that are good, mainly being 1) Believe in yourself and that you can achieve your goals, and 2) All things are possible if you’re able to believe in yourself.

The problem is this genie.  This mystical being who is out to give you what you want.  The world doesn’t seem to work this way.  People get cancer, and they die.  The laws of physics don’t seem to bend to thoughts in our head.  The world seems merciless, and relentless.

Now where does this genie concept come from?  Why do we need a genie? Couldn’t this same phenomenon be explained without this genie?  Probably so, but you’ll find that many people have trouble believing in themselves, as they either feel they’re too stupid, don’t have the education, not strong enough, not disciplined enough, etc., so they cling to this genie and divine power which they hope will help them out.  Those who cling to “the secret” don’t actually believe in themselves.  They do not believe they can achieve their goals in life, and instead ask the genie to bend how things work to get them what they want.  You’ll find that half of ‘The Secret’ is rooted in fear of their own ability to make decisions.

Christians do the same thing.  Whenever they can’t find a way out of a difficult situation, they start praying to God to make a way for them to get out of their problems.  In other words, they don’t believe they can do it, they believe they are not strong enough.  They’re not smart enough.  They’re not intelligent enough.  They need God, or the genie to fix the problem.

Well, ok, you might argue back, “How do you know, Jason, that this genie isn’t out there?  He may well be.”  Alright.  I’ll concede that point.  Let’s furthur inquire and test if it is logically possible for this genie to bend reality based on what people are asking from life and envisioning in their minds.

Now Christians, and the followers of “the secret”, all believe that there is a link between their mind and physical reality.  Christians call this concept “faith.”  Now what is the full consequence of belief in the Genie or God bending reality, bending the laws of physics, to your thoughts in your mind?  This is actually contradictory.  Let me explain.

God can’t bend reality to the wishes in your head because if he did so there would be no reality left.  Think how messed up things would be if the world was constantly molding itself based on what people thought in their heads.  One man’s trying to build a building, and another man’s picking it up with his mind and throwing it around.  One man’s wanting to lay on the beach to enjoy the sunshine and another man flys into space, and hurls the sun off into another galaxy.  Then another man grabs the sun and puts it back.

Eventually there would be no laws of physics at all, and no corresponding reality, only your own mind.  What you think in your head would become reality, and there would be no distinction between the two.  You can’t bend a reality when there’s no reality to bend.  Also, if there’s no reality, you can’t interact with your fellow beings and friends.

We run into philosophical problems that were brought up ages ago:  If two beings are both infinitely powerful, and both want different things, who gets their way?   Example:  One wants to throw the sun off into a distant galaxy, and another wants it to stay put.

So we have a difficult issue.  If two people rose to the same high mental state together, and were at the same “level” so to speak, it’d be an impossible duel.  Two infinitely powerful beings.  Also, God would cease to be God.  You’d have three Gods I suppose, and more on the way as they all came to full knowledge of ‘the secret’.

Followers of ‘The Secret’ are not the only ones who confuse this issue.  Christians fail to notice their contradiction as well.  They believe they’ve solved this problem by adding different intensities, or levels of faith.  They believe each of us has our own degree of faith, which allows some people to mold reality to whatever they’re praying for, while others are unable to do so, due to their lack of faith.  After all, only faith moves God, and the more of this faith you have, the more you can get what you want from God and this life.

So they get their faith books, talk about reading the Bible consistently (“faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”), when they have cancer, they march around their kitchen saying, “I am healed, by the blood of Jesus!  I am healed by the blood of Jesus!”  It’s unfortunate that you see most of them die of the afflicted disease, and never healed by God.

You ask the Christians why such a loving, benevolent God would allow his devout followers to die of deadly disease, and not cure them?  They reply, “Who can understand the will of God?  He works in mysterious ways.”   Regardless of what God’s doing, and what he’s thinking, we have a problem on our hands.  This ‘faith in God’ business isn’t working in any degree which I would consider satisfactory.  When 99% of God’s followers are dying of diseases, with a few statistical outliers receiving miracles, I think we need to look for better, more reliable alternatives.  With such a low probability outcome of a miracle, even with devout religious men and women, very “close to God”, it seems these miracles are likely not from God, but are simply manifestations of other laws of physics that we currently do not understand.

The “wishful thinker” group comes along and says, “Yeah, of course it doesn’t work.  Your God is dead!  Stop clinging to wishful thinking.”  Let’s for the meantime call these people “critical thinkers.”

Critical thinkers bring with them their own problems.  They’re oftentimes caught telling you that you’re living in wishful thinking, but aren’t doing anything to help you find a solution to your problem.  They argue that God isn’t helping you, but their advice doesn’t help much either.  Extreme critical thinkers seem to be obsessed with the laws of physics, and the “way it is.”  They’ll constantly tell you, “It doesn’t work that way!”

I think there’s one point we can all concede to: at least some degree of “free will” and capability to change our reality is required if there is to be progress of any kind.  Somehow we’re going to have to rise to the occassion so to speak, and defeat these tyrannies of nature: such as hurricanes, disease, and earthquakes.  Also, we’re going to have to find a way to live together civily, without killing one another with this new technology we invent.  For example, Biotechnology seems capable of curing our diseases, but also capable of creating brand new ones as well.  Nuclear fission can create electricity for us all, but it can also be used in atomic weaponry.

If near every person who called upon God to heal them was healed, we could rely on that source for healing our diseases.  But I ask the Christian readers to admit, God is oftentimes very elusive with his miracle working.  A lot of devout saints seem to die, even standing in faith, praying for a miracle.  Science has seemed far more effective toward curing our illnesses.  It has a ways to go, but it’s moving forward.  Miracle working is at the same pathetic stage it’s been for the past several millennia.

But is there a possible world view that allows us to properly align the critical mindset and put faith to good use?  I think there is.  Let’s review what’s been discussed thus far.  The people who believe in faith (Christians), and “the secret”, both believe in an extreme view toward change.  They believe that whatever you think in your mind changes reality, which is a contradiction.  Reality disappears in the indistinction between the subjective desires and reality, and free will disappears as well, because there is no longer a reality to assert free will on.  The extreme critical thinkers have no conception of change.  Reality is what it is, and we can not change it.  They say “deal with it”, but you can’t deal with something you can’t change.  You simply have to endure something you can’t change.  Also, if there is no free will, and we’re just a blob of chemicals, governed by the law of physics, it’s terribly difficult to distinguish what “we” are from “reality”, and the two become one.  In other words, the “you” disappears, and we’re just left with reality as a whole.  “You” can’t “deal” with it when you’re unable to act, and there is no “you” to begin with.  They are also in a contradiction.

Now that we’ve discussed the problems, I’ll tell you the solution to this dilemma.  We’ve seen earlier that if there’s no order imposed on free will beings, interaction between them seems impossible.  One guy is trying to build a building, another man is throwing it around as he’s constructing it.  We’ll see that God’s (or the Universe’s) solution to this is the laws of physics.  These laws are the order in which our universe runs.

Now the interesting thing about laws is that they allow variablity within constraint.  This is the solution to the “change” problem which both “the secret” followers and extreme crticial thinkers mess up.  Take the laws we live under today, under our governments.  There are laws which impose limitations on us, but we are free to do as we please within these limitations.  In fact, as history will tell you, having a society based upon good founded laws is better than anarchy. The laws of physics work the same way.  We can move our bodies, but our bodies are at the same time limited by the laws of physics.  This principle is what allows multiple free will beings to interact with one another in the same reality.

I mentioned before that both the Christians, and “the secret” followers have two main points that are good:

1) Believe in yourself
2) You can achieve anything you can imagine, if you believe in yourself

Now the last principle which they misunderstand is how our human freedom interacts with the world around us.  One time I was talking with my friend Greg, in his living room, and we questioned whether a person could ever pick up an object there in the room with their mind, and levitate it in the air.  I said, “No”, Greg said, “Maybe.”

I firmly believe that “All things are possible to him that believes”, but not that this neccessarily means you imagine it in your mind then it comes forth.  There’s more to it than just envisioning it.  Picturing it in your mind is just the first step. They are missing some important steps.  Levitating objects with your mind, or molding reality based on your imagination are both instances of wanting to skip these steps.  What are these steps I’m referring to?

Learning, knowledge, and memory.  We learn new knowledge based on our desires, and save this knowledge to memory, which we can recall and use in future situations.  These are the tools which we employ to mold reality.  We learn the laws as to how this world is governed, insert our free will actions into the “network of determinism”, and the more we learn these laws that govern how things work, we will be able to mold and make the reality which we want to have.

Now to learn, a person has to turn their mind on.  A person who does not believe in themselves, their mind is turned off.  Take a young man, telling himself, “I’ll never be successful. I could never do that.”  Since he does not believe he can do it, he’ll never learn how to do it, nor will he try, nor study the thing in question.

The concept of “the secret”, telling the people to envison what it is they are wanting to accomplish turns their mind on, to learn how to make the thing in question happen.  This “turning on” is what they are mistaking for something divine.  It’s not divine, there’s no genie, and the world is not helping you out.  The world is what it is.  It’s a dead, lifeless existence of stuff.  If a boulder is falling from a cliff, and you happen to be in the way, you’re done for.  Boulders smash people, and the rock isn’t going to have any thought as to what happens.  The so called “magnet effect” The Secret refers to is your mind now looking for a way to get what you’re wanting from life.  You seem to be revealed how to achieve your goal piece by piece not because God is looking over your shoulder, nor because a genie is out there making your dreams come true, but because your mind is now assembling the events happening around you, and looking for ways to accomplish your goal, within the laws which the world is governed by.

Reality moves in patterns and is governed by laws.  Our mind has the ability to notice “cause/effect” relationships.  If you’re not looking for these “cause/effect” relationships, you’ll never notice them.  If you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll blind yourself from even looking for them.

So how does “the secret” become harmful then?  They’ve made this process into something mystical, and are telling people that by thoughts in their mind they shape reality.  This will get you killed.  Say you’re building your own fighter jet.  You build it, but say you’ve implemented some brand new technology that isn’t tested, and the plane could easily crash.  Instead of taking proper safety precautions, you say, “Don’t worry about it.  I believe in ‘The Secret’, and a safe plane, and a safe flight has been drawn to me.”  You get in the plane, crash, and die.

Greg and I once talked about ‘The Secret’, playing with the idea.  He once told me (throwing ideas in the air with extreme examples of ‘The Secret’) that if he were to somehow situate his mind correctly, he could go in a store, steal whatever he wanted, and walk out with it, and nobody would care nor say anything.  Anything he could ever desire would be drawn into him, with zero to minimal effort or consequences, once he achieved some sort of mental super-strength.  I told him I didn’t think so.

What I came to find out is that this “secret” concept, and this “genie/God/faith” business all hinges on one concept – I can get what I want without changing.  Instead of learning, studying, and working hard, you can get what you want simply by thinking a certain way.  Instead of learning how things work, you’re going to tell reality how to work.  You’re telling reality to bow down to you, instead of acknowledging its domain and what it is, and its power. Historically that mindset has always caused people problems, and it will cause you problems as well if you believe in it.

For the past few thousand years mankind has been looking for a set of laws to govern our society and government.  In the beginning there were what came to be known as “arm-chair philosophers.”  Basically these guys would sit around, by a nice cozy fire, in their rocking chairs, and would speculate as to what these laws could be, and the ideal social structure.

Now we’ve learned the hard way that such speculation, if it’s not rooted in any evidence, causes serious issues.  Regardless of what you intended, or what you THOUGHT would happen, oftentimes something very different happens.  Knowledge will have to guide our actions, and knowledge has to be worked for to be attained.   You can’t speculate as to how things work.  You have to get out there, study, and work.  That’s mankind’s lot.  You can try to get out of it, but you’ll only hurt yourself if you do.

In conclusion: the most harmful aspect of ‘The Secret’ is its thinking that the world is subject to you.  You’ll be better off if you’re like the scientists of the world and acknowledge that reality doesn’t do such a thing.  You have to learn how to insert your free will actions into this world in a such a way that leads to happiness.  There’s no way around it.

As always, there’s no solution to a lack of knowledge.

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