Literature: The Secret

"As above, so below.
As within, so without."
The Emerald Tablet, circa 3000 B.C.

Smile, darn ya, smile! You know this old world is a great world after all!
Smile, darn ya, smile! And right away watch Lady Luck pay you a call!
Things are never black as they are painted!
Time for you and joy to get acquainted!
Foxy, professional Mickey Mouse rip-off.

The Secret is a self-help book by Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne that claims to be able to teach you how to get everything you ever wanted (yes, everything! Even that!) by simply keeping a positive attitude and performing some simple exercises such as meditation, visualization (basically, using your imagination), and writing about what you want. In the book, the eponymous secret is the "Law of Attraction," which states that a positive outlook on life and positive thoughts will attract positive things into your life, whereas negative thoughts will do just the opposite. A big part of this is daydreaming about the things you want and believing they're already yours.

There's also some Technobabble regarding Einstein, string theory, and quantum mechanics. Also, there are a lot of personal anecdotes from a bunch of people who are suspiciously privileged (ie, mostly white men).

Optical engineer and Sci-Fi author, Travis S. Taylor, recently put out a book titled The Science Behind The Secret attempting to support The Secret with appeals to authority, noting a long history of similar beliefs, and a terribly butchered reading of quantum physics.

If The Secret actually works as intended (which it might, at least in the sense that being positive will make you more productive), then it's a real-life Magic Feather. If not, it's just a multi-million dollar franchise which teaches bad values.


Tropes:

  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Several historical figures, such as Napoleon, Leonardo da Vinci, and Albert Einstein, are mentioned to have studied up on the Law of Attraction and mentioned it in their writings (along with more modern, albeit obscure, names who contributed to the book).
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: How the Law of Attraction supposedly works.
  • Daydream Believer: What this book wants to turn you into.
  • Documentary Of Lies: A particularly insidious example.
  • Good Fortune from God: Perhaps the best-known non-theistic example.
  • I Wish It Were Real: Contends that doing so will actually make a desired object real.
  • Literal Genie: A metaphor describes the universe as a genie that will grant your every desire instantaneously consistently give you whatever you think about the most in your life, be it positive or negative. Although for some bizarre reason, it will give you the negative stuff if you so much as give it a passing ponderance, but you have to concentrate to get the good stuff.
  • Plagiarism: Some commentators have suggested that the intellectual content of the work, such as it is, is lifted directly from Wallace D. Wattles' much older work The Science of Getting Rich (which, of course, contains no actual science). Since Wattles was long dead and his work was in the public domain, his heirs couldn't sue.
  • Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything: A particularly egregious offender.
  • Quote Mining: Used to make it seem as if famous people from the past used "the secret."
  • Rewriting Reality: This is effectively what the book claims you can do by wishing hard enough. A cynical observer could comment that the trope name is also an accurate description of the book's Artistic License History, Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything, and Quote Mining.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Obviously, lies on the "idealism" end of the scale. At least theoretically. A cynical person could speculate that the author is in fact a deeply cynical individual who wants to make money off of gullible people.