Happy Easter to all!
I was overwhelmed at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday at the Gospel Acclamation which was so joyful and thunderous. It occurred to me that we have no secrets as Christians. What we have is mystery but we PROCLAIM it loudly to the world. As catechists, we do not pass on a secret…we proclaim the mystery of faith revealed to us in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
This is in stark contrast to the best-selling book The Secret (Rhonda Byrne) that has captivated so many people, including Oprah Winfrey, one of the book’s biggest fans. According to the author, the key to happiness is a secret that has been passed down through the ages. So, what exactly is The Secret (which has already sold 2 million copies)? It is the law of attraction. Here’s how Oprah describes it on her Web site: “the energy you put into the world — both good and bad — is exactly what comes back to you. This means you create the circumstances of your life with the choices you make every day.” Simple enough? The book itself describes the law of attraction as a “law of nature” similar to the law of gravity and says that “nothing comes into your experience unless you summon it through persistent thoughts.” The book promises that, if you learn “how to use The Secret in every aspect of your life – money, health, relationships, happiness, and in every interaction you have in the world…you’ll begin to understand the hidden, untapped power within you, and this revelation can bring joy to every aspect of your life.”
Sound good? I suppose if this book is helping some people to dispel negative thinking and replace it with positive thinking, that’s good, but here are some serious problems with The Secret in relation to the Catholic faith:
|The Secret teaches that…||As Catholic catechists, we teach that…
|YOU yourself are responsible for your own “salvation”||we cannot save ourselves but are saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus|
|you are responsible for any of the negative things in your life…you attracted them to yourself through negative thinking||we do indeed suffer the consequences of our own actions and of sin but we are not the cause of every negative thing that happens to us|
|the poor people have no one to blame but themselves for being poor. It is their own negative thinking that keeps them where they are.||we all share responsibility for the plight of the poor|
|narcissism is OK, i.e. it offers a way for you to be completely consumed with yourself and your own well-being (the abundance of the universe is there for YOU)||we are to consider the needs of others, often putting their needs before our own|
|materialism is OK, it emphasizes how you can draw good things to yourself||we are to live with the spirit of poverty, i.e. with a sense of detachment from material things.|
|individualism is OK. There is no sense of community or corporate responsibility. You can be one with the power of the universe (the law of attraction) but you have no responsibility for the well-being of others.||we are members of the Body of Christ and members of the human family, responsible for the well-being of one another.|
|love is an emotion or a feeling||love is a commitment to the well-being of another|
|greed is OK, it gives examples of rich people who achieved their material success through the power of attraction||we are called to live with a spirit of stewardship, sharing God’s abundance with one another|
|the law of attraction (like attracts like) is the primary rule of the universe||God (who is love) is the creative force of the universe and the law of love is the primary rule|
|the law of attraction can be thought of as the law of love, thus suggesting that we’re all talking about the same thing anyway!||the law of love is not the law of attraction but is the call to self-less giving of oneself to others|
|you alone are the creator of who you are through your thoughts (“you are the creator of you. You are the masterpiece of your own life. You are the Michelangelo of your own life. The David you are sculpting is you.”)||God is the Creator of all things seen and unseen|
|you can have complete control over your own circumstances||God is in control and our call is to learn to discern and abide by God’s will|
|no moral compass is necessary. You simply have a right to everything and anything you want: “all good things are your birthright!” “trust your instincts”||we are called to form our conscience and to rely on that informed conscience to guide our actions|
|the universe is your Genie: it is here to serve you (“your wish is my command”)||we are called to serve others and to be stewards of God’s creation|
|faith is simply a positive mindset and that possessions are the focus of faith||faith is radical trust in God; faith is a relationship|
|happiness can be equated with having things||happiness is found in living in communion with God and neighbor and in following the will of God|
|the ultimate reality is an impersonal force||God, who loves us in a very personal way, is the ultimate reality|
|self-reliance is all that is needed: “all you need is YOU”||we rely totally on the grace of God|
|we are to have an attitude of gratitude, i.e. to be thankful, however, it never identifies the object of our thanks or the source of all goodness…just be thankful||we are to be thankful to God who is the source of all blessings and all good gifts.|
|giving and sacrificing are diametrically opposed (sacrificing doesn’t feel good and leads to resentment )||to sacrifice is to make holy. It is not about feeling good, it is about doing what is right and holy.|
|“you are the master of your life”||Jesus is the Lord (master) of our lives and we are called to surrender to the will of the Father.|
|there is no limit to what we can think or do||as human beings, we are made in the image of God but are not equal to God and therefore have limitations and weaknesses|
|everything is energy||the universe exists not only on a physical plane but also on a spiritual plane|
|God is energy||God is love|
|each of us is eternal energy and that we have always been and will always be||we each have a unique soul created by God and our share in eternal life is judged by the extent to which we live in the divine life (selfless love) in this life|
|universal consciousness (ourselves) runs the universe and can control it||God sustains the universe|
|the body just holds the spirit||our bodies and our spirits are one in this life|
|we are God in a human body||we are made in the image and likeness of God; Jesus alone is God in a human body|
|all power is from within and is under our control||all power belongs to God|
|your purpose is what you say it is; your mission is the mission you give yourself||our purpose is to know, love, and serve God – to be holy; our mission is to proclaim salvation in Jesus to all people.|
|no one will stand in judgment of us, now or ever||we will be judged by God based on the extent to which we loved and served others|
|our primary aim is to feel and experience joy||our primary aim is to love God with our whole mind, heart, soul, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves|
|whatever you choose is right||whenever making choices, we need to be sure our conscience is informed and we must consider the consequences of our actions for ourselves and others|
|you are the master of the universe||God is the master of the universe|
If you spotted more than a few heresies in The Secret, you’re right! Personally, I enjoy reading a lot of self-help books and I am a firm believer in positive thinking. However, this book is such complete trash that it’s scary that it is selling in such large numbers. The Da Vinci Code did not worry me one bit because it primarily was a form of entertainment. The Secret is very scary because it proposes a philosophy of life that is being swallowed whole by way too many people. As catechists, we have such a wonderful opportunity to teach the Truth which is God’s Law of Love as revealed in Jesus – and there are no secrets involved!
p.s. check out this review of The Secret by Jana Riess
This post is helpful, and I like how you have compiled the Christian (Catholic) responses to teachings in the Secret. One thing that concerns me, however, is your use of the word “scary.” If you could, would you ban this book? Probably you wouldn’t, but many people who have criticized the Secret on doctrinal grounds would. Today they don’t have this power, but there was a time when the Church (the emerging hierarchical church) did have this power, and many teachings were supressed. For the greater good many would argue, but even as someone largely in agreement with the received tradition (versus gnosticism, etc.) I’m not sure. When we are “scared” and “worried” it is because we don’t trust other people to figure things out for themselves, so we try to control what their minds have access too. It smacks of paternalism, and arrogance. I happen to think the Secret is pretty hokey on both religious and scientific grounds. I find it amusing that it is selling so well. But I’m not in the least bit scared. It can’t do any more harm than the bible itself has done in the hands of people who haven’t understood IT.
Elizabeth, no I’m not into banning books. I encourage people to read things for themselves. The book does not frighten me. The thought that 2 million people think it has any value at all is frightening. Our response is not to control their access to written materials but to offer the truth as given to us by Jesus and the Church and to articulate clearly how we are saved by the Gospel and how we can be led astray by certain other sources.
I have never read the book, “The Secret”.
When thinking of Mormons… “I feel inhibited.”
I would still like to see the movie “Saving Grace”.
And…this is the first time I have visited this website “www.catechistsjourney.com”.
I just want to act as reminder; Today is National Day of Prayer.
Lets Do Wisely With That!
God Bless You All in Your Love and Sevice to the Lord!
I couldn’t understand some parts of this article , but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.
I’m from Indonesia, I just bought the secret because curious of people’s testimonial on Oprah’s show. You are right, for millions people The secret may just reveal but not for us as Jesus FOllowers.
God Bless U
Angelita, I’m thrilled to hear from you all the way from Indonesia! God bless U too!
i think its half terminology war/ miscommunication and half skewed philosophical by slant, and major diffrences in the new age movment, i think there is some truth in it, but not in a “divine” way. ill explain.
the poor may actually have themselves, to blame, in how they use money, people have given the poor a lot of money and they wind back up as they are because they are using money incorrectly, (you are responsible for your actions)
narcissism and materialism to my knowledge is condoned. (but since most stems from philosophy, which mentions what will happen, and does not endorse or condone) though most will say it will hinder you.
you can have complete control over your own circumstances- IS generally true! Especially in the sense the mean it as. (many will whine that they are not in control of what happens to them, when they really are!) also if we were totally dependent on grace, it MIGHT conflict with free will.
no one will stand in judgment of us, now or ever- is badly mistaken, in fact with “karma” you are judged for every action both immediately and later.( not less)
for the thoughts, what you believe becomes very much your reality, believe everyone is out to get you, and it will very much seem that, believe something hard enough and you will cause your body to try to manifest that, (placebo effect) (nothing “new-agy” here)