More dirty little Secrets?
Warning: This post contains a generous dose of gossip, opinion, and speculation along with real facts. It is also very long...even for me. I recommend you print it out and take it into the "reading room."
Two weeks ago, our COO, Gary Chappell and I had the incredible opportunity to have lunch with the creators of The Secret…As Gary and I broke bread with Rhonda Byrne (the creator, producer and director of the movie) and her CEO Bob Rainone at a small bistro in Evanston, IL, we were absolutely amazed at their integrity, their passion, and their sense of mission about this movie. While I won't reveal what "The Secret" is (you'll have to see the movie to find out), it was refreshing to see a project of this magnitude guided by two people who truly want to help humanity, by providing an empowering, illuminating message that can be watched by anyone from 7 to 70, from the Far East to the Far West. Best of all, Nighitngale-Conant intends to become a partner in this effort by providing our products and services to any and all people who might want to activate The Secret in their own lives. Watch The Secret, but best of all, live it!
VP, Publishing, Nightingale-Conant
From an April 2006 blog post (around the time The Secret was released)
[The Secret's] backers say they deliberately aimed to make "wealth enhancement" a major element of the project. "We desired to hit the masses, and money is the number one thing on the masses' minds," says Bob Rainone, a former IBM salesman and telcom exec who now serves as Byrne's U.S. business partner. Wealth enhancement is also part of the The Secret's business plan…
"The Da Vinci Code was entertaining, but this film is a personal tool for people who want to change their lives," says Rainone. "It's a gift to the world, to help humanity."
~ The Secret of Success, by Jerry Ressner
Article in Time Magazine, December 28, 2006
May The Secret bring you love and joy for your entire existence. This is my intention for you, and for the world.
~ Rhonda Byrne
No purple bracelets in Secretville
Unless you’ve been totally isolated from American pop culture for the past few weeks, you are at least dimly aware of a ubiquitous new New-Wage fad, "a complaint-free world." This is a gimmick based on a new book by Reverend Will Bowen, a minister at Christ Church Unity in Missouri. The way the complaint-free routine works is that you’re supposed to go for 21 days without complaining, criticizing, gossiping or using sarcasm. People taking the challenge are urged to don an official Complaint-Free World plastic purple bracelet, kind of like those equally ubiquitous What Would Jesus Do? bracelets. The purpose of the Complaint-Free bracelet is
to make money for Will Bowen to show the world that the wearer is a follower of every dumb fad that comes down the pike to remind you of your good intentions, and to announce those intentions to the world. Every time you catch yourself complaining, you’re supposed to eat your bracelet and buy two in its place. Complain again, eat the two bracelets, and buy four in their place. And so on.
Okay, I am just kidding about the eating part, although come to think of it, that would be a good ploy to sell even more bracelets. They would probably have to make the bracelets more edible, though, and no doubt they’d need to pick some other place besides China to make them. What you’re really supposed to do, every time you catch yourself complaining, is stop and put the bracelet on your other wrist. The fad is really taking hold; purple bracelets are popping up everywhere, and not just in Unity churches.
I can pretty much guarantee, though, that there are some folks (besides yours truly, of course) who are not going to be sporting those bracelets any time soon. I’m talking about Rhonda Byrne’s intellectual property attorneys. These guys thrive on complaining the way flies thrive on poop. Ever since The Secret hit the big time, they’ve been engaged in sniffing out real and contrived copyright infringements committed against Rhonda, her US partner and CEO Bob Rainone, and Rhonda and Bob’s offshore companies – most notably, TS Production LLC (a Hungarian limited liability company), and TS Merchandising Ltd. (a British Virgin Islands corporation).
Lately the lawyers have been occupying themselves with filing lawsuits against some of the folks who helped make The Secret a huge success in the first place. The buzz is that not only have they sued Drew Heriot, the director of the original version of The Secret (he’s also the one responsible for making those astoundingly effective trailers that got everyone so worked up), but they’ve also filed a complaint against Dan Hollings, The Secret’s original Internet strategist, who orchestrated the amazingly successful online promo campaign.
Yes, around the same time that Rhonda was busy delivering her Secret Scrolls Thanksgiving message and handing out free sub-quality leather "Gratitude Journals" made in China (more on that later on), her attorneys were serving up some holiday lawsuits against some of the very people who helped create The Secret and then launch it into the New-Wage stratosphere.
"And how would you, Cosmic Connie, know this?" you might be asking. "Or are you just making it up because you hate The Secret and are no big fan of Rhonda Byrne? Are you, in fact, the anti-New-Wage version of Rita Skeeter?"
These are good questions, Dear Ones, and the answer is that I have many sources: anonymous tipsters; various little birdies; a cagey bee; the KGB; a Vedic astrologer or two; coded messages that appear in mysterious lights in the sky; channeled messages from a collective of disembodied entities who refuse to give me their name(s); the patterns in various tea leaves; and the voices in my head. Add to this my own penchant for Googling madly when I hear even a tiny whisper of scandalous scuttlebutt (I’m often pretty lazy, but occasionally inspired), plus my amazing talent for reading between the lines, and by golly, you almost have the makings of the beginning of a real story. Granted, I may be off on a few details – and I’ll be glad to make corrections or additions if I get something wrong and it’s pointed out to me – but the foundation of the story is, I think, pretty solid.
One big stone in that foundation is this link to the listing of a federal suit filed by Rhonda and the gang against Web strategist Dan Hollings. The link appears on a web site, Know-More-Secrets.com, that an anonymous tipster pointed out to me recently. The complaint itself is thirteen pages long – like I said, no purple bracelets for these guys – with seven pages of "exhibits."
Just a couple of weeks previously, according to the Know More Secrets web site, TS had filed a lawsuit against director Drew Heriot.
I’m kind of a savant about anniversary dates, and I’ve noticed that the suit against Hollings was filed on November 16, 2007, which happens to be the exact one-year anniversary of Part 2 of Larry King’s fawning two-part tribute to The Secret. (Part 1 of the fawn-fest was on November 2, 2006.)
To me, there’s no small irony in the Larry King anniversary date, since Drew and Dan apparently had a very large part in rendering The Secret "Kingworthy" (and, later, "Oprahworthy") in the first place. Talk about lessons in gratitude. I don’t think that distributing cheap-o leather journals to the Secretrons is going to make up for this error. On the other hand, as my friend Blair Warren has often said (and I think he got this from his channeled entity Ralph, who revealed the Law Of Extraction to him): "The Universe likes greed!"
Don’t get me wrong. As I’ve stated on this blog previously, I believe business owners have every right to protect their creative endeavors and intellectual properties. And when you have an enterprise as successful as The Secret franchise has been, there will always be interlopers, cheap imitators, and others who seek to unfairly capitalize on your success. So, love them or hate them, intellectual property attorneys are a necessity in today’s business climate. I get that.
The big question is this: where does the legitimate need to protect one’s rights end, and sleazy business practices and unbridled greed begin? I suppose we all have our own opinions about that. I’ll just tell you some stuff I have found out, and you can form your own opinions or, if you wish, do your own research. I’m thinking that sooner or later this will all end up as a New York Times feature written by a real journalist, but you can say you got wind of it here first.
My own bias (just in case you don’t know the story already)
Before I go any further with this I want to play devil's advocate for a moment. I have no doubt that some who read this post are going to point out that the folks I’m writing about have, in fact, been trying to capitalize on The Secret. To some, the issue of whether they are doing so fairly or unfairly – or even legally or illegally – is moot, since the whole situation could be viewed as just another battle of egos. A few, I am sure, will speculate that the people I’m writing about are probably just trying to get a bigger piece of the pie now that The Secret has become so successful.
Regarding the last point: as far as I can tell, the folks in question are claiming that they only want what Rhonda promised them in the beginning. And while I don’t want to gloss over the other points, I’ll say right off that I am inclined to be sympathetic to people who do good work in good faith and are not compensated as promised.
As you know if you’ve read my Cosmic Relief web site (and you can just skip this part if you know the story), many years ago I too was stiffed by a New-Wage entrepreneur. Granted, it was on a much, much smaller scale than seems to have been the case with the former Secret team members, and the business person in my case was a small-time magazine publisher. Nevertheless she talked a good game of spirituality and ethics and a new era for humanity, and – go ahead, laugh at me; I deserve it – I honestly thought at the time that I was going to be a part of something big and important. Unfortunately, her business dealings were anything but clean, and she ended up stiffing just about everyone who did any work for her. In her case, however, instead of suing those who tried to get payment from her (as seems to be the case with at least one of the lawsuits I mention in this post), she just disappeared into the crowd, and resurfaced a few years later with a new name.
For me, the incident with the publisher was a turning point on my road to cynicism about many of the things I'm blogging about today. This person was far from the only shady New-Wager I've encountered over the years. Had this been an isolated incident I would have shrugged it off. But her behavior seemed to be part of a larger pattern that became clearer to me as time went on. And it is remarkable, really, how many people in the metaphysical/selfish-help/pop-spirituality community use lofty spiritual concepts to either justify or detract from their sleazy dealings. To me that’s kind of like using a spritz of room spray to take care of the stench at a sewage plant.
The point is that I come by my cynicism honestly. And that’s why am willing to devote blog space to others who have apparently been wronged by New-Wage capitalists. Especially when they seem to have been wronged on a very grand scale.
The director gets the boot
According to the information on his Internet Movie Database page, Australian-born Drew Heriot (whose name is fairly often misspelled "Hariot") not only directed the original movie of The Secret and made the trailers, but was also one of the writers. He had worked with Rhonda on several projects previously, according to the story on The Secret official web site.
In early 2005, when The Secret was simply a name and a (momentous) vision, Prime Time Productions was made up of Rhonda, Producer Paul Harrington, and Director Drew Heriot. Paul, who had worked with Rhonda at Prime Time Productions virtually since its beginning, and Drew, who had directed several projects for the company as well, became, with Rhonda, the foundation for The Secret team.
Word has it that in the beginning, Drew had an agreement with Rhonda that included a percentage of sales of the DVD. And why shouldn't he have a generous piece of the pie, since he was, after all, a member of her original tiny team who struggled to bring The Secret to life? Besides, my guess is that Rhonda probably couldn't afford to pay him properly upfront, since she was struggling financially back then.
Apparently, however, Drew was fired not long after the movie was completed. The story goes that Rhonda and gang had invited him to relocate to the US, but about one week after he arrived in the States, Rhonda’s US cohort Bob Rainone just called him out of the blue and fired him. Why? Could it have been because of that percentage deal he supposedly had with Rhonda in the beginning? Who knows?
In short order Drew found himself all but penniless in the US on a temporary green card, with no immediate job prospects. He implored Bob and Rhonda to set him up with a distributorship deal so he could at least sell the movie he’d made and have some income till he could find other work. He got the distributorship and reportedly sold a lot of Secret DVDs, until Bob Rainone abruptly yanked his distributorship. Allegedly it was because Drew was doing something numerous other distributors were doing, and that wasn't forbidden by the distributorship agreements: running GoogleAds.
Nevertheless Drew seems to be doing all right these days; he has turned his attention to more positive enterprises, such as the Elevate Festival of Film and Music. (He can hardly be faulted, however, for also resorting to satire to express some of his frustrations.) He did file for a copyright on The Secret movie, which, if I’m not mistaken, is normal practice for a director in Australia. Apparently this is what prompted Rhonda and gang’s lawsuit against him.
Again, I don’t know the whole story here. And some might point out that Drew has gotten a lot of mileage out of his association with The Secret, and that he has worked it to his advantage in many ways. Detractors and Secretrons might also say that, for better or worse, it was due to Rhonda and gang that Drew was motivated to come to the US, where he is now carving a promising Hollywood career for himself. He might never have risen to prominence had it not been for this turn of events.
Fair enough, but I do know this: just about everyone who has ever commented on the marketing success of The Secret has mentioned those early trailers.Those teasers were apparently key in igniting interest and in getting other people on board the promotion train. And while that first trailer may have been conceived by Rhonda Byrne – who has often said that she and/or The Universe came up with the idea in a few moments, and made the trailer in about ten minutes – it was, by all accounts I’ve seen, Drew Heriot who actually created the trailer that made Internet history.
More importantly, even if Drew is doing all right for himself now, that doesn’t negate any wrongdoing on the part of Rhonda and gang. It doesn’t alter the fact that if they did renege on their promises to him, and/or if he was arbitrarily fired just to prevent him from getting a cut of the profits as originally promised by Rhonda, that surely is a violation of the lofty principles espoused in The Secret.
A tangled Web: the Internet strategist gets the shaft
Another person whose work was apparently very instrumental in the success of The Secret DVD was Dan Hollings, the original Internet marketing strategist. After the movie was completed and Rhonda found herself in her famous big financial bind, Internet marketing saved the day. Actually, it didn't just save the day; it created a brand new day. It made Internet marketing history, for Goddess' sake. More than one person has opined that the The Secret is, thus far, the greatest case study of viral marketing ever done.
The Internet marketing, the web site development, the customer support, and fulfillment were reportedly all set up and/or done directly by Dan Hollings, with the help of a network of connections he had built over the years. According to some of the info on his web sites, he has been doing Internet marketing ever since there was an Internet to speak of, and he has consulted for over 100 companies and individuals to date, including TV talk show host Montel Williams and Chicken Soup co-author and Secret star Jack Canfield. Like Drew, Dan clearly is getting a lot of mileage out of his own Secret connection, and like most online marketing types he is not shy about self-promotion. But when it comes to Internet marketing, he does seem to know his stuff.
Word is that Dan employed every type of marketing strategy in his arsenal, including working out the joint ventures with the teachers in The Secret. The DVD was pulling in a couple mil a month in Internet sales for several months before Larry King, Oprah, etc. And even those major media events caused surges, but probably did not sustain lasting sales. After all, on their respective shows Oprah and Larry feature dozens of people, books, and trends in any given year. What helped The Secret stand out? Just speculating here, but I imagine it was a combination of strategies that would seem to require a dedicated effort by someone with genuine expertise in online promotions. (Rumor has it that Dan was also instrumental in getting The Secret DVD to the number 1 spot on Amazon, another act for which Rhonda and gang failed to express proper gratitude.)
Of course, when Rhonda was asked who did the Internet marketing, she generally said, "The Universe," in that breathy way she has. That was her story, and she was sticking to it. Accordingly, Dan Hollings facetiously branded himself "Mr. Universe."
But trouble loomed for Mr. Universe, who, in addition to a monthly retainer, had a ten percent deal with Rhonda on Internet sales of the DVD only. That would have been a tidy sum for him, as the first twelve months of Internet sales were reportedly $24 million. Do I even have to tell you that those payments were not forthcoming? At first there was a series of excuses, the most notable one being, "We haven’t shown a profit."
Finally, after seventeen months in the employ of The Secret organization, Dan was "let go." Reportedly he continued to try in vain to collect on his percentage. And now, apparently, Rhonda and gang take issue with that original ten percent agreement. Instead of giving Dan his cut, they’re trying to nail him for infringing on their copyrights, unfairly competing with them, cutting into their profitability (uh-huh), creating brand confusion, and the like.
Riding The Secret gravy train
Not being an intellectual properties/copyright attorney, I am unqualified to give any sort of legal opinion whatsoever about any of these matters. And I hope it is clear that this is not what I’m trying to do here. The legal issues, of course, will have to be hammered out in court (or out of it, as the case may be). But I would like to make my own observations about "brand confusion."
There clearly seems to be a great deal of exploitation of The Secret throughout the New-Wage community, not the least of it by some of its featured teachers. For example, Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale has released not one but two DVDs about "The Missing Secret" – which blatantly capitalize on his connection with The Secret. And then there's his DVD, Install And Transcend The Secret. (For that matter, Joe even claimed that "The Secret" is more in keeping with his own book, The Attractor Factor, than The Science of Getting Rich.) And there are countless other New-Wage capitalists, major and minor, who have tried, with greater or lesser degrees of success, to hop aboard The Secret gravy train.
Perhaps the most flagrant examples are "The Three Amigos" – Bob Proctor, Jack Canfield, and Michael Beckwith, with their Science Of Getting Rich (SGR) affiliate-based program. All three starred in The Secret and have exploited that to the max. (Bob Proctor, who seems to be the real "brains" behind the SGR deal, has apparently suffered a bit of embarrassment in the past year due to his association with Secret scam artist David Schirmer.) From the beginning, even some of the most loyal Secret fans were annoyed and even dismayed by the shameless money-grubbing of the SGR program, which costs $1,995.00 to join. For that entry fee you get a pile of dubious bonuses, including a cheap Chinese-made leather briefcase. Oh, yeah, and you get the chance to become wealthy beyond belief.
You may recall that Rhonda and company took some pains last March to release an announcement that SGR has no connection with TS Production et al. Still, the SGR web site clearly bills the three principals as stars of The Secret, and there’s that whole ancient-scroll design to give it kind of the look and feel of the official site.
But that’s not even the half of it. What most people don’t seem to remember is that the project started with Rhonda in the deal. It was even announced in her Secret Scrolls newsletter in November 2006, and also here, on what used to be The Secret blog.
Scuttlebutt has it that some folks, and not just disappointed Secretrons, were very unhappy about SGR. I hear tell that Oprah’s attorneys were even rattling their sabers – I don’t have the full story about that, but I’ll let you know if I get it. Supposedly Rhonda and Bob Rainone wormed their way out of responsibility for the deal, falsely claiming that Bob Proctor was a renegade teacher doing this without their permission. I do know that the issue was discussed on The Secret official forum. Here’s that link, and here’s the link to the page where Oprah is mentioned in conjunction with SGR. (You might want to copy and paste for your records, though; don't be surprised if the thread "disappears," as has happened before on that forum.)
You may also remember that Michael Beckwith apparently pulled out early on, but he’s back in. At least his picture is on the site. And supposedly he was on the Ship Of Fools LOA cruise in October. Most significantly, the SGR site is clearly still in business.
Perhaps Rhonda and gang know what side their bread is buttered on: most of the "teachers" are "names" (without whom far fewer folks would have been interested in her product, no matter how good the trailers and the marketing were). Or maybe TS still has a "secret" stake in SGR, and it wouldn’t do for them to sue themselves. At any rate, it seems that they’re cutting the "teachers" more slack than they are the workers. And I don’t anticipate that any of the stars of The Secret are going to speak out for the worker bees, even if some of them might privately agree with the guys. New-Wage stars also know what side their bread is buttered on.
Remembering the Hicks
The most widely publicized story of folks who had an early percentage deal with Rhonda Byrne is that of Esther and Jerry Hicks, the George and Gracie of the New-Wage industry. The Hicks have enjoyed a long and successful career showcasing Esther’s imaginary friend(s) "Abraham." Early on in The Secret project, Rhonda sought out Esther and Jerry, who had been writing and speaking about the Law Of Attraction for nearly twenty years at the time. As most people know, Esther was a big part of the original Secret DVD. Rhonda couldn’t afford to pay the Hicks to be in the DVD – she was still poor and struggling at the time – but she promised them 10 percent of the revenues.
Alas, Rhonda and the Hicks had a falling-out, the end result being that the Hicks were cut out of the revised version of the DVD. At first Esther and Jerry were tactful about the reasons for this, but as time went on they got a little more candid about it. Some sources suggest the fight between Rhonda and the Hicks was considerably nastier than was publicized. So much for spreading love and joy to the world, and uplifting humanity.
The New York Times story I linked to in the above paragraph implies that part of the trouble was due to the fact that the Hicks were dissatisfied with the way Rhonda was doing business and promoting the law of attraction, and that Esther demanded to be cut out of the revised version of the DVD. Other sources, however, suggest the ousting was primarily Rhonda and Bob’s doing, and that the main reason for cutting the Hicks off was to eliminate that 10 percent deal – leaving, of course, more money in Rhonda and Bob’s coffers.
In any event, most stories have it that Esther and Jerry walked away with $500,000.00, a respectable sum to be sure. It’s not nearly as much as they would have had if they’d stayed on The Secret gravy train, but don’t cry for them; they’re not hurting. The main point is that Rhonda apparently did not keep her commitment to them. My opinion is that even people who rake in millions peddling their imaginary-friends shtick to gullible folks deserve to be treated fairly.
And I think most people would agree that whether or not one believes in the Law Of Attraction or disembodied entities, it is only fair and good business – the honorable thing to do – to keep your written agreements.
By now nearly everyone who is even remotely aware of The Secret has heard some version of how Rhonda Byrne, who once upon a time was merely an Aussie TV producer, was inspired to create her paean to narcissism and magical thinking in the first place. On the one hand, the DVD’s infomercial format and hype-y sensationalism seem right down the alley of someone whose previous works included such uplifting fare as The World’s Greatest Commercials; UFOs in Australia; and Australia Behaving Badly (no, the latter show was not a tribute to Aussie Secret "star" David Schirmer, though it very well could have been). On the other hand, Rhonda’s stated intentions to give a true gift to the world, and to uplift humanity, hardly seem in keeping with someone whose previous works include the above. But that’s where "the inspiring story behind The Secret" comes in. And I have to tell you that whenever someone mentions that story these days, I definitely hear a voice in my head, and it belongs to Cate Blanchett, narrating the prologue to the first movie in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of The Rings: "History became legend; legend became myth."
I don’t really have much trouble believing the basics of the most commonly related legend about the origins of The Secret – i.e., Rhonda had reached a low and very sucky point in her life, and things began to turn around when her daughter gave her a copy of a book that changed her outlook. The book most commonly cited is Wallace Wattles’ 1910 work, The Science of Getting Rich, which inspired her so much that she was driven to find out more about some of the ideas Wattles wrote about. A spark had been lit: Rhonda was newly on fire to bring her joyful message to a waiting world.
To hear Rhonda tell it, the creation of The Secret was a result of the Divine at work, with the Universe orchestrating and everything unfolding beautifully and effortlessly. History did indeed become legend, and legend rapidly became myth, a myth repeated endlessly by others, including some of the stars of Rhonda’s brainchild. Joe Vitale, for example, writes about Rhonda’s "divine inspiration" in his book, Zero Limits. In that book, Joe describes a conversation he had with Rhonda. I hope you’ll indulge me a bit while I quote one of my own blog posts; it will save you the trouble of having to follow the link and read, or re-read, the relevant passages. (And again, if you've read this bit and don't want to do so again, feel free to skip it.)
[Joe asked Rhonda] "Did you create the idea for the movie, or did you receive the idea?"
Rhonda had once told [Joe] that the idea for the movie teaser came to her "suddenly and within a few seconds." It took only ten minutes to make the preview.
"Clearly," Joe writes, "she received some sort of inspiration that led to the strongest movie teaser in history." What he wanted to know from Rhonda now was whether the idea for the final movie feature itself came from inspiration, "or if she felt she did it for some other reasons."
After pondering on Joe’s question for a long time, Rhonda finally replied that she wasn’t sure. "The idea came to me, for sure. But I did the work. I created it. So I’d say I made it happen."
From there, Joe takes the "inspiration" ball and runs with it.
[Quoting from Zero Limits] Her answer was revealing. The idea came to her, which means it came to her as an inspiration. Since the movie is so powerful, so well done, and so brilliantly marketed, I can only believe it’s all the Divine unfolding. Yes, there was work to do, and Rhonda did it. But the idea itself came as inspiration.
Joe continues with the story of how the movie really took off after it had been out for several months, "and the buzz for it was reaching historic proportions."
[Quoting from Zero Limits again] Rhonda sent out an email to all the stars in it, saying the movie now had a life of its own. Rather than stating intentions, she was answering calls and seizing opportunities. A book was coming out. Larry King was doing a two-part special based on the ideas in the movie. An audio version was coming out. Sequels were in the works.
When you come from the zero state where there are zero limits, you don’t need intentions. You simply receive and act.
And miracles happen.
Just thinking out loud here, but it seems to me that it helps if those "miracles" were set in motion by months and months of intensely aggressive marketing. And come to think of it, there’s a word that rhymes with "inspiration." It’s called "desperation." Rhonda, by all accounts, was emotionally and financially desperate at the time she was conceiving The Secret. She’d reached a nadir in her life. Even after she became "inspired" by reading Wallace Wattles and others, and ended up making The Secret, her woes were far from over. The story goes that Channel 9 in Australia backed out on promoting and broadcasting the movie, and Rhonda found she’d run out of money. Once again, desperation came into play: she was desperate to get her investment back. That’s when she called on her Internet marketing buds, who knew a good moneymaking op when they saw it – and the rest is viral marketing history.
Once the movie "had a life of its own," and the money was rolling in, "answering calls and seizing opportunities" was, I imagine, a no-brainer for Rhonda.
Even as jaded as I am, however, I don't have much trouble believing that some of Rhonda's sense of inspiration was genuine, at least in the beginning. It is very possible that reading Wattles (or whomever) made her feel better about her own life, that it gave her hope, that she even felt that maybe other people would benefit from hearing these ideas.
Cynics would say that to suggest there was any altruism involved in this at all is to give Rhonda (and her US partner Bob Rainone) the benefit of the doubt, but I'm willing to do that, since even the most greedy and self-centered person has her or his shining moments. In any case, I do find it believable that in her emotional and economic desperation – her dark night of the soul, as it were – Rhonda found a ray of hope in a classic work.
But there was that burning need to make money, and one can't fault her for that, really. Problem was, The Science of Getting Rich was in the public domain; how to package these ideas in a proprietary way? Just as the big drug companies can't patent certain natural substances such as natural hormones, but they CAN patent the delivery system, Rhonda found a way to package and deliver the ideas in Wattles' book and in others from which she drew inspiration. The recipe was simple, really:
Find a "golden thread," however thin, between Wattles' ideas and those of some of the most successful contemporary New-Wage capitalists and hustlers (and a smattering of legitimate professionals) who teach even remotely similar ideas
Interview those living luminaries and edit out the parts that don’t reinforce the message
Tie it all together
Throw in some real or imagined wisdom from numerous dead famous people (e.g., Jesus and Plato and Edison and Shakespeare)
Add a "DaVinci Code" ambience
Season generously with promises of "forbidden knowledge"
Heat for several months before serving
Serves millions [of dollars into the master chef’s bank account]
It was a brilliant recipe indeed. The problem was that master chef Rhonda allegedly refused to pay some of the chief "cooks" – the ones who'd done the real work – as she had promised. And when they tried in their various ways to collect, The Secret gang called upon their "sue chefs" to cook up some contrived complaints.
The result is leaving a bad taste in a lot of folks’ mouths.
There is always the small possibility that Rhonda is not completely aware of all of this furious legal action. If that is the case, I’d say it is most likely from choice; perhaps she chooses to keep herself well removed from the fray in order to have some credibility, at least among the credulous, as she continues her wide-eyed, awestruck, altruistic shtick ("Ah don't really know WOT those legal guys are doing. Ah just want to concentrate on spreading the message of the Lor of Attraction!") Or perhaps CEO Bob, for reasons of his own, is taking pains to shield her from the worst of it.Then again, there is an old saying, "When a fish stinks, it stinks from the head" – not the most pleasant metaphor one could use, admittedly, but an apt one nevertheless. Besides, it fits in rather nicely with today’s graphic, seeing as how Gollum was an avid consumer of raw fish (though he preferred his sweet fishies freshly caught and still wriggling).
At any rate, one way of interpreting the history of Rhonda and gang’s business practices is that they have, to put it mildly, failed to express proper gratitude for some of the people who helped skyrocket them to the top.
Although Rhonda Byrne is generally billed as "the creator" of The Secret, it seems to me that in truth, Rhonda created very little. It was, as someone said on a forum I saw some time ago, a giant copy/paste job. She copied everything from someone else or got others to do the real work, claiming all along it was being delivered by The Universe.
The latest developments in the saga seem rich with irony. On the one hand, we have Rhonda delivering a Thank You "Secret Scrolls" at around the same time she sues two different folks who helped her get where she is today. Does her "lesson" in the "Scrolls" really teach what she is practicing in her business life? Has she not made enough money (as she claims) to pay the people instrumental in her success? Why the negativity? Why all of these friggin’ lawsuits?
And is this a pattern? The Hicks, the director, the Internet marketing consultant – what's the common thread? Was it that these were the only folks who had a back-end percentage deal with Rhonda? Can all these people that "the Universe" delivered to Rhonda now suddenly be bad people – or was it Rhonda's greed, and a lust for fame that's at the heart of all this? Or maybe it’s just that Rhonda has a problem with the initials "DH." Think of it, Dear Ones: Drew Heriot. Dan Hollings. Da Hicks. Okay, well, maybe that third one is stretching it. But still…
Regardless, why is Rhonda not stepping up to the plate and explaining it all? Has The Universe just not yet provided the words?
For that matter, does anybody really think the "Hick-less" expanded version (a full two minutes longer) was really better after they axed Esther Hicks? The truth is that many Secret fans have expressed disappointment in the revised version. Has anybody seen a good trailer or movie out of these folks since the original director was fired? Has anybody seen any great marketing since their Internet consultant was fired? And no, giving away sub-quality Chinese-made cowhide Gratitude Journals – that Rhonda and gang had reportedly tried for months to hock for $70.00 and couldn't sell – does not count. Does dumping that inventory in a PR and tax write-off maneuver really show Rhonda as such a giving person? And how in the Universe can a company that claims 50 million-plus in sales in the press/media, turn around and in the same breath claim their profits were so low they could not pay the folks helping them?
Questions, questions, questions.
The story isn’t over yet, of course, and what I’ve told here is apparently only the tip of a very large iceberg. I would be happy to hear other people's opinions.
It all seems rather sad, really, that the noble desire to spread the gift of joy to all of humankind – if such a desire ever existed in the first place – was tainted by avarice almost from the beginning. I think of the creature Gollum, relating his sad tale to the "Hobbitses": "...we forgot the taste of bread, the sound of trees, the softness of the wind..." And I am left with a vision of Gollum clutching the One Ring, poised to annihilate anyone who would dare even approach that coveted treasure. Once again I hear a voice in my head, a raspy, hissing declaration of greed: "It’s mine, mine, MINE! My preciousssssssss….!"