You have probably already guessed that today’s post is dedicated to Rhonda Byrne, creator of the hit infomercial The Secret, which is now a bestselling book as well (number 24 on Amazon as I type these words).
Rhonda is a big star these days, as well as a star-maker. But one person she hasn’t quite made a star of yet is Marcy From Maui, founder of the Powerful Intentions web site, an online community devoted to The Law of Attraction, The Secret, etc. Marcy is a big Rhonda fan. Like an enthusiastic little puppy dog, she bounces all over the place with her panting praise for Rhonda (as well as for other stars of The Secret and other members of the New Wage/hustledork community).
So far, though, Rhonda hasn’t exactly returned the favor. She does have a page on Marcy’s Powerful Intentions site, but as of now it bears nothing more than her mug and a small list of links to her areas of interest. Rhonda has yet to blog, post photos, or even officially state her Powerful Intentions, although as a member of the PI community she has been given the space to do so. I’d say she is probably just too busy, and perhaps even too important, to slum around with the multitudes of Rhonda Byrne wannabes and other aspiring Secret superstars who populate the Powerful Intentions site.
Nevertheless Rhonda is everywhere else these days. And, although she is pretty much behind-the-scenes on The Secret DVD, her name appears on the cover of the book. She is officially listed as the editor, and has also sprinkled the book with her commentary. But if some of the Amazon reader reviews are any indication, Rhonda’s remarks have been a bit of a turn-off even to some of the most enthusiastic Secretrons.
A woman named Janet Boyer, who says she was "incredibly moved and inspired" by the DVD, was not so enamored of the book; she was put off by Rhonda’s "let-them-eat-cake" attitude towards the unhappy, unattractive and unfortunate among us. And this woman is no cynic like yours truly. In addition to loving the DVD, she found these passages in the book "compelling":
"This is really fun. It's like having the Universe as your catalogue. You flip through it and say, `I'd like to have this experience and I'd like to have that product and I'd like to have a person like that.' It is You placing your order with the Universe. It's really that easy." - Dr. Joe Vitale
"When you visualize then you materialize. Here's an interesting thing about the mind: we took Olympic athletes and had them run their event only in their mind, and then hooked them up to sophisticated biofeedback equipment. Incredibly, the same muscles fired in the same sequence when they were running the race in their mind as when they were running it on the track. How could this be? Because the mind can't distinguish whether you're really doing it or whether it's just a practice. If you've been there in the mind, you'll go there in the body." - Dr. Denis Waitley
"There is no blackboard in the sky on which God has written your purpose, your mission in life...your purpose is what you say it is. Your mission is the mission you give yourself. Your life will be what you create it as, and no will stand in judgment of it, now or ever." - Neale Donald Walsch
Neale’s imaginary friend God told Neale this.]
I'll leave it to you to insert your own assessment of the statements above. The point is that Janet seemingly agreed with them. And I want to emphasize that she did like the DVD very much.
And then along came Rhonda, who basically ruined the book for Janet with "two shallow, accusatory contributions that have no place in this incredible book. And, it's these kind of Western superficialities that have ruined law of attraction books for me in the past."
The first passage that stopped Janet cold was Rhonda’s view of people with weight challenges:
The most common thought that people hold, and I held it too, is that food was responsible for my weight gain. That is a belief that does not serve you, and in my mind now it is complete balderdash! Food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your *thought* that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight....If you see people who are overweight, do not observe them, but immediately switch your mind to the picture of you in your perfect body and feel it.
Janet added that she had received an email from an eighteen-year-old agoraphobic, an anxious, depressed teen who was housebound because of her fears. This young agoraphobic wrote, "Then I keep thinking, okay, you caused all of this because that is what Law of Attraction says, etc. I just feel worse about myself."
The other remark that turned Janet off was Rhonda’s statement that people who experience widespread calamity (tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, famine, diseases like AIDS, etc.) experience it because they are "vibrating" in exact alignment with these disasters, e.g., thinking they could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Janet adds:
I'd like to see Ms. Byrne walk amidst the AIDS suffers in Africa or those in Louisiana who survived Hurricane Katrina and say those things. Oh, wait! That's right. According to her we shouldn't OBSERVE such nasty things…Maybe THAT is why more people ‘don't know about it,’ Ms. Byrne –because The Secret has been tainted by egos like yours instead of left alone to speak for itself! Maybe The Secret has not been hidden, only ignored, because of the chilling narcissism that gets thrown in the mix – contradicting the very wisdom traditions (like the New Testament) that you conveniently hijack to prove the law of attraction!
Another reader agreed with many of Janet's points, adding:
Perhaps there is a reason that this information has been kept a secret for so long. Maybe that reason is that too many people would have used the knowledge to abandon the sick, dying, and less fortunate and spend their time generating new toys and bigger and bigger houses…I see no spiritual problem with having it all, but that can and should include kindness and compassion toward everyone.
I see no spiritual problem with people wanting nice material things either. After all, I like neat "stuff" as much as the next person. But all you have to do is read the blogs of certain LOA proponents (and Secret stars) who spend most of their time bragging about their luxury sports cars, Rolex watches, trips to Maui, etc., and you can see this reader’s point about the crass materialism of some of the Law of Attraction folks.
Janet, the first reader I quoted, thought Rhonda’s comments were completely unnecessary in the book: "It is this kind of stupid, shallow, prejudicial comment that turns people off the law of attraction! She didn't need to include this inane section in the book, for the wisdom offered by the OTHER contributors clearly spelled out how to attract what you want, cultivate internal joy, radiate gratitude, and so on. What the author has done is what many New Agers (and religious leaders) have done: try to fault readers/disciples by throwing on some 'New Age guilt' (as Joan Borysenko would say)."
While Janet has a good point about New Age guilt (which Joan Borysenko was far from the first or only person to mention), I actually think Rhonda’s input was a good thing. Not only did she probably reveal her true heart – and provide an uncomfortable (if unwitting) reminder that her bank account is being enriched by thousands of truly good-hearted people – but she also laid open the "chilling narcissism," as Janet so aptly put it, of the whole Law of Attraction culture. There are, after all, many unpleasant things in the world. These are not the things that most LOA fans seem to want to think about. They certainly are not the feel-good, joy-joy things that have inspired so many people to buy The Secret. But they are there. And sooner or later, even the most giddy Secretrons are going to have to come down to Earth and seriously examine "the dark side" of this entire Law of Attraction thing.
Although so far few people seem to be listening to those of us who have been Secret naysayers from the beginning, such as your own Cosmic Connie, Steve Salerno, and Christopher Locke, I expect a pretty big Secret/Law of Attraction backlash soon. (I’m also looking forward to the parody DVD; hopefully it will be done by the same folks who did Farce of the Penguins. Perhaps it could be called The Sequin, and it could center around that mystical bling Rhonda often wears on her forehead.) Despite the heretofore mostly uncritical media coverage of The Secret and its stars – think Larry King and ABCNews.com – a backlash is inevitable. It’s already happening, in fact.
Unfortunately but predictably, some of it will be from Christian fundamentalists who think The Secret is the Devil’s work. I would certainly hate to be placed in their camp, because I happen to think that Christian fundamentalists are the Devil's work (at least the violent or self-righteous ones), whereas I think The Secret is merely an egregiously over-hyped infomercial. But the fundies will undoubtedly voice their opinions about Rhonda and her gang of Mammon worshipers.
Inevitably, too, there will be fallout from disillusioned Secretrons who actually take the time to sit down and think about this stuff once the Secret-induced endorphins wear off. And there will almost certainly be multitudes who, despite thinking their good thoughts, putting their powerful intentions out to the Universe, and trying to live their lives in accordance with the loftiest LOA marketing principles, don’t attract the exquisite life partner or $150,000.00 sports car or two-million dollar mansion of their dreams. These are the people who, when the closing credits are over after their 300th viewing of The Secret, will simply return to their pedestrian lives to await the next amazing breakthrough.
And Rhonda Byrne? She’ll be laughing all the way to Maui, living in a manufactured paradise where there are no fat people, no starving orphans, no tsunami victims, and, most of all, no morning after the Law of Attraction orgy.
As long as you're here, why not also look at:
- Sell me a Secret (my first foray into Secret-baiting): August 12, 2006
- The power of pretension (a profoundly superficial look at LOA culture): September 23, 2006
- The Secret to staying healthy this flu season (the one that first got the Secretrons fired up): November 28, 2006
- Some secrets behind The Secret? (Scrambled channels: Rhonda v. Hicks (and Abraham)): December 6, 2006 (written nearly three months before the New York Times feature)
- Heart of snarkness (another dispatch from the Snark Side): February 15, 2007
- Lust and light (I smell a Secret-related sex scandal!): February 27, 2007)