“Remember,” [Rhonda] Byrne wrote, “if you are criticising, you are not being grateful. If you are blaming, you are not being grateful. If you are complaining, you are not being grateful.”
Those are worthy sentiments, but it was an odd time for Byrne to be expressing them because her lawyers had just sued two of the very people who were instrumental in launching her book and film The Secret to phenomenal success...
...For a woman whose central message is the power of positivity, Byrne has a surprisingly long history of such bust-ups, stretching back to her days as a television producer in Melbourne. But those past disputes pale next to the legal storms swirling around The Secret, a New-Age marketing phenomenon the like of which has not been seen for decades. It’s a bunfight of cosmic proportions that has drawn into its orbit some of the best-known figures and most fundamental tenets of the global self-help industry.Now it can be told.
~ From an article by Richard Guilliatt in The Weekend Australian Magazine,
Aug. 23-24, 2008
All that stuff I hinted about in a long post last December is now out in the open. And in case anyone has any doubt whatsoever now about the real motives behind the creation of The Secret, maybe a newly published article by Aussie journo Richard Guilliatt in the August 23-24 issue of The Weekend Australian Magazine will help change that thinking.
Not that it will probably make much difference in the larger scheme of things. There is, after all, that self-gratification element, as Richard Guilliatt duly noted:
IN THE SECRET, a succession of American personal-development gurus explain that by really focusing on what you want, your positive energy flows out into the universe and is rewarded. Intercut with this mantra are dramatised scenes of this “law of attraction” in action: a little boy visualises a brand new bicycle and gets one from his dad; a woman focuses on ridding herself of breast cancer and is cured. At one point the “miracles coach” Joe Vitale likens the universe to a giant shopping catalogue.I just love that Brit/Aussie word, "spruikers." It's so much more descriptive than "teachers" or "stars," don't you think?
It’s a message of self-gratification that’s been promoted by thousands of motivational spruikers for many decades, but when Byrne repackaged it as an ancient secret with a red wax seal, she hit the holy jackpot.
My earlier speculations about Rhonda Byrne attempting to distance herself from the legal wranglings over The Secret have proven to be correct.
In early May...Byrne emerged from seclusion when she turned up at a lawyer’s office in Los Angeles to give a videotaped deposition in her company’s lawsuit against Dan Hollings [her original Internet marketing strategist]. What Byrne revealed in that deposition was remarkable if only for its all-enveloping fogginess, because over the course of two hours she professed to be almost wholly disconnected from the legal and financial details of the massive multi-million-dollar business she has spawned. “I don’t control anything I create,” she told the lawyers, professing to have little grasp of the legal disputes in which she is embroiled. “I’m not aware of any of these things. I’m not involved.”Hmm... weren't The Secret and the Law Of Attraction supposed to be all about claiming responsibility for the things that happen to you?
Rhonda claims not to even have known about the Hungarian company set up on behalf of TS Productions. (Why Hungary? you might ask. Simple: beneficial tax and privacy laws.)
In May this year, Hollings accompanied his lawyers to Los Angeles to obtain a deposition from Byrne in the lawsuit. During that meeting, Byrne said she could barely remember her email exchanges with Hollings and knew almost nothing about the business behind The Secret. Asked whether she had any family in Illinois, where the lawsuit was initiated, she replied: “I don’t have blood relatives living in Illinois. I just – I just consider us all one family of humanity…”Uh-huh. That "one family of humanity" excuse could also apply to the Hungarian company, come to think of it. I just wish the "entity" that pours all that revenue into Rhonda's purse would seek me out. It does seem odd that Rhonda would be so ignorant of the business side of things, when various colleagues from her TV producing days described her as being focused to the point of ruthlessness, and always on top of everything.
Byrne said she knew nothing about the Hungarian company and regarded the business as merely “a channel for it (The Secret) to go out into the world”. When it was suggested that the business was also a channel for money to flow to her, she replied: “I receive revenues from some entity somehow. But you see, that isn’t important to me. Ask me how many people’s lives have changed and I’ll talk to you about it.”
"Oh, but Cosmic Connie," you might be saying, "that was before Rhonda's famous Emotional Breakdown and Dark Night Of The Soul. These days, she's focused on what's really important."
It seems, however, that she wasn't totally unfocused on business matters in the beginning. In retrospect, her refusal to sign a contract with her original director, Drew Heriot – using the excuse that contracts "limit people's freedom" – seems more calculating than idealistic. And if I'd only had the privilege of being there when Rhonda made that outrageous statement to Drew, I would have said, "Run like the wind, Drew, or insist on a contract." To me this story seems oddly familiar: S.O.P. for so many New-Wage players. (And they have such lofty, airy-fairy ways of rationalizing their sleazy practices.) In any case, according to the Aussie article, Drew said that Rhonda's aversion to contracts was kind of a red flag for him, but he ignored it, to his detriment.
Other folks who apparently got screwed by Rhonda, but who don't want to expend negative energy suing her, are Esther and Jerry Hicks. Their imaginary pals Abraham told them just to let it go. They did get a lot of money from The Secret, but not nearly as much as they would have if Rhonda hadn't squirreled out of her contract with them.
As might be expected, none of the Secret "teachers" contacted by Guilliatt wanted to discuss the litigation, with the notable exception of Jack "Chicken Soup" Canfield. He said that the current bad publicity over the lawsuits is just a "blip" in the relentless global spread of The Secret. He added that he, like the other "teachers," has benefited immeasurably from being in The Secret, and besides, Rhonda donated $400,000 to the Transformational Leadership org he runs with several spruikers...er..."teachers" from The Secret. And that was pretty darned generous of her, he noted.
I fear Chicken Soup Canfield may be right regarding the blip thing. (According to the Aussie piece, bootleg copies of The Secret have been found as far away as Iran. Great...that's all we need: terrorists armed with The Secret. I wonder if Rhonda's lawyers are going after those bootleggers?) I speculate that a few more folks will be disillusioned by the evidence of blatant greed that is now coming out, but the show will still go on. The hustledorks will continue to churn out their "missing secrets" and "Secret sequels" until that cow is completely milked dry. But they'll still have all of their own proprietary gimmicks, and people will continue to line up to buy them.
And true believers will continue to rationalize that the critics (and plaintiffs) are either negative naysayers or are jealous, greedy, mediocre sorts who are attempting to extort money from brilliant and misunderstood geniuses like Rhonda Byrne.
And as for the guys who are suing Rhonda...well, it's anyone's guess how those suits will turn out. But an anonymous insider I heard from isn't all that optimistic.
As time goes by, however, more folks might actually get tired of being duped, until the disillusioned factions have reached critical mass. It hasn't happened yet, but it might happen someday – maybe about the time that our porcine friends finally get their wings, or the Devil orders a new winter coat.
Most of the public couldn't care less; they lost $29.95 at most.
No "teacher" [in The Secret] has had the balls to step up to the plate here and state the horrible reality that this matter really is.... none...
In the end, Rhonda and Bob [Rainone, Rhonda's American business partner] made out like the bandits they are, the "teachers" made out like sidecar thieves, and two guys [Drew and Dan]... are being crushed by a posse of high paid lawyers attempting the only strategy they have... legal bills... It's all a matter of who can stay in the game longer.
Where is Oprah in all this? Larry King? Ellen Degeneris? There are NO NEGATIVE POSTS on Oprah's site about The Secret, only positive stuff. She has them in a bubble...
Meanwhile, here's the link to Richard Guilliatt's article. Enjoy!
PS ~ Sorry about recycling the picture that heads this post. I didn't have time to do another elaborate Photoshopping job, and this one just seemed soooo appropriate.
PPS added in autumn of 2009: For more information and links regarding The Secret litigation saga, check out my May 2009 post about the matter (including the PS's, which contain all of the information I know about the outcome of the litigation).