Saturday, April 14, 2007

SNL's Parody of Oprah and The Secret

A few weeks ago Saturday Night Live parodied Oprah, Rhonda Byrne and The Secret.

I heard about the parody when it originally aired, but I never saw it until today (what can I say, I guess I'm a little behind the times).

If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend that you do. Not only is it hilarious, but is also highlights the absurdity and silliness of The Secret as well as Oprah's obsession with it.

There's a part where Oprah and Rhonda interview a citizen in Darfur. This part is especially satirical since Rhonda Byrne claims the citizens of Darfur are attracting the atrocities and genocide being perpetrated on them.

An article in the Washington Post put it this way:

"One recent weekend, [Saturday Night Live] featured a skit about a man in Darfur being interviewed by Winfrey and [Secret author Rhonda] Byrne. They scolded him when he lamented that his people were starving, saying it was all the result of his lousy attitude. That was played for laughs, but later that week I watched Bob Proctor, author of "You Were Born Rich" and one of the "gurus" Byrne quotes most often, being asked on "Nightline" whether the starving children of Darfur had "manifested" -- that is, visualized -- their own misery. In utter seriousness, he replied, "I think the country probably has."

Here's a link to the video:

SNL's Parody of The Secret

Yes, it's a parody, but it speaks volumes about The Secret's foolishness (and stupidity).

I was hoping to get JibJab to parody The Secret (hopefully they'll still do it), but I think SNL did a great job.


"If drudgery is not found somewhere in a book or course, it isn't worth reading. Of all great works nine tenths must be drudgery." -- Russell Conwell

Calista McKnight

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Truth About Negative Thinking and Bad Moods

Abraham-Hicks and other law of attraction gurus state that you should avoid negative thoughts at all costs.

They say negative thinking and corresponding bad moods act as repelling forces. Your goal, they claim, is to 'feeeel good', or else you won't attract what you want.

While I certainly believe in feeling as upbeat and positive as possible, I also don't view negative thinking and bad moods as entirely harmful to one's success.

Besides my own periodic battles with melancholy (and paranoia), I know a few other ocassionally neurotic people who also happen to be extremely successful both personally and financially.

One person I know can't help but focus on the negative, especially when it comes to her work. Yet despite the constant complaining about her job and the people she works with, the girl just recently got promoted.

Additionally, her income is up nearly 300% in a little over a year (and we're talking six figures here, certainly not pocket change).

Grant it, she is a hard worker and a whiz in her field. But she's clearly not at all happy with the work she does. In fact, she admittedly hates it.

And it's not like she's irreplaceable either. From what I understand, there are quite a few people who would give up a limb to have her position.

This girl is a perfect example of attracting the opposite of what you focus on. She's also one of the reasons why I believe the 'feeeel good' philosophy of The Secret is overrated.

After perusing some of The Secret's reviews on, I discovered that other people experience success despite their negative thinking too. One customer writes:

"One last story about negative thinking, I wrote and performed in a play, at a small Toronto theatre. I financed it myself. I made the costumes and props and did most of the Publicity. We rehearsed and had some previews and then it was time for the night the critics came.

For two weeks I was convinced the critics would hate it. I was able to visualize their faces in the audience looking grim, bored and angry they had showed up. It was irrational but those thoughts obsessed me. That Opening night was also the night the heat didn't work and it was 12 degrees outside

The reviews came out the next week and it was a huge critical success. They all loved it! The play sold out for 8 months. So despite what the secret says, despite the law of attraction that works whether you believe it or not, I didn't attract bad reviews. I had worked very hard and despite my negativity and fear the play was a success."

Is it possible that Abraham-Hicks and The Secret have it wrong about negative thinking?

The answer appears to be ...yes.

New studies suggest that negative thinking and bad moods can actually be quite useful.

According to research conducted by Jing Zhouby, Associate Professor of Management at Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management, naturally occurring bad moods helps employees be more creative and productive:

"Bad moods and negative attitudes have gotten a bad rap at work. For years, negativity has been considered an unavoidable — and unfortunate — part of organizational life; something that should be minimized, criticized, even stamped out. But if you want creativity that leads to innovation in your workplace, those naturally occurring bad moods can play a fruitful role; in fact, they’re necessary to make things better."

Now be careful here. No one is saying that you should walk into work with a bad mood or put yourself in one for the sake of success. Instead, just realize that negative moods are normal, healthy and useful. Professor Jing explains:

"Negative moods should not be viewed as detrimental. They should be understood and treated as a necessary part of the creative process. I’m not advocating that managers go out and promote bad moods. But bad moods occur naturally, and when they do, managers should use these opportunities to encourage employees to identify potential problems and think of ways to improve things."

And...if you're a business owner, you should be thankful for negative and complaining people...

Why? Because negative and complaining people, a.k.a unsatisfied customers, can help you improve your business.

In fact, customer complaints are one of the best ways to improve service and products.

Since most people who complain are upset, they are more likely to speak their minds by telling you exactly what youve done wrong. By listening to customer complaints, business owners can make the necessary changes to succeed and stay ahead of the competition.

But the business environment isn't the only place where bad moods and negative attitudes are helpful...

Researchers at the University of New South Wales School of Psychology have found that individuals in a positive mood aren't as reliable as eyewitnesses who are negative.

Apparently, if you're happy while observing an event your memory is more likely to include irrelevant and unreliable information:

"People in a positive mood such as happiness were shown under experimental conditions to have relatively unreliable memories, and show poorer judgment and critical thinking skills.

By contrast, those who experienced a negative mood such as sadness were shown to provide more reliable eyewitnesses accounts and exercise superior thinking and communication skills."

Imagine that. According to the research, even our most negative moods and thoughts serve a purpose. One of those purposes is the ability to think critically on a much higher level.

In my opinion, The Secret and Abraham-Hicks' philosophy of 'feeeeeling good' is actually a suppression of critial thinking.

Keep in mind, The Secret promotes 'feeeeeling good' despite what your current feelings and reality are. This is very similar to what a cult espouses.

Now, I'm not saying The Secret is a cult. But it is very cult-like in that it suppresses critical thinking and actually promotes a concept of 'ignorance is power'.

Massimo Pigliucci Ph.D, professor of Ecology and Evolution at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and an advocate of science education said it best:

"The Secret is apparently a “theory” of channeling, the idea that by feeling something (positive or, more disturbingly, negatively) you somehow get the universe to “vibrate” in a way that will make your feelings determine physical reality. No need to worry about how this exactly (or even approximately) works: “Our job is not to worry about the 'how.' The 'how' will show up out of the commitment and belief in the 'what'.” Wow, Francis Bacon said that knowledge is power, thereby ushering in the era of modern science, but this is even better, here ignorance is power! Which perhaps explains why The Secret has been so prominently featured on Oprah Winfrey and the Larry King show."

Again...I'm not suggesting that it's better to be negative or in a bad mood. On the contrary. I feel a person should always strive to be as positive and upbeat as possible.

But what I am saying is that as human beings we have a wealth of feelings and attitudes at our disposal; some good, some bad. And they are all useful to some degree.

The idea of walking through life in a constant state of self-coerced happiness, even when reality suggests otherwise, smacks to me of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

You'll recall that humanity in Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel is carefree, healthy and technologically advanced. War and poverty have been eliminated and everyone is in a constant state of bliss.

But the reason everyone is in a state of bliss is because of a powerful hallucinatory stimulant called soma. Citizens use soma as a means of escaping pain and bad memories.

The Secret, with its huge popularity and success, is clearly a form of soma in my mind.

I don't know about you, but I actually enjoy some of my less than happy moments. They make me realize where I've gone wrong as well as what I need to do in order to change and get better.

I like the way another Amazon customer put it:

"You have two sets of feelings: good feelings and bad feelings. And you know the difference between the two because one makes you feel good, and the other makes you feel bad." This seems to wipe out several dimensions of human emotional experience. What about ambivalence? ("I'm happy about the job offer in LA but, gosh, I'll really miss my family and friends in Boston.") Are we wiping out the concept of bittersweet? Isn't it a balance of a range of emotions that makes us human?"

On March 8, 2007, CNN's Lary King Live featured critics of The Secret. One of the critics (actually the only critic on the guest panel) was psychologist Dr. Robi Ludwig.

When asked by Larry King if she thought it was a good idea to eliminate negative thinking, Dr. Robi responded with perhaps the best analysis of all:

"I don't know. Because sometimes the negative is a really important teacher and we grow sometimes and learn way more from things that are painful than positive experiences. I think we need to find a way to have all of our emotional experiences and still figure out how to get what we want."

So, next time you find yourself thinking negatively or in a bad mood, just keep this in mind...

...even negative feelings and bad moods have their place in this world


"If drudgery is not found somewhere in a book or course, it isn't worth reading. Of all great works nine tenths must be drudgery." -- Russell Conwell

Calista McKnight

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Sec-RE-tards, Secretrons, The Happy Neurotic & More

Here are a few interesting Secret-related blog posts, articles, product offerings, quotes and books for the week ending 4/8/07:


Skeptico's recent blog post is a humorous, insightful and scathingly truthful summary about those who worship and blindly support The Secret:

You just might be a Secretard if…


I've posted this following review by Connie L. Schmidt (aka Cosmic Connie) on my website. If you haven't read it yet, I urge you to do so now:

The Wrath of the Secretrons

It's the most in-depth review of The Secret I've read so far. Connie has a unique, humorous and witty perspective. It's obvious Connie knows more about the industry surrounding The Secret than your average reviewer.

Is The Secret Slimy?

This just in from the Washington Post's 'Department of Snake Oil.' Freelance journalist Tim Watkin's gives us his interesting perspective about The Secret:

Self-Help's Slimy 'Secret'


Why is The Secret so Successful?

The Secret is hugely successful for numerous reasons, but mainly for the following:

  • It tells people what they want to hear, not what's real
  • Oprah endorsed and championed it
  • It's called "The Secret"
  • It's eye candy
  • It doesn't require higher than a 3rd grade education to read, comprehend and implement
  • It doesn't require you to take any action (i.e., you don't have to work for what you want)
  • It promotes the concept of a magic genie who's ready to grant your every wish.
  • It claims to be scientific

If you think I'm wrong and you have $39 to piss away, then I highly recommend Joe Vitale's newest product:

Marketing The Secret: How ONE Marketing Strategy Turned an Independent Movie into a Sold-Out Blockbuster!

On the other hand, if you think I'm right, then congratulations. I just saved you $39.


The Happy Neurotic

If you're one of those people (I certainly am) who believes your bad moods, fears, and anxieties can actually ignite and fuel your success, then I highly recommend a book I just recently blogged about:

"The Happy Neurotic: How Fear and Angst Can Lead to Happiness and Success."


Secret Quote of the Week

This one comes from Scott Feschuk's Weekday Update blog:

"If you believe that you can become rich solely by sending out wealthy-type vibes into the Universe, I’ve got some bad news: you are an idiot. If you bought The Secret, I’ve got some worse news. Despite what the book claims, you are not “a magnet.” You are not “a human transmission tower.” You are “out 30 bucks.” And all the thinking in the world ain’t gonna bring it back."


"If drudgery is not found somewhere in a book or course, it isn't worth reading. Of all great works nine tenths must be drudgery." -- Russell Conwell

Calista McKnight

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Secret Backlash: Bookstore Bans Rhonda Byrne's Bestseller

Not surprisingly, The Secret has attracted a torrent of authors seeking to hitch a ride on Rhonda Byrne's gravy train.

According to Publisher's Weekly several Da Vinci Code type rebuttals are already in the works:

"First up in May is Thomas Nelson's There Is More to "The Secret" by Ed Gungor. Gungor is pastor of a church in Tulsa, Okla., and the author of several books, including last year's Religiously Transmitted Diseases for Nelson's now-defunct Ignite imprint. According to Nelson, Gungor's new book, "is not written to attack recent publications but rather to correct their misguided advice while still speaking to the felt need that is causing millions to explore their pages." Nelson expects to do a six-figure first printing.

Next will come The Secret Revealed: Exposing the Truth About the "Law of Attraction" (Aug.) by Jim Garlow and Rick Marschall, from Hachette's FaithWords division. Garlow is the author (with Peter Jones) of Cracking Da Vinci's Code (Cook Communications/Victor Books), one of the most successful Da Vinci response books with nearly 335,000 copies sold. FaithWords promises that The Secret Revealed will discuss the Law of Attraction as typical of many false religions and movements throughout the centuries. FaithWords plans a 100,000 copy first printing."

In addition, several Secret clones are also grasping for their chance at fame and fortune.

And of course, each one claims to be the 'real' secret, the 'next' secret, or 'the secret behind' the secret.

With the exception of Abraham-Hicks' The Secret Behind the Secret, many of these Secret wannabes will be rejected by major publishers, as they should be. My guess is many will emerge anyway as self-published books, eBooks and law of attraction scams programs.

Several of these books are already on the web. Simply Google "The Secret" or search through some press releases and you'll see what I'm talking about.

In the words of a famous metaphysician, it appears the impersonators are ..."flying out of their dark hiding places" ....and in droves no less.

Speaking of Mr Vitale, he's kissed and is now ready to tell all in a new $39 ebook: Marketing The Secret: How ONE Marketing Strategy Turned an Independent Movie into a Sold-Out Blockbuster!

Interestingly, this new program of his is being sold on Nerissa Oden's website (Nerissa, aka The Video Queen is Joe's main squeeze).

Get this: one of the bonus items is a transcript of a private dinner conversation between Joe and Rhonda Byrne. During the conversation Rhonda tells Joe all of her secrets about The Secret (Hey, is this a guy you would confide in?)

Speaking of The Secret gang, while Secret searching on Google, I noticed that three of The Secret's stars, Bob Proctor, Bill Harris and Hale Dwoskin are battling it out for first place atop Google's paid advertisements (aka Adwords).

It's obvious they're engaged in a high cost, pay-per-click bidding war because on some days Bob's ad will appear first followed by Bill's and then Hale's.

Just yesterday, Hale's ad was first, followed by Bill's and then Bob's.

For a while, Jack Canfield was clobbering the pack with his ad, but it appears he's no longer advertising on Google (someone correct me if I'm wrong).

Jack is part of SGR The Science of Getting Program, so maybe that's where he's decided to throw some of his online advertising chips.

A few of The Secret's other stars are also buying keywords related to The Secret, but apparently the Universe isn't as abundant for them as they'd like it to be.

It appears these Secret second stringers have a daily Adwords budget which turns their ads off after the budgeted amount has been reached.

I find this all very amusing.

In the world of high stakes Secret peddling, I suppose it takes a little more than just brain waves and good vibrations to come out on top; it helps if you have deep pockets too.

But back to The Secret backlash...

A small book retailer in Georgia hates The Secret so much he's decided to ban the book from his stores:

Books For Less, with locations in Lawrenceville and Suwanee, is so opposed to “The Secret” that the store refuses to sell the book.

“This is the first one we’ve really felt strongly enough about to say, ‘This is just a rip-off,’” said Jack Mason, owner of Books For Less.

Mason said his store, which has “Christian underpinnings,” is usually pretty accommodating to books that go against its beliefs.

If a customer asks for such a book to be ordered, Books For Less will get it for them and put a warning on it saying the book conflicts with the teachings of the Bible. The warning also extends an invitation to the customer to discuss why the store disagrees with the book.

But Books For Less refuses to take those steps for “The Secret,” mostly because of the strong marketing campaign behind it, Mason said

“This is one we just felt like we had to draw a line in the sand and say ‘this is too much,’” Mason said. “I guess if it hadn’t gone on the Oprah show and she hadn’t pushed it so much, we wouldn’t worry so much about it.”

I'm sure Mr. Mason could sell more copies of The Secret than anything else. Yet he refuses to. Good for him.

Click here to read the full story.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not into censorship or banning books of any kind. I just love it when people stand up for what they believe in.

In case you're not convinced, even I own a copy The Secret.

And I'll admit; it's really one of the most visually appealing books I've ever seen.

No doubt its handsome appearance is one of the many reasons for its seductive lure.

Vernon Howard once said: "Beauty is only skin deep, but it's a valuable asset if you're poor or haven't any sense."

And that's exactly how I feel about Rhonda's Book, especially the 'haven't any sense' part.

Perhaps the most promising new Secret-related book of all is Vancouver-based teacher, comic and author David Granirer's "The Happy Neurotic: How Fear and Angst Can Lead to Happiness and Success."

According to the Edmonton Sun:

He's been [David Granirer] to all the workshops, he's read all the self-help books and he's been on antidepressants for about a decade.

"I finally realized people achieve a tremendous amount through their neuroses, their fears and their anxieties," he told Sun Media recently. "And rather than trying to make all that stuff go away, why not use it?"

One reviewer who uses the nickname PotLuckPrincess, writes:

I got a lot out of this book. It taught me that I can accept me for me and that I dont have to be perfect or in total control---I feel better when my life is under control but being happily neurotic is a hoot and has allowed me to be who I am and step out of the Box. Thank you to the author for showing me the possibilies behind neuroses.
Granirer teaches stand-up comedy to individuals with mental illness.

I don't know about you, but this is one book I can't wait to get my hands on.


"If drudgery is not found somewhere in a book or course, it isn't worth reading. Of all great works nine tenths must be drudgery." -- Russell Conwell

Calista McKnight

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Oprah Sinks Her Teeth Deeper Into The Secret

Rumor has it Oprah Winfrey and her company Harpo Productions are trying to secure new TV deals with Rhonda Byrne and a few of The Secret's top stars:

"Basically, Oprah is about to take over," a knowledgeable source tells Radar. "She and Rhonda Byrne are BFFs." Winfrey's Harpo Productions, the source says, is working to lock up Byrne and fellow Secreteers Michael Beckwith, James Ray, and Jack Canfield for regular appearances on Oprah's show and to develop new daytime TV shows and even a prime-time special out of the positive-thinking program. Accordingly, the source says, Byrne has been begging off media appearances in anticipation of becoming Harpo's in-house guru.

While this is all strictly rumor of course, oftentimes actions speak louder than words.

Just yesterday, a good friend of mine sent me an email saying that Esther Hicks (aka Abraham-Hicks) had just been featured on Oprah's XM Satellite Radio show.

After listening to the Oprah-meets-Abraham show's streaming audio*, it was very apparent to me that Oprah and Esther were extremely chummy, chummy.

Esther often cackled like a young college girl who'd just been told she'd been accepted into the Oprah chapter of Delta Zeta sorority.

Oprah and Esther discussed several topics including her (actually Abraham's) appearance on the original version of The Secret, now considered a New Age collectible fetching upwards of $60 per DVD on eBay and

(It's amazing how many of these 'unopened,' 'sealed' copies of the original version still exist).

Unfortunately, Esther Hicks never really answered why she was no longer a part of The Secret franchise.

(I imagine Abraham has decided to banish all negative thoughts and vibrations).

Here are some of the topics discussed on the radio show:
  • Esther Hicks thinks Rhonda Byrne is perhaps the greatest law of attraction student of all time. (I can only hope we'll get to see a Darth Vader versus Obi-Wan Kenobi like duel).
  • Oprah asked Esther if people actually attract everything into their lives including cancer and other illnesses. Esther said yes, "everything comes into your life because of your vibrational output." But she insisted Oprah ask Abraham these "really tough questions" (not on this show Oprah said, but the next). (And what a great schtick, by the way! If Esther ends up being proven wrong, she can always plead insanity and blame Abraham and fellow demons.)
  • Oprah told us her true intent; she wants Esther to come back with her husband Jerry and do multiple shows with Abraham the Magnificent.
  • Get this: Esther explained how she thought the whole Jane Roberts' Seth material was really, really weird (talk about the pot calling the kettle black).
  • Esther doesn't like the word channeling. She prefers to call it 'inspiration', just like the kind athletes and musicians get.
  • Esther admits she's been trying to 'call in' (aka communicate via ESP with) Oprah for years. Oprah admits that she actually felt Abraham trying to contact her while she was reading The Secret book for the first time (my eyes rolled up into my head when I heard this).
  • Next week's show will feature Abraham the Magnificent taking questions from Oprah (I can hardly wait!).
Just a few days ago, USA Today reported that Jerry and Esther Hicks had no worries whatsoever about being 'excised' from the current version of The Secret.

It's obvious to me now after listening to Oprah's XM radio show, that they've already had a direct connection with Oprah in the works for some time.

There's no question Oprah has latched on to The Secret. But more than that, she apparently wants to be a very big part of it.

A article a month ago stated:

"Oprah Winfrey, who lends the whole enterprise more prestige, and, because of that prestige, more venality, than any previous self-help scam. Oprah hasn't just endorsed "The Secret"; she's championed it, put herself at the apex of its pyramid, and helped create a symbiotic economy of New Age quacks that almost puts OPEC to shame."

Even though all of this TV talk is mere conjecture at this point, if history is any indication (Dr. Phil?), it won't be long before we see an Oprah approved law of attraction prime-time TV show.

And who knows, maybe Abraham the Magnificent will soon become a household name.

If that happens -- be very, very afraid.

* Click here to listen to the complete Oprah meets Abraham XM Satellite Radio show.


"If drudgery is not found somewhere in a book or course, it isn't worth reading. Of all great works nine tenths must be drudgery." -- Russell Conwell

Calista McKnight

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Baloney Detection Kit: Testing The Secret

In 1995 Carl Sagan, American astronomer and astrobiologist wrote:

"Pseudoscience ripples with gullibility.

Superstition and pseudoscience keep getting in the way of unders
tanding nature, providing easy answers, dodging skeptical scrutiny, casually pressing our awe buttons and cheapening the experience, making us routine and comfortable practitioners as well as victims of credulity.

Those who have something to sell, those who wish to influence public opinion, those in power, a skeptic might suggest, have a vested interest in discouraging skepticism”

In his book "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark", Carl Sagan presented a set of tools -- which could be used by anyone -- for testing arguments and detecting fraudulent claims which are purportedly based on science.

He called these tools the 'baloney detection kit'.

Carl Sagan used these principles to provide a skeptical analysis of several kinds of superstition and pseudoscience including belief in gods, witches, UFOs, ESP and faith healing.

Interestingly, Carl Sagan used his baloney principles to question the validity of J.Z Knight's channeling of Ramtha (J.Z Knight is the force behind the other quantum flapdoodle movie What the Bleep Do We Know!?).

Since those who promote and teach The Secret --a.k.a the law of attraction -- claim it's based on the scientific principles of quantum mechanics, I thought it would be the perfect candidate for baloney detection.

Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine formulated several straightforward questions based on Carl Sagan's baloney detection principles.

Let's apply some of those questions to The Secret and see what happens, shall we?

But first, here are a few of the profound assertions you'll find in The Secret:

"When you think of the things you want, and you focus on them with all your intention, then the law of attraction will give you exactly what you want, every time." -- Lisa Nichols

"What most people don't understand is that a thought has a frequency. We can measure a thought." -- John Assaraf

"Basically put, the law of attraction says that like attracts like. But we're really talking at a level of thought." -- Bob Doyle

"This is really fun. It's like having the Universe as your catalog. You flip though 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." -- Joe Vitale

"The Universe will start to rearrange itself to make it happen for you." -- Joe Vitale

"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." -- Rhonda Byrne

"If you turn it over to the Universe, you will be surprised and dazzled by what is delivered to you. This is where magic and miracles happen." -- Joe Vitale

Okay, ready?

Baloney Detection Question #1 - How reliable is the source of the claim?

Last week I referenced Matt Cale's Ruthless Review of The Secret. In that review, Matt said:

"First, no philosophy, even one so seemingly benign and “instructive,” could ever hope to pass the smell test when its primary advocates are people with titles such as “Visionary,” “Philosopher,” and “Metaphysician.” It’s a dead giveaway as to the efficacy of a belief system when its most fervent champions are those who secured their positions either from online universities, or had them “bestowed” upon their persons in moonlit ceremonies involving chanting, laying of hands, and at least one person beating a drum."

But let's be fair. There are two quantum physicists in The Secret, aren't there?

Here are some interesting facts about Dr. Fred Alan Wolf and Dr. John Hagelin (the two physicists in The Secret):

In a recent blog post Fred wrote:

"Spiritual techniques advocated by people who have never made a serious study of spiritual teaching or base their books on quantum physics principles without studying the subject at length and who really don't know enough to teach others techniques based upon these deeper "secrets" make me really wonder why such people write such books other than the obvious one to make some money."

"A quantum field consciousness-spirituality and growth book may sound wonderful but it is possibly misleading if you think that this field can give you anything you desire.. First of all the quantum field is not really an energy field and secondly consciousness can not exert a force. Nor is consciousness energy. Consciousness and energy are not the same things at all."

Hmmm ...does Dr. Wolf think The Secret is baloney?

Rest assured Dr Wolf's co-star, John Hagelin, does not entirely* believe The Secret is baloney.

In a March 25th, 2007 Des Moines Register article, reporter Mike Kilen writes*:

"A scientific basis exists for the ideas in "The Secret" but was simplified for the masses, counters John Hagelin, a professor of physics at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield who is featured in the DVD.

Hagelin said his research has shown that thoughts can affect the physical environment,but advanced training in mind techniques is needed. Advanced practitioners of Transcendental Meditation are currently involved in mass meditation in Fairfield to create world peace.

'The Secret' sells because people don't have to do anything," Hagelin said. "They just have to want a necklace and it will come to them. But so weak an influence is working at the time that they are better off getting a job and buying a necklace."

Incidentally*, as a follower of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, many of Dr Hagelin's fellow physicists and researchers have accused him of distorting science to fit his own guru-like agenda.

So, while Dr Hagelin may not think The Secret is complete* baloney, his fellow physicists sure think it is may have reason to disagree*.

Baloney Detection Question #2 - Have the claims been verified by an independent source?

So far, the answer to this question is no. No one independent of the film has verified the claims made in The Secret.

There have been, however, several well qualified experts who've dismissed some of what The Secret claims, including one of The Secret's own teachers.

Last Friday night, March 23, ABC News Nightline interviewed Bob Proctor one of The Secret's co-stars.

Unlike CNN's reporting of The Secret, ABC was prepared with some tough and poignant questions.

Prior to the show, Nightline had asked one of the United States' top physicists, Professor Brian Green what his opinion was of The Secret.

Professor Green had apparently even watched The Secret. He referred to it as "scientific poppycock."

When asked what he thought of Professor Green's statement, Bob Proctor said he didn't even know who Professor Green was, among other things.

Here's why I think the whole connection between quantum physics and The Secret is a fraud...

Brian Green is one of the top physicists in the world.

He's researched and written several books discussing subjects such as non-local particle entanglement, special relativity, spacetime and cosmology, origins and unification, and including an exploration into reality and the imagination.

He's also one of the best known string theorists in the entire world.

Anyone who claims to be a student of quantum physics or who says they've read extensively about it, knows who Brian Green is.

Yet Bob Proctor doesn't know who he is?

(Visit this link for a complete .PDF transcript of the Bob Proctor Nightline episode).

Bill Harris, Director of Centerpointe Research Institute, creator of Holosync neuro audio products, also disputes some of the claims and methodology explained in The Secret.

(By the way, I respect Bill Harris. In my opinion, he's not only credible, but he's also the only Secret teacher who makes any sense).

In a recent article Bill explains:

"I know a lot of very successful people, including nearly every teacher who appears in The Secret, and believe me, none of them sit around waiting for a miracle to land on them.

Even the few of them who actually, and in my opinion mistakenly, teach that focusing on what you want is magic, when you watch what they're actually doing, they are taking action. How they can miss the fact that they are is beyond me, but a few of them—who shall remain nameless—do teach people to just "put it out to the universe" and that no action is necessary. They too, though, take action, but I guess they somehow fail to see the connection between the action they take and the results they get."

...I see the connection Bill. It's called the law of "extraction."

Baloney Detection Question #3 - Is the claimant employing the accepted rules of reason and tools of research, or have these been abandoned in favor of others that lead to the desired conclusion?

To my knowledge, not one person associated with The Secret has used any kinds of scientific methods to justify the validity of the law of attraction.

Instead, we only hear about cases of subjective experience.

For example, on CNN's Larry King Live, when asked what he thought about what the critics were saying about the law of attraction, John Assarf stated:

"Well, you know, it's not even worth reacting. You know, this morning when I knew that I was going to be on the show, we had about 200 of our business owners on -- on a call. And I asked them to send us an e-mail about how the secret of the law of attractions worked in their life.

Within 10 minutes, we had 57 people who e-mailed us saying here's what's happened in my life. In my business we have raised money. We've had more clients. We've had better health.

And so I've got to go to the results as opposed to what the critics are saying, because it's worked in my life and I know it works in people's lives."

Those who claim the law of attraction works because they’ve seen it work in their own life or the lives of others are simply mistaking coincidence for evidence or magic.

Bill Harris writes:

"Scientists have a name for this. It's called a coincidence. People who believe in magic turn coincidences into evidence, but that doesn't make it so, and you can easily prove this to yourself by thinking of lemonade the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and finding out what happens. What will happen is that no lemonade will manifest the next day, or the next, or the next, unless you get up out of your chair and take action to find some."

Baloney Detection Question #4 - Is the claimant providing an explanation for the observed phenomena or merely denying the existing explanation?

Michael Shermer explains:

"This is a classic debate strategy--criticize your opponent and never affirm what you believe to avoid criticism. It is next to impossible to get creationists to offer an explanation for life (other than ``God did it'')."

When criticism of The Secret hit critical mass Joe Vitale, a Secret teacher, referred to its critics as ...

"...flying out of their dark hiding places."

Joe even had a brief exchange with Skeptico in which he completely sidestepped the heart of the matter:

Skeptico: Joe, I don’t think you understand what a Law is and what it isn’t. I just posted a reply: The “Law” of Attraction (Not).

Joe Vitale: Ah, you might want to re-read my post. :) While people are arguing if LOA is a law or not, others are using the principle/law/insight/method (choose what makes you feel ok) to create lives of happiness and abundance. The choice is yours.

Skeptico goes on to say: "Note the avoidance of the issue. I point out the LOA is not a Law. Joe ignores this, and equivocates by saying many people are benefiting from it. Remember, his claim was that the LOA is a Law like gravity."

Critics of The Secret have been referred to as negative, naysayers, unenlightened, fanatics and more.

They've even been compared to the zealots who chastised and condemned Galileo, Copernicus and Newton.

Yet virtually no one involved with The Secret has actually answered any of the legitimate questions posed by the skeptics.

As I said earlier, Bill Harris appears to be the only voice of reason in the whole presumptuous lot.

Baloney Detection Question #5 - Do the claimant's personal beliefs and biases drive the conclusions, or vice versa?

As I wrote in a March 12, 2007 blog post:

When asked by a caller if he had done any research that was published in peer reviewed journals to support his claims that the law of attraction actually works, John Assaraf stated the following on Larry King Live:

"I was retired for the last six years and I did my own research on books that were published, reports published, white papers that were published to understand what was happening in my life, what was happening in the lives of our clients and how we were able to achieve the success we were achieving. I studied other people's works. I read voraciously, I research voraciously other people's works. And there is more than enough evidence, scientific evidence at a quantum physics level or physics level and neuroscience level to suggest this is true."

In other words, no --Assaraf could not point to a particular piece of evidence or research finding to back up his assertions. Instead, what he really said was that he basically read a whole bunch of documents and white papers and simply drew his own conclusions.

And this "fuzzy science" seems to be the prevailing consensus among teachers and supporters of the so called "law" of attraction.

Unfortunately such a consensus is meaningless in the realm of scientific research and John Assaraf's conclusions would have been tossed in the rejection bin by peer reviewers.


Although there are other questions and factors to consider when trying to detect scientific baloney, clearly The Secret fails even the most basic of Carl Sagan's detection criteria.

I think Dr. Fred Alan Wolf was absolutely right when he said that some people are mixing spirituality with science for the sole purpose of making money.

The law of attraction is obviously not a law. Not even close.

The Secret is hugely successful for many reasons, the most important of which is the fact that it tells people what they want to hear instead of what is real.

And in any industry, that's a recipe for success.

As one book publisher recently revealed in The Toronto Star newspaper:

"Burman sees The Secret's success as easily explained. "Basically, human beings are lazy. If you tell them you can get rich just by thinking about it, obviously, they're going to buy it." But he knows a cash cow when he sees one: Riding The Secret's success, he's projecting sales of at least 400,000 for each of Vitale's and Diamond's books. "It used to be, if we sold 20,000 copies of anything, we were lucky," he said."

Like Harry Potter, The Secret sells magic and fantasy.

...And that's no baloney.

After I published this post, I became aware of the fact that Dr. John Hagelin does not entirely agree with The Secret either.


"If drudgery is not found somewhere in a book or course, it isn't worth reading. Of all great works nine tenths must be drudgery." -- Russell Conwell

Calista McKnight

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Unraveling The Secret

Here are two fascinating blog posts courtesy of Cosmic Connie regarding the latest happenings in the wild and whacky world of The Secret:

1) On Friday night, Bob Proctor, a Secret teacher was featured on ABC News Nightline. I didn't catch the show, but from what I read, Bob made a fool out of himself and The Secret.

Love that Bob!

2) There appears to be a rift in Secret Land. The Science of Getting Rich Seminar (SGR) featuring Bob Proctor, Jack Canfield and Rev. Michael Beckwith has now been put on hold. Rev. Michael Beckwith now appears to be M.I.A.

Jack and Bob: the show must go on

I am sure we will see even more Secret unraveling in the days and weeks ahead.


"If drudgery is not found somewhere in a book or course, it isn't worth reading. Of all great works nine tenths must be drudgery." -- Russell Conwell

Calista McKnight