The Law of Attraction, History of Personal Development and 'The Secret'
'The Secret' is an Australian internet sales only film about the law of attraction released in 2006; or to put it another way the power of focus and of visualising what you want (and getting it) rather what you don't want (and getting it); thus motivating yourself to achieve what you want but also to positively influence situations and people around you to give you what you expect and focus on, rather than negatively, which is what we often routinely do without thinking about it. It was produced by Rhonda Byrne, who features at the start and end of the movie, presenting it like a story of how she discovered the secret and how it changed her life. It is a useful psychology tool, especially as it uses many visual references, but take the claims about conspiracies and secrets with a pinch of salt!! It is the what that is important, rather than the how it works, mystical or otherwise.
Many people have criticised The Secret for being a con, a fantasy for the simple minded with no real value whatsoever. Whilst one may not subscribe to all the concepts in the movie, for example, the universe responding to a thought with a literal delivery, it is clear that focussing on and visualising what you really want helps to motivate you to actually perform those actions to the degree that you will create either that result or a set of circumstances that makes the result more likely. In addition, positive beliefs and visualisation affect your very being, your body language, your tone of voice, your attitudes, your facial expression and people will respond to you differently, so in a sense, visualisation and really feeling the goal does affect people around you - to what extent varies of course on the situation.
The majority of the population tends to fail to achieve what they really want (deep down). This is often on account on negative reinforcement and the tendency to focus on what they want to avoid rather than what they want (i.e. negative thoughts, self criticism, undermining positive self-image all undermining one's performance and potential). There is always an element of negative cultural backlash with self-development, as people feel empowered by being free to be as negative or cynical as they want and resent anything or anything that questions this perceived 'freedom'. It is clear there are principles in The Secret that can be used for your benefit. Whether you subscribe to all the ideas is another matter, but this shouldn't detract from the value of the ideas that do ring true with you. Below is the main Secret web site and a UK distributor.
Some of the chapters of the movie can be previewed on www.video.google.com, if you search on 'the secret chapter', a list of available chapters should show up as a list. If you do like the movie, it is worth watching it via thesecret.tv web site or even better actually purchasing the DVD.
Because the idea of The Secret Movie is to tell the truth about 'The Secret' to the world, it really ought to be more explicit about the actual origins of 'The Secret' rather than implying that it is the first attempt to publicise this information. I have attempted to record the origins of the concept of the law of attraction below and highlight some of the spiritual/mystical belief systems that have attached to the earlier proponents. I would like to iterate that many of the excellent ideas from both the movie 'The Secret' and also Wayne W. Dyer's 'The Secret of The Power of Intention' have been interpreted and incorporated in the Gratitude page. These pages also draw heavily on Tony Robbins' Unleash The Power Within seminar programme.
The movie 'The Secret' draws heavily on the works by Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks on the law of attraction, in particular, 'Ask and It is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires'. This book was published in 2004 and summarises the Abraham-Hicks teachings since 1986. The book is published through Hay House, which also publishes books by other authors such as Wayne W. Dyer. An forward from Wayne W. Dyer also appears in this book. Esther and Jerry Hicks claim to be channels for 'Abraham, the collective consciousness of cosmic entities that have communicated great knowledge to them.' Whether this has any connection to or inspiration from the 'God of Abraham' is not clear. Esther Hicks was originally filmed for inclusion in the film but was subsequently edited out and is no longer involved with the project, on account of differences over the aggressive marketing of the movie. Wayne W. Dyer's work includes The Secret of the Power of Intention and Getting in the Gap, and draws heavily on Carlos Castenada's interpretation of Meso-American Shamanism but combined with Christianity and elements of Buddhism, Hinduism, and the teachings of Mother Meera, producing a universal concept of 'God' or 'Intention', and playing down Jesus to prophet status so as not to rock the boat or overall concept, even though his base is clearly Christian.
The Secret also draws heavily on the movie What the Bleep Do We Know, which was first released in 2004.
However, similar ideas on the law of attraction were written by Godfre Ray King (real name Guy W. Ballard) in his book Unveiled Mysteries, first published in 1934. The material for this book, the 'I AM' Instruction, Guy Ballard claims to have received, whilst hiking in northern California in 1930, from a meeting with 'the Ascended Master Saint Germain on the side of Mount Shasta.' The Saint Germain Foundation claims that Saint Germain, who lived in 18th Century France, ascended to spirit without dieing and being resurrected, and became a member of the Divine Spiritual Hierarchy which rules life in the Universe. This Foundation could be considered a religious cult. Former members of this movement include Gerald B Bryan who wrote the book Psychic Dictatorship in America, which criticises the movement Guy Ballard. This book can be viewed as a pdf file at the link below:
Napoleon Hill, the famous American author and friend of Andrew Carnegie, wrote a number of books, including The Law of Success, in 1928. This described the law of attraction with respect to wealth building. Napoleon Hill interviewed many millionaires, including many successful inventors and businessmen. In his book Think and Grow Rich (1937), he describes 'The Carnegie Secret'. In his book Grow Rich! With Peace of Mind, published in 1967, he reveals that amongst his sources include 9 spirits of dead people including Emerson, Edison and Darwin, and in which he describes 'The Supreme Secret', 'the secret of the ages' and 'the magic power of belief'. Napoleon Hill had masonic connections and was heavily influenced by Charles F. Haanel.
The most famous early book on the law of attraction was written by Charles F. Haanel called The Master Key System and published in 1914. Charles F. Haanel was a successful businessman, a psychotherapist, a 32nd degree mason in the Keystone Lodge, a Shriner (Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine), and a member of the Society of Rosicrucians, a esoteric and occult order first documented in the 17th Century and probably dating back to the 14th Century. He originally released the book as a series of 24 weekly installments, the course priced at a huge $1500 per head. The MKS book, and other books by Charles F. Haanel, in pdf format, can be viewed at the link below:
The book in pdf format can also be downloaded for free by clicking on the link below.
Charles Haanel is viewed by many as the founding father of modern self-development. Information relating to Charles Haanel can be found at the link below:
Wallace D. Wattles, an American author, wrote the book The Science of Getting Rich, which was first published in 1910. This book focusses heavily on the power of visualisation in creating wealth. It is considered to be part of the 'New Thought Movement' or 'New Thought Religion', which is a variation of panentheism, including a mixture of meditation, prayer, positive thinking and affirmation. Rhonda Byrne claims Wallace D. Wattles to be her initial source of inspiration for the project of the movie The Secret.
The New Thought Movement encompasses a set of religious developments that originated in the United States during the late 19th century, inspired by the philosophy of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby from Belfast, Maine. Although Dr. Quimby did not start any movement of his own, he is generally accepted and acknowledged as the founding father of the New Thought Movement. New Thought was a kind of pantheistic Christianity, in that it drew from both Western religious traditions, mainly Christianity, and also melded it with religions of the East, mainly Hinduism and Buddhism. It is one of the metaphysical movements in 19th Century America, distinct from Theosophy and Spiritualism. The difference between New Thought and New Age, is that New Age draws more on Theosophy and Hellenism, Tarot, Crystal Balls and other magical practices, whereas New Thought is a 'practical' form of Christianity, concerned with application to one's thoughts for one's psychological health, one's wellbeing, one's health and one's success in life. There is a large emphasis on healing in New Thought, both in literal terms, and also in psychological terms. New Thought is the pantheistic or panentheistic (known as Process New Thought) philosophy of being part of God (everything emanating from The One), and creation and creativity to do the will of the benevolent God (all creation stemming from God), as opposed to Theosophy, New Age and the Occult in general, which seeks to empower the individual through magic ritual to exact their own will. New Thought is often thought of by adherents as being the religion of Jesus rather than a religion about Jesus. Jesus is regarded in an 'adoptionist' manner as someone who became divine, or achieving the highest level of divinity possible, rather than having always been God and being part of the Trinity. Whether New Thought believes in the Virgin Birth, I am not certain of at this time. Perhaps views vary on this matter. New Thought views itself as a form of 'primitive' or 'original' Christianity, or rather a recreationist attempt at such. There is some debate in New Thought to the extent that one's actions or healing is moderated by God or not. Most New Thought leaders believe in Reincarnation, although not all. Some are more biased towards Christianity whilst others more towards Hinduism. By its very nature it is a fluid philosophy, empty at the 'top end' for growth and evolution. Some Christians regard it as a 'cult' or as the ugly face of Hellenistic Hermeticism and Gnosticism being resurrected from the grave! It differs from Gnosticism which views creation of the physical world as 'bad' or at best 'an error' by a misguided God (Demiurge), not the true benevolent God (Monad). New Thought like Christianity, believes that the true, benevolent God is the creator. New Thought does away with the 'mumbo jumbo' of the dualistic polytheistic Gnostic cosmology and its archons. It is likely that many New Thought adherents do not literally believe in a devil or Satan (but more an absence of God and presence of the ego), but I am yet to qualify this.
From this movement, at least nine different religious denominations have emerged. The largest of which is Seicho No E; others include: Divine Science, Religious Science, the Universal Foundation for Better Living, and the Unity Church. Although Emma Curtis Hopkins, formerly associated with Christian Science, was considered the "teacher of teachers" of several key New Thought group founders, Christian Science developed in a different direction and is not considered a New Thought denomination. In addition, there is the Pagan New Thought religion of Huna popularized by Max Freedom Long (see; "New Thought Religion: A Philosophy for Health, Happiness, and prosperity" by Dr. Martin A. Larson, PhD.)
New Thought belies many of the principles behind masonry and several New Thought churches have become Masonic Temples, and services of many different branches of New Thought Religious churches are held at Masonic Temples today. It is likely that much of the New Thought philosophy derived from Gnostic teachings. Gnosticism is a 'cultish' offshoot of early Christianity. Gnostic texts include the Nag Hamadi library, Dead Sea Scrolls and other Codexes. The New Thought Movement is described by Wikipedia at the link below.
Some useful New Thought references include "Apologetics in the New Age" by Norman Geisler and David Clark, and "New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality" by Anderson & Whitehouse.
The New Thought movement is criticised by some comtemporary Christians as being Pantheistic. The New Thought movement drew on the philosophies of Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism, combining these with the Christian religion of the west.
"Christian Science" by Mark Twain, an attack on the Christian Science movement, can be read on line at the link below.
Mark Twain was himself a Freemason and a Master Mason of the Polar Star Lodge in St Louis. Below is an except from the 1985 animated movie The Adventures of Mark Twain, featuring a disturbing and 'scarey' character called Satan.
The New Thought movement and Christian Science is said to have heavily influenced the 1908 book on Hermetic Philosophy entitled 'The Kybalion', written by the lawyer William Walter Atkinson, under the pseudonym 'The Three Initiates'. Atkinson was an influential author in the New Thought movement, whose personal interest lay mainly in Yoga, Hindu mysticism and Hermeticism. He also authored the 1906 book 'Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World' which is also reputed to be a major influence on 'The Secret', the movie of which was released 100 years later (in 2006).
Of course, many people have also known and practiced its principles without really knowing it, and without other people really understanding how they got the results they did. And the concepts behind the law of attraction have been taught by Jesus and Buddha many thousands of years ago, recorded in books such as the New Testament, perhaps in not quite as punchy, vivid, accessible, clear and explicit terms, and in a slightly different context and different spirit of application.
Perhaps the concepts of The Secret have existed intellectually even before the time of Jesus and Buddha, in the Hermetic tradition of ancient Greece. It would be interesting to know! So it is ironic that the teachings of the law of attraction have remained hidden away in occult and masonic circles and used and applied by the rich and powerful for the last few centures if not longer. One can appreciate that the producers of The Secret decided to omit any detail in this area to keep the film punchy, simple and to not detract from its purpose, and to appeal to the intellectual and non-intellectual alike. But I think that it would be good for those who want to really research this area and how it relates to many of the religious and spiritual teachings of the past few millennia to have some more references if the producers of the film are hinting that they know! One can speculate as to whether the 'whole' of 'the Secret' has really being communicated.
This is a general criticism of the 'new age' or 'personal development' philosophical movement in general. It attempts to distil philosophy from a variety of religious and philosophical standpoints into a useable and simple form for the target audience, but it often fails to at least mention on a high level where these insights came from. This often ends up with people being spoon fed 'wisdoms' and techniques and not really having any historical perspective, appreciation of its sources and not really thinking for oneself or knowing where to look to research related areas - apart from more books by the same author/lecturer. Another byproduct of this approach is that the authors in question may in some cases end up taking credit for something that has existed for thousands of years! If the idea is to educate wisdom, then presumably education should be the key element here! In some cases, if one is passing on information from 'new' sources second or third hand, the origin and sources of these wisdoms, if known from the beginning, is for sure buried and lost! And only usually rediscovered by accident later by a few individuals. This is to an extent what has happened with this web site, and so I have done my best to at least allude to some of the sources.
The law of attraction and NLP in general can be viewed from a number of different angles. It is supposed to taken on in the spirit of honesty and good nature. However, the extent to which it is used to simply serve one's own ends, be they financial or material, to satisfy one's ego or pleasure centres, is clearly down to the individual. These techniques are not complete philosophies per se, but leave major moral and spiritual questions up to the individual. They can be used for manipulative purposes, power over others, to get ahead on the corporate ladder, for selfish purposes, for purely financial gain, for political ascension, or to help others, for the greater good, to become a more relaxed or more rounded individual. It is relevant what the reason for one's interest in personal development is in the first place. It may well be purely financial, with a 'happy go lucky, superficially friendly' attitude being nurtured as a side effect. Focus on financial abundance and getting the material conditions and status symbols one wants, or anything else to satisfy one's ego, may be one's sole purpose for applying the law of attraction. This may well be the case for certain atheists and LaVeyan Satanists who want to gratify themselves as much as possible. There are numerous other reasons why people start a journey in personal development. Some may well be neurotic, depressed, miserable, have severe physical and psychological addictions, negative addictive patterns of behaviour, and simply want to break out of a cycle of negative behaviour and to be in control of their emotions and life, and fulfil their potential. Others may do so to succeed in business, to be in control of business meetings and interactions with colleagues. Others may become involved not only to help themselves feel happier, but also as they want to help others be happy and be free of negative addictive behaviours. One may well believe that personal development is good for all of these reasons. When it comes to influencing others behaviour, consciously using NLP techniques or visualisation, one has to be aware of what spirit one is entering into this activity in - it could be to help them get what they want, to help them do what you want them to do, or any number of other reasons. When it comes to matters such as this, one may be entering into 'questionable' territory, where NLP and the science of body language may become rather clinical, manipulative and too 'self-aware' in an ego sense. This area can be very dubious 'spiritually' if one is not careful. Equally the law of attraction and visualisation can be entered into many different spirits as described above, and excessive serving of the self can slowly erode away at one's 'soul'. One may choose to attract things from a wide variety of areas, from relationships, happy events, money, health, any manner of things, for oneself or others, or one may focus on certain areas more than others - it is when one engages in this latter type of visualisation, chiefly focussed on material gain, that one may regard this as excessive ego serving.
It is the self-awareness of being able to get what you want that some argue is fraught with moral questions, although in many cases they are processes which many individuals do without actually being aware of it or of what technique they are actually using. It can be an unconscious, effective way of simply achieving one's goals. Certain Christians may argue that NLP and the law of attraction have Satanic elements in them, in that they are tools to 'do what thou wilt' and simply to get what YOU want. Indeed they came out of the science of wealth generation, which was hardly a selfless activity. Clearly there are many different ideologies, and no economic system is without its drawbacks, and although money may allow you to do whatever you want to do, it will not make you happy per se. The law of attraction is one of the fundamental principles of occult practice and magic ritual, which is a practice in order to change one's surroundings to achieve a desired goal.
One may argue that concepts regarding belief in NLP are anti-Christian, but this is not necessarily the case. For example, the concept that nothing of itself has any meaning apart from that which we attribute to it is not anti-Christian per se, as we are talking about events that have passed, and how we ascribe meaning to them. Clearly when something 'bad' happens, for example, a painful experience, one can view it as an opportunity for growth or as motivation, or one can feel sorry for oneself. This concept is not about being glad someone has died and wishing death on them, for example! Equally, this concept says nothing about what one is going to do or what one wishes to do, as one's actions are dictated by one's core beliefs and values. There is nothing to say one can't act in accordance with one's religious or spiritual beliefs, but interpret any event in a positive manner. Whether one wishes to associate God in any way in the meaning to events that have passed is up to the individual of course.
The question is what an individual does with that self-awareness and to what extent it affects and interacts with his ego. Some may even argue that being so clinical about human relations (as in NLP and using body language and pre-framing techniques for example) is anally retentive and not conducive to being psychologically healthy. But it is no doubt down to the individual how it is applied and how it affects one's personality. There is no doubt that these techniques originate from esoteric and masonic sources and have perhaps been historically used for financial and power based objectives, which is perhaps where the ill feeling comes from. Self development has in many instances taken the place of religion and faith, as it is a source of self-power and self-empowerment. Certain Christians and Muslims may argue that self-empowerment, to attain God-like status is the basis of Satanism, as it is with much of personal development rather than attaining what one wants through trusting God and submitting to God. It of course depends on what areas of NLP and attraction one tends ot focus on, and how one applies them. Equally it is of importance to what extent one thinks of God and the spirit of God whilst engaging in NLP exercises and visualisation exercises. If one is religious, but allows one's psychology techniques to slowly replace one's faith, then clearly the activity is not compatible with your faith. This may be especially true if you use mirroring, body language and framing techniques and are constantly thinking about them, rationalising them and thinking in this self-aware and clinical manner, there is little place for one's sense of faith and spiritual awareness. To what extent is one to trust and feel God, and to what extent is one trying to manipulate tiny little things around one to make things slightly more the way one wants them? When brainstorming negative beliefs, and erasing them, and replacing them with positive beliefs, is this done with any view to your spiritual convictions or are these left aside. Clearly these are the types of questions one wants to be asking oneself, and are relevant to this debate. There is no simple 'yes it has evil qualities' or 'no it doesn't' answer. It is not just an issue for those of a religious belief, clearly anyone who spends too much time studying behaviour and psychology can become excessive neurotic and anally retentive about it, and lose their sense of spontaneity and fun. One may end up taking everything so seriously and having to do 'everything' the way one is supposed to do it, and lose one's sense of self. One may end up thinking about what one is doing all the time and using the ego and rationalisation capabilities of the brain, rather than trying to 'feel' what one is doing and what is around one in a 'zen' like, no mind, state, trusting one's instincts. The further one abstracts away from one's instincts, the harder they are to follow and the more out of synch we become with our bodies and our environment.
It is probably the whole concept of self-awareness and reliance on oneself and one's own resources that people regard as being anti-Christian. Christianity in general has an emphasis on faith and believe in God and trust in God, rather than on spiritual self-awareness and contemplation like Gnosticism, the occult and to an extent NLP. However, NLP does not need to necessarily replace one's religious beliefs or one's complete trust or faith in God, but work along side them. Indeed, using one's faith and core religious beliefs as leverage in NLP often makes NLP much more effective as atheists have to work harder to really drum up the level of conviction or pain/pleasure association to really maintain motivation needed to keep up good habits in the long term. Clearly if one regards one's religion as 'worthless' and loses faith in God as a result of the practice of NLP, then in that context it could be considered 'anti-Christian'. If one relies only on oneself and trusts only in oneself, then one may well lose one's faith. It is a complex balance and up to the individual to maintain and manage!
It is clear that many Satanists view the law of attraction, wealth building and NLP as useful resources. For example, it may vary according to the individual on what they focus on in terms of visualisation, how they wish to influence others around them etc. NLP techniques for example may be a way to control one's focus in order to more greatly intensify one's sensual experiences and to satisfy one's sensory and sensual desires. When it comes to gratitude, they may elect not to bother feeling grateful for anything as it is a sign of weakness, or they may elect to be grateful to the prime CoS consciousness or whatever rather than to God as a Christian would be, thereby reinforcing their values and belief system. In general though, Satanists may be more focussed on the material gain, material abundance and wealth building philosophies and control in attaining the goal of 'Satan' and suppressing their weaker emotions, that other areas of personal development.
There are clearly many ways of controlling one's focus using NLP style techniques, and increasing one's awareness of one's surroundings and one's body, and many different spirits in which one can do this. This applies to meditation also. One can choose to enter into this to appreciate all the good and beautiful things around one. Or one can choose to enter into this in a Buddhist or Taoism sense of no mind, no thought, no ego, but just passively observing energy around one, with no judgement, and being aware of the tiny and minute. One may also choose to enter this in order to maximise one's sensual experience, and to observe all this detail from a point of view of satisfying the ego and helping to reinforce one's position of power. There are clearly many circumstances in which one may interrup one's habitual patterns of focus. One may choose to interrupt positive, soft, loving feelings and replace them and shift the focus to something more powerful, disassociated, cynical, hateful, perverse and/or ego-serving. One may conversely choose to interrupt negative addictive patterns of behaviour, such as anger, fear, jealousy or sadness associated with a certain stimulus or input, so that a positive focus and frame of reference can be maintained in future and not be lost at the expense of that negative state in the future.
When it comes to NLP style techniques and conditioning techniques for shaping one's core beliefs, one may use them to reinforce one's Christian or Muslim beliefs for example, about God being good, our gratitude to God and trust in God; or to reinforce one's balanced and positive self-image and self-confidence, and positive and empowering beliefs about relationships and one's environment; or one can use these techniques to boost one's own opinion of oneself to epic heights, to boost one's concepts of one's own power, rebelliousness and refusal to obey anyone, one's dark and one sided global beliefs about relationships with others and society as a whole and one's purpose in life, reinforce one's beliefs about pleasure seeking and sensual gratitification, suppress one's softer, emotional and loving side, and reinforce one's ego's dark opposition to positive, loving and loving concepts. Clearly these techniques can be applied in a number of ways!
It could conversely be argued that the techniques are merely rationalisations of things people are already unconsciously doing anyway, and that denying people control over their lives and emotions is counterproductive and 'slave-like'. It is really up to the individual how the 'tool' of self-development is used and how that 'self awareness' and 'awareness of influencing others' affects one's core beliefs and attitudes. If you are comfortable with that then carry on! I personally believes that NLP, psychology and the law of attraction are tools, but are not really that powerful or useful without some kind of deep rooted philosophy and spiritual understanding to give them context and meaning. Without well grounded core beliefs and understanding of context, and simply using these techniques to get what one thinks one wants or one ought to be, to fulfil shallow whims, one may never really attain any deep sense of fulfillment or satisfaction and one may indeed totally miss the point of what life is about! NLP works quite well without any deep spiritual beliefs, but it works 10 times better if one has these beliefs as extra leverage. However this is all up to the individual to figure out.
Some arguments and debate about the validity of the law of attraction can be found at the link below.
A study conducted by the National Research Council (NRC), completed in 1988, and entitled Enhancing Human Performance, under the commission of the U.S. Army, examined the claims of the NLP. It was found that "The NRC researchers checked out other frontiers of human potential as well, including accelerated learning, biofeedback, and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). NLP which postulates connection between behavior and neurology and claims to train students to `read' others by noting their eye position and choice of language, was also dismissed as having a social rather than a neurological basis," (The Fringes of Reason, A Whole Earth Catalog: A Field Guide to New Age Frontiers, Unusual Beliefs & Eccentric Sciences, 1989 ed., p. 196).