It has become popular among the ‘spiritual literati’ to speak negatively about the book/movie entitled ‘The Secret’, which has made ‘creating your reality’ and ‘Law of Attraction’ familiar to millions. In the magazine Spirituality and Health, June 2007, an article appeared by Rabbi Shapiro in which he took issue with many of the ideas presented by the Secret. What follows is my response:
Rabbi Shapiro begins by saying that he doesn’t believe, and is ‘terrified’ by the idea that the universe is a giant wish-granting machine. When he asked around a college campus to find out what people would wish for, the results were largely materialistic and personal. I have two answers for that – 1) he asked around a college campus. Adults under the age of 21 aren’t credited with enough sense to be allowed to drink alcohol – why would the Rabbi think that they would be representative of the best of our society? and 2) I don’t see an indication that he asked them what ‘top fifty things’ they would wish for. Do most people start with personal gain when granted a ‘genie in a bottle’? Certainly. But after a while they begin to think about benefiting their friends, families, communities, and world. In this case, he just didn’t ask the right people the right question.
He later goes on to say that people are exhausted by the ‘never-ending suffering, tragedy, and horror that assault us daily’, and want it to go away. I agree with this, and on this basis alone I am grateful for the presence of The Secret, and works like it. Because it makes people feel powerful. If they start out feeling powerful because they can ‘create’ a new car, fine. And some will start and end their spiritual journey right there. But there is a desire in most people to help others, and what stops them is feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. When they begin feeling powerful, they WILL take action to improve their world – not just personally, but globally. How many will do this? I don’t know. I believe that the numbers are high – but even if they are in the 10% range, because of the wide-spread appeal of The Secret, that’s a significant number of people that we’ve added to the ‘part of the solution’ side of the equation. In this, I believe that ‘The Secret’ has the incredible effect of empowering masses of people, even if it begins in a simplistic and incomplete way. (Working with a Life Coach who is familiar with these ideas can dramatically increase your effectiveness in applying them!)
He also takes issue with the statement from The Secret ‘Everything that is coming into your life you are attracting into your life’, and then says that this means for rape and incest victims, and for people with AIDS and cancer, that it is ‘their fault’. Unfortunately, Rabbi Shapiro has made the not-uncommon mistake of confusing blame and responsibility. No one says that these people are to blame for what occurs in their lives. Taking a position of responsibility, however, is a place to stand – it is a potential place of power. It is a metaphysical viewpoint that for many leads to feelings of empowerment, which may result in healings, both emotional and physical. Taking responsibility is an empowering thing to do – and it does not mean accepting blame, or guilt.
He makes a statement later in the article that I must take issue with: ‘Because thoughts and feelings are largely outside your control…’ It’s not just ‘The Secret’, and the people in it, who disagree with that statement. New Thought spiritual leaders, empowerment writers such as Wayne Dyer, many counselors, therapists, coaches, etc, work with people every day to change their thoughts, and through that work, to change their feelings. And they are successful. I have personally experienced people going from cynicism to a belief in miracles (accompanied by a pervading improvement in mood!), going from hopelessness to effective action, and from feeling unhappy to feeling happy. Instead of attempting to change your thoughts and feelings, Rabbi Shapiro suggests a Buddhist-based philosophy called Constructive Living which he makes sound almost Kantian – do what you are supposed to do, and don’t worry about whether you’re unhappy about it. (Note: My comments are in no way about the philosophy of Constructive Living, which may be an excellent way of life. They are only addressing the Rabbi’s statements in this particular paragraph extolling a focus on action, regardless of how you feel.) I can’t believe that the goal of human existence is to toil away at ‘my purpose’ regardless of whether I am happy or not.
There are several key ideas stated in ‘The Secret’ which I believe support my view of it as a catalyst for spiritual growth, albeit aimed at people who may be just beginning to grow. These are as follows:
‘Love is the highest vibration that you can give off.”
‘If you take only one thing with you from this work, take the practice of gratitude.’
‘Know that there is only one substance in the universe, that all things are part of it, and that we are all connected.’
These three statements alone mark this work as important and powerful for a budding spiritualist.
People who have worked in a ‘I create my own reality’ framework for years know that ‘seeing the change you wish to be’ isn’t enough. We know that we must ‘be the change’ as well – that is an essential ingredient in the creation. Does The Secret explain this well? Perhaps, perhaps not. But because of The Secret, millions of people are now exploring what it means to create a world that they desire, whether they do it with thought, vision, or action. The more that they explore, the more they will understand, learn, and grow. And isn’t that a goal that we all share?