Bad Science + Bad Mysticism + Narcissism + Cat Poop = The Secret

Just finished listening to Julian Walker and Ken Wilber dialogue about The Secret over at Integral Naked. Sweet! Kudos to Julian for being featured on IN! Check it out. (note: premium site. first month is free.)

Exploring “The Secret.”  Part 1.  The Tricky Business of Creating Your Own Reality.

“The
Law of Attraction” is true—as far as it goes. The problem is that The
Secret takes this one relatively small piece of the puzzle and makes it
the entire puzzle. A positive outlook will change your life and your
intentions will co-create your reality, but so will brain chemistry,
interior level of development, family relationships, natural disasters,
cultural trends, language structure, environmental toxins, and,
basically, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

As I expected, the whole developmental process, pre-trans fallacy,
narcissism, boomeritis, and relative and absolute truths have been
covered. And rightly so. That’s the good side about the criticism, at
least for those who can relate with all the hifalutin integral jargons,
cryptic colors, and compassionate snickering. Oh, btw, there was a good jab at Sam Harris too. That made me smile 🙂

Now allow me to channel my integral shadow…

My
thinking was, most people who are already up to their earlobes with
integral theory would be yawning before the audio conversation was
over. It’s essentially preaching to the choir at best and an echo
chamber at worst. I just want to say that integral peeps don’t have to
point out to each other how pathological “The Secret” is. From an
integral perspective, The Secret smells like rotten cat poop. There, I
said it.

Having said that, for me, there are four ways to be critical of The Secret.

#1:
Take it head on. Use critical thinking and call its bullshit. Declare
intellectual and philosophical war on its magical, infantile, and
narcissistic thinking. Rehash Wilber’s criticisms of New Age, ad nauseum. Then give each other fluffy high fives.

#2: Make fun of it by exposing its stupid nature. SNL did it. This is also called the Onion approach.

#3:
Emphatize with the people who have been touched intellectually and
spiritually by the “shallownesss” of The Secret. Explore the Law of Attraction
more deeply. Understand the different levels and interpretations of the
talking heads behind The Secret. Be critical, yet gentle, and meet
people where they’re at. This of course assumes that we have a “higher”
development than people who have been “duped” by The Secret. So be it.
#1 and #2 have that assumption too.

#4: Don’t give The Secret more power. Just ignore the damn thing. It would go away soon enough. 

Personally, I’d like to use a combination of #1, #2, and #3, but I try to focus more on #3, because #1 and #2 are obvious and easy and would just lead to lemon-eating debates and intellectual echo chambers, integral or otherwise.

It’s easy to criticize, it’s much challenging to emphatize, it’s tricky to do both. And besides, like John Naisbitt said, ”HAVING TO BE RIGHT SHACKLES YOUR MIND.”

For me though, The Secret is a “hook” – an ingenius money-making hook to get people to buy into the Law of Attraction (LoA) worldview. It’s not only ingenius, it also had the epidemic factor going for it making it another excellent case study for The Tipping Point, thanks to Oprah.

But what most integrally-informed critics don’t address is that, there are different teachers of the Law of Attraction, with different levels of interpretations and approaches, some “healthier” than others. Each teacher has their own spin
on the LoA. Each has their own way of teaching it. Some teachers have a
more sophisticated/complex interpretations of the LoA than what is
presented in the movie. But they all go beyond simplistic presentation
in the movie.

On the other hand, the Law of Attraction originated from channeled conversations with an entity named Abraham, so that alone could send our bullshit detector to the roof. Or maybe not. I’ll leave that for you to decide.

While
I don’t condone the shallowness of The Secret, I try to understand the
mindset of the people who have been touched by it. In fact, I find it
easy to relate with them because I’ve experienced their sense of
discovery too.

Fourteen years ago when I’ve read The Celestine Prophecy I had the same amazement as the people who are enchanted by The Secret right now. At that point in my life I had a shift in translation.
Looking back if I analyze that translation from an integral perspective
then it would not pass as “healthy” by Wilberian standards. However,
relative to my mythic beliefs at that time, that translation was still
“healthier.”

So I ask you to look back in time during that point in your life where you had a similar shift in translation. My point: We’re
once deluded too. Well, I think we’re still deluded (at a different
level). We just don’t know it yet. For us integral junkies, AQAL is our plateau at the moment 🙂

My mindset is that, I’m optimistic that people will, in time, see
through the limitations of the The Law of Attraction. Some people will
move on to dig deeper into more sophisticated translations of the LoA.
Maybe some of them will eventually encounter more authentic spiritual
teachings, and maybe some will even encounter Wilber’s writings.
While some may get stuck, the way most people are still stuck on their
mythic beliefs in their religion (with or without The Secret).

Like it or not, The Secret genie is out. I see no use stuffing the
genie back into the lamp. Resistance is partial. I think the more
relevant questions integral peeps should be focusing on are:

– NLP 101 says that, the meaning of our communication is the response we get.
With that in mind, how can we compassionately criticize The Secret /
LoA when we’re conversing with people who are not familiar with
integral theory and those uber cryptic integral jargon? How can we meet
people where they’re at without sounding like assholes?

– Are all teachers of the The Secret / Law of Attraction guilty of categorical error? Is it possible to look at them and see how they fit in the altitude color scheme? Why not have a dialogue with them instead of dialoging about them? Bill Harris is one of those LoA teachers. Wasn’t he featured on Integral Naked too?

– What are the qualities and marketing strategies used by The Secret
that made it reached the Tipping Point? What can proponents of Integral
Theory learn from those qualities? How can those marketing strategies
be applied in spreading the integral meme?

– Can the
proponents of Integral Theory come up with a good story to sell? Maybe
an integral mythology that would appeal to the masses yet stay true to
its integral mission?

– The Secret is a New Age fad, similar to What the Bleep and The Celestine Prophecy. Now let’s step back and notice the trend. Is the popularity of The Secret a manifestation of the Megatrends 2010 that Patricia Aburdeen was talking about?

– Ken Wilber had eloquently asked this question in One Taste: “If
the majority of the “spiritual market” is drawn to prerational magic
and myth, how do you reach the small group who are involved in genuine,
laborious, demanding, transrational spiritual practice? This is very
difficult, because both markets are referred to as “spiritual,” but
these two camps really don’t get along very well–one is mostly
translative, the other is mostly transformative, and they generally
disapprove of each other–so how do you put them into one magazine
without alienating them both?”

So, yeah, how do we *not* alienate them both?

Those are the questions that appeal to me. Not whether The Secret is infantile, pre-rational, narcissistic, or pathological. Please! We integral geeks already know that! So I hope they get addressed in Part 2 of the dialogue.

And when we’re done snickering and poking fun at The Secret / LoA,
maybe, just maybe, we can focus our integral lens more on topics that
really matter. Say like Global Warming, Iraq Pull Out, Presidential
Candidates, Web 2.0, Megatrends, Social Enterprise, Conscious
Capitalism, or something more relevant other than a New Age fad that
smells like cat poop.

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