We here at elephant have always been huge fans of the transformative power of The Secret. (Burp)

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The Secret: best review ever listed #1 on Amazon.

We’ve always been huge fans of the transformative power of The Secre…blech. To quote Colbert, I just vomited in my mouth, a little.

Just saw this tweet via our friend Duff:

“Top Amazon review for the book The Secret a parody, second is a critique. My faith in humanity, restored”

Here’s the review, via Amazon:

8,573 of 8,895 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret saved my life!, December 4, 2007

Please allow me to share with you how “The Secret” changed my life and in a very real and substantive way allowed me to overcome a severe crisis in my personal life. It is well known that the premise of “The Secret” is the science of attracting the things in life that you desire and need and in removing from your life those things that you don’t want. Before finding this book, I knew nothing of these principles, the process of positive visualization, and had actually engaged in reckless behaviors to the point of endangering my own life and wellbeing.

At age 36, I found myself in a medium security prison serving 3-5 years for destruction of government property and public intoxication. This was stiff punishment for drunkenly defecating in a mailbox but as the judge pointed out, this was my third conviction for the exact same crime. I obviously had an alcohol problem and a deep and intense disrespect for the postal system, but even more importantly I was ignoring the very fabric of our metaphysical reality and inviting destructive influences into my life.

My fourth day in prison was the first day that I was allowed in general population and while in the recreation yard I was approached by a prisoner named Marcus who calmly informed me that as a new prisoner I had been purchased by him for three packs of Winston cigarettes and 8 ounces of Pruno (prison wine). Marcus elaborated further that I could expect to be raped by him on a daily basis and that I had pretty eyes.

Needless to say, I was deeply shocked that my life had sunk to this level. Although I’ve never been homophobic I was discovering that I was very rape phobic and dismayed by my overall personal street value of roughly $15. I returned to my cell and sat very quietly, searching myself for answers on how I could improve my life and distance myself from harmful outside influences. At that point, in what I consider to be a miraculous moment, my cell mate Jim Norton informed me that he knew about the Marcus situation and that he had something that could solve my problems. He handed me a copy of “The Secret”. Normally I wouldn’t have turned to a self help book to resolve such a severe and immediate threat but I literally didn’t have any other available alternatives. I immediately opened the book and began to read.

The first few chapters deal with the essence of something called the “Law of Attraction” in which a primal universal force is available to us and can be harnessed for the betterment of our lives. The theoretical nature of the first few chapters wasn’t exactly putting me at peace. In fact, I had never meditated and had great difficulty with closing out the chaotic noises of the prison and visualizing the positive changes that I so dearly needed. It was when I reached Chapter 6 “The Secret to Relationships” that I realized how this book could help me distance myself from Marcus and his negative intentions. Starting with chapter six there was a cavity carved into the book and in that cavity was a prison shiv. This particular shiv was a toothbrush with a handle that had been repeatedly melted and ground into a razor sharp point.

The next day in the exercise yard I carried “The Secret” with me and when Marcus approached me I opened the book and stabbed him in the neck. The next eight weeks in solitary confinement provided ample time to practice positive visualization and the 16 hours per day of absolute darkness made visualization about the only thing that I actually could do. I’m not sure that everybody’s life will be changed in such a dramatic way by this book but I’m very thankful to have found it and will continue to recommend it heartily…

For more, and the critique mentioned by Duff, go to The Secret at Amazon.com.

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anonymous Oct 15, 2012 10:44am

[…] It’s uptight: it’s a smiley face version of the longtime British notion of “stiff upper lip.” You know: thoughts of sadness, […]

anonymous Jan 29, 2010 7:22pm

[…] here at elephant are on the fence when it comes to spiritual products like The Secret…the materialistic focus seems out of place on a path or system of paths that’s devoted […]

Bob Weisenberg Jan 7, 2010 11:40pm

I hate to stir up the pot here (you're saying, "Sure, Bob never likes to stir up the pot!"), but, leaving the vacuousness of "The Secret" aside, where is all this anti-success rhetoric in some of the above comments coming from?

Figuring out how to make a living and how to put one's kids through college are at the heart of the majority of ordinary people's lives. I think any spirituality that doesn't support that is going to have limited use at best.

We may dislike "The Secret", but let's dislike it because if it's misleading and ineffective, not because it promotes success. Most people who embrace "The Secret", or of the other more solid "self-help" methods, are just trying to make a living and make life better for their children.

Bob Weisenberg

Bob Weisenberg Jan 7, 2010 11:14pm

Upon further reflection, I think your last sentence above, "So imagining our way into happiness is, ultimately…not sustainable" is wrong. I think many people imagine their way into both happiness and success.

"Imagining is not the same as "self-deception" which is perhaps what you meant. I think it's the quality and results of the imagining that determine it's value, not its literal truth. For example, literal (as opposed to metaphorical) reincarnation, which to me personally is imagining, is a very positive force in my Buddhists' lives. So I wouldn't try to talk them out of it, even though for me it would be self-deception.

One person's reality is another person's imagining or self-deception.

Bob Weisenberg

    elephant journal Jan 30, 2010 2:24am

    Interesting. Still, if something is a positive force but ultimately not "real," it's little more than a feel-good stop-gap for samsara. Reality will get you, better harmonize ourselves, quick and dirty fixes don't last!

      Bob Weisenberg Jan 30, 2010 3:27am

      I still like my example of reincarnation. Right here without even going outside Buddhism itself we have perfect example of one person's ultimate reality being another's ultimate self-deception. Half the Buddhists I know believe in literal reincarnation and the other half either openly disdain it or at best accept it as metaphor.

Bob Weisenberg Jan 7, 2010 7:36pm

I was referring to Buddhism as an organized religion, not pure Buddhist thought, which strikes me as very different.

Bob Weisenberg Jan 7, 2010 7:27pm

Forgot to mention that I haven't read "The Secret". I only know it through Oprah and lots of reviews.

If I did read the book, my personal opinion would probably be consistent with the "critique mentioned by Duff" by longhorn24, which goes into some detail about how empty and manipulative the book is.

But I've learned to appreciate anything that helps people make something of their lives, even if it's not my cup of tea.

Bob Weisenberg

elephant journal Jan 7, 2010 7:22pm

Well, it's very different from Buddhism, which holds that negative thoughts are bad, but that positive thoughts are, while less bad, still thoughts. The point is not to "not think," but if we have a clear mind, heart, we see reality just as it is, or are one with reality, rather, and that's the highest form of happiness, and spiritual and temporal success, it's a state of bliss, freedom from suffering, it's generosity and compassion!

So imagining our way into happiness is, ultimately, Spiritual Atkins. Not sustainable.

    Bob Weisenberg Jan 16, 2010 4:14am

    Just came across this book on Buddhism that makes the same sharp distinction I made above between Buddhist thought and Buddhism as organized religion:

    "Buddhism Without Beliefs" by Stephen Batchelor http://bit.ly/5h0C7a

elephant journal Jan 7, 2010 7:19pm

As Trungpa Rinpoche used to say, Buddhas are farmers, Buddhas are plumbers, you never know where you'll find a Buddha. That said, right, I don't know that I know any enlightened beings!

Bob Weisenberg Jan 7, 2010 7:14pm

I do not see a very sharp distinction between what I see in "The Secret" and much of what is presented by organized religions of all stripes, including Buddhism. And I wouldn't say any of these are necessarily ineffective or wrong. They may not appeal to our particular intellectual or spiritual bent, but they certainly appeal to a great majority of the world's people.

It's easy to find logical fault with something like "The Secret". But it all gets very tricky when one considers the mind-body connection. Anything that someone believes in deeply has the power to transform, regardless of how illogical or ridiculous it is.

So "The Secret" may have a beneficial impact on many people's lives, regardless of what I think about it personally. It's no different than reincarnation or sacred stones or astrology or heaven or divine lineage, etc. etc.

Bob Weisenberg

anonymous Jan 7, 2010 1:09pm

Its nice to see "The Secret" presented for what it really is; narcicissm packaged as spirituality.

elephant journal Jan 7, 2010 12:07am

I think Seth B., a reader, said the "too seriously" thing on our Facebook page, not us, Greg! We allll take ourselves, and everything we do, particularly our spirituality or path too seriously from time to time.

anonymous Jan 6, 2010 10:26pm

As one who has a propensity to take things too seriously — which Trungpa as well as Elephant have pointed out — I found the silliness refreshing.

One could assume it was offensive to The Secret or one could consider it a parable about a practitioner who was struggling to findi the correct way to practice.

I guess the deeper meaning is a prompt for us to consider our karmic past and ask how often we personally have decided to pull out the shiv.

Personally, I know I have attempted the shiv-based approach to enlightenment way too frequently. For many this is the reason past lives remain obscured — too much familiarity with shivs they would like to forget.

I am always amused by the blissful student — the absolute perfect picture of tranquility — who sits with a cloud of karmic imprints swirling around his head that contain way too many moments during which they wielded a shiv.

elephant journal Jan 6, 2010 10:21pm

via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

What a lovely and appropriate review! In all my years as a bookseller, having the utter delight to keep my job solely from sales of this title as hordes of demanding and vitriolic customers stormed my doors for months on end quarrellously calling my aptitude into question when I informed them we were sold out, never had I heard such a profound and moving relation of the effects of this book. Bravo!

Eloquent 😉

John Pappas
When I was teaching, "The Secret" was required watching at an inservice one year. The science teachers and myself could not stop from laughing through most (all) of it. At the end when asked to talk about it – the ensuing conversation was priceless.

elephant journal Jan 6, 2010 10:20pm

via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

I saw this and thought it was kind of lame. It made you think and I agree with what they said, but the overall impression was[n't] anything special

I laughed out loud when he got to Chapter 6. Fabulous.

elephant journal Jan 6, 2010 10:20pm

I mean, I agree with Paul.

anonymous Jan 6, 2010 10:17pm

I lol'd.

elephant journal Jan 6, 2010 10:16pm

I agree generally, K, well-expressed. This "review," and our posting of it, may be out of line, it's true—but it was basically passed along as something that made me laugh-out-loud.

On a serious note, however, all paths are not, of course, the same. As they say in Buddhism, as well as many other religions that have been time-tested for millenia, spirituality or faith is not to be used to strengthen or perfect one's sense of self. It's meant to expose (and celebrate) reality, which is often difficult and messy as a path. My problem with the Secret is not its positive attitude—which is wonderfully inspiring, a great reminder. My problem is that it sometimes seems pointed toward materialism, or self-deluded happiness. That's a misconception, that we have to "think" or "imagine" our way to happiness. We can actually, through meditation or other tools on other paths, relax into our basic nature, which is fundamentally good. We don't have to fool ourselves, or the universe.

"Deception is aggression," to paraphrase Trungpa Rinpoche.


anonymous Jan 6, 2010 7:34pm

this type of childish mocking makes me heart elephant to the max

anonymous Jan 6, 2010 7:21pm

This type of childish mocking reveals Elephant Mag's concern for conscious living as no more than 100% genuine and not afraid to distance itself from ego-inflating, narcissistic garbage like "The Secret".

anonymous Jan 6, 2010 6:46pm

You have go to be kidding me!

anonymous Jan 6, 2010 6:01pm

This type of childish mocking reveals Elephant Mag's concern for conscious living as no more than a fashion statement. How embarrassing.

    elephant journal Jan 6, 2010 10:10pm

    I agree.

    anonymous Jan 6, 2010 10:18pm

    Conscious living includes critical thinking. If it takes a satirical tone so much the better.

    elephant journal Jan 6, 2010 10:22pm

    I agree with Paul.

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