Shame on The Secret?

Shame on The Secret?

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss and expose the truths, lies and recent shame from “The Secret” – five years after its release.

First a quick update:

“Fame – why do some stars thrive while others meltdown?”
Watch the TV interview I gave to The Morning Show Australia about the pitfalls of fame and the motivations to become a celebrity:

“What led the people in James Ray’s warrior retreat to stay in the sweat lodge when they knew they were in danger?”
Watch the interview I gave to TruTV In Session with Vinnie Politan about self-help Guru and Law of Attraction teacher and author, James Ray, who is on trial for the reckless manslaughter of 3 people in a sweat lodge during one of his retreats.

“Dating at a price”
Read my quotes and insights in the New York Daily News about a new dating site where women set their price for men who want to date them:

Now, let’s talk about the book and movie “The Secret” – has it done more harm than good? Was it just a scam?

In 2006, Rhonda Byrne released “The Secret”, a DVD and later a book which, after being featured on Oprah topped the New York Times Bestseller list.

Its message is that your thoughts and visualizations create your reality and that by changing your thoughts and the imagery in your mind, you can change your world and, of course, become rich and wealthy.

Yes, your thoughts affect your life, your world and your outcome but they alone do not determine or create 100% of your reality.

The challenge with “The Secret’s” premise is that instead of empowering you into thinking you can change your life, it actually undermines you by trying to convince you that you are to blame for every single thing that happens in your life – that you attracted it or you created it by your thoughts or the pictures in your mind.

On December 26, 2004, The Indian Ocean Earthquake triggered tsunamis that killed over 230,000 people in fourteen countries. Rhonda Byrne argued that natural disasters strike those “on the same frequency as the event” and implied the tsunami victims could have spared themselves. Does the same principle apply to the 800 people that died from landslides in Brazil in January 2011 or the 14,000 people that died in the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan in March 2011? Did the Jews attract the Holocaust to themselves? Are they to blame for it? Did the people in the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 attract their own death? Is a 2 year-old baby that starves to death in Africa to blame?

How do all of these ‘victims’ create their own reality? What are the thoughts, images and pictures that create the death of a baby in Africa? How does a child that is raped bring it upon him or herself?

Of course, large populations – cities and nations have a consciousness (the combination of thoughts, feelings, attitudes and beliefs) but cultural consciousness which can result in crime, war, disease or the toppling of a corrupt regime (the revolution in Egypt in February 2011) is not the same as a natural disaster (flood, tornado, hurricane, volcanic eruption, earthquake, or landslide.) Is Rhonda Byrne (and all of the teachers in The Secret) saying that the people of Japan, in March 2011, collectively had sufficient negative thoughts and pictures in their head as to cause the earth’s plates to move and break causing the sea floor to rise by over ten feet and thus causing tsunamis that would kill thousands of people, cause extreme radiation and a possible nuclear meltdown?

And what about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; whose thoughts and visualizations are to blame for that? Which people had thoughts and Vision Boards with pictures of dead birds, dolphins and fish?

And if people create every one of these disasters, then what about all of the New Age people who pray and meditate on a daily basis to raise the consciousness of the earth and to bring about peace, love and harmony? Are their thoughts and pictures weaker than those of everyone else?

The premise that we create every single moment in our life (including natural disasters) is a simple yet arrogant attempt to create a sense of security, to explain why ‘bad’ things happen, to ease our fear, chronic pain and suffering and, to satisfy our ego that we are in control at every moment.

“The Secret” though was a big hit because it promised the average person – instant wealth, health and riches; all you had to do was create a Vision Board (known as Treasure Mapping in the 1970s – clippings and pictures of the things you want in life) and voila, all of your heart’s desires would come true. According to “The Secret”, you didn’t need any qualifications, any hard work or even any real action, other than fantasizing about what you want.

This promise tapped into the desire for an instant fix, instant gratification – the get-rich-quick scheme or mentality. And the emotional excitement surrounding the possibility of being able to instantly transform your life and solve your problems in such an easy and simple manner appealed to millions of people around the world.

But five years later, The Secret is a victim of its own teachings.

This week, I gave an interview to “In Session” on TruTV to share my insights and expertise about the reasons people paid $10,000 for a “Spiritual Warrior” Retreat which resulted in the deaths of 3 people, and how so many people allowed themselves to be led in such dangerous and ultimately tragic exercises.

Interestingly, the person facing 3 counts of reckless manslaughter, the leader of that retreat, is a featured teacher in The Secret – James Arthur Ray.

One blogger, “Spirituality is No Excuse”, claims James Ray has shamed his fellow teachers of the Law of Attraction and “The Secret” when he:

1. Causes four needless deaths [another woman died in an earlier retreat by James Ray]
2. Finds himself clapped in leg-irons and being paraded before the media
3. Faces up to 39 years in jail for a triple manslaughter charge
4. Gets his bail reduced on the grounds that he’s broke and incapable of raising the cash
5. Bases his entire legal defense on the idea that it was all a ‘tragic accident’ and he is not responsible for creating his own reality using The Power of his intentions”

So, did James Ray focus his daily thoughts on being charged with the deaths of 3 people? Did he have a Vision Board with pictures of him in an orange prison uniform or sitting in a court on manslaughter charges? Did the other teachers in “The Secret” also create this with their thoughts and visions? What were their thoughts and visions that created the reality of bringing shame and exposing their teachings and “The Secret” as highly flawed?

Of course, not.

James Ray created his reality the way others before him have – ego, greed, narcissism and lust for power and control.

Ego: By arrogantly conducting specialized programs and exercises himself rather than using their respective experts; the Sweat Lodge is a Native American ritual designed for spiritual experience and not for profit – and always led by an experienced American Indian.

Greed: By charging $10,000 plus food and lodging when he could have charged less and made it available to more people.

Narcissism: By promoting himself as superior and worthy of adulation – “In Spiritual Warrior, you’ll build upon what you started in Practical Mysticism. You’ll become privy to techniques (many kept secret for dozens of generations) that I searched out in the mountains of Peru, the jungles of the Amazon (and a few other places I don’t care to recall.)”

Power & control: By using psychological techniques to gain control and authority over the attendees; testimony in the trial reveals many of the attendees felt afraid, humiliated or intimidated by James Ray. Studies also reveal that unchecked power corrupts by transforming the person into thinking the rules no longer apply to him and he can do whatever he wants: following the tragedy, the County Sheriff Steve Waugh said James Ray refused to speak with authorities and had since left the state.

Yes, “The Secret” appealed to and promoted greed, vanity and materialism. But it left out the truly significant elements necessary for real success and happiness – love, action, humility, contribution and service to others, and, pride and fulfillment gained from a sense of real achievement which is only attained by action and application – by using and applying all of your talents, skills and abilities – not just visualization.

While many people within the New Age (and New Thought) movement promote Law of Attraction and “Setting your Intention” they forget that the real intention – the motivation – is highly critical because it creates your subsequent actions and results. In other words, was James Ray’s deepest intention to help these people or to profit and elevate himself by selling and creating the hottest sweat lodge ever led by the one and only person who holds all of the answers?

On “The Secret’s” fifth birthday, James Ray does prove “The Secret” to be true on one level: some of us can actually create our own reality (not by our Vision Board) but by our actions and motivations; there is after all, a price for everything – including ego, selfishness and greed. The price for focusing on taking is so much higher than the price and rewards of focusing on giving back.

For more insights into “The Secret”, read my newsletters:

September 2010 – “How The Secret failed” 

August 2007 – “Destructive Behavior and the secret to get what you want”

April 2007 – “Oprah and The Secret”

April 2007 – “The Secret Part 2”

You can comment on this newsletter by visiting my blog or directly to this article.

If you have received this newsletter as a forward and would like to receive all of my newsletters please enter your email address on the home page.

I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

Facebook Comments



5 replies
  1. Avatar
    Ruth Leilani Smith-Tellez says:

    Patrick, Afrter reading your article regarding “The Secret” I say shame on you! Your comments took parts of the book out of context, adding your own interpretation, many times insinuating the opposite of what “The Secret” teaches. By no means does it focus its teachings on material wealth alone. You query at one point whether hundreds or thousands of people had powerful negative thoughts of dead birds, etc. in the Gulf oil tragedy that overpowered the thoughts of millions of people of good will who pray and act daily for peace and justice. “The Secret” and Rhonda Byrne’s subsequent book, “The Power” which you conveniently did not mention in your artice, clearly teach that what you refer to as negative thoughts are in reality the absence of positive thoughts; they do not exercise power as such. Of course people need to visualize, and they want to have enough money to live and help others, but if one is happy and passionate about something, it becomes the source of their wealth and the work involved no longer feels like work. It does not imply that using one’s talents and abilities have nothing to do with the fruits of one’s labor. Don’t you make your living by encouraging people to be positive and help our fellow man? Your arguments fall flat when held up to the teachings shared in “The Secret” and especially in “The Power” which emphasizes love and personal generosity almost exclusively. The only thing left out of the conversation that has omnipotence is the Will of God and His plan for mankind. Why innocent people suffer and die is a mystery, but the overall plan for mankind is peace and justice as promised in all holy books, and is in the process of being realized even if it is not reported daily by the media. A religion is much more than just a set of beliefs. It must be revealed by someone chosen by God who claims to be sent by God, reveals a holy book, is the first to obey its laws, ispersecuted, the followers are also persecuted severely, and whose prophecies all come true. I find your comments to reflect incomplete research and misunderstanding of the messages in these books. They are not my religion, they only echo the truths I have found repeated in the holy books of all major religions.

    • Avatar
      Patrick Wanis says:

      Dear Ruth,
      thank you for sharing your perspective.
      I did not mention Rhonda Byrne’s subsequent book “The Power” because my article was about the book and movie “The Secret.” I was responding to and critiquing the book “The Secret.”

      You wrote:

      “Your comments took parts of the book out of context, adding your own interpretation, many times insinuating the opposite of what “The Secret” teaches. By no means does it focus its teachings on material wealth alone. ”

      These are not simply my interpretations as evidenced below. You also wrote:
      “I find your comments to reflect incomplete research and misunderstanding of the messages in these books.” I wrote only about the one movie and book “The Secret” and here is the research which supports my contentions:

      The official “Product Description” on reads:

      “The Secret contains wisdom from modern-day teachers — men and women who have used it to achieve health, wealth, and happiness. By applying the knowledge of The Secret, they bring to light compelling stories of eradicating disease, ACQUIRING MASSIVE WEALTH, overcoming obstacles, and achieving what many would regard as impossible. ”

      I put in upper case “acquiring massive wealth.” And the word ‘eradicate’ means to “put an end to” – so they are stating that these people have eradicated disease – they have ended disease? Which diseases have they eradicated and ended? Cancer? AIDS?

      On the same website, Publisher’s Weekly wrote:

      “The book argues that fleeting negative thoughts are powerful enough to create terminal illness, poverty and even widespread disasters.”

      The Wikipedia page for “The Secret” states:

      “According to the online magazine Religion Dispatches, Byrne argued that natural disasters strike those “on the same frequency as the event” and implied the 2006 tsunami victims could have spared themselves.”
      ( )

      On the official website for The Secret, it is stated:

      “Everything is possible, nothing is impossible. There are no limits. Whatever you can dream of can be yours, when you use The Secret.”

      Where does Rhonda Byrne mention in The Secret anything about God, His will or giving back, love or generosity? It is excellent if she mentions love and generosity in “The Power” but she does not mention it in The Secret and maybe she chose to do so in the second book because of criticisms such as mine datign back to April 2007 that The Secret focused on material wealth and not helping out your brother, love or giving back. Do you recall the part in the movie where it mentions teaching a teenager to visualize getting a bicycle? Is that what we should be teaching teens – more materialism? It did not mention teaching teens love, respect, forgiveness, compassion, service to others; did it?

      [See also my article from April 2007 ( ) where I reveal that there is a key spiritual component missing in The Secret. “This is the flow of life: Giving and receiving. In other words, we will never be fulfilled simply viewing life as taking, taking and taking. Our deep sense of satisfaction and fulfillment comes from contributing to others and adding value to other people’s lives.”]

      Also here are two quotes from The Secret:

      “Make a command to the Universe. Let the Universe know what you want. The universe responds to your thoughts.”
      “The Universe will start to rearrange itself to make it happen for you.”

      What does that mean?

      So, if terrorists choose to think about thoughts of destruction against America, will The Universe respond? Or, does the Universe respond only to positive thoughts – and based on whose definition of positive thoughts?
      What is “The Universe”?

      You also state that in Rhonda Byrnes’ subsequent book “The Power” she says:
      “negative thoughts are in reality the absence of positive thoughts”

      So again, how does that explain the tsunami, 9/11 or the Holocaust? Is it your contention or Rhonda Byrne’s contention that the Jews suffered from such a large absence of positive thoughts that 5 or 6 million of them were killed?

      Finally, you state:

      “Why innocent people suffer and die is a mystery…”

      But, Rhonda Byrne states:

      “Everything is possible, nothing is impossible. There are no limits. Whatever you can dream of can be yours, when you use The Secret.”

      So, according to her, we simply need to use The Secret” and innocent people will no longer suffer since “nothing is impossible” and “The Universe will start to rearrange itself to make it happen for you.”

      All the best,

  2. Avatar
    Life Coach, Annalisa Ellenburg says:

    Dear Patrick,
    Great Points in this article. As an avid reader, fan, and follower of one of the first and great motivational speakers, leaders, pastors, and mentors of human behavior, Norman Vincent Peale, I happen to believe that he, along with other greats of that time inspired this “Secret” way of thinking, and brought to themselves desired results. However, what Ray, and Byrne leave out of the theory, that Peale emphasized, is FAITH in God, and that when we align our thoughts with HIS will for our lives, and HUMBLY ask His favor, and express our desires ‘in HIS will” then we can experience positive outcomes. When the spokemen for THE SECRET speak of sending messages to the UNIVERSE, and disregard the Creator of our Universe and give Him no credit or any leadership role in how things happen – it is then, in my belief, that they are operating out of GREED, SELFISHNESS, AND PROSPERITY thinking verses asking for things from a heart of GIVING MORE, SERVING MORE, and HELPING other’s more. THE FAITH FACTOR basically is missing from the secret, but the idea itself is true, as it is said: ASK and it shall be given unto YOU. People in allignment with GOD (not the universe) is the secret to life….People out of allignment (out of relationship) with God, have a long life ahead as they are in constnat search for THE SECRET…
    Just some Inspirational Coaching points from Coach Annalisa!

    • Avatar
      Patrick Wanis says:

      Dear Annalisa,

      My greatest criticism of The Secret is not just that it claims we are all Gods (creating our own reality) but rather, that its primary focus is on money, and as you pointed out – greed and selfishness. I don’t put “prosperity” into that category because to prosper can refer to love, joy, happiness, health and fulfillment. Read my newsletter about “Overcoming dependence & desperation” from November 2009: ( )

      “The New Age movement was in many ways a reaction to and a rejection of religious dogma and doctrine. However, The New Age movement is simply a metaphor for traditional religious beliefs; the two share similar beliefs simply expressed in different ways. For example, The New Age movement uses the term, “The Universe”, “Spirit”, “Source” etc as a replacement for the term God. It also promotes becoming “one with the Universe” which is the same as promoting to “become close to God.” The New Age movement also teaches:

      * “Ask and the Universe will respond”; this is the same as “ask and pray to God and He will respond”
      * “The Universe is friendly”; this is the same as “God is good”
      * “The Universe is testing me/teaching me, etc”; this is the same as “God is testing me”
      * Law of Attraction: “you get what you think about – ask, believe and receive”; this is the same as the biblical scripture: “Whatever things you ask for in prayer, believing, you shall receive”

      Unfortunately, although many people will be offended and will deny it, The Secret in many ways can be considered as a religion (a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.)
      Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, I believe that our greatest fulfillment comes from serving not from taking.

      All the best,

  3. Avatar
    Jennifer Rodriguez says:


    Great comment on “The Secret” and James Arthur Ray. The fact is that while our thoughts do influence many of our behaviors, we are not “gods” and it is arrogant to believe that we control absolutely everything even with our thoughts. Some things we just can’t control and bad things do happen but most of what happens to us can be turn out positively or be made to have a positive outcome if we maintain a forward-looking attitude and don’t stay stuck in negative energy.

Comments are closed.