Why “The Secret” Doesn’t Work and Why You Should be Glad it Doesn’t

In 2006, a DVD called The Secret was released. The DVD, which later spawned a book of the same name, purported to reveal the “law of attraction,” a so-called secret teaching that had been handed down through the ages. This secret, which has attracted the interest of Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, and millions of others, claims that there is a “universal intelligence” that will manifest our desires. In other words, our thoughts can create real world events.

The idea that God is a genie ready to respond to our whims is all at once seductive, juvenile, and almost immediately falsifiable. If you doubt the latter, buy a lottery ticket tonight, and see how far “the secret” will get you.

In Disneyland, from 1957 until 1993, there was a ride called the Motor Boat Cruise. You piloted a boat down a waterway. You never hit the rocks or other obstacles because you were not really steering. Sooner or later on the ride you made a wrong, even dangerous, turn; but the boat kept going in the right direction. Nonetheless, it would take children quite a while to realize that they were not steering.

Wayne Liquorman uses this ride as a metaphor for our lives. He asks,

Now, is it not extraordinary, that through this whole process, it never occurs to you, the thought never enters your mind, that this wheel isn’t connected to anything? Despite all the evidence to the contrary! You look at your life, all your intentions, all of the times that you were absolutely certain of what it was that you wanted to do. And then you worked so hard and diligently to do them. And your life went that way. Time and time again, your best efforts did not yield the desired results. And yet you say, “I’m the master of my destiny. I choose what I want to do.” But your wheel isn’t connected to anything! And yet you don’t see it! How is this possible?

I would like to take a stab at answering Wayne’s question, “How is this possible?” Chances are that most readers of this blog have a standard of living that is higher than most people who have ever lived on this planet. More often than not, things have gone reasonably well in our lives. And, as the boat ride story illustrates, it is natural to assume that this is the result of our efforts to control the world and prevent the myriad of unfavorable outcomes that are possible.

The ancients believed that the earth was the center of the universe. We laugh at them and then turn around and place our ego at the center. Desires to control our environment and events are somewhat shared by almost every ego. Let us be glad that reality is not controlled by our egos.

The runaway success of The Secret is predicated on the idea that we understand our own best interests. This idea is clearly absurd when looked at by any perspective other than our ego. To be sure, our ego has its particular view of what our best interests are. But at the top of the ego’s list is the desire that it be perpetuated. The ego wants to make sure that we will never take a good look inside and see that in each of us is another voice that we can listen too. That voice is not dominated by the ego’s petty aims and desires. That voice does not believe that happiness can be achieved by a new car or bigger house. That voice does not believe that God is a genie who will reward us for thinking “good” thoughts.

If you look back with honesty over your life, you can recall many events that—although when they occurred they seemed to be unfortunate—worked in your interest. Similarly, events that at the time they occurred seemed wonderful to you led to unfortunate outcomes further down the road.

Let me suggest an alternative to “The Secret”—become more spiritually receptive. This receptivity begins with interest, not in getting more of what our ego wants, but interest in being the highest expression of who we truly are.

To that end, George Barnard Shaw offered sound advice:

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.


16 Responses to Why “The Secret” Doesn’t Work and Why You Should be Glad it Doesn’t

  1. John Curtis says:

    The Secret is the latest and by far the worst example of a HIGHLY profitable trend where self-help gurus with fabricated new age titles and little relevant education, credentials or legitimate expertise brainwash us into believing that they know what is best for us, our marriages and our families.

    Often their only contribution to society is introducing some exotic sounding, new age philosophy. However, they often cleverly form an incestuous group of like-minded “experts” who cross-promote each other by swearing their success is due to following the beliefs of another member of their “cult!” All the while, they ply the airwaves jockeying for an ever-larger audience by appearing in the national media to garner third-party endorsements.

    The Self-Help Movement has become the Self-Destruct Movement by diminishing or destroying our critical thinking skills to choose and evolve on our own. We have given up the freedom to build healthy lives, marriages and families based on our unique history and life experience. Instead many victims, blinded to the value of their own life experiences, are attracted to the latest secret in self-help, in an attempt to find out what they should think, feel and how they should act… this is the definition of a cult.

    The solution is a return to our (common) senses! The best way out of this learned “self-helplessness” is to go cold turkey. Stop following ALL self-help gurus now. Begin, instead, to reclaim your natural, God-given ability to think for yourself. The common sense that was once readily available to all of us is still there free of charge and waiting to be applied to just about any challenge we might face in life… all you have to do is use it.

    Please, let’s all work together to stop the flock of “sheepeople” who blindly move from one UNPROVEN concept to the next, looking for the answers to life’s challenges that you already possess and that is the OBVIOUS!

  2. Thank you for your comments John.

    Although as you and I clearly state there is a downside to books like The Secret, there is an upside too. For some this may be their first little hint of the idea that they can go back to their mind and make another choice. They may have walked through life thinking that they were victims of external circumstances and lived a life that took little responsibility as a consequence.

    Of course the essential choice to make is not to try and control the world and get what you want. But some who start with The Secret will outgrow such silliness. Others as you say will just move to the next fad.

  3. Hi Barry,
    I love this post about The Secret. Byron Katie wrote a whole newsletter about it. “There is a Secret”: can I absolutely know that it is true? How do I react when I believe there is a secret (and I can’t find it)? Who would I be withuot this belief?

    It is so good to have people asking themselves in different ways if, what we believe because others tell us, if it is true for them; for who they really are. As Ramesh says: “People want carrots when they start spirituality. They want to have something”. And the truth is, Nirvana means extinction of all concept, thoughts and ideas. And that extinction gives you peace of mind. That’s all :-).

  4. Bas says:

    I agree. The Secret is just a marketing hype selling watered down pseudo-philosophical pop culture materialistic dreams.

    It’s the easy (read: lazy) way.

  5. P. says:

    Apart from that fact that “the secret” is also a “scientific” fact….
    If you actually went about proving what “the secret” says…
    You would Discover ALL the proof you would ever need
    So check the facts! Do the experiement!
    And actually figure it out for yourself… Im sure you will be very grateful you did!

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for this great post. I hope the word continues to get out as to what a harmful, theologically/philosophically poor pseudo-scientific book this is.

  7. Hahahah. My mom is like, “read this book if you do anythign”, yet your last paragraph 100% describes my mom’s “talk” be spiritually receptive. She has everyone reading this book. I just got it today reading it on the bus ride home and was like “blah blah blah believe in yourself” and that’s about all I read. Another self-help “cool” looking book with good marketing behind it to sell the idea. It does say however you attract negativity if you are negative…and I think that is why I actually read your posts. There I said it. I enjoy sometimes your negativity on the world and feed off it attracting my negativity. I use to be very positive then after 9 years of lost hope as an entrepreneur not hitting my own goals and dreams and constantly steering off course I’ve become more neutrally thinking on what I can realistically obtain coming from no money and no real eduction. I do believe though if you go after something long enough even with detours you can obtain it even if you need to rob a bank 😉

  8. Ninja,

    I’m puzzled why you think that pointing out that our ego’s petty desires do not control the world, is negative? Actually I’m giving you back the real power–namely to decide how you interpret your experiences.

  9. Edward Tagg says:

    The reason that the secret doesn’t work consistently is that you manifest your reality from your dominant world view, and this is usually disfunctional from child hood issues that you have not yet healed.

    Therefore all the positive attitude in the world will not help you manifest if you are harbouring a deep subconscious resentment towards your parents for not loving you appropritely.

    What is needed is forgiveness.

    Having lots of money or being born into money is frequently a soul choice for those souls who are less evolved. They may make money, but will usually loose it, and have to work on their emotional issues. Look at many hollywood and rock stars.

    Higher souls tend to be born into povety and hardship, and spend their lives healing themselves, and only gain money after much healing and enlightenment. They make money only as a corollary to enlightenment, and only as and when they need it.

    In sumary, if you have tried the secret and failed, you need to do years of inner child healing and forgiveness towards your parents, and then things might change, and only if your emotional world view is that is deep reverent love towards yourself and humanity. Otherwise, money is just a test, and a level of attachment to transcend…..

    • Nicole says:


      This post is right on.. and exactly the message that I needed right now; I’m coming out of a period of intense self reflection, my ‘phoenix process’ where I felt as if I’ve been through a fire, but have benefited greatly from it and have accomplished a lot of healing, and feel as if I’m making progress toward my life purpose. Your post has put a lot into perspective, made it all a bit more bearable…

      • Edward Tagg says:

        Dear Nicole,
        I am pleased you got something out of my post. I am only too happy to provide loving guidance. I am a channel of Mother Mary and am an Enlightened Spiritual Teacher, who has done a huge amount of emotional healing on myself and others, so if you want further info you can contact me on edwardtagg@yahoo.com, because everyones case is highly individual, but I am pleased because “The Secret” is getting people thinking very deeply, bringing them to their personal trigger point…

  10. Britt says:

    Thanks for this article. As pertinent now as it was a few years back. I’m including a link to this on my blog.


  11. Jonathan says:

    The reason the Secret doesn’t work is because it isn’t true. We don’t “manifest” anything with our thoughts. There is absolutely NO evidence.

    10 years ago I believed in this sort of thing and I kept a diary of things I asked for. I always believed I would receive them. Today, I can confirm that not a single one of these things has come true and I have taken action to try and bring them into reality. They are all feasible and realistic.

    So, there’s my experience. I’d be a fool to ignore such a clear lesson from life.

  12. The truth says:

    Tell me this. You buy a Ferrari, you seem to see them everywhere. Is this because you attract them into your life or is it because you notice them more? The law of attraction does work for sure! But can we control it? no of course not! We cannot delude ourself. If you are in a positive mind set you will feel these positive things from a subconscious level. Then you will get what you want. In order to do this without fake mood making you must give your mind what it truly wants. Once you give your mind what it wants your productivity will increase and you will detach yourself. Just give your mind 15-20 peace 2 times a day. Give it what it wants and you will be laughing.

  13. the secret believer says:

    your too negative, just try for once too get a little joy in all of your lives

  14. The secret truth says:

    The secret is very much true you guys are really negative,if people want to believe let them my opion I do believe because I only strive for the best hypocrites I love my life and the people in it..yeahhhhhhhh 😉

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