Letters from Thailand

Over the past few months, three good friends have told me about a book & DVD called ‘The Secret’. Apparently it reveals “The most powerful law in the universe”. Over Christmas, my mum lent me the book, but I was too busy to read it. Then, at the weekend, a friend of mine lent me the DVD and I learnt all about this so-called secret for myself – and even tried it out.

“The most powerful law in the universe” is, according to The Secret, the law of attraction. Basically, anything you want is yours, provided you wish for it hard enough. But, be careful about wishing for what you don’t want, because that’ll come to you too. So, it’s a question of being selective in how you phrase your wishes. For example, “I really mustn’t be late for a meeting”, will ensure that you do actually arrive late. What you should be saying to yourself is, “I really must be on time for this meeting”. The law of attraction, in this case, dictates that you will be on time. How simple is that? And, what’s The Secret?

The Secret was ‘discovered’ by an Australian woman. How The Secret was revealed to her, the DVD does not mention. But, the opening titles are accompanied by a film sequence of an ancient hastily scribbling on a scroll whilst looking desperately over his shoulder. He hands the scroll to someone. A Roman centurion then hides it in a scabbard. Next, the scroll turns up in a church as a cardinal tucks it into his cassock. Finally, we see a bunch of suits around a board table, raising fists and looking a tad angry, implying that this secret has been concealed for years by the church and a wunch of bankers – note to conspiracy theorists: Aren’t there any other groups you could list? I’m getting bored of reading about the same ones all the time.

So, Australian woman decides to do some research (cut to beautifully manicured hands tapping away on a laptop) to see if there are any other people out there who know ‘The Secret’. To her surprise, she comes across a ‘wide range of people’ who not only know about The Secret, but who have practised its ‘tenets’ and achieved boundless joy, success and wealth. It sounded good to me, even if this wide range of people all happened to be from one particular country (where they’d believe anything, apparently.) Philosophers, authors (the Chicken Soup for the Soul guy was the only one I’d heard of but, alas, never read), meta-physicists, doctors, entrepreneurs, and a “visionary” (How good would that look on a C.V.?) they all knew about it, were fabulously wealthy and sounded so happy and fulfilled. Who wouldn’t want to be part of this gang? So, all these people talk about The Secret (my favourite was author, Lisa Nicholls, who had such a wonderful, convincing voice, that if I were an eskimo, I’d buy a freezer from her) and what it has done for them (i.e. make them a shit load of money). All of this is interspersed with quotes from the great and good (so great and good, they don’t need first names) – Buddha, Shakespeare, Einstein, Churchill, Da Vinci, Franklin and Lincoln -to name (or, at least, copy and paste from the Da Vinci Code) just a few ) Which got the skeptic in me thinking, “If this is such a great Secret, then why are these quotes so famous – surely they would have been censored by ‘The Suits’ if they wanted it hidden so much?” As I continued to watch, I realised that everything these people said was not such a huge Secret. It was basically this: Think good thoughts, have positive feelings, then you will have your heart’s desire. Haven’t spiritual/religious books, fairy tales and fables been trying to tell us this over the past several hundred years? Maybe The Secret is the only way to communicate this overtly to a generation of people who either don’t have the inclination, ability or are just too plain lazy (delete as appropriate) to see beyond symbolism and who require the message to be delivered in a more simplistic way?

To be honest, I confess to feeling a wee bit inspired by the message behind The Secret, especially when one member of the ‘cast’ talked about his experiences. This was a man who had survived a horrific plane crash, crushing his spine and losing his diaphragm (therefore, in theory, he should never again have been able to breath unaided), and who doctors decided would spend the rest of his life as a vegetable (his words), yet, through sheer power of mind, managed to walk out of the hospital unaided and without any kind of artificial ventilation, simply because he willed it. Or when a woman, when diagnosed with breast cancer, just (it sounds too simple) convinced herself that she was healthy, stayed positive by watching Charlie Chaplin movies with her husband (to laugh as much as possible) and, when she went for a scan three months later, was told that the cancer had simply vanished.

In fact, it was just the production of the film itself that brought out the cynic in me. Everything seemed a bit too convenient. We are told that wishes are not automatically granted (oh, really?!). Here we see a man in his living room, looking at a postcard from a friend, relative or gloating rival, who was holidaying in Kenya/India/Thailand – wherever, anyway, there was an elephant on the front of the postcard. Clearly he wishes that he had the chance to be near one of these wonderful beasts. Suddenly (unfortunately the puff of smoke was missing), an elephant appears in his living room (how’s that for symbolism! click) Cut to my new heroine, Lisa Nicholls, who tells us in that reassuring voice of hers, that “Hey, don’t worry! You’ll be pleased to know that the good thing about this law of the universe is that it’s not immediate – there’s a time delay!” (Thank fcuk for that! I wouldn’t want Johnny Depp appearing in my bed one morning if I hadn’t shaved my legs first.) As she says this, we see elephant man, wiping his brow and shoveling elephant shit from his carpet – brilliant! Another favourite illustration of how The Secret works was the young boy and the new bike: Young boy really wants a new bike. He cuts out pictures of the bike from a catalogue, goes to bed at night visualising himself riding the bike. Then one day, there’s a knock at the door. He opens it, and there, standing with a gleaming, new bike is an old man (presumably his granddad, but equally possibly the local pervert he encountered in the park). Oh joy! I also liked the little snippets of film depicting a South East Asian woman laughing ecstatically while working her guts out in a rice paddy (maybe it was filmed a few years ago, the day after Thaksin Shinawatra had visited and gifted her with 500 baht for her vote), a smiling indigenous South American toddler (complete with distended stomach, courtesy of malnutrition) handing some much needed food to a friend and an old Tibetan nun happily staring out from what looked like barred windows (who says Chinese prisons are barbaric?)

Despite the poor production, I did feel somewhat inspired to try out The Secret for myself, and I had the perfect opportunity to experiment: This weekend, I was obliged to go out of town on a work-related chore (but that’s a whole other story!) So, I took the three steps to achieving what I wanted to achieve: I asked the universe, “Please can I stay at home this weekend, laze by the pool and go out to meet my friends for a drink on Saturday?” I believed that I would be staying at home, lazing by the pool and going out to meet my friends for a drink on Saturday. I received, or was open to receiving signs from the universe that I was on the right path and that staying at home, lazing by the pool and going out to meet my friends would “become manifest.” The day after I began to do this, I heard from someone that my presence at this event may not be necessary. Twenty minutes later it was confirmed. I was amazed, this was really working! I had mastered The Secret! Anyway, I found out today that my presence is, indeed, required and that I most definitely will not spend this weekend at home, lazing by the pool or going out to meet my friends for a drink. Hence the skepticism, which was there already: Let’s face it, the “most powerful law in the universe” is just another name for God. The tenets of The Secret (ask; believe; receive) is just another way of saying prayer. And, in a world where many people seem to need religion, it does have the benefit of youth, and has had, therefore, less time for its message to be misinterpreted and corrupted, but I’m sure they said that about more established religions one or two thousand years ago. I just hope that in a few hundred years, out of all the people who participated in this project, Lisa Nicholls is the one who is chosen as the true Messiah/Prophet/Guru/Bodhisattva/Daugher of God(dess) of the whole shebang.

Finally, just because this one attempt failed (perhaps I got something wrong for once?) it doesn’t mean I won’t try again: Before the end of the year, I will wake up one morning with a manicure like the lady in the film, stubble-free legs, and Johnny Depp lying next to me. If that doesn’t happen, then I’ll gladly revert to cynical agnosticism.


et cetera