I suppose it was inevitable that someone would ask me what I thought of The Secret.
To tell you the truth, I had no idea what the big hubbub was about; I don't have cable and I avoid the mainstream news like the plague that it is, so I'm a bit out of the loop on all the latest from the Church of Oprah. I had heard a bit here and a bit there on the radio ("Call in and tell us if The Secret has been working for you!"), but when asked, I had to look it up on Wikipedia.
Now, I can't really give an informed opinion here because I haven't seen it and have no intention of seeing it, but I can tell you how I feel about the general idea of it.
For the uninitiated, The Secret is this DVD being heavily circulated, well, everywhere, that teaches the Law of Attraction, which is the power of positive thinking dressed in New Millennium drag. According to the DVD, all you have to do to get whatever you want is think you will. Furthermore, this "secret" has been hushed up by a vast conspiracy (of course!) but passed down via a network of "Secret Teachers" over the centuries including Carl Jung and Albert Einstein.
Wow, just like Wicca!
(Smell that? Yes, it's sarcasm.)
Okay. I have a couple of comments here.
First of all, this is a mildly clever marketing ploy that is doing very, very well--the people who created The Secret are obviously advanced practitioners, given all the money they're making selling a metaphysical panacaea (or a placebo, depending on your take on it). The way it's being sold, through viral marketing and sponsored screenings which of course sell copies of the DVD, means that people think they're really stumbling onto something esoteric when it's as manufactured as the Beany Babies fad.
Look at what they're selling. Everything you want is right within your grasp, and you don't have to work for it. Right there it's obvious Americans are going to eat it up. Add in a huge conspiracy involving the Church and government and you have a guaranteed hit in our DaVinci-Code-saturated culture. As I have observed from living in Austin for ten years, people love to think they're being subversive, especially if it involves no effort on their part.
On the other hand, the Law of Attraction itself cannot be so easily dismissed. If you practice magic at all, if you have witnessed the power of prayer at all, you know that the Law of Attraction is, at least in part, real. If you open yourself up to miracles, if you put your intention out there that good things are going to come your way, they are far more likely to than if you close your mind to possibility and dwell in cynicism. Not to oversimplify quantum physics (anyone who actually works in the field will tell you how dumbed-down the popular conception of it is), but if you're expecting to see a particle, you'll see a particle; if you expect to see a wave, you see a wave.
That said, the makers of The Secret are kind of leaving out a very important aspect of all of this. Remember that old joke about the man who prays to God every night for fifty years to win the lottery, and finally God says to him, "Look, dude, I want to help you, but you have to buy a ticket first!"
Any Witch worth his salt knows that intention, while absolutely paramount, is not enough on its own. You must act in accord. Your intention opens the door to success, but if you just sit in your living room waiting for money to fall out of the sky, chances are it won't. You have to get up, get your hands dirty. Once you set your intention and put your desires into the universe, you have helped clear the way for those desires to find you; but you still have to get off your ass and do the legwork.
One of my favorite quotes, which has become a personal magical law for me, is by Gael Baudino, who wrote my favorite novel, Strands of Starlight, which has done more to influence my view of magic and Deity than any nonfiction I have ever read. In it, the Elves she has created are Goddess-worshippers, and they see the universe as an endless interconnected web of strands of possibility and probability, called the Greater Dance. One of the Elves said, "Nothing is impossible. There are merely differing degrees of probability." It's a simple statement, but I took it to heart.
It is my experience that magic is the art of influencing probability. It is possible that, sitting here at my desk, Eddie Izzard will appear and bring me falafel. Is it probable? Not really. That particular strand of the Dance is pretty faint. There might be things I could do to increase the likelihood that it will happen, but in the end, if I want falafel, there are other strands I could put my energy into that will have a more probable positive result, up to and including getting my own damn falafel. Sitting and reciting affirmations for things that are grossly improbable may eventually yield the improbable, but is that really how you want to spend your life, wishing it away?
Still and all, sometimes the gods do hand you what you want seemingly without effort, even when you don't really act like you deserve it. This is called grace, and is born out of Deity's love for its creation. The universe offers us fantastic abundance, but this grace, while available to everyone regardless of religious affiliation, will only go so far before Deity says, "Okay, I dropped a new job in your lap, I made sure your friend would be available to drive you to work--hell, I even gave you falafel! It's your turn; you do something to make your life better...oh, wait, that's too much trouble? Okay, time for a house fire/IRS audit/plague of frogs."
If you take and take and take from Deity, not only are you setting yourself up for an abrupt and possibly hilarious clue-by-four, you're being extremely ungrateful and more than a little rude. The Goddess ain't your bitch. Living a magical life is hard work, as well it should be--if our evolution was as easy as "open up and say aaaaaaah," why would we bother to incarnate at all? Why not just hang out in the aether saying aaaaaaah for all eternity like a baby bird?
So, The Secret is only half a secret, and really it's no secret at all. I'm sure that it has created some great results for people who have never been exposed to such an idea before (and I can't even conceive of people out there who haven't, but obviously they exist, which is a bit scary when you think about it); I have no doubt, however, that for a great many proponents of The Secret, eventually all that sitting around thinking positive will become The Frustration, then The Fuck It, then The Dollar DVD Sale at Amazon.com.