The Secret has hit the Philippines. Not only did it get a big blurb in the NYTimes supplement carried by the largest Manila paper, but all the movie star types are breathless over it.

You can’t get away from it. It’s on Oprah, it’s on Tech websites. It’s on my Podcast of the day recommendation.

So in the season of Lent, when Christians are being demonized as “christianists” by the left, and the press is full of claims that Jesus’ bones have been found (i.e. that Christianity is bunk at best and a fraud at the worst), we are seeing positive articles and TV shows about the latest pseudo religious fad.

What’s “The Secret”? Old fashioned self help with a twist.

Most of us who are docs spend time helping people get a balance in their lives, and half of the illnesses we see are made worse by behavior or negative attitudes.

And a hundred years ago, a good athiestic psychologist, William James, described it. Back then it was called “The Mind Cure”. He called it “healthy minded religion, where a person finds forgiveness and power by taking charge of their life and finding God. Indeed, much of this idea is parallel with the life changes of “born again” religion and optimistic trust that “everything works for the good for those who love God and follow his purpose”.

So what is the difference between what James describes and “the Secret”? God.

The problem with the secret is that it goes beyond a tool to help in life. It becomes the reason we live and we ourselves are the center of the universe, so what we think and want we can get. In other words, it is more than being positive, it is the idea that if we are positive, we have absolute power. We think and feel and concentrate on a goal, and we are succesful, we are smart, we are rich, we are thin and attractive.
And on Oprah, we see many people gushing on how these ideas improve their lives. But the improvement was financial, health, and relationship success. Is that all there is in life?

If you believe your thoughts can bring success, the dirty little secret is that it means you don’t have to feel sorry for those who suffer, because it’s their own fault. If you believe sickness is from negative thoughts, you don’t have to help those who are sick, because they really want to be sick.

A skeptic would call this type of thinking bosh. A scientist would call it fantasy. A good psychiatirist would call it narcissism. A pious Christian would call it making your own self a false God. A Hindu, would call this “egotism” that would prevent enlightenment. Native Americans would condemn this as selfishness that destroys the harmony of the world.
But as a human being who has seen a lot of poverty and suffering in the world, seeing rich people blather on about how their thoughts can bring them the things they want in life, I can only echo the words of a Jewish carpenter, who asked the question that Oprah does not: What the hell good is money, power, and success if you lose your soul in the process?

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician who lives in the rural Philippines. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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