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Wayne Bessen

A secret for suckers

New age charlatan: Is Rhonda Byrne making millions by peddling false miracles?
Only one year ago, author Rhonda Byrne’s life was a mess. However, all that changed when she discovered a little secret: A sucker is born every minute and people will shell out money if you tell them exactly what they want to hear.

Today, Byrne’s life has turned around. She has a number one best-selling book, “The Secret,” which flogs the bizarre notion that if you suppress bad thoughts and place your finger on the “feeling happy” button, life will be a utopia.

“You can think your way to the perfect state of health, the perfect body, the perfect weight and eternal youth,” she writes in her loopy tome. “‘The Secret’ is the law of attraction. Everything that’s coming into your life you are attracting into your life. Imperfect thoughts are the cause of all of humanity’s ills, including disease, poverty and unhappiness.”

The great irony is that Byrne was correct on the big picture: one can accomplish greatness only by envisioning great things. The author was on the mark, as well, by suggesting that the mind can be trained to tap into a plentiful source of creativity. She was also right to point out that people could improve their health through an optimistic outlook. Unfortunately, Byrne’s book is one of breathtaking irrationality and stunning hubris that largely offsets her more illuminating advice. It is difficult to know whether her impetus to pen the book comes from a metaphysical breakthrough or a nervous breakdown.

For example, she makes the wild claim that through the power of positive thinking she abandoned her reading glasses and restored perfect vision in only three days!

“It is as easy to heal a pimple as a disease,” Byrne simplistically jots down. “You cannot catch anything unless you think you can.”

Indeed, her attitude towards disease is cruel and appalling. She quotes Bob Proctor, author of “You Were Born Rich,” who says, “Disease cannot live in a body that’s in a healthy emotional state.”

This awful message essentially tells children that if they (or their parents) get sick, they brought it on themselves. Byrne is really suggesting that the thousands of gay men who died of AIDS passed away because they had bad attitudes. She seems not to consider that illness is caused by viruses and bacteria or from unfortunate circumstances. If one is born in Chernobyl, for instance, they have an increased risk of dying of cancer, no matter how steadfastly they push the happy button.

Byrne also crosses the line when she attacks sick people who acknowledge their diseases.
“You are also inviting illness if you are listening to people talking about their illnesses,” remarks Byrne. According to this twisted logic, Elizabeth Edwards and Tony Snow are placing the lives of millions of people at risk by discussing their cancer.

Incredibly, Byrne goes on to quote a so-called “teacher” who blames a gay bashing victim for causing his own troubles because he had a negative attitude. I suppose Matthew Shepard’s biggest sin was he wasn’t happy-go-lucky enough to ward off the thugs that murdered him.
Most outrageous, the author even blames the victims of genocide by claiming they had to be on “the same frequency as the event.” Sure, millions of Jews were on the Holocaust frequency and Rwandans were on the “machete me to death” channel.

The sad secret is that this bestseller is just another slick form of “drink the kool-ade” fundamentalism. The main difference is that God had his name changed to “The Universe.”
Like the Bible, this book will transform many lives for the better. However, it will also be abused and do grave harm, not to mention line the pockets of a New Age charlatan who is making millions by peddling false miracles.

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