The Nearest Book

April 9, 2008

(edited 4-11-08)

This is a Book Tag from Loni’s Argyle Socks:

1. Pick up the nearest book (at least 123 pages).
2. Turn to page 123.
3. Find the 5th sentence
4. Post the 5th sentence on your blog.
5. Tag 5 people. (Like Loni, consider yourself tagged, if you feel like it.)

Nearest Book: The Varieties of Religious Experience (Which I am currently reading, and loving, BTW)


5th sentence of the 123rd page:
The adequacy of their message to the mental needs of a large fraction of mankind is what gave force to those earlier gospels.”

Alone and out of context, that sentence isn’t anything of particular interest. In fact, I haven’t even gotten to the 123rd page of that book yet. However, after I went to find the particular sentence this meme required, I started to read some text from the previous page just to see what the context of that sentence was. On the top of page 122, I read this passage:

This system is wholly and exclusively compacted of optimism: “Pessimism leads to weakness. Optimism leads to power.” “Thoughts are things,” as one of the most vigorous mind-cure writers prints in bold type at the bottom of each of his pages; and if your thoughts are of health, youth, vigor, and success, before you know it these things will also be your outward portion. No one can fail of the regenerative influence of optimistic thinking, pertinaciously pursued. Every man owns indefeasibly this inlet to the divine. Fear, on the contrary, and all the contracted and egoistic modes of thought, are inlets to destruction. Most mind-curers here bring in a doctrine that thoughts are “forces,” and that, by virtue of a law that like attracts like, one man’s thoughts draw to themselves as allies all the thoughts of the same character that exist the world over. Thus one gets, by one’s thinking, reinforcements from elsewhere for the realization of one’s desires…”

I was shocked when I read this almost perfect description of people who follow the ideals from the dangerous and ridiculous self-help book, “The Secret”. Now while I think that positive thinking is a generally a great idea, and that pessimism can lead to misery, “The Secret” takes the power of our thoughts to extreme levels. It teaches that if we think about something, it will happen. Literally. For instance, let’s say you wanted a million dollars. Supposedly, if you believe it enough, you’ll magically be given a million dollars by “the universe.” Conversely, if you think negative thoughts, you are “asking” for negative things to happen to you.

It says it’s happens because of “the law of attraction.” The law of attraction is stated in the DVD as: “EVERYTHING that is coming into your life, you are attracting into your life – and it’s attracted to you by virtue of the images you’re holding in your mind – it’s what you’re thinking.” “The Secret” also says that our thoughts are literally magnetic waves that control the universe. It states that we can bring in money and wealth, fulfilling love lives, and health (even cure cancer) simply by imagining, believing in and feeling good about the things we want.

Here’s a few more quotes from the DVD and the book:

“Everything that surrounds you right now in your life, including the things you’re complaining about, you’ve attracted. Now I know at first blush that’s going to be something that you hate to hear. You’re going to immediately say, “I didn’t attract the car accident. I didn’t attract this particular client who gives me a hard time. I didn’t particularly attract the debt.” And I’m here to be a little bit in your face and to say, yes you did attract it.”

“Since I learned The Secret and started applying it to my life, my life has truly become magical – a life everyone dreams of. … I live in a four-and-a-half million-dollar mansion. I have a wife to die for. I get to vacation in all the fabulous spots of the world. … And all of this happens and continues to happen all because of knowing how to apply The Secret.”

“The most common thought that people hold, and I held it too, is that food was responsible for my weight gain. That is a belief that does not serve you, and in my mind now it is complete balderdash! Food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight. Remember, thoughts are primary cause of everything, and the rest is effects from those thoughts. Think perfect thoughts and the result must be perfect weight.”

“The anti-war movement is creating more war, because we are focusing on what we don’t want. Instead we should be pro-peace.”

And finally a quote from the author of the Secret, Rhonda Byrne, regarding the law of attraction and tragedy:

“In a large-scale tragedy, like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, etc., we see that the law of attraction responds to people being at the wrong place at the wrong time because their dominant thoughts were on the same frequency of such events. Now, this doesn’t mean that they thought of the same exact event, but if their dominant thoughts and feelings were in alignment with the energy of fear, separation, powerlessness and having no control over outside circumstances, then that is what they attracted.” 1.

The passage from the book I’m reading wasn’t about “Secret followers”. It was about a spiritual movement called the Mind-Cure or New Thought Movement. What was even more interesting was that the lectures that the book was compiled from, were given in 1901-1902, over 100 years before The so-called “Secret” was published.

I’m sure this isn’t nearly as interesting to most of you as it is to me. But I’ve been a little obsessed with the pervasiveness of this, and other dangerous and extreme philosophies, lately. Well, at least ever since last summer, when I briefly and unknowingly attended a cult (disguised as a self help seminar) that thrived on and taught those philosophies (ie. child abuse victims attracted their abuse with their negative thought patterns.) Yes, a cult. The kind with brainwashing, lovebombing and where everyone follows an “all-knowing” leader. But that’s a story for another time.

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12 Responses to “The Nearest Book”

  1. Loni said

    WOW. That is so funny that it brought you to that, not directly, but still. Very interesting, it makes me want to read that book even more. It’s kind of comforting knowing that idiots existed then as much as now. Sometimes it seems like the world is being taken over by idiot new age fanatics preaching mind-cure, but hearing that people have been fighting this for so long gives me hope. If it didn’t take over the world then, it probably won’t now, even though it may seem like it is at times.

    Now look what ya did, you made me stay up even later. Sheesh.

  2. Cristy said

    So was this cult Oprah? Ha ha ha… just kidding, but seriously… I’m glad to know I’m not the only person leery of this “Secret” thing. Most false things are hidden with lots of truth! I’ve wanted to write a blog about this very same topic but have been a little scared to do so, as know lots of woman are into this whole thing, but maybe you’ve inspired me.

  3. elizabeth said

    re your comment:
    hehe, that’s awesome. Yeah, this is the best time to move to vegas. The housing market is insanely bad, one of the worst in the country..my mom has a little house but this time last year they were going for 238, and one the next street over just sold for 190! That is a big difference in a year, but homes are just sitting with the For Sale signs..so if it does work out and you move there, you’ll probably get a really good deal. Also, if you see one..get a Tropical Smoothie for me. *sniffles* They make the BEST smoothies and there are none here. (they dont use yogurt like all the other places do, which to me seems like cheating). Enjoy your mini inter-vacay. :)

  4. elizabeth said

    ok..now a reply to this post!

    Now, I haven’t read the Secret, nor even really know much about it. But, I do think it’s a big leap to say that thinking positively bring good things and thinking negatively creates bad things does not equate to “child abuse victims bringing it on themselves”. I don’t think in any way these messages are directed at children or people that do not have explicit control over themselves and their enviroment. A child does not have control over where they live, who their parents are, etc and so if they are abused it is because of factors beyond their control. An adult who has the ability to be in control of their lives (meaning functional in our society) can benefit from thinking positively. I know, for myself, I have the tendency to want to focus on the negative and feel sorry for myself. When I stop myself from doing that, and focus on what is good in my life and what I CAN do, things get better..I SEE those opportunities that I wasn’t looking at before. No magic is involved in someone earning a million dollars, it’s just the fact that they get out and get a different job, or believe in themselves enough to try and sell their artwork or whatever the case.

    There are people who thrive no drama, and who are so wrapped up in all the negative things in their lives, and so they are continuously unhappy. I don’t think it is dangerous to tell people to think positive, and to focus on their dreams and what they want to happen, instead of what is negative and bad in their lives. Now…not everyone is going to earn millions of dollars, and not everyone is going to have the talent to be a rock star or the looks to marry a supermodel, but I think that their lives will improve for the better because they are improving their self-esteem and focusing on what is good in life. Now, obviously I haven’t delved super-deep into anything with the secret or any new-age cults..obviously it can be taken to a new level of needing to follow some type of leader and give over your money and all that craziness, but the basic new-age teachings are hardly dangerous..its mostly hippie love one another type of stuff .

  5. elizabeth said

    Yeah they are in quite a few places in las vegas. http://www.tropicalsmoothie.com has all the locations on there, and I THINK either the one on Charleston or the one on Las Vegas BLVD would be closest to the Tropicana. Either way mapquest it and you’ll find one on your journey..also, if you are driving to Henderson, there will def. be some on the way there, and 2 in Henderson itself. Mmmm, tropical smoothie.

  6. Meisha said

    Cristy:
    HA HA HA! The Oprah cult! I was dumbfounded when I found out she was promoting it. So many people eat up everything she says, it was a little frightening to find out she was promoting The Secret. Glad to know I’m not the only one who’s not a fan of it.
    You should write about it on your blog! Although, I totally understand your reservations. I’ve heard a lot of people say that the book changed their life. How do you attack something they hold so dear, without offending them? How do you convey: “hate the book, love the reader” properly?

    Elizabeth:
    re your comment on my blog re the latest post on my blog:
    Have you ever had a discussion with someone, where it seems like you are disagreeing, but after awhile you realize that you both actually agree, but were just expressing the idea so differently that you didn’t realize it? I don’t know if I’m the only one who has that happen to me, but my point is that I think that that is what happened.
    I think I was a bit hasty when posting my last post, and didn’t explain myself very thoroughly. Sorry! I didn’t mean to come off quite as I did, I hope this clarifies a bit.
    First, in regards to most of what you said: about people,and children specifically, not having complete control over their environment, people working to earn their wealth, and positive thinking being a generally good force in our lives, etc: I completely agree with you. I think that being optimistic is a great thing. And that being overly pessimistic can really make you miserable.
    However, the book “The Secret” teaches a very extreme view of optimism and positive thinking. It’s about a thing they call “the law of attraction.” The law of attraction is stated in the DVD as: “EVERYTHING that is coming into your life, you are attracting into your life – and it’s attracted to you by virtue of the images you’re holding in your mind – it’s what you’re thinking.” It also says that our thoughts are literally magnetic waves that control the universe. It states that we can bring in money and wealth, fulfilling love lives, and health (even cure cancer) simply by imagining, believing in and feeling good about the things we want.
    Here’s a few more quotes from the DVD and the book:
    “Everything that surrounds you right now in your life, including the things you’re complaining about, you’ve attracted. Now I know at first blush that’s going to be something that you hate to hear. You’re going to immediately say, “I didn’t attract the car accident. I didn’t attract this particular client who gives me a hard time. I didn’t particularly attract the debt.” And I’m here to be a little bit in your face and to say, yes you did attract it.”
    “Since I learned The Secret and started applying it to my life, my life has truly become magical – a life everyone dreams of. … I live in a four-and-a-half million-dollar mansion. I have a wife to die for. I get to vacation in all the fabulous spots of the world. … And all of this happens and continues to happen all because of knowing how to apply The Secret.”
    “The most common thought that people hold, and I held it too, is that food was responsible for my weight gain. That is a belief that does not serve you, and in my mind now it is complete balderdash! Food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight. Remember, thoughts are primary cause of everything, and the rest is effects from those thoughts. Think perfect thoughts and the result must be perfect weight.”
    “The anti-war movement is creating more war, because we are focusing on what we don’t want. Instead we should be pro-peace.”
    And finally a quote from the author of the Secret regarding the law of attraction and tragedy:
    “The energy and life of each of us has always been and will always be. In a large-scale tragedy, like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, etc., we see that the law of attraction responds to people being at the wrong place at the wrong time because their dominant thoughts were on the same frequency of such events. Now, this doesn’t mean that they thought of the same exact event, but if their dominant thoughts and feelings were in alignment with the energy of fear, separation, powerlessness and having no control over outside circumstances, then that is what they attracted.”
    Anyway, I’m seriously considering writing a post devoted to critiquing “The Secret”, so I’ll stop there.
    Also, I apologize for lumping all new age theologies together. I meant that I was obsessed lately with extreme new age beliefs that I considered dangerous, not that all or even most new age ideologies are dangerous. I would say it’s just the extreme ones are dangerous. It’s just because the particular cult I had an experience with was into that sort of stuff. I imagine if it was an extreme Christian cult, I would be equally disturbed by extreme Christian theologies that I considered to be dangerous. (Not that I’m not already disturbed by dangerous, extreme Christian beliefs, heh heh.) I love me some Hippie-like peace, love and tolerance. I’ll make some corrections on my last post, and hopefully it will reflect what I meant a little better.

  7. elizabeth said

    yeah, that is definitely extreme “thinking”. I wasn’t upset, I hope I didn’t come across that way. I did debate in high school and so I’m all about presenting my argument but I wasn’t offended or upset..in fact, if I’m really mad over something I tend to NOT say anything cause I know I would say something stupid or get presumptuous. But yeah, I think the secret is a little scientology-skewed where they take a good, generally harmless ideas and turn it into the mothership. haha. I’d love to read your critique on The Secret, sounds like it’ll be very interesting.

  8. Wendy said

    i like your tag thing. hey, how are you feeling?

  9. karyn said

    I found your page courteousy of the LDSWomenblog portal. I love your blog! That Japanese tv show clip is hilarious!!

    I’ll be back. You blog is so worth reading.

    Keep it up!!!

  10. Prospectus said

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation :) Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Prospectus.

  11. Brillig said

    I read The Secret– I find it all a bit fascinating, though perhaps a bit extreme. Anyway, I was popping in to say hi–cuz I haven’t been here (or anywhere) in ages! This is a cool game– I’m reaching for the nearest book now to see what I might find.

  12. Brillig said

    Meisha? knock-knock? Where’d ya go?

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