Emily Yoffe Learns ‘The Secret’

Emily Yoffe at Slate.com recently wrote a piece for the Human Guinea Pig column regarding The Secret. I haven’t read the book myself, but I did read The Power of Intention which I am to understand is a similar concept. Emily retells her two month account of following the book’s advice and finds inspiration for her comic genius.

As self-absorbed as I already am, I loved the permission the book gave to sink deeper into a Jacuzzi of megalomania. As The Secret points out: “You are the master of the Universe. You are the heir to the kingdom. You are the perfection of Life.” Just as I’d always suspected!

She exemplifies my biggest problems with the latest sweeping fad in intentional living. Materialism is one of the more obvious ones. I realize that these books include other ideas for using intention, but I suspect that the authors and marketers all know that pushing grandiose ideas of wealth attainment are sure-fire methods to lock-in people’s attention.

The appeal is obvious. Forget education, effort, performance. Everything you want—money, power, comfortable shoes—is yours simply by wanting it enough.

Amy and I talked about it at length. She’s a fervent supporter of the ideas of intention and recognizes this type of energy work, along with many others, as being ancient wisdom that the world has ‘forgotten.’ I agree with caveats. Which is another way of avoiding an actual argument over the details, when at the core we’re saying mostly the same thing. Essentially, we’re both on board with the idea of positive versus negative thinking and the direct effect on your perception and dealings with the world around you.

What I don’t like is the new bubble gum wrapper that’s been applied to the philosophy – I liken it to Yoffe’s discussion on watered-down Eastern philosophy. But it’s hard to make a best seller if you don’t present its teachings in a way that the mass public can understand. Despair.com reminds us that “none of us is as dumb as all of us.” So instead of writing a qualitative essay on setting goals and remaining optimistic – we could even push the energy aspect and explain the sociological effects of our attitude – the author of The Secret and other author’s modern adaptations of age-old concepts have chosen to ‘market’ these concepts to a mass, oft fickle, audience. I can easily see the argument against writing a technical essay on individual energy projection. If you don’t dumb it down some, you’re not getting your message out to people that wouldn’t have otherwise come to these ideas themselves. Unfortunately, I think the only way to teach complex philosophy is to live it. It requires success, failure, and time.

Byrne writes: “A shortcut to manifesting your desires is to see what you want as absolute fact.” … Secret-speak requires this odd future-present construction, which my husband came to call, “sounding like a moron.”

Yoffe captures my concerns about the modern inception of philosophical teachings. Not by coming out and saying it, but by a simple inference from her experiences. I’ll remind my readers that I’m not bashing these teachings, only the glossy cover and Cliff’s Notes by which so many establish their adoption.

I’ve Got The Secret: What happened when I followed the best-selling book’s advice for two months. — Emily Yoffe