The Secret (2006 film)
|Directed by||Drew Heriot|
|Produced by||Rhonda Byrne (Executive Producer), Paul Harrington (Producer)|
Prime Time Productions|
Dragon 8 PR (Original Banned Edition)
The Secret is a 2006 film consisting of a series of interviews designed to demonstrate the New Thought claim that everything one wants or needs can be satisfied by believing in an outcome, repeatedly thinking about it, and maintaining positive emotional states to "attract" the desired outcome.
The censored version of the film and the subsequent publication of the book of the same name attracted interest from media figures such as Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Larry King. It has also received a great deal of controversy and criticism for its claims, and has been parodied in TV shows.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 Teachers of the law of attraction
- 3 Historical foundations in New Thought ideas
- 4 Production
- 5 Marketing
- 6 The book
- 7 Reception
- 8 Legal controversies
- 9 Releases
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
The Secret, described as a self-help film, uses a documentary format to present a concept titled "law of attraction". As described in the film, the "Law of Attraction" hypothesis posits that feelings and thoughts can attract events, feelings, and experiences, from the workings of the cosmos to interactions among individuals in their physical, emotional, and professional affairs. The film also suggests that there has been a strong tendency by those in positions of power to keep this central principle hidden from the public.
Teachers of the law of attraction
The film includes interviews with individuals who describe themselves as professionals and authors in the fields of quantum physics, psychology, metaphysics, coaching, theology, philosophy, finance, feng shui, medicine, and personal development, who are called "secret teachers". Some of them, on their Web sites, promote the film and their connection to it. A few of the persons' brief appearances do not speak of the "law of attraction" in their interviews, so their support of the concepts is assumed by viewers.
People who focus on the law of attraction who are interviewed in the film and have later been featured on prominent American TV shows are John Assaraf, Michael Beckwith, John Demartini, Bob Proctor, Jack Canfield, James Arthur Ray, Joseph Vitale, Lisa Nichols, Marie Diamond, and John Gray. Others involved in the film who have spoken of their strong belief in the Law of Attraction, include Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks (original edition only), Mike Dooley, David Schirmer, and Marci Shimoff. Others interviewed in the film who voice very similar views without using the phrase "law of attraction" include Lee Brower (Board Member of WorldVuer), Hale Dwoskin, Bob Doyle, Cathy Goodman, Morris E. Goodman, John Hagelin, Bill Harris, Ben Johnson, Loral Langemeier, Denis Waitley, Neale Donald Walsch, John Gray and Fred Alan Wolf. NY Times bestselling authors of The Passion Test, Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood, are not featured in the film, but they arranged 36 of the 52 interviews done for the movie. The Attwoods are included in the credits at the end of the film.
Historical foundations in New Thought ideas
- Essentially, The Secret is ... touting the principles of New Thought and Unity Christianity. The teachers of The Secret have been regulars on New Thought/Unity circuit for years — now more "prosperous" than ever.
The New Thought book The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles, the source Rhonda Byrne cites as inspiration for the film, was preceded by numerous other New Thought books, including the 1906 book Thought Vibration or the law of attraction in the Thought World by William Walker Atkinson, editor of New Thought magazine. Other New Thought books Byrne is purported to have read include self-help authors like Prentice Mulford's 19th-century Thoughts Are Things; and Robert Collier's Secret of the Ages from 1926.
The opening sequences of the film portray the alleged history of The Secret — showing:
- In a sequence titled, "The Secret was Buried:"
- Followed by a sequence titled, "The Secret was Coveted:"
- The ornate title page of the 1906 book The Life Power and How To Use It by Elizabeth Towne
- A Knight Templar giving the scroll to a Catholic priest.
- Scroll with text of the Emerald Tablet being analyzed by alchemist St. Germain.
- A drawing of the Azoth of the Philosophers in the alchemist' shop.
- Followed by a sequence titled, "The Secret was Suppressed:"
- A series of brief scenes of the business elite meeting in a contemporary board room.
Portrayal of ideas preceding the New Thought movement
The Secret website cites the Emerald Tablet, said to be written by Hermes Trismegistus (purportedly a "secret teacher"), as... one of the most important historical documents known to mankind". Byrne posits that the earliest trace of "the secret" occurred in the Emerald Tablet, followed much later by the Rosicrucians — a "secret order that espoused many of the ideas of The Secret." Mention is made of Victor Hugo and Ludwig van Beethoven's supposed membership in the order as well as Isaac Newton's purported work in translating the tablet. However, no evidence has been shown to support this claim.
Carolyn Sackariason of the Aspen Times, when commenting about Byrne's intention to share The Secret with the world, identifies the Rosicrucians as keepers of The Secret:
- "The Mastery of Life" (a Rosicrucian teaching similar to The Secret) is not difficult to grasp, but the secret of the Rosicrucian tradition has been protected and preserved for thousands of years, shown only to those who have proven a true desire to know.
Neither the words "Emerald Tablet" nor "Rosicrucian" are spoken in the film, however, at key transition points the screen image rapidly zooms in on the word "Rosicrucian".
During these transitions a page is seen containing the quote "the Rosicrucians were a 'secret' Order.
Elements in opening sequences
Many elements pass quickly in the cinematic, historical sequences at the beginning of the film and are not explained or otherwise mentioned in the film (listed in the order in which they appear — excepting Rosicrucian element):
|Page in a book, showing chapter title: "The World's Greatest Discovery"||From book: The Secret of the Ages, by Robert Collier (appears during the first minute of the film)||Reported to be one of the books Byrne read in researching the law of attraction.|
|Book: A History of Egypt||Shown for less than a second||Byrne's voice-over: "I began tracing the secret..."|
|An illustration in A History of Egypt||Labeled, "Fig 13. The Emerald Tablet"||Initial mention of Emerald Tablet|
|Emerald Tablet||Authored by the "mythical deity," Hermes Trismegistus||The website claims, "perceived as one of the most important historical documents known to mankind"|
|Emerald Tablet||Quote on page "described by greek and roman mystics" ebook at||Several Translations of Emerald Tablet at|
|Scroll||The film shows the text of the Emerald Tablet being copied on to a scroll||The film shows the copy being kept by a priest.|
|Book: The Life Power and How To Use It||A book by Elizabeth Towne, published in 1906; Towne was a New Thought author and publisher; she published works by Wallace Wattles and William Walker Atkinson||First image in the sequence titled, "The Secret was Coveted"|
|Alchemist Saint Germain||Shown probing the secrets of the Emerald Tablet||Alchemy, the transforming of mind into matter.|
|Azoth of the Philosophers||A meditative emblem used by alchemists and first published in 1659||"'Azoth' ... is one of the more arcane names for the One Thing"|
|V.I.T.R.O.L.||L'Azoth des Philosophes, Basil Valentine, Paris, 1659.||see The Philosopher's Stone of Transmutation|
|"Rosicrucian", as text — Note: the word "Rosicrucian" is not spoken in the film.||Appears briefly, 12 times in the film, at 0:22:43, 0:22:50, 0:45:16, 0:53:26, 0:53:30, 0:59:41, 0:59:45/46, 1:08:55, 1:08:59, 1:15:36, and 1:22:14||Described by the official website as "...a legendary and secret order that espoused many of the ideas of The Secret"|
|Page from Book "Thoth as he played many important roles in third dimension. He is the Alchemist" completely quoted at||hardly visible as fire is burning||Byrne's voice-over: "I couldn't believe the people..."|
The film was created by Prime Time Productions of Melbourne, Australia with Rhonda Byrne, executive producer; Paul Harrington, producer; and Drew Heriot, director. Gozer Media of Collingwood, a suburb of Melbourne, is the design house responsible for the visual style and feel of the film and book. Byrne's company TS Production LLC, a Hungarian company, is responsible for marketing and distribution of the film and book. Byrne commented about the research she did prior to making the film:
- So I sat down and did a huge list of everything I had read ... and when I finished the list I handed it to them [the film production team]. They said that's impossible, you couldn't read that many books in a year, two years, and I had read all of those books in two and a half weeks - and well, that's The Secret.
Byrne's inspiration for creating The Secret came from reading the 1910 book The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles. The film was done as a project for Australia's Nine Network. Nine put up less than 25% of the $3 million project with additional funding from mortgaging Byrne's home and from an investment by Bob Rainone, "a former Internet executive in Chicago". Rainone became the CEO of one of Byrne's companies, The Secret LLC, and is described by Byrne as "delivered to us from heaven".
Shooting of the interviews was done in July and August 2005 with editing "effectively completed by Christmas time". About 55 teachers and authors were interviewed at locations including Chicago, Aspen, Alaska, and a Mexican Riviera cruise (interviewing Esther Hicks). The film uses 24 of these teachers in the "Extended Edition" of the film. The first edition featured a 25th teacher, Esther Hicks, known "as the most prominent interpreter of the Law of Attraction". Since the first release of the DVD, Esther Hicks declined to continue with the project. Her 10% share of sales netted the Hickses $500,000. As a result of this, scenes with Esther Hicks, are instead narrated by Lisa Nichols and Marci Shimoff. No other "secret teachers" received compensation for their appearance in the film — revealed by Bob Proctor in an interview on Nightline.
Betsy Chasse, one of the producers, directors, and screenwriters for What the Bleep Do We Know!? interviewed Paul Harrington, the co-producer of The Secret. In the interview, Harrington gave this description of Byrne's production methods: "We used the law of attraction during the making of the program. We went very unconventional, in terms of scheduling and budgeting. We allowed things to come to us... We just had faith that things would come to us."
Channel Nine, after viewing the completed film, chose to not broadcast it. A new contract was negotiated with all DVD sales going to Byrne's companies (Prime Time and The Secret LLC). In hindsight, Len Downs of Channel Nine commented, "we looked at it and we didn't deem it as having broad, mass appeal". The film was eventually broadcast by Channel Nine at 10:30 pm on Saturday, 3 February 2007. Downs reported that "it didn't do all that well". The film was sold on DVD and also broadcast online through streaming media.
The film has been described as a "slick repackaging" of the Law of Attraction, a concept originating in the New Thought ideas of the late 19th century. In producing the film, the law was intentionally "packaged" with a focus on "wealth enhancement" — differing from the more spiritual orientation of the New Thought Movement. One of the film's backers stated, "we desired to hit the masses, and money is the number one thing on the masses' minds". A review in salon.com described the packaging of the products related to the film as having "a look... that conjures a 'Da Vinci Code' aesthetic, full of pretty faux parchment, quill-and-ink fonts and wax seals.
Choosing to package the film's theme as a "secret" has been called an important component of the film's popularity. Donavin Bennes, a buyer who specializes in metaphysics for Borders Books, stated "We all want to be in on a secret. But to present it as the secret, that was brilliant." 
The movie was advertised on the Internet using "tease" advertising and viral marketing; techniques in which the specific details of The Secret were not revealed. Additionally, Prime Time Productions granted written permission to individuals or companies, via application at the official site, to provide free screenings of the film to public audiences. Optionally, the DVD may be sold at these screenings.
A companion book by Rhonda Byrne was published called The Secret (Simon & Schuster, 2006). The Secret was featured on two episodes of Oprah — and as the film reached number one on the Amazon DVD chart in March 2007, the book version of The Secret reached number one on The New York Times bestseller list. For much of February through April 2007, both the book and the DVD versions were #1 or #2 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders. Simon & Schuster released a second printing of 2 million copies of The Secret — "the biggest order for a second printing in its history," while Time reported brisk sales of the DVD through New Age bookstores, and New Thought churches, such as Unity and Agape International Spiritual Center. Like the movie, the book has also experienced a great deal of controversy and criticism for its claims, and has been parodied on several TV shows.
Several critics wrote about the Secret in relation to self-help in general. Julie Mason, of the Ottawa Citizen, wrote that word of mouth about the film spread through Pilates classes, "get-rich-quick websites" and personal-motivation blogs. Jane Lampman, of the Christian Science Monitor, described The Secret as a brand promoting Secret-related teachers, seminars and retreats. According to Jill Culora, of the New York Post, fans of The Secret have posted on a wide range of blogs and Web forums accounts of how shifting from negative to positive thoughts made big improvements in their lives.
Jerry Adler of Newsweek called it "breathless pizzazz" for a tired self-help genre; "emphatically cinematic" and "driven by images and emotions rather than logic"; a blend of Tony Robbins and The Da Vinci Code; and "the Unsolved Mysteries of infomercials".
American TV host Oprah Winfrey is a proponent of the film and later the book. On The Larry King Show she said that the message of The Secret is the message she's been trying to share with the world on her show for the past 21 years. Author Rhonda Byrne was later invited to her show along people who vow by The Secret.
Some critics were bothered by the film's focus on questionable wealth enhancement, including promises that the universe will give you material goods "like having the universe as your catalog."
According to a March 2007 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, the central idea of the film "has [no] basis in scientific reality", despite invoking scientific concepts.
UFC former champion Conor McGregor claims The Secret played a role in his rise to fame. McGregor has said his first reaction on watching the DVD version was: “This is bullshit — but then something clicked for me.” He and girlfriend Dee Devlin, who manages his finances, started focusing on small things they wanted, such as a parking space closest to the doors of a local shopping centre. He said: “We would be driving to the shop and visualising the exact car park space. And then we’d be able to get it every time.” They then began visualizing wealth, fame and championships.
The Australian Nine Network's A Current Affair—an Australian TV tabloid show—on 14 May 2007 segment titled, "The Secret Stoush", interviews Australian author Vanessa J. Bonnette. In the interview, Bonnette—when referring to the book version of The Secret—asserts, "that is my work and Rhonda Byrne has stolen it". Bonnette and a reporter compare her book to Byrne's on the use of the "TV transmission" analogy. Bonnette's book, Empowered for the New Era (2003 Empowered For Life) was released in 2007 as a second edition. Bonnette, at her website, claims 100 instances of plagiarism. Byrne's marketing company, TS Production LLC, has responded with a lawsuit to restrain Bonnette. From the statement of claim:
- Analogy between frequency transmissions, including a television station transmission via a frequency, and humans and human thought is used by many persons in the field of self-help and motivation.
David Schirmer, the "investment guru"—and only Australian—in the film, has his business activities under investigation by the Australian Securities Investment Commission (ASIC). This was reported on 1 June 2007 by A Current Affair in a segment titled "The Secret Con" with those words and The Secret logo appearing in the background behind the newscaster. The show initially confronted Schirmer in a segment titled "The Secret Exposed", aired on 28 May 2007, with complaints from people who say Schirmer owed them money.
On February 12, 2008 Bob Proctor's company, LifeSuccess Productions, L.L.C. successfully sued "investment guru" David Schirmer, his wife Lorna, and their several companies (including LifeSuccess Pacific Rim PTY LTD, Schirmer Financial Management PTY LTD, LifeSuccess Productions PTY LTD, Excellence in Marketing PTY LTD, and Wealth By Choice PTY LTC) for "misleading or deceptive conduct".
Paul Harrington, the producer for the film, reported that broadcast TV—instead of the Internet—was initially planned as the medium for the first release:
- ...we had as our vision to go out to the whole world in 24 hours on television. It was a grand vision, which we weren't able to pull off for various reasons. We were trying to force, to control the "how" of the universe, when what we were supposed to do was just focus on the vision...
The Secret premiere was broadcast through the Internet on March 23, 2006 using Vividas technology. It is still available either on a pay-per-view basis via streaming media (or on DVD at the official site for the film). A new extended edition of The Secret was released to the public on October 1, 2006. The Australian television premiere was on Nine Network on Saturday, February 3, 2007.
Future releases and spin-offs
Plans were announced in 2007 to produce a sequel to The Secret and a spin-off TV series. It has also been announced that a fiction film is in production based on The Secret, which will star Katie Holmes as the main character.
- Law of attraction (New Thought)
- New Thought
- ONE: The Movie
- Propositional attitude
- Self-fulfilling prophecy
- The Science of Getting Rich
- Think and Grow Rich
- Wishful thinking
- Quantum mysticism
- Dale Carnegie
- Napoleon Hill
- Internal locus of control
- Affect heuristic
- As a Man Thinketh
- Attitude (psychology)
- Just-world phenomenon
- Magical thinking
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This meditative emblem first published in 1659 as an illustration for the book Azoth of the Philosophers by the legendary German alchemist Basil Valentine. The word 'Azoth' in the title is one of the more arcane names for the One Thing.Use this link for an online extract from the book.
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Gozer worked closely with the producers ... to develop the visual style of the show. We supplied all visual effects and other graphical components for the show and its subsidiaries.— navigate web: motion > The Secret
- Byrne, Rhonda (November 2006) . "Acknowledgments". The Secret. Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words. p. xiv. ISBN 978-1-58270-170-7.
Goze Media, for the creation of the superb graphics and for impregnating them with the feeling of The Secret.
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I have reason to believe that Byrne has infringed copyright of my work to the order of 100 (plus) citations that constitute as plagiarism according to Australian Copyright Council...
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