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Monday, November 19, 2007

This week at Fred Small tries 'The Secret.'

The experts it features are fake, the science is questionable, and not one of the quotes it attributes to Ralph Waldo Emerson can be found in his work — but, Fred Small writes, the extremely popular film and book about positive thinking The Secret isn't entirely bunk. What do you think?

From the archives for this Thanksgiving week: Galen Guengerich offers a Unitarian Universalist theology of gratitude and Kimberly French writes about the Pilgrim roots of the UU congregation in Plymouth.

In the news, Don Skinner reports that a UU congregation in Oregon has planted a parking lot. Jane Greer reports that All Souls Church in Washington DC is sponsoring an exhibit honoring 186 years of clergy activism. (The news blog, Unitarian Universalists in the Media, took a break last week.)

Copyright © 2007 by Philocrites | Posted 19 November 2007 at 8:46 AM

Previous: 'American Transcendentalism' watch: Early reviews.
Next: How to have a Puritan Thanksgiving.



Joel Monka:

November 19, 2007 01:10 PM | Permalink for this comment

I've said it before: "The Secret" is witchcraft lite, for people who are afraid of the word "witch". Stripped of the gobbledegook, it's a semi-secular version of traditional spellcasting, using much of the same techniques and even language of Aleister Crowley and Gardner. The only real difference is that the secret replaces divinities with the worship of human conciousness itself, a concept more akin to modern Satanism.


November 19, 2007 03:40 PM | Permalink for this comment

As someone with a Ph.D in real astrophysics, I am always disheartened when UUs quote fake science to make religious points. Is the spritual argument so weak that it needs that kind of support? Small quotes John Assaraf's scientific ideas as supporting the Seventh Principle. If Assaraf's ideas are baloney, does that mean that the Seventh Principle is baloney too?

Having been raised an anti-supernaturalist Unitarian, I am surprised that so many people see little difference between UUism and New Thought. My reaction tends to be "Emerald Tablet! Yikes!". But a number of people go back and forth between our church and the local New Thought temple. They really think we are the same. Maybe its the Emerson cult.

Desmond Ravenstone:

November 19, 2007 09:19 PM | Permalink for this comment

What bothers me about The Secret is how it proposes that belief and mood alone are enough to improve one's life and achieve one's goal's.

Hey, even Tinkerbelle needed the kiddies to clap their hands. And Dorothy had to click the heels of those ruby slippers to get home.

Of course, our society is filled with such quick fixes. Don't change your eating habits and exercise more -- just take this miracle diet pill. Want to be rich and successful? Attend this powerful seminar at a hundred dollars a head (and now you know how the seminar leader got rich)! Not to mention the "prosperity gospel" of so many charismatic churches. Now we have the ultimate commercio-magical solution: buy this book, read its fluffy contents, and believe!

This is not to say that there is no place for optimism and hope in our thinking, feeling and expressing. They can act as a booster shot to our sense of motivation, and even help us be more creative in finding solutions. But we need to take care not to cross the line into deluding ourselves and abandoning the actual work needed to get where we want to be.


November 20, 2007 08:41 AM | Permalink for this comment

I thought Fred Small's article was a nicely balanced review of the "Secret." I especially like the positive-thinking take away, which to me is neither a secret nor magic, just common sense.

I saw "The Secret" unveiled on Oprah one afternoon, and I was aghast at how just plain silly it was. My experience with New Thought was positive, but I couldn't buy into the underlying philosophy. It didn't seem to me to be terribly different than say, special prayer cloths, or other superstitious actions.


November 24, 2007 03:14 PM | Permalink for this comment

Fred Small hits the nail squarely on the head: first looking askance at The Secret, then taking a moment to try it on.

Most any spiritual tradition or philosophy can seem strange at first.

Pragmatically, if anyone exposed to this does a little more focusing, a little more intentional living, and gives themselves and others a little more kindness, is that a bad thing?


November 28, 2007 11:10 PM | Permalink for this comment

Elizabeth reads Fred Small's essay, but concludes that, in fact, The Secret really is entirely bunk.

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