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|Directed by||Drew Heriot|
|Produced by||Rhonda Byrne (Executive Producer), Paul Harrington (Producer)|
|Distributed by||Prime Time Productions, Dragon 8 PR (Original Banned Edition)|
|Release dates||March 26, 2006|
|Running time||87 mins|
|Directed by||Drew Heriot|
|Produced by||Rhonda Byrne (Executive Producer), Paul Harrington (Producer)|
|Distributed by||Prime Time Productions, Dragon 8 PR (Original Banned Edition)|
|Release dates||March 26, 2006|
|Running time||87 mins|
The Secret is a 2006 film produced by Prime Time Productions consisting of a series of interviews designed to demonstrate 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 as well as criticism from the mainstream press.
The Secret, described as a self-help film, uses a documentary format to present the Law of Attraction. As described in the film, the "Law of Attraction" principle 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.
The film includes interviews with individuals self-described as well as professionals and authors in the fields of Quantum physics, psychology, metaphysics, coaching, theology, philosophy, finance, feng shui, medicine, and personal development, who are referred to as "secret teachers". Some of these individuals, on their Web sites, promote the film and their connection to it. A few of the individuals with only brief appearances do not specifically speak of the "Law of Attraction" in their interviews, so their support of the concepts is based on viewer assumption.
Individuals 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, Rev. Michael Beckwith, John Demartini, Bob Proctor, Jack Canfield, James Arthur Ray, Joe Vitale, Lisa Nichols, Marie Diamond, and John Gray. Other people 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, Bob Doyle, David Schirmer, and Marci Shimoff. Others interviewed in the film, and who voice very similar views without actually using the phrase "Law of Attraction" include Lee Brower (Board Member of WorldVuer), Hale Dwoskin, Cathy Goodman, Morris E. Goodman, John Hagelin, Bill Harris, Ben Johnson, Loral Langemeier, Denis Waitley, Neale Donald Walsch, and Fred Alan Wolf.
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:
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 solid evidence has been shown proving this.
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:
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.
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:
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, mentioning contractual issues in an open letter posted online. 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 Secret and the specific details of the film 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.
The book has also led to increased sales of similar books.
The Secret has been described as a "self-help phenomenon", a "publishing phenomenon", and a "cultural phenomenon". Some examples of published criticism of the film include "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"
Several critics wrote about the Secret as related to the more general self-help phenomenon. 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 had created major improvements in their lives.
In 2007, The Secret was reportedly being discussed in "e-mails, in chat rooms, around office cubicles, [and] on blind dates". It is recognized as having a broad and varied impact on culture and is likened to a "Hollywood phenomenon".
In the 2007-03-17 episode of Saturday Night Live, cast members spoofed The Secret in a sketch with Oprah Winfrey (Maya Rudolph) interviewing Rhonda Byrne (Amy Poehler). Includes a scene of a man in Darfur being scolded for his lousy attitude. >Saturday Night Live season 32 episode 15 (2007-03-17):
The film was parodied in the Boston Legal episode "Brotherly Love," where Denny Crane tried to use the "Law of Attraction" to draw Raquel Welch to him (he was planning to move on to world peace if successful). Unfortunately, Phyllis Diller was the person he eventually drew in.
On 2007-05-16, the concept was parodied on The Chaser's War on Everything, a satirical comedy program on Australia's ABC network. The show provided an analysis of The Secret, with various themes and theories of the film tested to see if they work in real life, including asking for a parking spot and then pulling into it, despite the fact that there was a car already there, and asking the universe for objects in stores and then just taking them. It was the first subject of the segment "Nut Job of the Week".
Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist Maureen Dowd invoked The Secret while wondering if wishful thinking could lead to a change in the White House. Greg Beato, of Reason, reported: "...if you think really, really hard, say, about vigorously cavorting with Salma Hayek on a soft, fluffy bed of Google Series A preferred stock, you will emit a magnetic signal to the universe that will make your vision a reality."
A parody in MAD magazine issue #480 mocked The Secret and its authors in a fake ad, which included the phrase "Buy your copy today! (Please don't use the teachings of The Secret to wish for a free copy of The Secret)"
The Today Show with Matt Lauer interviewed James Arthur Ray and reported that Byrne had canceled her appearance at the last minute the day of the show, February 27, 2007. The March 25, 2007 edition of Nightline with Cynthia McFadden discussed the universal Law of Attraction and "The Secret" criticism by mainstream institutions with secret teacher Bob Proctor.
Toward the end of season three, episode 5 ("Bill Sussman") of Weeds, U-Turn gives Nancy Botwin a DVD copy of The Secret, which she throws away.
|This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject. (November 2010)|
Catherine Bennett, of the London-based Guardian newspaper touches on themes of greed and blaming the victim. Bennett asserts the film is a "moronic hymn to greed and selfishness" and that it "nastily suggests that victims of catastrophe are the authors of their misfortunes".
Slate Human Guinea Pig, Emily Yoffe, experimented with living according to The Secret's precepts for two months, concluding that the film/book's message was "pernicious drivel." Yoffe found it particularly "repulsive" for its tendency to blame the victim and its suggestion to "not just blame people for their illness, but to shun them, lest you start being affected by their bummer thoughts, too."
Journalist Jeffrey Ressner, reporting in Time, writes that some critics are concerned with the film's attitude toward "using ancient wisdom to acquire material goods." In one example in the film, "a kid who wants a red bicycle cuts out a picture in a catalog, concentrates real hard, and is rewarded with the spiffy two-wheeler."
Jerry Adler of Newsweek notes that despite the film's allusions to conspiratorially suppressed ancient wisdom, the notions presented by the motivational speakers who make up the film's cast have been commonplace for decades. Adler notes that the film is ethically "deplorable," fixating on "a narrow range of middle-class concerns — houses, cars, vacations, followed by health and relationships, with the rest of humanity a very distant sixth." Noting that the scientific foundations of the movie are clearly dubious, the Newsweek article quotes psychologist John Norcross, characterizing it as "pseudoscientific, psychospiritual babble."
In an article for the Chicago Reader, Julia Rickert questions the validity and authenticity of certain quotations attributed by the film to "past secret teachers". The article describes the extensive, unsuccessful efforts by Rickert to verify a quote claimed to be by "secret teacher" Ralph Waldo Emerson — "The secret is the answer to all that has been, all that is, and all that will ever be". Rickert also examines a quotation in the film by Winston Churchill. She claims Byrne has taken it out of context to suggest Churchill held beliefs in accord with The Law of Attraction — "You create your own universe as you go along". Rickert points out that the full context shows that Churchill found such ideas "perfectly useless".
Karin Klein, editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times, called The Secret "just a new spin on the very old (and decidedly not secret) The Power of Positive Thinking [a book by Norman Vincent Peale published in 1952] wedded to 'ask and you shall receive'." The editorial, in one of its strongest criticisms, asserted Rhonda Byrne "took the well-worn ideas of some self-help gurus, customized them for the profoundly lazy, [and] gave them a veneer of mysticism..."
Tony Riazzi, columnist for the Dayton Daily News, also questions the merits of The Secret, calling Byrne's background as a reality TV producer a "red flag." He also said that The Secret's ideas are nothing more than "common sense. Take out the buzzwords and pseudo religious nonsense about what you 'manifest' for yourself, ignore the vague prose and you get the message that thinking positively serves you better than thinking negatively."
ABC News referred to claims that the mind has power over our health as "perhaps the most controversial" in The Secret. They quote Michael Beckwith, founder of Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, California, and one of The Secret "teachers" as saying: "I've seen kidneys regenerated. I've seen cancer resolved." The film features one man who was paralyzed, mute, and on a ventilator after his spine and diaphragm were crushed in an airplane accident. He credits his full recovery to the power of his mind. A similar story is told by another interview whose breast cancer went into spontaneous remission without medical intervention.
Several critics have expressed concern about detrimental effects the film may have on the health and well-being of individuals. Dr. Richard Wender, president of the American Cancer Society, worries that guidelines in the film will prompt others to "reject helpful therapies in favor of positive thinking", even though the film verbally asserts that traditional medicine should be pursued for serious illness. Julia Mckinnell of Canada's Maclean's magazine in a commentary about the film and book titled, "Some people are finding the self-help phenomenon is actually screwing them up", cited several real-life cases of alleged detrimental effects. She closed with a line Oprah used when urging a guest to seek medical attention for cancer: "The Secret is merely a tool; it's not treatment." On the spiritual side, Valerie Reiss, in a review for BeliefNet, expressed concerns that others might get into "head-tripping" on negative thoughts as she did when younger.
Mark Earley—president of Prison Fellowship, a group of ministries founded by Charles Colson — in a commentary titled "New Book, Old Lie", claims "Byrne's hot new trend" repeats "the oldest lie there is — 'You shall be like God'." Earley says this is a prescription for "misery".
USA Today reported on the impact The Secret has had on New Thought churches, such as First Unity Church of St. Petersburg, Florida, led by Rev. Temple Hayes. The church uses the film and book as a teaching tool. James Trapp, CEO of the Association of Unity Churches, calls The Secret "superficial" and Ms. Hayes amends The Secret's promise of everything-is-yours-to-have with "...you may face some pain along the way. Nothing comes easy."
Prof. John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, in a commentary at his blog, calls the film "the newest packaging for gnosticism". He portrays the film's message as just another choice among many religions to choose from, not the "Lowest Common Denominator of all religions" and notes:
Stackhouse finds the good in the film "genuinely nourishing" and the bad "genuinely toxic". He makes it clear he is "...all for proper positive thinking" — the alleged good aspect of the film — and finds fault with Christian culture for not being better at it:
The toxins are, in Stackhouse's eyes, a spiritually lethal concoction. The identified "poisons" include:
The Law of Attraction is the essence of the film's message. The film's presentation of the law has been criticized for claiming "quantum physics is a part of the Law", for not getting it right according to New Thought practitioners, and for mistakenly usurping the role of God. It can also be viewed as a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy a type of cause and effect also known as Causality.
A number of critics wrote satirical comments about society's relationship to the film.
Some critics find much to fault in the film and nevertheless see it as providing positive opportunities or benefits for society.
On April 2007 actor and Hollywood publicist Ricarte Rivera, founder of Dragon 8 PR received a letter from The Secret LLC attorneys. Mr. Rivera, who is the first public relations agent to receive a January 3, 2007 call from Harpo Productions about featuring The Secret, was accused of "effectively distributing" their copyrighted material to the public losing them millions of dollars. None of the parties has ever pursued legal action against each other.
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:
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".
Film footage featuring Esther Hicks was removed from the later "Extended Edition" of The Secret after film's creator Rhonda Byrne rescinded the original contract covering Hicks' participation, and asked that Hicks relinquish her "intellectual property rights in these areas forever". In an open letter posted on the internet, Hicks stated that she had been "uncomfortable with what felt to us like a rather aggressive marketing campaign," and that ultimately Abraham gave her the following advice: "Whenever you are given an ultimatum that says, 'if you don't do this, then we will have to do such and such,' it is best that you just let it go and move on. Otherwise there is always another, and this, and this, and this?"
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:
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 theSecret.tv, 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.
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