Even the Devils Also Believe in Themselves

December 5, 2007 | 28 comments

I was flipping through a book called The Secret at the bookstore. I don’t want to criticize the book itself too much, since I haven’t read it in detail. But there seem to be an awful lot of bestsellers, prosperity gospellers, and seminar gurus out there, all preaching that “you are the way, the truth, and the life.”

Update: The definitive review here.

28 Responses to Even the Devils Also Believe in Themselves

  1. mlu on December 5, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    What else is there?

  2. Ardis Parshall on December 5, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    Yeah. Somehow most of us — thank goodness — outgrew this at age 3, with perhaps a temporary return to it in our teenage years.

  3. David Grua on December 5, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    I’m not sure if this is the same book, but here’s a review from the wider blogoshpere.

  4. m&m on December 5, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    I have run into more than one person who sees this book as the gospel put in a nutshell. I couldn’t get past the secularism and humanism in the book, with only some afterthought to God at best. Scripture principles were mixed in, sure, but you have to look past a lot of garbage to get there.

  5. Adam Greenwood on December 5, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    That’s the one, Grua.

  6. mlu on December 5, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    The gospel without Gethsemene.

  7. Todd Wood on December 5, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    I don’t know anything about this particular book.

    But your next statement – very good. Man-centered religion stinks.

  8. David Grua on December 5, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Thought so, Greenwood.

  9. Deep Sea on December 5, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Uh-oh. Someone should have told Russell M. Nelson before he wrote “The Power Within Us” (1988).

  10. Ivan Wolfe on December 5, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    The Secret is “Most Pernicious and Socially Dangerous Book Since Mein Kampf”

    No, I’m not kidding, and don’t invoke Godwin’s law. To prove my point, see where I got the quote above and read the following from Jana Riess:


    Speaking of wars, famines, natural disasters . . . [according to The Secret if you are a victim of any of those things, that is also entirely your fault. You summoned the famine to yourself because you were afraid of starving, see? And 9/11 victims must have been so worried about terrorism that they became vulnerable to terrorist attack. Byrne says flat out that people who perish in large-scale tragedies had it coming because they were participating in negative thinking on a massive human scale. So Jews in the 1930s were targeted not because of other people’s racism, but because of their own pessimism and oy-my-aching-pogrom mentality.

  11. Ivan Wolfe on December 5, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    that didn’t quite format as it should have. My html skill stink.

  12. Ivan Wolfe on December 5, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    as does my grammar.

  13. East Coast on December 5, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

    (Wish I said it but have to attribute it to H L Mencken.)

  14. Keith on December 5, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    Whatever it’s current packaging, this is an old philosophy. I have in my office (and I use bring this to the D&C classes I teach when we talk about Section 1 and Pres. Kimball’s article “The False Gods We Worship) a book published in 1967 with the title: the god I want. People get a kick out of the title, but then we all get kicked again when we realize we tend to do this sort of thing in our own way.

  15. East Coast on December 5, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    Whoops. I need to clarify that I meant the Mencken quote (#13) to apply to the people buying this book and its ideas, not the previous poster (#12)!!!

  16. Ana on December 5, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    It’s so dangerous. There is an author read in some LDS circles, Carol Tuttle, who preaches similar stuff and it is just pernicious. I am not sure whether this particular author is LDS but I had her book foisted on me in a Deseret Book book club (yikes, I know …) at a really inopportune and vulnerable time earlier this year. Fortunately I realized this whole thing is anti-submission-to-God’s-will and therefore, really, anti-Christ.

  17. Bob on December 5, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    #16: “….anti-submission-to-God’s-will and therefore, really, anti-Christ.”.
    I am not understanding this statement. Isn’t Christ Plan Free Will, and the Devil’s Plan..Submission. (Sorry for the curtness, but I did get my question in, in one line.)

  18. Adam Greenwood on December 5, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    Christ’s plan is voluntary submission, the Devil’s is coerced submission.

    It is written, “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ.”

  19. Bob on December 5, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    #18: I will accept that. But I am not sure it cancels out ” Anti-submission”.

  20. Bookslinger on December 6, 2007 at 3:49 am

    Bits and pieces from _The Secret_ can be correlated to gospel doctrine. Though I’m not sure what overall direction the book is leading its readers.

    The Apostle Paul wrote:

    Rom. 8: 28
    28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

    All things, good and bad, work for the good of them who love God. An omniscient omnipotent God allows all things, good and bad, to happen. He allows bad things to happen to us for our good. Some of us go through a painful Gethsemane. Modern GA’s have often talked about the purifying effect of suffering. In other words, we often “need” bad things to happen to us, for the over-all or long-term good that those experiences bring.

    Jana Riess grabbed the wrong end of the stick. Attitudes don’t magically cause things to happen. I don’t think that’s what the book is about. But attitudes and beliefs affect one’s words and behaviors. An attitude is a belief, and belief is faith, and faith determines action. Faith is a principle of action.

    Reiss was mocking the Secret’s author much as people mock believers in Christ about faith today, sort of like a “okay, if I pay my tithing, I won’t get fired, and I’ll get a surprise check in the mail?” type of snide remark.

    There is something to “the law of attraction”. It’s somehow related to the law of the harvest, reaping what you sow.

  21. Ivan Wolfe on December 6, 2007 at 9:59 am

    So Bookslinger, when Byrne says flat out that people who perish in large-scale tragedies had it coming because they were participating in negative thinking on a massive human scale – was Jana Reiss inaccurate, or is that just “part of the law of attraction”?

  22. Adam Greenwood on December 6, 2007 at 11:06 am

    I will accept that. But I am not sure it cancels out ” Anti-submission”.

    Sir, though the devil may have wanted at one time to coerce our submission to God, that ship has sailed. He now wants to trick us into not voluntarily submitting to God and his Christ, which perforce means that we submit to him instead.

  23. jjohnsen on December 6, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    The Secret is a religious book, it recently became a major part of the Church of Oprah, with viewers gasping in ecstasy while Oprah told them how the secrets in The Secret are part of the reason she’s a billionaire. If you imagine it, your willpower will make it true!!!!!


  24. Bookslinger on December 6, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Ivan: Did the Israelites “have it coming” when the Babylonians conquered them?
    Did the Nephites “have it coming” when the Lamanites destroyed them?
    Did the people who died in Noah’s flood “have it coming” ?
    Did the Canaanites who were wiped out by Joshua and the Israelites “have it coming” ?

    According to the scriptures, and in the aggregate, the answer is yes.


    Did any innocent people die or go into slavery in the Babylonian conquest? Yes.
    Did any innocent people die in the flood? Yes.
    Did any innocent Canaanites die when the Israelites moved in and wiped them out under Joshua? Yes.
    Did any innocent Nephites (like Mormon) die in the final Lamanite conquest? Yes.

    GA’s have always said that the innocent suffer along with the wicked in any tragedy.

    But the scriptures make it clear, that the ante-diluvians, the Canaanites, the Israelites, and the Nephites had their chance to survive as a whole, and they blew it because they did not repent. They did not change their behavior. And is not behavior determined by our beliefs and attitudes?

    In the aggregate, the scriptures make clear that those societies brought it on themselves by not repenting. Their whole belief system and attitudes (ie of continuing in sin and not keeping the commandments) led to Heavenly father bringing destruction upon them.

    Perhaps that is one flaw that “The Secret” is not making clear. That attitudes mean nothing if not put into action through behaviors. Or maybe the scoffers are just not making the connection between atittudes and behaviors.

    That is what the agnostic/atheist scoffers of religion do to us and the scriptures. They ask “Did your god kill people because they didn’t believe in him?” No, he didn’t kill them off _just_ because they didn’t believe. But, their unbelief led to gross wickedness, and they were killed because of their gross wickedness. We can’t get away from what the scriptures plainly say about what happens when a group of people “ripens in iniquity.” Nor do the scriptures _guarantee_ temporal destruction in response to all wickedness, neither in the aggregate, nor in the individual. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. We have no absolute guarantees that rewards/punishments and felicity/misery happen in this life.

    I think Riess is trying to incorrectly force an absolute interpretation upon the “law of attraction” that does not allow for the real life variances between what can happen in the aggregate and what can happen in the individual. Nor does the Secret’s author convey a universality or absoluteness that detractors like to mock.

    And on a slightly different tack…

    If you read the General Authorities closely, you’ll see bits and pieces of how we sometimes “need” suffering. I’ve even read accounts by cancer patients about how they finally came to know that they “needed” to get cancer. Or in other words, there was a _reason_ for it.

    Not all suffering is for justice’s sake. The need can be for a trial of faith to strengthen it, or as the GA’s often say it can be a _purifying_ or _learning_ experience.

    Even the Doctrine and Covenants explicitly states that the Lord has his hand in _all_ things. And logically, an omniscient and omnipotent God must either _cause_ things to happen, or _allow_ things to happen, or some combination of causation and allowance that fits in with his perfect plan. If God is perfectly intelligent and perfectly loving towards us, then he must have _reasons_ why he causes some good things and some bad things, and why he allows some good things and some bad things.

    We don’t know the reason why God allowed centuries/millenia of pogroms and holocausts. But I have faith that in a future time, when all mysteries are revealed, that we’ll get the bigger picture, and see things as God sees them.

    The Law of Attraction is much more complicated than simple absolutes, or mocking “had it coming” type of remarks.

    I am confident, or at least hope to be, that an omniscient and omnipotent God is capable of providing me the life experiences that I both need and deserve, and that fit in with his overall plan for both me and all his children. Maybe it’s winning the lottery (figuratively speaking), maybe it’s dieing of cancer. But where attitudes and the Law of Attraction fit in, is that if I can learn godly things, and change my attitudes to godly attitudes, and change my behavior to godly ways, in order to be more in line with God’s will, then I _might_ be able to avoid painful lessons. That’s a theme I see often in the Bible and the Book of Mormon: Learn the easy way, or learn the hard way.

    And in regards to our thoughts, words, and deeds, the very things we are to be judged on in the _end_, doesn’t it seem logical that they would have at least have _some_ bearing on the life lessons that God presents us along the way?

    jjohnsen: long before “The Secret” came out, Oprah was on record saying that the tragedies and abuse she suffered as a child were the furnace that shaped her into the adult she is today. She said she didn’t wish those bad things on anyone, but that her great accomplishments as an adult were a result of those life-shaping events. And no, I’m not drawing a direct line between child-abuse and great accomplishments as an adult. A lot of things happened in between that connected the two that don’t normally happen. And yet, those in-between things brought about her success, and in turn the in-between things were brought about by tragedy.

    It wasn’t until I was 45 years old that I realized that some tragedy and abuse that happened when I was 3 eventually led to something positive and important, and that the tragedy was “necessary” in order to avoid worse turns in life.

    Bottom line: “The Secret” or “Law of Attraction” is an imperfect lens through which to look, but it does bring some gospel principles into some kind of focus. LDS should say to believers in those philosophies, like to adherents of all faiths: “Bring whatever good you have, and we’ll give you more.”

  25. Ivan Wolfe on December 6, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Bookslinger -

    well, I can see the attraction to scripture mingled with the philosophies of men.

  26. Bob on December 6, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    #25: Please name the Western philosopher Bookslinger is ‘mingling’. I am not ready for “need to suffer’. I’ll work on it if you tell me to.

  27. Bob on December 6, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    #22: Adam, “the devil may have wanted at one time to coerce …”. #18: “the Devil’s (plan) is coerced submission.”. I guess it come down to what the definition of ‘is’ is.

  28. Jessica on December 8, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    I\’ve read this entire book, and without being totally out to defend it, I did want to point out a few things that I think aren\’t so anti-religion or anti-Christ.

    To me, one of the clearest examples of the Law of Attraction occurs within our own minds. One negative feeling can snowball into complete brooding, anxiety, and depression. Negative thoughts attract more negative thoughts until it\’s very hard to get back to what\’s really going on. In this sense, I think the Secret promotes a positive perspective. Think the sort of thoughts that you\’d like more of. This makes a lot of sense to me, just from noticing how my own thoughts and feelings tend to collect.

    I can see how that applies practically to problems in life, too. If you think you\’re in a bad relationship and just notice all the bad things, your mind isn\’t in the right place to notice good things that are going on. In this same sense, I think that your mind does have a tendency to prove yourself right. You\’ll notice what you want to or think you will notice, and I guess that could be said as you\’ll attract what you want to attract. I don\’t think that goes for large scale tragedies, but it seems applicable for little daily life struggles.

    One part of the Secret that I think is dead on with Gospel Principles is about asking for what you want. It\’s just that when you believe in the Gospel, you want your wants to line up with what God wants. The way the book promotes asking the universe for what you want and then acting as though you\’ll get it sounds a whole lot like praying for what you want and acting in faith that you will receive. It\’s Enos 1:15 \”… for he had said unto me: What-soever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it.\”

    The way the book talks about money reminds me of the law of tithing. When we give our 10%, we\’re doing it as though we have money to spare, having faith that we will be taken care of.

    When it comes to relationships, I think it\’s right that if you want love, you should love yourself first. I don\’t know if that\’s Gospel oriented, but it just seems like good sense to me. If you can\’t love you, why should someone else?

    So, yes the book is secular, but thats how it was able to reach so many people. Some parts of the book are a little out there, but I just wanted to point out that a lot of it doesn\’t seem that far off from the Gospel.


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