“The Secret”: Your Path to Happiness, Love, Litigation

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Some of you may be familiar with "The Secret," an enormous bestseller that encourages people to follow the "law of attraction," which I thought was something that made people hang out near playgrounds but which turns out to be "an ancient principle that holds that the universe will make your wishes come true if only you really, truly believe in them."

I agree there is an ancient principle at work here, but it’s one I refer to as "bullshit."

The Secret was discovered, or rediscovered, or whatever, by Rhonda Byrne, who has made millions from the book and DVD versions.  Byrne’s website, which is not secret, does not state exactly what the Secret is, although you can "Own the Secret" on DVD for just $19.95, or in book form for just $16.95.  (Here’s another secret — you can get it on Amazon.com for $14.37.  But don’t.)

Now there is at least some evidence that the Law of Attraction does not always deliver on its promise of unlimited happiness and prosperity, namely a federal lawsuit.  On April 25, James Heriot, the director of the movie version of "The Secret," sued Byrne and her production company in the Northern District of Illinois, alleging that Byrne is not sharing the profits generated by the ancient principle as she had promised to do.  He is claiming up to half of the "Secret" profits, which he estimates at about $300 million.

Heriot wants to make clear, however, that just because the main purveyors of "The Secret" are now at each other’s throats does not mean that "The Secret" isn’t "The Secret" to unlimited happiness as they have been saying:

To all who have been inspired by "The Secret," [Heriot said in a statement issued through his law firm,] please know that I am
not suing the universal principles of "The Secret." Rather, I am suing
the corporate principals behind "The Secret," who promised at the
outset that profits would be shared, and who have not kept faith with "The Secret"’s tenets of gratitude and integrity."

Got it — universal principles not being sued, integrity of Secret unquestioned.

In fact, it seems hard to say whether this does call the validity of "The Secret" into question.  On one hand, it seems unlikely that Byrne’s wishes included attracting a federal lawsuit.  On the other, isn’t Heriot just following her advice by hoping that his wishes for $150 million will come true if only he really, truly believes in them and prevails in a copyright lawsuit?  Does "The Secret" describe how the ancient principle applies when two people wish for the same thing with all their hearts in federal court?  I hope the universe will provide the answers to these questions, or at least will deliver more comical "Secret"-generated lawsuit stories.

Byrne told the New York Times last year that "The Secret" was never about profit; she simply wanted to give her knowledge to the world, so that others could discover what they were intended to do with their lives as she had.  "One of the big things in discovering the secret," she said, "was discovering me."  And there is more discovery of her coming in the near future.  Byrne’s deposition in a second case related to Secret profits is set for May 6, in Los Angeles.

Link: New York Times