A New Mask for an Ancient Secret
"This phrase [above] ... embraces the entire system of traditional and modern magic which was inscribed upon the tablet in cryptic wording by Hermes Trismegistus. The significance of this phrase is that it is believed to hold the key to all mysteries. All systems of magic are claimed to function by this formula. 'That which is above is the same as that which is below.'"
"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." Colossians 2:8
Cheered by Oprah Winfrey and Larry King, an enticing little book and corresponding DVD have stirred widespread enthusiasm. "It's making headlines around the world," announced Oprah's website, "and buzz just keeps building. Some say it's the secret to creating the life you truly want—losing weight, making money, finding love."
Yes, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne teems with tempting promises and positive affirmations. But it omits all facts that could sound negative, since "summoning what you want" demands an intentional and selective focus only on what's positive. "The law of attraction doesn’t compute 'don’t' or 'not' or 'no,' or any other words of negation."
So while the next quote gives us a glimpse into the tantalizing roots of this Secret, it doesn't tell us that those roots include ancient Egyptian mystery religions, the Kabbalah, Gnosticism, Rosicrucianism, and Hermetic magic. Nor does it warn us that its more recent branches include Unity, Science of Mind, and the "New Thought" movement that swept through the Christianized world over a century ago.
"Fragments of a great secret have been found in the oral traditions, in literature, in religions and philosophies throughout the centuries. For the first time, all the pieces of The Secret come together in an incredible revelation that will be life-transforming for all who experience it. In this book, you'll learn how to use The Secret in every aspect of your life—money, health, relationships, happiness, and in every interaction you have in the world. You'll begin to understand the hidden, untapped power that's within you, and this revelation can bring joy to every aspect of your life."
"We are the creators not only of our own destiny but also of the Universe.... We are all connected, and we are all One."[1, p. 175]
Sounds fantastic, doesn't it? But what does it imply? That our God is obsolete? That real spiritual empowerment means replacing the Bible with The Secret? As Byrne tells us in her fast-selling book, she unlocked a secret that has captivated aspiring occultists, conjurers and magicians for thousands of years.
"I'd been given a glimpse of a Great Secret," she tells us in the foreword. "Why doesn't everyone know this?"
The answer is simple. When Christianity spread, the forbidden forces behind magical arts went underground. Rarely mentioned in public, they were hidden in secret societies and occult orders until the 20th century, when books, movies, television and universities re-introduced them to a thrill-seeking, Biblically illiterate nation ready and eager to revive the mystical powers of the past. Byrne herself illustrates this fascination:
"A burning desire to share The Secret with the world consumed me, and I began searching for people alive today who knew The Secret. One by one they began to emerge. I became a magnet as I began to search, one great living master after another was drawn to me."
The "masters" -- living or dead -- who inspired Byrne's occult views included mythologist Joseph Campbell, Wallace Wattles (author of The Science of Getting Rich), Jack Canfield, Neale Donald Walsch (who published his occult messages from a counterfeit "god" in Conversations with God), and Jerry and Esther Hicks. The Hicks' website introduces us to a cluster [or "legion"] of demonic spirit guides called "Abraham":
"Abraham, a group of obviously evolved teachers, speak their broader non-physical perspective through the physical body of Esther [Hicks]. Speaking to our level of comprehension... they guide us to a clear connection with our Inner Being...."
"New Thought" and Ancient Mysteries
Byrne introduces Prentice Mulford (1834-1891) as "one of the earliest writers and founders of the New Thought movement... [who] has influenced countless writers and teachers." This quote from Thoughts are Things summarizes his "mental and spiritual laws:"
"There is no limit to the power of the thought current you can attract to you nor limit to the things that can be done through the individual by it. In the future some people will draw so much of the higher quality of thought to them, that by it they will accomplish what some would call miracles. In this capacity... lies the secret of what has been called 'magic."
During the 20th century, such thinking inspired "positive thinking" gurus like Norman Vincent Peale who, in turn, converted Robert Schuller and countless other leaders who are now pastoring churches or marketing the deception through church-related programs around the world. John Maxwell and other global change agents demonstrate the subtle influence of this feel-good, self-empowering ideology.
"Nothing," Byrne assures us, "can come into your experience unless you summon it through persistent thoughts."[1 p.43]
Our sovereign Biblical God has no place in this man-centered philosophy. But other religions are acceptable -- including a compatible distortion of Christianity:
"Religions, such as Hinduism, Hermetic traditions, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and civilizations, such as the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians, delivered it through their writings and stories. Recorded throughout the ages in all its forms, the law can be found in ancient writings through all the centuries. It was recorded in stone in 3000 BC."[1 p. 4-5]
The last reference points back to ancient mystery religions and to the words inscribed on the fabled Emerald Tablett. Remember, Byrne used those words, "As above, so below," to set the stage for her book. An occult website decodes their meaning:
"The universe is the same as God, God is the same as man, man is the same as the cell.... [M]an is the counterpart of God on earth; as God is man's counterpart in heaven. Therefore, it is a statement of an ancient belief that man's actions on earth parallel the actions of God in heaven....
"The purpose of all rituals in ceremonial magic is to unite the microcosm with the macrocosm to join God... with the human consciousness. When such a supreme union is achieved the subject and object becomes one.... Aleister Crowley [a satanist member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn], claimed that when the magician reaches this ultimate peak of altered consciousness the miracles are no longer important, the extreme goal becomes the direct union with God."
Now as then, those dark Luciferian teachings have become shining lights to post-Christian cultures inspired by "false apostles and deceitful workers" -- servants of Satan, the "evil one" who masquerades as "an angel of light." (2 Corinthians 11:13-14) After all, The Secret offers gullible seekers everything under the sun. And its promises sound good, don't they? Consider these examples:
"There isn't a single thing that you cannot do with this knowledge. It doesn't matter who you are or where you are, The Secret can give you whatever you want."[1, p. xi]
"The law of attraction is the law of creation....You create your life through your thoughts."[1, p. 15]
"With this powerful knowledge, you can completely change every circumstance and event in your entire life..."[1, p. 17]
"You are the master of the Universe. You are the heir to the kingdom. You are the perfection of Life. And now you know the Secret."[1, p. 183]
Do those affirmations remind you of Lucifer's attempted bargain with Jesus in the wilderness? Now, compare them with the next tempting promise. Notice the cost, which Byrne never mentions:
"...the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, 'All this authority I will give You.... Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.' And Jesus answered and said to him, 'Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” Luke 4:5-8
"The Secret is the law of attraction!" declares Byrne. "Everything that’s coming into your life you are attracting into your life. And it’s attracted to you by virtue of the images you’re holding in your mind. It’s what you’re thinking...."[1, p. 4]
This "secret of attraction" has a simple explanation. When we seek forbidden thrills and forces, Satan is ready to answer. In Old Testament days, God protected His people from the full onslaught of such forces as long as the nation followed Him and His loving guidelines. But when they rejected His guidelines and sought the occult thrills of pagan neighbors, He withdrew His protection. Left to their own meager resources, the nation was destroyed by Babylonian armies.
Would God ever withdraw His protection over America?
Back in the nineties, I received a phone call from a Canadian psychologist. He had read A Twist of Faith and wanted to discuss the swelling tide of seekers visiting his scenic community. Hoping to find their personal spirit guide, they would participate in Indian sweat lodge ceremonies and spirit quests. In former decades, few "succeeded," but recently something had changed. Now almost everyone "meets" their demonic guide. Some therapists had expressed their surprise, he said, by the current explosion of what they only knew as multiple personality disorders. Many seekers were terrorized by strange voices and felt they had lost control of their own minds to entrenched foreign personalities. Now they longed for freedom.
The demonic realm, which used to be distant and non-threatening, now crouches near. Occult books, games and movies show children how to empower themselves by summoning demons. Yet we shouldn't be surprised. America has silenced God's warnings and compromised His truth. The consequences could bring unthinkable heartbreak. But God warned us!
"...when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them... your heart is lifted up and you forget the Lord your God. ... you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’... If you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods... you shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God." Deuteronomy 8:10-20
It does matter what you think and imagine. When we set our minds on self-empowerment and self-focused idolatry, the consequences can be devastating. Again and again, God's Word shows His concern over the corrupting influence of our rebellious thoughts:
"GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:5
Though God is amazingly patient with us, the time comes when He must deal with human depravity. Long ago, He promised faithful Abraham (not the counterfeit spirit mentioned earlier) that his descendants would "be strangers in a land that is not theirs... for four hundred years." They could not enter the promised land until "the iniquity of the Amorites was complete." (Gen 15:13, 16) Our patient and caring Lord would not replace the corrupt Canaanites with Abraham's descendants until their cruelty, idolatry, child sacrifice and perverted sex rituals had reached intolerable proportions. Nor did He allow the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem until -- centuries later -- the depravity of Israel was ripe for His judgment: Seventy years of exile.
“The Lord will judge His people," warns the Bible. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." [Hebrews 10:30-31] Yet, the masses -- whether in ancient Israel or in our own times -- pay little attention. Nor do they fear the consequences.
Miracles happen - but what's the source
In response to the DVD version of The Secret, "stories of miracles began to flood in," wrote Byrne. Her fans "wrote about healing from chronic pain, depression, and disease.... We have received thousands of accounts of The Secret being used to bring about large sums of money.... Some of the most magnificent stories we have received have come from children using The Secret to attract what they want, including high grades and friends.... There are Secret parties being held in homes around the world, as people share the knowledge with loved ones and families....."[1, p. x-xi]
Many forget that "the angel of light" is a shrewd deceiver, not a kind giver. God has allowed Satan a measure of authority for a season of time, but his power is limited to that which serves God's overall purposes. Our loving Father allows trials in our lives to train us to rely on His strength and wisdom, not our own. That's the exact opposite of Byrne's New Thought message. She may boast of miracles from the hand of the deceiver, but there's a cost. And the devil never fails to claim his due.
"The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
We cannot afford to be ignorant these days. The Bible tells us to "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Ephesians 6:11 Why?
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." Ephesians 6:12-13
To avoid experiencing evil, we need to discern evil. Many of Byrne's esoteric concepts have already been adapted to the "Word of Faith" teachings, contemplative disciplines, holistic health and other familiar practices. They sound good to those who are blind to the "wiles of the devil." May God show us how to prepare ourselves and our families for the spiritual warfare ahead!
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith...." 1 Peter 5:8-9
Clothed with His Truth (First lesson in a Bible study on the Armor)
Note: We hope to finish a chart on this topic by September 7. You can see our progress here:
2. "As above, so below," www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/a/below_above.html
5. Oprah's promotion of The Secret: www.oprah.com/tows/booksseen/200702/tows_book_20070208_rbyrne.jhtml