he Secret is a best-selling 2006 self-help book by Rhonda Byrne, based on the earlier film of the same name. It is based on the pseudo-scientific 'law of attraction' which claims that thoughts can change the world directly. The book has sold 20 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 50 languages. It attracts much criticism and is frequently parodied.
The Secret was released as a film in March 2006, and later the same year as a book. The book is influenced by Wallace Wattles' 1910 book The Science of Getting Rich, which Byrne received from her daughter during a time of personal trauma in 2004.
The book has been translated into 50 languages and has sold over 20 million copies. Due partly to an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, the book and film had grossed $300 million in sales by 2009. Byrne has subsequently released Secret merchandise and several related books.
Byrne re-introduces a pseudo-scientific notion originally popularized by persons such as Madame Blavatsky and Norman Vincent Peale, which suggests that thinking about certain things will make them appear in one's life. Byrne provides alleged examples of historical persons who have achieved this. Byrne cites a three-step process to achieve this: ask, believe, and receive. This is based on a quotation from the Bible's Matthew 21:22: "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
Byrne highlights the importance of gratitude and visualization in achieving one's desires, along with alleged examples. Later chapters describe how to improve one's prosperity, relationships, and health, with more general thoughts about the universe.
he Secret has been repeatedly criticized. In 2009, Barbara Ehrenreich published Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America as a reaction to self-help books such as The Secret, claiming that they promote political complacency and a failure to engage with reality. John G. Stackhouse, Jr. has provided historical context, locating Byrne's book in the tradition of New Thought and popular religion, and concluding that "it isn’t new, and it isn’t a secret".
Byrne's scientific claims, in particular concerning quantum physics, have been rejected by a range of authors including Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons at The New York Times and Harvard physicist Lisa Randall. Mary Carmichael and Ben Radford, writing for the Center for Inquiry, have also pointed out that The Secret has no scientific foundation, stating that Byrne's book represents:
"a time-worn trick of mixing banal truisms with magical thinking and presenting it as some sort of hidden knowledge: basically, it’s the new New Thought.