At a low point in her life, with her father recently deceased and her business close to collapse, Rhonda Byrne’s daughter gave her a copy of Wallace Wattles’ The Science of Getting Rich. The ideas in this New Thought classic (see commentary in 50 Success Classics), seemed to run counter to everything she believed, but she could not stop thinking about it. Over the next few months she implemented its messages in her life with transformative effect, personally and financially.
Believing she had found a ‘secret’ that should be more widely known, she began developing the idea for a film, taking advantage of her connections and knowledge as a television producer. She raised money to visit the United States and interview every teacher, writer or speaker that seemed to know about this secret, the ‘law of attraction’. Made for only $3 million, the film did not have the cinema or television release intended, but this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The Secret became a word of mouth hit as an Internet download, and DVD sales began to explode; over two million copies have sold in the United States alone.
The surprise is that the book is not just a spin-off marketing afterthought to capitalize on the film’s success, but a powerful work in its own right that has actually sold more copies. The Secret is one long homage to the thinkers and authors that have inspired Byrne - from New Thought legends Charles Haanel, Robert Collier, Wallace Wattles and Genevieve Behrend, to contemporary self-growth gurus such as Denis Waitley, Jack Canfield and Neale Donald Walsch. In between, there are quotes from Einstein, Jung, Emerson and other ‘great minds’ who she says knew about ‘the Secret’.
The book follows the structure of the film in featuring the thoughts of particular teachers interspersed with narration, however, it goes into more detail on many points, and has much more of Byrne’s own commentary and examples from her own life.
The law of attraction and how it works
The ‘Secret’ that Byrne felt she had discovered was the ‘law of attraction’. In essence, the law says that whatever you think about or put your attention on becomes reality in your life. We attract to ourselves things, people and situations that are of a similar ‘vibration’ to ourselves. The universe is essentially energy, and all energy vibrates at certain frequencies. At the personal level, each person is vibrating at a certain frequency, existing as an energy field within larger energy fields.
According to Byrne (and this is where she goes beyond mainstream science), a person’s ‘vibration’ is determined by their thoughts and feelings, and it naturally attract to yourself things of a similar frequency. Think of yourself as a transmission tower, she says, broadcasting frequencies of thoughts into the universe, beyond space and even time. Change your frequency, via a change in your thoughts, and you can become virtually a new person who attracts different people and circumstances into your life.
The law works whether you know about it or not, or believe in it or not. Yet once you do, an amazing possibility emerges: you can “think your life into existence”. In observing the incredible imbalance of wealth on our planet, Byrne offers this as the reason: People who are wealthy think only thoughts of more wealth - “They only know wealth, and nothing else exists in their minds.” Even those people who have made a fortune then lost it, most become wealthy again before long. This is because they remain focused on abundance all the time, despite current circumstances. The law of attraction must deliver to them the equivalent of their dominant thoughts.
Naturally, when people discover the law, they worry about the effects that their negative thoughts will have. But as Michael Bernard Beckwith, one of the teachers in the book notes, affirmative thoughts are many times more powerful than negative ones. He suggests we “…proclaim to the Universe that all your good thoughts are powerful, and that any negative thoughts are weak.” There is thankfully a time delay or buffer between your thoughts coming to fruition, which allows you some space to refine what we really want.
The ‘creative process’ is the specific way we can use the law of attraction to obtain what we want. It involves three steps:
Asking for what you want is, Byrne writes, is “like placing an order from a catalogue”. You do it once, then wait expectantly for it to arrive. When buying from a catalogue you do not make an order, then make another one in case the first one doesn’t arrive. Ask once, and do so as if you know what you have asked for is on its way.
Remember that the universe does not strain in its creation of anything. Think about grass – it grows effortlessly. In the same way, you manifest easily when you are relaxed and have a knowing and joyful sense of expectation. Action that you take which is inspired by meditation or which happens through the law of attraction is effortless – and a lot more powerful – than trying to do anything by force.
To receive more easily, she instructs, do things now that align you with what you want. If you want a new car, go for a test drive. If you want a particular house, inspect it and picture it as yours. Otherwise, these things will remain ‘out there’, separate to you.
You don’t need to know ‘how’
You do not have to know how the universe will provide what you want, you just require the faith that it will.
In the book, co-creator of the Chicken Soup For The Soul book series Jack Canfield provides a good analogy: when driving at night from California to New York, you don’t need to see all the way from one coast to another. All you need is for your headlights to show you the next two hundred feet in front, and you will get there. In life, you have to trust that you will be ‘shown the way’. Most people, he observes, never ask for what they want because they cannot see how it could possibly come to them.
If you keep wondering about the ‘how’, the message you are giving out to the universe is doubt. In contrast, when you have a relaxed belief, the universe corresponds to that vibration. You have to “Believe in the unseen”. In response, the Universe will rearrange events and circumstances so that what you imagine to be real becomes real. It always, says featured author Bob Dooley, “…knows the shortest, quickest, fastest, most harmonious way between you and your dream.”
Love and gratitude
To make the law of attraction really work in your life, Byrne writes, you have to increase the amount of time you are feeling good. Living in a state of love and gratitude for everything around you creates a vibration than can only attract more good things and situations into your life.
The book includes plenty of quotes from Charles Haanel, author of The Master Key System. Haanel taught that the law of attraction is really another name for love. Have frequent thoughts of love, and you will be a superb at manifesting anything you want. It is vitally important to elevate how you feel in any moment, since when you have negative feelings you are blocking all the good that the universe wants to give you.
Byrne tells the reader: “If you only do one thing with knowledge of The Secret, use gratitude until it becomes your way of life.” You can’t receive more into your life, be it a house, car or new spouse, while being ungrateful about what you already have. Thoughts of ‘not enough’ mean that ‘not enough’ will continue to be your reality. As her hero, Wallace Wattles, remarked, “Many people who order their lives rightly in all other ways are kept in poverty by their lack of gratitude.”
Affirming that you are surrounded by plenty ensures that plenty more comes your way. Give thanks for everything when you get up in the morning and before turning in at night, and watch your outlook on life and circumstances change. Instead of thinking that ‘life is struggle’, start believing that things come easily to you.
How much do want to earn?
Byrne notes that “To attract money you must focus on wealth”. Obvious? In fact, most people focus on not having enough, and it becomes reflected in their circumstances. After she had read Wallace Wattles, she knew that the Universe would provide for her, because now she was in a state of great expectancy and joy. Her vibration had gone from resistance to attraction of her good, and the good came pouring in. “The shortcut to anything you want in your life,” she reiterates, “is to BE and FEEL happy now!” In such a state of mind, it is easy to believe that we already have what we want, and the universe responds quickly and often dramatically to our convictions.
To illustrate her point, in the chapter ‘The secret to money’, Byrne includes another anecdote from Jack Canfield. He recalls the advice of Clement Stone, the great motivator and businessman, who told him to set a big goal for himself that would ‘blow his mind’ if he achieved it.
At the time, Canfield was earning $8,000 a year, so he made it his goal to earn $100,000 a year. He taped a made-up $100,000 bill to his ceiling and every day visualized what it would be like to have the money. For a month, nothing happened. Then, he had what he describes as ‘a one-hundred-thousand-dollar idea’. He had published a book, and worked out that if he sold a certain number of copies he would earn his money target. In a supermarket, he saw the popular National Enquirer magazine and had the thought of getting his work featured in it. A few weeks later he gave a talk and afterwards a woman interviewed him who also wrote freelance for the Enquirer. Her subsequent article helped the book to take off.
Did Canfield ‘attract’ his $100,000? No, that year he earned $92,327. But it was close enough, his wife reasoned, to try the process on a larger scale; why not go for $1 million? In due course, for his first Chicken Soup For The Soul book he received a check from his publisher of over $1 million.
Is the law of attraction really a secret? You may think it is all mystical rubbish, but in the Bible it is surely expressed in the statement, “To him that hath, more will be given”. That is, feelings of abundance in the first place only attract more abundance. Feelings of lack have a corresponding effect. Why this should happen is a mystery, but whether you decide to believe in Byrne’s law or not, it cannot be denied that there are millions of examples in which a person’s convictions, backed up by strong emotion, have been translated into reality.
The Secret includes a quote attributed to Buddha: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought”. Again, this is a rational, rather than a mystical, concept. The circumstances you find yourself in today, if you are not happy with them, are not ‘you’. They are simply the result of all that you have thought and done in the past, and your future can be totally different. If most of your thinking is negative and rooted in feelings of lack, it is logical that this outlook is expressed in real life. As one of the teachers in The Secret notes, the only reason anyone is not living the life of their dreams is that they are thinking more thoughts about what they don’t want than what it is they do want.
The majority of people who buy The Secret probably do so with an improvement of their finances in mind, however there are also chapters on health and relationships, and how using the law of attraction can change the world. The book and the film may be seen as works of marketing genius that have made their creator millions, but plenty testify to their powerful effect. Of course they attract the gullible, but also plenty of intelligent people who are interested in the link between mind and physical manifestation.
Source: 50 Prosperity Classics: Attract It, Create It, Manage It, Share It by Tom Butler-Bowdon (London & Boston: Nicholas Brealey).
Born in 1945, Byrne spent many years working in the Australian television industry, with production credits including The Don Lane Show, What’s Cooking, The World’s Greatest Commercials and Sensing Murder.
The Secret was part funded by Australia’s Channel 9, but once made the network was reluctant to air the film, considering it would appeal to only a niche audience. This forced Byrne’s production company to focus on Internet downloads of the film to recoup the investment.
Sales of The Secret book were boosted by the author’s appearances on the Oprah and Larry King Live television shows. Byrne's other books include The Power and The Secret. She lives in California.