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January 24-31, 2007

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'The Secret'

Wishcraft: The genie from Aladdin's lamp makes his cameo appearance in 'The Secret.'

'Secret' Surfaces

'What the Bleep' meets 'The DaVinci Code' in the runaway New Age phenomenon of the decade

By Bill Forman

The Secret is about to become anything but. What began as a modest direct-to-DVD documentary by an Australian reality show director has grown--thanks to viral marketing and its prosperity consciousness message--into a worldwide phenomenon that's shifted a half-million units in six months. Without the aid of a major distributor. Or a single mainstream media article. So one can only imagine what will happen after Oprah devotes an entire show to it later this month.

The unprecedented word-of-mouth success of The Secret may be the best supporting evidence for its "law of attraction" message: that by setting forth your intention and truly believing it, the universe will provide the means to make it happen.

Stranger still is the fact that this "secret"--DaVinci Code-influenced imagery notwithstanding--has been circulating for ages. A century ago, industrialist Andrew Carnegie encouraged Napoleon Hill to ask 500 fellow overachievers about their formula for success; the resulting Think and Grow Rich remains a motivational bestseller to this day. Early televangelist Rev. Ike took the message to its flamboyant extreme, flaunting his Rolls Royces (a different color for each day of the week, he claimed) and urging followers not to "wait for your pie in the sky, by and by. Say I want my pie right now--and I want it with ice cream on top!"

As David Garbacz, manager and buyer for Gateways Books & Gifts (which hosts a seminar with excerpts from The Secret this Friday), points out, "The ancient Buddhist and Hindu teachings have all said that the mind is extraordinarily powerful if you really put it where you want it. But we don't. We worry. We get distracted. And so, who knows? Maybe this is the beginning of people really starting to use their minds to start co-creating their reality in a much more interesting way."

Over the course of his 13 years as a buyer in the mind/body/spirit market, Garbacz says he's never seen anything rivaling this current phenomenon. "It's unbelievable, and every other store that I've talked to has said that they've had no precedent, ever," he says, noting how even Eckhart Tolle's runaway The Power of Now took three years to sell what The Secret has sold in six months. Currently, Gateways sells about 50 copies of the DVD a week, and the franchise doesn't end there. "The book has been largely unavailable and is about to pass the million mark," he enthuses. "They can't print them fast enough."

As with What the Bleep Do We Know!?, The Secret is largely comprised of interviews with experts ranging from self-help gurus to quantum physicists, many of whom have their own books and seminars ready and waiting to meet the needs of newcomers to the law of attraction. Even Abraham channeler Esther Hicks--whose lawyers had her removed from the DVD because its producers allow it to be shown at public gatherings so long as no money is charged (copies of the original version with Hicks in it now sells for close to $100 on Amazon)--stands to profit.

"She channeled for decades and nobody paid her any attention," says Garbacz. "Then she started putting a prosperity/law of attraction spin on it, and now she's selling hundreds of thousands of books. She's scheduling a video herself, and her publisher has volumes one through four of The Law of Attraction coming out this year."

While admitting that "one can be cynical and say they're really milking it," Garbacz points out that the message promotes teachings that run contrary to a consumer-obsessed culture where advertisers convince us we have problems only their products can solve. He believes that by being aesthetically pleasing and understandable, The Secret is bringing inner wisdom to an audience that might not otherwise access it.

"People are just so excited about it. They come in and buy a dozen for all their friends and family, and it's the kind of message that they want everybody they know to have," he says. "I think by presenting it more as a scientific principal, it helps people get past the idea that it's just a belief issue. We saw that in What the Bleep and we're seeing it more. We are co-creators. We're not total creators, but we're not victims either. The more we participate and take an active role, the more difference it will make.

"It's not like they're chanting for a Mercedes or something," laughs Garbacz. "Although they could."

Movie Times Healing Thru Film--An Introduction featuring 'The Secret' takes place Friday, Jan. 26, at 7pm at Gateways Books, 1126 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. (831.429.9600)

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