When my ex and I first got together, The Secret had just come out. He was already a big fan of What the Bleep Do We Know, and I had never been exposed to the slick marketing of the New Age publishing machine. I would like to think that my critical thinking skills would not have been so easily overcome, but the combination of glossy visuals and a desire to please a new partner overwhelmed my rational brain fairly quickly. And, if I’m totally honest, the fact that I already had practice in spell craft (a form of targeted manifestation) also made me easy prey for this particular mode of thinking.
The idea that one can manifest one’s own reality is quite seductive. It provides the oft-craved illusion of control. Life feels so unpredictable, and the promise of being able to create every desire is balm in the wound of uncertainty.
It’s also very dangerous.
Don’t get me wrong, the initial rush of attributing every coincidence to your own eminence is seductive. You feel powerful, able to take on anything. The problem is, however, that this initial string of beginner’s good luck doesn’t last. Inevitably something goes wrong: you get in a traffic accident, you lose your job, you miscarry.
And now, it’s all your fault.
That’s the only conclusion you can draw and still uphold the manifestation paradigm. If you’re manifesting your own reality, and if something bad happens, then clearly you brought it on yourself. For someone who already has a tendency to take responsibility for things that aren’t necessarily their fault, this is an insidious and deadly poison. In a way, it flips the model of a wrathful god on its head: Instead of god punishing you for your transgressions, you are punishing yourself for lack of discipline or bad feelings, which have brought sorrow or hardship upon you.
It is the ultimate in victim blaming, with no regard for circumstance. It’s free will taken to the nth degree. Those people want to be poor. That woman let herself be raped. That child chose to be born into an abusive home. When you take the paradigm to that extreme, its ugliness oozes to the forefront.
We become afraid of the chaotic, the unpredictable. We become afraid of those who have fallen on hard times. We forsake compassion for the fear. We become more selfish, more self-centered, more juvenile in our desires and attitudes. We attribute unasked-for blessings to our own superiority and enlightenment, and self-flagellate for the smallest bump in the road.
John Michael Greer gets the credit for creating the first crack in my Secret-induced misery. He has a wonderful talent for taking the long view of various trends, and he noted that books exactly like The Secret were popular throughout the 1920 up until the Great Crash of 1929, when reality came barreling back through the haze of excess. Ever the student of history, I began to take a good hard look at the assumptions I had been holding.
The next crack exploded into a seismic fault when my husband asked for a divorce a few months after I miscarried my second child.
Accepting that there are often things out of one’s control is a huge part of beginning to route out magical thinking, which is what The Secret is at its most basic level. Now, of course, there are times when magical thinking is incredibly useful, like, when you’re actually doing magic. But for getting through the day-to-day, it’s rarely an optimal paradigm. In truth, there’s really not much we can control outside of our own actions–and even then it’s debatable how much control we truly have.
Slowly, I began taking joy–but not credit–in a bluebird’s wing brushing my hair as I lay in the meadow, in the unexpected tax refund, in the chance to play music on the front porch with a neighbor. I became a more grateful person, and dare I say a happier one. Chaos isn’t always something to be feared. It can be those happy coincidences. It fuels creativity, and I returned to finding inspiration in the randomness of a tarot draw or the odd turn of phrase from my child. There is an undeniable ease in uncertainty, where both happy surprises and unfortunate accidents are, in fact, out of your control and not a manifestation of either your damned or elect status.
Find happiness in the accidents. Live without apology for circumstance. Take comfort in the chaos of life.