the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Secret


“Thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s house” spoke God, and a lightening bolt hit the table and ingrained the tenth commandment in stone for eternity. Moses, his hair turned white from being in the presence of God, shook in fear.

“But how will I get the chosen people to follow these commandments, Lord? I am but one small man. And the chosen people are a stiff-necked group of nudniks who are always arguing with one another. Couldn’t you have chosen a group that was more mellow, like the Amish? Surely the Israelites will not believe that I actually chatted with YOU.”

“Don’t worry, Moses. The answer is simple. Change them each $29.95 to learn the “secret” commandments and before you know it, you’ll be on Oprah and they’ll be standing on line to buy The Commandments on DVD.”

Recently, I’ve read a couple of bloggers talking about “The Secret,” some sort of new Age self-help book/video/audiotape/budding industry that was talked about on Oprah. Oprah speaks, people listen.

Now, I should admit that I have not seen this DVD or read the book, so I have very little to say about the content of this material. It might be inspirational. It might make me a changed man. But — the thing that annoys me about this “Secret” is the way it is being marketed. First of all, I was immediately turned off by their flashy, overproduced website. On the website, there is a lot of talk about “secret membership” and your choice of watching the video online for five bucks or buying the DVD for thirty dollars.

To me, the subtext says: inaccessibility. Why use Flash technology? Why do I have to download a special video codec from Vividas just to watch the trailer? And frankly — WHY should I pay for something so astounding? If this Secret really will change the world, shouldn’t this information be shouted out from rooftops everywhere? Shouldn’t it be freely spread throughout the world in order to make it a better place?

Rhonda Byrne

I’m not against someone making money. But the editor, Rhonda Byrne, former producer of “What’s Cooking” and “The World’s Greatest TV Commercials,” admits that she is just revealing a secret that has already been with us for centuries, albeit only for the elite.

The Secret is released to the world! This ground-breaking feature length movie presentation reveals The Great Secret of the universe. It has been passed throughout the ages, traveling through centuries… to reach you and humankind.

This is The Secret to everything – the secret to unlimited joy, health, money, relationships, love, youth: everything you have ever wanted.

In this astonishing program are ALL the resources you will ever need to understand and live The Secret. For the first time in history, the world’s leading scientists, authors, and philosophers will reveal The Secret that utterly transformed the lives of every person who ever knew it… Plato, Newton, Carnegie, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Einstein.

Now, if this is all true, then HOLY S**T, that is some cool stuff. Someone should be GIVING away this information for free. Don’t worry, Ms. Byrne. You will not starve for all your hard work if you give away this information for free. After everyone has unlimited happiness and money, I’m sure you will be handsomely rewarded. But to make people buy a DVD to learn this amazing secret is simply immoral. It is like Moses charging for the Ten Commandments. It is like Jonas Salk discovering the cure for polio and only sharing it with his friends.

What’s with this selfishness, Ms. Byrne? Shouldn’t this information be offered to poor people for free? What about those without internet access? Or those without DVD players? Shouldn’t the United Nations be in on this?

Of course, I am just taking what you say at FACE VALUE — that this information of the Secret with bring in a “New Era for Humankind.” I would hate to think that all this is just cheesy marketing gimmick used to package the idea of “mind over matter,” a concept that has been around since Philosophy 101 in college.

I also notice that you include Henry Ford on your list of great visionary leaders who knew “The Secret.”

Henry Ford

He certainly was an innovator, but considering that he was a nasty guy, an anti-Semite, and a Nazi sympathizer, I seriously doubt that “the Secret” alone will make this a better world.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Know Thyself… Very Little


  1. psychomom

    Sorry I don’t trust anyone who can’t keep a secret. If it is a real secret, your not supposed to tell anyone.

    Neil, if you tell me your secrets I promise not to tell. Come on, spill your guts then send me $29.95, sucker.

  2. Neil

    But then again, Rhonda Byrne’s hair did turn white like Moses.

  3. better safe than sorry

    never heard of the secret, i also don’t watch oprah, so if it weren’t for you blogging about the secret, it would still be a secret to me.

  4. laurie

    Oprah gave it away for free 🙂

    Also. Will snake oil make my skin silky smooth? Just curious.

  5. laurie

    By the way, psychomom, you are HILARIOUS!!! “Sorry I don’t trust anyone who can’t keep a secret.” made me laugh out loud at work!!!

  6. Miss Syl

    Don’t worry, Ms. Byrne. You will not starve for all your hard work if you give away this information for free. After everyone has unlimited happiness and money, I’m sure you will be handsomely rewarded.

    If “the secret” actually does bring “unlimited joy, health, money, relationships, love, youth: everything you have ever wanted,” and we can assume, as editor, that Rhonda Byrne had read her own book, then IF the secret actually worked, there’s no NEED for her to be compensated for it at all, because she already knows the secret, so presumably already *has* everything she ever wanted. So why would she need more compensation later (or now)?

  7. Rhea

    I think I was home sick from work when I first heard about The Secret because I saw a commercial saying Oprah was gonna have a show about it. I am really skeptical. In fact, a few days ago I revealed the secret behind The Secret on my own blog

  8. Neil

    Laurie — snake oil will do wonders for your skin, but it will make you lisp.

  9. PocketCT

    So I just emailed an xboyfriend (after long time not speaking at all) because I had a really disturbing dream about him. He reassured me of his general well being and then said

    … anyway, good to hear from you. BTW … have you seen “The Secret?” 🙂

    Which makes me think that he has succumbed to at least two cults, the constant use of ellipsis cult (there were a few more than those two in the three line email) and this other new one with a dvd and opera-fied flash trailer. The result is that he is sending it to me. Anyone want to watch? I will send it on when I’m done. Special priority given to anyone who intends to do a mystery science theater commentary to go along with the flick.
    Thanks Neil this was great.

  10. Dagny

    Damn that woman! Now she’s selling off the info that was going finally help me to achieve global domination. I suppose it’s back to the drawing board for me. *sigh* Why do I suddenly feel like Brain?

  11. wendy

    You would think I would be all over this…I’m pretty touchy feely..spiritual and blah blah blah. But this thing makes my teeth itch. I did see the Oprah show..and somewhere in the midst of the babble, one of the experts says “you, of corse have to do the work”. So its not as easy as they are maketing it to be. /you have to do the work to fix your problems, to believe in yourself, and in your dreams. You can’t attract it with magic thinking. I think that these people prey on lost and tired people. Tired of the journey to the real answers. In a weak moment, looking for a shortcut. Those who buy it are not to blame. Those who sell it…quite another matter.

  12. ms. sizzle

    it’s all such crap.

    no wonder i want to buy it.

  13. Neil

    Wendy — I have no idea, but I’m sure there must be tidbits of wisdom in this. I doubt it would be so popular if there wasn’t something in it. But why be so irresponsible and prey on people, like you said? If these were people who really cared about you, they would present the book as a new approach to an old problem. But to present it as THE ANSWER without any real scientific basis, is manipulative. I hope someone sees the DVD, quits his job to change his life because he thinks he has the Secret, than sues the publisher for false advertising when nothing good happens.
    Sizzle — I’m afraid Sophia is curious, too.  What is it with Oprah?  She’s like Jesus.  Now if SHE wrote a book about the secret to success, I would read it.

  14. Mo

    Anybody mind if I hurl?

  15. Mo

    I’m with you, Neil. I want only Oprah’s Secrets. But not Oprah’s Victoria Secrets. Those she can keep to herself.

  16. Maliavale

    Arrrgh! I didn’t know about this before, and now I am tormented by it. TORMENTED I TELL YOU.

  17. claire

    I caught part of a segment about it on Ellen a couple months ago. Laws of attraction, blah blah blah…, if you worry about your debt, you’ll attract more debt. That sort of reasoning gets on my nerves.

  18. deannie

    OMG, I am so pathetic. Someone actually GAVE me a copy of “The Secret” and I have yet to actually watch it. My 15 yr old daughter did watch it though and I am pretty sure she ralphed then turned it off after 30 nanoseconds. Something about “mindless pap”….

  19. Danny

    Oh yuck, I trust no one who would put Henry Ford on a list of great visionaries, no matter what his business skills were. The “secret” that had the most resonance for Ford was that all Jews should be exterminated like rats. There are few Americans more odious than that pig. I wonder if this Byrne woman even knows that.

  20. Hilly

    Someone sent me a copy of The Secret through Amazon. Seriously, I have no idea who but the note reads:

    “I am hoping that you will watch this and give us your very snarky review in your blog.”

    I’m already hesistant because Hoprah likes it but I am going to give it a shot tomorrow…if nothing else, it will be blog fodder. I did catch a woman grilling one of the “Secret Service” about the presence of God being more important than self….the guy did not answer her to my satisfaction ;).

  21. Neil

    Hilly —

    You certainly have strange “secret admirers.”

  22. Killer

    Maybe the secret involves being mean to Jewish people.

    I think the real secret is, this book is a bunch of crap, but people are still paying me money.

  23. ramelle

    Frankly, I wish I had thought to reconstitute The Secret, because Rhonda Byrne is laughing all the way to the bank. I can’t believe Oprah gave these nutjobs a forum to prey on her viewers, particularly the sad and desperate–who, according to The Secret–are responsible for their depression, poverty and illness. Have you examined the elite group of Secret Teachers? The majority of these “philosophers” are individuals who peddle how-to-get-rich programs that cost a ridiculous amount of money. What a crock! I have been home with my kids for so long that I have developed an unhealthy affection for Oprah. My husband has been mocking me for the last couple of years–insisting that Oprah has become a woman who takes herself too seriously. I was stunned to hear Oprah congratulating Rhonda Byrne on helping the masses understand how she(Oprah) has been living her life for years–with intention. I’m thinking my husband might be right.

  24. Bre

    My aunt waxs poetic about all things Oprah, including this so-called secret… which from her explanation sounds an awful lot like goal-setting, and therefore not something I would pay 30 bucks to hear about.

    I do however get to give programs about goal-setting to college students, so I wonder if I can convince folks to throw, say, fifteen bucks my way for my goal-setting secrets…


  25. girl and dog

    I downloaded the entire The Secret DVD from Google videos for free last year, but I’m looking for it now and can’t find it. You can find segments by going to and searching for The Secret.

    It IS helpful, IMO especially because it makes you realize that you spend your entire life blaming external circumstances for your failures in life, when in reality you have a say in many things that happen. I have seen many people’s attitudes about life shift dramatically. If it’s not for you, fine. Just don’t downplay it for people who might find it helpful.

    But I have to agree with you whole-heartedly that they’re marketing the crap out of it. Hey, they deserve to make money just as much as the rest of us…

  26. Neil

    I think it is important to realize you control your own destiny. But it is a little phony to dismiss external events completely. Your mental state can improve you health, but it can’t cure cancer.

  27. Not Faint Hearted

    This kind of crap has been around for at least 2000 years. Probably longer. Back then it was called Gnosticism. Which literally means “secret knowledge.” It was crap then. It’s crap now.

    The whole idea is to make insiders and outsiders. The insiders have the secret knowledge. The outsiders are going to hell. Or bankruptcy. Or wherever the insiders think is worst.

    While it may include elements of what might be called “truth” it is never the magic panacea the pushers/marketers say it is.

    And this kind of crap is the kind of thing that gives genuine spirituality and even genuine religion a bad name.


  28. Blitz Krieg

    If Oprah told her viewers the secret to long life and happiness was licking the sweat out of a French cyclists ass crack I’d start buying up stock in Air France.

  29. mckay

    that’s a load of crap.

    (i don’t know what i’m saying that about. i just read other people saying ‘crap’ and it made me feel like saying “crap’).

    several months ago, a buddy on myspace sent me a utube link to learn ‘the secret’. he was all motivated and wanted to share it with me, cuz i’m such a mess ;0)… it’s about thinking positive and learning how to eliminate negative self talk. it has its merits, but it’s not the holy grail.

    …and i never knew that ford was such a schmuck. i learn something new every day.

  30. Alexandra

    This post says it all AND made me laugh too. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments.

  31. an9ie

    I just went to Hilly’s blog. ROLF.

    But I don’t know about the white male only thing, Hilly. Look at “our” (Australia’s) Rose (Hancock) Porteous. Just become a very rich man’s housekeeper and then seduce his millions out of him. Then you can fill your house with gold sphinxes and giant portraits of yourself.

    The comment by Mushy is classic: “It took 29 years to happen, but I used the “secret” wish and attracted RETIREMENT! It works! Sorta.” Teeheehee!

  32. V-Grrrl

    So a Barbie with Bronzer and a price dot between her eyes is the new Prophet?

    Sheesh, like I’m going to listen to her. Everyone knows all the best purveyors of wisdom are BRUNETTES.

  33. Karl

    I’ll wait for the Cliff’s Notes.

    And someone to read the Cliff’s Notes for me and then give me the highlights.

  34. Caron

    I see you are all having problems understanding the meaning of the secret. Let me share with you my Study Guide to the Secret. For only $12.95 I offer even shorter soundbites of familiar platitudes and age old advice. It is a book on tape to save you the time consuming work of actually reading. But wait, there’s more… I will include a sticker for your own forehead. They read, “Sucker!”

  35. Jazz

    So, does that mean that all of us who don’t watch Oprah, and um… really don’t give a rat’s ass about what she has to say…. does that mean we neve would’ve heard about THE SECRET?

    And are people really gullible enough to fall for this?

  36. mrsatroxi

    What’s that old saying?

    “If something says it can fix everything, chances are it fixes nothing.”

    Or something like that.

  37. Long Story Longer

    Gosh, the comments are almost as good as the post.

    Thanks for writing about this. Yesterday my sister and I were talking about how elitist it all sounds. I haven’t seen it, either, I should say, but we’re fairly high on Maslow’s hierarchy aren’t we? It’s nice that we all don’t have to worry about food and shelter like most of the people in the world, and we can just worry about this kind of bs. That’s my thought.

  38. LisaBinDaCity

    I saw Oprah’s show. And what they said about “The Secret” is inspirational stuff that’s been out there forever. They just repackaged it. It sort of felt like they were promoting a cult. It skeeved me out a bit.

    And you are dead on about Henry Ford. That’s just offensive to see him as some type of role model.

  39. Lux Lisbon

    This is why I love the internet. Anything worth having will eventually be leaked onto it. God bless The Pirate Bay!

  40. ms. sizzle

    come to think of it, this whole secret business sounds suspiciously like a book i read a few years ago called “the game of life and how to play it” by florence scove shinn. it was written in 1925. it cost me $8. save yourself some money and buy it used!

  41. kapgar

    Sadly, the world has come to a point where secret information that the world already knows must now be purchased. Sick and wrong.

  42. Nance

    Sounds an awful lot like a whole season’s worth of the old SNL Stuart Smalley skits. Just look in a mirror and repeat “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” And that won’t cost you a cent!

  43. Booda Baby

    Ooh, I love a good irony.

    Another good irony is that someone who gets spasms from new age crap (me) will pass on – courtesy of a pal who’s some big shot Cardiologist, so it’s true, I’m just believing he knows this stuff – that over 200 studies have been done demonstrating the healing power of prayer. And, evidently, the one being prayed for doesn’t even have to know it.

    The NIH and like-minded bodies, further, has such controlled studies, with itsy bitsy control groups, you almost need labs outside the system to do those big old massive tests on, say, Vitamin C’s efficacy.

    Yah, I guess it is old stuff, but so is the I Ching and tarot and philosophy and concepts about democracy and – isn’t that Bible pushing double digits? There’s always some wacked new marketing scheme.

  44. Neil

    Prayer can’t hurt, and I’m sure there is some validity to each person having some sort of energy… or even some healing power. But where are these 200 studies?

  45. girl and dog

    I beg to differ, Neil. Your mental state, along with lifestyle changes, CAN cure cancer. It’s scientifically proven, although the mainstream medical community would rather you not know this.

  46. Neil

    I’d love to learn more, Girl and Dog. But until I see where this is scientifically proven, I remain skeptical. After all, that’s what they teach you to be at expensive universities.

  47. Roonie

    It’s not really about doing the WORLD good, it’s about doing YOURSELF good. Unfortunately, most people’s ideas of doing themselves good end up doing others bad. Which is why Ford was able to thrive, if you believe the philosophy of “The Secret.” In truth, I’m a recent “convert,” if you will, but it’s mostly because I’ve never really tried to change my mind. I’ve tried changing my job, my location, my attitude, my friends, my status, etc. But never my mind. I figured, “What the hell? Might as well. Can’t fucking hurt now, can it?”

  48. Lyn

    I’m currently reflecting on what the bible has to say about the Secret and the Law of Attraction at my blog, Thought Renewal. There are some concerns, as there is with any teaching, but I’ve found some important truths that need further discussion. Would be interested in some comments.  Thanks! lgp

  49. Moviequill

    I did the Secret way back when it was called Amway…

  50. Neil

    Moviequill — Yes, it does remind me of that. It also reminds me of buying those sea monkeys from the back of the comic book.

  51. Bill

    Combining “Oprah” with “Victoria’s Secret” made me vomit in my mouth. I watched the 20 minute deal on Google and it is just gawdawful hokum.

  52. MichelleV

    Sizzle: Ok, I went and found the books. Always curious. One even came with a CD. Thanks!

    Moviequill: Laughing lauging… I loved your Amway comment.

    Hilly.. laughing so much I sent the link off to (ex) friends

  53. ann

    Just an FYI It has been said by them that this isn’t magic. Just repeating I’m rich…I’m healthy..I’m positive(you get the idea) isnt going to make it happen. You actually have to believe it or else why bother. That’s why they said you have to work such as imagery and emotions. It doesn’t just happen. I know it works cuz b4 this came out I came upon it myself. It actually was a bit spooky.

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