Is The Secret science?


In the past six months, The Secret has taken the world by storm, selling millions of copies as a DVD and a book and jumping to the top of the best-sellers list. It has won acclaim from popular icons such as Larry King and Oprah Winfrey. It has been scorned by some scientists and psychologists as pseudo-science and psycho-babble and condemned by others for appealing to people’s materialistic aspirations. Those who dismiss it, do so with a vehemence reminiscent of the church’s response to Copernicus and Galileo. Everyone is talking and arguing about The Secret, but very little is being done to rationally examine and evaluate the methodology it advocates.

The purpose of all knowledge is to improve the human condition physically, economically, socially, politically, psychologically and spiritually. Human Science is knowledge for human accomplishment. Human Science is based on the premise that there are fundamental laws and processes governing all fields of human activities. The objective of this project is to impartially examine The Secret from the perspective of Human Science to determine whether the method it advocates is consistent with universal principles of consciousness, life, human nature and accomplishment.

Theory of The Secret

The articles in The Secret Project present a detailed analysis of the methodology in The Secret. They examine the questions:

  • Does it really work?
  • If so, why does it work?
  • What are the theoretical principles on which it is based?
  • How can the method be further improved and made more effective?

What is your view of The Secret?

  • If you have serious doubts about the validity of The Secret, please skip this section and read the rest of this article.
  • If you are not already familiar with the concepts and methods of The Secret and want to learn more, please see Introduction to The Secret for a basic introduction.
  • If you have already tried practicing The Secret and are not satisfied with the results, learn how to overcome difficulties in Making The Secret work for you
  • If you have already applied The Secret successfully, you can learn how to multiply your accomplishments exponentially in  Science of Accomplishment
  • If you want to understand more about the theory behind The Secret, including many things The Secret leaves unexplained, see Secrets behind The Secret

The Skeptics' Viewpoint

The Secret is based on the premise that what we feel inside has a direct influence on what happens around us. Many people dismiss The Secret without even seriously examining it or testing it in their lives, because the very idea that human beings can influence the world around them by what they think and feel inside seems far-fetched or ridiculous. It directly contradicts the assumptions of empirical science since the time of Descartes, who proclaimed that the individual and the world around are completely separate and unconnected with each other.

Skeptics often base themselves on the fundamental assumption of scientific materialism that matter and physical energy are the only things that really exist in the universe. They reject as theology, superstition and fantasy the notion that our consciousness can influence the world around us. Given the predominant influence of science on modern civilization, this viewpoint is easy to understand and not at all surprising.

Click here for a more detailed discussion of the Concept of a conscious Universe

Alternative Viewpoints

But this is not the only viewpoint. One does not have to be a religious fanatic, a mystic or a dreamer to question the soundness of the Cartesian world view. Even among scientists, many question strictly, the materialistic interpretations of matter, life and human consciousness. Since the advent of Quantum Theory and Relativity, many emerging concepts in physics seem to undermine this neat, mechanistic view of the world. Medical studies of the placebo effect and other examples of the impact of mind on the body raise serious doubts about the materialist hypothesis. A wide range of research in psychology on the nature of consciousness goes even further.

When we look beyond knowledge of modern science -- which after all is only a few centuries old -- to the knowledge acquired by great individuals and civilizations over thousands of years, we find compelling justification for seriously considering and rationally evaluating alternative viewpoints -- even those that challenge fundamental assumptions of modern science. Leaving aside religious and philosophical traditions, great writers of every century and nation have perceived and depicted relationships between human consciousness and the world that contradict or at least transcend the accumulated knowledge of modern science.

The Achievers' Viewpoint

And when we speak with people of action, those who have accomplished significant results in life -- making money in business, breaking records in sports, winning elections or founding organizations of any type -- we find that the vast majority of high achievers intuitively believe that what they think and feel is a vital determinant -- for many, the only determinant --of what they accomplish. Every entrepreneur and successful athlete can describe critical turning points in their careers when they delved deep into their own psychological resources for the strength, stamina and determination to persevere and emerge victorious.

Ironically high achievers are often unable to explain clearly the basis for their own success. That is why the greatest coaches are not usually those who were the greatest athletes. Doing something and understanding how to do it or get others to do it are two different things. One is predominantly physical. The other is predominantly mental.

This is not surprising when we realize that most human accomplishment is what may be termed "subconscious" or "semi-conscious". We achieve something based on ideas or methods of which we are not fully aware. It is usually only later -- sometimes much later -- that we are able to formulate clear explanations, conceptions and theories to describe what we have done. That has always been the predominant characteristic of human development both for individuals and societies.

If we examine the literature regarding accomplishment, we find that the power of human consciousness is central to every approach, regardless of whether the source is an ancient spiritual scripture such as the Bhagavad Gita or one of the myriad modern self-help books written during the past half century since the publication of Norman Vincent Peale's runaway best-seller, The Power of Positive Thinking.

Personal Experience

Most of us have no trouble accepting this truth. We believe our thoughts and attitudes do matter. They determine what actions we take and how seriously or courageously we apply ourselves. Most of us can also site dramatic incidents in our lives which confirm this view -- life-changing incidents that lead to astonishing accomplishments or narrowly spare us from tragedy. But if you ask us philosophically or scientifically how we can explain such things, we are forced to fall back on religious or mystical explanations because modern thought does not provide a logical framework for us to explain and understand our own experiences.

The Secret focuses on this relationship between our consciousness and the world around us. It asks us to fully leverage the power of our thoughts and feelings -- our consciousness -- for accomplishment. It gives us a summary explanation about how the 'universe' responds to our aspirations. But it never explains what this 'universe' is, how we are related to it, or how it can possibly know or act on what we think and feel.

Scientific Validation of The Secret

It is easy for people to dismiss the claims of The Secret as irrational and unscientific and to feel a sense of satisfaction in not falling prey to patent ‘non-sense’. Those of the positivist school of science who are proud of their insistence on empiricism reject the idea of a conscious, responsive universe prima facie as unscientific and unworthy of serious consideration. But that is not a rational or a scientific response. Equally bizarre, contradictory and inexplicable concepts have been embraced by physicists during the past century, including Relative Time, Curved Space, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Black Holes, and Dark Matter.

Science, according to the renowned scientific philosopher Karl Popper, is not concerned with the source or rationality of a hypothesis, only with its capacity for validation. “Every discovery contains an ‘irrational element’, or a ‘creative intuition’ in Bergson’s sense…Scientific discovery is impossible without faith in ideas which are of a purely speculative kind, and sometimes even quite hazy; a faith which is completely unwarranted from the point of view of science, and which, to that extent, is metaphysical.”

Science is only concerned with the rationality of the methods used to test the hypothesis. It is not at all necessary that we understand ‘how’ The Secret works in order to evaluate its validity from a scientific perspective. It is enough that we determine whether or not it works, i.e. whether controlled application of the methodology advocated actually achieves the anticipated results. Testability, not plausibility, is the sole valid criteria for scientific investigation.

“I shall certainly admit a system as empirical or scientific only if it is capable of being tested by experience. ..I hold that scientific theories are never fully justifiable or verifiable, but they are nevertheless testable…The objectivity of scientific statements lies in the fact that they can be inter-subjectively tested.” Testability means inter-subject repeatability, i.e. the capacity of the same results to be empirically validated by numerous independent scientists applying the same procedure.

That is precisely what advocates of The Secret claim. They claim that the method works, that it cannot fail to work when the required conditions are fulfilled and the method is followed precisely. They do not insist that practitioners must believe in their explanation of how the method works. They do say that greater faith in the method enhances the intensity of the psychological effort taken to practice it and, by the same logic it can be implied that, strong disbelief in the method can prevent the method from working. That is because the method is based on the power of mind to realize what it conceives to be possible and aspires to achieve. This position is internally consistent with the entire thesis and cannot be contested on rational grounds.

Scientifically, the issue is reduced to a question of whether the method works. Advocates invite everyone to apply the method and test it for themselves. Therefore, it is neither necessary nor relevant to consider whether or not their explanation of how it works appeals to our common sense or is consistent with our view of the universe.

Nevertheless, it is only natural that those who apply the method, either for personal benefit or the pursuit of impersonal knowledge, would also like to understand the mechanism by which it works. This site presents an explanation for The Secret which is entirely consistent with the knowledge that can be gained by an acute and objective study of the character of life in history, biography or literature or by direct empirical experience through psycho-spiritual methods of yoga. The explanations given here are based on the writings of Sri Aurobindo and on research conducted over the past three decades by  The Mother’s Service Society Pondicherry, India.

Regardless of whether the objective is to personally benefit from The Secret or to impersonally test its validity, the first essential condition is to clearly understand the conditions and steps required to achieve results, which are discussed in detail in other articles on this site.

Human Science

The Human Science wiki has been established to explore these alternative viewpoints rationally and systematically. This means, that it will explore the logic behind the conception in order to see whether there is a rational explanation for the phenomenon described in The Secret. It also means that it will subject the claims of The Secret to the ultimate test -- the test of life -- to determine whether the principles described in The Secret are validated by individual experience. The ultimate test of The Secret is not whether we understand it or can explain it, but whether it works!

For those who are more interested in the theory than in the practical value of The Secret for higher accomplishment, please see Theory of The Secret