Oprah Winfrey, New Thought, “The Secret” and the “New Alchemy”


by Terry Melanson ©, Apr. 11, 2007

Though the demonism of the Middle Ages seems to have disappeared, there is abundant evidence that in many forms of modern thought – especially the so-called “prosperity” psychology, “willpower-building” metaphysics, and systems of “high-pressure” salesmanship – black magic has merely passed through a metamorphosis, and although its name be changed its nature remains the same.

The foregoing quote reads like an excerpt from a review of the movie, The Secret. This is not the case, however. Manly P. Hall wrote those words in the late 1920s when New Thought metaphysics was in full swing, and the original self-help gurus combined the burgeoning science of applied psychology with that of Bernays-like manipulative advertising. An eager public was caught unaware and would consume mass market “willpower-building” manuals, by the millions. Each successive generation has had its own purveyors, and the Oprah-inspired phenomenon that is The Secret, as we shall see, stems from the same fount.

Self-Help Popular Religion and the New Thought Movement

Pray! In other words, get an urgent, insistent desire. The first principle of success is DESIRE – knowing what you want. Desire is the planting of your seed.

– Robert Collier (1885-1950), The God in You, p. 7

There is no limit, you know, to Mind. Visualize this thing that you want. See it, feel it, BELIEVE in it. Make your mental blue-print, and begin to build!

– Robert Collier, The Law of Higher Potential, p. 368 (1947)

The creative power of thought is now receiving increasing acceptance in the West, which is in some cases taking over, and in others, discovering anew, for itself, what was thought by the ancients in India. Because they have discovered it anew, they call it “New Thought”; but its fundamental principle is as old as the Upanishads which said, “what you think that you become”. All recognize this principle in the limited form that a man who thinks good becomes good, and he who is ever harboring bad thought becomes bad. But the Indian and “New Thought” doctrine is more profound than this. In Vedantic India, thought has been ever held creative. The world is a creation of the thought (Cit Shakti associated with Maya Shakti) of the Lord (Ishvara and Ishvari). Her and His thought is the aggregate, with almighty powers of all thought. But each man is Shiva and can attain His powers to the degree of his ability to consciously realize himself as such. Thought now works in man’s small magic just as it first worked in the grand magical display of the World-Creator. Each man is in various degrees a creator. Thought is as real as any form of gross matter.

At 0:00:34 in the DVD version of The Secret, we get our first clue that Robert Collier’s works are one of the main sources of The Secret. Flashed upon the screen, as part of a rapid and slick collage transition sequence (one of many), is a fleeting glimpse of a page from Collier’s The Secret of the Ages:

The Secret of the Ages

As identified by the official site of the DVD, Robert Collier is a past secret teacher. Besides Collier, other past secret teachers mentioned in the movie include Aristotle, Beethoven, Alexander Graham Bell, Joseph Campbell, Andrew Carnegie, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Fillmore, Henry Ford, Charles F. Haanel, Victor Hugo, Carl Jung, Martin Luther King, Isaac Newton, Plato, W. Clement Stone, Thomas Troward, and Wallace D. Wattles.

Collier was one of the original self-help gurus, publishing popular books during the first half of the 20th century which sold by the hundreds of thousands. The “secret” of The Secret was revealed on the Oprah Winfrey show last month, and within the DVD itself: the “law of attraction.” Likewise – interspersed between quotes and concepts from philosophers and occultists throughout the ages – the writings of Robert Collier are hinged on the principle of the law of attraction. As expounded by adherents, the law of attraction is a metaphysical concept rooted in Hindu mysticism, Hermeticism, mesmeric animal magnetism and auto-suggestion. By stressing optimistic expectations, mental imagery and affirmations, “New Thought” pioneers equated the power of thought and desire with success. As Horatio W. Dresser put it,

[…] the word “realization” came into vogue to signify the method by which affirmations were to be made effective, that they might give an impetus to the subconscious mind, might generate an attitude making for success. To realize is not merely to repeat a formula but to make it your own, enter into it vividly, dynamically, productively. To realize the value of an affirmation is to grasp the implied truth or law, to think it out, enter into its spirit, assimilate its life. This is partly accomplished through reasoning, partly through silence or meditation. To “enter the silence” thus became the favorite expression among disciples of the New Thought.

One of the first teachers of the law of attraction was William Walker Atkinson (1862-1932), an important figure in the spread of New Thought. Atkinson had been a student of New Thought since the 1880s, became an ardent promoter of the movement, and was the editor of several New Thought journals.

In 1900, he published “a series of lessons in personal magnetism, psychic influence, thought-force, concentration, will-power & practical Mental Science,” titled Thought-Force in Business and Everyday Life. Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World was published in 1906. The latter of which – a New Thought classic – reads like a transcript from The Secret, circa 2007:

A strong thought or a thought long continued, will make us the center of attraction for the corresponding thought waves of others. Like attracts like in the Thought World – as ye sow so shall ye reap. Birds of a feather flock together in the Thought World – curses like chickens come home to roost, and bringing their friends with them.

Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World was recently reprinted last year as a result of the success of The Secret.

Under numerous pseudonyms, as well as with his own name, Atkinson became a prolific writer and teacher of occult subjects. Books such as Practical Psychomancy and Crystal Gazing (1907); Reincarnation and the Law of Karma (1908); and a six-volume series called The Arcane Teachings, with titles such as Arcane Formula or Mental Alchemy; The Cosmic Laws; and Vril, or, Vital Magnetism. After becoming intensely fascinated with Hinduism and purportedly studying with a guru named Baba Bharata, Atkinson penned 13 books under the name of Yogi Ramacharaka: The Science of Breath (1903); Fourteen Lessons in Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism (1903); Advanced Course in Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism (1904); Hatha Yoga, or The Yogi Philosophy of Physical Well-being (1904); A Series of Lessons in Raja Yoga (1905); The Science of Psychic Healing (1906); Lessons in Gnani Yoga, the Yoga of Wisdom (1906); The Bhagavad Gita (compilation) (1907); and Spirit of the Upanishads (compilation) (1907).

If acolytes of the Oprah-endorsed The Secret decide to investigate further the concept of the law of attraction, this is the type of literature they will encounter.

Another influential New Thought author, and one of the past secret teachers, was Wallace D. Wattles (1860-1911). Rhonda Byrne, the producer of The Secret, was inspired to create the movie after reading Wattles’ 1910 classic The Science of Getting Rich. The book is a practical guide, says Wattles in the Preface: “intended for the men and women whose most pressing need is for money; who wish to get rich first, and philosophize afterward.” Specific hints are giving on how to proceed, however, if one were indeed inclined to “philosophize”:

The monistic theory of the universe the theory that One is All, and that All is One; That one Substance manifests itself as the seeming many elements of the material world – is of Hindu origin, and has been gradually winning its way into the thought of the western world for two hundred years. It is the foundation of all the Oriental philosophies, and of those of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Schopenhauer, Hegel, and Emerson.

The reader who would dig to the philosophical foundations of this is advised to read Hegel and Emerson for himself.

Much like its closely associated sibling the New Age Movement, the New Thought Movement represents an amalgam of beliefs. Direct influences can be discerned from 19th century spiritualism and spiritism, transcendentalism, homeopathy, faith healing, phrenopathy, Spinozism, Hinduism, mesmerism and metaphysics; what one writer has described as a “quasi philosophical-religious-mystical-healing idealism movement.”

The most important difference between the New Age and New Thought is that the latter is much more organized and unified.

New Thought Chronology

The New Age Movement is generally traced back to the teachings of Theosophy and Madame Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891). In a similar manner, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866) laid the foundation for what became known as the New Thought Movement. Though less well-known, yet equally as diverse, New Thought has just as many branches and competing systems. In order to get an idea of where the latter came from – where it has been and where it is now – it is necessary to establish a timeline.

1838 – Phineas P. Quimby takes up the practice of mesmerism (mesmeric sleep or hypnotism), after attending a lecture in Belfast, Maine by a traveling French physician/mesmerist, Dr. Collyer.

After a few experiments on willing subjects, Quimby happens upon a most suggestive young man, one Lucius Burkmar. Quimby soon realized that Burkmar, while in a trance, could diagnose disease and prescribe remedies. They traveled throughout New England and gave their own exhibitions – the mesmeric faith-healer and his talented clairvoyant.

Looking for an explanation to Burkmar’s success – and not content with the standard mesmeric theory that magnetic fluid was the causative agent – Quimby theorized that healing occurred through the sheer power of the mind. Quimby would say, “Some believe in various remedies, and others believe that the spirits of the dead prescribe. I have no confidence in the virtue of either. I know that cures have been made in these ways. I do not deny them. But the principle on which they are done is the question to solve; for the disease can be cured, with or without medicine, on but one principle.”

According to James Webb, “between 1852 and 1855,” Quimby wrote, “I then became a medium myself.” His own method of healing entailed retaining his own consciousness. “Now when I sit down by a diseased person I see the spiritual form of a vapor surrounding their bodies,” Quimby had said. After inducing the patient to tell him where their trouble began, the cure was realized by Quimby’s spirit governing their own; consisting “in bringing the spirit of his patient away from the place where the cause of illness occurred.” (The Occult Underground, p. 122)

Thus, the Quimby system of mental healing of illness was born.

1862 – After suffering chronic illness and dabbling in homeopathy and alternative healing, Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) turns to Phineas Quimby for treatment. Julius A. Dresser said that when Eddy “became a patient of Quimby, she at once took an interest in his theory, and imbibed his explanations of truth rapidly.”

A few months after feeling relief, in the Portland Evening Courier, Eddy’s testimony on Quimby is recorded:

[…] is it by animal magnetism that he heals the sick? Let us examine. I have employed electro-magnetism and animal magnetism, and for a brief interval have felt relief, from the equilibrium which I fancied was restored to an exhausted system or by a diffusion of concentrated action. But in no instance did I get rid of a return of all my ailments, because I had not been helped out of the error in which opinions involved us. My operator believed in disease independent of the mind; hence, I could not be wiser than my teacher. But now I can see dimly at first, and only as trees walking, the great principle which underlies Dr. Quimby’s faith and works; and, just in proportion to my light, perception, is my recovery. This truth which he opposes to the error of giving intelligence to matter and placing pain where it never placed itself, if received understandingly, changes the currents of the system to their normal action; and the mechanism of the body goes on undisturbed, That this is a science capable of demonstration becomes clear to the minds of those patients who reason upon the process of their cure. The truth which he establishes in the patient cures him (although he may be wholly unconscious thereof); and the body, which is full of light, is no longer in disease. At present I am too much in error to elucidate the truth, and can touch only the key-note for the master-hand to wake the harmony.

1863New Thought pioneer, Warren Felt Evans (1817-1889), is healed by Quimby:

His health, which had never been good, began to worsen. In 1863 he decided to visit Quimby in Portland, Maine. Quimby’s fame had been spreading throughout New England. In two visits, Evans was healed of dyspepsia, which had afflicted him for years. He was thrilled at what he found in Quimby: someone he felt put into practice Swedenborg‘s approach to healing. Evans felt that because of his Swedenborgian background he understood Quimby’s healing secrets, and could employ them himself. Quimby agreed as Evans began the life of a healer.

Evans joined the Swedenborgian Church, and he and his family moved to Boston and then Salisbury, where he became a highly-effective healer. For the rest of his life, he gave healings in the Quimby-Swedenborg approach. He never charged. He wrote many books combining the theology of Swedenborg with the healing techniques of Quimby.

Evans was the first author to proselytize to the masses the techniques of Quimby, marking the beginning of the movement known as New Thought. His books include The New Age and its Messenger (1864), The Mental Cure (1869), Mental Medicine (1872), Soul and Body (1875), The Divine Law of Cure (1881), The Primitive Mind Cure (1885) and Esoteric Christianity and Mental Therapeutics (1886).

1866 – After a fall on the sidewalk caused her to seek her own cure, Mary Baker Eddy says she “discovered the Science of Divine Metaphysical Healing, which I afterward named Christian Science.” In reality, this “scientific certainty that all causation was Mind, and every effect a mental phenomenon,” was based upon her own understanding of the healing principles of Quimby.

1875 – The foundational doctrine of the Christian Science movement, Eddy’s Science and Health is published.

1879 – Eddy founds The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts.

1883The Christian Science Journal is created by Eddy.

1885 – Emma Curtis Hopkins (1849-1925) becomes an independent Christian Science practitioner after a falling out with Eddy’s organization. Dubbed the teacher of teachers, Hopkins would go on to influence and indoctrinate most of the early influential purveyors of New Thought. Her students included Emma Fox, Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, Ernest Holmes and Francis Lord. By 1887, Hopkins had “taught six hundred students” and had in operation seventeen branches of the Hopkins Metaphysical Association. (See Deidre Michell, “New Thinking, New Thought, New Age: The Theology and Influence of Emma Curtis Hopkins (1849-1925)“, Counterpoints, Vol. 2, no. 1, July 2002)

Hopkins’ own inspiration ran the gamut from Plotinus, Porphyry, and Spinoza, to the Zend-Avesta and alchemist Cornelius Agrippa. She promulgated aphorisms and affirmations such as “there is no evil”; “there is no matter”; “there is no sin, sickness or death”; and “my Good is my God.” Combining 19th century feminism with New Thought Christian Science, Hopkins ordained ministers (mostly woman) as “special messengers of ‘the new era of the Holy Mother Spirit’ ” (Michell, op. cit.).

1889 – The Unity Church (Unity, or Unity School of Christianity) is founded by Charles Fillmore (1854-1948) and Myrtle Fillmore (1845-1931) in Kansas City, Missouri.

The basic tenets of Unity can be summarized briefly:

God: Divine Mind, absolute good, and therefore the concept of evil is merely ignorance.

Man: “We are spiritual beings, ideas in the Mind of God.”

Jesus: “a special person”; “a Teacher.”

The Bible: “a body of history”; “a great literary work”; any deep significance to be found is only due to a “metaphysical interpretation.”

The virgin birth: “spiritually interpreted as the birth of the Christ consciousness.”

The Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit interpreted metaphysically as “mind, idea, and expression.”

Salvation: “the death of Jesus … did not relieve us of the necessity of working out our own salvation.”

Sin and the Devil: “Heaven and hell are states of consciousness”; “Sin is our separation from God in consciousness, caused by our [mistaken] belief in the ‘devil’.”

Besides New Thought and a metaphysical interpretation of the Bible, “Unity drew on Hinduism, Buddhism, Theosophy, and Rosicrucianism,” declares Arthur Goldwag. Confirming Unity’s syncretism, Charles Fillmore had said, “We have studied many isms, many cults … We have borrowed the best from all religions … Unity is the Truth that is taught in all religions, simplified…so that anyone can understand and apply it.”

Unity as whole is the most powerful conduit for the dissemination of New Thought metaphysics, representing hundreds of affiliate churches, organizations, offshoots and perhaps millions of followers. Purportedly, Oprah Winfrey is a member. (At the very least, she is, and has been, the promoter of many prominent members – most recently those involved with The Secret.)

1895 – In Boston, the Metaphysical Club is formed. Up until that time this represented the “chief event in the history of New Thought”; bringing together “some of the leaders of the mental-science period” and those “active in the Church of the Divine Unity and The Mental Healing Monthly.”

1898Nautilus, the most widely read New Thought periodical, is created by Elizabeth Towne. It was published for over 50 years, “sold extensively on the newsstands, has taken the place of many of the earlier magazines, and is typical of the New Thought in its most popular and prosperous form.”

1899 – The Metaphysical Club organizes a conference in Boston for those with a “deep interest in the new movement to establish a world-wide unity and cooperation along the lines of the so-called ‘New Thought’.” In turn, an International Metaphysical League was organized at this conference. During its second session in 1900 a revised constitution was adopted, the purpose of which was

To establish unity and cooperation of thought and action among individuals and organizations throughout the world devoted to the Science of Mind and of Being, and to bring them, so far as possible, under one name and organization; to promote interest in and the practice of a true spiritual philosophy of life; to develop the highest self-culture through right thinking, as a means of bringing one’s loftiest ideals into present realization; to stimulate faith in and the study of the highest nature of man, in its relation to health, happiness, and progress; to teach the universal Fatherhood and Motherhood of God and the all-inclusive Brotherhood of Man; that One Life is immanent in the universe, and is both Centre and Circumference of all things visible and invisible, and that the Intelligence is above all and in all; and that from this Infinite Life and Intelligence proceed all Light, Love and Truth. These simple statements are in their nature tentative, and imply no limitations or boundaries to future progress and growth, as larger measures of light and truth shall be revealed.

1908The Christian Science Monitor is founded by Mary Baker Eddy.

1912 – Businessman, “thirty-second degree Mason and a Shriner“, Charles F. Haanel (1866-1949) wrote his mind-power prosperity classic, The Master Key System. It sold over 200,000 copies over with the next twenty years.

1914 – The International New Thought Alliance is formed. Its purpose:

To teach the infinitude of the Supreme One; the Divinity of Man and his Infinite possibilities through the creative power of constructive thinking and obedience to the voice of the Indwelling Presence, which is our source of Inspiration, Power, Health and Prosperity (emphasis added).

Since its inception, the International New Thought Alliance has organized annual conferences, bringing together “the great leaders of New Thought in the world, including representatives from Unity School, United Religious Science, Religious Science International, Divine Science, Association of Unity Churches, Universal Foundation for Better Living, Center for Spiritual Awareness, Unity Progressive Council, Association of Global New Thought, New Thought Network, University of Healing, as well as noted individuals …”

Its headquarters acts as a research institute. The Addington INTA Archives consists of books and booklets, magazines, pamphlets, correspondences, lectures, sermons, lessons and published articles dealing with all aspects relating to New Thought, the New Age and occultism. In addition to recognized New Thought authors, the Addington INTA Archives allows one to delve into the major writings of New Age pioneers Alice A. Bailey and Annie Besant; occultist William Wynn Westcott; Gurdjieff disciples J.G. Bennett, P.D. Ouspensky, Maurice Nicoll and G.I. Gurdjieff himself; Sri Aurobindo; Francis Bacon; Emanuel Swedenborg; Theosophists C. W. Leadbeater, J. Krishnamurti and H.P. Blavatsky; Edgar Cayce; Pierre Teilhard de Chardin; some of the Seth material channeled by Jane Roberts; a book by the Findhorn Community, The Findhorn Garden (on how they contacted and cooperated with “nature spirits and devas”); Freemason/occult philosopher Manly P. Hall; the Rosicrucian writings of Max Heindel; H.S. Lewis, the founder of the Rosicrucian Order AMORC; New Agers Barbara Marx Hubbard, Ruth Montgomery, and Luciferians John Randolph Price and David Spangler; Swedenborgian Helen Keller’s My Religion; spirit medium J.Z. Knight (Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment); and the Book of Urantia – among others. (See Books and Booklets, Authors A-F, G-M and N-Z)

Eddy Pyramid1921 – On the 100th anniversary of Mary Baker Eddy’s birth, an exact replica of the Great Pyramid, made from a single piece of granite and weighing over 100 tons and 11 feet on each side, was carved and placed near the house where Eddy had been born, in New Hampshire. It was a gift from Freemasons. In the “Mary Baker Eddy Letter,” December 25, 1997, we learn that when “the Board of Directors noted that too many Christian Scientists were visiting the grand granite marker at Bow … that marked Mary Baker Eddy’s birthplace, they had it destroyed, dynamited to bits!”

Eddy’s first husband, George Washington Glover, was a Mason, and “thereafter membership in the Masonic Order was the one single ‘outside’ affiliation that was allowed to church members by Mrs. Eddy.”

Christian Science and Freemasonry have maintained a symbiotic relationship. Many of the first churches established around the United States had gathered in Masonic Temples. To this day one can find the headquarters for many Christian Science associations having an address corresponding to the local Masonic lodge.

1927 – Ernest Holmes (1887-1960) founds a metaphysical movement called Religious Science, later known as the United Church of Religious Science. A year earlier, Holmes had published his most influential book, The Science of Mind. Holmes’ main influences were Christian Science, Phineas Quimby, Thomas Troward (1847-1916) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). Religious Science, “like many New Thought faiths, emphasizes positive thinking, influence of circumstances through mental processes, recognition of a creative energy source and natural law (referred to as God, First Principle, Universal Intelligence, and other terms) that manifests as the physical universe, and the rejection of a good/evil duality.”

1937Napoleon Hill (1883-1970), a practitioner of Haanel’s The Master Key System, publishes Think and Grow Rich. Hill’s “Science of Success” was sometimes dubbed the “Carnegie Secret” or the “Carnegie Formula”. He had had a longtime relationship with Andrew Carnegie, beginning with the latter commissioning him to interview the most successful, wealthy and famous people in the world.

Hill would later claim that he had been contacted by a visitor from another dimension. “I come from the Great School of Masters,” the being had said. “I am one of the Council of Thirty-Three who serve the Great School and its initiates on the physical plane.” According to Hill, his greatest secrets came from spirit guides known “as the Venerable Brotherhood of Ancient India, it is the great central reservoir of religious, philosophical, moral, physical, spiritual and psychical knowledge. Patiently this school strives to lift mankind from spiritual infancy to maturity of soul and final illumination.” (See Dave Hunt, “The Classic Case of Napoleon Hill“)

1952 – Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993) publishes The Power of Positive Thinking. The book became an instant best-seller, was “on the New York Times bestseller list for 186 consecutive weeks,” and has sold over 7 million copies. A Christian preacher and a 33rd degree Freemason, Peale “and his chief disciple, Robert Schuller, kept New Thought alive within mainstream Christianity.”

1974 – A black female minister from the Unity School of Christianity, Dr. Johnnie Coleman, founds the Universal Foundation for Better Living, and in 1985, the Christ Universal Temple in Chicago. Oprah regular Della Reese, the star of TV’s Touched by an Angel, was ordained a minister by Universal Foundation for Better Living. Reese and Cole together founded the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church.

1975A Course in Miracles (ACIM), by Dr. Helen Schucman (1910-1981), is published. ACIM represents “the most successful channeled work of the late twentieth century.” It has been embraced by New Thought and New Age teachers alike. Workshops and seminars espousing the principles of ACIM have become a staple of Unity and Religious Science.

Oprah Winfrey has been an ardent promoter of ACIM, mainly through the teachings of New Age/Unity feel-good guru Marianne Williamson, who’s been a frequent guest.

The Secret and Unity

Essentially, The Secret is a profitable mass market infomercial, on a global scale, touting the principles of New Thought and Unity Christianity. The teachers of The Secret have been regulars on the New Thought/Unity circuit for years – now more “prosperous” than ever. Nearly every Unity website prominently features The Secret, various products relating to it, and how to further apply its principles.

A small sampling …

Unity World Headquarters: “Now that you know the Secret as presented on Oprah … Unity will support you in applying the transforming power of this Secret – the Law of Attraction – to every area of your life.”

Unity Spiritual Life Center, Oklahoma City: “2007 certainly has been an exciting time in Unity. The Secret has brought one of our core teachings into the national spot line and attracted many first time visitors to our center. Our Sunday morning class on The Secret has been at times standing room only.”

Unity Center For Spiritual Living:

Have you seen or heard of the new movie
Did you watch Oprah in February
when she and her guests discussed
Come to Christ Unity and learn about
Watch “THE SECRET” being demonstrated
Listen to the teachings
and learn how to apply
to your life!

“THE SECRET” is available to you NOW!

First Unity of St. Petersburg: “Wings Bookstore previewed The Secret to a full house at First Unity in September and then again in November. We could barely keep up with demand for the DVD during the Christmas season, and sales have soared to almost 900 movies at this writing. We watched with anticipation as a few network TV shows began featuring it in the fall.” “Then came Oprah. …” […] “Why is Unity smiling with pride at the awakening that the Secret reveals? Is the Secret Unity’s? Did they invent it? Have they been hiding it? Who started all this?”

Moreover, official teachers of The Secret who’ve appeared in the movie continue on Unity’s promotional circuit: Bob Proctor is scheduled for a question and answer period on May 3rd, 2007 at Unity Church Toronto; Dr. John Demartini is scheduled to appear at the Unity Church of Phoenix, on April 25th, 2007; June 29-30, 2007 at First Unity of St. Petersburg, a Neale Donald Walsch workshop; June 9-15, 2007 a Unity spiritual retreat, with special guest Rev. Michael Beckwith (Agape International Spiritual Center; Association for Global New Thought).

The Secret: of Rosicrucians, Hermetic Symbolism, Alchemy and Magick

The Secret is one of the divine laws of the universe. The “Mastery of Life” is not difficult to grasp, but the secret of the Rosicrucian tradition has been protected and preserved for thousands of years, shown only to those who have proven a true desire to know.

Being a Rosicrucian I could not help but notice the frequency with which the word Rosicrucian flashed between speakers in the film.


It appears the producers of the film are playing the esoteric game. Though the word is never spoken outright in the film, The Secret bombards you subliminally with “Rosicrucian” at every opportunity. At 0:22:43, 0:22:50, 0:45:16, 0:53:26, 0:53:30, 0:59:41, 0:59:45/46, 1:08:55, 1:08:59, 1:15:36, and 1:22:14 respectively, Rosicrucian appears on the screen – albeit fleetingly – much like the above image.

Going to the official site, and viewing the flash presentation on the past secret teachers, the importance of Rosicrucian thinking is elaborated upon.

On Beethoven, they say: “In his personal life Beethoven was known to support the views of Pantheism, which included the idea of natural law and the universe being equivalent to, and inseparable from God. He is also considered to have been a member of the Rosicrucians, a legendary and secret order that espoused many of the ideas of The Secret.” (emphasis mine)

There you have it; Rosicrucianism is linked to the teachings espoused in The Secret. There’s no historical evidence that Beethoven was initiated into any form of Rosicrucianism – at that time rampant throughout Central and Eastern Europe, in the form of the Gold- und Rosenkreuz (Golden and Rosy Cross). However, it is known that Beethoven did indeed subscribe to the tenets of Pantheism. To the Rosicrucians Beethoven is a hero, and official Rosicrucian periodicals have been writing about him for years. He is an exemplary example of the power of mind (the crux of New Thought), being perfectly attuned to the heavenly “music of the spheres,” or the “celestial hierarchies.” Beethoven went deaf towards the end of his life and yet he created his greatest masterpiece, the Ninth Symphony in D Minor.

The Rosicrucian influence is reiterated for other past secret teachers as well, with Victor Hugo and Isaac Newton being claimed as initiates.

An intriguing Rosicrucian/Hermetic/Alchemical connection is New Thought author William Walker Atkinson, whom we encountered earlier. Atkinson wrote nearly 100 books under various pseudonyms. Those identified (and acknowledged by New Thought Cornerstone books), include: Yogi Ramacharaka, Theodore Sheldon, Theron Q. Dumont, Swami Panchadasi, The Three Initiates, and Magus Incognitus. “The Three Initiates” is the author of The Kybalion: Hermetic Philosophy, 1908 – purportedly a very famous and popular occult manual.

It’s the latter pseudonym that is most revealing. Magus Incognitus is the author of The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians. Apparently, H. S. Lewis (1883-1939), founder of the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC), borrowed heavily from Atkinson. Here’s a few clues gleaned from the net:

The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians, published anonymously early in the 20th Century by a senior Rosicrucian “Magus Incognito”, was threatened with a lawsuit by the worldwide Rosicrucian Order (AMORC) for revealing the secrets of the order …

I’m acutely aware that this book raises hackles among some Rosicrucians of particular orders. When I asked for opinions about it on one order’s mail list, members talked about suing the writer.

It appears that ‘Magus Incognito’ was in fact a pseudonym for William Walker Atkinson, known also as ‘Yoga Ramacharaka’, an early 20th century writer on Hinduism, Yoga and New Thought.

HS Lewis, founder of a modern neo-Rosicrucian organisation, the AMORC, borrowed heavily from Ramacharaka’s work without attribution for both the lessons of his AMORC group and the AMORC-controlled Traditional Martinist Order.

Atkinson’s executors obviously got their own back by publishing his ‘secrets’ and putting them in the public domain as ‘Rosicrucian’, presumably to stop AMORC profiting from his work.

So, while one may say that this book is not about ‘Rosicrucians or their doctrines’ I would say that there are some differences between this book and the teachings of early Rosicrucian movements. Much of what is written here is a synthesis of East and West, influenced by Hindu and Yoga teachings.

However the book has very definite similarities to the modern-era AMORC teachings, which after all, borrowed liberally from Ramacharaka in the first place!

So . . . maybe that means AMORC doctrines don’t owe much to Rosicrucianism, at least to the extent that they borrow from Ramacharaka? An interesting conundrum!

[…] Lewis has derived many ideas too from the American New Thought, particularly from books like The philosophy of Electrical Psychology by John Bovee Dods or those of William Walker Atkinson, The Law of the New T[h]ought. A Study of Fundamental Principles and Their Application, The Secret of Mental Magic, Mental Fascination, Thought-Force, Subconscious and Superconscious Planes, etc. Atkinson wrote also under the pseudonym of Yogi Ramacharaka many books on Yoga which Lewis used in the A.M.O.R.C. teachings for his practical breathing and meditation exercices [sic]: Course in Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism, Science of Breath, Psychic and Spiritual Development, etc.

It appears that the AMORC branch of Rosicrucianism has cribbed liberally from New Thought as a whole; at the very least, both disciplines have a common origin. This explains the works of Max Heindel and H.S. Lewis in the INTA Addington Archives, as well as the prominence giving to Rosicrucian thought by those who created The Secret.

To illustrate the complete compatibility between New Thought, Rosicrucianism and the teachings espoused within The Secret, consider the following:

The Rosicrucian texts often describe the idea of the “Universal Unity”. Omnia ab Uno, (All from One) is one of the sayings of the Rosicrucians. It expresses the idea that God is One – an undividable Whole – and that everything in the cosmos has evolved from this One Eternal Source. The various activities of Life, which we see in the universe around us, are simply the various forms of the manifestations of God.

A perfectly succinct description of the concepts discussed in The Secret.

Hermeticism is also a key component of The Secret, which makes complete sense since Hermetic thought – in combination with the Kabbalah – is the one common denominator which unites all western esoteric/occult movements.

The movie itself begins with an extended sequence in which the Emerald Tablet is furiously copied by a young Egyptian scribe as Roman or Greek soldiers are seen approaching; he hands the copy off to the temple Priest who hides it inside a metal scroll. The scribe, escaping just in time with the original, then buries it in the sands close to the Pyramids of Giza. Cut to a new scene … A Knight Templar is now in possession of the scroll and immediately after it’s seen in the hands of a “covetous” Vatican priest. Afterwards, a copy of Hermes’ Emerald Tablet is shown being examined by an alchemist (according to the press kit PDF, the actor is playing the role of none other than the famed alchemist Saint Germain); he too is being hunted by someone coveting the Secret, and flees. It ends with “The Secret was Suppressed” … and a board room full of malevolent-looking power elite, reminiscent of the X Files’ Cigarette-Smoking man’s Illuminati cabal.

“The Emerald Tablet is perceived as one of the most important historical documents known to mankind,” elaborates the official site of The Secret. “Its author … is speculated to be the mythical Greco-Egyptian deity Hermes Trismegistus – inventor of alchemy and Hermetic philosophy […] revered by alchemists, scientists and philosophers. It discusses ideas of the interconnectedness and oneness of all things.”

During the scene in which the alchemist Saint Germain is probing the secrets of the Emerald Tablet, we see that his alchemical laboratory is rife with occult paraphernalia. Next to some alchemical flasks is the image of Azoth of the Philosophers:


The image – rather, a mandala – is replete with advanced occult symbolism.

This brings us to the ultimate aim of those involved with The Secret: inner-transformation or self-realization. Quantum physicist Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D. – one of the teachers interviewed in The Secret – has this to say in his book, Mind into Matter: A New Alchemy of Science and Spirit:

[T]hey [the Qabalists, Alchemists, Hermeticists, Rosicrucians and Freemasons] all had one common goal: the transformation of the base or common into the pure or rare. Or, to put it simply, transforming mind into matter.

[…] the mysterious doctrine of alchemy pertains to a hidden, subjective, abstract, and higher order of reality. This reality constitutes the basis of all truths and all spirituality. Perceiving and realizing this reality is and was the goal of all alchemists. They called this goal the Magnum Opus or Great Work – the Absolute Realization. It was seen as the Beauty of all Beauty, the Love of all Love, and the Highest High. To witness it required that consciousness be radically altered and transmuted from the ordinary (lead-like) level of everyday perception to a subtle (gold-like) level of higher perception, so that every object is perceived in its perfect archetypal form – the Absolute, the Holy of all Holies.

This transmutative process, the Magnum Opus, is at one and the same time, both a material and a spiritual realization.

In the very next paragraph Wolf quotes from occultist Eliphas Levi’s Transcendental Magic, and shortly afterwards, Satanist Aleister Crowley’s student, Israel Regardie of the Golden Dawn. An endorsement of those occultists puts the reader in very dark territory should they wish to investigate further: Witchcraft, Enochian Magick, Necromancy and Tantric/Sex Magick.

In keeping with Unity’s and Oprah’s certitude that “all paths lead to God,” James Arthur Ray, one of the most media-exposed teachers of The Secret, assures his potential students that he’s more than qualified to lead them to Truth. “I’ve studied with the Qu’ero shaman in Peru (the only direct descendents of the Inca),” Ray authoritatively proclaims, “the Brazilian shaman in the deep jungles and rainforests, the ancient Kahuna of Hawai’i, as well as many Native American traditions. My search has also led me to the esoteric schools of Qabalah, the mystical temples of Egypt, the ancient mystery schools and ceremonial magick. While their terminology and approaches may be slightly different, they all hold the same fundamental truths.” Ray finishes his list of qualifications with a promise to increase “your spiritual and practical power” through the techniques proscribed in his system of “Modern Magick.” You too can have “everything you desire,” he says, “All for just $5695!”


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