(RNS) — “The Secret: Dare to Dream,” a film based on the bestselling book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, released on Amazon and Apple TV on July 31. Starring Katie Holmes and Josh Lucas, this Hallmark-esque film offers a dose of inspirational spirituality amid the rise of depression and anxiety during the pandemic.
The film borrows a familiar premise: struggling single mom stumbles across eager single man who takes unexpected interest in floundering family.
What makes this stock formula different is the movie’s guiding principle: the law of attraction. This idea, popularized in “The Secret” — both a 2006 film and the bestselling book — is that your thoughts control what happens to you. Positive thoughts beget positive outcomes, and accordingly, negative thoughts reap negative consequences.
According to the website for “The Secret,” this spiritual wisdom has the power to “create — intentionally and effortlessly — a joyful life.”
Thousands of online testimonies credit the law of attraction with helping them find healthy relationships, dream jobs and wealth.
“Your thoughts attract things with a force that you cannot see but is definitely real,” says Lucas in the movie’s trailer.
Blurring the boundary between self-help philosophies and New Age religion, Byrne promotes a three-step process: Ask, believe, receive. The book teaches that individuals possess a magnetic power that allows them to control their own destinies.
“If you can think about what you want in your mind, and make that your dominant thought, you will bring it into your life,” writes Byrne in the book.
The Oprah-approved book has sold over 34 million copies worldwide, has been translated into 50 languages and spent 190 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.
Carl Raschke, a religious studies professor at the University of Denver, says the book’s secret is nothing new.
Raschke says the law of attraction borrows from positive thinking, a secular American tradition that has been adopted by American religious leaders such as Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) and controversial American minister Norman Vincent Peale (1920-1993), who authored “The Power of Positive Thinking.” President Donald Trump’s father was reportedly a huge fan of Peale and the family at one point joined his church; later, Donald Trump (who married his first wife at Peale’s church) said Peale called him “his greatest student of all time.”
The law of attraction also has roots in the New Thought movement, whose origins are often attributed to transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th century. Still surviving among a handful of loosely related groups today, the New Thought movement celebrates the divinity of individuals and the ability of thoughts to manifest reality.
As Emerson wrote, “All the parts and forms of Nature are the expression or production of divine faculties, and the same are in us.”