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Newcomb: 'The Secret' philosophy is nothing new

The Secret' is out. The author of the wildly popular self-help book and DVD was recently featured on Oprah, who has an unrivaled ability to catapult books to best-seller status. (''The Secret'' quickly climbed to No. 1 on The New York Times' best-seller list, accompanied in the top three by two other Oprah favorites.)

So, what is this ''secret''? Essentially, it is the philosophy that when you formulate an image in your mind of what you want in life and feel an intense passion to realize that image, the creative energy of the universe will organize itself around that image and life will then manifest what you desire. Some refer to this philosophy as the ''law of attraction.''

It is a philosophy that involves the discipline of speaking and thinking positively, by being thankful or expressing gratitude for what we presently have, but by also being thankful, already, for what we wish to see happen in our lives in the future. Given that the thankfulness aspect of this philosophy is also a traditional indigenous approach to prayer, this ''secret'' is really no secret at all, but a quite natural and habitual way of living for many of us who are indigenous.

Indeed, this secret lore is simply the way all human beings shape and create reality in community with others on an everyday basis. It's just that most of us don't spend much time contemplating the way that everyday reality is socially and cognitively constructed. One question is: What's new or secretive about the fact that if you form an intention or decide to achieve some goal and then put massive amounts of energy into moving in that direction, you'll eventually reach the outcome you desire?

A March 5 Newsweek article criticized how the film version of ''The Secret'' centered ''itself almost entirely on a narrow range of middle-class concerns - houses, cars and vacations, followed by health and relationships, with the rest of humanity a very distant sixth'' in terms of priorities. The article stated that on ''an ethical level, 'The Secret' appears deplorable.'' And on ''a scientific level,'' states the article, ''the law of attraction is preposterous.'' Such a criticism seems ironic, though, because such ''middle-class'' materialism is promoted and constantly pounded into us through billions of dollars in slick advertising. Those who are marketing ''The Secret'' are simply following suit by appealing to all the crass materialism of the ''American dream.''

The DVD features the Rev. Michael Bernard Beck, who compares the law of attraction to the law of gravity: ''If you fall off a building, it doesn't matter if you're a good person or a bad person, you're going to hit the ground.'' The article responds: ''Which is equally true if someone pushes you off a building - or, let's say, beats your brains out with a club during a bout of ethnic cleansing. The law of attraction implies that you brought that fate down on yourself as well.''

What the Newsweek writers did not pose, however, is the unfortunate possibility that there are some people in the world who use the law of attraction or the social and mental construction of reality to manifest truly horrific deeds for their own greedy and self-serving ends. It is not the point that the victims of an ''ethnic cleansing'' brought that fate on themselves; rather, the people who victimized them formed an intention to do so, and then actualized that intention through the physical actions that manifested the reality of their victims' abuse or bloody demise.

The Vatican papal bulls of the 15th century, the Royal Charters of England and other such documents are evidence that popes and kings have used the law of attraction, otherwise understood as the social and cognitive construction of reality, to set into motion those actions that led to the vicious destruction of indigenous societies. What was their ultimate objective? It was the enrichment of the elite monarchies, royal families, nobilities and aristocracies of Western Christendom through the accumulation of vast amounts of land and wealth.

In our time, at the opening of the 21st century, we have seen how the law of attraction is being used today - not for the realization of some mere ''middle-class concerns,'' but for the realization of billions of dollars in corporate profits by the planetary elites. It is a ''law'' being used by the most powerful and the most sinister forces for dark and destructive ends, resulting in deadly and horrific consequences for the planet.

Here is a short summation of some of those consequences: the rendition and torture of prisoners by the U.S. and other governments; some 3,000 American troops dead and many thousands more wounded and maimed in Iraq; tens of thousands, perhaps more than 100,000, Iraqis dead; thousands of pounds of depleted uranium munitions that have poisoned lands, air, water, people, animals and plants with a radioactive substance that lasts for several billion years; $12 billion in U.S. taxpayer monies (363 tons of cash) missing and unaccounted for in Iraq; the billions of dollars that Halliburton and other corporations have earned as a result of the war in Iraq that was started on the basis of lies and the manipulation of ''intelligence''; and a U.S. president who seems to aspire to be a monarch or an emperor.

Here is my intense image of for future, based on the law of attraction: Thank you for an ecologically sustainable world, where Mother Earth, all human beings and all living things are honored and respected; where women and children, in particular, are cherished with the highest regard; a world in which peaceful relations exist between all peoples; a world in which countries and corporations no longer profit from war and by making weapons of mass destruction. Thank you for a way of life in which humans are able to live harmoniously together as healthy, loving relatives.

Steven Newcomb is the Indigenous Law Research Coordinator at the Sycuan Education Department on the Sycuan Indian Reservation, co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and a columnist for Indian Country Today.