Review: The Power by Rhonda Byrne
(Simon & Schuster, £14.99)
Published 21/08/2010 | 05:00
The big myth rich and powerful people tell vulnerable folk is that everyone can do it, with the right mindset. Love, liberty and happiness are all yours if you unlock the secrets of the universe. Wrong keys? Then read Rhonda Byrne, who wants to help because she's on a mission to bring 'joy to billions'. Just sweeten up your minds and hearts.
Byrne's best-selling The Secret was a glitzy cash cow that started with Socrates' 'know thyself' and staggered on through Dale Carmody, Louise Hay, Sarah Ban Bhreathnach and lesser mortals. Nothing against self-help: life's mysteries need deciphering. Whatever gets you through the night gets you through. But if Byrne is writing the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul recipe, then her second book, The Power, is a real turkey.
This banal, meagre tome comes in a pretty, little-girl-sized shape which makes it cutesy, until you start reading. It's a cut-and-paste job with flowery illustrations. Out-of-copyright quotes from famous people litter brief interludes on how to have it all.
The Power claims the universe operates laws of attraction you can learn to work. Think positively, visualise what you want and, hey babe, it's yours. "Imperfect thoughts are the cause of all humanity's ills, including disease, poverty and unhappiness," she claims. It's the kind of elitist claptrap tyrants love because it means the masses have only themselves to blame.
Surround yourself with powerful words and images, The Power commands, then magnetise the laws of attraction towards what you want. Writing about the Power and Money (you need to live in CAPITAL letters), Byrne says that about 10pc of people own most of the wealth. So far, so good. Then comes the killer line.
"The only difference between the wealthy people and everyone else is that the wealthy people give more good feelings about money than they do bad feelings. It's as simple as that," she says. So, how do we account for greed?
Love is what makes money stick, according to her. If you don't love enough, you won't get anything back. Feeling vulnerable makes you vulnerable. Worrying because you have no money keeps you poor. Bad eyesight, no friends, unhappy job? You ain't using your mojo right.
Byrne doesn't waste time on evidence. She has no clinical experience or training, other than a sojourn producing Psychic Detectives TV, which is warning enough.
Her internetfilm, The Secret, sampled self-help thinking from experienced professionals, then turned it into a book under her name. That's her research. Apparently, it belongs to an attitude called 'New Thought'. 'No Thought' tells it better.
This book is brightly-packaged snake elixir for the soul. Yes, visualisation helps. Yes, words matter, confidence and discipline too. But, meanwhile, so many millions of people feel sad, lonely, inadequate and jobless that they're sitting targets for quick-fix celebrity-clad gurus who use bottom-drawer tactics to tap into private, individual fears.
You could have a laugh if some of Byrne's claims weren't so invented. Her pseudo-scientific theories about laws of attraction give a veneer of expertise based on nothing more than magical thinking and superstition. This is stone age stuff.