The Secret Teaching of Dr Caroline Leaf

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the decade, “The Secret” is no secret.  We’ve all heard of the book or the movie, or the countless gurus that promote how they’ve made millions of dollars and found untold happiness by unlocking the power of the Law of Attraction.  You can have that same success too if you buy their book or attend their seminar, or sign up to be part of their network marketing scheme.

Let’s be honest, we’ve probably all, at some point, indulged someone telling us that we just need to think positive or visualise our goal and it will be ours.  It’s even something that many preachers over the years have sold to us in various guises, like hyper-faith, name it and claim it, sowing your seed.

The Secret claims that if we understand we’re all energy, one with the universe and its power, then we can leverage that power to create or receive anything we want with our thoughts.  We just need to think positively and visualise it.  It’s a repackaging of the human potential movement, new age philosophy and cosmic consciousness, all of which is a repackaging of pantheism and Eastern religious teaching.

The author, Rhonda Byrne, (who I’m embarrassed to say is Australian) wrote, “If you’re feeling good, it is because you are thinking good thoughts.”  Ok, but what about when you’re thinking good thoughts and you still feel bad?  What exactly are ‘good thoughts’ anyway?

She also wrote, “Remember that your thoughts are the primary cause of everything.”  So the rise of ISIS is because of my thoughts.  Donald Trump might be President … my thoughts.  An oceanic tectonic shift cuts the undersea trunk line taking out the internet for half the eastern seaboard … Sorry, my bad, I was having negative thoughts again.

So The Secret really doesn’t make a lot of objective sense.  I could go on, but it’s been taken down well enough by a number of commentators and critics over the last decade or so (https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4096; http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/june/20.71.html), so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel.  But suffice to say, The Secret fundamentally sells the power of thought to shape our reality … wait, that sounds oddly familiar.  Dr Leaf said the same thing at TD Jakes’ church, the Potter’s House, only this week.

leaf-the-secret

@bishopjakes proudly shared this Instagram post which Dr Leaf duly forwarded to her adoring fans.  “You can shape your reality by the way you think” was even the title of her message.  (She followed it up with an e-mail to her subscribers saying the exact same thing …)

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Dr Leaf’s teaching is eerily similar to The Secret in many other ways.  That quote from before: “Remember that your thoughts are the primary cause of everything” sounds remarkably similar to “Thoughts influence every decision, word, action and physical reaction we make.” (Who Switched Off My Brain, p13)

There are lots of others.  From The Secret:

“Everything else you see and experience in this world is effect, and that includes your feelings. The cause is always your thoughts.”

“Every thought of yours is a real thing – a force.”

“Everything else you see and experience in this world is effect, and that includes your feelings. The cause is always your thoughts.”

“Food cannot cause you to put on weight, unless you think it can.” (This one made me giggle more than the others … yep, those three bottles of Coke I just drank have absolutely no effect on my waistline because I believe that excessive soda consumption is slimming …)

“Your imagination is an extremely powerful tool.”

“Quantum physicists tell us that the entire universe emerged from thought!”

“Quantum physics … says that you can’t have a universe without mind entering into it, and that the mind is actually shaping the very thing that is perceived.”

“The amazing work and discoveries of the quantum physicists over the last eighty years has brought us a greater understanding of the unfathomable power of the human mind to create.”

“Thoughts are magnetic, and thoughts have a frequency. As you think thoughts, they are sent out into the Universe, and they magnetically attract all like things that are on the same frequency. Everything sent out returns to the source – you.”

“There are no limits to what you can create for you, because your ability to think is unlimited!”

Compare that to just a small sample of Dr Leaf’s work:

“Our mind is designed to control the body, not the other way around.  Matter does not control us; we control matter through our thinking and choosing.” (Switch On Your Brain, p33)

“Research shows that 75 to 98 percent of mental, physical and behavioral illness comes from ones thought life.” (Switch On Your Brain, p33)

“DNA actually changes shape according to our thoughts.” (Switch On Your Brain, p35)

“Whatever you are thinking about affects every cell in your body.” (Switch On Your Brain, p94)

“Everything you do and say is first a thought in your physical brain.  You think, then you do, which cycles back to the original thought, changing it and the thoughts connected to it in a dynamic interrelationship.  If your thinking is off … then your communication though what you do and say is off, and vice versa.” (Switch On Your Brain, pp98-99)

“Quantum theory converts science’s conception of humans from being mere cogs in a gigantic, mechanical machine to being freethinking agents whose conscious, free choices affect the physical world.” (Switch On Your Brain: p120-1)

“Thought signals seem to move faster than the speed of light and in ways that classical physics cannot explain.  This means our mind controls matter, and is therefore a creative force.” (Switch On Your Brain, p121)

“These statistics show that the mindset behind the meal – the thinking behind the meal – plays a dominant role in the process of food-related health issues …” (Think and Eat Yourself Smart, p84)

The only difference between The Secret and Dr Leaf’s ministry is Dr Leaf’s claim that science and scripture support it, though lexical contortions of scripture, and cherry-picked pseudoscience does not qualify as supporting evidence.

In the last ten years since The Secret was published, many critics have lined up to pull it apart, some prominent Christians included.  So they should, because The Secret is an abhorrent, unscientific concoction of new age humanism, or as one critic astutely put it, “spiritual narcissism”.

I’ve dissected Dr Leaf’s teaching over the last three-and-a-bit years and shown that her science is wanting, and her scripture is tenuous.  As this week’s sermon aptly demonstrates, Dr Leaf’s teaching appears to be a lukewarm re-serving of The Secret, sprinkled with some scripture and pseudoscience to try and make it more palatable for the Christian church.  Despite the shared narratives of self-obsession and magical thinking, the Christian church still fawns over Dr Leaf.  It’s embarrassing to see the same Christian leaders and media outlets lambaste The Secret but unquestioningly accept the same message woven through Dr Leaf’s teaching.  Dr Leaf’s teaching is so close to The Secret I’m surprised Rhonda Byrne hasn’t asked for royalties.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.  The same goes for ignorance—the only thing necessary for the triumph of ignorance is for smart men (and women) to do nothing.  We also need consistency.  Rejecting The Secret but accepting the same teaching from Dr Leaf creates a cultural cognitive dissonance amongst the Church that’s unhealthy.

Church, it’s time to stand against mistruth no matter what the source.

Bibliography

Byrne, R., The Secret, Atria Books, New York. 2006 ISBN 978-1-58270-170-7

Leaf C., Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling toxic thoughts and emotions. 2nd ed. Southlake, TX, USA: Inprov, Ltd, 2009.

Leaf C.M., Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2013.

Leaf C.M., Think and Eat Yourself Smart. USA: Baker Books, 2016.

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6 thoughts on “The Secret Teaching of Dr Caroline Leaf

  1. I bought “The Secret” CDs when they came out. Best purchase ever! No regrets.

    You see Rhonda’s publisher included the complete recorded sermons of Martin Luther King Jr. He was an awesome preacher. First time I’d heard any of his sermons. Most of his “speeches” for the civil rights movement were actually sermons. (Probably the only place he could speak without getting carted off by racist police).

    I digress. Rhonda Byrne was a brilliant business woman that packaged her new age teachings in an impressively slick presentation. She deserved every dollar she got out of me. M.L. King Jr was worth it.

    Oh, her stuff was crap. Long live the human vacuum cleaners of this world who suck us in. They really do remind us that true wisdom is priceless.

  2. Caroline Leaf is a new-age liar. And I tell you, it’s a really sad day when some of the most influential pastors and leaders in America welcome her with open arms. Whatever happened to ‘due dilligence’? Keep up the good work Dr Pit

  3. I am not sure how I stumbled upon your website but I generally don’t reply to social media but needed to reply because I have found Dr. Leaf’s teaching draw me closer to God. You have to internalize and live the word. God is amazing and gives us a choice and has made us intelligent beings. The bible is very clear about that. Our thoughts are matter and that is completely completely aligned to scripture. I think you need to study Dr. Leaf a bit more. She consistently tell folks to seek the Holy Spirit for direction. She does not tell you how to do things. She is just explaining what happens in your brain when you think and that you have control of your thinking. She provides practical steps to change negative thoughts with the tools of thanksgiving, praise and worship and help of the holy spirit. Breaking habits in 21 days or three repetitions of 21 to eliminate a thought is proven in science. Neuroplasticity is a real! Recently proven in research. So when the bible says, take your thoughts captive and renew your mind daily. Or that life and death is in the power of the tongue. What do you think is happening in your brain? She is just explaining that. . .no magic, just the holy spirit!!

    As far as the Secret and new age materials there are nuggets of truth in the practices in that information. The Devil knows the bible and we should be on the look out for the wolf in sheep’s clothing. We need to know and study the word on our own not through other people. When we hear sermons, read books, etc. . . we need to study for ourselves because the enemy is so deceptive. He got you on Dr. Leaf’s teaching. . . I have read her books and listened to her sermons. Take time to do your homework. The irony of you stating that Dr. Leaf is cherry picking is somewhat comical because you have cherry picked her quotes with out providing accurate context. If you are a Christian, fix your eyes on Jesus. Don’t get distracted by the wrong things and tear down folks that are drawing people closer to Jesus.

    Respectfully,

    • Hi “maybe”,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad that you’re closer to God than before. That’s good news in anyones book.

      There are a number of reasons why you might feel closer to God, many of which have nothing to do with Dr Leaf or her teaching, but even if we assume for arguments sake that you’re right, and that because of the nuggets of truth in Dr Leaf’s teaching, you feel closer to God. Does that mean that she should be excused on all of the lies and mistruths, the exaggerations and misrepresentations within her teaching? Jim and Tammy Bakker had lots of devoted followers, many of whom probably felt closer to God because of their ministry. Does that mean that they should not be accountable for their other actions? Should their ministry not have been ‘torn down’?

      You may feel that I have cherry-picked her teachings and that I should do my homework. Actually I’ve spent the last few years analysing Dr Leaf’s teaching – feel free to read any of the hundred or so blogs I’ve written analysing her work, or the 60,000 word book reviewing how the brain works and how Dr Leaf’s version is scientifically and scripturally inaccurate, and indeed, blatantly contradictory in places. The book is complete with full quotes and page references for Dr Leaf’s teaching and all of the references to the scientific articles I reviewed. I can assure you, I’ve done my homework.

      I can also assure you that Dr Leaf’s teaching is not how you describe. Sure, God is amazing, and He does give us choice and (most of us) are intelligent beings. But our thoughts are not matter. There is nothing in scripture that confirms that. Breaking habits in twenty-one days or three repetitions of twenty-one days to eliminate a thought is not proven in science. If it is, find me the reference. Neuroplasticity is real, sure, we’ve known about it for decades. It’s not been recently proven, it’s old school scientifically speaking. Neuroplasticity is a general term for the way the brain adapts to the demands placed on it, through synaptic pruning and synaptogenesis and limited neurogenesis. It’s not a catch-all explanation for any grand proposition made by life coaches and success gurus. When the Bible says, “take your thoughts captive” and “renew your mind”, do you know what it really means, or do you just think you know? I know what’s happening in the brain but Dr Leaf is not explaining it … her narrative has nothing to do with science. I don’t dare pretend to be able to speak for the ways of the Holy Spirit.

      Don’t believe me? That’s fine. I’m not here to argue with you, I have better things to do. Suffice to say, my rebuttal of Dr Leaf’s work is there for anyone to review and you can make up your own mind. Believe me when I say that my goal has been to help as many people as will listen to focus on the truth and to not get distracted by the wrong things.

      All the best to you.

      • How do you miss the truth if you are being encouraged to READ the Word, SEEK the Holy Spirit, GIVE thanks to God, PRAISE God, and WORSHIP God? A small example, I work in mental health field and use self talk with unbeleivers. It works! She encourages you to use self talk. She is just giving a description of what is happening to what’s happening on the inside the body. Even if her science is wrong, her theology is aligned to the Word of God. Dig a little deeper.

      • I’ve dug as deep as I need to. I’ve written it all out for you to review if you want to – it’s all there in black and white. It’s interesting that you admit that her science could be wrong but her theology is not … again, I’ve looked in depth at how she uses scripture and her theology doesn’t align with scripture. Again, it’s all there in black and white.

        If you don’t think I’m right, that’s fine. You can believe what you want. It’s not my place to judge.

        Good luck to you.

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