The Dark Secret Behind Those Warm and Fuzzy “Chicken Soup for the Soul” Books

A blog reader was kind enough to send us some startling information on the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series that you probably never heard before!

But that’s what we’re here for – both this blog and you the readers of this blog – to pass along vital information to each other about the many seeming innocuous ways that the New Age and the occult are seeping into our culture.

Chicken Soul for the Soul is the perfect example. Who would ever think there was something with these feel-good stories? I certainly didn’t until I learned that the author, Jack Canfield, has long been a practicing New Age guru which is why many of the contributors of those warm-and-fuzzy stories are also steeped in questionable spiritual practices.

First, let’s take a look at Canfield. He’s a Harvard graduate with an M.Ed. from the University of Massachusetts and has received three honorary doctorates in psychology and public service. At one time, he worked as a high-school history teacher and was a follower of “the secret” and “law of attraction” worldview.

According to a bio appearing on the Law of Attraction website, in 1976 Canfield experimented with a visualization tool known as the Chinese Abundance Check Technique. At the time, he was making $8,000 a year and he visualized making $100,000 a year by writing himself a check for that amount which he then stuck on the ceiling above his bed so that it would be the first and last thing he would see every day. Supposedly, after a series of “coincidental” events, Chicken Soup for the Soul was published and Canfield’s income shot up to $93,000.

Of course, he tried it again with a $1 million check and – you guessed it – he received a million dollar check from his publisher which he naturally attributed to this “visualization” technique and the thoroughly New Age concept that “you can be what you will to be.”

These beliefs actually stem from the New Thought movement of the 1800’s which taught that we can create our own reality by our thought processes so “what the mind can conceive, the body can conceive.” New Thought eventually morphed into the New Age Human Potential Movement of the mid-20th century and underlies popular books of the time such as Norman Vincent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking, L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics and Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to name a few.

The problem with this way of thinking was rather bluntly pointed out by the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Interreligious Dialogue in their seminal document on the New Age, Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life. “The Human Potential Movement is the clearest example of the conviction that humans are divine, or contain a divine spark within themselves.”

If we can just use our minds to get anything we want, who needs God, right?

Canfield’s work is shrouded in stories that are genuinely heartwarming and seemingly innocent, but when you check out some of the authors of these tales, a whole different picture emerges.

For instance, the original Chicken Soup volume contains at least 25 New Age attributions or contributors, such as Wayne Dyer , Eric Butterworth (popular New Age spiritual leader ), and Richard Bach (of Jonathon Livingston Seagull fame who believes our apparent physical limits and mortality are merely appearance), Tielhard de Chardin (his writings were condemned by the Church), Carl Rogers (one of the founders of the very New Age humanistic approach to psychology) to name a few. This volume also advertises the New Age oriented magazine called Changes.

Some of the stories are clearly New Age, such as Canfield’s “The Golden Buddha” story in which he writes: “We are all like the clay Buddha covered with a shell of hardness created out of fear, and yet each of us is a Golden Buddha,’ a golden Christ,’ or a golden essence,’ which is our real self.”

The second volume contains stories written by 38 New Age or Mormon contributors such as Sai Baba (Indian guru who thought he was a reincarnated saint) and the noted transcendental meditation promoter Harold Bloomfield.

The third volume is no improvement and contains 23 New Age or Mormon contributors and Chicken Soup for the Surviving Soul contains 20 New Age contributors. Some of these authors include Marianne Williamson (who promotes the occult-based A Course in Miracles), Joan Borysenko (mind/body healer), Norman Cousins (another mind-over-matter guru) and Alan Cohen (self-help guru who founded a university dedicated to “higher learning for the higher self”).  

Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul is even worse and contains at least 27 New Age and Mormon authors or attributions including a “psychic,” two Transcendental Meditation trainers, a Unity minister, and a shaman.

Unfortunately, there are now 200 titles in this series and 112 million copies in print in over 40 languages. That’s getting a lot of mileage for the “be your own god” crowd.

But that’s not all Canfield has been up to. Some say he’s behind the huge success of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret (based on the idea that there is some kind of secret knowledge about God, humanity and the universe of which the general population is not aware that can make you fabulously rich, beautiful, attractive, etc.) and that it was his Transformational Leadership Council that provided all the gurus who appeared in the movie The Secret.

But none of this is all that shocking for a person who bases his “religion” on a mish-mosh of spiritualities. According to this quote from Choosing to Be Happy: “Every religion I’ve looked at has some technology— … I’ve studied all of them and found what works for me and I’ve tried to make it available to others. What works for me is a combination of disciplines: I do yoga, tai chi which is a Chinese martial art and three kinds of meditation-vipasana, transcendental and mantra (sound) meditation. If you have to pick a yoga for me, I lean towards bhakii in the sense of devotion, adoration, singing, feeling love and joy exist in my heart.”

Perhaps most disturbing of all (to me anyway) is that Canfield was a disciple of Roberto Assagioli who served as a personal emissary to theosophist Alice Ann Bailey.  A New Age magazine article dating back to 1981 revealed that Canfield was a teacher of Bailey’s highly occultic “psychosynthesis” which Assagioli once described as  the “formation or reconstruction of a new personality—the transpersonal or ‘spiritual Self.’”

But Canfield’s occult beliefs don’t stop there. He once remarked that the most interesting thing about the use of guided imagery was that it evokes “the wisdom that lies deep within us” and teaches his students how to contact their spirit guides so they can serve as “wisdom counselors.”

I could go on and on but I think you the idea. Chicken Soup for the Soul is a wolf in sheep’s clothing if I ever saw one.

Send your New Age questions to newage@womenofgrace.com

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