Friday, March 23, 2007

The Science Of Getting Rich - Or Shallow And Materialistic?

I recently began reading a book entitled The Science Of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles, a book that was to later become (nearly one hundred years later!) the inspiration for the latest self-help hit The Secret. In a nutshell, by harnessing the pseudo-spiritual powers suggested by Wattles the reader is able to progress to a state of financial wealth beyond their wildest dreams. In doing so, that person can then (and only then) lead a 'really complete or successful life'. By not aspiring to this wealth, that person is not only abnormal but also sinful - guilty of dereliction of duty to God. For the uninitiated out there, you can read or download a free copy of the book (as a pdf document) here (right-click the link and either open it in a new tab or select 'save link as...' so you don't leave this page accidentally - I've not finished with you yet!).

So far I have only reached as far as Chapter 2 so what I state here is merely an 'opinion in progress', but I somehow find myself hoping that my reaction so far remains as it is. After trawling the internet, I have not found any negative comments by others, which is a worry - either a worry for myself or a worry for the rest of the world, since one or the other is missing something here.

Reading the book as far as I have, the whole premise of thought so far appears to be based around the assumption that materialism is the sole route to fulfilment (quote: A person develops in mind, soul and body by making use of things and society is so organised that we must have money in order to become the possessors of things. Therefore, the basis of all advancement must be the science of getting rich'.). Yes, we must have money in order to have 'things' in the material sense, but to make the leap from this statement to the assumption that advancement (presumably in every sense of the word - not just standard of living but also moral, spiritual, etc) is totally bound to great financial gain seems, on the face of it, a little shallow. Does this mean that no person who has been relatively poor (or rather, un-rich) has ever advanced their state of fulfilment of happiness or development?

Does this mean that Buddhists for example, individuals who purposefully shun material gain, have never 'advanced' in a way that gives them greater happiness? I keep thinking that the word 'rich' or 'richness' is being used figuratively but in Chapter 1 it specifically states that it is not. In fact, it is also said that to not want this richness to the fullest extent is actually sinful and 'the person who does not desire to have money enough to buy all he wants is abnormal'. Am I missing something? Is someone who looks beyond the trappings of wealth, maybe through spiritual enlightenment via meditation or deeper knowledge through contemplation (both of which are independent of wealth) really sinful and abnormal?

I agree that having an abundance of money provides opportunities which otherwise may not available, but it's limited and I don't believe that the richness is anything more than a vehicle. Only someone who has the ability to then look beyond it once they have it is likely to truly benefit, unless they are somehow content with just the richness in itself. According to the book, a person cannot live fully in body without freedom from excessive toil. Many find the challenges of excessive toil, whether physical or mental, to be much of what life is all about. Without such challenges, what would such people do to replace such intense and rich activities? Excessive toil is only a burden to those who do not want to do it, or have no reason within themselves to do it. And many people, particularly philosophers, would take issue with the statement 'love is denied fullest expression by poverty'.

'The individual who has nothing to give cannot fill his place as a spouse or a human being. It is in the use of material things that a person finds full life for his body, develops his mind and unfolds his soul.' - true if a person cannot relate to giving in any form other than a material one. Again, we go back to families who have nothing - are they lacking in some kind of deeper meaning because they do not possess material things? I'm not so sure.

Please do not assume from all of this that I am dismissing the concept I am simply questioning it, since the message so far appears to be that the means is the end itself, ie. the richness itself will be the ultimate reward, rather than the additional opportunities which it may offer (despite the fact that similar opportunities exist without richness). The reader/listener is told not to question and to just accept, with the promise that further down the line it will all become clear and make sense. I'm prepared to give it that chance, since i'm sure that I'm missing the essence of the philosophy behind it, but so far I'm surprised by the lack of a spiritual dimension, something which flies in the face of much of what I believe in at a fundamental level.

Also, I'm not religious but the reference to neglecting the study of getting rich as being a dereliction of duty to God (I'm paraphrasing) seems to be somewhat contradictory in theological terms.

So much for Chapter 1. You may have guessed that I am having problems with this book. Methinks this is to be continued.......

Please leave comments. I need the reassurance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the book should have a 2nd life as toilet-paper! Materialism is for idiots.... money is a falsehood perpetuated by media and driven by insecurity.