The Science of Getting Rich (1910) Wallace Wattles
When you come across a book with a title like The Science of Getting Rich, you may be forgiven for suspecting that it is a greed manual by an author of questionable motive. It is worth keeping an open mind, however, as Wattles’ classic is essentially a metaphysical work that deals with a very earthly issue.
The monistic view of the universe, on which the book is based, says that everything in the universe is linked up and part of the whole. It is the basis of Oriental philosophy and religion, and also, Wattles argues, the foundation for Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Schopenhauer, Hegel and Emerson – philosophers he spent years studying. It is also the faith of the New Thought churches, which are remarkably light on dogma and strong on the betterment of man. Whereas the traditional Christian church linked spirituality with poverty, the religion of Wallace Wattles emphasises the naturalness of abundance. He took this to its logical end by saying that a person could not really fulfil their potential by having to struggle financially – in fact, the evolution of the world depended on each of us seeking riches in an honest way.
Let us go further into this short but intriguing work, one of the 20th century’s early prosperity classics.
Tapping in to the flow
What is the source of wealth? All the great prosperity writers say the origin of wealth is thought, rather than things. Napoleon Hill called this source Infinite Intelligence, Deepak Chopra named it the ‘field of pure potentiality’, and both Wattles and Catherine Ponder describe the formless stuff from which all matter springs as ‘Substance’.
Can abundance really emerge from apparent nothingness? Consider what the great inventor Thomas Edison said: “Ideas come from space. This may seem astonishing and impossible to believe, but it is true. Ideas come from out of space.” This comment is found in The Magic of Believing, whose author, Claude Bristol, remarked, “Surely Edison should have known, for few men every received or gave forth more ideas”.
The premise of Wattles’ science is that if you purposely place a clear thought in the formless Substance, it cannot help but find material expression. Through visualization of what you desire on a repetitive basis, the thing will come into being through the organization of existing modes of production. This is the secret shortcut to gaining what you need.
Yet man, through most of history, has approached it from the other round by trying to create things only from existing materials, applying thought to things through manual labor. We have only just begun to operate as God does, Wattles notes, who is after all continually creating something from nothing. Through the science of mind, we are now starting to see that we can ‘make’ things more easily and more perfectly by first impressing the idea of them upon Formless Substance.
If you accept that all things come from something immaterial, how you live and act will be different from someone who believes that the basis of everything is matter. Appearances alone will cease to form the basis of your decisions, because your underlying knowing will be that the universe is abundant and ever-renewing. In Wattles’ words:
To think health when surrounded by the appearances of disease, or to think riches when I the midst of appearances of poverty, requires power; but he who acquires this power becomes a master mind. He can conquer fate; he can have what he wants.
The fact of increase
Nature always seeks expression and increase – this is the one reliable fact of the universe. It seeks greater sophistication and refinement; in short, progress. Therefore, Wattles argues, “there can be no lack unless God is to contradict himself and nullify his own works.” It is natural for us to want more, and the desire to be rich must be understood in terms of organic growth and progress.
The caveat: what you seek must be in harmony with the universe. It should be to further your fullest expression, not just for excitement and entertainment. “You do not want to get rich in order to live swinishly, for the gratification of animal desires; that is not life.” You want wealth so that you can pursue your interests and develop your mind, travel, surround yourself with beauty and be in a position to give generously. Just as it is wrong to be extremely selfish, at the other extreme it is not wise to sacrifice yourself too much. God made you to make the most of your self, Wattles says, which in turn makes you more valuable to others.
Creation not competition
The author reminds us that the Substance which creates the evolving universe does not pick and choose who it will favor; its power is open to all and its flow of riches is endless. There is no need to be fearful of what you will ‘get’ - “You do not have to drive sharp bargains”, he says - and no sense in trying to take things away from others.
These are ideas of competition which do not reflect the reality of an abundant universe. The idea of competition rests on the belief that there is one pie to be carved up, whereas creation rests upon an acknowledgement of riches infinite. You need to become a creator rather than a competitor
But what about all the people who have become rich on the plane of competition? They are like the dinosaurs of prehistoric eras, Wattles says, in that they have been a vital part in an evolutionary process of organizing production, but are invariably brought down by the same logic of competition that thrust them to the fore. Their riches were neither satisfying to themselves nor enduring in a wider societal sense.
Consider that other people can’t ‘beat you to it’ if you are creating something unique out of the imagination, skills and experience that make up your unique personality. Big organizations cannot shut you out of prosperity if you follow your own path to it. Wattles’ further tip for real-world prosperity is that you must endeavour to provide something which the buyer feels is greater in value than the price they have paid for it. To use a contemporary term, you must ‘overdeliver’.
Many will attest that the best way to draw something to you is to give thanks that you already have it. Because the nature of the universe is abundance, it rewards those who are actively aware of the fact and are continually grateful for it.
When you are attuned to the source that creates all things, it is natural that it will provide you with the things you need. Gratitude will prevent you from falling onto the plane of competitive thought and lack, and make you realise the blessings that are already yours. Wattles refers to the Bible’s words, “Draw nigh unto God, and He will draw nigh unto you” as a statement of fact, because thanks cannot fail to move the giver, and indeed will inspire he, she or it to give more.
He further advises not to spend your time complaining about the world, railing against magnates and politicians. These people are part of Earth’s evolution, and their actions allow you to physically pursue your opportunities efficiently and in peace. Instead, cultivate gratefulness: “The grateful mind is constantly fixed upon the best; therefore it tends to become the best; it takes the form or character of the best, and will receive the best.”
Never talk about your past financial troubles, Wattles says: “If you want to become rich, you must not make a study of poverty”. Do not care how poverty is created or sustained, even if you have an interest in the history of tenement dwellers or third world hunger - look only for what makes for riches. The poor need inspiration more than charity, and so you should endeavour to show them the path to wealth rather than trying to ‘alleviate poverty’.
The question must be asked: why seek to be rich? Some will say that we should want less, settling for a standard of living less taxing on the earth. This is no doubt true, but it fails to take account of human nature. What is a man or a woman if not a bundle of aspirations?
Desire is the engine that drives the world, and without every-increasing wealth there would be a miserable gap between what is wanted and what can be afforded. The nature of life is growth and increase, so it would be contradicting nature to restrict the urge to plenty.
It is also a fact that you cannot seek the higher things in life if having to fight for the basics. “Moral and spiritual greatness”, Wattles says, “is possible only to those who are above the competitive battle for existence.” You will not be able to pursue what fascinates you or fulfil your intellectual potential if you have no money to buy books or free time to read. It is also much easier to have a positive view of life when you are able to surround yourself with items of beauty. And not least, Wattles points out, to live soulfully a human being must have love, and it is difficult to love when you are poverty-stricken.
In the 21st century we seem much more open to the idea that spirituality and wealth go together. For this we have partly to thank the pioneers of prosperity consciousness, who have removed the possibility of personal riches from the realm of guilt to rightful expectancy.
The Science of Getting Rich will be dismissed as quaint by some, but it was actually ahead of its time. Despite its mystical language, it is profoundly practical.
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Biographical information on Wattles is scant, but we know that he was born just after the American Civil War, and died not long after the publication of The Science of Getting Rich.
Other books include Health Through New Thought and Fasting, The Science of Being Great, The Science of Being Well, and a novel, Hellfire Harrison.