The internet abounds with messages regarding accepting universal wisdom and thanking it for its abundance; generally as a means to gain success and wealth into one’s life. The theory of Abundance is said to have come from Andrew Carnegie’s ideas, and his understudy, Napoleon Hill has a documentary from the early days of film on this subject. The theory is enticing, but is it true, how can we say it would work, and should we be seeking out expensive courses on it? We need to look at the message of Hill, as a reflection of the ideals of Carnegie, then to take Carnegie’s history into consideration as a test to the ideal of abundance; scrutiny must be given, also, to the offers being touted online and consider if the concept holds enough water alone to bolster anyone’s universal abundance. Is it an alternative to religion? Indeed it is heralded as a belief system, but can it guide the human spirit, truly, through the many trials of life and lead us securely to a successful life?
The efforts to provide us with positive inputs into our daily lives is not a damaging thing and any help with depression or procrastination is a godsend. However it can get confusing with so many different messages on offer. We cannot ignore the school of thought of Abraham Hicks, moreover because his followers seem to talk of him as a cult leader, and it is inherently a system of earning through the sale of media, as seen through the publications of his group and that of Louise Hay. These reaffirm his schools and outlining his teachings in detail. This piece will focus, moreover, on the study of the lectures given by Napoleon Hill in his, elusive documentary on You Tube, which leaves much of his so called secret out, giving us a taste of the euphoria of belief that we can enjoy abundant riches if we read or sign up to the classes the buy the book. It is euphoric from the outset. We are told we are creators, true enough we do create in our lives, yet are our creations always good? This much we learn from church on a Sunday morning – the difference between morally good things and bad things. I would like to adhere to Hill’s ideal, yet I am painfully aware that out of the many things my life created some were not good; yet Hill insists I must not hold regrets they are impeding to successful thinking.
The best and most convincing argument of Hill, is his insistence that we hold,’…the ability to control our own mind…’ including our thoughts. This is where the hook of NLP would agree, and has a case for consideration. Thoughts are generated through our lives by ourselves and our reaction to things occurring to us or around us. Thus NLP stresses that the problems an individual can carry today were brought to them by childhood experiences. That much is good, it is the basis of self-analysis and has a grounding in psychiatry, for diagnosis reasons at the least. NLP offers a method other than the medication or CBT route accepted in science. NLP will take a holistic image and portray it before one and ask which things must change to overcome the hurdles facing that person today. Hill’s ideas don’t quite reach this far, sadly. In his simplistic method we are then given a lecture about life as if life is a business venture; which to anyone in love with the many traits of life is insulting to some degree. He uses imagery, like Christ, with his two envelopes at birth story, one containing the horrors we may encounter in life, the other containing the benefits of a dedicated life. There is no argument to disagree with Hills message which then goes on to discuss dedication and hard work to get ahead in life. He does leave things a little should we examine luck or circumstance for example, and if we consider the comings and goings of economy. Hill would never be discussing this all to us should he have gone into a different line of work totally and not met Carnegie and his philanthropic friendships, carved through the industrialist age of American big business. Hill discusses the determination of people like Henry Ford, again good examples, until that is we consider the wholesale detriment to the planet the motor car is having, will Hill eat his words when the world shrivels under the impact of global warming and oil wars? There is the problem inherent, and it will not be solved by Hill’s theory alone. Religion and education have made us consider our moral approach to life since society first began, yet Hill is audacious enough to paraphrase Carnegie in refusing to believe in superstition (religion in another guise), thus beliefs and even so bold as to address poverty and want as non-existent. He is better informed, however, when he discusses success through ideas of a labour of love, and for the virtue of returning the goodness the universe is offering you to those that need it. The thesis is slightly mixed with religion in this area.
The lecture consists of a discussion of good service; going the extra mile is a Carnegie/Hill paraphrase, and ironically a very common modern interview question; that more often annoys the person being interviewed by the ridiculous request to give examples. That is not to say it is a bad trait in business, it is very worthy; yet there is no escaping examining the degrees of morality behind a business, especially if you are going to work there. Hill also discusses the need to make affiliations and links throughout life. This will strengthen any business relationship perhaps, it may not be so realistic a thing to do this in your real personality, thus you are being told to be untrue to yourself. Nobody likes a fraudulent friend, one that doesn’t need you, who is always perfect and happy, and networking is not friendship. Indeed there are people who live like this, how strong can their relationships be, truly, in drama and media these types have had their lives ridiculed forever, there is even a point to heed here, in the word vanity, for us all to consider. Weakness is refuted by Carnegie and Hill, it doesn’t exist if it does it’ll drag you down. This insistence on blinkered self-belief is perhaps slightly alarming, should we consider any wisdom teachings, or the whole study of philosophy. Socrates, in Hill’s eyes, would have been a silly individual for spreading messages of doubt, and the whole premise of Socratic logic: deconstruction questioning, abandoned; thus we are supposed to take this as religious truth.
Napoleon Hill basis his teachings on those handed down to him by Andrew Carnegie, the Steel Mogul of the late 19th century. He is famed as a philanthropic extremely wealthy person. He outlines many of his ideas in a publication called “The Gospel of Wealth” written in 1889. He is firmly placed in the time of social debate at the end of the 19th century, regarding the problems facing nations’ burgeoning poor classes, as a by-product of rampant industrialisation. Were we to begin a comparison between his outspoken thoughts on social engineering, his business dealings and philanthropic gestures with other contemporaries, especially in Britain we may be sceptical of the direction of his autodidactic philosophy. He was inspired greatly by Spencer’s ideas on natural selection in social engineering terms, yet in his later generosity he can be seen to go against this to some degree; nevertheless the belief that interfering to bolster and attempt to develop the frugality of the lives of the poor is present in his business dealings. It is perhaps a development of his own later in life, after his much loved mother’s death that he can be seen to be so charitable, albeit generally in regards to the assistance in educating the poor and helping them, and other under culture’s; such as the newly emancipated black population of the US. The ideas of distrust for institutions in Spencer’s work can be seen in his political thinking, indeed he was outright republican in terms of British politics and purchased a large share of media distribution in the North of England to put this message across and back up the current liberal thinking in the UK under the Gladstonian leadership. The British religious Non-Conformist ideology of frugality, hard work and help to the deserving poor fits quite well with his actions of philanthropic gesture. We must give him the credit of his time, however, to see him alongside other wealthy industrialist attempts to augment the lives of the poor through sanitation schemes et al, including the reports of Rowntree and Booth who provided a damning account of the discarded off cuts of industrial development, namely the desperation of the British poor of the period. What stands in direct contrast to these ideas of improvement and the theories of both Spencer and Carnegie are the growth and political power of trades unions, and the gathering impetus of socialism as an ideal from the works of Karl Marx, to the sponsorship of arguably more radical liberal MP’s.
Carnegie had his own encounters with a striking workforce. In the Homestead Strike of 1892 his steelworks in Pennsylvania he can be seen as the exact antithesis to contemporary Liberal thought in Britain, which at the time had begun to promote the Unions via early Parliamentary representation. The Strike was a response from his workforce over a pay increase that did not meet their expectations when the company had benefitted from a substantial increase in profits. Spencer commented on conditions at Carnegie’s steelworks as a life warranting suicide. Thus it is hard to give good judgement to the actions of Carnegie in the strike. Primarily when it took place he decided to leave the charge of the company to a firmly less liberal management while he travelled to Britain. The strike was broken by dismissing the original workforce and hiring a new immigrant replacement to be protected by a militia sized security force. 7 workers were killed in demonstrations at one point. A similarly embarrassing event took place three years earlier, when a dam used by a company he held shares in burst in Johnstown, causing widespread local destruction and fatalities. His response to the disaster was almost an admission of guilt, with one of his earlier libraries being built to replace the one he had helped to destroy.
His support for the Laissez-Faire political thinking of the Non-Conformist liberals in Britain is also in question. He was catapulted to riches via insider trading on the early railroad developments in the US, he also augmented his fortunes through supplying close business friends in the railroad companies from his steelworks and other industries, most likely lubricated by government connections. More a question of who he knew – than the benefit of thinking pure thoughts had helped him acquire immense wealth. Furthermore he was established as a leading businessman in the country by the aid of the Civil War profits his rail and steel supply, to the Union effort, brought him. Consequentially we must consider these actions taken as a businessman and his industrial conditions before following the ideals imparted to us by Hill. It is very true that Carnegie’s personal development as a youth and young man was remarkable and is thanks to a dedication to work and progression; including the strong bonds he made in the business world. He reads as a Charismatic figure, yet critical of his own educational achievements; this can be seen via his later attempts at writing and self-education. He built many libraries and established many educational funds on this premise. He also invested greatly in Scotland and his home town of Dunfirmline. All in reflection to his early years, when he was assisted in his literacy and education via a charitable library in his locality. His returns to society in this area are great, especially the creation of new universities. However, his approaches on Liberalist thinking do not hold water in today’s western societies, they are arguably much more progressive, charitable and caring than any ideology stemming outside of religious thinking in 19th century Europe and America.
The Law of Attraction has a more evolutionary development than just Carnegie and Hill. Other writers of the early 20th century had similar ideas, following the development of better educational standards, along with modern scientific realisations, and the ability to access freedom of thought away from draconian traditions of culture that shaped the nations of the twentieth century. The idea that positive thinking attracts positive actions and circumstances is outlined by Thomas Troward, then again by Walker Atkinson, whose use of the phrase Law of Attraction is accompanied by the justification of the new scientific ideas of electromagnetism and atomic physics. However, there is no research that can provide truth to applying these to philosophies of the mind or advocating the correct procedures necessary for a successful life. At best we are left in an area of pseudo social science, albeit less convincing than the ideas of Freud, Jung and the progressive establishment of the twentieth centuries ‘research into psychology. Even these academic traditions do not accept or propose to teach ideas on Neuro-Linguistic Programming, let alone a pseudo reflection of a law of karma like this, despite the some similarities in diagnosis and treatment for depression.
So we are now left in more doubt than allowed in the advice guides of the Law of Attraction. Its cult similarities, albeit a cult of the individual, are glaring, and truth becomes ever more unattractive when we consider the more recent reiteration of these randomised hypotheses through profit driven coaching made available through media and contact groups, such as those provided by the Hicks Foundation or the literature of Louise Hay. While convincing and very helpful in the realm of self-help, do we need to invest our money to ensure they meet the goals of their success? Surely, if they were following their philosophy more accurately they would not be selling such wonderful advice as they would have successful schemes already, or be busy augmenting their own talents and creativity – thus allowing them to publish this advice freely to support the claims that giving is as much an important part of attracting abundance than taking (here I remember the more becoming expression of receiving, or holding out for grace – wise and helpful life essentials granted by adhering to most religions’ gods). The success of the Hicks Foundation has led to the proliferation of internet advice for sale. Quite frankly its annoying, and usually accompanied by every sales trick available online, from pop ups to forced subscriptions to make us subscribe, wonder and read more about the dogma. Their hook is usually where the substance of these ideals stops. The hook of positive thinking is usually a reinterpretation of the many beliefs humanity already has; indeed, rising above circumstance to stay positive is one of life’s constant challenges, hence the existence of modern mental health care system, and multitudes of creative works, easily the message inherent in most Hollywood films. Like religion, the Law of Attraction also sets its own prayers or mantras. So do we need it? On one side it tends to liberate itself from the religious dogmas, conflicting faiths of the past two thousand years, it thus can be seen as a way of holding a set of beliefs, that exist merely through brainwashing techniques wilfully taken (its use of hypnotic repetition methodology is openly addressed as the basis for the theory, the repeating positive thoughts). Religion however goes further towards charity and viewing interactive society as the positive entity. Attraction thinking is largely set upon the tennet of early sales and business thinking, which is arguably only about individual success, even if that brings trusted cooperative friends with you; such as Carnegie’s club of Railroad investors and suppliers. It certainly wasn’t a positive result for his discarded workforce.
Hills lack of educational achievement is very noticeable in his talk, there is a worry in that such self-belief comes from not having a clear balanced opinion on topics. Any academic usually gives a wavering, yet accurate description of subject matters. Hill is no academic and the inherent message of entrepreneurialism is very obvious in his work, indeed it is sold to us as a get rich course. Rich is the antithesis to religious beliefs in general, they believe in sharing, this is mentioned again by Hill, yet I am left wondering how that it can be truly as powerful as religious teaching because they insist on kindness as the first trait in life, they also scoff at the idea of dressing in finery, being luxurious or feigning happiness, or ignoring a truth. Smile and the world smiles with you works; yet to generate that smile when there is serious stuff afoot is patronising to a problem. It would seem cheap to reality to create this false feeling, the bouncy, happy, salesperson type. Indeed the new media age is generating a little too much of. To be fair, yet only in general, is it not that most of us truly dislike salespeople talking rubbish that gets in the way of our daily business, which is usually quite more important to us than this person smiling falsely to gain their abundance by way of commission?
We also must look largely about the weakness of all these ideals in the face of the great pressing questions of humanity. We have created a much kinder world without the Law of Attraction. Understanding the thought processes of human history is a good thing – understanding, we are told by all prophets of the ancient world, is all that is in the way of human happiness. The Law of Attraction has overlooked this vital message to mankind. Its users would benefit greatly by a continuum of education, as Carnegie experienced. Indeed his great philanthropic gestures reiterated this vital message, education is paramount. Attraction holds no water scientifically and has been responded to by science as insulting, it holds a weak link to the base thought processes of evolutionary science, using the theory of Natural Selection and seeing it as black and white is cheap; thus damning many people whose lives are the product of their circumstances and enforcing the belief that it is their own fault as individuals. At this stage it begins to affiliate itself to neo conservative values, and lets not forget some of the horrors accountably to industrialisation.
The Law of Attraction cannot replace religious dedication. How would some of our true martyrs or idols through time feel about their lives if faced by the foolish smile of Napoleon Hill? Hill mentions many famous success stories in his speech, yet misses some important characters from history which are much more inspiring in their actions of charity, selflessness and help for humanity, even leadership and patronage. Hill outlines a religion of sales marketing, as taught him by his erratically self-educated Carnegie, who was arguably better qualified at making money than dabbling in serious philosophical debate.