AMBO.—The gist of your letter is as follows—"Through speculation I lost my position; since then...I have managed to make about £180 per year, and have a small private income besides of £80, but my domestic expenses I cannot keep down, and I am truly anxious to save for the sake of my wife and family, I being now fifty-two years old. My wife is very much against my speculating, but will not see that unless I make money we should soon get into debt; is, therefore, speculation wrong? The teaching of 'New Thought' is that if you set your mind on success you get it. Although speculation has been my downfall, yet I feel that I can succeed...Yet by speculation you do not follow the words of Christ, who says, 'Take, therefore, no thought for the morrow etc., for speculation is of the essence of the future...Your teaching seems to be sacrifice...Sacrifice is repugnant to most of us; we will give up something, but we expect more in return, and I cannot bring myself to sacrifice. The teachers of 'New Thought' vary so much that selfishness appears to me to be its great danger."
Reply:—Speculation has been your downfall, ergo, don't speculate. Surely your experience has proved to you the necessity of abandoning speculation forever, and this is confirmed by your own doubts and scruples on the matter. When a man does not doubt any particular course of conduct, he should, and will, act it out; but when he doubts its soundness, he should avoid it, and seek another way of action. The fact that you are questioning the rightness of speculation makes it wrong for you, even if you had not proved it so completely by experience. You think you would succeed if you ventured again. This is the madness of the speculator. He always thinks, "This time I shall hit the mark; one more plunge, and I shall win," refusing to learn by experience. You say you cannot keep down your household expenses, but this is what you can and should do. It is the only direct way out of your difficulty. True, to do this, sometimes requires great courage and great sacrifice, but better sacrifice luxuries, friends, and caste, than character. There is only one way of keeping out of debt, and that is, live within your income. Look where you will, you will find no other way, and having done this, exert all your energies to increase your income by useful and legitimate means. Give an equivalent for the money you receive. Earn it. Your family will not be deserted if you do only that which is right.
Whatever "New Thought" may say, it is no more true to say that "if you set your mind on success you will get it" than to declare that "if you jump over a precipice you will not be injured if you are determined not to be." Confidence is only one item in success. There are laws to be reckoned with, and he who ignores them is crushed by his own folly.
It is true that the way of self-sacrifice is "repugnant" at its commencement, but it leads inevitably to surety and peace; whereas the way of self-seeking is very pleasant at its commencement, but it leads directly to confusion and unrest.
Finally, as to whether selfishness is the danger of "New Thought" is quite beside the matter concerned. What you have to do is to avoid the danger yourself. Do not rely upon "New Thought" or any other external prop, but look to your own heart; rely upon yourself; learn the lessons of experience, and trust to that which is not of doubtful veracity.
J. W. S.—We do not "insist" upon anything; but point out the way of practice which leads to wisdom, leaving men to choose whether they shall walk it or not. Have you not lost sight of the fact that we pre-eminently teach that complete self-surrender of which you speak?
More from James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.