Money, we’ve all heard, is the root of all evil. This piece of folk wisdom is due, no doubt, to the fact that so many people mistakenly imagine that money is the source of all good! For when we expect too much of anything, we eventually find, as with idol worship, that the object of our dependence is not competent to answer our prayers, nor capable of fulfilling our expectations of it.
Perhaps, then, that ancient saying should be amended to read, "The love of money is the root of all evil."
After all, money is not evil in itself, any more than dynamite is evil. Dynamite can be used constructively to build roads, or destructively to demolish buildings. Money, similarly, can be used to do wonderful things. It is human greed that so often directs money toward evil ends.
Money represents, quite simply, a flow of energy. Harm results when money is loved and hoarded for its own sake. For in hoarding it, we block the energy-flow.
A child once accompanied his parents on an outing to the mountains. With them, he drank cool water from a mountain stream. Loving its fresh taste, he filled a bottle from the stream and took it home with him. There, he would sip only a little water each day, wanting to make it last as long as possible.
What was his disappointment a few weeks later, then, to find that the water left in the bottle had become stagnant.
Money, similarly, grows stagnant when we "bottle it up"—that is to say, hoard it. To attract a steady money-flow in our lives, we must learn to view money not as a thing merely, but as an expression of energy—ultimately, as an expression of our energy.
Developing money magnetism depends to a great extent on understanding how to use money properly.
Using money properly depends on realizing that, in acquiring money, we don’t merely manipulate material forces in our favor. Still less is the acquisition of money a matter of luck. Rather, we attract money to us. The other side of that coin is that the failure to acquire money is essentially an act of repulsion on our part—unconscious, to be sure. We may push it from us even while we imagine that we are doing our best to acquire it.
Both of these concepts—learning how to attract money, and how to put it to the proper use—depend, finally, on understanding what truly constitutes our needs, that is, our own, and others’, highest good. For it is a law of life that when we waste any resource, we encounter a time finally when we can no longer replenish it. Think of the vast numbers of forests that have been cut without thought for replanting; of farmland that has been exhausted because its soil was never replenished.
Think of the many stories of movie stars who, instead of using their money discriminately, squandered it until, at last, they were left penniless.
What is wealth? Most people equate it with investments, with savings, with income, with real property. Yet we’ve all known people who got by quite happily on very little money. I’ve known others, by contrast, who seemed barely able to scrape by, even though they may have earned several times as much as the first group.
The strange thing is that those who get by on very little often manage to obtain more of this world’s goods, to go on more vacations, and to do a great deal in other ways that others with more money never seemed able to do.
Who among these, then, was the more truly wealthy? It isn’t merely a matter of how much you have, but rather of how well you know how to use what you have. You know the song from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, "I got plenty o’ nuthin, an’ nuthin’s plenty fo’ me"? In the last analysis, one is as wealthy or as poor as he thinks himself to be. Wealth cannot be equated with some fixed quantity. If one is wealthy in his mind, or in his spirit, he may require very few material possessions to be perfectly satisfied with life. If, on the other hand, one considers himself wealthy only for his material riches, he may be convinced he is poor even if he has fifty million dollars, perhaps only because some former classmate of his has ninety million.
I remember a time, in 1963, when an absence of income, combined with a determination to devote myself to writing a book (I eventually published it under the title, Crises in Modern Thought), led to my having to live for three months on only ten dollars a month. Today, instead of recalling that period of my life as a time of great privation and hardship, I recall it happily as a time of satisfying challenge and adventure.
During those three months, I learned all sorts of tricks for living inexpensively. I sprouted alfalfa seeds. I made Indian chappatis instead of buying bread. I trained my palate to enjoy powdered milk, which is much cheaper than regular milk, and to be content with a single taste of dessert rather than filling myself on a bowlful of it. I took advantage of special sales at the local grocery stores. And I concentrated on preparing cheap, but high-energy, foods like split pea soup, which lasted me several days. No doubt one could say that I was poor then. Yet I didn’t feel particularly poor. I won’t go so far as to say that I felt rich, but the important thing is that, because I didn’t dwell sadly on all the things I lacked, I really wasn’t poor. I’ll go farther: In every way that really mattered, I was rich.
There’s the charming story of an American Indian who happily farmed a meager quarter-acre plot. A wealthy neighbor of his befriended him. One day this friend offered him five acres, to give him more land to farm. "Thank you for the gesture," the Indian replied. "But if I had more land to work, when would I find the time for singing?"
On the opposite side of this coin, I’ve known people with a great deal of money who could never convince themselves that they were even well off. And I recall a certain friend of mine in India, a scientist and a professor at a respected university. He owned his own home. His family and he ate well, dressed well, and lived reasonably well. Yet he considered himself wretched. His complaint was that he couldn’t afford some of the expensive gadgetry he’d seen and enjoyed in the West-things like state-of-the-art television. I recall him weeping to me one evening, "I’m poor! I’m poor!"
Wealth is the consciousness of abundance. And poverty is the consciousness of lack. Wealth and poverty are both states of mind. You are as rich, or as poor, as you believe yourself to be.
Money is important in this world. A person who writes books needs money to support himself while he writes. A photographer needs expensive lenses to take the best pictures. There is no field of activity in which money does not figure in some way. Nor do I suppose that I myself could have lived for very long on only ten dollars a month. The importance of the right mental attitude, is essential, not only for defining the parameters of happiness intelligently, but also for attracting wealth in the first place. For example, to attract money we must be confident that we have a right to our fair share of the abundance of the universe. and, indeed, we have that right, all of us.
Don’t be passive in the demands you make on the universe. Don’t wait for good fortune to smile on you. Be secure in yourself, and know that you, yourself, are an integral pat of the cosmic reality.
When you have that consciousness of living already in abundance, then, you will attract more abundance. The power to attract money, and success of every kind, increases in direct proportion to our ability to recognize, and attune ourselves to, a greater reality than our own.