The Path to Prosperity

James Allen was one of the forefathers of the power of positive thinking and in this book first published in 1907, you will learn how to change your life through the way you think. At only 62 pages long; it is a quick read but one that will guide you to an understanding of how to find peace and prosperity by changing your attitudes and changing the way you think.

Where is the path to prosperity? Is it to be found through investments in the stock market, real estate, or being an entrepreneur? These are certainly the measure of prosperity for most people. These are also all tangible expressions of wealth, but they say nothing of who has gained them or how. Prosperity is created by individuals, and therefore the personal qualities of those individuals must be where the secret lies to the path of prosperity.

In his book, James Allen argued that prosperity is always personal, resting squarely on the degree to which we have refined and bettered ourselves. Though it is possible for anyone to get wealthy; even more so today than in Allen’s era, but to be genuinely happily prosperous we need to acquire peace of mind in relation to ourselves, in addition to monetary riches. Allen is most famous as the author of one of my favourite books; As A Man Thinketh, which expresses the idea that we create our worlds through our thoughts. The Path to Prosperity goes deeper into the link between our mindset and material abundance.

This book is a must for anyone on his/her journey to abundance. It goes to the heart of what prosperity is all about; being a good person with a good heart, and becoming a person who is lives to enrich the lives of other fellow human beings.

The three most powerful points I took from the book were;

  1. Shocking and perhaps painful to hear; the truth is,that whatever difficulties and pains have entered our lives, they have come fully as a result of our previous thoughts and action

  2. If you are happy, it is because you are thinking happy thoughts. If you are in misery, it is thanks to your despondent thoughts

  3. Good or bad things happening to you is not in the circumstance, but only in the mind of him that encounters it

The path to light.

Shocking and perhaps painful to hear; the truth is, as Allen states, that whatever difficulties and pains have entered our lives, they have come fully as a result of our previous thoughts and actions. However, we should see these problems as gifts. When we accept that we have attracted these problems, and then choose to endure them, we can improve on them. We have also then learned the basic Law of Life, and then we become free to mould our own circumstances. We have then also learned how to turn setbacks into opportunities.

Such knowledge is worth more than any fortune, and yet it is also essential to the creation of real prosperity. Control your thoughts and your emotions, and you become master of your destiny.

The power to choose.

If you are happy, it is because you are thinking happy thoughts. If you are in misery, it is thanks to your despondent thoughts. One of the standout verses for me in Allen’s book is;

  • Do you wish for kindness? Be kind.

  • Do you ask for truth? Be true.

  • What you give of yourself you find;

  • Your world is a reflex of you

Of course, Allen notes, we can be affected by external events, but we will be swayed by them only to the extent of our understanding of the power of thought. He gives the example of two men he knew who, both when young, lost their hard-won savings. The first fell into deep despondency and regret, while the other told himself that “worry won’t bring it back, but hard work will”. Throwing himself into his work with great vigour, he was able to quickly eclipse his former worth. The other man continued to mourn his loss and his bad luck, which duly snowballed into even worse circumstances. To one, the loss was an opportunity to better the second time around, to the other a curse.

Allen observes: If circumstances had the power to bless or harm, they would bless and harm all men alike, but the fact that the same circumstances will be alike, good and bad, to different people proves that the good or bad is not in the circumstance, but only in the mind of him that encounters it. This is not just theory. In his psychological classic, Martin Seligman notes that people with a positive outlook quickly get over setbacks and prosper. Crucially, optimism – which is essentially choosing to think in a certain way, despite current reality - can be learned and often makes all the difference to one’s career success or failure.

To progress, fill your current position.

Cease to be a complainer, Allen says, because the more you complain the tighter the chains that bind you to become. The route to a better life is not through complaint but finding ways to deliver service and provide love. If not totally pleased with current circumstances, the secret to your release is to make the best of what you have now. You cannot move on to something better without having fulfilled what is expected of you in the current position. Allen gives some practical advice in that; if you are living in poor or cramped accommodations, keep your space spotlessly clean and make it as charming as possible; only such an effort will attract the house that you deserve. If suffering under a terrible boss, absorb the negative comments and see the situation as an opportunity to practice patience and self-control. In time it is you who will become the strong one, mentally and spiritually. “Shake off the delusion that you are being injured or oppressed by another”, Allen tells us, “you are only really injured by what is within you. There is no practice more degrading, debasing, and soul-destroying than that of self-pity.”

Who masters the self, gains everything.

Allen himself would spend the first hour of each day at a quiet spot looking down onto the sea. He saw this time not as a luxury but as a necessity. You must daily practise the habit of putting your mind at rest, "going into the silence," as it is sometimes called. This is a method of replacing a troubled thought with one of peace, a thought of weakness with one of strength. In our busy world, it can be hard to believe that strength comes from silence, yet many note that their most valuable ideas and their most loving acts are born in the still moments. In addition to the lifting of anxieties, we gain insight and arrive at a correct judgment. Our worries are mostly illusory, the result of either ignorance or lack of faith. In collecting our thoughts, we can avoid being enslaved by our changing moods and the need to control others. Allen writes; give up that narrow cramped self that seeks to render all things subservient to its own petty interests, and you will enter into the company of the angels, into the very heart and essence of universal Love. He goes on to say; there is absolutely no other way to true power and abiding peace, but by self-control, self-government, self-purification. To be at the mercy of your disposition is to be impotent, unhappy, and of little real use in the world. The paradox of real prosperity is that it comes to those who forget about themselves in providing service to others. As they become highly valued, they are showered not only with money but love. Anyone can gain wealth if they try hard enough, but prosperity and peace of mind only arrive at the door of one who has first mastered themselves. You can pursue wealth directly, but it is wiser to perfect yourself in the provision of service. Even in the midst of riches, you will remain virtuous, seeing yourself less as an owner than a steward of divine abundance. “The way to true riches”, Allen affirms, “is to enrich the soul by the acquisition of virtue. Outside of real heart-virtue, there is neither prosperity nor power, but only the appearances of these.”


What I took from it.

Aristotle said “The hardest victory is the victory over self”, but it is a victory that enables you to win in all other aspects of life.

You don’t need religious faith to understand that the greater your moral depth and courage, the more you stand out from your peers. Money alone can make you financially rich, but to be both rich and happy you must be able to live easily with yourself. No work on the refinement of the virtues (honesty, diligence, sympathy and so on) is ever a waste, either in a spiritual or a material sense. The more abundant such qualities, the more easily riches are attracted to you, compared to those who only chase short-term gain

My Rating

In its emphasis on the power of the mind to create circumstances, The Path to Prosperity was a forerunner of books like The Secret and has been an important influence in the self-development field. At only 62 pages it is a little treasure.

One of my favourite paragraphs from the book;

I looked around upon the world and saw that it was shadowed by sorrow and scorched by the fierce fires of suffering. And I looked for the cause. I looked around, but could not find it; I looked in books, but could not find it; I looked within, and found there both the cause and the self-made nature of that cause. I looked again, and deeper, and found the remedy. I found one Law, the Law of Love; one Life, the Life of adjustment to that Law; one Truth, the truth of a conquered mind and a quiet and obedient heart.

And I dreamed of writing a book which should help men and women, whether rich or poor, learned or unlearned, worldly or unworldly, to find within themselves the source of all success, all happiness, all accomplishment, all truth. And the dream remained with me, and at last, became substantial; and now I send it forth into the world on its mission of healing and blessedness, knowing that it cannot fail to reach the homes and hearts of those who are waiting and ready to receive it.