The Science of Getting Rich: A book review by Bob Morris

The Science of Getting Rich: The Original Classic
Wallace D. Wattles, with an Introduction by Tom Butler-Bowdon
Capstone Publishing Ltd. (2011)

To understand the science of getting rich is therefore the essential of all knowledge.” Wallace Wattles

Those who have read one or more of the volumes that comprise Tom Butler-Bowdon’s 50 Classics series already know that he possesses superior reasoning and writing skills as well as a relentless curiosity when conducting research on history’s greatest thinkers and their major works. For these and other reasons, I cannot think of another person better qualified to provide the introductions to the volumes that comprise a new series, Capstone Classics.

Frankly, I was unaware of Wallace Wattles (1860-1911) and his classic, The Science of Getting Rich (1910), prior to reading Butler-Bowdon’s 14-page introduction to this edition of it. As Catherine Ponder explains in a brief Foreword, Wattles really did believe, as he frequently affirmed,  “there is a science to getting rich and anyone can do it. Indeed, it is your right to be rich and your life will be incomplete without it.” Obviously, there are many quite different definitions of “rich” and, as Ponder notes, Wattles was aware of a then popular observation, “Poverty is a form of hell, caused by man’s blindness to God’s good.”

Wattles viewed poverty as evil. His mission was to enrich as many lives as possible. He wrote this book “for men and women whose most pressing need is for money, who wish to get rich first, and philosophize afterward…and who are willing to take the conclusions of science as a basis for action, without going into all the processes by which those conclusions were reached.”

Unlike so many others, Butler-Bowdon provides more, much more than a flimsy “briefing” to the given work. For this volume, he examines several forces, factors, and influences in Wattles’ life and work:

o   What little is known about Wattles’ childhood and youth
o   Reform preachers and their social gospel that Christ must be at the center of economic and social life
o   George D. Herron and his impact on Wattles
o   How and why Wattles formulated his concept of “the right way” to riches
o   The core principles of Monism
o   How and why money can accommodate the human need for a “life, seeking fuller expression”
o   What does…and doesn’t…create wealth
o   How to select the most appropriate work environment
o   The practical importance and symbolic significance of abundance
o   The “mental mechanics of prosperity”
o   Why “extreme altruism is as much a mistake as selfishness”
o   The Wattles Golden Rule: “What I want for myself, I want for everybody.”
0   Why “man is formed for growth, and he is under the necessity of growing”
o   Why “it is essential to man’s happiness that he should continuously advance”

Butler-Bowdon’s purpose is to create a context, a frame-of-reference, for the material Wattles shares in The Science of Getting Rich.

Obviously, a book first published 102 years ago, at a time when most people in the U.S. “clung onto jobs they hated or kept up businesses that weren’t doing well for fear of slipping through the cracks,” will in several respects now seem dated now. That is true of The Science of Getting Rich. Most of what Wattles views as “science” really isn’t and probably wasn’t then. Many of the core principles of the “social gospel” he advocated – such as “Every constituent of God is a constituent of man” — now seem quaint and naïve.

All that said, however, I am grateful that I learned about this man and this book, The Science of Getting Rich. The emphasis on self-reliance and on personal accountability is clearly evident in the final paragraph. The faith Wattles affirms is non-denominational, consistent with a faith expressed in a youthful shepherd’s 23rd psalm:

“I appropriate to myself the power to become what I want to be, and to do what I want to do. I exercise creative energy; all the power there is, is mine. I will arise and go forth with power and perfect confidence; I will do mighty works in the strength of the Lord, my God. I will trust and not fear, for God is with me.”

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