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An Analysis of “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill: Part II, Chapter Two – Desire

Wishing will not bring riches. But desiring riches with a state of mind that becomes an obsession, then planning definite ways and means to acquire riches, and backing those plans with persistence which does not recognize failure, will bring riches.

Napoleon Hill states with authority in Chapter Two of “Think and Grow Rich” that desiring riches obsessively is a necessary component to acquiring riches. This can be a difficult obstacle to overcome for some people who have been conditioned to think that desiring riches obsessively is an unhealthy or sinful psychology to adopt. The phrases “money can’t buy happiness” and “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (MT. 19:24) come to mind. Even the the Buddhist Four Noble Truths teach that the cause of suffering is desire or craving. Accordingly, if one wishes to adopt Hill’s philosophy and he or she is a practicing Christian or Buddhist (or an adherent to a similar philosophy or theology) he or she must then either ignore these moral teachings or come up with a way to explain the conflict. Either solution puts the person at a disadvantage regarding successfully implementing Hill’s strategy relative to a person who does not possess these moral hang ups regarding desire.

At the same time, Hill infers himself to be a practicing Christian in this very chapter, where he says:

Christianity is the greatest potential power in the world today, because its founder was an intense dreamer who had the vision and the imagination to see realities in their mental and spiritual form before they had been transmuted into physical form.

Hill does not specifically address the seeming conflict between his thought that Jesus actually put the principles outlined in “Think and Grow Rich” to work and that Jesus seemed also to preach against pursuing wealth as an obsessive desire. One must assume that Hill had some sort of justification for his philosophy in order to make it align with Christianity. Or perhaps he just ignored the discrepancy.

At any rate, in this chapter Hill articulates a six point plan to acquire riches in this manner:

First. Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire. It is not sufficient merely to say “I want plenty of money.” Be definite as to the amount. (There is a psychological reason for definite-ness which will be described in a subsequent chapter).

Second. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire. (There is no such reality as “something for nothing.”)

Third. Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire.

Fourth. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action.

Fifth. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, and describe clearly the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.

Sixth. Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. AS YOU READ, SEE AND FEEL AND BELIEVE YOURSELF ALREADY IN POSSESSION OF THE MONEY.

Through the repetition of this practice (asserts Hill with authority) a person will acquire riches. Yes, there is a degree of agency involved on the part of the practitioner. He must formulate a goal, formulate a plan to reach that goal and begin to act on that plan. But there is also the inference that the power of the universe will super-naturally assist the person who embarks on this course of action. Perhaps it is merely the case that acting on a specific plan of action is enough for most people to succeed without super-natural aid. But perhaps the thought of super-natural aid somehow works to aid in the motivation behind executing this plan. Or perhaps there is truth to the super-natural assistance which compliments the natural efforts of the practitioner. It seems that Hill made no attempt to explore this question. This resonates with the theme discussed in the previous post that thinking too much about this process will somehow rob it of its efficacy. As such, it is better not over analyze the strategy if one wants to successfully employ it to achieve the desired goal.

Instead he focuses on the mysterious aspects of the universe which he sees guided by Infinite Intelligence. It is not clear whether this “Infinite Intelligence” is the same thing as the Christian God. Perhaps Hill just wanted this book to appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike.

Strange and varied are the ways of life, and stranger still are the ways of Infinite Intelligence, through which men are sometimes forced to undergo all sorts of punishment before discovering their own brains, and their own capacity to create useful ideas through imagination.

By contrast, I suppose men possess finite intelligence. But this finite intelligence seems to be connected to or has its origin in the Infinite Intelligence which is both a resource and an independent actor which helps the people who meet it half way.

Strange and imponderable is the power of the human mind! We do not understand the method by which it uses every circumstance, every individual, every physical thing within its reach, as a means of transmuting DESIRE into its physical counterpart. Perhaps science will uncover this secret.

According to Hill, the human mind has a power that the person possessing the mind generally is not aware of. This is a strange thought because it is not entirely clear how a person can be separate from his or her mind. This is why the whole endeavor of willing a desire into being is a mysterious process. It may also be a clue as to why desire and riches are thought to cause suffering and to create an obstacle on one’s way to heaven.

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