‘Everyone must have two pockets, so that he can reach into one or the other, according to his needs. In his right pocket are to be the words: “For my sake was the world created,” and in his left: “I am earth and ashes.”’
Rabbi Bunam of Pzhysha
Before we get down to the business of describing the Limbic System and the havoc it wreaks on our lives let’s have a little interlude.
I must confess to not having read Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, nor have I seen the movie. It has received a lot of praise and made the author a gazillionaire (thus proving it worked for at least one person!) but it has had its critics too. The go-out-there-and-grab-a-bit-of-the-abundance-of-the-Universe doesn’t cut much ice with those who are subject to poverty, oppression and war. And if you suffer those adversities and can’t overcome them it is implicitly your own fault, and the result of negative thinking. That criticism is fair enough, but the message is nevertheless a positive one, which can galvanise those who are more fortunate into action. Who knows, the fruits of this action might include doing something about these very issues.
In an age that has seen off God, we could do with a little positivity and encouragement.
To put The Secret into perspective, there is a school of thought enjoying popularity at the moment, which says that we attract whatever we think about into being. Known as ‘The Law of Attraction’, it states that whatever we put our attention on will manifest in our lives. If we think rich we get rich, if we think poor we stay poor. Now psychologically that is all pretty straightforward. Depression, anxiety, and negative thinking are not good places from which to build an empire.
But the Law of Attraction (it seems to me) implies more than that. It suggests that the very fabric of space and time is subject to our thoughts. One of the earliest proponents of this thinking was Wallace D Wattles who wrote a book entitled The Science of Getting Rich, about a hundred years ago, and it was the original source of inspiration for The Secret. The same goes for Napoleon Hill’s famous Think and Grow Rich. Both are excellent reads and I urge you to read both of them very closely. (They’re also available as audio downloads. Check out LearnOutLoud.com http://www.learnoutloud.com)
These books are philosophically embedded in the American Protestant tradition and offer a welcome antidote to the wrathful God of the medieval period. Essentially it’s about faith. Have faith in a loving bountiful God who is only delighted to deliver the goods, and everything will turn out right. Of course this faith must be rock-solid and unwavering, and is not for the faint-hearted. Other necessary attributes are persistence, dedication, concern for others and gratitude. We must also cultivate creativity and not competition.
From this perspective it will be clear that this is no New-Age narcissism, no magical or wishful thinking where all we have to do is write to Santa Claus and wait for Christmas.
Rather, it is deeply embedded in the Christian tradition, and when it is imported into our secular and atheistic age, it can lose its grounding in a deeply spiritual orientation, and degenerate into self-centred greed. With our celebrity culture and wealthy mega-stars it is easy to see how the core message can be utterly distorted and lose its entire meaning.
Bob Proctor, another herald of this approach summarises it as ‘Believing is seeing’. Dr Wayne Dyer has written a book with a similar name, ‘You’ll see it when you believe it’ (http://books.google.com/books/about/You_ll_See_It_When_You_Believe_It.html?id=FzPAsNqV3b8C)
They emphasise that belief is a necessary precedent, that it comes before we get what we want. There’s nothing new in that either and it was said by St Augustine of Hippo in the 4th century as ‘Crede, ut intelligas’, ‘Believe so that you may understand’. So, according to this system, if you believe with all your being, it will be given unto you.
So that’s what is in the right pocket. What’s in the left?
I got a sneak preview of the left pocket last Christmas. Without warning, my mother became very ill on December 17, 2010. She spent two weeks in hospital and died on the 1st January 2011. She took nothing with her, and left her nightie on the bed. She travelled very light and left no forwarding address. I haven’t heard from her since, and I don’t suppose I ever will.
That’s what in the other pocket, and when you’re up to your neck in hundred-dollar bills, reach into that pocket from time to time and remind yourself.