Eight pillars of prosperity - James Allen - ebook

It is popularly supposed that a greater prosperity for individuals or nations can only come through a political and social reconstruction. This cannot be true apart from the practice of the moral virtues in the individuals that comprise a nation. Better laws and social conditions will always follow a higher realisation of morality among the individuals of a community, but no legal enactment can give prosperity to, nay it cannot prevent the ruin of, a man or a nation that has become lax and decadent in the pursuit and practice of virtue. The moral virtues are the foundation and support of prosperity as they are the soul of greatness. They endure for ever, and all the works of man which endure are built upon them. Without them there is neither strength, stability, nor substantial reality, but only ephemeral dreams. To find moral principles is to have found prosperity, greatness, truth, and is therefore to be strong, valiant, joyful and free.

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James Allen

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Table of contents


1. Eight pillars

2. First pillar – Energy

3. Second pillar – Economy

4. Third pillar – Integrity

5. Fourth pillar – System

6. Fifth pillar – Sympathy

7. Sixth pillar – Sincerity

8. Seventh pillar – Impartiality

9. Eighth pillar – Self-reliance

10. The temple of prosperity


It is popularly supposed that a greater prosperity for individuals or nations can only comethrough a political and social reconstruction. This cannot be true apart from the practiceof the moral virtues in the individuals that comprise a nation. Better laws and socialconditions will always follow a higher realisation of morality among the individuals of acommunity, but no legal enactment can give prosperity to, nay it cannot prevent the ruinof, a man or a nation that has become lax and decadent in the pursuit and practice ofvirtue.The moral virtues are the foundation and support of prosperity as they are the soul ofgreatness. They endure for ever, and all the works of man which endure are built uponthem. Without them there is neither strength, stability, nor substantial reality, but onlyephemeral dreams. To find moral principles is to have found prosperity, greatness, truth,and is therefore to be strong, valiant, joyful and free.

1. Eight pillars

Prosperity rests upon a moral foundation. It is popularly supposed to rest upon an

immoral foundation - that is, upon trickery, sharp practice, deception and greed. One

commonly hears even an otherwise intelligent man declare that “No man can be

successful in business unless he is dishonest,” thus regarding business prosperity – a good

thing – as the effect of dishonesty – a bad thing. Such a statement is superficial and

thoughtless, and reveals a total lack of knowledge of moral causation, as well as a very

limited grasp of the facts of life. It is as though one should sow henbane and reap

spinach, or erect a brick house on a quagmire - things impossible in the natural order of

causation, and therefore not to be attempted. The spiritual or moral order of causation is

not different in principle, but only in nature. The same law obtains in things unseen – in

thoughts and deeds - as in things seen – in natural phenomena. Man sees the processes in

natural objects, and acts in accordance with them, but not seeing the spiritual processes,

he imagines that they do not obtain, and so he does not act in harmony with them.

Yet these spiritual processes are just as simple and just as sure as the natural processes.

They are indeed the samenaturalmodes manifesting in the world of mind. All the

parables and a large number of the sayings of the Great Teachers are designed to

illustrate this fact. The natural world is the mental world made visible. The seen is the

mirror of the unseen. The upper half of a circle is in no way different from the lower half,

but its sphericity is reversed. The material and the mental are not two detached arcs in the

universe, they are the two halves of a complete circle. The natural and the spiritual are

not at eternal enmity, but in the true order of the universe are eternally at one. It is in the

unnatural- in the abuse of function and faculty – where division arises, and where main

is wrested back, with repeated sufferings, from the perfect circle from which he has tried

to depart. Every process in matter is also a process in mind. Every natural law has its

spiritual counterpart.

Take any natural object, and you will find its fundamental processes in the mental sphere

if you rightly search. Consider, for instance, the germination of a seed and its growth into

a plant with the final development of a flower, and back to seed again. This also is a

mental process. Thoughts are seeds which, falling in the soil of the mind, germinate and

develop until they reach the completed stage, blossoming into deeds good or bad, brilliant

or stupid, according to their nature, and ending as seeds of thought to be again sown in

other minds. A teacher is a sower of seed, a spiritual agriculturist, while he who teaches

himself is the wise farmer of his own mental plot. The growth of a thought is as the

growth of a plant. The seed must be sown seasonably, and time is required for its full

development into the plant of knowledge and the flower of wisdom.

While writing this, I pause, and turn to look through my study window, and there, a

hundred yards away, is a tall tree in the top of which some enterprising rook from a

rookery hard by, has, for the first time, built its nest. A strong, north-east wind is

blowing, so that the top of the tree is swayed violently to and fro by the onset of the blast;

yet there is no danger to that frail thing of sticks and hair, and the mother bird, sitting

upon her eggs, has no fear of the storm. Why is this? It is because the bird has

instinctively built her nest in harmony with principles which ensure the maximum

strength and security. First, a fork is chosen as the foundation for the nest, and not a space

between two separate branches, so that, however great may be the swaying of the tree

top, the position of the nest is not altered, nor its structure disturbed; then the nest is built

on a circular plan so as to offer the greatest resistance to any external pressure, as well as

to obtain more perfect compactness within, in accordance with its purpose; and so,

however the tempest may rage, the birds rest in comfort and security. This is a very

simple and familiar object, and yet, in the strict obedience of its structure to mathematical

law, it becomes, to the wise, a parable of enlightenment, teaching them that only by

ordering one’s deeds in accordance with fixed principles is perfect surety, perfect

security, and perfect peace obtained amid the uncertainty of events and the turbulent

tempests of life.

A house or a temple built by man is a much more complicated structure than a bird’s nest,

yet it is erected in accordance with those mathematical principles which are everywhere

evidenced in nature. And here is seen how man, in material things, obeys universal

principles. He never attempts to put up a building in defiance of geometrical proportions,

for he knows that such a building would be unsafe, and that the first storm would, in all

probability, level it to the ground, if, indeed, it did not fall about his ears during the

process of erection. Man in his material building scrupulously obeys the fixed principles

of circle, square and angle, and, aided by rule, plumbline, and compasses, he raises a

structure which will resist the fiercest storms, and afford him a secure shelter and safe


All this is very simple, the reader may say. Yes, it is simple because it is true and perfect;

so true that it cannot admit the smallest compromise, and so perfect that no man can

improve upon it. Man, through long experience, has learned these principles of the

material world, and sees the wisdom of obeying them, and I have thus referred to them in

order to lead up to a consideration of those fixed principles in the mental or spiritual

world which are just as simple, and just as eternally true and perfect, yet are at present so

little understood by man that he daily violates them, because ignorant of their nature, and

unconscious of the harm he is all the time inflicting upon himself.

In mind as in matter, in thoughts as in things, in deeds as in natural processes, there is a

fixed foundation of law which, if consciously or ignorantly ignored leads to disaster, and

defeat. It is, indeed, the ignorant violation of this law which is the cause of the world’s

pain and sorrow. In matter, this law is presented asmathematical;in mind, it is perceived

asmoral.But the mathematical and the moral are not separate and opposed; they are but

two aspects of a united whole. The fixed principles of mathematics, to which all matter is

subject, are the body of which the spirit is ethical; while the eternal principles of morality

are mathematical truisms operating in the universe of mind. It is as impossible to live

successfully apart from moral principles, as to build successfully while ignoring

mathematical principles. Characters, like houses, only stand firmly when built on a

foundation of moral law - and they are built up slowly and laboriously, deed by deed, for

in the building of character, the bricks are deeds. Business and all human enterprises are

not exempt from the eternal order, but can only stand securely by the observance of fixed

laws. Prosperity, to be stable and enduring, must rest on a solid foundation of moral

principle, and be supported by the adamantine pillars of sterling character and moral

worth. In the attempt to run a business in defiance of moral principles, disaster, of one

kind or another, is inevitable. The permanently prosperous men in any community are not

its tricksters and deceivers, but its reliable and upright men. The Quakers are

acknowledged to be the most upright men in the British community, and, although their

numbers are small, they are the most prosperous. The Jains in India are similar both in

numbers and sterling worth, and they are the most prosperous people in India.

Men speak of “building up a business,” and, indeed, a business is as much a building as is

a brick house or a stone church, albeit the process of building is a mental one. Prosperity,

like a house, is a roof over a man’s head, affording him protection and comfort. A roof

presupposes a support, and a support necessitates a foundation. The roof of prosperity,

then, is supported by the following eight pillars which are cemented in a foundation of

moral consistency:-

1. Energy

2. Economy

3. Integrity

4. System

5. Sympathy

6. Sincerity

7. Impartiality

8. Self-reliance

A business built up on the faultless practice of all these principles would be so firm and

enduring as to be invincible. Nothing could injure it; nothing could undermine its

prosperity, nothing could interrupt its success, or bring it to the ground; but that success

would be assured with incessant increase so long as the principles were adhered to. On

the other hand, where these principles were all absent, there could be no success of any

kind; there could not even be a business at all, for there would be nothing to produce the

adherence of one part with another; but there would be that lack of life, that absence of

fibre and consistency which animates and gives body and form to anything whatsoever.

Picture a man with all these principles absent from his mind, his daily life, and even if

your knowledge of these principles is but slight and imperfect, yet you could not think of

such a man as doing any successful work. You could picture him as leading the confused

life of a shiftless tramp but to imagine him at the head of a business, as the centre of an

organisation, or as a responsible and controlling agent in any department of life – this you

could not do, because you realise its impossibility. The fact that no one of moderate

morality and intelligence can think of such a man as commanding any success, should, to

all those who have not yet grasped the import of these principles, and therefore declare

that morality is not a factor, but rather a hindrance, in prosperity, be a sound proof to

them that their conclusion is totally wrong, for if it was right, then the greater the lack of

these moral principles, the greater would be the success.

These eight principles, then, in greater or lesser degree, are the causative factors in all

success of whatsoever kind. Underneath all prosperity they are the strong supports, and,

howsoever appearances may be against such a conclusion, a measure of them informs and

sustains every effort which is crowned with that excellence which men name success.

It is true that comparatively few successful men practice, in their entirety and perfection,

all these eight principles, but there are those who do, and they are the leaders, teachers,

and guides of men, the supports of human society, and the strong pioneers in the van of

human evolution.

But while few achieve that moral perfection which ensures the acme of success, all lesser

successes come from the partial observance of these principles which are so powerful in

the production of good results that even perfection in any two or three of them alone is

sufficient to ensure an ordinary degree of prosperity, and maintain a measure of local

influence at least for a time, while the same perfection in two or three with partial

excellence in all, or nearly all, the others, will render permanent that limited success and

influence which will, necessarily, grow and extend in exact ratio with a more intimate

knowledge and practice of those principles which, at present, are only partially

incorporated in the character.

The boundary lines of a man’s morality mark the limits of his success. So true is this that

to know a man’s moral status would be to know – to mathematically gauge – his ultimate

success or failure. The temple of prosperity only stands in so far as it is supported by its

moral pillars; as they are weakened, it becomes insecure; in so far as they are withdrawn,

it crumbles away and totters to ruin.

Ultimate failure and defeat are inevitable where moral principles are ignored or defied –

inevitable in the nature of things as cause and effect. As a stone thrown upward returns to

the earth, so every deed, good or bad, returns upon him that sent it forth. Every unmoral

or immoral act frustrates the end at which it aims, and every such succeeding act puts it

further and further away as an achieved realisation. On the other hand, every moral act is

another solid brick in the temple of prosperity, another round of strength and sculptured

beauty in the pillars which support it.

Individuals, families, nations grow and prosper in harmony with their growth in moral

strength and knowledge; they fall and fail in accordance with their moral decadence.

Mentally, as physically, only that which has form and solidity can stand and endure. The

unmoral is nothingness, and from it nothing can be formed. It is the negation of

substance. The immoral is destruction. It is the negation of form. It is a process of

spiritual denudation. While it undermines and disintegrates, it leaves the scattered

material ready for the wise builder to put it into form again; and the wise builder is

Morality.The moral is substance, form, and building power in one. Morality always

builds up and preserves, for that is its nature, being the opposite of immorality, which

always breaks down and destroys. Morality is the master–builder everywhere, whether in

individuals or nations.

Morality is invincible, and he who stands upon it to the end, stands upon an impregnable

rock, so that his defeat is impossible, his triumph certain. He will be tried, and that to the

uttermost, for without fighting there can be no victory, and so only can his moral powers

be perfected, and it is in the nature of fixed principles, as of everything finely and

perfectly wrought, to have their strength tested and proved. The steel bars which are to

perform the strongest and best uses in the world must be subjected to a severe strain by

the ironmaster, as a test of their texture and efficiency, before they are sent from his

foundry. The brickmaker throws aside the bricks which have given way under the severe

heat. So he who is to be greatly and permanently successful will pass through the strain

of adverse circumstances and the fire of temptation with his moral nature not merely not

undermined, but strengthened and beautified. He will be like a bar of well-wrought steel,

fit for the highest use, and the universe will see, as the ironmaster his finely-wrought

steel, that the use does not escape him.

Immorality is assailable at every point, and he who tries to stand upon it, sinks into the

morass of desolation. Even while his efforts seem to stand, they are crumbling away. The

climax of failure is inevitable. While the immoral man is chuckling over his ill-gotten

gains, there is already a hole in his pocket through which his gold is falling. While he

who begins with morality, yet deserts it for gain in the hour of trial, is like the brick

which breaks on the first application of heat; he is not fit for use, and the universe casts

him aside, yet not finally, for he is a being, and not a brick; and he can live and learn, can

repent and be restored.

Moral force is the life of all success, and the sustaining element in all prosperity; but

there are various kinds of success, and it is frequently necessary that a man should fail in

one direction that he may reach up to a greater and more far-reaching success. If, for

instance, a literary, artistic, or spiritual genius should begin by trying to make money, it

may be, and often is, to his advantage and the betterment of his genius that he should fail

therein, so that he may achieve that more sublime success wherein lies his real power.

Many a millionaire would doubtless be willing to barter his millions for the literary

success of a Shakespeare or the spiritual success of a Buddha, and would thereby

consider that he had made a good bargain. Exceptional spiritual success is rarely

accompanied with riches, yet financial success cannot in any way compare with it in

greatness and grandeur. But I am not, in this book, dealing with the success of the saint or

spiritual genius but with that success which concerns the welfare, well-being, and

happiness of the broadly average man and woman, in a word, with the prosperity which,

while being more or less connected with money – being present and temporal – yet is not

confined thereto, but extends to and embraces all human activities, and which particularly

relates to that harmony of the individual with his circumstances which produces that

satisfaction called happiness and that comfort known as prosperity. To the achievement

of this end, so desirable to the mass of mankind, let us now see how the eight principles

operate, how the roof of prosperity is raised and made secure upon the pillars by which it

is supported.

2. First pillar – Energy

Energy is the working power in all achievement. Inert coal it converts into fire, and water

it transmutes into steam; it vivifies and intensifies the commonest talent until it

approaches to genius, and when it touches the mind of the dullard, it turns into a living

fire that which before was sleeping in inertia.

Energy is a moral virtue, its opposing vice being laziness. As a virtue, it can be

cultivated, and the lazy man can become energetic by forcibly arousing himself to

exertion. Compared with the energetic man, the lazy man is not half alive. Even while the

latter is talking about the difficult of doing a thing, the former is doing it. the active man

has done a considerable amount of work before the lazy man has roused himself from

sleep. While the lazy man is waiting for an opportunity, the active man has gone out, and