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Popular author teaches how to conquer fears and failure
on June 5, 2011
I was literally brought up on Napoleon Hill. His writing gave me a grand foundation upon which I built much. This book, written in 1938, is both great and yet it makes one doubt the author. I'm glad the publisher and editor left the writing in the exact way it was written and didn't attempt to update the language. It's good to hear Hill's voice as we remember it, in the way he actually wrote and talked.
I was, however, concerned when he described his meeting with his "other self" and, in one instance, he became unconscious. Another time he heard a loud noise just before he got his message from his other self. These are things which, in the light of today, many people will find too much to take.
Moreover, in knowing what we now know about most of the rich people of which he talks, we know they didn't start their businesses to help others or as a service to others. We suspect that was a side-effect. Hill, however, says that success results from doing what we love as a service to others --- then the riches will come. (Ayn Rand fans beware.)
It is true the book was written just as The Great Depression was ending. That makes it especially appealing today as we struggle in The Great Recession. And much of what he says certainly is inspiring and motivational at this unique time in history. Yet, one can see why his family didn't want the manuscript published because Hill sounds a bit loony in parts of the book. But, alas, hang on. There's a method to his madness.
There is greatness here too. He, like so many others, lost everything in 1929. He saw no way to continue to teach his wealth philosophy when people were filled with fear of poverty. "This thought came to me one evening while I was sitting in my automobile, in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the Potomac River, within the shadow of the Capitol. With it came another thought: The world had staged an unprecedented depression over which no human being had control. With that depression had come to me an opportunity to test the philosophy of self determination, to the organization of which I had devoted the better portion of my adult life. Once more I had the opportunity to learn whether my philosophy was practical or mere theory."
He said he discovered he'd lost his courage and initiative. He lost his enthusiasm. "Worst of all, I was sorely ashamed to acknowledge that I was the author of a philosophy of self-determination, because down deep in my heart I knew or thought I knew, that I could not make my philosophy pull me out of the hold of despair in which I found myself."
Fortunately, he admits he didn't know if the devil he interviewed was real or imagined. To talk of a devil today to a secular world is rather silly. But to see a devil as our own inner fears is more acceptable.
I read the devil to be negative thoughts that are in 98 percent of the human race. (The figure given in the book.) That leave 2 percent without negative thinking, which is about the percentage of the highly successful at the time he wrote the book if my figures are close to correct.
Fear is the killer of greatness. Hill knew that. In one question he asked the devil, you sense this.
"Q. Go ahead and describe your clever tricks, Your Majesty.
A. One of my cleverest devices for mind control is fear. I plant the seed of fear in the minds of people, and as these seeds germinate and grow, through use, I control the space they occupy. The six most effective fears are the fear of poverty, criticism, ill health, loss of love, old age, and death."
I find that most telling. Was he calling fear the devil?
The devil says then that positive thinking neutralizes him/her/it. Hill's devil loves poverty and ill health. Such people are easy to control. "An unhealthy body discourages thinking," says Hill's devil.
But then the devil says he (the devil) fears the Rockefeller fortune. Why, asks Hill. Because they give so much to fight disease. They do so much good. I wonder what he would say now about how that fortune is being used to gain control of the world through the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, Bilderbergers and disgraceful actions during and after World War 2? The respect once held for these people has long since been replaced with knowledge of the truth. Hill was not aware of this when he wrote his books.
I felt the book used this interview with the devil to show what caused failure and unhappiness in people. And, of course, how the opposite creates wealth and happiness.
But, before you think this is a religious book, you'll be interested to know that the devil reveals the biggest, best way he has to take control of people --- though religion! ". . . I break down independent thought and start people on the habit of drifting, by confusing their minds with unprovable ideas concerning a world of which they know nothing. It is here also that I plant in the minds of children the greatest of all fears --- the fear of hell!"
Unfortunately, Hill's devil (or Hill?) contradicts himself, causing the reader to doubt the whole thing. In one place Hill writes through the devil that Hell is here on earth and is man made --- that there is no hell fire, etc. Yet a bit later, the same devil says, "Drifting is also the habit through which I take over their souls after they give up their physical bodies."
I find this contradiction unfortunate in what otherwise is an excellent book.
In some parts it sounds naive in the light of some seven decades. And yet, truth be told, the laws of nature never change. Just as H2O will always be water. The causes of failure will never change. And I can think of no better time to read this gift from Napoleon Hill then now. Regardless of what you may think of the way it's written, you'll take something deeply valuable from it, something that could change your life.
And yet, there is a concern for those who studied Hill decades ago. Hill was so enamored of men like Henry Ford. He called him good and moral. Henry Ford, however, was abhorrent. He hated Jews. He owned an anti-Semitic newspaper. He was a friend of Hitler and his name fondly mentioned in Mein Kampf.
So, one has to wonder, what kind of man was Hill? Was he gullible or was he just like these men he admired? And can we believe what he penned?
The reader will have to judge. In the meantime, there is much wisdom, lots of inspiration and motivation for those who look for it in this book.
-- Susanna K. Hutcheson