I love this book! Mr Wallace expresses fundamental philosophies of new thought with beautiful fluency and colourful ideas. It’s the sort of book that one can read over and over and over again and continue to find new and uplifting lines. There are 22 chapters in the book and to make my task of writing this summary, he’s even written a summary himself. I’ve however tried to give you quotes, phrases and a detailed commentary of the text which I hope you’ll find meaningful in your journey of self-discovery and growth.
Chapter 1 – Any person may become great. The author starts off the book with purposeful statements. He claims ‘the purpose of life for man is growth’. ‘Nothing that man can think is impossible in action.’ ‘Man is under the necessity of growing’. My personal favourite is ‘there is no possibility in any man that is not in every man.’ Beginning by making a strong case for the possibility of greatness in every man and woman is a masterful way to start such a work. In describing man, he employs such analogies as the football versus that of the flowing spring. The former generates no self-activity and is acted upon by circumstances around it while the latter has life in itself. The awakening and rebirth of man is the realisation of self-activity.
Chapter 2 – Heredity and opportunity. The upward way is open for everyone and all are capable for growth. He advises us to substitute inherited tendencies towards certain characteristics and behaviours by using their opposite. Switch cowardice for bravery, sadness for happiness. Sounds easy enough but I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it’s not so easily practiced. Any talent or faculties can be developed with the necessary effort by concentrating one’s focus and attitude on that talent or faculty. I love the paragraph where he declares that ‘man is formed for growth and all things external were designed to promote his growth’.
Chapter 3 – The source of power. Wisdom is the fundamental principle of greatness according to the author. He explains further ‘wisdom is the power to perceive the best ends to aim at and the best means for reaching those ends’. Wisdom is dependent upon knowledge and since man’s knowledge is limited, he is to draw from God’s knowledge in order to be truly wise. ‘Man can receive wisdom from God’. He goes on to give the example of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington as being truly great men. He concludes by stating that wisdom is the ability to read the mind of God.
Chapter 4 – The mind of God. Deep thoughts in this chapter! The ideas expressed within it are somewhat obscure to the uninitiated. They centre around the new thought teaching of all creation being held in the thought of the All mind. He opines that we are immersed in a mind that contains all knowledge. This reservoir of wisdom is open to all and we can draw upon it to be and to have all that we want. To do this, man must become one with God.
Chapter 5 – Preparation. He begins by quoting from the bible ‘draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you’. He states that if you become like God, you will be able to read his thought. He advises to rise above want, ill health and to enter the certain way (a reference to his book ‘The science of getting rich’). He admonishes the need to cast aside anxiety, worry, fear, greed, lust, gluttony, pride, envy, vanity and rise above all moral evil-doing. Above all, cast out malice and enmity with others. Resolve to abandon evil thoughts, deeds and courses of action which go against your noblest ideals.
Chapter 6 – The social point of view. He starts off by stating that the distinguishing feature of all really great men and women is an unwavering faith. To have this faith depends on one’s point of view. He mentions how important it is to see the world as something advancing, containing every good thing. Although, God’s work is not complete anywhere, everything in this world is perfect after its kind. Society, industry and civilisation is a good thing that is becoming better. To hold this viewpoint gives you an increasing and expansive mind. He concludes by stating ‘all’s right with the world. Nothing can possibly be wrong but my personal attitude…’
Chapter 7 – The individual point of view. Here he advises that we must learn to see men and women not as lost things but as perfect beings advancing to become complete. He gives the analogy of the beautiful lily which grows from an unsightly bulb. Everyone, he writes, is perfect in their stage of being, and they are becoming complete. I quite like this viewpoint. It helps me to look for the best in people even when it’s difficult. Especially when it’s difficult! As well as seeing others from this viewpoint, we must also see ourselves in this way. ‘You must always see yourself as a great advancing soul.’
Chapter 8 – Consecration. He defines consecration as ‘obedience to the soul’. The divine principle of power is that force within all of us impelling us to greatness. This ‘something’ within us should be obeyed without question. Conform your life to the pure idea within you. Let your thoughts be ruled by principle. In your interactions with others, let your manner always be kindly and courteous. Remember that you are a god amongst gods.
Chapter 9 – Identification. This chapter is profound! And in way, a little scary. He starts off by teaching that ‘you must consciously identify yourself with the highest.’ A few other quotes are provided; ‘man is of one and the same stuff with God. And so all the talents, powers and possibilities that are in God are in man.’ Whoa! Wallace! Some might find this easy to digest, others will try to chew on it but spit it out. If you’re like me, you might wonder at first if this isn’t verging on the realms of blasphemy. But he carries on making the point from the bible verse ‘is it not written “ye are gods”‘. Because man’s consciousness is impaired, he must consciously unite his mind to the infinite mind.
Chapter 10 – Idealisation. We are thinking centres in original substance. A thought form held in thinking substance is a real thing with form and actual existence although not visible in the material world. If you desire a thing, picture it clearly and hold it in mind until it becomes a thought form. It will materialise if your practices do not separate you from God. Think of your ideal and hold it in your imagination. He gives the example of the student who wishes to become a great lawyer. He sees himself pleading cases with matchless eloquence and with a command of truth and knowledge. He makes himself into the image and God works with him. In this way, nothing can prevent you from having what you want or becoming who wish to become.
Chapter 11 – Realisation. He expounds further on how to create or manifest the thought form, or your ideal, externally. The secret, he writes, is doing small things in a great way. Be great in your own home or workplace, by doing everything in a great way. Put your soul in every act however big or small. You must always be just, generous, courteous and kindly in all your relations with man. Never act in haste or hurry. Be convinced in your own perception of truth. Be deliberate in everything.
Chapter 12 – Hurry and habit. Hurry is a manifestation of fear. Avoiding getting into hurry and acting on superficial impulses. The power in you is in things you want. It is bringing them towards you as strongly as you desire them. Hurry and fear cut your connection to the universal mind and stop the power within you. If you fall into the fearful frame of mind, remember that nothing is going wrong, nothing can be wrong. There is only God.
Chapter 13 – Thought. Greatness is only attained by the thinking of great thoughts. All that a man does outwardly is the expression of inward thinking. No action is possible without thought. Action and environment is the result of thought. You are what you are and you are where you are because you think as you do. Great thoughts will manifest in a great personality he claims.
Chapter 14 – Action at home. He presses on the need to begin to deal in great ways with small things, with the people and place around you. Don’t wait until you are in ‘great’ location or in possession of externals such as things, books or people. You are made great by that which is within you. Respect yourself and others. Avoid the extremes of being servile or carrying yourself with airs. See yourself as a god amongst gods.
Chapter 15 – Action abroad. Your actions abroad must be as your actions at home. Adopt the same mental attitude you have with your family as with neighbours, friends and all those you meet in business. You are as great as the greatest but all are your equal. Begin to be great where you are and in the things you do everyday. Don’t go looking for great things to do. Great things will come looking for you if you maintain the right viewpoint with total consecration and an unwavering faith and courage.
Chapter 16 – Some further explanations. He uses this chapter to reiterate the ideas expressed in chapter 6. Seeing the world around you and all that concerns you as advancing gives you an increasing and expansive outlook. Your thought form is shaped by this viewpoint. Thoughts habitually held become thought forms held in material stuff. You are surrounded by your own thoughts made into material things. These ideas are fundamental to new thought.
Chapter 17 – More about thought. This chapter further discusses ideas expressed in the chapter on thought. He states that man should think over what God is doing in the world and to think one’s self into the right personal attitude. Remove selfishness and dishonesty in your aims. Cease from seeing faults in your fellow man and see virtue.
Chapter 18 – Jesus’ idea of greatness. Jesus did not seek to be served but to serve. His idea of greatness was not to be seated in the high places but to serve. He said ‘he that is greatest amongst you, let him serve.’ We must also guard against the extreme in the practice of altruism in a bid to imitate what some wrongly consider to be the manner of Jesus.
Chapter 19 – A view of evolution. Wallace Wattles is a strong believer in evolution. He explains how holding the social viewpoint discussed previously, helps us understand how God, seeking expression in man, continues to advance the world in social, political and industrial fields.
Chapter 20 – Serving God. In this chapter, the author recognises that there might be conflicts arising from the practice of the science of being great. Here, he advises the reader who battles with the duty to self versus the duty to others. If a man desires more, he should recognise that this is God seeking expression to do great things through him. Our first duty should be to make ourself a great personality in every way we can even if this means breaking ties at home.
Chapter 21 – A mental exercise. Merely repeating various words is not enough. Thinking certain thoughts habitually, helps us to form thought forms. Just thinking the thoughts alone is not enough. Thinking about the ideas expressed in the thoughts is more important. He goes on to write various affirmations and ideas expressed throughout the book. I found this chapter to be a great summary of the key points in the text.
Chapter 22 – A summary of the science of being great. Fancy writing a summary of the summary! I don’t. I’ll stop here and say, if you haven’t read the book, get it! The audiobook is free as it is in the public domain. Honestly, it’s one of those books that I can wholeheartedly say, if continuously practiced, will change your life.