To the man whose idea of "practical occultism" revolves around the desire for personal success, for acquiring an abundance of worldly goods and luxuries, for power and dominance among men, the Law of Opulence is a very attractive teaching. So attractive, indeed, that tens of thousands are engaged in the study of this "law," and actively engaged in bringing abundance into their lives, unaware that at the root of the attractive "flower" "lies a serpent coiled."
The Law of Opulence is also called the Law of Supply and Demand. By Affirmation, Mind-Prayer, Creative Concentration, we are told by the literatures of various organizations, that the cosmic machinery which provides personal abundance for a special "few" is set in motion. Why work at all when all that is needed is to picture in your mind's eye what you want! That is the claim. The privilege of controlling the levers of the cosmic machinery may be easily had. The only barrier to such instruction is one's pocketbook.
Here we may inquire as to the motives of such instruction. Are they ethical? True knowledge is universal; it is the exclusive property of no one, belonging to all. Every student of genuine occultism will bear witness to the examples of the great Teachers. Those who have rendered more than lip-service to humanity's welfare — the Buddha, Jesus, Confucius, to name a few — never measured their teachings in dollars and cents, nor did they deem it wise to sanction and give formulae for personal opulence to disciple and follower. Small wonder! How well they knew, as any earnest student can discern, that the capacity of Man requires a greater Goal than any earthly opulence can satisfy. Of the Law of Opulence they knew, but knew also that one attached to earthly things is by that attachment bound. Further growth is impossible. Whether man works for personal opulence on the physical plane or on the mental plane, he works selfishly and for himself alone. Working selfishly, he stifles the Spirit-urge which impels to harmony, to fellow-feeling; he checks his growth from the impoverished personal self with its pains and pleasures, into identification and harmony with all that breathes!
A Theosophist inquiring into the philosophical background of organizations teaching, for a price, the Law of Opulence, finds the Universal organic texture lacking. Surely the Universe exists for a greater End than this supply and demand of human wants. Teaching of this nature, with its appeal to the personal man, aims merely to convince the student that he is justified in applying "cosmic law" to his own ends. And the student, concerned only with immediate results and tangible evidence, is satisfied to look no further.
The person who embarks on such a line of instruction is very much in the position of one learning to drive an automobile. It is simple to learn to pull "this" and step on "that" and go hurtling down the highway, but the driver unacquainted with the principles of automotive mechanics, is wiser to trust his life to the trolley-operator! The laws of Universal Mind are not embraced in a single principle or a few formulae.
Now wherein lies the danger of creating images of one hundred dollar bills, or picturing yourself sitting in the executive's seat? The Theosophist agrees that there is no evil in a hundred dollar bill, in itself, where no hungry human eyes exist to feast upon it. The evil lies in man's attachment to it — that is, in the power of material things to fasten themselves to human beings. The evil lies in the fact that a man will allow his mind to become divorced from its higher field of operation merely to satisfy physical comfort and the old itch for power.
The Theosophist does not suggest "sackcloth and ashes" — a means by which some humans attract pity, and gloat over their humility with another kind of vanity — but rather, the common-sense middle way. It is his aim to conserve his energy along the highest possible lines, recognising that one who lives "in the world" must consider its needs and fulfil the duties that the world asks of him. These duties are of wider range than the Success-school's appeals would indicate.
The Law of Opulence is no myth! It works, but its retroactive action is often overlooked. It is in fact a boomerang. Whatever cause is set in motion by the mind returns as the effect of that cause. "As ye sow, so shall ye reap." Karman is the name given by Theosophists to this doctrine of Cause and Effect. Its ethical implication is a powerful one, for it is Justice; it is the Scale by which universal harmony is maintained. One can no more dodge retribution for selfish manipulation of mental laws, than one can violate the laws of gravity and pressure with impunity.
The practitioner of mental "science" may pray, concentrate, visualize, and that which he wishes may come to him; but, when it comes he will regret — sooner or later. Wishing solely for pleasure, he gets pleasure and an equal amount of pain which he did not bargain for! Simply because his wish was a selfish one. Self-indulgence demands its price. Pleasure and pain are forever linked. Hence, he who directs the law of opulence for selfish ends merits the same karmic retribution as the ruthless climber who, desirous of wealth and prestige, rises to his coveted position of power on the shoulders of other people — other people, less shrewd and less selfish than he.
Let, then, the motive for action be in the action itself, and not in the event. Do not be incited to actions by the hope of their reward, nor let thy life be spent in inaction Firmly persisting in Yoga (equal-mindedness), perform thy duty, O Dhananjaya (despiser of wealth), and laying aside all desire for any benefit to thyself from action, make the event equal to thee, whether it be success or failure. — Bhagavad-Gita, Judge's Recension, p. 16-17