Book Thoughts: From Poverty to Power

From Poverty to Power is 1901 inspirational book by James Allen. I wouldn’t have read this book on its own, but it came with my copy of As a Man Thinketh. The book was split into two parts: one describing the Path to Prosperity, the other describing the Way to Happiness. By the end of the book it becomes clear to the reader that the Path to Prosperity and Way to Happiness are the same. True prosperity and happiness came from true love. True love comes from absolute sacrifice of self for others. I really liked this message. Of course, being Catholic I know the concept of loving one another well, but From Poverty to Power did inspire me a little bit to look at where in my life I can do more for others. From Poverty to Power was not perfect though.

James Allen advocated certain things that would be against the Catholic faith. I do believe he was right in saying that anyone who sacrifices themselves completely for others will join God in heaven, but the author also said people shouldn’t care about their religion or creed. This is directly contrary to the Catholic Church’s view that the Catholic faith is the full truth. The Church acknowledges that it is possible to get to heaven without the Catholic faith but much, much harder. Being part of a community of believers really helps people continue striving for holiness. People on their own trying to be holy have a much harder time.

In James Allen’s rejection of religion he made the case that any religion could be followed so long as the ultimate end for every person was self-sacrifice. Throughout the book he made reference to Jesus and the saints, but he also made reference to the Buddha. In his eyes, Jesus and the Buddha were equal. In fact, he believed people could become Jesus. To James Allen, Jesus was just the example of a human that had reached perfection. It seemed as if he also believed that in going to heaven, people would literally join God, basically become gods themselves. This is totally against the Catholic faith.

There were these few incorrect “truths” James Allen urged the reader to believe. Other than those, the text was morally good. The world would be a lot better place if everyone was sacrificing according to From Poverty to Power. I’m not saying I’m any better. Just because I know the truth doesn’t mean I am capable of living the truth. It’s good to have this ideal of sacrificing completely for others though. As long as we keep our focus on that ideal, we can become much better people over the course of our lives and be proud of what we’ve done when our time on Earth comes to an end.

As far as entertainment value, James Allen’s writing style wasn’t my favorite. In the interest of drilling the ideas into the reader’s mind, he reiterated the same thoughts over and over using different but similar words. Many long paragraphs were written this way. His real world examples were good, but the reiteration stuff was much more prominent. Maybe James Allen saw this repetition as a way to get even the lowliest of minds to understand what he was saying, but I usually understood things after the first few sentences. Then the rest of the paragraph started getting boring. Sometimes I skimmed over the repetition to get to the author’s next point. From Poverty to Power wasn’t the most interesting book to read, but I think there is some good wisdom contained. I might summarize that wisdom in a post here one day.

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