The Black Box

or whose will is it anyway?

by Stephen J.M. Bray


Mind is the Master Power
that molds and makes,
And we are mind.
And ever more we take
the tool of thought,
And shaping what we will,
Bring forth a thousand joys,
or a thousand ills.
We think in secret,
and it comes to pass,
is but our looking glass.

                                                                        James Allen 1903

Joe Karbo promised me a fortune if I would follow his Dyna/Psych© formula and become an entrepreneur. In an outrageously honest advertisement he described his own ‘rags to riches’ story. Advised to declare bankruptcy at 40 he was by 50 a millionaire who claimed to have achieved his wealth ‘The Lazy Way’.  

His advertisement was just so good that I together with 2,786,500 other punters sent off my cheque for a self-published book that Karbo admitted in the advertisement had cost him 50 cents to produce. I wanted money, and I didn’t want to work for it. And this was his promise.  

The book comprised two parts, the second part described the workings of a mail order business and provided a simple guide as to how to write advertisements and test them. But the first part was sheer magic which Joe called Dyna/Psych© ~ “the programmed study and practice of achieving success by the planned application of important but little understood natural laws”.[i]  

The book states in its opening sentence: “You are now on your way to having everything in the world you really want!”.[ii]  

In the postscript Karbo referred to the three Eves of creation. ‘Conceive’ ~ decide how you want to live; ‘Believe’ ~ accept that you are already what you desire; ‘Achieve’ ~ impeccably act out your beliefs. He concluded by stating: “You can have anything in the world you want if you’re willing to pay the price”, he wrote.[iii]  

‘The Lazy Mans Way To Riches’ is a best seller that continues to inspire marketers throughout the world. Many are successful. ‘Dyna/Psych©’ a simple system of progressive relaxation and affirmation apparently works.  

Karbo is not the first person to have written about those ‘important but little understood natural laws’. Indeed he was inspired by an earlier work called ‘The Science of Getting Rich’, by Wallace T. Wattles. Published in 1910 ‘The Science of Getting Rich’ reads like the quantum opportunism of Dr. Deepak Chopra.[iv]

Wattles writes: “There are certain laws that govern the process of acquiring riches; once these laws are learned and obeyed by any man, he will get rich with mathematical certainty.

“The stuff from which all things are made is a substance that thinks, and a thought of form in this substance produces the form.  [v] 

If Wattles is right when our thinking is confused we must create more chaos in our lives. Orison Swett Marden the founder of America’s ‘Success Magazine’ and a contemporary of Wattles wrote in 1910:

“Think and say only that which you wish to become true”. [vi]

Wattles believed that each of us has the natural and inherent power to think what he wants to think but he warns:

To think according to appearance is easy; to think truth regardless of appearances is laborious, and requires the expenditure of more power than any other work man is called upon to perform”.[vii]

Clearly we must conclude that we need a disciplined system with which to run our thoughts such as Dyna/Psych© or Neuro-linguistic Programming, (NLP).[viii]

There are many such systems but most consist of the same basic formula:

(1) Form a precise image in your mind of what you want to achieve.

(2) Trust that you must reap the rewards you are asking for.

(3) Practice gratitude daily for all the great new ideas and successes that are coming your way.

(4) Act upon these ideas in faith creating practical opportunities to achieve what you are thinking about. [ix] Æ

Perhaps the most influential of such schemes is Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich’. In the mighty seven-volume treatise ‘The Law of Success’, upon which ‘Think and Grow Rich’ is based Hill introduces us to the idea of affirmation.

“. . . any idea you firmly fix in your subconscious mind, by repeated affirmation automatically becomes a plan of blueprint which an unseen power uses in directing your efforts toward the attainment of the object in mind”. [x]

Karbo, Wattles, and Hill did not enjoy easy lives. Each came from a poor background. All worked hard. All died relatively young.

When the opportunity to study some of the most successful American businessmen of his day presented itself to Hill he jumped at it.

And perhaps therein lies the weakness of thinking to grow rich, for the concept is very much bound to the American dream: The idea that all may be materially wealthy in a land of opportunity with free expression, democratic principles and expansive lands. For oppressed impoverished migrants from a post-feudal, industrialized Europe, America had for over 200 years held out such a promise. But not all immigrants to America became wealthy, healthy or happy. The ideas within Think and Grow Rich explained how and why such failure was possible. Quite simply the rules were not being followed.

Some people think that James Allen from Ilfracombe, in the United Kingdom writes in a similar vein to Wattles and Hill, but the focus of ‘As A Man Thinketh’, published in 1903 is on the development of character, rather than material wealth.

“Law not confusion is the dominating principle in the universe; justice not injustice, is the soul and substance of life. Righteousness not corruption is the moulding and moving force in the spiritual government of the world. This being so man has but to right himself to find that the universe is right”. [xi]

Remarkably in 1978, Shakti Gawain a young American living in Mill Valley, California was writing a ‘spiritually based’ best seller that emphasized acquisition. In ‘Creative Visualization’, which remains her landmark work, she begins the familiar formula with these words:

“Decide on something you would like to have, work toward, or create. It can be on any level ~ a job, a house, a relationship, a change in yourself, increased prosperity, a happier state of mind, improved health, beauty, or better physical condition, or whatever”. [xii]

But the crucial word in this incantation is ‘decide’, for who or what decides for whom? Are we claiming that we consciously are able to decide what would be best for us, given how little we can possibly know of the nature of ‘reality’?

We might simply try using ‘visualization’ to obtain what we need, but this also raises dilemmas as the following illustration shows.

Paul Solomon, the founder of the Fellowship of the Inner Light embarked upon a preaching tour when his car broke down, and he had insufficient funds to buy a new one.

Together with his travelling companion Solomon listed all the drawbacks of his vehicle. The opposites of these formed the basis of the criteria that would be advantageous in a replacement.

Solomon’s friend asked, “Why don’t we precipitate a brand new car?” Solomon replied: “Well, I can’t justify that. I have to know that I’m asking for something because there is a need”. So Solomon asked for a car that would enable him to complete the journey. He believed that ‘God’ had the power to give it to him. He did not concern himself about how this would be accomplished. He did not use repeated visualization, or affirmation, since this would indicate faith in a ritual rather than faith in God.

The prayer was answered in the following way. Solomon was lent a car to do some sightseeing, and whilst he was away the owner of that car borrowed Solomon’s ‘sick’ vehicle and wrote it off. Since she was driving, her insurance replaced Solomon’s car, (which he had not insured comprehensively). The replacement, which he bought with the insurance money, worked perfectly all the way to his home in Atlanta where it shot its transmission.

Solomon says that this taught him a lesson. He asked for a brand new car, and indeed soon someone bought him one.[xiii]

Paul Solomon’s story was at told Findhorn during a conference on manifestation in 1977. The Findhorn Community is a living example of manifestation in action. Dorothy Maclean, Eileen and Peter Caddy came to live on a desolate caravan park near a rubbish tip at Forres during the winter of 1962. All three were committed to doing ‘God’s Will’.

Dorothy was so in-tune with nature that she was able to communicate with botanic species via the medium of flower fairies, which she perceived whilst in an altered state of consciousness. Eileen would spend hours channelling practical guidance from ‘God’, carefully writing down what she learned. Peter in complete blind faith followed the guidance of his two companions and created first a magnificent garden, and later the community of spiritually minded people.[xiv]

Recently the philosopher Ken Wilbur has suggested that the manifest world is built of perspectives rather than perceptions. He writes:  

“First person” perspective means the perspective of the person speaking—I, singular, or we, plural. “Second person” means the person spoken to—you or thou. “Third person” means the person or thing spoken of—he, she, they, them, it, its.[xv]  

A similar idea obtains in New Code NLP.[xvi]  

To make an ecologically valid understanding from which to take action in the world, it is necessary to access three perceptual positions. These are ~ First position:  being associated in my own body and feelings; Second position ~ associating with the perceptions of a second person, group, family, community or any other living system; Third position ~ watching the actions of the first and second positions from a comfortable observing location.[xvii]

In a remarkable way the trinity at Findhorn mirrored this philosophy, Peter the first person, doer, speaker or creator; Dorothy the second person, garden, the spoken to ~ the holy creation; Eileen the third person, the one spoken of, unseen, unmanifest the – he, she, they, them, it, its.

No wonder they were so successful.

Like Wallace Wattles, and others the founders of Findhorn do not claim to have created the community from miracles, but from following natural laws.[xviii] According to Findhorn’s natural laws you must: 

1. Develop your will, so that you can do anything that you wish. Then you must surrender that will to God, and only manifest God’s will.

2. Develop the discipline to always act on messages received in meditation, or intuitively such as inner voices or urges, even when these make no logical sense.

3.  Develop the faith to know that all your needs are met perfectly. If you have bills, then have the confidence to total them up absolutely and ask God for the funds.

4.  To persist in faith, even when initially it seems that a prayer has not been answered.

5.  When asking for something to be precise. If you require a greenhouse, state the exact dimensions, the type of frame etc.

6.  If a member of a group, then ensure that every member is attempting to manifest exactly the same item.

7.  Always express gratitude both when releasing your prayer as an act of faith, and also when the prayer is answered.

8.  Ask once only, for if you keep praying then you put into operation reverse laws. To continuously pray for something establishes that you lack the faith that it is on its way.

And then the laws of manifestation were upgraded by David Spangler.

On 9th June, 1971 the apparent differences between Joe Karbo’s ‘Dyna/Psych©’ with its repetitive affirmations and Findhorn’s ‘Laws of Manifestation’ with its simple injunction to ask once in faith, were resolved.

The original ‘Laws of Manifestation’ as practiced by Dorothy, Eileen and Peter were intended to establish the Community in the midst of a dense, confusing, and limiting environment. Once the Community was established the ‘New Laws’ were appropriate.

“The same is true for the process of affirmation and the placing into the subconscious mind of occult suggestions through repetition. This is a method suited to dealing with consciousness, which must function in relationship with the old world while under constant turmoil and bombardment of other suggestions of a negative nature, and which need to affirm, and repeatedly affirm, their own identity and at-oneness with God”. [xix]

So the repeating of affirmations proposed by Gawain, Hill, Karbo and Wattles constitute the means to develop free thought independent of social conditioning, and to achieve what you wish.

This is the equivalent of achieving the prerequisite of Findhorn’s original ‘Laws of Manifestation’. But dear reader, what you wish may not be that which ultimately will prove fulfilling, or wise.  

The point is well illustrated in a modern day film version of Faust, starring Liz Hurley as the Devil. ‘Bedazzled’ is about a socially inept young man played by Brendan Frazer who is madly in love with a co-worker (Frances O’Connor). Frazer’s character makes a deal with the Devil specifying the lifestyles he believes would win over his colleague. The familiar attributes, money, power, intellect, athletic prowess and poetic innocence all feature as part of the wishes of the hapless hero. But in each incarnation something goes awry. The wealthy powerful man proves to be a Columbian drug dealer with a price on his head; the intellectual is homosexual and incapable of consummating his relationship with the heroine, the athlete has insignificant private parts, and bullies push around the innocent poet, finally stealing the girl.[xx]

Released by God’s intervention from his Devil’s pact at the film’s conclusion, the hero goes home and instantly forms a perfect relationship with his new next-door neighbour.

How can I know what is best for others, or me? And when I choose to give up the struggle to remain consciously in control something remarkable happens, life is recognised as it is, and is it not wonderful even when visited by tragedy or death?

When the struggle is over you are changed, but you find life unchanged. It is to be found in the present moment, where you first lost it. And it is like a black box. The  complexity of its workings can never be completely witnessed by any single individual, but it invariably produces ‘miracles’ when individuals follow its instructions.

And only then is it possible to know for sure that all needs are being drawn forth more perfectly than Joe Karbo would ever have imagined. ;-))


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Æ A notable exception to this formula are the so called ‘New Code Games’, developed by Dr. John Grinder the co-founder of NLP and that are described in the book: Whispering in the Wind, which is reviewed elsewhere in this issue.

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[i] Karbo J. (1973) The Lazy Mans Way To Riches. Sunset Beach: Joe Karbo

[ii] ibid.

[iii]Karbo J. (1986) How to manage your life. In Karbo J. in:  The Lazy Man’s Way To Riches. Chipenham: Success Classics Library

[iv] Chopra D. (1993) Creating Affluence: Wealth Consciousness in the Field of All Possibilities. London: New World Library

[v] Wattles W. (2002)  The Science of Getting Rich. Iceni Books. (originally published 1910)

[vi] Marden O. (1996) (1910) The Miracle of Right Thought. Sun Publishing Company. (originally published 1910)

[vii] Wattles W. op. cit.

[viii] Sinclair J. and Bray S. (1998) An ABC of NLP. London ASPEN

[ix] Bray S. (1998) to Achieve Your Goals.pdf

[x] Hill N. (1928) The Law of Success in 16 Lessons. Meriden: Ralston University Press

[xi] Allen J. (1977) As A Man Thinketh. DeVorss and Co (originally published 1903)

[xii] Gawain S. (1978) Creative Visualization. Mill Valley: Whatever Publishing

[xiii] Solomon P. (1979) Paul Solomon on Precipitation: in One Earth. Vol. 1 No 7. Forres: Findhorn Foundation

[xiv] Findhorn Community (1975) The Findhorn Garden. London: Wildwood House Ltd.

[xv] Wilbur K. (Forthcoming) Cosmic Karma and Creativity.Boston: Shamhala

[xvi] Delozier J. and Grinder J. (1987) Turtles All The Way Down. Bonny Doon:Grinder, DeLozier and Associates.

[xvii] Sinclair and Bray op. cit.

[xviii] Spangler D. (1975) The Laws of Manifestation. Forres: Findhorn Community

[xix] ibid.



The terms: ‘The Lazy Man’s Way To Riches” and “Dyna/Psych”
are copyright 1973-2003 Lazy Man Publishing Company