“A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.”
“Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.”
“He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.”
“The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good.”
The title of James Allen’s absolutely wonderful book is influenced by a verse in the Bible from the Book of Proverbs, chapter 23, verse 7: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”.
James Allen (28 November 1864 – 24 January 1912) was a British philosophical writer known for his inspirational books and poetry and as a pioneer of the self-help movement. His best-known work, As a Man Thinketh, has been mass-produced since its publication in 1902. In 1898, he became a writer and was able to showcase his spiritual and social interests for the magazine The Herald of the Golden Age. At this time, Allen entered a creative period when he published his first book, From Poverty to Power (1901). In 1902 Allen began to publish his own spiritual magazine, The Light of Reason, later retitled The Epoch.
Despite being a longtime believer in power of thought, there is something decidedly discomforting about being a maker of myself, yet strangely comforting at the same time: To be human is to make choices, which implies an inevitable relationship with application of thought – and perhaps, by the right choice and proper application of thought – if even the enlightened embrace it, soar to perfection.
This little volume (the result of meditation and experience),” Allen writes, “is not intended as an exhaustive treatise on the much-written-upon subject of power of thought but rather as explanatory, its object being to stimulate men and women to the discovery and perception of the truth that – ‘They themselves are makers of themselves’ by virtue of the thoughts, which they choose and encourage; that mind is the master-weaver, both of inner garment of character and the outer garment of circumstances, and that, as they may have hitherto woven in ignorance and pain they may now weave in enlightenment and happiness.”
Allen suggests that the allure of thought – vehicle for the self extends beyond the mind and into the very soul of who we are, which invariably includes that we are in control of our own thought and thus our purpose:
Of all the beautiful truths pertaining to the soul which have been restored and brought to light in this age, none is more gladdening or fruitful of divine promise and confidence that this – that man is the master of thought, the molder of character, and the maker and shaper of condition, environment, and destiny.[…]
In this direction, as in no other, is the law absolute that ‘He that seeketh findeth: and to him that knocketh it shall be opened:’ for only by patience, practice, and ceaseless importunity can a man enter the Door of the Temple of Knowledge.
It is hardly coincidental that, in one of the most elegant metaphors, Allen compares our mind to a garden, he writes:
If no useful seeds are put into it, hen an abundance of useless weed-seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.[…]
Man is buffeted by circumstances so long as he believes himself to be the creature of outside conditions, but when he realizes that he is a creative power, and that he may command the hidden soil and seeds of his being out of which circumstances grow, he then becomes the rightful master of himself.[…]
Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit.
There is something deep, almost primal as Allen touches on statuses not making the man, author writes:
Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself. No such conditions can exist as descending into vice and its attendant suffering apart from vicious inclinations, or ascending into virtue and its pure happiness without the continued cultivation of virtuous aspirations; and man, therefore, as the lord and master of thought, is the maker of himself the shaper and author of environment.
And also, Allen on making great personal sacrifices and consistence between thought and action or ability to affect circumstances:
Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.[…]
Good thoughts and actions can never produce and results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results.[…]
A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet so surely, shape his circumstances.
He stresses to set a purpose and do all that is possible to charge after and accomplish it – during this process – what is gained is that character is strengthened, thoughts of doubt are no longer present and fear, enemy of knowledge, is dismissed and defeated; Allen writes:
Until thought is linked with purpose there is no intelligent accomplishment.[…]
They who have no central purpose in their life fall an easy prey to petty worries, fears, troubles, and self-pitying, all of which are indications of weakness, which lead, just as surely as deliberately planned sins (though by a different route), to failure, unhappiness, and loss, for weakness cannot persist in a power evolving universe.[…]
To put away aimlessness and weakness, and to begin to think with purpose, is to enter the ranks of those strong ones who only recognize failure as one of the pathways to attainment; who make all conditions serve them, and who think strongly, attempt fearlessly, and accomplish masterfully.
In one particularly outstanding passage, Allen implies that person needs to want himself, first and foremost, to change using his thoughts; author writes:
A strong man cannot help a weaker unless that weaker is willing to be helped, and even then the weak must become strong of himself; he must, by his own effort, develop the strength which he admires in another.
In Allen’s closing passage, he arrives at eminent idea of the book – first we need to imagine it – and then we will accomplish it:
Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your Vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your Ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil.”[…]
You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration.
Allen closes with a passage about serenity, self control, equanimity, a tranquil heart, a sweet-tempered and balanced life… the exquisite poise of character is serenity, the fruitage of the soul and well-balanced life is a characteristic of the finished character.
As a man Thinketh is an absolute treat in its entirety, an immeasurable heartening read from cover to cover. If you’re like to find out what your meaning and true life purpose is, schedule a call with me.