Sunday, September 16, 2007

As a Man Thinketh (RR)

by James Allen

This is one of those charmingly quaint little books which is worth owning. I have a Longmeadow Press edition (postcard size, 4 x 6 inches, 64 pages) which I bought at least 15 years ago and have read many times. Last evening I read it again in one sitting of approximately an hour.

Every time I've settled down with this magnificent meditational masterpiece, I have been in need of its author's gentle influence and it has yet to fail me. I tend to suffer from negative, or out-of-balance, thinking. So many miles of 'driving' with my thoughts and they get even more shaken-up, or inclined towards the wrong direction. When this happens, I know it's time for a mental realignment. A quiet but firm reminder from this eloquent author that our thoughts are the parents of our actions usually does the trick.

As you will have noticed from the title, Mr. Allen lived and wrote a while ago--a century to be specific. He wrote before the days of Political Correctness, so even though he referred to 'man' and 'men', in actuality, he had all of us in mind. Please forgive me if I adopt his all-encompassing parlance in speaking about people of both genders; it is what I grew up with and it does not seem offensive to me, a woman, to be included with all of mankind.

Our author was born in 1864 and only lived to be 48; he wrote 19 books in his obscure literary career of 9 years. When James was still a young boy, his father left the family home in England and went to America to earn enough money to recoup the losses from the failed family business. Unfortunately, he was robbed and murdered before he was ever able to fulfill his plans. The family's ensuing financial crisis forced James to leave school and go to work as a private secretary, a position which would be known as an administrative assistant today. He continued to work in this capacity until 1902, when he devoted himself full-time to his writing. After the publication of his first book, From Poverty to Power, he moved to Ifracombe, a little town on England's southwest coast. As a Man Thinketh was his second book and his most famous. His wife, Lily, apparently had to convince him to publish it; he wasn't persuaded it was good enough! How ironic! It would seem that the author suffered from the same problem as yours truly! He must have needed to read his own book!

When I learned these few stark facts about our author, I was touched and even more moved by his book. He wasn't writing from the top-down, but from the bottom-up. He knew what it was to see life from the 'depths of despair' as my dear friend Anne (with an "e") Shirley from the legendary Green Gables would say. All joking aside, Mr. Allen's life was no picnic; it was short and full of disappointment, loss and pain. Yet, he has left us a work of poignant human testimony, inspiration and wisdom.

Each time I've read As A Man Thinketh, I've been in a different place in my life and needed something unique from the book. Therefore, a new chapter has jumped out at me at each successive read. At this particular juncture, the fourth chapter, Thought and Purpose, offered the critical insight I was seeking. At another time when I was suffering from ill-health, the third chapter was more relevant.

There are 7 chapters in all, plus a forward and you can see them listed below:

Foreword by James Allen
1. Thought and Character
2. Effect of Thought on Circumstances
3. Effect of Thought on Health and the Body
4. Thought and Purpose
5. The Thought-Factor in Achievement
6. Visions and Ideals
7. Serenity

To call one a 'chapter' is to put a grand title on a small creature, yet each is a little nugget of wisdom, complete unto itself.

And without further ado, let me let Mr. Allen speak for himself.

'Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself.' p19

'Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but unwilling to improve themselves. They therefore remain bound.' p20

'A man only begins to be a man when he ceases to whine and revile, and commences to search for the hidden justice which regulates his life. And as he adapts his mind to that regulating factor, he ceases to accuse others as the cause of his condition, and builds himself up in strong and noble thoughts.' p27

'Let a man cease from his sinful thoughts, and all the world will soften toward him, and be ready to help him.' p30

'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.' p42

'There can be no progress, no achievement without sacrifice.' p48

'The oak sleeps in the acorn; the bird waits in the egg; and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.' p55

God bless you Mr. Allen for this wonderful little book which has given me so much encouragement, genuine help and profound insight when I most needed it!

I happily and readily award you my 5 star award as the best of books and include this book on my list of books to read again and again and again! I hope you will too!


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