As I was browsing online, looking for what to read and write about next, the book As A Man Thinketh by James Allen came up.
The concept seemed interesting enough, so I decided to look into it. It’s a self-help book, where the focus is on thinking (as the title would suggest).
First, I was surprised by the English used in this book. I felt that it was a old-timey. I had to make sure when it was written, and found that it was published in 1903. That explains some things. That doesn’t mean the book is bad or difficult to understand, just that some of the ways sentences are phrased made me chuckle a little.
I was also surprised how easily quotable this book is. It’s rather short, takes less than an hour to read for anyone who regularly reads, and it’s full of powerful sentences that resonate with the reader.
I should also mention that this book’s title (and opening sentence) is inspired by the Bible, King James Version.
Specifically this passage:
“Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye,neither desire thou his dainty meats:
For as he thinketh in his heart,so is he:
Eat and drink,saith he to thee;but his heart is not with thee.
The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.”
It works mostly as an inspiration, nothing more. I didn’t get the feel this book is religiously charged. It’s more about what you can do with your life.
I’ll go through the chapters briefly, and you can decide for yourself if this book is worth your time.
As A Man Thinketh, by James Allen
Thought and Character
“The aphorism, “As a man thinketh in his hearth so is he,” not only embraces the whole of a man’s being, but is so comprehensive as to reach out to every condition and circumstance of his life. A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts”
This is how the book starts. The opening sentence after the foreword. It fully captures the whole essence of this book, and what self-help books of this kind are about.
A brilliant start.
In this chapter Allen tries to tell you that thinking is what makes you.
“Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself; he also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace. By the right choice and true application of thought, man ascends to the Divine Perfection; by the abuse and wrong application of thought, he descends below the level of the beast. Between these two extremes are all the grades of character, and man is their maker and master.”
I absolutely adore the way he words everything in this book. It’s just a joy to read, and if you spend time thinking about what he’s saying, there’s a powerful message behind it.
Effect of Thought on Circumstances
“A man’s mind be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”
This chapter is all about the circumstances you put yourself in. The kind of information you seek and the environment.
What you will find is that where you decide to locate yourself and how you decide to cultivate your thoughts, that will ultimately shape who you will become, and so create your destiny for you.
“Just as a gardener cultivates his plot, keeping it free from weeds, and growing the flowers and fruits which he requires, so may a man tend the garden of his mind, weeding out all the wrong, useless, and impure thoughts, and cultivating toward perfection the flowers and fruits of right, useful, and pure thoughts. By pursuing this process, a man sooner or later discovers that he is the master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life. He also reveals, within himself, the laws of thought, and understands, with ever-increasing accuracy, how the thought-forces and mind-elements operate in the shaping of his character, circumstances and destiny.”
I just like the way Allen puts it. It’s so simple, yet it makes so much sense.
Effect of Thought on Health and the Body
“The body is the servant of the mind. It obeys the operations of the mind, whether they be deliberately chosen or automatically expressed. At the bidding of unlawful thoughts the body sinks rapidly into disease and decay; at the command of glad and beautiful thoughts it becomes clothes with youthfulness and beauty.”
In this chapter Allen talks about how your thoughts affect your health.
We know that doctors are less likely get ill. It has something to do with their education on the matter, they know what to avoid to stay healthy, but also the fact that they are faced with illnesses daily, and that makes them less afraid of the ills of a human.
“Men will continue to have impure and poisoned blood so long as they propagate unclean thoughts. Out of a clean heart comes a clean life and a clean body. Out of a defiled mind proceeds a defiled lie and corrupt body. Thought is the fount of action, life and manifestation; make the fountain pure, and all will be pure.”
Think about it.
Thought and Purpose
“Until thought is linked with purpose there is no intelligent accomplishment. With the majority the barque of thought is allowed to drift upon the ocean of life. Aimlessness is a vice, and such drifting must not continue for him who would steer clear of catastrophe and destruction.”
This chapter is basically what Think And Grow Rich was all about. You need a purpose. It can be anything, as long as you have a purpose. If you don’t have one, it will lead to your life being aimless, and humans don’t function well under such circumstances.
“They who have no central purpose in their life fall an easy prey to petty worries, fears, troubles, and self-pitying, all of 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.”
Find your purpose, work toward it, and your other worries will start to disappear.
The Thought-Factor in Achievement
“All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts. In a justly ordered universe, where loss of equipoise would mean total destruction, individual responsibility must be absolute. A man’s weakness and strength, purity and impurity, are his own, and no another man’s; they are brought about by himself, and not by another man’s. His sufferings and his happiness are evolved from within. As he thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.”
You can achieve anything you want, but you must acknowledge that you are responsible for everything that happens. Never shift the blame; it’s your fault. Just accept that fact, and always strive to live up to your own ideal.
This next part is something I personally wanted to tell myself a couple of years ago:
“A strong man cannot help a weaker unless the weaker is willing to be helped, and even then the weak man must become strong of himself; he must, by his own efforts, develop the strength which he admires in another. None but himself can alter his condition.”
This is exactly what I needed to hear when I was at my lowest. I started becoming more responsible after I realized this. No one else but you can change your life for the better.
Now I want some of my friends who are struggling to realize this.
Visions and Ideals
“The dreamers are the saviors of the world. As the visible world is sustained by the invisible, so men, through their trials and sins and sordid vocations, are nourished by the beautiful visions of their solitary dreamers. Humanity cannot for its dreamers; it cannot let their ideals fade and die; it lives in them; it knows them in the realities which is shall one day see and know.
Composer, sculptor, painter, poet, prophet, sage, these are the makers of the after-world, the architects of heaven. The world is beautiful because they have lived; without them, laboring humanity would perish.”
This is the surprise chapter I did not see coming. It’s about being creative. Luckily, I’m creative myself, at least in some sense, and I strive to become really good at my craft.
I respect other creative people. I don’t have to agree with or like what they are doing, and as long as they aren’t harming anyone, I think creativity should be cherished. Some of the once crazy ideas are what makes the world that we live in today.
“He who cherishes a beautiful vision, a lofty ideal in his heart, will one day realize it. Columbus cherished a vision of another world, and he discovered it; Copernicus fostered the vision of a multiplicity of words and a wider universe, and he revealed it; Buddha beheld the vision of a spiritual world of stainless beauty and perfect peace, and he entered into it.”
‘You know what? I wonder what it would be like if we could fly like the birds do.’
‘That’s such a stupid idea. It’s obviously impossible.’
‘I know, but it still is a beautiful thought.’
“Calmness of the mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control. Its presence is an indication of ripened experience, and of a more than ordinary knowledge of the laws and operations of thought.”
This is the last chapter in the book, and it’s very short. It’s about finding yourself over the course of your life. You won’t reach serenity in a day, it takes constant effort, but if you are able to control your thoughts and actions consistently for long enough, you might just find yourself in a state of serenity.
Serenity, as I understand it, is finding yourself and being true to yourself and everything you hold important. It’s also about being understanding and acceptance of others. A peace of mind. I’m sure all of us can reach that, with enough effort.
If you found this review useful and want to read the book for yourself you can buy it here: As A Man Thinketh by James Allen
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