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As a Man Thinketh

As a Man Thinketh is a self-help book by James Allen, published in 1903. It was described by Allen as “… [dealing] with the power of thought, and particularly with the use and application of thought to happy and beautiful issues. I have tried to make the book simple, so that all can easily grasp and follow its teaching, and put into practice the methods which it advises. It shows how, in his own thought-world, each man holds the key to every condition, good or bad, that enters into his life, and that, by working patiently and intelligently upon his thoughts, he may remake his life, and transform his circumstances. The price of the book is only one shilling, and it can be carried in the pocket.”  It was also described by Allen as “A book that will help you to help yourself”, “A pocket companion for thoughtful people”, and “A book on the power and right application of thought.” – Wikipedia

An original copy of the 1903 edition of James Allen’s remarkable book sat on my father’s bookshelves while I was growing up. The book was thin, the cover was old (nothing like the current cover on Amazon), and the text was written in an old-fashioned style. It took me a long time to discover the book and realize that what is held within it a remarkable prescription. (You can download a free copy here as well as from Project Gutenberg.)

The book, which I’ve mentioned on this blog several times before, contains what used to be called “aphorisms” (suggestions for “right living.”) It can be read that way, that is to say, if you think positive thoughts and avoid negative thoughts, you’ll be a happier, more likeable person.

Or, it can be read literally, as though continued focus on a particular kind of thought will manifest that thought in one’s life. This is the way I read it. Many books, including The Secret and others about the law of attraction, affirmations, and practical meditation owe their existence to this book.

“THE aphorism, ‘As a man thinketh in his heart 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.'”

That’s not easy to see because we seem to have been programmed to think a lot of negative thoughts. Maybe they’re rants or gripes or poor me notions or the kind of gossip people used to trade at the barbershop. It’s easier to say something is screwed up than to find hope in the world. So, if we think negative thoughts most of the time, that’s who we are even though from time to time we read a book or go to a lecture and spend a few days thinking positive thoughts.

Peer pressure influences us a lot, I think. If everyone around us is saying things are going to hell in a handbasket, it’d hard to step forward and say, no they’re not. So we don’t say it. Who would believe it if we did say it? It takes a lot of effort to see that thoughts are things and that they control what happens in the physical world. One has to give the notion a try and work with it for a while to see any results.

Suffice it to say, when a friend comes on hard times, it’s best not to say, “You caused this to happen.” It’s easier to say that hard times were caused by fate, bad breaks, or God moving in mysterious ways. That places the responsibility everywhere else. And, it obscures the fact that–to paraphrase Marianne Williamson–we are more powerful than we know.  The sad thing is this: if we have been “programmed” since birth to believe that we believe, it’s difficult to change to a new way of seeing the world, much less expect others to accept it. Those who speak out about this are usually mocked one way or another as (according to the old phrase) being a “goodie-two-shoes” or naive or just plain crazy.

I’m lucky. I can insert my beliefs into my fiction without being put in a home because people assume all that comes from my characters or another reality. If you’re in the insurance business or sell cars for a living, I don’t know what you’re supposed to do. Life insurance salespeople really can’t say, “You’ll die whenever your ready” and car salesmen really can’t say, “The next time you decide to wreck your car, come see me for a new model.”

If I could, I would go door to door handing out copies of James Allen’s book. If people read them, the world would be forever changed,

Malcolm

Malcolm R’ Campbell’s hero’s journey novel “The Sun Singer” and the heroine’s journey novel “Sarabande” are based on the principles in James Allen’s book.

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments
  1. “That’s not easy to see because we seem to have been programmed to think a lot of negative thoughts.” Thirty or so years ago, we had a discussion about this in one the classes I took for my M.S. Apparently there’s a theory that our tendency to focus on the negative is a built-in default left over from prehistoric times, when we had to constantly be on guard and expecting danger in order to survive. It’s an interesting theory – and if true, certainly makes sense.

    September 14, 2019
    • Or, maybe people just like to whine. But, I can also see that the tendency to worry could be a leftover defense mechanism.

      September 14, 2019

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