As A Man Thinketh” Commentary & Summary
From Poverty to Power
If you want a condensed version “Think And You Will Grow Rich” then you should pick up James Allen’s “As A Man Thinketh”. This book acts almost like a synopsis for Napoleon Hill’s greatest work. I always believed the law of attraction to be a guise for some religion but after further investigation, the teachings are actually a philosophy used to cultivate a strong mind with the capability to produce its desires.
James Allen 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 1903. It has been a source of inspiration for motivational and self-help authors.
As A Man Thinketh is an essay and self-help classic, which argues that the key to mastering your life is harnessing the power of your thoughts and helps you cultivate the philosophy and attitude of a positive, successful person.
This book talked heavily on the law of attraction but from a later investigation from other psychologists like Peterson and Jung (although considered more philosophical). Thoughts become things and the thoughts that you tell yourself and reinforce can make or break your character and thus your goals. He believes that “They themselves are makers of themselves.”
Thought & Character
This section ties beautifully to the Dalai Lama model of attitude determining your perception of reality. He argued that the summation of all your thoughts was the construction of your character, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”. Every action created whether it was conscious or not is argued to be the result of your internal dialogue. “Act is the blossom of thought, and joy and suffering are its fruits.”
Here the author proposes that man has the ability to shape their destiny — so to speak — by cultivating “God-like” thoughts. This is because the cause and effect principle is not just the natural world, it is also of the mind. Only through humble introspective investigation can you address potential problems.
He uses an analogy of gold and diamonds. Precious metals such as those are only found after exhaustive excavation. Similarly, the man must mine the mind and “soul” to fully uncover the truths that construct your being. The lies you tell yourself and the words that catalyze your action.
Effect of Thought on Circumstances
This portion of the book mirror “Think And Grow Rich” heavily which took notes from the bible. The mind is equated to a garden and the thoughts you sow are cultivated with reinforcement from your personal experience, discipline capacity, self-awareness and much more. The fruits beared by the garden are a direct result of a man’s mind. The garden can be prosperous or left barren. Allen takes this concept one step further by stating our thoughts and our character are two of the same. And the character is the determining factor of how you perceive reality. You determine if the outcome is positive or negative.
Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit.
Effects of Thoughts on Health & Body
Allen advocated heavily for “walking a divine path” similar to Marcus with his stoic teachings. A mind full of positive thoughts will produce great prosperous fruits but ones filled with fear, doubt, and impure thoughts will quickly be corrupted, degenerate and decay.
Here he is only reiterating the concept from above. Good or bad are the results of the patterns produced by your thoughts. “Make the fountain’ pure and all will be pure.”
This concept ties strongly with the teachings of the Dalai Lama. He proposes that you treat your mind with as much attentiveness as you do your physical health. An overwhelming number of negative thoughts such as envy, greed, perversion, malice, can be extremely detrimental for the body and “ rob the body of its health and grace.” You must practice contentment and follow a path of serenity and fulfillment. Anything less than that is the precursor for a self-made prison, your eternal state of suffering your hell on earth.
To walk amongst the gods you must walk a divine path.
Thought & Purpose
I loved this chapter as the emphasis was establishing purpose behind your thoughts. To think aimlessness (therefore act aimlessly) means you are subject to fall victim to anxiety, fear, troubles, *Peterson’s voice* HELL on earth.
Here he argues that the central focal point of your thoughts should be derived by your purpose. Purpose is the driving force for success. You may encounter trials and tribulations that will at times block your path. You may even encounter what seems to be a failure. Once again establishing a mind of divinity means that you find the opportunity within the obstacles. At least this is what I tell myself when I was struggling with a difficult time in my career. Remember where you came from and why you started. As Simon Sinek said, “It all starts with WHY”. Overcoming obstacles and weaknesses is the foundation for future potential.
Reading this idea from a different perspective really resonated with me and assisting me in developing my resolution. Just as a man can grow a physical body stronger with practice, effort, and patience he too can grow his mind. With strenuous exercise and relentless discipline you too can develop a fortified mind that only produces prosperity and abundance.
Here Allen mentioned the significance associated with doubt and fear. They are the “great enemies of knowledge and must be slain.” Conquer fear and doubt to conquer failure, all together.
“The Thought-Factor in Achievement”
This may be a wake-up call for you, reader. You are solely responsible for the thoughts you conceive and more importantly the ones you reinforce by acting them out. You determine if you live a life filled with happiness or one charged with suffering and malevolence.
“As he thinks, so is he; as he continues to think, so he remains.”
Peterson came to mind once again when reflecting on this section. You are only capable of helping those who are willing to be helped. This reminded me of his time as a clinician when assisting in recovering addicts from living a life of sobriety. The statement could not be more true. Here the thoughts of altruism prevent yours from mindlessly being oppressed while simultaneously preventing you from becoming a tyrant yourself. You must cultivate a garden in the mind that can bear fruits of mindfulness and attentiveness. Tend to your garden daily. Water your seeds daily. Only then will you be able to conquer and achieve.
Similar to the teachings of Marcus, Allen too promotes the idea of cultivating discipline top stray away from temptations and earthly passions. Do not succumb to “animal indulgence.” If your mind is clouded with bestial thoughts then you will be unable to think with a clear rational mind. Control your passions and temptations or they will control you. Take responsibility for your thoughts as they shape your character and thus your actions and outcomes.
Similar to Peterson, you must be willing to sacrifice what you want often to fulfill your purpose.
Control your temptations and passions to or risk disintegrating into chaos. Raise your thoughts and reinforce them, never losing your guard. You may stay up but if you fail to tend to your garden in seasons of prosperity then you too shall experience the failures once again.
All achievements — business, intellectual, spiritual — are the result of definitely directed thought. To achieve greatly one must sacrifice greatly.
Visions & Ideals
Here Allen emphasizes the importance of dreaming loft dreams and supporting those dreams with what I would call “Small Wins” once again.
Remember that the future is attainable potential, your ideal heaven can be found there. Vision is the promise of your future. Now you must conduct yourself accordingly each day to achieve those visions. Just as, “the Oak sleeps in an acorn,” Allen continues, “. . .Dreams are the seedlings of realities.”
His words “You will become as small as your controlling desire, or as great as your dominant aspiration.” were received with immense reverence. The path towards your vision, your ideal future, heaven on earth… the path is narrow and few know of it and even fewer walk it. There are many trials and tribulations but all of which are stepping stones to achieving your highest aspirations.
To produce the desired fruits you must first place in the effort required to achieve those results. Keep your vision close to your mind, revisiting it often and even closer to your heart.
“The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart, you will build your life by; this you will become.”
The last chapter ties the book back to the teaching of the Dalai Lama, as the two runs in parallel. Staying calm and rational especially in moments of flooding emotions when your judgment is clouded is imperative if you are to accomplish your goal. You must exercise the mind like any other muscle with a daily devotion. Only then can you fortify your mind to withstand the chaos that you are to encounter on your journey to achieve your success.
To tempest-tossed souls: Self-control is a strength. Right thought is mastery. Calmness is power. Say unto your heart, “Peace. Be still.”