Garin Hess's Reviews > As a Man Thinketh

As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
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Aug 21, 09

Read in August, 2009

Having finally read this highly recommended book, I'm sure if I were to read it over and over again at different times throughout my life it would bring me new insights. I particularly appreciated the author's emphasis on patience with external circumstance, while not yielding the high ground.

That said, there are indeed some circumstances that make it nearly impossible to follow the well thought out injunctions promoted in this book. The only reason I don't give it five stars is because he did not acknowledge things like hereditary mental illness and other like circumstances over which you truly may have very little control. To his credit, when it was written, little was known about much of mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress, and other conditions that can effectively render self-effort nearly ineffective.

Still, it is an inspiring and motivating book, and evidence of its truths can be seen in almost every successful man and woman of any note. Two that stand out to me are Joseph of Egypt and George Washington during the American Revolution. Both faced external circumstance that was overwhelming. Both patiently exhibited that commitment to their ideals, no matter the outside influence. And both, after much patience and struggle, arrived at an ideal end, though in very different ways.

Here are my favorite quotes:


...steadfastly walking the highway of strong and high endeavor the thought had long been secretly fostered in the heart, and the hour of opportunity revealed its gathered power...

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

Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.

...wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions...

Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.

...whilst aiming at a good end, he is continually frustrating its accomplishment by encouraging thoughts and desires which cannot possibly harmonize with that end.

Blessedness, not material possessions, is the measure of right thought; wretchedness, not lack of material possessions, is the measure of wrong thought. A man may be cursed and rich; he may be blessed and poor. Blessedness and riches are only joined together when the riches are rightly and wisely used; and the poor man only descends into wretchedness when he regards his lot as a burden unjustly imposed.

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; ceases to kick against circumstances, but begins to use them as aids to his more rapid progress, and as a means of discovering the hidden powers and possibilities within himself.

A particular train of thought persisted in, be it good or bad, cannot fail to produce its results on the character and circumstances. A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances. [This made me think of one of the ultimate examples of this: Joseph of Egypt]

"So you will be what you will to be;
Let failure find its false content
In that poor word, 'environment,'
But spirit scorns it, and is free.
"It masters time, it conquers space;
It cowes that boastful trickster, Chance,
And bids the tyrant Circumstance
Uncrown, and fill a servant's place.
"The human Will, that force unseen,
The offspring of a deathless Soul,
Can hew a way to any goal,
Though walls of granite intervene.
"Be not impatient in delays
But wait as one who understands;
When spirit rises and commands
The gods are ready to obey."

Your circumstances may be uncongenial, but they shall not long remain so if you but perceive an Ideal and strive to reach it. You cannot travel "within" and stand still "without".

And you...will realize the Vision (not the idle wish) of your heart, be it base or beautiful, or a mixture of both, for you wil always gravitate toward that which you, secretly, most love.


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