As a Man Thinketh (Barnes & Noble Gift Edition)
  • As a Man Thinketh (Barnes & Noble Gift Edition)
  • As a Man Thinketh (Barnes & Noble Gift Edition)

As a Man Thinketh (Barnes & Noble Gift Edition)

3.9 261
by James Allen

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In As a Man Thinketh, universally acknowledged as a self-help classic, James Allen argues we are what we think.  Positive thinking changes our circumstances in constructive ways, as surely as negative thinking brings us down.  Each has tangible impact on health, well-being, and achievement. Readers in search of practical advice have found

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In As a Man Thinketh, universally acknowledged as a self-help classic, James Allen argues we are what we think.  Positive thinking changes our circumstances in constructive ways, as surely as negative thinking brings us down.  Each has tangible impact on health, well-being, and achievement. Readers in search of practical advice have found inspiration in this little book for more than a hundred years.

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Barnes & Noble
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In As a Man Thinketh, universally acknowledged as a classic of self-help, James Allen argues that we are what we think. We are never simply victims of circumstance. Positive thinking changes our circumstances in constructive ways, as surely as negative thinking brings us down; and it has a real impact on health, well-being, and achievement. Readers in search of practical advice on how to make a better life have found inspiration in this little book for more than a hundred years. We choose our thoughts, Allen says, and our decisions make a difference. This is a message that has changed people's lives, and it still rings true.

Little is known of James Allen's life apart from the often-repeated outline preserved by his publisher. He was born in Leicester, England, in 1864. His father left for America in 1879, intending to settle and send for his family. But before he could do that, he was robbed and murdered, leaving fifteen-year-old James to be the breadwinner back home. James became a private secretary and continued this work until 1902, when, at the age of thirty-eight, he decided to devote his life to writing. After publishing his first book (As a Man Thinketh was his second), he retired with his wife, Lily, to Ilfracombe, a coastal town in Devonshire, to write and live in Tolstoyan simplicity. Allen died in 1912.

This bare outline of Allen's life, quite apart from the content of his work, is a source of interest, since it offers concrete evidence of a child of the late nineteenth-century English middle class leaving formal education at fifteen with literacy and other skills sufficient to make his mark on the world.  More than just securing employment as a private secretary, he acquired enough knowledge of Tolstoy before he was thirty-eight to inspire him to "go and do likewise" and read with sufficient breadth to quote from the Dhammapada as well as Christian Scripture and to be familiar with at least one popular poet in the United States and contemporary inspirational writers (such as the attorney Stanton Kirkham Davis, who he cites by name) in England. Though Allen may not be typical, this is nevertheless indicative of the availability of education beyond the boundaries of the elite in Victorian England. It is furthermore suggestive of the mix of influences that helped shape popular notions of progress in England and the United States on the leading edge of the twentieth century.

As a Man Thinketh begins with an aphorism taken from the Authorized (King James) translation of Proverbs 23:7: "for as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." That the line is slightly paraphrased, taken from a context in which it is part of a warning against dining with misers, and applied universally is partly a product of the "Protestant" revolution that put interpretation of Scripture in the hands of individuals and partly a reflection of the use of "wise sayings" that was already in play when Proverbs was compiled. Popular interpreters (including contemporary motivational speakers) often collect fragments of text to illustrate and reinforce points that they wish to make. In Allen's hands, this particular fragment becomes comprehensive. It "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...." This becomes the basis for Allen's insistence that the way to change your life is to change your thought. The eclectic base on which he makes his case is clear when he turns almost immediately from familiar Judeo-Christian territory to quote Edwin Arnold's verse version of the Buddha's teaching: "Thought in the mind hath made us. What we are / By thought was wrought and built. If a man's mind / Hath evil thoughts, pain comes on him as comes / The wheel the ox behind... / If one endure in purity of thought, joy follows him / As his own shadow—sure."

But it is worth noting that Allen does not present this as some sort of effortless or magical wish fulfillment. He wraps it securely in the Enlightenment tradition of reason. "Man," he says, "is a growth by law, and not a creation by artifice, and cause and effect is as absolute and undeviating in the hidden realm of thought as in the world of visible and material things." As a popular writer, Allen seeks to do some of the things that academic writers are doing at just about the same time—extending the rule of law to every corner of the universe, including the human mind, making every corner of the universe, including the human mind, susceptible to rational investigation. Allen is confident that the universe is governed by reason, that this means every effect may be traced to a cause, and that rational reflection on effects will enable individuals to cause the effects they desire. He is not unusual in extending this lawful field to the mind, nor is he particularly unusual in insisting that mind and matter are part of a single, lawful field in which whatever happens, happens for a reason that is discoverable. That is an interesting twist on the philosophy of optimism articulated by Pope and immortalized satirically by Voltaire. The line Allen describes is not whatever is, is good, but whatever is has a cause we can identify. He is also not unusual in maintaining the primacy of thought, insisting that thought is not simply a passive product of circumstances. In this, he has much in common with formal philosophical and psychological schools associated with William James and pragmatism. Allen is perhaps at the extreme when he says simply that a man is what he thinks. But a more moderate version, insisting that thought may transform conditions rather than simply being formed by them, is part of the bedrock of empirical investigation and scientific inquiry that is a legacy of Enlightenment thinking.

It is also, broadly speaking, a legacy of Socratic inquiry, particularly as embodied in the familiar slogan "know yourself" that has been often repeated as a summary of Socrates. In Allen's hands, this is a corrective to the leap so often made from claiming that thought influences material circumstances to claiming that we can have whatever we desire if we only desire it strongly enough. Allen sees it differently: "Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are." Like Gautama Buddha, Allen directs attention inward as a way to see outward. As we come to know what we are, we come to be at home in the world. That is a reasonable conclusion if we are what the world is—and that is the claim Allen makes in this little book: "Law, not confusion, is the dominating principle in the universe; justice, not injustice, is the soul and substance of life; and righteousness, not corruption, is the moulding and moving force in the spiritual government of the world. This being so, man has but to right himself to find that the universe is right; and during the process of putting himself right he will find that as he alters his thoughts towards things and other people, things and other people will alter towards him." Like a scientist who carefully lays out his or her methods and conclusions so they can be replicated, Allen does not ask readers to take his word for it. He asks us to try it.

And trying it means changing our minds, which, not surprisingly, is precisely what is meant by the word "repent." Allen is a popular voice among the many voices, popular and scholarly, who came out of the nineteenth century convinced that there is a close connection between our consciousness and our material condition. In philosophical terms, Allen may be said to side with Hegel against Marx. But it is more accurate to say that he joins both in pointing to the connection. And that is nowhere more striking than in his version of what academics call "internalized oppression":

It has been usual for men to think and to say, “Many men are slaves because one is an oppressor; let us hate the oppressor.” Now, however, there is amongst an increasing few a tendency to reverse this judgment, and to say, “One man is an oppressor because many are slaves; let us despise the slaves.” The truth is that oppressor and slave are co-operators in ignorance, and, while seeming to afflict each other, are in reality afflicting themselves. A perfect Knowledge perceives the action of law in the weakness of the oppressed and the misapplied power of the oppressor; a perfect Love, seeing the suffering, which both states entail, condemns neither; a perfect Compassion embraces both oppressor and oppressed. He who has conquered weakness, and has put away all selfish thoughts, belongs neither to oppressor not oppressed. He is free.

As a Man Thinketh is often named as a foundation document of the New Thought movement that William James described in The Varieties of Religious Experience as "the religion of healthy mindedness." It has influenced everything in American popular religion from Christian Science and the Unity School of Christianity, through the transdenominational gospel of positive thinking associated with Norman Vincent Peale, to contemporary preachers (and economists) whose mantra is "God wants you to be rich." But it begins as "the result of meditation and experience" by a man who achieved little economic success and lived with his wife in relative obscurity (despite publishing nineteen books in ten years), pursuing a life of voluntary simplicity inspired by the Russian novelist and mystic Leo Tolstoy. This little book bears the marks of meditation on Tolstoy but also shows the influence of Arnold's version of the Dhammapada (the teachings of the Buddha), the inspirational verse of the American poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox, theosophy, and (as the title makes explicit) the wisdom literature of Judeo-Christian Scripture. The breadth of influence on which Allen drew and the sometimes surprising places where his influence has subsequently been acknowledged makes this work an interesting window on the eclectic late-nineteenth- and early twentieth-century roots of a popular self-help movement in England and the United States that ran side by side with more institutionalized versions of the gospel of progress—and, to some extent, appears to have outlasted those institutionalized versions. Apart from its value as a window on the pivotal time and place in which it was written, it continues to be a source of inspiration to many readers in search of practical advice on how to make a better life—a search more than common enough to insure the book's continued popularity as long as people dream.

"The dreamers," Allen writes, "are the saviours of the world." And so, he says, dream—and "Say unto your heart, 'Peace, be still!'"

Steven Schroeder is a poet and philosopher who lives and writes in Chicago.

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Meet the Author

James Allen was born in Leicester, England, in 1864. At age fifteen the tragic murder of his father left him as the family’s sole breadwinner. Allen became a private secretary and continued until 1902 when, at the age of thirty-eight, he devoted his life to writing. After publishing his first book he retired to Ilfracombe, a coastal town in Devonshire, to write and live in simplicity. Allen died in 1912.

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As a Man Thinketh 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 261 reviews.
Daruth60 More than 1 year ago
This book was written nearly 100 years ago and is as prevalent today as it was then. I read chapters from it daily to my husband who is in the hospital. Then we talk about what I read. It is very emotionally healing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
James Allen is a very famous 'unknown'. This is not an oximoron. Little is known about the man, except he wrote from 1902, and died in 1912, at age 48. This little volume is well known worldwide. This Englishman should be as famous as Shakespeare (but in this different field of 'aid to self-improvement'). He is that good. He is that thorough. He writes clearly. He can help many to recover happiness here on earth. No need to wait for the afterlife. His is a unique legacy that he left behind for everyone. There is a converted version, 'As A Woman Thinketh' (ISBN 0-87516-483-8). I would liked to have known him. He is that amazing. This particular hard cover edition by Barnes & Noble is a handsome edition with a very reasonable list price. The text is priceless. The value is there.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A close friend of mine recommended 'As a Man Thinketh' to me. Understanding my thought process and how he thinks, I knew this simplistic, yet poignant book, would be a savoring read. Over the past 3 or 4 years I have been on a journey trying to find my 'Personal Legend' and live this so-called utopian life. Living in the confines of Los Angeles I had a very comfortable life. However, I knew if I wanted to escalate to another level mentally, spiritually, educationally, and financially, I had to sacrifice and take a risk. Therefore, I decided to jettison Los Angeles, risk everything and move to New York to grow. Mentally, it was like a kaleidoscope; I was challenged from several different perspectives. The move enhanced my life more than I anticipated. A year later looking back at my decision and my mental journey, I sometimes wonder how I was able to function, operate, and thrive mentally with the cards I was dealt. I believe it is good for the soul and the mind to pigeonhole yourself in situations that you normally wouldn't put yourself in. Therefore mentally you will test yourself and see how you will respond. After reading this book I was able to reflect and assess my mental muscle. The mind is so powerful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book. Allen tells you that you are what you think. He really goes into detail as to tell you what different types of thoughts will produce. This is a great read. I will encourage anyone to read this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I felt it gave a awesome detail discription of the mind and how powerful it can be. You are what you think. Very Deep. Gives you something to really think about :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
'As a Man Thinketh' is one of the all-time classic books. It serves as one of the defining works for using your mind to shape your life. Straight-forward and to the point, it is an absolute must read.
eeh More than 1 year ago
This book is a precursor to the overwhelmingly popular The Secret by Byrne.... The message encourages the reader to understand the power of thinking in creating the life we desire....
Guest More than 1 year ago
Upon a brief review of some part of the book as displayed,I find it to be a very compelling book to be read.For reading this book will further open my eyes to those realistic situation that I am confounded with in my life today
reyrey_snakeskin More than 1 year ago
If you were to live the tenets, ideals and beliefs which Allen espouses, you would find inner peace. Doing is much harder than saying but he gives you the tools to be content in life. Any religion would have to agree with the fundamentals of Allen's doctrine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I came across this book from my psychology Instructor who instructed us to read and write a summory paper of what the book was about should we want to earn extra credit. And let me tellll youuu, this is a pretty damn good I haven't read any good books lately but this right here i can definately going to be something I reccomend/read again and again.If I were you I would read it especially since its not like some longggg boring short but long enough(if that makes sense) :) and to the point.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent ! Worth the money and more. Timeless wisdom.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book and what it has to say about the ability to change one's thoughts to achieve a better life is wonderful. It is concise. Definately a good introduction to the idea, or a good support book for one already on the journey of change. As I love old books and typesets of this time, I just wish the entire text had been scanned as a visual, not scanned for the words. It enabled wrong and garbled words, but it didn't slow my reading any, and was humorous at times.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book remains my favorite throughout 20 years that I started to read as a hobby. It captivated my soul!
Guest More than 1 year ago
James Allen outlines guidelines for living in this book. He weaves through the inner dynamics of a person's psyche and shows us what we already intuitively know - what we think about, we become. This simple, concise, easy to read book is an invaluable resource to anyone serious about living a purpose filled life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great little booklet. The writing is simple, but so profound and as many motivational speakers across the U.S. quote Allen frequently, it's a good life-guide to have. It will shed some light on several key principles in life, including to maintain a positive attitude. Another book that is more detailed but along the same lines like Allen's book, and I found it extremely helpful is Dietmar Scherf's 'Depression: Avoiding and Overcoming: I Love Me.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
This reading carefully examines the importance of positive thinking. The suggestion that all of life's experiences evolve from the creation of meaningful beginnings encourages people to focus more on the development of positive thought and less on conforming to negative outcomes. It is a treat for anyone who is looking for a message worth living.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a good read but felt it was too short
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you apply the information in this 63 page book, your life will change. Should be required reading for every young adult in the 7th grade. If you have rrad this book, it is never too late. The choice is yours.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A short basic and easy to read yet profound and uplifting work. A must have in any esotericlly minded perzons library
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Parents should spend 1/2 hour a week discussing this book with their teenagers!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A man so far ahead of his time. This book crosses many beliefs.