Monday, October 15, 2007

Josh Gough Reads from James Allen's As a Man Thinketh

A few months ago Appollo told me about John C. Maxwell, a pastor and motivational speaker who has written numerous best selling books about leadership. I picked up a copy of his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership in audio format, read by the author. This little book / CD is worth reading / listening too.

Maxwell recounted the process of learning leadership in his own life and discussed the events, people, and mentors that went into this process. He said he still considers himself a work in progress. I found Maxwell's book worthwhile listening, but even more so than that I was particularly interested in a quote he read that he attributed to James Allen's book As a Man Thinketh. Maxwell said his father had given him a copy of the book at age 14 and it changed his life forever. I was listening to the CD in the car, so when I got home I bought a copy of As a Man Thinketh in MP3 format, read by another man named James B. Allen.

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The book was written in 1902 and shows its age in only a handful of anachronistic details that are not very important to the overall message of the small volume. It took the narrator only about one hour to read the whole thing. Each sentence is filled with clarity and eloquent communication about the proper attitude that a person should take toward circumstances and life.

The only fault I find with the book is that he makes he point about "all things", both good and bad, being due to one's own thoughts alone a bit too adamantly. I mean, after all, nobody brings upon hurricanes or floods because of something they think. No child brings about the condition of being born in a poor country with little food to eat, and no innocent victim of terrorism brings about his or her death.

But, this criticism is really pretty minor compared to the overall content of this small book. The overall moral of the book is that individuals bring about their own misery or own happiness by either casting off or accepting responsibility for their own lives and the effect they have on other people in their presence. The chapters of the book are:

    1. Thought and character
    2. Effect of thought on circumstances
    3. Effect of thought on health and the body
    4. Thought and purpose
    5. The thought factor in achievement
    6. Visions and ideals
    7. Serenity

His concluding chapter "Serentiy" is a beautiful passage that recalls the stories of Jesus calming the waters and Buddha taming desire. Allen's descriptions of the calmness of mind and temperament to which men should aspire perfectly describes my own wish, my own goal for my mind and my thoughts.

Interestingly, the message reminds me of a line in U2's song Acrobat from the 1991 Achtung Baby album that reads:

In dreams begin responsibilities

I have thought often of that line and the truth it embodies so simply. This line comes from the name of a short story by Delmore Schwartz:

Regarding Allen's book, you can read the entire work online because it is part of the Gutenberg Project, or google it to find MP3 recordings of it. To read it, just visit this site:

Here is the final passage "Serenity" I mentioned above. The brief essay "The Ocean" in my book Metamorphosis conveys a similar message with similar storm and water symbolism.

Click here to listen to me reading the chapter Serenity from James Allen's As a Man Thinketh.


CALMNESS of 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.

A man becomes calm in the measure that he understands himself as a
thought evolved being, for such knowledge necessitates the
understanding of others as the result of thought, and as he develops
a right understanding, and sees more and more clearly the internal
relations of things by the action of cause and effect he ceases to
fuss and fume and worry and grieve, and remains poised, steadfast,

The calm man, having learned how to govern himself, knows how to
adapt himself to others; and they, in turn, reverence his spiritual
strength, and feel that they can learn of him and rely upon him. The
more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his
influence, his power for good. Even the ordinary trader will find
his business prosperity increase as he develops a greater
self-control and equanimity, for people will always prefer to deal
with a man whose demeanour is strongly equable.

The strong, calm man is always loved and revered. He is like a
shade-giving tree in a thirsty land, or a sheltering rock in a
storm. "Who does not love a tranquil heart, a sweet-tempered,
balanced life? It does not matter whether it rains or shines, or
what changes come to those possessing these blessings, for they are
always sweet, serene, and calm. That exquisite poise of character,
which we call serenity is the last lesson of culture, the fruitage
of the soul. It is precious as wisdom, more to be desired
than gold--yea, than even fine gold. How insignificant mere money
seeking looks in comparison with a serene life--a life that dwells
in the ocean of Truth, beneath the waves, beyond the reach of
tempests, in the Eternal Calm!

"How many people we know who sour their lives, who ruin all that is
sweet and beautiful by explosive tempers, who destroy their poise of
character, and make bad blood! It is a question whether the great
majority of people do not ruin their lives and mar their happiness
by lack of self-control. How few people we meet in life who are well
balanced, who have that exquisite poise which is characteristic of
the finished character!

Yes, humanity surges with uncontrolled passion, is tumultuous with
ungoverned grief, is blown about by anxiety and doubt only the wise
man, only he whose thoughts are controlled and purified, makes the
winds and the storms of the soul obey him.

Tempest-tossed souls, wherever ye may be, under whatsoever
conditions ye may live, know this in the ocean of life the isles of
Blessedness are smiling, and the sunny shore of your ideal awaits
your coming. Keep your hand firmly upon the helm of thought. In the
bark of your soul reclines the commanding Master; He does but sleep:
wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right Thought is mastery;
Calmness is power. Say unto your heart, "Peace, be still!"
I've also read two other sections so far and plan to complete a reading of the book. Here are links to those other two:

Effect of Thought on Circumstances
Thought and Character

1 comment:

jamber said...

This is wonderful material for self development


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