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New World Library Unshelved

New World Library Unshelved

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011
As You Think by James Allen — A Book That Changed My Life

As You Think, originally titled As a Man Thinketh, was written in 1904. I spent years reading and pondering the words in this little book, and during those years I went from poverty to abundance. For about two decades, I said it was the best book I’d ever read (now it’s number three; Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now is number one, A New Earth number two). I put several passages from the book, including the opening poem and the other poem in it, in big letters on my wall. These phrases, repeated hundreds of times, became imprinted in my mind, and to this day they spring to mind on occasion. They are powerful, life-changing passages — the most powerful one, for me, is this:

You will become as great as your dominant aspiration. . . .
If you cherish a vision, a lofty ideal in your heart,
you will realize it.

James Allen writes with a power and authority that affect some deep place within, and those two sentences of his changed my life. That quotation and the two poems in the book sum up everything I learned from As You Think.

There’s a tradition in some Buddhist books that the wisdom of the book is contained in the title. If you understand the title, you don’t need to read the book. Then there is a short opening poem; if you understand the poem, you don’t need to read the book either, for it contains all the wisdom of the book. Here’s the opening poem of As You Think:

Mind is the master power that molds and makes,
And we are Mind, and evermore we take
The tool of thought, and shaping what we will,
Bring forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills.
We think in secret, and it comes to pass —
Our world is but our looking glass.

Then, at the end of the second chapter, there is one more poem that also sums up and contains all the wisdom of the book:

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 cows that boastful trickster, Chance,
And bids the tyrant Circumstance
Uncrown, and take 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 delay,
But wait as one who understands;
When spirit rises and commands,
The gods are ready to obey.

“Content” in the second line, of course means “contentment.” And he uses “environment” in line three, and later “circumstance,” very broadly — he means everything in our world, inner and outer, that we can possibly use as an excuse, as a reason that we can’t “hew a way to any goal.”

“Be not impatient in delay,” he tells us, but wait and understand: when our spirit rises and dares to dream, and dares to command ourselves to take the steps we can take toward that dream, then the whole universe rushes in to support us in realizing our dreams.

Here’s what I learned from this great little book:

You are far greater, far more powerful, than you may think. You are part of a limitless field of creative possibilities. As Eckhart Tolle puts it, in the epigraph of The Power of Now:

You are here to enable the divine purpose
of the universe to unfold.
That is how important you are!

So be it. So it is!

Marc Allen


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