Catholic Summary of As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

Written in 1903 by British businessman turned philosopher, James Allen, As a Man Thinketh is a 22-page explanation of the following biblical quote:

‘For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…’ (Proverbs 23:7)

The Artist: Tools vs. Weapons

“Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armoury of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself; he also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace. By the right choice and true application of thought, man ascends to the Divine Perfection; by the abuse and wrong application of thought, he descends below the level of the beast. Between these two extremes are all the grades of character, and man is their maker and master.

James Allen describes how you and I chisel our own character.

  • If we think the right thoughts, we are using tools to build “heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace” on our path to heaven.
  • If we think the wrong thoughts, we are using weapons to destroy ourselves on our path to hell.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2).

The Gardener: Cultivate vs. Wild

“Just as a gardener cultivates his plot, keeping it free from weeds, and growing the flowers and fruits which he requires, so may a man tend the garden of his mind, weeding out all the wrong, useless, and impure thoughts, and cultivating toward perfection the flowers and fruits of right, useful, and pure thoughts. By pursuing this process, a man sooner or later discovers that he is the master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life. He also reveals, within himself, the laws of thought, and understands, with ever-increasing accuracy, how the thought-forces and mind elements operate in the shaping of his character, circumstances, and destiny.”

James Allen likens the mind to the practice of gardening.

  • If we cultivate the garden by weeding out the bad thoughts & planting in the good thoughts, good thoughts & actions will result.
  • If we let the garden run wild, bad thoughts & actions will result.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6).

The Athlete: Purposeful vs. Aimless

“As the physically weak man can make himself strong by careful and patient training, so the man of weak thoughts can make them strong by exercising himself in right thinking. To put away aimlessness and weakness, and to begin to think with purpose, is to enter the ranks of those strong ones who only recognize failure as one of the pathways to attainment; who make all conditions serve them, and who think strongly, attempt fearlessly, and accomplish masterfully… A man should conceive of a legitimate purpose in his heart, and set out to accomplish it. He should make this purpose the centralizing point of his thoughts… He should make this purpose his supreme duty, and should devote himself to its attainment, not allowing his thoughts to wander away into ephemeral fancies, longings, and imaginings. This is the royal road to self-control and true concentration of thought. Even if he fails again and again to accomplish his purpose (as he necessarily must until weakness is overcome), the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, and this will form a new starting-point for future power and triumph… Until thoughts are linked with purpose, there is no intelligent accomplishment.” 

James Allen compares mental work with physical training.

  • If you have a purpose in your life and engage in daily exercise in right thinking towards that specific goal, you will eventually become strong with good actions & move toward that goal.
  • If you do not have a purpose in your life & are aimless with bad thinking, you will remain weak & never reach your goal.

24 Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25 Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. 26 So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27 but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24–27).

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