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James Allen, the philosopher who pioneered the self-help genre
BOOK OF MEDITATIONS FOR EVERY DAY IN THE YEAR
James Allen was a British poet and writer, known for his highly philosophical and practical books and for being the forerunner of the self-help genre.
Allen's works are eminently practical and he never wrote theories. According to his wife Lily, Allen only wrote when he had a message and that message was only conveyed when he had lived it in his own life and knew it was good. This is how he wrote, about facts that had been proven in practice. Another fundamental trait of Allen's was that he believed in the use of the faculty of thought to increase personal capacities and to achieve fame, fortune and happiness. Allen insisted on the power of the individual to shape his own character and create his own happiness; so he shows us how to turn our dreams into realities. He gives us a message of hope even in the midst of turmoil and argues that we become spiritually rich when we discover the adventure within, are aware of the unity of all life, know the power of meditation and experience our kinship with nature. His most famous work, "As a Man Thinketh" (1903), is considered one of the pioneering, classic and best-selling self-help books. Its premise is that noble thoughts make a person noble, while miserable thoughts make a person miserable. Today we are where our thoughts have led us and we are the architects - for better or worse - of our future. This book is part of the New Thought movement, a philosophical movement that emerged in the mid-19th century in the United States. A movement that became increasingly important, spreading throughout the world and producing great writers throughout the 20th century, such as Thomas Troward, William Walker Atkinson, Ralph Waldo Trine, Napoleon Hill, Emmet Fox, Joseph Murphy, Louise H. Hay, Deepak Chopra and Gary Zukav, among others. James Allen has been a source of inspiration for other authors of self-help books.
The literary life of James Allen
As a young man, Allen worked for several years in various British manufacturing companies and moved first to London and then to South Wales.
In 1898 Allen found an occupation in which he could display his spiritual and social interests as a writer for the magazine The Herald of the Golden Age. At this time, Allen entered a creative period in which he published the first of his many books, “From Poverty to Power” (1901). In 1902 Allen began publishing his own spiritual magazine, The Epoch.
It was his third book, “As a Man Thinketh” (1903), that brought him great popularity and enabled him to devote himself full time to being a writer and publisher. Allen had a truly prolific career. Continuing to publish for the Epoch, Allen produced more than a book a year until his death in 1912. There he wrote for nine years, producing 19 works. Among them are some of his best works: "Byways of Blessedness" (1904), "The Mastery of Destiny" (1909), "Above Life's Turmoil" (1910), “ Book of Meditations for Every Day in the Year” (published posthumously in 1913) and "The Divine Companion" (published posthumously in 1919).
James Allen is often referred to as " An unrewarded genius", as he did not receive the recognition he deserved during his lifetime.
The Editor, P.C. 2022
James Allen may truly be called the Prophet of Meditation. In an age of strife, hurry, religious controversy, heated arguments, ritual and ceremony, he came with his message of Meditation, calling men away from the din and strife of tongues into the peaceful paths of stillness within their own souls, where the Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world ever burns steadily and surely for all who will turn their weary eyes from the strife without to the quiet within. Many of the Meditations were written as he came down from the Cairn in the early morning, where he spent those precious hours alone with God while the world slept. Others are gleaned from his many writings, published and unpublished, and are arranged for daily readings at his request, and, we believe, under his spiritual guidance. The book must ever be a stronghold of Spiritual Truth and blessing to all who read it, and especially to those who use it for daily meditation. Its great power lies in that it is the very heart of a good man who lived every word he wrote. The beautiful half-tone portrait is a speaking likeness of the Author. It was taken only six weeks before his translation, and has not been published before.
We are indebted to Messrs. Putnam’s Sons (London and New York), and to Messrs. Wm. Rider and Son, Limited (London), for their cordial expressions of pleasure that some of the Meditations should be culled from the books published by them, viz., The Mastery of Destiny, and Above Life’s Turmoil (Putnam), and From Passion to Peace, and Man: King of Mind, Body, and Circumstance (Rider).
LILY L. ALLEN.
The way front passion to peace is by overcoming one’s self.
FREQUENTLY the man of passion is most eager to put others right; but the man of wisdom puts himself right. If one is anxious to reform the world, let him begin by reforming himself. The reformation of self does not end with the elimination of the sensual elements only; that is its beginning. It ends only when every vain thought and selfish aim is overcome. Short of perfect purity and wisdom, there is still some form of self-slavery or folly which needs to be conquered.
On the wings of aspiration man rises from earth to heaven, from ignorance to knowledge, from the under darkness to the upper light. Without it he remains a grovelling animal, earthly, sensual, unenlightened, and uninspired.
Aspiration is the longing for heavenly things.
Where is peace to be found! Where is the hiding-place of truth!
LET first things be put first; work before play; duty before enjoyment; and others before self: this is an excellent rule which cannot lead astray. To make a right beginning is halfway to victory. The athlete who makes a bad start may lose his prize; the merchant who makes a false start may lose his reputation; and the Truth-seeker who makes a wrong start may forego the crown of Righteousness. To begin with pure thoughts, sterling rectitude, unselfish purpose, noble aims, and an incorruptible conscience—this is to start right - this it is to put first things first, so that all other things will follow in harmonious order, making life simple, beautiful, successful, and peaceful.
The soul will cry out for its lost heritage.
If one would find peace, he must come out of passion.
SO long as animal conditions taste sweet to a man, he cannot aspire: he is so far satisfied; but when their sweetness turns to bitterness, then in his sorrow he thinks of nobler things. When he is deprived of earthly joy, he aspires to the joy which is heavenly. It is when impurity turns to suffering that purity is sought. Truly aspiration rises, phoenixlike, from the dead ashes of repentance, but on its powerful pinions man can reach the heaven of heavens.
The man of aspiration has entered the way which leads to peace; and surely he will reach that end if he stays not nor turns back. If he constantly renews his mind with glimpses of the heavenly vision, he will reach the heavenly state.
That which can be conceived can be achieved.
Our life is what we make it by our own thoughts and deeds.
MAN attains in the measure that he aspires. His longing to be is the gauge of what he can be. To fix the mind is to fore-ordain the achievement. As man can experience and know all low things, so he can experience and know all high things. As he has become human, so he can become divine. The turning of the mind in high and divine directions is the sole and needful task.
What is impurity but the impure thoughts of the thinker? What is purity but the pure thoughts of the thinker? One man does not do the thinking of another. Each man is pure or impure of himself alone. The man of aspiration sees before him the pathway up the heavenly heights, and his heart already experiences a foretaste of the final peace.
There is a life of victory over sin, and triumph over evil.
When a man wishes and wills he can find the good and the true.
THE Gates of Heaven are for ever open, and no one is prevented from entering by any will or power but his own; but no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven so long as he is enamoured of, and chooses, the seductions of hell, so long as he resigns himself to sin and sorrow.
There is a larger, higher, nobler, diviner life than that of sinning and suffering, which is so common—in which, indeed, nearly all are immersed—a life of victory over sin, and triumph over evil; a life wise and happy, benign and tranquil, virtuous and peaceful. This life can be found and lived now, and he who lives it is steadfast in the midst of change; restful among the restless; peaceful, though surrounded by strife.
Every moment is the time of choice; every hour is destiny.
The lover of the pure life renews his mind daily.
As the energetic man of business is not daunted by difficulties, but studies how to overcome them, so the man of ceaseless aspiration is not crushed into submission by temptations, but meditates how he may fortify his mind; for the tempter is like a coward, he only creeps in at weak and unguarded points. The tempted one should study thoughtfully the nature and meaning of temptation, for until it is known it cannot be overcome. He who is to overcome temptation must understand how it arises in his own darkness and error, and must study, by introspection and meditation, how to disperse the darkness and supplant error by truth.
A man must know himself if he is to know truth. Self-knowledge is the handmaid of self conquest.
Engage daily in holy meditation on Truth and its attainment.
As errors and impunities are revealed, purge them way.
EVERY step upward means the leaving of something behind and below. The high is reached only at the sacrifice of the low. The good is secured only by abandoning the evil. Knowledge is acquired only by the destruction of ignorance. livery acquisition has its price, which must be paid "to the uttermost farthing." Every animal, every creeping thing, possesses some gift, so power, which man, in his upward march, has laid down, which he has exchanged for some higher gift, or power. What great good men forfeit by clinging to old selfish habits ! Behind every humble sacrifice a winged angel waits to bear us up the heights of knowledge and wisdom.
Let him who has attained guard against falling back. Let him be careful in little things, and be well fortified against the entrance of sin.
Aim, with ardour, for the attainment of a perfect life.
The strife of the world in all its forms has its origin in one common cause, namely, individual selfishness.
ALL the varied activities of human life are rooted in, and draw their vitality from, one common source—the human heart. The cause of all suffering and all happiness resides, not in the outer activities of human life, but in the inner activities of the heart and mind; and every external agency is sustained by the life which it derives from human conduct.
The man who cannot endure to have his errors and shortcomings brought to the surface and made known, but tries to hide them, is unfit to walk the highway of Truth. He is not properly equipped to battle with and overcome temptation. He who cannot fearlessly face his lower nature cannot climb the rugged heights of renunciation.
Each man comes under the laws of his own being, never under the laws of another.
When the soul is most tried, its need is greatest.
DO not despair because of failure. From your particular failure there is a special greatness, a peculiar wisdom, to be gained; and no teacher can lead you to that greatness, that wisdom, more surely and swiftly than your experience of failure. In every mistake you make, in every fall you encounter, there is a lesson of vital import if you will but search it out ; and he who will stoop to discover the good in that which appears to be disastrous will rise superior to every event, and will utilise his failures as winged steeds to bear him to a final and supreme success.
Foolish men blame others for their lapses and sins, but let the truth-lover blame only himself. Let him acknowledge his complete responsibility for his own conduct.
Where temptation is powerful, the greater and more enduring will be the victory.
The great need of the soul is the need of that permanent
THE old must pass away before the new can appear. The old cottage must be demolished before the new mansion can appear upon its site. The old error must be destroyed before the new truth can come....The old self must be renounced before the new man can be born. When the old self of temper, impatience, envy, pride, and impurity has perished, then in its place will appear the new man of gentleness, patience, goodwill, humility, and purity. Let the old life of sin and sorrow pass; let the new life of Righteousness and Joy come in....Then all that was old and ugly will be made new and beautiful.
It is in the realisation of this Principle where the Kingdom of Heaven, the abiding home of the soul, resides, and which is the source and storehouse of every permanent blessing.
A life of virtue is noble and excellent.
It matters little what is without, for it is all a reflection of your own consciousness.
THE deplorable failure of many outward and isolated reforms is traceable to the fact that their devotees pursue them as an end in themselves, failing to see that they are merely steps towards ultimate, individual perfection.
All true reform must come from within, in a changed heart and mind. The giving up of certain foods and drinks, and the breaking away from certain outward habits, are good and necessary beginnings; but they are only beginnings, and to end there is to fall far short of a true spiritual life. It is good, therefore, to cleanse the heart, to correct the mind, and to develop the understanding, for we know that the one thing needed is a regenerate heart.
It matters everything what you are within, for everything without will be mirrored and coloured accordingly.
Renew your resolution daily, and in the hour of temptation do not depart from the right path.
THE days are lengthening. Each day now the sun rises a little higher, and the light lingers a little longer. So each day we can strengthen our character; each day we can open our heart a little more to the light of Truth, and allow the Sun of Righteousness to shine more highly in our mind. The sun does not increase in volume or intensity, but the earth turns towards it, and receives more as it turns. All that there is of Truth and Good is now. It does not increase or diminish, but as we turn towards it we receive of its radiance and beneficence in ever-increasing abundance and power.
As the artisan acquires skill in fashioning the articles of his craft by daily and diligent practice with his tools, so do you acquire skill in fashioning good deeds by daily and diligent practice of the Truth.
You can acquire Truth only by practice.
The wise purify their thoughts.
EVERY day is a new birth in time, holding out new beginnings, new possibilities, new achievements. The ages have witnessed the stars in their orbits, but this day hath no age witnessed. It is a new appearance, a new reality. It heralds a new life—yea, a new order, a new society, a new age. It holds out new hopes, new opportunities, to all men. In it you can become a new man, a new woman. For you it can be the day of regeneration, renewal, rebirth. From the old past with its mistakes, failures, and sorrows, you can rise a new being, endued with power and purpose, and radiant with the inspiration of a new ideal.
Be chaste in mind and body. Abandon sensual pleasures. Purge the mind of selfishness, and live a life of exalted purity.
Be upright, gentle, and pure-hearted.
Exert yourself ceaselessly in decreasing evil and accumulating good.
VICTORY of all kinds is preceded by a season of preparation. It can no more appear spontaneously and erratically than can a flower or a mountain. Like them, it is the culminating point in a process of growth, in a series of causes and effects. No mere wishing, no magic word, will produce worldly success; it must be achieved by an orderly succession of well-directed efforts. No spiritual victory will be achieved by him who imagines that it does not begin until the hour of temptation arrives. All spiritual triumphs are gained in the silent hour of meditation, and through a series of successes in lesser trials. The time of great temptation is the climax of a conquest that long preparation has made certain and complete.
Fix your minds on the practice of virtue, and the comprehension and application of fixed and noble principles.
The Never-Ending Gladness awaits your Home- coming.
AS the falling rain prepares the earth for the future crops of grain and fruit, so the rains of many sorrows showering upon the heart prepare and mellow it for the coming of that wisdom that perfects the mind and gladdens the heart. As the clouds darken the earth but to cool and fructify it, so the clouds of grief cast a shadow over the heart to prepare it for nobler things. The hour of sorrow is the hour of reverence. It puts an end to the shallow sneer, the ribald jest, the cruel calumny ; it softens the heart with sympathy, and enriches the mind with thoughtfulness. Wisdom is mainly recollection of all that was learned by sorrow.
Do not think that your sorrow will remain; it will pass away like a cloud.
Where self ends, grief passes away.
Live sweetly and happily, as becomes the dignity of a true manhood and womanhood.
THERE is no greater happiness than to be occupied with good, whether it be good thoughts, good actions, or good employment; for every good thing is fraught with bliss, and evil cannot enter the heart or house that is tenanted by all that is good. The mind whose doors are guarded by good shuts out unhappiness as the well-sentried garrison shuts out the foe. Unhappiness can only enter through unguarded doors, and even then its power over the tenant is not complete unless it find him occupied with evil. Not to entertain evil thoughts; not to do bad actions; not to engage in worthless or questionable employment, but to resort to good in all things—this is the source of supreme happiness.
Pure happiness is the rightful and happy condition of the soul.
All things are orderly and sequential being governed by the law of causation.
DO not trouble about results, or be anxious as to the future ; but be troubled about personal shortcomings, and be anxious to remove them; for know this simple truth— wrong does not result from right, and a good present cannot give birth to a bad future. You are the custodian of your deeds, but not of the results which flow from them. The deeds of to-day bring the happiness or sorrow of to-morrow. Be therefore concerned about what you think and do, rather than about what may or may not come to you ; for he whose deeds are good does not concern himself about results, and is freed from fear of future ill.
Verily the Law reigneth, and reigneth for ever, and Justice and Love are its eternal ministers.
Speak only words which are truthful and sincere.
THE storm may rage without, but it cannot affect us if there is peace within. As by the fireside there is security from the fiercest storm, so the heart that is steadfast in the knowledge of Truth abides in peace, though all around be strife and perturbation. The bitter opposition of men and the unrest of the world cannot make us bitter and restless unless we enter into and co-operate with it. Rather, if we have peace in our heart, will the outer turmoil cause our peace to deepen, to take firmer root, and to show forth more abundantly in works of peace for the softening of human hearts and the enlightening of human minds.
Blessed is he who has no wrongs to remember, no injuries to forget, in whose pure heart no hateful thought about another can take root and flourish.
He who speaks evil of another cannot find the way of peace.
Purification is necessarily severe. All becoming is painful.
WHEN a storm has subsided, and all is calm again, observe how all nature seems to pause in a restorative silence. A restful quiet pervades all things, so that even inanimate objects seem to participate in the recuperative repose. So when a too violent eagerness or a sudden burst of passion has spent itself, there comes a period of reflective thought, a time of calm, in which the mind is restored, and things are seen in their true outlines and right proportions. It is wise to take advantage of this quiet time by gaining a truer knowledge of one’s self, and forming a more kindly judgment of others. The hour of calm is the hour of restoration.
Joy comes and fills the self-emptied heart; it abides with the peaceful; its reign is with the pure.
Make your every thought, word, and deed sweet and pure.
In the dark times of sorrow, men approach very near to Truth.
WHEN the tears flow, and the heart aches, remember then the sorrow of the world. When sorrow has overtaken you, remember then that it overtakes all; that none escape it; that it is the great fact in human life that makes religion a necessity. Think not that your pain is isolated and unjustly inflicted. It is but a fragment of the great pain of the world. It is the common experience of all. Perceiving this, let sorrow gently lead you into a deeper religion, a wider compassion, a tenderer regard for all men and all creatures. Let it bring you into greater love and deeper peace.
Bear well in mind that nothing can overtake you that does not belong to you, and that is not for your eternal good.
The end of sorrow is joy and peace.
The sorrowless state is reached through sorrow.
AS light displaces darkness, and quiet follows storm, so gladness displaces sorrow, and peace comes after pain. The deeper wisdom which flows from acquaintance with sorrow brings with it a holier and more abiding joy than that shallow excitement that preceded sorrow. Between the lesser joys of the senses and the greater joy of the spirit lies the dark vale of sorrow through which all earthly pilgrims pass, and having passed through it, the heavenly Joy, the Abiding Gladness, is henceforth our companion. They who have passed from the earthly to the heavenly pilgrimage have lifted the dark veil of sorrow from the radiant face of Truth.
He whose treasure is Truth, who fashions his life in accordance with Wisdom, will find the Joy which does not pass away; crossin g the wide ocean of illusion, he will come to the sorrowless Shore.
All outward oppression is but the shadow and effect of the real oppression within.
IN happiness and unhappiness, in joy and sorrow, in success and failure, in victory and defeat; in religion, business, circumstances; in all the issues of life, the determining factor is character. In the mentality of individuals lie the hidden causes of all that pertains to their outward life. Character is both cause and effect. It is the doer of deeds and the recipient of results. Heaven, hell, purgatory, are contained within it. The character that is impure and vicious will experience a life from which the elements of happiness and beauty are lacking, wheresoever they may be placed; but a pure and virtuous character will show forth a life that is happy and beautiful. As you make your character, so will you shape your life.
To put away self and passion, and establish one’s self in right doing, this is the highest wisdom.
Not departing from the path of holiness, but surmounting all difficulties and continuing to the end whosoever does this will comprehend Truth.
WHEN great difficulties arise, and troubles beset, regard your perplexity as a call to deeper thought and more vigorous action. Nothing will attack you that you are not capable of overcoming; no problem will vex you that you cannot solve. The greater your trial, the greater your test of strength, and the more complete and triumphant your victory. However complicated your maze of confusion may be, there is a way out of it, and the finding of that way will exercise your powers to the utmost, and will bring out all your latent skill, energy, and resource. When you have mastered that which threatens to master you, you will rejoice in a new-found strength.
Knowing the Truth by practice, and being at one with Truth, you will be invincible, for Truth cannot be confounded or overthrown.
Look not outside thee nor behind thee for the light and blessedness of Truth, but look within.
WE advance by a series of efforts. We gather strength, whether mental or physical, by a succession of strivings in given directions. Exertion, oft repeated, leads to power. It is by obeying this law that the athlete trains himself to accomplish wonderful feats of speed or endurance. When the exertion is along intellectual lines, it leads to unusual talent, or genius; and when in spiritual channels, it leads to wisdom, or transcendent greatness. We should not mourn when circumstances are driving us to greater efforts and more protracted exertion. Events are only evil to the mind that makes them so. They are good to him that accepts their discipline as salutary.
Thou wilt find Truth within the narrow sphere of thy duty, even in the humble and hidden sacrifices of thine own heart.
There is no blessedness anywhere until impatience is sacrificed.
DESPONDENCY, anxiety, worry, and irritability cannot cure the ills against which they are directed. They only add more misery to the troubles that prompt them. The cultivation of a steadfast and serene spirit cannot be overlooked if life is to yield any measure of usefulness and happiness. The trifles, and even greater troubles, which annoy would soon dissolve and disappear if confronted with a temper that refuses to be ruffled and disturbed. Personal aims, wishes, schemes, and pleasures will meet with checks, rebuffs, and obstacles; and it is in learning to meet these reverses in a wise and calm spirit that we discover the true and abiding happiness within our heart.
When impatience and irritability are put away, then is realised and enjoyed the blessedness of a strong, quiet, and peaceful mind.
The greatest blessedness comes to him who infuses into his mind the purest and noblest thoughts.
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