Top positive review
30 people found this helpful
on 17 March 2014
James Allen (who died in 1912 aged only 48) was a British writer who became known for his inspirational books. He was a pioneer of the self-help movement. As a Man Thinketh, published in 1902, is his most famous book. More modern inspirational writers have often used it. His thesis is that our thoughts make or break our lives and that high ideals, great thoughts and the capacity for self-sacrifice create success and contentment. It is this strong moral foundation that makes the book's ideas so powerful. It seems to me that some more modern positive thinking books make our thoughts into a magical force that somehow attract whatever we want to us, without asking us to examine the morality behind our desires.
I enjoyed this book. Like many other older inspirational books about positive thinking and success, it is full of commonsense, without hype or magic. Although Allen seems to be very much a humanist, in that he makes it clear that man is his own saviour and there is no other, there is much in this book that people of all religions and none can agree upon. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the kind of 'muscular Christianity' espoused by Victorian adventurers and soldiers, and of the ideal of the 'English gentleman'. This is a great heritage and one that, sadly, is fast being forgotten in our age.
As most self-help books seem to do, it does omit one important point. Other people have desires and dreams and they may well clash with ours; in fact, they may not be moral at all. Hitler dreamed of a Third Reich with no Jews. Saddam Hussein dreamed of making his regime an absolute nuclear power. These thoughts and dreams affect people. often in terrible ways, and there are many lesser examples. We do not have control over this, so we can never have complete control over the outcome of our own lives. Only in a fairly stable and prosperous country could people possibly have the illusion that their thoughts and desires alone can control their destiny, or even that getting wealth and success is a possibility. It is a luxury to be grateful for!