SJ from IgnoreLimits.com reached out to me with a copy of his book, Becoming A Lion Among Sheep. It was a good book and I enjoyed reading it, but right off in the very beginning he drops a quote,
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.
That quote comes from James Allen and his 1902 essay entitled, ‘As A Man Thinketh‘. The “book” as a whole is only 31 pages which makes you think it’s going to be an easy, or light read. Except it is anything but.
If you manage to read this book in one sitting, then you haven’t truly read it. Allen opens up with his thoughts on what makes a man, and how a man can be successful, and how everything in life is linked back to the mind.
Allen himself looked like a smaller man and didn’t have the strongest jaw line I’ve ever seen, but he was very intelligent nonetheless. He draws heavily from Christian Scripture and Buddhist teachings (and probably various other sources that I didn’t pick up on for my own lack of knowledge) and makes constant references to the omnipotence of thought.
He asserts (correctly) that man is an essentially creative being (he is), and that his thoughts will always direct his actions. It’s interesting because the idea of being guided by your thoughts is one we all understand, but I don’t believe we truly think about it.
Allen says in his work that if you have a man who is a good man, a well respected member of the community and he one day finds himself jailed, the people of his community will cry foul. Oh what mistake must have been made!? John was a good man! He wouldn’t do something like this! Allen says that John, while he may be a good man, harbored certain evil thoughts and desires, and acted upon them when presented the opportunity.
The idea that man controls himself and his circumstance so completely is a revolutionary one with the potential to change your life, if you let it. There is no circumstance you are in, nothing that happens to you in your life, that you did not create and bring upon yourself with your own thinking.
You think and harbor thoughts in your heart and mind. These thoughts grow until you make choices based upon them. Your choices then lead you into circumstances – either positive or negative, but always of your own design. He proves this by way of parable, saying,
Here is a man who is wretchedly poor. He is extremely anxious that his surroundings and home comforts should be improved, yet all the time he shirks his work, and considers he is justified in trying to deceive his employer on the ground of the insufficiency of his wages. Such a man does not understand the simplest rudiments of those principles which are the basis of true prosperity, and is not only totally unfitted to rise out of his wretchedness, but is actually attracting to himself a still deeper wretchedness by dwelling in, and acting out, indolent, deceptive, and unmanly thoughts.
A man wants to escape his poverty, but he is lazy and refuses to work, lies to his employer, and believes that wealth should be his simply because he’s “entitled” to it.
Allen also spends a lot of time on the masculine virtues as Jack Donovan understood and penned them. In fact, Masculinity as a whole is thread that runs through the entire book. That masculinity should be achieved, but it can only be achieved through careful thought, mastery of yourself, and then deliberate action.
True to the pithy nature of the book (though not the bloated nature of the essay), Allen extols silence as a virtue of masculine men, stating the the peaceful and stoic attitude makes a man a beacon among other men.
All in all, it is a very interesting read. You can tell that James Allen was no Casanova but that doesn’t mean he didn’t understand Masculinity and how to achieve it, and other goals, through the power of thought. If you can get past the often flowery language, you’ll end up with some life-changing thoughts and ideas.