Book Review: “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen (1903)

While I have a whole stack of books in my study just waiting to be reviewed, for some reason I cannot let this little book wait. I picked up As a Man Thinketh in good faith, hoping that it would be the classic that so many have claimed it to be, yet still I was shocked by how mistaken I was.

A book discussing how one’s thoughts ultimately dictate his actions is absolutely appealing, don’t get me wrong. This is what attracted me to it in the first place. That his title stems from the words of Christ attracted me even more. Yet as I delved into his miniature chapters and became entangled in his philosophical prose, I was shocked to find that, far from being a work of Christian inspiration, this book is really nothing more than a humanist manifesto. “You are the Master of Your Fate” is a more worthy title, here, and “Everyone is Jesus” could be its sub. Hundreds of false religions have hi-jacked Christ in the past, but no author that I have read has ever done it so shamelessly as James Allen. His book is littered with quotes of Christ–though only someone familiar with Scripture would notice, since Allen attributes nothing to the Lord–and each is twisted toward the deification of man.

I was excited about this “Revell Inspirational Classic” until I began reading, and now I am just a little bit ill. Read it if you enjoy magnifying yourself. Avoid it if you have God.

©2012 E.T.

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7 Responses to Book Review: “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen (1903)

  1. S. McDougall says:

    Thanks for your review. I suspected as much. If he inspired Napoleon Hill, then they are likely cut from the same cloth. Another deceiver.

  2. BB says:

    I can see your point. I thought as much as I read it too. However, I took something from it very valuable from it. I don’t know if I can articulate it all that well but it came down to this: how I think plays a large part in how I feel. I don’t believe that I am the master of the universe, but I learned that I am able to “steer” certain elements of my inner life by choosing what I think. For instance frequently turning my thoughts the all powerful God (who I don’t think is me), has greatly reduced my anxiety. This has made a big difference in my behavior. Additionally, I was not one to forgive easily, and certainly did not love my enemies. I thought that I was just wired to be critical and hold grudges. However I have made great strides with regard to forgiveness by consistently and purposely thinking differently.

    I am sure that I could have gotten this from any number of sources that are more consistent with Christian belief, however this is the one that fell into my lap.

    The point I am getting to is, while there is plenty of bathwater in this book, there is a baby as well.

    Thanks for giving your time to write this blog!

  3. Messenger At The Crossroads says:

    I’m happy to find I’m not the only one crazy enough to perceive this as a humanist work. Before I experienced a new birth, even if I’d have read this, given my natural personality, there is no way that I could have mustered the “energy” to make myself think positively. It took the Holy Spirit to mellow me out and fill my heart with the desire to acquaint myself with “God’s thought” through the Holy Scriptures, which in turn became my thought focus. That was what turned around my thought – a changed heart. A changed attitude under the Lordship of Jesus Christ resulted in a positively changed life. For me it was an act of pure Grace.

    Thanks for writing this review. If you’d care to read it, here’s my blog on the same subject. Blessings!

  4. Whew! I’m thankful for your review. I heard someone who talks God hold this book up so high it made me want to read more to see if my initial take on the book was discerned accurately. I found a pdf of it online and started to read and then googled what a Christian might think of this book. That’s how I came across your blog. I agree with certain aspects but all of that can be found in the book written by God. Nothing new under the sun I guess. Lies and deception and twisting Truth have always been around. We do know about repetitive thoughts and how they wear a groove in the brain…how to change those thoughts and the effort involved in doing so. However, the Lord always stands ready to help us be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” I also saw the book as humanistic. Like the reader above, I’m thankful I’m not the only one.

  5. Jason says:

    I recently purchased a Bible for my grandchildren, but when I received it, I struggled at how much it looked like a comic book. Initially, I thought about not sending it, as it seemed irreverent, but eventually I did send it. Several weeks later, my daughter-in-law mentioned that our grandson enjoyed reading the Bible and that it stimulated his curiosity. In the same way, I found that “As a man thinketh” was not only thought provoking, but helpful…
    For me, the humanist element was clear (almost comic book-like), but the underlying Bibical principles were crystal clear, compelling and relevant…
    I suspect that God used Mr Allen to help some of us to understand the Bible, just a little bit better…

    • thelittleman says:

      That’s God’s grace alone at work for sure, and praise Him for it. Some can draw godly conclusions from such entertainment as The Matrix, Shawshank Redemption or The Walking Dead, but only because God’s True Truth (forgiveness, sacrifice, redemption, etc.) are universal and cannot be hidden. The questions remain: Why must God’s Truth be couched in filth? and How many beyond the already-saved could say they see the same?

  6. Pingback: Book Review: “Today Matters” by John C. Maxwell (2004) | Elliot's Blog

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