The incentive to self-sacrificing labor does not reside in any theory about the universe, but in the spirit of love and compassion.
The spirit of love does not decrease when a man realizes that perfect justice obtains in the spiritual government of the world; on the other hand, it is increased and intensified, for he knows that men suffer because they do not understand, because they err in ignorance. "The comfortably conditioned" are frequently involved in greater suffering than the poor, and, like others, are garnering their own mixed harvest of happiness and suffering. This teaching of Absolute Justice is not more encouraging for the rich than for the poor, for while it tells the rich, who are selfish and oppressive, or who misuse their wealth, that they must reap the results of all their actions, it also tells the suffering and oppressed that, as they are now reaping what they have formerly sown, they may, and surely will, by sowing the good seeds of purity, love, and peace, shortly also reap a harvest of good, and so rise above their present woes.
The painful consequences of all self-seeking must be met and passed through.
This selection is not found in any of Allen's books.
Man is the maker of happiness and misery.
Fixed attitudes of mind determine courses of conduct and from courses of conduct come those reactions called happiness and unhappiness. This being so, it follows that, to alter the reactive condition, one must alter the active thought. To exchange misery for happiness it is necessary to reverse the fixed attitude of mind and habitual course of conduct which is the cause of misery, and the reverse effect will appear in the mind and life. A man has no power to be happy while thinking and acting selfishly; he cannot be unhappy while thinking and acting unselfishly. Wheresoever the cause is, there the effect will appear. Man cannot abrogate effects, but he can alter causes. He can purify his nature; he can remold his character. There is great power in self-conquest; there is great joy in transforming oneself.
Each man is circumscribed by his own thoughts.
Men live in spheres low or high according to the nature of their thoughts.
Consider the man whose mind is suspicious, covetous, and envious. How small and mean and drear everything appears to him. Having no grandeur in himself, he sees no grandeur anywhere, being ignoble himself, he is incapable of seeing nobility in any being; selfish as he himself is, he sees in the most exalted acts of unselfishness only motives that are mean and base.
Consider again the man whose mind is unsuspecting, generous, and magnanimous. How wondrous and beautiful is his world. He sees men as true, and to him they are true. In his presence the meanest forget their nature, and for the moment become like himself, getting a glimpse, albeit confused, in that temporary upliftment of a higher order of things, of an immeasurably nobler and happier life.
Refrain from harboring thoughts that are dark and hateful, and cherish thoughts that are bright and beautiful.
The small-minded man and the large-hearted man live in two different worlds though they be neighbors.
The kingdom of heaven is not taken by violence, but he who conforms to its principles receives the password. The ruffian moves in a society of ruffians; the saint is one of an elect brotherhood whose communion is divine music. All men are mirrors reflecting according to their own surface. All men, looking at the world of men and things, are looking into a mirror which gives back their own reflection.
Each man moves in the limited or expansive circle of his own thoughts, and all outside that circle is non-existent to him. He only knows that which he has become. The narrower the boundary, the more convinced is the man that there is no further limit, no other circle. The lesser cannot contain the greater, and he has no means of apprehending the larger minds; such knowledge comes only by growth.
Men, like schoolboys, find themselves in standards or classes to which their ignorance or knowledge entitles them.
The world of things is the other half of the world of thoughts.
The inner informs the outer. The greater embraces the lesser. Matter is the counterpart of mind. Events are streams of thoughts. Circumstances are combinations of thought, and the outer conditions and actions of others in which each man is involved, are intimately related to his own mental needs and development. Man is a part of his surroundings. He is not separate from his fellows, but is bound closely to them by the peculiar intimacy and interaction of deeds, and by those fundamental laws of thought which are the roots of human society.
One cannot alter external things to suit his passing whims and wishes, but he can set aside his whims and wishes; he can so alter his attitude of mind towards externals, that they will assume a different aspect. He cannot mould the actions of others towards him, but he can rightly fashion his actions towards them.
Things follow thoughts. Alter your thoughts and things will receive a new adjustment.
The perfecting of one’s own deeds is man’s highest duty and most sublime accomplishment.
The cause of your bondage as of your deliverance is within. The injury that comes to you through others is the rebound of your own deed, the reflex of your own mental attitude. They are the instruments, you are the cause. Destiny is ripened fruits. The fruit of life, both bitter and sweet, is received by each man in just measure. The righteous man is free. None can injure him; none can destroy him; none can rob him of his peace. His attitude towards men, born of understanding, disarms their power to wound him. Any injury which they may try to inflict rebounds upon themselves to their own hurt, leaving him unharmed and untouched. The good that goes from him is his perennial fount of happiness, his eternal source of strength. Its root is serenity, its flower is joy.
External things and deeds are powerless to injure you.
The man is the all-important factor.
A man imagines he could do great things if he were not hampered by circumstances—by want of money, want of time, want of influence, and want of freedom from family ties. In reality the man is not hindered by these things at all. He, in his mind, ascribes to them a power which they do not possess, and he submits, not to them, but to his opinions about them, that is, to a weak element in his nature. The real "want" that hampers him is the want of the right attitude of mind. When he regards his circumstances as spurs to his resources, when he sees that his so-called drawbacks are the very steps up which he is to mount successfully to his achievement, then his necessity gives birth to invention, and the "hindrances" are transformed into aids.
He who complains of his circumstances has not yet become a man.
Nothing can prevent us from accomplishing the aims of our life.
Man's power subsists in discrimination and choice. Man does not create one jot of the universal conditions or laws; they are the essential principles of things, and are neither made nor unmade. He discovers, not makes, them. Ignorance of them is at the root of the world's pain. To defy them is folly and bondage. Who is the freer man, the thief who denies the laws of his country, or the honest citizen who obeys them? Who, again, is the freer man, the fool who thinks he can live as he likes, or the wise man who chooses to do only that which is right?
Man is, in the nature of things, a being of habit, and this he cannot alter; but he can alter his habits. He cannot alter the law of his nature, but he can adapt his nature to the law.
He is the good man whose habits of thought and action are good.
He becomes the master of the lower by enlisting in the service of the higher.
Man repeats the same thoughts, the same actions, and the same experiences over and over again, until they are incorporated with his being, until they are built into his character as part of himself. Evolution is mental accumulation. Man today is the result of millions of repetitious thoughts and acts. He is not ready-made, he becomes, and is still becoming. His character is predetermined by his own choice. The thought, the act, which he chooses, that, by habit, he becomes.
Thus each man is an accumulation of thoughts and deeds. The characteristics which he manifests instinctively and without effort are lines of thought and action become, by long repetition, automatic; for it is the nature of habit to become, at last, unconscious, to repeat, as it were, itself without any apparent choice or effort on the part of its possessor; and in due time it takes such complete possession of the individual as to appear to render his will powerless to counteract it.
Habit is repetition. Faculty is fixed habit.
By thoughts man binds himself.
It is true that man is the instrument of mental forces—or to be more accurate, he is those forces—but they are not blind, and he can direct them into new channels. In a word, he can take himself in hand and reconstruct his habits; for though it is also true that he is born with a given character, that character is the product of numberless lives during which it has been slowly built up by choice and effort, and in this life it will be considerably modified by new experiences.
No matter how apparently helpless a man has become under the tyranny of a bad habit, or a bad characteristic—and they are essentially the same—he can, so long as sanity remains, break away from it and become free.
A changed attitude of mind changes the character, the habits, and the life.
The body is the image of the mind.
One who suffers in body will not necessarily at once be cured when he begins to fashion his mind on moral and harmonious principles; indeed, for a time, while the body is bringing to a crisis, and throwing off the effects of former inharmonies, the morbid condition may appear to be intensified. As a man does not gain perfect peace immediately he enters upon the path of righteousness, but must, except in rare instances, pass through a painful period of adjustment, neither does he, with the same rare exception, at once acquire perfect health. Time is required for bodily as well as mental readjustment, and even if health is not reached, it will be approached. If the mind be made robust, the bodily condition will take a secondary and subordinate place, and will cease to have that primary importance which so many give to it.
Mental harmony, or moral wholeness, makes for bodily health.
Reach out into a comprehension of the Infinite.
Whilst vainly imagining that the pleasures of earth are real and satisfying pain and sorrow continually remind man of their unreal and unsatisfying nature. Ever striving to believe that complete satisfaction is to be found in material things, he is conscious of an inward and persistent revolt against this belief, which revolt is at once a refutation of his essential mortality, and an inherent and imperishable proof that only in the immortal, the eternal, the infinite, can he find abiding satisfaction and unbroken peace.
Man is essentially and spiritually divine and eternal, and, immersed in mortality and troubled unrest, he is striving to enter into a consciousness of his real nature.
The common ground of faith—the root and spring of all religion—the heart of Love!
The restful Reality of the Eternal Heart.
The spirit of man is inseparable from the Infinite, and can be satisfied with nothing short of the Infinite, and the burden of pain will continue to weigh upon man’s heart, and the shadows of sorrow to darken his pathway, until, ceasing from wanderings in the dream-world of matter, he comes back to his home in the reality of the Eternal.
As the smallest drop of water detached from the ocean contains all the qualities of the ocean, so man, detached in consciousness from the Infinite, contains within himself its likeness; and as the drop of water must, by the law of nature, ultimately find its way back to the ocean and lose itself in its silent depths, so must man, by the unfailing law of his nature, at last return to his source, and lose himself in the heart of the Infinite.
To become one with the Infinite is the goal of man.
Enter into perfect harmony with the Eternal Law, which is Wisdom, Love, and Peace.
This divine state is, and must ever be, incomprehensible to the merely personal. Personality, separateness, selfishness, are one and the same, and are the antithesis of wisdom and divinity. By the unqualified surrender of the personality, separateness and selfishness cease, and man enters into the possession of his divine heritage of immortality and infinity.
Such surrender of the personality is regarded by the worldly and selfish mind as the most grievous of all calamities, the most irreparable loss, yet it is the one supreme and incomparable blessing, the only real and lasting gain. The mind unenlightened upon the inner laws of being and upon the nature and destiny of its own life clings to transient appearances, things which have in them no enduring substantiality, and so clinging, perishes, for the time being, amid the shattered wreckage of its own illusions.
Love is universal, supreme, and all-sufficing. This is the realization of selfless love.
When a man's soul is clouded with selfishness in any or every form, he loses the power of spiritual discrimination, and confuses the temporal with the eternal.
Men cling to and gratify the flesh as though it were going to last forever, and though they try to forget the nearness and inevitably of its dissolution, the dread of death and of the loss of all that they cling to clouds their happiest hours, and the chilling shadow of their own selfishness follows them like a remorseless specter.
And with the accumulation of temporal comforts and luxuries, the divinity within men is drugged, and they sink deeper and deeper into materiality, into the perishable life of the senses; and where there is sufficient intellect, theories concerning the immortality of the flesh come to be regarded as infallible truths.
The perishable in the universe can never become permanent; the permanent can never pass away.
Man cannot immortalize the flesh.
All nature in its myriad forms of life is changeable, impermanent, unenduring. Only the informing Principle of nature endures. Nature is many, and is marked by separation. The informing Principle is one, and is marked by unity. By overcoming the senses and the selfishness within, which is the overcoming of nature, man emerges from the chrysalis of the personal and illusory, and wings himself into the glorious light of the impersonal, the region of Truth, out of which all perishable forms come.
Let men, therefore, practice self-denial; let them conquer their animal inclinations; let them refuse to be enslaved by luxury and pleasure; let them practice virtue, and grow daily into higher and ever higher virtue, until at last they grow into the Divine.
Only by realizing the God state of consciousness does man enter into immortality.
This only is true service to forget oneself in love towards all.
Whoever fights ceaselessly against his own selfishness, and strives to supplant it with all-embracing love, is a saint, whether he lives in a cottage or in the midst of riches and influence; or whether he preaches or remains obscure.
To the worldling, who is beginning to aspire towards higher things, the saint, such as a sweet St. Francis of Assisi, or a conquering St. Anthony, is a glorious and inspiring spectacle; to the saint, an equally enrapturing sight is that of the sage, sitting serene and holy, the conqueror of sin and sorrow, no more tormented by regret and remorse, and whom even temptation can never reach; and yet even the sage is drawn on by a still more glorious vision, that of the Savior actively manifesting His knowledge in selfless works, and rendering His divinity more potent for good by sinking Himself in the throbbing, sorrowing heart of mankind.
Only the work that is impersonal can live.
Where duties, howsoever humble, are done without self-interest, and with joyful sacrifice, there is true service and enduring work.
It is given to the world to learn one great and divine lesson—the lesson of absolute unselfishness. The saints, sages, and saviors of all time are they who have submitted themselves to this task, and have learned and lived it. All the scriptures of the world are framed to teach this one lesson, all the great teachers reiterate it. It is too simple for the world which, scorning it, stumbles along in the complex ways of selfishness.
To search for this righteousness is to walk the Way of Truth and Peace, and he who enters this Way will soon perceive that Immortality which is independent of birth and death, and will realize that in the divine economy of the universe the humblest effort is not lost. The world will not have finished its long journey until every soul has entered into the blissful realization of its own divinity.
A pure heart is the end of all religion and the beginning of divinity.
In the external universe there is ceaseless turmoil, change, and unrest; at the heart of all things there is undisturbed repose; in this deep silence dwelleth the Eternal.
As there are depths in the ocean which the fiercest storm cannot reach, so there are silent, holy depths in the heart of man which the storms of sin and sorrow can never disturb. To reach this silence and to live consciously in it is peace.
Discord is rife in the outward world, but unbroken harmony holds sway at the heart of the universe. The human soul reaches blindly toward the harmony of the sinless state, and to reach this state and to live consciously in it is peace. Come away, for a while, from external things, from the pleasure of the senses, from the arguments of the intellect, from the noise and the excitements of the world, and withdraw yourself into the inmost chamber of your heart, and there, free from the sacrilegious intrusion of all selfish desires, you will find a holy calm, a blissful repose; the faultless eye of Truth will open within you, and you will see things as they really are.
Become as little children.
Hatred severs human lives, fosters persecution, and hurls nations into ruthless war.
Men cry peace! peace! where there is no peace, but, on the contrary, discord, disquietude, and strife. Apart from that wisdom which is inseparable from self-renunciation, there can be no real and abiding peace.
The peace which results from social comfort, passing gratification, or worldly victory is transitory in its nature, and is burnt up in the heat of fiery trial. Only the Peace of Heaven endures through all trial, and only the selfless heart can know the Peace of Heaven.
Holiness alone is undying peace. Self-control leads to it, and the ever-increasing Light of Wisdom guides the pilgrim on his way. It is partaken of in a measure as soon as the path of virtue is entered upon, but it is only realized in its fullness when self disappears in the consummation of a stainless life.
This inward peace, this silence, this harmony, this love is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Realize the Light that never fades.
If, O reader! you would realize the Joy that never ends, and the tranquility that cannot be disturbed; if you would leave behind forever your sins, your sorrow, your anxieties, and perplexities; if, I say, you would partake of this salvation, this supremely glorious Life, then conquer yourself. Bring every thought, every impulse, and every desire into perfect obedience to the divine power resident within you. There is no other way to peace but this; and if you refuse to walk it, your much praying and your strict adherence to ritual will be fruitless and unavailing, and neither gods nor angels can help you. Only to him that overcometh is given the white stone of the regenerate life, on which is written the New and Ineffable Name.
The holy place within you is your real and eternal self: it is the divine within you.
Spiritual Principles can only be acquired after long discipline in the pursuit and practice of Virtue.
The schoolmaster never attempts to teach his pupils the abstract principles of mathematics at the commencement; he knows that by such a method teaching would be vain, and learning impossible. He first places before them a very simple sum, and, having explained it, leaves them to do it. When, after repeated failures and ever-renewed effort, they have succeeded in doing it correctly, a more difficult task is set them, and then another and another; and not until the pupils have, through many years of diligent application, mastered all the lessons in arithmetic does he attempt to unfold to them the underlying mathematical principles.
Thus practice ever precedes knowledge even in the ordinary things of the world, and in spiritual things, in the living of the higher life, this law is rigid in its exactions.
Truth can only be arrived at by daily and hourly doing the lessons of Virtue.
In a properly governed household the child is first taught to be obedient, and to conduct itself properly under all circumstances. The child is not even told why it must do this, but is commanded to do it, and only after it has so far succeeded in doing what is right and proper is it told why it should do it. No father would attempt to teach his child the principles of ethics before exacting from it the practice of filial duty and social virtue.
Virtue can only be known by doing, and the knowledge of Truth can only be arrived at by perfecting oneself in the practice of Virtue; and to be complete in the practice and acquisition of Virtue is to be complete in the knowledge of Truth.
Undaunted by failure, and made stronger by difficulties.
Learn the lessons of Virtue, and thus build up in the strength of knowledge, destroying ignorance and the ills of life.
Where Love is, God is, and where Goodness lives There Christ abides; and he who daily strives ‘Gainst self and selfishness, shaping his mind For Truth and Purity, shall surely find The Master’s presence in his inmost heart. God shall be one with him (and not apart) Who overcomes himself, and makes his life Godlike and holy; banishing all strife Far from him; letting hate and anger die, and greed and pride and fleshly lusts that lie To God and Goodness: great shall be his peace, Happy and everlasting his release from pain and sorrow who doth conquer sin. To the pure heart comes God and dwells therein: He only who the Path of Good hath trod Hath found the Life that’s "hid with Christ in God."
"Make pure thy heart, and thou wilt make thy life Rich, sweet, and beautiful, unmarred by strife."
Stimulate the mind to watchfulness and reflection.
It will be seen that the first step in the discipline of the mind is the over-coming of indolence. This is the easiest step, and until it is perfectly accomplished the other steps cannot be taken. The clinging to indolence constitutes a complete barrier to the Path of Truth. Indolence consists in giving the body more ease and sleep than it requires, in procrastinating, and in shirking and neglecting those things which should receive immediate attention. This condition of laziness must be overcome by rousing up the body at an early hour, giving it just the amount of sleep it requires for complete recuperation, and by doing, promptly and vigorously, every task and duty, no matter how small, as it comes along.
The heart must be purified of sensual and gustatory lust.
A listless mind could not achieve any kind of success.
Success is rooted in a subtle mental brooding along a given line. It subsists in an individual characteristic, or combination of characteristics, and not in a particular circumstance, or set of circumstances. The circumstances appear, it is true, and form part of the success, but these would be useless without the mind that can penetrate and utilize them.
At the root of every success there is some form of well-husbanded and well-directed energy. There has been some persistent brooding of the mind upon a project. Success is like a flower: it may appear more or less suddenly, but it is the finished product of a long series of efforts, of preparatory stages. Men see the success, but the preparation for it, the innumerable mental processes that led up to it, are hidden from them.
Without exertion nothing can be accomplished.
This selection is not found in any of Allen's books.
In order to achieve the higher forms of success, a man must give up anxiety, hurry, and fussiness.
Pressing forward persistently along a given way is sure to lead to a destination that is definitely associated with that way. Frequent going aside, or turning back, will render effort fruitless; no destination will he reached; success will remain afar off.
Effort, and then more effort, and then effort again, is the keynote of success. As the simple old saying has it: "If at first you don’t succeed, Try again." All the precepts of successful business men are precepts of doing; all the precepts of the wise teachers are precepts of doing. To cease to do is to cease to be of any use in the economy of life. Doing means effort, exertion.
Transmute the energy that wears and breaks down into that deeper and less obtrusive kind that preserves and builds up.
This selection is not found in any of Allen's books.
The silent, calm people will manifest a more enduring form of success than those who are noisy and restless.
When a man exchanges coppers for silver, and silver for gold, he does not thereby give up the use of money; he exchanges a heavy mass for one that is lighter and smaller but more valuable. So when a man exchanges hurry for deliberation, and deliberation for calmness, he does not give up effort, he merely exchanges a diffusive and more or less ineffective energy for a more highly concentrated, effective, and valuable form.
Yet even the crudest forms of effort are necessary at first, for without them to begin with the higher forms could not be acquired. The child must crawl before it can walk; it must babble before it can talk; it must talk before it can compose. Man begins in weakness and ends in strength, but from beginning to end he advances by the efforts he makes, by the exertion he puts forth.
The root of success is in character.
This selection is not found in any of Allen's books.
The law which punishes us is the law which preserves us.
When in their ignorance men would destroy themselves, its everlasting arms are thrown about them in loving, albeit sometimes painful, protection. Every pain we suffer brings us nearer to the knowledge of the Divine Wisdom. Every blessedness we enjoy speaks to us of the perfection of the Great Law, and of the fullness of bliss that shall be man’s when he has come to his heritage of divine knowledge. We progress by learning, and we learn, up to a certain point, by suffering. When the heart is mellowed by love, the law of love is perceived in all its wonderful kindness; when wisdom is acquired, peace is assured.
We cannot alter the law of things, which is of sublime perfection, but we can alter ourselves so as to comprehend more and more of that perfection, and make its grandeur ours.
To wish to bring down the perfect to the imperfect is the crown of folly, but to strive to bring the imperfect up to the perfect is the height of wisdom.
From the chapter, "Light on the Law of Cause and Effect in Human Life" in the book, Light on Lifes Difficulties.
Seers of the Cosmos do not mourn over the scheme of things.
Seers of the Cosmos see the universe as a perfect whole, and not as an imperfect jumble of parts. The Great Teachers are men of abiding joy and heavenly peace.
The blind captive of unholy desire may cry: "Ah! Love, could you and I with Him conspire to grasp this sorry scheme of things entire, would we not shatter it to bits, and then remold it nearer to the heart’s desire?"
This is the wish of the voluptuary, the wish to enjoy unlawful pleasures to any extent, and not reap any painful consequences. It is such men who regard the universe as a "sorry scheme of things." They want the universe to bend to their will and desire; want lawlessness, not law; but the wise man bends his will and subjects his desires to the Divine Order, and he sees the universe as the glorious perfection of an infinitude of parts.
To perceive it, is the beatific vision; to know it, is the beatific bliss.
From the chapter, "Light on the Law of Cause and Effect in Human Life" in the book, Light on Lifes Difficulties.
More from James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.