What you are, so is your world. Everything in the universe is resolved into your own inward experience. It matters little what is without, for it is all a reflection of your own consciousness. It matters everything what you are within, for everything without will be mirrored and colored accordingly.
All you positively know is contained in your own experience; all that you ever will know must pass through the gateway of experience, and so become part of yourself
Your own thoughts, desires, and aspirations comprise your world, and, to you, all that there is in the universe of beauty and joy and bliss, or of ugliness and sorrow and pain, is contained within yourself. By your own thoughts you make or mar your life, your world, your universe. As you build within by the power of thought, so will your outward life and circumstances shape themselves accordingly. Whatsoever you harbor in the inmost chambers of your heart will sooner or later, by the inevitable law of reaction, shape itself in your outward life. The soul that is impure, sordid and selfish, is gravitating, with unerring precision, toward misfortune and catastrophe; the soul that is pure, unselfish and noble, is gravitating, with equal precision, toward happiness and prosperity. Every soul attracts its own, and nothing can possibly come to it that does not belong to it. To realize this is to recognize the universality of Divine Law. The incidents of every human life, which both make and mar, are drawn to it by the quality and power of its own inner thought-life. Every soul is a complex combination of gathered experiences and thoughts, and the body is but an improvised vehicle for its manifestation. What, therefore, your thoughts are, that is your real self; and the world around, both animate and inanimate, wears the aspect with which your thoughts clothe it. "All that we are is the result of what we have thought; it is founded on our thoughts; it is made up of our thoughts." Thus said Buddha, and it therefore follows that if a man is happy it is because he dwells in happy thoughts; if miserable, because he dwells in despondent and debilitating thoughts. Whether one be fearful or fearless, foolish or wise, troubled or serene, within that soul lies the cause of its own state or states, and never without. And now I seem to hear a chorus of voices exclaim, “But do you really mean to say that outward circumstances do not affect our minds?” I do not say that, but I say this, and know it to be an infallible truth, that circumstances can only affect you in so far as you allow them to do so. You are swayed by circumstances because you have not a right understanding of the nature, use and power of thought. You believe (and upon this little word belief hang all our sorrows and joys) that outward things have the power to make or mar your life; by so doing you submit to those outward things, confess that you are their slave, and they your unconditional master; by so doing you invest them with a power which they do not, of themselves, possess, and you succumb, in reality, not to the mere circumstances but to the gloom or gladness, the fear or hope, the strength or weakness, which your thought-sphere has thrown around them.
I knew two men who, at an early age, lost the hard earned savings of years. One was very deeply troubled and gave way to chagrin, worry, and despondency. The other, on reading in his morning paper that the bank in which his money was deposited had hopelessly failed, and that he had lost all, quietly and firmly remarked, "Well, it’s gone, and trouble and worry won’t bring it back, but hard work will." He went to work with renewed vigor and rapidly became prosperous, while the former man, continuing to mourn the loss of his money, and to grumble at his "bad luck," remained the sport and tool of adverse circumstances, in reality of his own weak and slavish thoughts.
The loss of money was a curse to the one because he clothed the event with dark and dreary thoughts; it was a blessing to the other, because he threw around it thoughts of strength, of hope, and renewed endeavor. If circumstances had the power to bless or harm, they would bless and harm all men alike, but the fact that the same circumstances will be alike good and bad to different souls, proves that the good or bad is not in the circumstance, but only in the mind of him that encounters it. When you begin to realize this you will begin to control your thoughts, to regulate and discipline your mind, and to rebuild the inner temple of your soul, eliminating all useless and superfluous material, and incorporating into your being thoughts alone of joy and serenity, of strength and life, of compassion and love, of beauty and immortality; and as you do this you will become joyful and serene, strong and healthy, compassionate and loving, and beautiful with the beauty of immortality.
Where the ordinary mind sees disaster and confusion, the mind of the philosopher sees the most perfect sequence of cause and effect, and where the materialist sees nothing but endless death the mystic sees pulsating and eternal life.
As we clothe both events and objects with our own thoughts, so, likewise, do we clothe the souls of others in the garments of our thoughts. The suspicious believe everybody to be suspicious; the liar feels secure in the thought that he is not so foolish as to believe that there is such a phenomenon as a strictly truthful person; the envious see envy in every soul; the miser thinks everybody is eager to get his money; he who has subordinated conscience in the making of his wealth, sleeps with a revolver under his pillow, wrapt in the delusion that the world is full of conscienceless people who are eager to rob him, and the abandoned sensualist looks upon the saint as a hypocrite. On the other hand, those who dwell in loving thoughts see that in all which calls forth their love and sympathy; the trusting and honest are not troubled by suspicions; the good-natured and charitable, who rejoice at the good fortune of others, scarcely know what envy means; and he who has realized the Divine within himself recognizes it in all beings, even in the beasts.
And men and women are confirmed in their mental outlook because of the fact that, by the law of cause and effect, they attract to themselves that which they send forth, and so come in contact with people similar to themselves.
The old adage, "Birds of a feather flock together," has a deeper significance than is generally attached to it, for in the thought-world, as in the world of matter, each clings to its kind:—
"Do you wish for Kindness? Be kind.
Do you ask for Truth? Be true.
What you give of yourself you find;
Your world is a reflex of you."
If you are one of those who are praying for, and looking forward to, a happier world beyond the grave, here is a message of gladness for you: you may enter into and realize that happy world now; it fills the whole universe, and it is within you, waiting for you to find, acknowledge and possess. Said one who knew the inner laws of Being, "When men shall say lo here, or lo there, go not after them; the Kingdom of God is within you." What you have to do is to believe this, simply believe it with a mind unshadowed by doubt, and then meditate upon it until you understand it. You will then begin to purify and to build your inner world, and as you proceed, passing from revelation to revelation, from realization to realization, you will discover the utter powerlessness of outward things beside the magic potency of a self-governed soul.
This chapter is selected from the book From Poverty to Power.
Like rose-leaves they give out a sweet smell if laid up in a jar of memory.
They cannot be too much cultivated; they are like a crop which enriches the soil.
Holy thoughts breed holy words and holy action, and are hopeful evidences of a renewed heart.
—Charles H. Spurgeon
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.