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Adapted (slightly) from As a Man Thinketh by James Allen. SpiritSite.com adaptation is copyright © by SpiritSite.com. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com. Please note: the "Buy the Book" link links to the original text, not the SpiritSite.com adaptation.
"Let a man cease from his harsh thoughts, and all the world will soften towards him."
As a Man Thinketh, Part 2
Thought and Circumstance
A man's mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will bring forth life. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed-seeds will fall in, and will continue to produce their kind.
Just as a gardener cultivates his plot--keeping it free from weeds, and growing the flowers and fruits which he requires--so may a man tend the garden of his mind, weeding out all useless and impure thoughts, and cultivating the flowers and fruits of useful and pure thoughts. By pursuing this process, a man sooner or later discovers that he is the master gardener of his soul, the director of his life. He also reveals his flaws of thought, and understands, with ever-increasing accuracy, how thoughts operate in the shaping of character, circumstances, and destiny.
Thought and character are one, and as a manís character will always influence outer circumstance, so will the outer conditions of a person's life always be found to be related to his inner state. This does not mean that a man's circumstances at any given time are an indication of his entire character, but those circumstances are so intimately connected with some vital thought-element within himself that, for the time being, they are essential to his development.
Every man is where he is by the law of his being; the thoughts which he has built into his character have brought him there, and in the arrangement of his life there is no element of chance. All is the result of a law which cannot err. This is just as true of those who feel "out of harmony" with their surroundings as of those who are contented with them.
As a progressive and evolving being, man is where he is that he may learn that he may grow; and as he learns the spiritual lesson which any circumstance contains for him, it passes away and gives place to other circumstances.
Man is tossed about by circumstances so long as he believes himself to be the creature of outside conditions, but when he realizes that he is a creative power, and that he may command the inner soil and seeds of his being out of which outer circumstances grow; he then becomes the rightful master of himself.
Every man who has for any length of time practiced self-control and self-purification knows that circumstances grow out of thought, for he will have noticed that the alteration in his circumstances has been in exact ratio with his altered mental condition. So true is this that when a man earnestly applies himself to correct the problems in his thought, and makes swift and marked progress, he passes rapidly through formerly difficult problems.
The mind attracts that which it secretly harbors: that which it loves, and also that which it fears. It reaches the height of its cherished aspirations and it falls to the level of its impure desires. By this process does the mind receive its own.
Every thought-seed that is sown or allowed to fall into the mind and take root there, produces its own, blossoming sooner or later into act, and bearing its own fruits of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit.
The outer world of circumstance shapes itself to the inner world of thought, and both pleasant and unpleasant external conditions are tools which make for the ultimate good of the individual. As the reaper of his own harvest, man learns from both suffering and bliss.
Following the inmost desires and thoughts by which he allows himself to be dominated (whether pursuing the will-o'-the wisps of impure imaginings or steadfastly walking the highway of strong and high endeavor), a man at last arrives at their fulfillment in the outer conditions of his life.
A man does not come to the poor-house or the jail by the tyranny of fate or circumstance, but by the pathway of low thoughts and base desires. Nor does a pure-minded man fall suddenly into crime because of any mere external force--the criminal thought had been secretly fostered in the heart, and at last the hour of opportunity revealed itself.
Circumstance does not make the man; it merely reveals his thoughts to himself. Even at birth the mind comes into its own and through every step of its earthly pilgrimage it attracts those combinations of conditions which reveal itself, which are the reflections of its own purity and impurity, its strength and weakness.
Men do not necessarily attract what they want; rather, they attract what is within them. Man is chained only by himself. Thoughts are the jailers of Fate--they imprison, being base; they are also the angels of Freedom--they liberate, being noble. Not what he wished and prays for does a man get, but what he harbors within. His wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they harmonize with his thoughts.
In the light of this truth, then, what is the meaning of "fighting against circumstances?" It means that a man is continually revolting against an outer effect, while all the time he is nourishing and preserving its cause in his heart. That cause may be a conscious vice or an unconscious weakness; but whatever it is, it stubbornly retards the efforts of it possessor, and thus calls aloud for remedy.
Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; therefore, they remain bound. The man who does not shrink from effort can never fail to accomplish the object upon which his heart is set. This is as true of earthly as of heavenly things. Even the man whose sole object is to acquire wealth must be prepared to apply great effort before he can accomplish his goal; and how much more so he who would realize a strong and well-poised life?
Here is a man who is wretchedly poor. He greatly wishes that his surroundings and home comforts should be improved, yet all the time he shirks his work, and feels justified in trying to deceive his employer on the grounds that he is "poor." Such as man does not understand the simplest principles of true prosperity, and is not only totally unprepared to rise out of his wretchedness, but is actually burrowing into a still deeper wretchedness by dwelling in and acting out deceptive and impure thoughts.
Here is a rich man who is the victim of a painful disease caused by gluttony. He is willing to give large sums of money to get rid of it, but he will not sacrifice his gluttonous desires. He wants to gratify his taste for rich and unnatural desires and have his health as well. Such a man is totally unprepared to have health, because he has not yet learned the first principles of a healthy inner life.
Here is an employer who adopts crooked measures to avoid paying fair wages, and, in the hope of making larger profits, reduces the wages of his workers. Such a man is altogether unfitted for prosperity, and when he finds himself bankrupt--both in reputation and riches--he blames circumstances, not knowing that he is the sole author of his condition.
I have introduced these three cases merely as illustrative of the truth that man is the cause (though nearly always unconsciously) of his circumstances, and that, while aiming at a good end, he is continually frustrating its accomplishment by encouraging thoughts and desires which cannot possibly harmonize with that end. Such cases could be multiplied and varied almost indefinitely, but this is not necessary, as the reader can, if he so resolves, trace the laws of thought in his own mind and life.
Circumstances, however, are so complicated; thought is so deeply rooted; and the conditions of happiness vary so much with individuals, that a man's true thoughts cannot be judged by another from the external aspect of his life. A man may be honest in certain areas, yet suffer poverty; a man may be dishonest in certain areas, yet acquire wealth. The conclusion usually formed that the one man fails because of his particular honesty, and that the other prospers because of his particular dishonesty, is the result of a superficial judgement. In the light of a deeper knowledge and wider experience, such judgment is found to be erroneous. The dishonest man may have some admirable thoughts which the other does not possess; and the honest man obnoxious thoughts which are absent in the other.
It is pleasing to human vanity to believe that one suffers because of one's virtue; but not until a man has rid himself of every sickly, bitter, and impure thought can he be in a position to know that his sufferings are the result of his good, and not of his bad qualities. Yet long before he has reached that supreme perfection, he will have found the great law which is absolutely just, and which cannot, therefore, give good for evil, evil for good. Possessed of such knowledge, he will then know, looking back upon his past ignorance and blindness, that his life is, and always was, justly ordered, and that all his past experiences, good and bad, were the outworking of his evolving thoughts.
Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results. This is but saying that nothing can come from corn but corn, nothing from nettles but nettles. Men understand this law in the natural world, and work with it; but few understand it in the mental world (though its operation there is just as simple and undeviating), and they, therefore, do not cooperate with it.
Suffering is always the effect of wrong thought in some direction. It is an indication that the individual is out of harmony with himself, with the law of his being. The sole and supreme use of suffering is to purify the mind, to burn out all that is useless and impure. Suffering ceases for him who is pure. There could be no object in burning gold after the dross had been removed, and a perfectly pure and enlightened being could not suffer.
The circumstances which a man encounters with suffering are the result of his own mental disharmony. The circumstances which a man encounters with blessedness are the result of his own mental harmony. Blessedness, not material possessions, is the measure of right thought; wretchedness, not lack of material possessions, is the measure of wrong thought. A man may be cursed and rich; he may be blessed and poor. Blessedness and riches are only joined together when the riches are rightly and wisely used. And the poor man only descends into wretchedness when he regards his lot as a burden unjustly imposed.
Poverty and greed are the two extremes of wretchedness. They are both equally unnatural and the result of mental disorder. A man is not rightly aligned until he is a happy, healthy, and prosperous being; and happiness, health, and prosperity are the result of a harmonious adjustment of the inner with the outer.
A man only begins to be a man when he ceases to whine and blame, and begins to search for the hidden justice which regulates his life. And as he adapts his mind to that regulating justice, he stops blaming others as the cause of his condition, and builds himself up in strong and noble thoughts; he ceases to kick against circumstances, but begins to use circumstances as aids to his more rapid progress, and as a means of discovering the hidden powers and possibilities within himself.
Law, not chaos, is the dominating principle in the universe; justice, not injustice, is the soul and substance of life. Righteousness, not corruption, is the supreme force in the spiritual government of the world. This being so, man has but to correct himself to find that the universe is right. And during the process of setting himself right, he will find that as he alters his thoughts towards things and other people, things and other people will alter towards him.
The proof of this truth is in every person, and it therefore reveals itself through introspection and self-discovery. Let a man radically alter his thoughts, and he will be astonished at the rapid transformation it will effect in the material conditions of his life. Men imagine that thought can be kept secret, but it cannot. It rapidly crystallizes into habit, and habit solidifies into circumstance.
Thoughts of fear, doubt, and indecision crystallize into weak and unfocused habits, which solidify into circumstances of failure, poverty, and slavish dependence. Lazy thoughts crystallize into habits of indecision and dishonesty, which solidify into circumstances of poverty. Hateful thoughts crystallize into habits of accusation and violence, which solidify into circumstances of injury and persecution. Selfish thoughts of all kinds crystallize into habits of self-seeking, which solidify into distressful circumstances.
On the other hand, beautiful thoughts of all kinds crystallize into habits of grace and kindness, which solidify into sunny circumstances. Pure thoughts crystallize into habits of modesty and self-control, which solidify into circumstances of repose and peace. Thoughts of courage and firm decision crystallize into positive habits, which solidify into circumstances of success, plenty, and freedom. Energetic thoughts crystallize into habits of industry, which solidify into circumstances of pleasantness. Gentle and forgiving thoughts crystallize into habits of gentleness, which solidify into protective circumstances. Loving and unselfish thoughts solidify into circumstances of abiding prosperity and true riches.
A particular train of thought persisted in, be it good or bad, cannot fail to produce results. A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances.
Nature helps every man to gratification of the thoughts which he most encourages, and opportunities are presented which will most speedily bring to the surface both the good and the evil thoughts.
Let a man cease from his harsh thoughts, and all the world will soften towards him, and be ready to help him. Let him put away his weakly and sickly thoughts, and the opportunities will spring up on every hand to aid his strong decision. Let him encourage good thoughts, and no hard fate shall bind him down to wretchedness and shame. The world is your kaleidoscope, and the varying combinations of colors which at every succeeding moment it presents to you are the exquisitely adjusted pictures of your ever-moving thoughts.