James Allen (1864-1912) was a gifted writer and philosopher who lived the type of life he wrote about (a complete list of his works and links to them are listed at the end of this post). His wife said he was “a good man who lived every word he wrote” (preface to Book of Meditations) and that “he never wrote theories, or for the sake of writing, or to add another to his many books; but he wrote when he had a message, and it became a message only when he had lived it out in his own life, and knew that it was good. Thus he wrote facts, which he had proven by practice.”—preface to Foundation Stones to Happiness and Success.
James was born in Leicester, England on November 28, 1864. His father went to America in 1879 to improve the family’s financial circumstances. Shortly after his arrival in New York and before he could send for his family he was robbed and murdered. Thus at the age of 15 James had to leave school to work and help support the family.
He married Lily Louisa Oram in 1895 at the age of 29 and they had their only child Nohra in 1896. There are various descriptions regarding what inspired him to write but all agree that he “retired” from regular work to devote his time to writing in 1902. He published his own magazine The Light of Reason which was later renamed The Epoch.
Like my other favorite author, William George Jordan (who was born the same year as James), James Allen’s works are replete with profound thoughts such as, “Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.” He often used analogies from gardening, a favorite pastime.
He died January 24th, 1912 at the relative young age of 47 having written material that would be published in 20 books. Today, nearly 100 years following his death, his words are still cherished by many and have a positive impact on mankind. I believe he is still accomplishing the mission he set for himself as described in the foreword of his first book From Poverty to Power; or, the Realization of Prosperity and Peace.
I looked around upon the world, and saw that it was shadowed by sorrow and scorched by the fierce fires of suffering. And I looked for the cause. I looked around, but could not find it; I looked in books, but could not find it; I looked within, and found there both the cause and the self-made nature of that cause. I looked again, and deeper, and found the remedy.
I found one Law, the Law of Love; one Life, the Life of adjustment to that Law; one Truth, the truth of a conquered mind and a quiet and obedient heart. And I dreamed of writing a book which should help men and women, whether rich or poor, learned or unlearned, worldly or unworldly, to find within themselves the source of all success, all happiness, all accomplishment, all truth. And the dream remained with me, and at last became substantial; and now I send it forth into the world on its mission of healing and blessedness, knowing that it cannot fail to reach the homes and hearts of those who are waiting and ready to receive it.
His books are both inspiring and challenging to read. You’ll more than likely find that reading Allen causes some personal discomfort as you identify areas in your life that can be improved and begin to realize that only you stand in the way of a positive change. However, when you take that first step you’ll find a loving God who will support you on your journey.
A noble and Godlike character is not a thing of favor or chance, but is the natural result of continued effort in right thinking, the effect of long-cherished association with Godlike thoughts.
Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory 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.
Every thought-seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind, and to take root there, produces its own, blossoming sooner or later into act, and bearing its own fruitage or opportunity and circumstance.
Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself.
Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.
Not what he wishes and prays for does a man get, but what he justly earns. His wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions.
… what, then, is the meaning of “fighting against circumstances?” It means that a man is continually revolting against an effect without, while all the time he is nourishing and preserving its cause in his heart.
Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.
… man has but to right himself to find that the universe is right; and during the process of putting himself right he will find that as he alters his thoughts towards things and other people, things and other people will alter towards him.
… there is no comforter to compare with goodwill for dispersing the shadows of grief and sorrow.
Thoughts of doubt doubt and fear never accomplished anything, and never can. Purpose, energy, power to do, and all strong thoughts cease when doubt and fear creep in.
A strong man cannot help a weaker unless that weaker is willing to be helped, and even then the weak man must become strong of himself; he must, by his own efforts, develop the strength which he admires in another.
Dreams are the seedlings of realities.
… you … will realize the Vision (not the idle wish) of your heart, be it base or beautiful, or a mixture of both, for you will always gravitate toward that which you secretly, most love.
Below are are list of his works with links to online versions, some of which were published after his death by his wife. Note, with the exception of As a Man Thinketh, for which I’ve created PDF and HTML versions, all HTML links are from The James Allen Free Library.
- As a Man Thinketh,1902 (HTML, PDF)
Contemporary reviews: The Advance, Buddhism: An Illustrated Review, Camera Craft, Electric Traction Weekly, The Four-Track News, Unity.
- All These Things Added, 1903 (HTML)
Contemporary reviews: Association Men, The Metaphysical Magazine, Now, The Phrenological Journal and Science of Health, The Theosophical Review. Note, this was later published as two separate books, Entering the Kingdom and The Heavenly Life.
- Through the Gates of Good; or, Christ and Conduct, 1903 (HTML)
Contemporary reviews: Camera Craft
- Byways of Blessedness, 1904 (HTML)
Contemporary reviews: Buddhism: An Illustrated Review
- Out from the Heart, 1904 (Google, HTML)
Contemporary reviews: Common Sense, Tomorrow Magazine, Unity.
- Poems of Peace, including the Lyrical-dramatic Poem Eolaus, 1907 (Google, HTML)
- The Life Triumphant: Mastering the Heart and Mind, 1908 (HTML)
Contemporary reviews: Association Men, Unity
- Morning and Evening Thoughts, 1909 (Google, HTML)
- The Mastery of Destiny, 1909 (Google, HTML)
Contemporary reviews: Book Review Digest
- Above Life’s Turmoil, 1910 (HTML)
Contemporary reviews: Book Review Digest, New-York Observer
- From Passion to Peace or The Pathway of the Pure, 1910 (Google, HTML)
Contemporary reviews: The Humanitarian Review, New-York Observer, St. Andrew’s Cross, Unity, The Word.
- Eight Pillars of Prosperity, 1911 (HTML)
Contemporary reviews: The Bookseller, The Humanitarian Review, The Independent, The Living Age, Unity
- Man: King of Mind, Body and Circumstance, 1911 (HTML)
Contemporary reviews: The Advance, The Humanitarian Review, The New York Observer, Unity.
- Light on Life’s Difficulties, 1912 (HTML)
Contemporary reviews: The American Review of Reviews, Journal of Genetic Psychology, The Living Age, Unity
- James Allen’s Book of Meditations for Every Day in the Year or Meditations, A Year Book, a compilation of earlier text, compiled by his wife, Lilly L. Allen, after his death, 1913 (HTML)
Contemporary reviews: The Bookseller, The Business Philosopher, The Christian Register, The Living Age
- Foundation Stones to Happiness and Success, 1913 (Google, HTML)
Contemporary reviews: The Book News Monthly, The Bookseller, The Business Philosopher, The Christian Register
- Men and Systems, 1914 (HTML)
- The Shining Gateway, 1915 (HTML)
- The Divine Companion, 1919 (HTML)
- 1864: Born in Leicester, England on November 24th.
- 1879: his father died in America.
- 1895: Married Lily Louisa Oram.
- 1896: Birth of his daughter Nohra.
- 1902: “Retired” to Ilfracombe,England (southwest coast) to be a full-time writer.
- 1902: Founded and edited “Light of Reason” which was later renamed “The Epoch”.
- 1912: Died on January 24th.