A Biblical exploration of the claims of James Allen’s As A Man Thinketh.
“As the plant springs from, and could not be without, the seed, so every act of man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and could not have appeared without them. This applies equally to those acts called ‘spontaneous’ and ‘unpremeditated’ as to those which are deliberately executed.” – James Allen, As A Man Thinketh
As I reread this small opus this time around, it seemed to me to lack one thing: the answer to the question, if thought determines someone’s reality, then what is the source of “thought”? Acts proceed from thought, but what is the ground from which thought seed itself springs?
Here, first of all, is the actual context of the phrase that serves as the title of his book: “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.” (Proverbs 23:6-8)
This is simply explaining that being in the company of someone with an evil eye is not a good idea, that he is likely plotting something inwardly, or grudging what it’s costing him, from the corruption that fills his heart. He has ulterior motives other than being nice to you! If I were looking to quote a text to prove my thesis, this would certainly not be the one I’d choose!
Much of the current “New Thought” movement, which has also infiltrated Christian Thought, stems from the ideas that man’s thought determines his reality. Man is God and a law unto himself according to New Thought. Many have latched onto this idea that, as Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way.” But is “my” way always the best way? Even when it is “good”?
Mr. Allen’s essay does not acknowledge the direct effect on the heart surrendered to the Holy Spirit and thus joined to God through Christ, but rather, from the first page, points out that “man is the master of thought, the molder of character, and the maker and shaper of condition, environment, and destiny.” He sees man as the master generator of his thought. This is an entirely humanistic construct.
Jesus, however, presents other ideas…
“The things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matthew 15:18,19)
“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (Luke 6:45)
Jesus addresses this in the two preceding verses. He points us to the fuller truth that thoughts arise from the heart, and they are thus subject to the conditions of the “reservoir” of the heart from which they arise. Out of the good treasures of the heart come good, but if the treasures of the heart are evil, then evil thoughts will come forth – manifesting in the laundry list recorded in the Matthew passage above (among others), as well as the life bearing the fruit of these activities.
So it would seem logical therefore that the first work needing to be done, if a life is to be changed toward God’s highest Good, would be a transformation in the heart of us, the central motivating core and ground of our being – the source of thought quality.
Thus the psalmist prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) King David prayed this prayer after his indiscretions with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband, realizing how his “thoughts” had taken him into lust, adultery, and murder. He appealed to God to do this work, realizing his incapability to “think” himself into something better and more exemplary as a king and leader. He knew his heart had to be cleansed!
Says the prophet, ”The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Clearly, we’re in need of spiritual heart transplants replacing them with the Sacred Heart of Christ, if we are to have “thoughts” with which to create a Godly life. That the heart is deceitful is not a popular thought. Especially these days.
And again King David petitions the Lord, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24).
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Hebrews 8:10)
“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:6-9)
My impression is that there are higher thoughts than those of the ego that God would like to let us in on – something better than we could ever imagine or think!
If an enquiring mind wants to know, God will grant His wisdom to the one who continually asks, seeks, and knocks. The Christian way is not that of so called “self” mastery, for all our righteousness is as dirty rags. (Isaiah 64:6) Jesus made it clear to the Pharisees that Satan cannot cast out Satan, that this amounts to a house divided against itself! So it is not an option for the un-regenerated ego-self to cast out itself and its (often unconscious) thoughts about happiness.
“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” (Revelation 3:17) Jesus has the last word here too, as He addresses the Laodicean church. Some say this is the current church age. Reading through to the end of the chapter reveals that the whoever the addressees were or are, they were the “good thought” namers, claimers, and framers steeped in their own brand of self righteousness and self making.
So we can see that “New Thought” is really a very old thought, a humanist approach to self improvement.
With all of this “thinking themselves rich” they’d missed the true riches! (Oh Jesus, You are such a bubble buster!)
Conclusion: Certainly positive thoughts can be a good thing. However they can be self deceiving. If there is trouble and struggle, relationship issues, finances, or any part of living, perhaps it is due to the “me, myself, and I” thoughts or attitudes that are generated from the heart that has not been transformed by God’s power, and determined by a will still not surrendered to His infinite Wisdom and Love.
Father really does know best after all.
As for thoughts that ought to guide our way, we are directed by the Apostle Paul, “Have this attitude (or “mind” KJV) in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11).
The Mind of Christ is the only mind which ought to be over our matters.