From poverty to power - James Allen - ebook
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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.

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James Allen

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Table of contents

Foreword

Part I: The path of prosperity

Part II: The way of peace

Foreword

I looked around upon the world, and saw that it was shadowed by sorrow and scorchedby the fierce fires of suffering. And I looked for the cause. I looked around, but could notfind it; I looked in books, but could not find it; I looked within, and found there both thecause and the self-made nature of that cause. I looked again, and deeper, and found theremedy.I found one Law, the Law of Love; one Life, the Life of adjustment to that Law; oneTruth, the truth of a conquered mind and a quiet and obedient heart. And I dreamed ofwriting a book which should help men and women, whether rich or poor, learned orunlearned, worldly or unworldly, to find within themselves the source of all success, allhappiness, all accomplishment, all truth. And the dream remained with me, and at lastbecame substantial; and now I send it forth into the world on its mission of healing andblessedness, knowing that it cannot fail to reach the homes and hearts of those who arewaiting and ready to receive it.

Part I: The path of prosperity

1. The lesson of evilUnrest and pain and sorrow are the shadows of life. There is no heart in all the world thathas not felt the sting of pain, no mind has not been tossed upon the dark waters of trouble,no eye that has not wept the hot blinding tears of unspeakable anguish.There is no household where the Great Destroyers, disease and death, have not entered,severing heart from heart, and casting over all the dark pall of sorrow. In the strong, andapparently indestructible meshes of evil all are more or less fast caught, and pain,unhappiness, and misfortune wait upon mankind.With the object of escaping, or in some way mitigating this overshadowing gloom, menand women rush blindly into innumerable devices, pathways by which they fondly hopeto enter into a happiness which will not pass away.Such are the drunkard and the harlot, who revel in sensual excitements; such is theexclusive aesthete, who shuts himself out from the sorrows of the world, and surroundshimself with enervating luxuries; such is he who thirsts for wealth or fame, andsubordinates all things to the achievement of that object; and such are they who seekconsolation in the performance of religious rites.And to all the happiness sought seems to come, and the soul, for a time, is lulled into asweet security, and an intoxicating forgetfulness of the existence of evil; but the day ofdisease comes at last, or some great sorrow, temptation, or misfortune breaks suddenly inon the unfortified soul, and the fabric of its fancied happiness is torn to shreds.So over the head of every personal joy hangs the Damocletian sword of pain, ready, atany moment, to fall and crush the soul of him who is unprotected by knowledge.The child cries to be a man or woman; the man and woman sigh for the lost felicity ofchildhood. The poor man chafes under the chains of poverty by which he is bound, andthe rich man often lives in fear of poverty, or scours the world in search of an elusiveshadow he calls happiness.Sometimes the soul feels that it has found a secure peace and happiness in adopting acertain religion, in embracing an intellectual philosophy, or in building up an intellectualor artistic ideal; but some overpowering temptation proves the religion to be inadequateor insufficient; the theoretical philosophy is found to be a useless prop; or in a moment,the idealistic statue upon which the devotee has for years been laboring, is shattered intofragments at his feet.Is there, then, no way of escape from pain and sorrow? Are there no means by whichbonds of evil may be broken? Is permanent happiness, secure prosperity, and abidingpeace a foolish dream?No, there is a way, and I speak it with gladness, by which evil can be slain for ever; thereis a process by which disease, poverty, or any adverse condition or circumstance can beput on one side never to return; there is a method by which a permanent prosperity can besecured, free from all fear of the return of adversity, and there is a practice by whichunbroken and unending peace and bliss can be partaken of and realized.And the beginning of the way which leads to this glorious realization is the acquirementof a right understanding of the nature of evil.It is not sufficient to deny or ignore evil; it must be understood. It is not enough to pray toGod to remove the evil; you must find out why it is there, and what lesson it has for you.It is of no avail to fret and fume and chafe at the chains which bind you; you must knowwhy and how you are bound. Therefore, reader, you must get outside yourself, and mustbegin to examine and understand yourself.You must cease to be a disobedient child in the school of experience and must begin tolearn, with humility and patience, the lessons that are set for your edification and ultimateperfection; for evil, when rightly understood, is found to be, not an unlimited power orprinciple in the universe, but a passing phase of human experience, and it thereforebecomes a teacher to those who are willing to learn.Evil is not an abstract some thing outside yourself; it is an experience in your own heart,and by patiently examining and rectifying your heart you will be gradually led into thediscovery of the origin and nature of evil, which will necessarily be followed by itscomplete eradication.All evil is corrective and remedial, and is therefore not permanent. It is rooted inignorance, ignorance of the true nature and relation of things, and so long as we remain inthat state of ignorance, we remain subject to evil.There is no evil in the universe which is not the result of ignorance, and which would not,if we were ready and willing to learn its lesson, lead us to higher wisdom, and thenvanish away. But men remain in evil, and it does not pass away because men are notwilling or prepared to learn the lesson which it came to teach them.I knew a child who, every night when its mother took it to bed, cried to be allowed toplay with the candle; and one night, when the mother was off guard for a moment, thechild took hold of the candle; the inevitable result followed, and the child never wished toplay with the candle again.By its one foolish act it learned, and learned perfectly the lesson of obedience, andentered into the knowledge that fire burns. And, this incident is a complete illustration ofthe nature, meaning, and ultimate result of all sin and evil.As the child suffered through its own ignorance of the real nature of fire, so olderchildren suffer through their ignorance of the real nature of the things which they weepfor and strive after, and which harm them when they are secured; the only differencebeing that in the latter case the ignorance and evil are more deeply rooted and obscure.Evil has always been symbolized by darkness, and Good by light, and hidden within thesymbol is contained the perfect interpretation, the reality; for, just as light always floodsthe universe, and darkness is only a mere speck or shadow cast by a small bodyintercepting a few rays of the illimitable light, so the Light of the Supreme Good is thepositive and life-giving power which floods the universe, and evil the insignificantshadow cast by the self that intercepts and shuts off the illuminating rays which strive forentrance.When night folds the world in its black impenetrable mantle, no matter how dense thedarkness, it covers but the small space of half our little planet, while the whole universe isablaze with living light, and every soul knows that it will awake in the light in themorning.Know, then, that when the dark night of sorrow, pain, or misfortune settles down uponyour soul, and you stumble along with weary and uncertain steps, that you are merelyintercepting your own personal desires between yourself and the boundless light of joyand bliss, and the dark shadow that covers you is cast by none and nothing but yourself.And just as the darkness without is but a negative shadow, an unreality which comesfrom nowhere, goes to nowhere, and has no abiding dwelling place, so the darknesswithin is equally a negative shadow passing over the evolving and Lightborn soul.“ But,” I fancy I hear someone say, “why pass through the darkness of evil at all?”Because, by ignorance, you have chosen to do so, and because, by doing so, you mayunderstand both good and evil, and may the more appreciate the light by having passedthrough the darkness.As evil is the direct outcome of ignorance, so, when the lessons of evil are fully learned,ignorance passes away, and wisdom takes its place. But as a disobedient child refuses tolearn its lessons at school, so it is possible to refuse to learn the lessons of experience,and thus to remain in continual darkness, and to suffer continually recurring punishmentsin the form of disease, disappointment, and sorrow.He, therefore, who would shake himself free of the evil which encompasses him, must bewilling and ready to learn, and must be prepared to undergo that disciplinary processwithout which no grain of wisdom or abiding happiness and peace can be secured.A man may shut himself up in a dark room, and deny that the light exists, but it iseverywhere without, and darkness exists only in his own little room.So you may shut out the light of Truth, or you may begin to pull down the walls ofprejudice, self-seeking and error which you have built around yourself, and so let in theglorious and omnipresent Light.By earnest self-examination strive to realize, and not merely hold as a theory, that evil isa passing phase, a self-created shadow; that all your pains, sorrows and misfortunes havecome to you by a process of undeviating and absolutely perfect law; have come to youbecause you deserve and require them, and that by first enduring, and then understandingthem, you may be made stronger, wiser, nobler.When you have fully entered into this realization, you will be in a position to mould yourown circumstances, to transmute all evil into good and to weave, with a master hand, thefabric of your destiny.What of the night, O Watchman! see’st thou yetThe glimmering dawn upon the mountain heights,The golden Herald of the Light of lights,Are his fair feet upon the hilltops set?Cometh he yet to chase away the gloom,And with it all the demons of the Night?Strike yet his darting rays upon thy sight?Hear’st thou his voice, the sound of error’s doom?The Morning cometh, lover of the Light;Even now He gilds with gold the mountain’s brow,Dimly I see the path whereon even nowHis shining feet are set toward the Night.Darkness shall pass away, and all the thingsThat love the darkness, and that hate the LightShall disappear for ever with the Night:Rejoice! for thus the speeding Herald sings.2. The world a reflex of mental statesWhat you are, so is your world. Everything in the universe is resolved into your owninward experience. It matters little what is without, for it is all a reflection of your ownstate of consciousness.It matters everything what you are within, for everything without will be mirrored andcolored accordingly.All that you positively know is contained in your own experience; all that you ever willknow 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 thatthere is in the universe of beauty and joy and bliss, or of ugliness and sorrow and pain, iscontained within yourself.By your own thoughts you make or mar your life, your world, your universe, As youbuild within by the power of thought, so will your outward life and circumstances shapethemselves accordingly.Whatsoever you harbor in the inmost chambers of your heart will, sooner or later by theinevitable law of reaction, shape itself in your outward life.The soul that is impure, sordid and selfish, is gravitating with unerring precision towardmisfortune and catastrophe; the soul that is pure, unselfish, and noble is gravitating withequal 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 thequality and power of its own inner thought-life. Every soul is a complex combination ofgathered experiences and thoughts, and the body is but an improvised vehicle for itsmanifestation.What, therefore, your thoughts are, that is your real self; and the world around, bothanimate 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 ismade up of our thoughts.” Thus said Buddha, and it therefore follows that if a man ishappy, it is because he dwells in happy thoughts; if miserable, because he dwells indespondent and debilitating thoughts,Whether one be fearful or fearless, foolish or wise, troubled or serene, within that soullies the cause of its own state or states, and never without. And now I seem to hear achorus of voices exclaim, “But do you really mean to say that outward circumstances donot affect our minds?” I do not say that, but I say this, and know it to be an infallibletruth, 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 thenature, use, and power of thought.You believe (and upon this little word belief hang all our sorrows and joys) that outwardthings have the power to make or mar your life; by so doing you submit to those outwardthings, 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 yousuccumb, in reality, not to the mere circumstances, but to the gloom or gladness, the fearor 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 verydeeply troubled, and gave way to chagrin, worry, and despondency.The other, on reading in his morning paper that the bank in which his money wasdeposited 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 formerman, 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 andslavish thoughts.The loss of money was a curse to the one because he clothed the event with dark anddreary thoughts; it was a blessing to the other, because he threw around it thoughts ofstrength, of hope, and renewed endeavor.If circumstances had the power to bless or harm, they would bless and harm all menalike, but the fact that the same circumstances will be alike good and bad to differentsouls proves that the good or bad is not in the circumstance, but only in the mind of himthat encounters it.When you begin to realize this you will begin to control your thoughts, to regulate anddiscipline your mind, and to rebuild the inward temple of your soul, eliminating alluseless and superfluous material, and incorporating into your being thoughts alone of joyand serenity, of strength and life, of compassion and love, of beauty and immortality; andas you do this you will become joyful and serene, strong and healthy, compassionate andloving, and beautiful with the beauty of immortality.And as we clothe events with the drapery of our own thoughts, so likewise do we clothethe objects of the visible world around us, and where one sees harmony and beauty,another sees revolting ugliness.An enthusiastic naturalist was one day roaming the country lanes in pursuit of his hobby,and during his rambles came upon a pool of brackish water near a farmyard.As he proceeded to fill a small bottle with the water for the purpose of examination underthe microscope, he dilated, with more enthusiasm than discretion, to an uncultivated sonof the plough who stood close by, upon the hidden and innumerable wonders contained inthe pool, and concluded by saying, ‘’Yes, my friend, within this pool is contained ahundred, nay, a million universes, had we but the sense or the instrument by which wecould apprehend them.” And the unsophisticated one ponderously remarked, "I know thewater be full o’ tadpoles, but they be easy to catch.”Where the naturalist, his mind stored with the knowledge of natural facts, saw beauty,harmony, and hidden glory, the mind unenlightened upon those things saw only anoffensive mud-puddle.The wild flower which the casual wayfarer thoughtlessly tramples upon is, to the spiritualeye of the poet, an angelic messenger from the invisible.To the many, the ocean is but a dreary expanse of water on which ships sail and aresometimes wrecked; to the soul of the musician it is a living thing, and he hears, in all itschanging moods, divine harmonies.Where the ordinary mind sees disaster and confusion, the mind of the philosopher seesthe most perfect sequence of cause and effect, and where the materialist sees nothing butendless death, the mystic sees pulsating and eternal life.And as we clothe both events and objects with our own thoughts, so likewise do weclothe the souls of others in the garments of our thoughts.The suspicious believe everybody to be suspicious; the Liar feels secure in the thoughtthat he is not so foolish as to believe that there is such a phenomenon as a strictly truthfulperson; the envious see envy in every soul; the miser thinks everybody is eager to get hismoney; he who has subordinated conscience in the making of his wealth, sleeps with arevolver under his pillow, wrapped in the delusion that the world is full of consciencelesspeople who are eager to rob him, and the abandoned sensualist looks upon the saint as ahypocrite.On the other hand, those who dwell in loving thoughts, see that in all which calls forththeir 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 whatenvy means; and he who has realized the Divine within himself recognizes it in allbeings, even in the beasts.And men and women are confirmed in their mental outlook because of the fact that, bythe law of cause and effect, they attract to themselves that which they send forth, and socome in contact with people similar to themselves.The old adage, “Birds of a feather flock together,” has a deeper significance than isgenerally attached to it, for in the thought-world as in the world of matter, each clings toits kind.Do you wish for kindness? Be kind.Do you ask for truth? Be true.