The Power of Purpose
“Purpose is the keystone in the temple of achievement. It binds and holds together in a complete whole that which would otherwise be scattered and useless. Empty whims, ephemeral fancies, vague desires, and half-hearted resolutions have no place in purpose. In the sustained determination to accomplish there is an invincible power which swallows up all inferior considerations and marches direct to victory.”
Purpose is “highly concentrated thought”. Obstacles are only overcome when our energy is directed toward attaining a fixed purpose: “All successful men are men of purpose. They hold fast to an idea, a project, a plan, and will not let it go; they cherish it, brood upon it, tend and develop it; and when assailed by difficulties, they refuse to be beguiled into surrender.”
However, we must use our intelligence and direct purpose to the attainment of the right things: “In an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon, we see the power of purpose when it is directed in worldly and personal channels; in a Confucius, a Buddha, or a Christ, we perceive its vaster power when its course is along heavenly and impersonal paths.”
The Joy of Accomplishment
“All life is a struggle; both without and within there are conditions against which man must contend; his very existence is a series of efforts and accomplishments, and his right to remain among men as a useful unit of humanity depends upon the measure of his capacity for wrestling successfully with the elements of nature without, or with the enemies of virtue and truth within.”
Accomplishing something, no matter the nature or the size, fills us with joy. That’s why the shirker is considered such a miserable man: “[It] is a moral law that the man who avoids duty, and does not work to the full extent of his capacity, does actually perish, first in his character and last in his body and circumstances. Life and action are synonymous; immediately a man tries to escape exertion, either physical or mental, he has commenced to decay.”
Again, it’s important that we continually direct our purpose to higher things: “[He] who is anxious to learn, eager to know, and who puts forth efforts to accomplish, finds the joy which eternally sings at the heart of the universe. First in little things, then in greater, and then in greater still, must man strive; until at last be is prepared to make the supreme effort, and strive for the accomplishment of Truth, succeeding in which, he will realise the eternal joy.”
“Life is a great school for the development of character, and all, through strife and struggle, vice and virtue, success and failure, are slowly but surely learning the lessons of wisdom.”
James Allen is fast becoming one of my favourite authors on the power of thought. Although his writing tends to be somewhat repetitive, the concepts are so beautifully described that I don’t really mind! For the most part, this book is about living a moral life. Yes, all the talk of good and evil may be borderline puritanical for some, but given the increasing degradation of our values, that might not be such a bad thing.
I especially resonate with his view that meditation, even in small doses, has great benefits. Yes, meditation is more than “whiling away the time in idle dreaming” (and requires some effort lest it lapse into a relaxing reverie), but too much effort can be equally counterproductive. Not everyone needs to meditate with the goal of “divine enlightenment” and “the attainment of Truth”. Simpler intentions are fine too.
What I found quite interesting was the distinction between concentration and meditation. Perhaps it’s all semantics, but certain Buddhist circles treat concentration as a type of meditation (the other type being mindfulness). In that light, I’m not entirely convinced that practices involving mantras should be completely disregarded or why Allen is convinced they lead towards “weakness and imbecility”. No, you shouldn’t use them exclusively, but there’s no harm in spending a few minutes getting centred before you begin a task.
This book, while not getting caught up in the “infinite and eternal” law of attraction, raises some interesting philosophical questions about how much of our lives we control. According to Allen, whose opinions are always forcefully expressed, we’re responsible for it all: “Nothing comes unbidden; where the shadow is, there also is the substance.” Even though cheaters may (temporarily) prosper while good guys (temporarily) finish last, everyone will get what they deserve in the end. Does this mean children dying of starvation are getting what they deserve too? Allen seems to be saying yes.
His reasoning is as follows: Because “the present is the synthesis of the entire past” and “the net result of all that a man has ever thought and done is contained within him”, experiences in this lifetime may be due to what happened in previous ones: “It should be remembered that man is a changing, evolving being… [The] good man who is overtaken with calamity today is reaping the result of his former evil sowing; later he will reap the happy result of his present good sowing; while the bad man is now reaping the result of his former good sowing; later he will reap the result of his present sowing of bad.”
Another interpretation is that the suffering we experience in this lifetime is in order to experience peace in the next. Or perhaps the pain we go through now is so others don’t have to go through it too. This is probably one of those imponderable questions we’ll never be able to answer, but I find it hard to believe that we suffer for no reason at all. Life can’t be that unkind.
If you enjoyed this post, please remember to Like, Tweet, and Share it using the links at the top or bottom of the page. And remember to subscribe to free alerts or follow me on Twitter to be notified when the next review is released. For more on the subject, read my review of Self-Development and the Way to Power.