From the author's introduction
It may surprise recovering persons and their friends to find As A Man Thinketh and The Greatest Thing in the World listed as "recovery classics." I use this term because both books were recommended reading for the early members of Alcoholics Anonymous, especially prior to the Big Book publication. Bill W. and Dr. Bob S., the AA co-founders, had high regard for these publications and passed them on to persons they sought to help.
I found them useful in my own recovery as I struggled from 1950 onward to find new moorings and better principles for living. Both books were offered at modest prices at the AA meetings I attended in the Detroit area. I am confident that the insights I found in them helped both my sobriety and my efforts to get along in the world of work, where I had previously had many problems.
Both books came to us from men schooled in the British Isles. James Allen and Henry Drummond were men of deep faith. They may have seemed different, but each believed in a God of Love who wanted only Good for humankind. Each book offers the individual reader certain principles or guides for spiritual self-improvement at the Soul level.
If you accept the ideas in both books and put them into practice, I believe you'll find beneficial changes coming into your own life. I don't suggest that these changes will be "magical" or "miraculous," although they may seem so for persons who make radical changes in thought. What we ought to be looking for in any self-help book is reasonable growth and understanding.
But are these self-help books? Let's hope they are for readers who are unhappy with their thoughts and feelings and are seeking constructive mood changes.
And what is a constructive mood change? Most recovering people need extra help in developing positive outlooks on life, after years of negativity which helped us justify drinking and drugging. The thing to keep in mind always is that in those pursuits we were only seeking our good in the wrong places and with the wrong means. It is a Law of Life that we must choose the right ways and means if we hope to find true happiness and fulfillment.
I cannot improve on the original writings of James Allen or Henry Drummond. But I have added commentary as useful guides for the present age. I urge you to read these recovery classics with an open mind and a feeling of expectancy. You can truly find happiness and serenity as these ideals become part of living clean and sober. I have found them so.
In this collection, I've also included the great Peace Prayer attributed to St. Francis. While Francis himself may not have authored this prayer, it was a favorite meditation for AA cofounder Bill W. and is certainly a "recovery classic."
July 12, 2004
A number of James Allen's books are still published, but none ever approached the popularity of As A Man Thinketh. Though written nearly one hundred years ago, it is still offered in several editions and has never lost its power to change lives. It was a forerunner of many contemporary self-help books emphasizing the importance of thought and feeling.
James Allen was born in Leicester, England, in 1864. Family poverty and the untimely death of his father forced him to leave school and work in a clerical capacity. This may have brought his writing talent to light, though he never made more than a bare living as a writer. Nonetheless, he did move with his family to Ilfracombe on England's west coast to pursue a full-time career as a writer.
As A Man Thinketh was said to be the second of Allen's nineteen books, and was already in its fourth edition by 1908. It has never been out of print, and historian Charles Braden reported that by 1960 eight editions were available from publishers. It has since been revised in gender-neutral editions and Hallmark has produced an unusually elegant version with copy enhancements. (The version used here retains the original writing.)
Allen died in 1912, leaving little information for biographers. Though he died poor, As A Man Thinketh has been a legacy beyond measure.
Famous in his time, Henry Drummond would be completely forgotten today except for The Greatest Thing in the World, a talk delivered in 1887 at a religious conference in Northfield, Massachusetts. He was best known in his lifetime for Natural Law in the Spiritual World, a brilliant but failed effort to settle the growing conflict between religion and science. His other writings brought him further acclaim, and he was highly regarded as a professor, lecturer, author, scientist and philosopher.
Drummond was born near Stirling, Scotland, on August 17, 1861. He was educated at the Universities of Edinburgh and Tübingen and later became professor of Natural Science at the College of the Free Church of Scotland. He traveled extensively in Australia and the Far East and also made trips to the Rocky Mountains and Central Africa.
Despite his remarkable achievements, Drummond's true devotion was to the spiritual realm, and friends noted his inherent goodness and kind nature. "Drummond was a man 'who lived it,'" a friend said. "His face was an index to his inner life. All the time we were together he was a Christlike man and a rebuke to me."
The great turning point in Drummond's life was in the early 1870s, when he and other young men of his class attended the great revivals held in England and Scotland by evangelist Dwight L. Moody. Moody was a homespun, relatively unlettered preacher who nonetheless had the ability to sway large audiences and bring thousands to a tearful repentance. His basic non-intellectualism should have driven Drummond away. Instead, they became close friends, and Drummond came to Moody's Northfield Conferences in Massachusetts as an invited speaker. Moody, hearing The Greatest Thing in the World, recommended it for immediate publication by his brother-in-law, Fleming Revell. It has remained in print ever since, an inspiration to persons of all faiths.