I am reading this book called "As a Man Thinketh" by James Allen. (Free Book or YouTube) Its premise, as I understand it, is that your circumstances are a reflection of your thoughts. To some extent I can understand this. I understand self sabotage. I understand that if you don't think you deserve to succeed you probably won't. I understand that clearing out the demons of your past will allow you to focus on getting to your future goals.
But I am not sure I am convinced that "good thoughts equal good circumstances and bad thoughts equal bad circumstances" is an immutable law of the Universe.
Mr. Allen wrote:
It has been usual for men to think and to say, "Many men are slaves because one is an oppressor; let us hate the oppressor." Now, however, there is amongst an increasing few a tendency to reverse this judgment, and to say, "One man is an oppressor because many are slaves; let us despise the slaves."
The truth is that oppressor and slave are co-operators in ignorance, and while seeming to afflict each other, are in reality afflicting themselves. A perfect Knowledge perceives the action of law in the weakness of the oppressed and the misapplied power of the oppressor; a perfect Love, seeing the suffering, which both states entail, condemns neither; a perfect Compassion embraces both oppressor and oppressed.
OK. Obviously, I'm black, female, and Jewish; as are the scenarios that flashed through my mind:
- a black person living in Africa during the 17th century, who ended up working in the hell of a sugar plantation in Jamaica, with a life expectancy of 9 years at best.
- a young woman, almost anywhere in the world today unfortunately, abducted, drugged into addiction, tortured into submission and forced into prostitution.
- a Rabbi in Germany during the 2nd World War, suffering in the camp and dying in the gas chambers at Sobibor.
Each of the above with thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of others.
Of course I have no way to know, but what if these people were moral in their thinking before their circumstances changed? What if they even managed moral thoughts afterward?
Or does what happened to them, to all the "thems" it happened to, mean that they were all weak, immoral thinkers?
This is what I am struggling with.
It seems to me that there must be circumstances beyond anyone's control. I am not saying there are not choices a person may have about how they deal with their circumstances, but I am having trouble wrapping my mind around the idea that an ordinary person, going about their lives on an ordinary day, who ends up the next week, enslaved, prostituted, or dead had this happen to them because of their disordered thinking.
The only people I can think of who deserve the fates of the people above, are the ones who did it to them. Despite what Mr. Allen says to the contrary, I have no sympathy for the perpetrators. Perhaps that is a flaw in my thinking.
The book was written in 1902. In England. And near the height of the British Empire. So maybe that is where this type of thinking comes from. As we might say today "first world" thinking. From the rulers. I wonder if those they ruled thought the same things.
I'm not even sure why this bothers me so much. Except that some of the book seems to make sense and some of it seems so fundamentally wrong.
I'm wondering, perhaps hoping, that I'm misunderstanding.
But right now what I really most want is to stop thinking about this. Maybe my thinking really is flawed.