Highlights from Atkinson’s “Thoughts Are Things”

Published on January 25, 2017 (↻ April 17, 2024), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

Another part of my random, untargeted book highlight series, here are some snippets from William Walker Atkinson’s Thoughts Are Things (1889).

Emphasis as it appears in the original work may be missing, and my own edits, though marked, may be broad. Then, important: By sharing these highlights I neither implicitly endorse nor recommend respective authors and their views. Assume that I know little of the authors, and that I have a nuanced view on the matter. (The only thing the highlights can tell is that—much like the books themselves—for some reason or other I found them of interest.) When a detailed understanding of my views is important, ask me.

The cover of “Thoughts Are Things.”

The first reading of this book will serve as but a mere “taste” of its contents. It will need many re-readings […].

[…] a thought is any mental state, or mental activity, including those of the intellect, feelings, emotions, will, desire, imagination or memory—all mental states, in fact.

[…] the mental states known as feelings, emotion, desires, will and imagination have a degree of “thingness” more marked than the states of pure intellectual activity; for the former are creative in their nature, while the latter are merely activities in the direction of weighing, comparing, measuring, deciding upon, choosing or determining upon the images, ideas or concepts created by the first named set of mental activities.

The first set represents the life-blood, the nerves, the meat and marrow of thought—the latter the dry-bones.

The “thingness” of thoughts manifests in a number of ways, the principal of which may be grouped into the following four classes[:]

  1. Manifestation in the direction of creating character and personality […]. We create our own character and personality by the thoughts we originate, harbor, entertain, or accept from others. We are, each of us, the result of what we have thought in the past; we will be the result of what we are now thinking. Our todays are the result of our past thinking; our tomorrows will be the result of our present thinking. We have been our own mental parents, and we will be our own mental children.

  2. Manifestation in the direction of the materialization of our ideals, good or bad, into objective and concrete existence. Thoughts are mental Things, and tend to become material Things. The Ideal becomes Real. […]

  3. Manifestation in the direction of drawing to ourselves the persons, things, and environments in harmony with, and conducive to, the character of our desires, mental images, feelings, and ideals; or, else, in urging and leading us in the direction of these persons, things and environments in harmony with our thoughts. […] Each thought seeks its own kind. Birds of a feather flock together. Oil and water will not mix. The law of atomic affinity is paralleled by the law of mental attraction.

  4. Manifestation in the direction of vibratory waves radiating in all directions, influencing those in harmony therewith, just as we are influenced by the thought-waves of others with which we are in harmony.

We attract our own kind of thought-waves to us; we repel our opposites.

[…] “Thoughts are Things”—real, actual forms of energy and power, and not the airy, unreal, appearances that we had thought them.

Mind is static energy—thought is dynamic energy—the two phases of the same thing.

Science informs us that no energy is destroyed, and that all energy is transmuted into other forms of energy.

[…] when we see work of any kind—mechanical, electrical, nervic, or psychic—disappear without visible effect, then, of two things, one happens, either a transmission or a transformation.

A force that is transmitted meets other forces, and if it is transformed only little by little, it usually limits itself to modifying another force at its own cost, though without suffering perceptibly thereby. This is the case particularly with forces that are persistent, concentrated, well seconded by their medium; it is the case with the physiological equilibrium, nervic force, psychic force, ideas, emotions, tendencies. These modify environing forces without themselves disappearing; they are but imperceptibly transformed […].

[Ochorowicz] says that in the production of thought “a process that is at once chemical, physical, and psychical, goes on in the brain.” He tells us that “an idea is only a vibration” […]

[…] the very difficulty of reproducing such delicate tests, involving the presence of unusual powers of receptive sensibility, and the transmission of abstract symbols or mental images, have caused many people to undervalue the importance of the subject, and the universality of its manifestations.

[…] everyone is constantly sending forth these mental currents which have an effect upon others[.]

Who has not suddenly sensed the approach of some person before he put in an appearance or before a letter was received from him? […] Who has not “felt” the pain or distress of some loved one at a distance? These experiences are too common and universal to require argument.

Every mental state has its own degree, quality and character of vibration.

The vibrations arising from the general character of the thoughts of the individual, as a rule, are not projected very far from his body, but remain around him in the state of a “thought atmosphere,” or “aura” as some have called it […]. The man of strong desires, feelings, will, and imagination has a tendency to project his thought-currents to a great distance.

[…] assemblies, communities, cities, countries and nations have their collective thought-waves[.]

Those who have traveled much know that every city has its personal mental atmosphere peculiar to itself.

These things do not “just happen;” they are the result of the operation of the scientific laws of mental currents.

The streets, the buildings, the street cars and trains are filled with the thought currents of the people frequenting them. […] we are affected by them in two ways, viz.:

  1. in the direction of receiving the vibrations having some marked degree of harmony with our own; and

  2. by feeling the resistance to our own expression of thought, occasioned by the opposing thought-waves of others not in harmony with us.

[There is] the universal law of “opposites”[.]

[…] we have the power to select our mental company. Determine to regulate your thoughts so that you will attract to yourself only the thoughts conducive to your well-being and advancement […]. You avoid the companionship of persons in whose company you are ashamed to be seen—likewise should you avoid the companionship of thoughts that you would be ashamed to have people know that you had formed acquaintance and comradeship with.

[…] we are able to counteract the opposing and adverse thought currents of others in two ways, viz.:

  1. By avoiding, so far as is possible, the vicinity favored by those of the opposing mental tendencies. […] Keep out of harm’s way: Avoid bad company, for this if no other reason. Refrain from frequenting places having a bad mental atmosphere. And avoid people whose personal atmosphere has a tendency to affect you adversely, for instance in the direction of depressing you, giving you detrimental suggestions, lowering influence, etc. Frequent the places, and cultivate the presence of the people, from which you recognize the emanation of helpful and stimulating thought vibrations. […]

  2. to cultivate strong, positive, thought-vibrations of your own, which will overpower and beat off the opposing mental currents of others […]. The law in the mental world, as in the physical, is that “Positives overcome Negatives.” This is the law for you to remember and put into effect.

Hold fast to the positives—discard the negatives.

Every person has a thought atmosphere, depending upon the general character of his thoughts. And every place, house, room, office, or workshop has its own distinctive mental atmosphere arising from the general character of the thoughts of the persons occupying it.

[…] personal magnetism is, first, last, and all the time, nothing but the result of mental energies, and depends entirely upon the character, quality, and degree of thought-energy manifested by the person.

Some persons radiate such powerful thought vibrations that others are markedly influenced more or less by simply remaining in the presence of the persons emanating the force.

There is an entirely different thought atmosphere around a business place in which things are prosperous and progressive, from that around one in which the opposite conditions prevail.

Our personal thought atmospheres are just what we have made them by our mental states; and we may alter, change and improve them in the same way, if we will but go about it in earnest. The method of procedure is simple[:] the only thing needed is earnest effort, and perseverance.

By action and reaction do we become strong or weak, according to the character of our thoughts and mental states.

[…] from that same earth, and from the same water that falls upon them, and from the same sunlight that invigorates them, each plant draws to itself exactly what is in rhythmic harmony with its inner nature— and one develops into a deadly nightshade, and the other into a fragrant rose.

[…] the Law of Attraction. Birds of a feather flock together. Like attracts like.

There is always a conflict of desires, feelings, motives, and ideals, going on within our mentality—and the strongest wins out.

Have you never noticed that when a man is filled with a strong, burning desire to express a certain line of mental activity, and sets to work to make his thoughts take form in action, there seems to be set into operation a train of circumstances that tend to draw to him the persons, things, and environments conducive to that particular line of expression, or else to draw the man himself away from his old environment, occupation, and surroundings into the presence of those better adapted to the expression of his thought?

Every strong desire, ideal, or feeling is a seed-action that will strive ever to express itself and draw to itself that which will tend to nourish it and enable it to manifest into action and objective shape and form.

Not only are we largely what we have thought ourselves into being, but we have around us largely those things that we have attracted to us by our thoughts.

The man who holds the idea of prosperity before him attracts his own to himself. […] we wish to give you the antidote and remedy for fear. It is this: If you dislike a thing, and therefore find yourself evincing a fear that it may materialize in your life—stop right there and take mental stock of yourself. Then begin by steadily refusing to allow your mind to dwell upon the fear, but in its place build up the desire for, and the thought picture of, the very opposite thing—the thing or condition which if realized will save you from the thing you are beginning to fear. Then concentrate all your efforts upon the mental growth of this idea, desire, feeling, and hope for the thing you want—and try to forget the thing you have feared, driving it out of your mind by will, and determination.

[…] by cultivating and dwelling upon the positives, you will neutralize and kill out the negatives.

[…] fear is the deadly nightshade of the mind.

Each of [us] is a great thought-magnet, ever drawing to us things, persons, and environment—circumstances even—in harmony with our composite thoughts, and tending to enable those thoughts to express themselves. And at the same time we are ever repelling, driving away and repulsing the things of the opposite character.

It is all a matter of natural scientific principles and law. There is nothing miraculous or magical about it. […] You sow seed thoughts, and you reap materialized conditions.
You sow thought, and you reap action.

You are a thought-magnet. What are you drawing to yourself? Is it not time to stop attracting negative conditions? Do you want positives? Then think, feel, desire and act accordingly.

[…] there is an universal tendency toward expression and manifestation.

The law of materialization is universal—it is found on all planes and manifests in various ways. Its underlying principle is its inward tendency to create forms, and outward manifestation.

Thoughts strive to take form in action. Thoughts strive ever to materialize themselves in objective material form.

A strong mental state produces mental unrest in its efforts to materialize itself. In its striving for birth on the material plane it sets into operation both the law of attraction, before mentioned, and also starts into operation the subconscious activities of the mind in the direction of thinking out plans and means wherewith the materialization may be effected.

[…] consider how perfectly natural and common a thing is the materialization of thought. […] consider that the entire creative and inventive work of man is simply the result of the materialization of his imaginings […]. Every material thing that man has created, built, erected or constructed has first existed as a thought in the imagination of the inventor, maker or builder.

[Everything] has had its mental image preceding its material construction.

[…] in its positive phase, the imagination is the great creative workshop of the world.

We are making patterns today that will be materialized tomorrow. We are making today the moulds from which the materialized things of the future will emerge.

[…] all ideals do not become real, all hopes are not realized, all aspirations are not possible of expression and attainment—why? The answer lies in the fact that the majority of people do not know how to desire—do not know what they want. […] they content themselves with mere “wishing,” or “wanting” or fretting because they haven’t the thing—real, active, burning, creative desire is foreign to their natures.

The men who attain are those who are filled with the burning thirst of desire which leaves nothing undone to satisfy itself. The desire hardens into will, and bends and draws everything toward its manifestation and accomplishment. Desire is the motive power that is behind all attainment, achievement and action. Unless one possesses it he does not act and move.

[…] very few people really know just what they do want—they lack clear mental images of the desired thing.

A clear-cut mental picture, or idea, of the things that one wishes to accomplish, serves as a nucleus around which the creative forces of thought centre, and which they use as a basis of creative materialization.

In the imagination you must form the clear mental picture or ideal that you wish to make real. […] You will find that the ideal will develop and grow under the attention that you are giving to it.

Until you are able to form the ideal of what you want, in your imagination, you do not really know just what you do want.

Train the imagination to show you the picture of the thing you want […].

Then bestow upon your mental picture, or ideal, a constant supply of desire. Look at your picture, and then long for it, crave it, hunger and thirst for it […].

You and the means will be brought together somehow, someway, sometime.

[…] the generally reviled imagination is really the mystic creative workshop of the mind[.]

Keep the attention and the imagination firmly fixed on the positives. Practice will enable you to do this. Hang bright pictures in the gallery of the mind.

[…] the average individual is merely “scratching the surface” of his thought-power in his everyday thinking.

“The fatigue gets worse up to a certain critical point, when gradually or suddenly it passes away, and we are fresher than before. We have evidently tapped a level of new energy, masked until then by the fatigue-obstacle usually obeyed. There may be layer after layer of this experience. A third and fourth ‘wind’ may supervene.”—William James
[…] It is true that Professor James speaks of this “second wind” of thought as reached only by great effort, and under exceptional circumstances—but one may go still further in this matter.

This method of self-development […] depends upon the operation of thought in the two directions[:]

  1. the law of materialization, under the operations of which thought tends to materialize itself into objective reality; and;

  2. the law of attraction, under the operations of which thought tends to draw to itself the particular materials conducive to its materialization and expression.

This inner building work of thought is accomplished by the employment of desire, will, and the imagination, operating under what in scientific parlance is termed the Law of Use. By the latter is meant that principle of nature which causes a part, muscle, organ, or mental faculty (as well as many other things) to develop by active employment and use.

[…] the active employment, by use, of the rudimentary faculty or brain centre tends to build up a stronger and more active centre or faculty. The law of attraction, and the law of materialization, respectively, aid in the building up process. And thus is the latent power developed.

[…] do not give yourself over to day dreaming at the expense of action. Then cultivate the strongest kind of desire for the materialization of the said qualities or faculties. Want them “hard.” Hunger and thirst after their attainment. […] Also use the will in the direction of preventing you from acting along lines calculated to interfere with the cultivation of the ideal.

[…] this method consists of the seeing, desiring, willing and acting along the direct lines of the object to be attained.

Every time you act out some little detail of your ideal, you strengthen yourself ten-fold in that detail.

Take the instance of a baby learning to walk. It sees others walking, and forms the mental picture of the act—if it were brought up in the company of crawling creatures, alone, it probably would never think of walking but would crawl about on all fours. […] finding it difficult to walk, but still wanting to do so, its desire is set on fire and it begins to manifest a burning desire to stand erect and step out.

Acts and thoughts react upon each other, each action and reaction tending to strengthen and develop.

“To him who hath, shall be given.”

A man’s mind is like a great unexplored forest, in the majority of cases.

They are there as ideals, awaiting the call to reality. Verily a great day is before us, when our ideals become real, our dreams come true.

Read the whole book: Thoughts Are Things.

Was this useful or interesting? Share (toot) this post, or maybe treat me to a coffee. Thanks!

About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!