Above Life’s Turmoil Book Summary, Self or Truth

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Book – Above Life’s Turmoil (Summary)

Author – James Allen

Genre – Self-help Book

Published in – 1910

“The turmoil of the world we cannot avoid, but the disturbances of mind we can overcome.”

James Allen wrote above life’s turmoil before his well-known books As a Man Thinketh and From Poverty to Power. This small book of fewer than 100 pages is full of wisdom written in simple language.

He conveys that one is either serving self or living truth. One is either obsessed with self, indulging in self-serving activities and his world revolves around himself, or one is living truth by selfless service, thinking good of all and all his action is for the larger good.

Few Key Points From the Book

1 The Overcoming of Self

Many have different ideas about overcoming self, like leaving worldly aspiration and living frugally. On the contrary James Allen consider overcoming self, as someone who has mastered ten worthless and sorrow-producing elements in life irrespective of any religion one follows or none at all.

  • Lust,
  • Hatred,
  • Avarice,
  • Self-indulgence,
  • Self-seeking,
  • Vanity,
  • Pride,
  • Doubt,
  • Dark belief,
  • Delusion

And inculcate the following ten divine qualities, which comprise the Body of Truth.

  • Purity
  • Patience
  • Humility
  • Self-sacrifice
  • Self-reliance
  • Fearlessness
  • Knowledge
  • Wisdom
  • Compassion
  • Love

2) The uses of temptation

James suggests that the soul’s journey passes through three different stages –

  • Animal stage Where man lives in gratification of his senses, unconscious of spiritual possibilities within him
  • Dual stageIn which the mind is continually oscillating between its animal and divine tendencies having become awakened to the consciousness of both. This is considered one of the most challenging phase as man has tasted/known both though wants to move upward finds it difficult to leave gratification of senses he has long-lived.
  • Knowledgein which the man rises above both sin and temptation, and enters into peace.

3) Belief

  • Belief as laid down by the Great Teachers, is not belief in any particular school, philosophy, or religion, but consists of an attitude of mind determining the whole course of one’s life. Belief and conduct are, therefore inseparable, for the one determines the other.
  • Belief being basis of our conduct, shows what we believe. We can’t believe in two opposites at the same time like love and hatred, peace and strife, self and truth. Hence, it is simple to know what we believe through our action and change the belief if not in accordance with the law of universe.
  • No matter what we say or how many times we chant prayers and how deeply we confess our belief in truth. True test of belief lies in questions like “how does a man live?” & “How does he conduct himself under trying circumstances?” The answer to these questions will show whether a man believes in the power of evil or in the power of Good.

Head Belief – Heart Belief

  • James Allen describes belief of two kinds. Head belief is man’s theological belief (intellectual) and has little impact on his character i.e. people of same theological belief are vastly different in their conduct.
  • According to James there are only two beliefs which vitally affect the life, and they are, belief in good and belief in evil.

4) Thought and Action

  • James suggests that all actions of man be it planned or spontaneous are result of a long and silent growth; the end of a hidden process which has long been gathering force in mind. People, who end up acting in certain fashion will agree upon reflection of certain thoughts being nourished in mind.
  • Guard your thoughts well, for what you really are in your secret thoughts today, be it good or evil, you will, sooner or later, become in actual deed.

5) The Mental Attitude

  • James suggests that we are the thinker of our thoughts and by persistent practice we can harbor good thoughts and create good manifestations as a result. As powerless as one may seem or believe, one can always choose in his mind and no matter how slowly, will come to good eventually.
  • You are as powerful to obey as you are to disobey; as strong to be pure as to be impure; as ready for wisdom as for ignorance. You can learn what you will, can remain as ignorant as you choose.

6) Sowing and Reaping

  • As they say, what we sow is what we reap. It is as true in thought to action as in farming. What comes from mango seed is mango.
  • The man who sows wrong thoughts and deeds, and prays that God will bless him, is in the position of a farmer who, having sown tares and asks God to bring forth for him a harvest of wheat.

Man must confront self and ask the following questions to self, when not happy with outward life.

  • What mental seeds have I been sowing?”
  • What seeds am I sowing?”
  • What have I done for others?
  • What is my attitude toward others?
  • What seeds of trouble and sorrow and unhappiness have I sown that I should thus reap these bitter weeds?

7) Self-Discipline

A man does not live until he begins to discipline himself; he merely exists. The only difference between the life of the beast and that of the undisciplined man is that the man has a wider variety of desires, and experiences a greater intensity of suffering.

8) The contentment inactivity

James suggests that as much as contentment is debated whether to be wished, pursued, or does it make one incapable of reaching greater heights of efforts. He explains contentment in the following way.

“To be contented does not mean to forego effort; it means to free effort from anxiety; it does not mean to be satisfied with sin and ignorance and folly, but to rest happily in duty done, work accomplished.”

James suggests three things to be content and not content with –

Three things to be content with –

  • With whatever happens.
  • With his friendships and possessions.
  • With his pure thoughts.
  • Contented with whatever happens, he will escape grief; with his friends and possessions, he will avoid anxiety and wretchedness; and with his pure thoughts, he will never go back to suffer and grovel in impurities.

There are three things with which a man should not be content:

  • With his opinion.
  • With his character.
  • With his spiritual condition.

Not content with his opinions, he will continually increase in intelligence; not content with his character, he will ceaselessly grow in strength and virtue; and not content with his spiritual condition, he will, every day, enter into larger wisdom and fuller blessedness.

I have also created a video of a few quotes from the book – Hope you like it. Please do subscribe to my YouTube channel – Myread4change


I highly recommend this small book of guidance on becoming a better person in all aspects of life and will give you perspective on success, happiness, and contentment. As they say, everything we touch becomes better, as we get better.

You may download Above Life’s Turmoil E-book from here.

Please share your thoughts on this summary in the comment. I would love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading.


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