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 about 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 living truth by selfless service, thinking Good of all and all his action is for the immense Good.

A few Key Points From the Book

1 The Overcoming of Self

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

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

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

3) Belief

  • Belief, as laid down by the Great Teachers, is not belief in any particular school, philosophy, or religion but an attitude of mind determining the whole course of one’s life. Faith and conduct are, therefore, inseparable, for the one chooses the other.
  • Belief, being the basis of our conduct, shows what we believe. We can’t think of two opposites simultaneously: love and hatred, peace and strife, self and truth. Hence, it is simple to know what we believe through our actions and change the belief, if not by the law of the universe.
  • No matter what we say, how often we chant prayers, and how deeply we confess our belief in truth. The test of faith 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 the ability of Good.

Head Belief – Heart Belief

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

4) Thought and Action

  • James suggests that all actions of man, be they planned or spontaneous, result in a long and silent growth, the end of a hidden process that has long been gathering force in mind. People who act in a particular fashion will agree upon the reflection of specific thoughts being nourished in the mind.
  • Guard your thoughts well, for what you 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 thinkers of our thoughts, and by persistent practice, we can harbor good thoughts and create good manifestations. 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 disobey, as vital to be pure and impure, as ready for wisdom and ignorance. You can learn what you will and remain as ignorant as you choose.

6) Sowing and Reaping

  • As they say, what we sow is what we reap. It is as accurate 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, asks God to bring forth for him a wheat harvest.

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, 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 disciplining 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 tremendous 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 happiness 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 satisfied 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:

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

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

I have also created a video of a few quotes from the book – I hope you like it. Please 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 it will give you perspective on success, happiness, and contentment. As they say, everything we touch becomes better as we get better.

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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