My 5 Best Authors of All Time

My four favorite writers, the ones I consider most influential in my life, having a gradual, profound effect on my uncompromising character, a seeker of righteousness, one who is pushed along an unpredictable road strewn by thorns, towards an inevitable precipice. 

You fellow travelers are welcome to share your ideas with one who moves as you. Two of my favorite quotes: This is what the ancient Latin poet Decimus Magnus Ausonius said, “Truth is the mother of all hatred.” And today this quote rings loud and clear. “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” – William Paley

*Information collated from various sources including Wikipedia.   This post does not contain original work by the author.


James Allen

James Allen

(1864-1912)

James Allen is a literary mystery man. His inspirational writings have influenced millions for good. Yet today he remains almost unknown…… None of his nineteen books give a clue to his life other than to mention his place of residence – Ilfracombe, England. His name cannot be found in a major reference work. Not even the Library of Congress or the British Museum has much to say about him.

Who was this man who believed in the power of thought to bring fame, fortune and happiness? Or did he, as Henry David Thoreau says, hear a different drummer?…… James Allen never gained fame or fortune. That much is true. His was a quiet, unrewarded genius. He seldom made enough money from his writings to cover expenses.

Allen was born in Leicester, Central England, November 28, 1864. The family business failed within a few years, and in 1879 his father left for America in an effort to recoup his losses. The elder Allen had hoped to settle in the United States, but was robbed and murdered before he could send for his family.

The financial crisis that resulted forced James to leave school at fifteen. He eventually became a private secretary, a position that would be called administrative assistant today. He worked in this capacity for several British manufacturers until 1902, when he decided to devote all his time to writing.

Unfortunately, Allen’s literary career was short, lasting only nine years, until his death in 1912. During that period he wrote nineteen books, a rich outpouring of ideas that have lived on to inspire later generations.

Soon after finishing his first book, From Poverty To Power, Allen moved to Ilfracombe, on England’s southwest coast. The little resort town with its seafront Victorian hotels and its rolling hills and winding lanes offered him the quiet atmosphere he needed to pursue his philosophical studies.

As A Man Thinketh was Allen’s second book. Despite its subsequent popularity he was dissatisfied with it. Even though it was his most concise and eloquent work, the book that best embodied his thought, he somehow failed to recognize its value. His wife Lily had to persuade him to publish it.

James Allen strove to live the ideal life described by Russia1s great novelist and mystic Count Leo Tolstoy – the life of voluntary poverty, manual labor and ascetic self-discipline. Like Tolstoy, Allen sought to improve himself, be happy, and master all of the virtues. His search for felicity for man on earth was typically Tolstoyan.

His day in Ilfracombe began with a predawn walk up to the Cairn, a stony spot on the hillside overlooking his home and the sea. He would remain there for an hour in meditation. Then he would return to the house and spend the morning writing. The afternoons were devoted to gardening, a pastime he enjoyed. His evenings were spent in conversation with those who were interested in his work.

A friend described Allen as a frail-looking little man, Christ-like, with a mass of flowing black hair…… I think of him especially in the black velvet suit he always wore in the evenings, the friend wrote. He would talk quietly to a small group of us then – English, French, Austrian and Indian – of meditation, of philosophy, of Tolstoy or Buddha, and of killing nothing, not even a mouse in the garden.

He overawed us all a little because of his appearance, his gentle conversation, and especially because he went out to commune with God on the hills before dawn. James Allen’s philosophy became possible when liberal Protestantism discarded the stern dogma that man is sinful by nature. It substituted for that dogma an optimistic belief in man’s innate goodness and divine rationality.

This reversal of doctrine was, as William James said, the greatest revolution of the 19th Century. It was part of a move toward a reconciliation of science and religion following Darwin’s publication The Origin of Species.

Charles Darwin himself hinted at the change in belief in The Descent of Man. In that book he wrote, the highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts..

Allen’s work embodies the influence of Protestant liberalism on the one hand and of Buddhist thought on the other. For example, the Buddha teaches, All that we are is the result of what we have thought. Allen1s Biblical text says, As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.

Allen insists upon the power of the individual to form his own character and to create his own happiness. Thought and character are one, he says, and as character can only manifest and discover itself through environment and circumstance, the outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to be harmoniously related to his inner state. This does not mean that a man’s circumstances at any given time are an indication of his entire character, but that those circumstances are so intimately connected with some vital thought element within him that, for the time being, they are indispensable to his development.

Allen starts us thinking – even when we would rather be doing something else. He tells us how thought leads to action. He shows us how to turn our dreams into realities……His is a philosophy that has brought success to millions. It is the philosophy of Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking and of Joshua Liebman’s Peace of Mind.

We become spiritually rich, Allen writes, when we discover the adventure within; when we are conscious of the oneness of all life; when we know the power of meditation; when we experience kinship with nature.

Allen’s message is one of hope even in the midst of confusion. Yes, he says, humanity surges with uncontrolled passion, is tumultuous with ungoverned grief, is blown about by anxiety and doubt. Only the wise man, only he whose thoughts are controlled and purified, makes the winds and the storms of the soul obey him.

Tempest-tossed souls, Allen continues, wherever you may be, under whatsoever conditions you may life, know this – in the ocean of life the isles of blessedness are smiling and the sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming.

And thus Allen teaches two essential truths: today we are where our thoughts have taken us, and we are the architects – for better or worse – of our futures.

The works of James Allen are eminently practical. He never wrote theories, or for the sake of writing, or to add another to the existing books. According to his wife, Allen wrote when he had a message, and it became a message only when he had lived it in his own life, and knew that it was good. Thus he wrote facts, which he had proven by practice.

 

Ouspensky

P.D. Ouspensky

Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii

 (1878-1947)

Peter D. Ouspensky (Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii, also Uspenskii or Uspensky, Пётр Демья́нович Успе́нский; 5 March 1878 – 2 October 1947) was a Russian esotericist known for his expositions of the early work of the Greek-Armenian teacher of esoteric doctrine George Gurdjieff, whom he met in Moscow in 1915.

His first book, The Fourth Dimension, appeared in 1909; his second book, Tertium Organum, in 1912. A New Model of the Universe, as explained by Ouspensky in the foreword of the second edition, was written and published as articles by 1914, updated to include “recent developments in physics” and republished as a book in Russian in  1917. It was assumed that Ouspensky was lost to the Revolution’s violence, it was then republished in English without his knowledge in 1931. Since the earliest lectures this work attracted a who’s who of the philosophy crowd (see below) and has been to this day a widely accepted authoritative basis for a study of metaphysics, or rather, to exceed the limits of the same by his “psychological method,” which he defines as (paraphrasing p75) “a calibration of the tools of human understanding to derive the  actual meaning of the thing itself.” This term is one of three high concepts of the  material presented, along with “the esoteric method” which as he sums up (p76)  depends on the first to derive the possibility of something beyond ordinary human effort  entirely. In high concept terms: “…The idea of esotericism,… holds that the very great  majority of our ideas are not the product of evolution but the product of the degeneration  of ideas which existed at some time or are still existing somewhere in much higher,  purer and more complete forms.” (p47) Ouspensky’s reputation is presently  degenerated to being a follower of Gurdjieff, rather than a partner (see below) and the  apex of esotericism, self-knowledge, and metaphysical thought. Finally of course the  title itself promises a model of the universe, or unified theory of everything, which it is.

 

James Pryse

James Morgan Pryse

 

In The Apocalypse Unsealed (1910) Pryse published the secret key to decoding the esoteric meaning of the Biblical Book of Revelation. His The Restored New Testament (1914) also shows esoteric meaning.

James settled in Los Angeles, California in 1886. He joined the Los Angeles branch of the Theosophical Society on July 28, 1887. His brother John was already a member at that time. John later dropped out of the Theosophical Society and founded the Gnostic Society in 1928. The original headquarters of the Gnostic Society was in John’s home in Los Angeles ( address: 919 South Bernal Avenue, Los Angeles, California). In July 1888 the Pryse brothers arrived in New York City. In 1889, members of the Theosophical Society from New York City and Chicago purchased a printing press and type, for the purpose of setting up a publishing company which would handle the publishing needs of the various branches of the Theosophical Society located in the United States. This theosophical publishing company, named the Aryan Press, was located at 144 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, New York City. James was recruited to set up and operate the Aryan Press, which was in full operation by December 1889.

Due to the success of the Aryan Press, a larger printing press was purchased and shipped to London, England. In August 1890, James was contacted by Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891) (co-founder of the Theosophical Society) and summoned to London, for the purpose of setting up and operating this new publishing company, known as the H. P. B. Press (Printers to the Theosophical Society). This printing press was also referred to as the “Blavatsky Press.” James left New York City for London in September 1890, at which time his brother John took over operation of the Aryan Press. The H. P. B. Press (Blavatsky Press) was installed in London ( at 42 Henry Street, Regent’s Park, London, N. W.) about November 1890.

Blavatsky had asked James to publish her Esoteric Instructions in the United States, so the work would be accessible to members of the American branches of the Theosophical Society. Blavatsky’s Esoteric Instructions was duly published by the Aryan Press in 1890.

In The Apocalypse Unsealed (1910) Pryse published the secret key to decoding the esoteric meaning of the Biblical Book of Revelation. His The Restored New Testament (1914) also shows esoteric meaning.

 

Osho

Osho

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

 

Osho developed new forms of active meditation. The best known is Dynamic Meditation which often starts with strenuous physical activity followed by silence and celebration. These were expected to lead the individual to overcome repression, lower their personal inhibitions, develop a “state of emptiness”, and attain enlightenment. The person then would  have “no past, no future, no attachment, no mind, no ego, no self.” Prior to  1985, the disciples wore red robes, and a necklace of 108 beads which had  an attached picture of Rajneesh. Osho assigned a new name to each of the disciples. Men were given the title “Swami”; women were called “Ma”.  Although most members lived a frugal, simple lifestyle, Rajneesh himself  lived in luxury. His collection 27 Rolls Royces, given to him by his followers,  was well known. (Some sources say he had as many as 100 cars). Anti-cult  groups claimed that he urged his disciples to sever their connection to their  families of origin. It is true that he felt that the institution of the family was  out of date and that it should be replaced with alternative forms of  community and ways of caring for children. However, he actually  encouraged individual disciples to make peace with their families. Many of  the latter became disciples themselves, including Osho’s own parents.

LeoTolstoy

Leo Tolstoy

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian author best known for his novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina which are considered to be the greatest novels of realist fiction. Tolstoy is also regarded as world’s best novelist by many. In addition to writing novels, Tolstoy also authored short stories, essays and plays. Also a moral thinker and a social reformer, Tolstoy held severe moralistic views. In later life, he became a fervent Christian anarchist and anarcho-pacifist. His non-violent resistance approach towards life has been expressed in his works such as The Kingdom of God is Within You, which is known to have a profound effect on important 20th century figures, particularly, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi.

 Born in Yasnaya Polyana on September 9, 1828, Leo Tolstoy belonged to a well known noble Russian family. He was the fourth among five children of Count Nikolai Ilyich Tolstoy and Countess Mariya Tolstaya, both of whom died leaving their children to be raised by relatives. Wanting to enter the faculty of Oriental languages at Kazan University, Tolstoy prepared for the entry examination by studying Arabic, Turkish, Latin, German, English, and French, also geography, history, and religion. In 1844, Tolstoy was accepted into Kazan University. Unable to graduate beyond the second year, Tolstoy returned to Yasnava Polyana and then spent time travelling between Moscow and St. Petersburg. With some working knowledge of several languages, he became a polyglot. The newly found youth attracted Tolstoy towards drinking, visiting brothels and most of all gambling which left him in heavy debt and agony but Tolstoy soon realized he was living a brutish life and once again attempted university exams in the hope that he would obtain a position with the government, but ended but up in Caucusus serving in the army following in the footsteps of his elder brother. It was during this time that Tolstoy began writing.

In 1862, Leo Tolstoy married Sophia Andreevna Behrs, mostly called Sonya, who was 16 years younger than him. The couple had thirteen children, of which, five died at an early age. Sonya acted as Tolstoy’s secretary, proof-reader and financial manager while he composed two of his greatest works. Their early married life was filled with contentment. However, Tolstoy’s relationship with his wife deteriorated as his beliefs became increasingly radical to the extent of disowning his inherited and earned wealth.

Tolstoy began writing his masterpiece, War and Peace in 1862. The six volumes of the work were published between 1863 and 1869. With 580 characters fetched from history and others created by Tolstoy, this great novel takes on exploring the theory of history and the insignificance of noted figures such as Alexander and Napoleon. Anna Karenina, Tolstoy’s next epic was started in 1873 and published completely in 1878. Among his earliest publications are autobiographical works such as Childhood, Boyhood and Youth (1852-1856). Although they are works of fiction, the novels reveal aspects of Leo’s own life and experiences. Tolstoy was a master of writing about the Russian society, evidence of which is displayed in The Cossacks (1863). His later works such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886) and What Is to Be Done? (1901) focus on Christian themes.

 In his late years, Tolstoy became increasingly inclined towards ascetic morality and believed sternly in the Sermon on the Mount and non violent resistance. On November 20, 1910, Leo Tolstoy died at the age of 82 due to pneumonia.
Cite:  Leo Tolstoy. (2012). FamousAuthors.org. Retrieved 04:07, August 5, 2014 from http://www.famousauthors.org/leo-tolstoy