The burgeoning conflict between science and organized religion in the Nineteenth Century had many cultural offshoots, one of the most significant of which was the New Thought movement. New Thought exponents sought to reconcile the principles of science and general spirituality in a synthetic practical philosophy which explored the universality of the human experience. The literature which developed as a consequence has provided the basic material used by most of today's self-help practitioners, and has won enduring popularity because of the simplicity of its concepts and the practical methods it espouses. Among the earliest and most celebrated of these authors was James Allen (1864-1912). A reclusive man, he spent the last ten years of his life in rural seclusion in the village of Ilfracombe in Devon, during which period he wrote most of his twenty books.
The most famous of these is "As A Man Thinketh", a short treatise of the power of thought. This short work is one of the first great classics of self-help literature, and has never been out of print since it was first published in 1902. Allen's main thesis is that thought is not just a vehicle for comprehending and explaining the world, but is also the prime mechanism for creating and changing human experience. While Allen's views may remain controversial, a vast audience of readers has found his work greatly inspiring.