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In Progressing, Our Mind Modifies Its Ideas

Translated from the French of Lamennais

Truth grows, broadens ceaselessly, for in itself it is infinite. Like a divine stream, it flows from its eternal principle, waters and fertilizes the furthest depths of the universe, quenching the searching minds that are carried on its divine waves and, in its invariable course that nothing can impede, that nothing can hinder, raises them little by little to the source whence it came. And, as it is infinite, no one, whoever he may be, no matter at what period life may have been given to him, can vaunt himself of possessing it completely. What proportion, what common measure exists between truth and him? An imperceptible shell on the shore saying to itself; I have the ocean in me! No state then, more unreasoning than that of retaining unchangeable ideas, when they are those which form to some extent, the bed on which truth progressing perpetually flows. For this state implies, either the persuasion that one knows all, that one has seen all, conceived all, or, the will to see no further, nor to conceive anything higher, and when, to add to this one presumes to make of this insignificant idea the last stage of humanity, which in passing by has been clutched at as one clutches at a rock overhanging the river, no tongue can furnish words to express such excessive un reasonableness.

Solva said: “l grow old always learning." This advancement in knowledge, this continual evolution of the intelligence into truth, is one of the first laws of the mind. But all knowledge, each new thought, does not only add itself to the ideas and to the knowledge already acquired, it modifies them still more, whilst intermingling with them; so that the mind cannot grow in light, widen its horizon, penetrate further, without finding something to reorder in its ideas and previous judgments. Those who announce with superiority the pretension of being unchangeable in this sense, who say: As for me, I have never changed, my opinions are the same as they were ten, thirty years ago, those persons miserably err, they have too much faith in their own stupidity. But there is no one who, wishing it or no, that is not influenced by the general progress. In spite of oneself one advances, the crowd carries you forward, and the weak vanity that disputes this movement is dragged backward at every step, and sees its unchangeable convictions disappearing by little in the distance.

As for us, our purest and most satisfying joy is to feel nothing in ourselves that impedes this marvelous impulse, which is not of one person, but of every one, the result of which is the development of truth in the reason of all. This development, in our eyes, encloses all the terrestrial aspirations of man; for he cannot believe in truth without believing also in love, and love and truth are the two elements of his life progressively most perfect.


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James Allen

James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.

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