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The Greatest Thing Ever Known

The moment we fully and vitally realize who and what we are, we then begin to build our own world even as God builds His.

The greatest thing ever known—What is it? Full surely the answer must be one that is absolutely universal, both in its nature and in the possibilities of its application. It must be one that can be accepted wholly and unreservedly, not only by a single individual, but even by bodies of individuals, be they the originators of any particular school of Ethics, the followers of any particular system of Philosophy, or even the adherents of any great system of Religion. It must be one so true in itself that it can be accepted by all men alike the world over.

And again, it must be an answer that is true for no particular period of time, but equally true for all time—an answer that was true not only for yesterday, that is true for today, that may be true for tomorrow, but one equally true for yesterday, today, and forever. In laying our foundation, therefore, it must be laid upon something as true and as certain as Life itself, and as eternal as Everlasting Life.

What is as true and as certain as Life itself? Life, only Life. And what do we mean by this answer? Let us give it for a moment our most careful consideration, for upon what we find here depends and rests all that is to follow. Let us start, then, with that in regard to which all can agree; something taken not from mere tradition, from mere hearsay, but something that comes to us from no source other than our own interior consciousness, our own reason and insight. In other words, let us make our approach, not from the theological standpoint, but from that which is far more certain and satisfactory—the philosophical.

Then, and then only, will we allow pure reason to be our guide, and then by having as the earnest desire of both mind and heart, truth, truth for its own sake, and then for the sake of its influence upon everyday life, we will thus allow pure reason to be illumined by the Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. In the degree that we open ourselves to and are true to this are we on sure and safe ground, for thus are we going directly to the source and the only source of all true revelation. In the degree, on the other hand, that we close ourselves or become untrue to this are we on uncertain and dangerous ground, and liable to find ourselves hopelessly floundering in the quagmire of theological traditions and speculations and doubts, of which the world has already seen so much. Pure reason, therefore, shall be our guide—pure reason illumined by the Inner Light.

Again, then, what is Life? Being is Life. Life is Being. Being, therefore, is our starting-point, and indeed our very foundation itself.

Each can form his own idea of being, so that in reality it needs no defining. By it we mean that self-existent principle of Life and all that attends it, without beginning and without end, the Power that animates all and so that is the Life of all. In short, we can scarcely define Being, if indeed it can be defined, without using the word Life, and indeed without identifying the two. Being and Life, then, are one and: the same.

It is Being that projects itself into existence. Being, acting through its own intelligence, prompted by love, projected by will, goes out and takes form. We cannot say that it enters into form, for until it projects itself into existence there is no form, but form comes by virtue of Being, the self-existent Principle of Life and Power, manifesting itself in existence. So in a sense Life, which is one with Being, is the soul and form, of whatever nature the body.

Only as Being projects itself into existence are we able to know it. We can know the fact that Being is, but only as it manifests itself in form are we able to know it itself.

Being is one, not many. As Being is the source of all Life, there is, then, only one Life, and this Being is the Life of all. "The one Divine Being; and this alone is the true Reality in all Existence, and so remains in all Eternity." And there is nothing real that is, or, indeed, that can be, outside of it. True, then, are the words of one of the most highly illumined philosophers of modern times—"Thus we have these two elements: Being, as it is essentially and in itself; and Form, which is assumed by the former in consequence of Existence. But how have we expressed ourselves? What is it that assumes a form? Answer: Being, as it exists in itself, without any change whatever in its inward, Essential Nature. But what, then, is there in Existence? Answer: Nothing else than the One Eternal and Unchangeable Being, besides which there can be nothing."

This Being which is Infinite is in truth, then, the Infinite Being, and this Infinite Being is what we mean by God—each using the term that appeals most to himself. Literally, the I Am, as is signified by the name Jehovah, which is derived in the Hebrew from the word To Be. God, then, is the Infinite Being, the Infinite Spirit of Life which fills all in existence with himself alone, so that all is He, since He is All. If God is all, then all must be He, and from this fact there is no escape, and no other conclusion can be arrived at which does not do violence to all rational thought. There are those—and to such these pages are not addressed, for so limited are they in comprehension, or so closed to truth and hence so engrossed in bigotry, that they either can or will see nothing that may be opposed to their present ideas—there are those who say that God is all, and immediately begin to fill up the universe with that which God is not.

Again, there are those open to and eagerly seeking for the highest truth who say: But evil is not God, and how then can God be all, for surely there is such a thing as evil. Certainly evil is not God, nor has God anything to do with evil. Evil is simply the result of the temporary perversion of the good, and as such must either cease or in time die at its own hands. As such, then, it has no essential reality, for that which has essential reality has neither beginning nor end.

Man is the only one who has to do with evil, he alone is its author; man, who in his thought separates himself from Divine Being, in whom alone true happiness and blessedness can be found. Regarding the mere bodily existence as his real life, he tries to find pleasure and happiness entirely through these channels, and many times by violating the higher laws of his being, and thus what we term evil enters in. But though man has perfect freedom in all his thoughts and acts, God will suffer no such violation. And so, from the pain and suffering that result from the violation of the higher laws of his being, he is pushed on in his thought and through this in his life to the Reality of his being, and finds that only in conscious union with God true pleasure and blessedness lie, as God surely intends. True, then, evil is not God, nor has, God anything to do with evil; for man alone has to do with it, so long, and only so long, as he lives his life out of a conscious union with the life of God.

Infinite Being, God, then, is the one and the only Life. You and I in our true selves are Life. It cannot be truly said that we have life, for we are Life; Life that manifests itself in the form in existence that we denominate by the term body. And as the Infinite Being, the Infinite Life, God, is the I Am, the life of all in existence, then we indeed are parts of the Infinite Being, the Infinite Life, the I Am, the very God himself. And thus it is that your life and mine is one with the life of God. By this we do not mean the mere body, but the Real Self that takes to itself the form—body. It is utterly impossible that there be any real life that is not one with the life of God. And in this sense it is true that the life of man and the life of God are essentially and necessarily one and the same. In essence they are one and the same; they differ not in quality, for this it is impossible rationally even to conceive of. There is a difference—it is a difference simply in degree, not in essence or kind. It is only by reason of our own thought that our life is separate from the life of God, only by reason of our own thought that we live in this separation, if indeed we can use the term live where the full life is not consciously realized and enjoyed. Truly, then, "In Him we live and move and have our being."

We never could have been, and never can be, other than Divine Being. And I fully agree with the thought expressed in a recent letter from Prof. Max Muller in which he says: "I cannot accept Athanasius when he says that we can become gods; man cannot say, become God, because he is God; what else could he be, if God is the only true and real being?"

How is it, then, I hear it asked, that man has the limitations that he has, that he ' is subject to fears and forebodings, that he is liable to sin and error, that he is the victim of disease and suffering? There is but one reason. He is not living, except in rare cases here and there, in the conscious realization of his own true Being, and hence of his own true Self. We must in thought be conscious of who and what we are before the qualities and powers of our real being, and hence our real selves, actualize or even manifest themselves. Says one of the most highly illumined seers of modern times: "The True Life and its Blessedness consists in a union with the Unchangeable and Eternal; but the Eternal can be apprehended only by Thought, and is in no other way approachable by us."

Thought is the atmosphere, the element, in a sense the very substance, of the phase of Divine Being that we call human life. How much it is likewise that of other forms of Divine Being in existence , as we see it in the various manifestations of life around us, we cannot be so fully certain of. But certain it is that through thought, and through thought alone, we are able to conceive of Divine Being as the Infinite Spirit and Essence of Life, and then to see clearly that it is the Life of our Life, and then to live in the realization of our oneness with it, and in this way allow the Divine Word to become incarnate in us by being thus fully and completely manifest in us, precisely as it became manifest and hence incarnate in the Christ Jesus, as we shall hereafter find.

When Divine Being manifests itself in physical human form, its inward essential nature or reality changes not, for this from its very nature it is impossible for it in any way to do. It does, however, have to manifest itself through the agency of physical senses, and precisely for this reason is it that for a time our real inward Essential Nature and Life is concealed from us, but this again only by reason of our limited comprehension.

When we are born into the world of Nature we see and cognize through and by means of the physical senses, and the natural physical world becomes to us for a time the real world. By and by, however, through these very senses we are able to conceive of the One and Eternal Source of Life as our real and therefore our only life, and then through them to hold ourselves in this living realization. Hence, first that which is natural and then that which is spiritual is necessarily as well as literally and philosophically true. Happy, however, is the man who dwells not long as the purely natural man, but is early transformed into the spiritual, and so in whom the Divine Word early becomes incarnate.

Blessed state indeed, says the thoughtful and earnest seeker for the best things in life, and more to be prized than all else besides; but if this state is really possible of realization, what can be said regarding the method of entering into it? There is only one thing in all the wide universe that will enable you as well as all the world to do it effectually. "Be ye therefore transformed by the renewing of your minds." This is the force, the transforming power, so far as the form of life we denominate by the term human is concerned, this and this alone.

True, then, and most welcome is the great fact of facts that the world is beginning to become so conscious of today, that "The mind is everything; what you think, you become." Mortal mind? says one. Yes and no. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as mortal mind—there is only Divine Mind. When in our own thought, and by reason of our limited comprehension, we shut ourselves off and look upon ourselves as individual physical beings, we give birth to a temporary mode of thought that might well be termed mortal mind, or, rather, the product of mortal mind. But it is at first natural, and it is only by using this "mortal mind" that it is able to be transformed, and hence renewed into the Divine Mind. So by wisely using that which we have, the natural, we are transformed from that which is most apparent, and consequently that which we think we are, the mortal, the physical, into that which from all eternity we in reality are, and never except in our own minds can get away from—the Spiritual, the Divine.

It is through this instrumentality that the Divine Life within us, the Divine Life with all its ever-ready-to-break forth glories and powers, is enabled to be changed from a mere passive and hence potential actuality, and to burst forth into the full splendors of conscious, active life. Surely, then, thought rightly directed and rightly used has within it the true regenerating and hence redeeming power; through it and it alone are we able to make for ourselves a new heaven and a new earth, or, rather, by thus finding the kingdom of God, and through it entering into the conscious realization of the heavenly state, are we able to make for ourselves a new earth by actualizing the kingdom of Heaven in our lives while living on the earth, and which, when once truly realized, can never be lost.

The majority of people are not awake; it is only here and there that we find one even partially awake. Practically all of us, as a result, are living lives that are unworthy almost the name of lives, compared to those we might be living, and that lie within our easy grasp. While it is true that each life is in and of Divine Being, hence always one with it, in order that this great fact bears fruit in individual lives, each one must, as we have already said, be conscious of it, he must know it in thought, and then live continually in this consciousness.

An eagle has been chained for many months to the perch just outside of his cage; so long has he been conscious of the fact that he is bound by the little silver chain which holds him that he has given up all efforts to escape, almost forgetting, perhaps, that the power of flight is longer his. One day a link of the little chain opens, but, living so long in the consciousness that he is held in captivity, he makes no effort to escape. The freedom of the heavens is now his, were he only conscious of his power. But day after day he sits sullenly longing for freedom, but remaining a captive still. One morning, however, he ventures a little farther out on his perch than usual, when suddenly a strange consciousness is his—he sets his wings, and the captivity which has held him for months will perchance know him no more forever.

And so it is with man. On account of the false gods that tradition and prevailing theology have brought him he knows not himself, and not knowing himself he knows neither his powers nor his possibilities. The human soul is held captive. An opaque physical structure is about all that he can be said truly to give evidence of. The day comes, however, when in his thought he moves out a little farther than is usual, then a little farther and a little farther. The Inner Light is now moving within, he catches at first a little glimpse of his real Essential Being, then a little more and a little more, and by and by the fact of his essential oneness with the Infinite Life and Power bursts in upon, illumines, and takes possession of his soul. In bewilderment, and almost afraid to utter it at first, he cries aloud, "O God, I am one with Thee!" Enraptured by this new consciousness, he holds to the thought of this oneness, and living continually in this thought his life forever after flows steadily on in one constant realization of his oneness with Divine Being. And so "the first man, [which] is of the earth earthy," is changed into "the second man, [which] is the Lord from Heaven," and thereafter the Christ sits enthroned.

Compared with the new life that he is now continually living, the old life of ignorance with its consequent limitations, which can now know him no more forever, deserved only the name of death, for, strictly speaking, he was indeed dead unto life, and only he who lives in the conscious realization of his oneness with the One and Only Life can be said truly to be born into Life. He is born into the world and lives in the world, but into consciously real and eternal Life he has not yet entered. He is born the Adam man, but within him the Christ man has not awakened, or, rather, he has not yet awakened to the Christ within, and so the Christ man is not yet born, and sitting therefore in darkness he knows not yet the glorious realities of life.

"I am thine own Spirit" are the words that the Infinite Father by means of the Inner Voice is continually speaking to every human soul. He who will hear can hear, and through it step out into fullness of life.

We hear much in the prevailing crude and irrational theology in regard to the "fall of man; " but it is only as man has departed from the Inner Light, and gone after false man-made gods, that anything that might rationally be termed a "fall" has come about. Separating our lives in thought from their oneness with Divine Life is what constitutes, and what alone will ever constitute, the fall of man. But the teaching that has come to us through past generations, which has as its dominant keynote poor worm and miserable sinner, death and the grave, is as false as it is pernicious and therefore damnable in its influences. These old thoughts and words have had the influence of taking heaven out of earth and populating the earth with doubt, and error, and sin, and crime. New and true thoughts and words will make literally a new heaven and a new earth.

Man is essentially Divine, part and parcel of the Infinite God, and so, essentially good. When he severs his connection in consciousness with the Divine, then and then only do doubt, and error, and sin, and crime, with their consequent pain, suffering, disease, and despair, enter into his life. Only a pure and radical infidel—by this we mean one who is in reality such, for there are many who are called infidels, even by many avowed religionists, who live a far truer religion than they themselves live—can rationally hold to the doctrine of original sin, with its consequent poor worm and miserable sinner. The religious teacher who professes to believe in God as the One Divine and Supreme Being, and at the same time holds to this irrational doctrine, is many times more a disciple of the Devil, whom he recognizes and whose power he evidently respects, than he is of the Infinite God in whom he professes to believe. He and he alone it is who finds a place for what he and his theology term the Devil. The one who truly believes in God as the only true and real being and the source of all life and power can indeed find no place for the Devil. He sees and recognizes the evil that comes from lives that lose for a time their conscious connection with the Supreme Source of their being, but he can find no place for any other essential and abiding Reality.

And as this separation from God is made entirely through the instrumentality of the mind, he sees that making one's conscious connection again with God—the true and only true redemption—must also be made through the instrumentality of the mind. Believing in the God in whom he believes, aye, knowing the God whom he knows, he sees no place for an atonement in the sense of appeasing the wrath of an angry God. Knowing the God whom he knows, he shares not in those barbaric, not to say idiotic, notions. He does see, however, that redemption can and must come through living in the conscious at-one-ment with the Father's life. He recognizes it as the natural method that the Adam man be first born with freedom of thought and consequently freedom of action, and that from him the Christ man then comes forth into consciousness. He recognizes that it is God's, and consequently nature's and evolution's, method that "the first man is of the earth earthy, the second man is the Lord from heaven." He recognizes the fact that kittens are born blind, not because their parents or even their grand-parents sinned, but because it is simply natural for them to be born blind, and that in process of time their eyes will open. He also recognizes that, on account of our limited comprehension, the "natural" appears first and then the "spiritual," but in reality the spiritual is from the very first incarnated within, and only because it is can it in process of time, either sooner or later, assume the ascendency by changing from potential into active life.

Once in a while there comes into the world one who from the very first recognizes no separation of his life from the Father's life, and who dwells continually in this living realization; and by bringing anew to the world this great fact, and showing forth the works that will always and inevitably follow this realization, he becomes in a sense a world's savior, as did Jesus, who, through the completeness of his realization of the Father's life incarnate in him, became the Christ Jesus. He in this way pointed out to the world how all men can enter into the realization of the Christ-life and thus be saved from all impulse to sin. And so instead of coming to appease the vengeance of an angry God—difficult for one who has any adequate conception of God even to conceive of—he brought to the world, by exemplifying in his own life as well as by teaching to all who will hear his real message, the method whereby all of us can enter into the full and complete realization of our oneness with the life of the tender and loving Infinite Father.

Redeemed from the bondage of the senses through which alone sin comes, and born into the heavenly state, into life eternal, is everyone who comes into the same relations with the Father, and hence into the same realization of his oneness with the Father's life, that Jesus came into. It is difficult, however, to see how any one will be redeemed from the bondage of sin and enter into the heavenly state simply by believing that Jesus entered into it while here. No amount of believing that he lived the life he lived will take any one into the heavenly state, but living the life that Jesus lived will take every one who lives it there, in any age and in any clime, even whether or not he knows that such a man as Jesus ever lived.

The world has less need for a perverted and hence perverting doctrine of "vicarious atonement" that bodies of men have formulated by either intentionally or ignorantly dragging the teachings, as also the life, of the Master down to a purely material interpretation—less need, I repeat, has the world for this diabolical doctrine than it has for the great vitalizing fact of a conscious, living at-one-ment with the Father's life, as every one whose spiritual sense is at all unfolded will inevitably get from the life and teachings of the Master, if indeed he is more interested in the real living truth that he taught than he is in the almost numberless man-made theological theories and dogmas regarding it.

In order that we may ever keep our standing ground clearly in mind, let us now gather into a single view the substance of what we have endeavored thus far to present.

From everlasting to everlasting is Being, self-existent, without beginning and without end. Depending upon nothing outside of itself and the essential essence, the very life of all that through it comes into existence, it is therefore Infinite Being. Existing at first as pure spirit, it is therefore Divine Being. Literally the I Am, the Divine Jehovah, the Infinite God. Then, animated by love and acting through its own volition, it projects itself into existence and assumes the various forms we see in the universe about us, including we ourselves. But by the act of projecting itself into existence, the Infinite Divine Being does not change in the least its essential inner nature, as indeed it would be impossible for it to do. What, then, in reality is there in existence? Only Divine Being, the Infinite God in all his manifold manifestations; and thus it remains through all eternity, as must necessarily be from its very nature, and otherwise it could not be. God, then, is the Infinite Being, the Infinite Spirit which is the essential essence, the life of all, which therefore fills all the universe with Himself alone, so that all is He, since He is all.

But when Divine Being incarnates itself in flesh and forms for its use a physical body—a human body, as we call it—it necessarily has to manifest through the instrumentality of physical senses, and, though Divine Being is infinite, the vision of man is limited, and for a time his true inner Life (always Divine Being) is concealed from him, for he naturally interprets everything from the standpoint of the physical. First that which is natural, and man knows himself only as a natural physical being, differing not essentially from the material universe about him. As he looks out, however, he sees that he differs from other forms in existence, in that he has a mind through which thought is engendered, a mind that grows by using. Then contemplating himself and longing for the truth of his existence, gradually there dawns upon his consciousness the fact that his life is Divine Being, that other than this it has never been—except in his own mind when in his thought he mistook the mere physical form in existence as the real essential life itself, thus separating his life from the Infinite Divine Life. He thus realizes that in God he lives, moves, and has his being, that God is the life of his life, his very life itself; and thus he comes in time into the conscious, living realization of his oneness with the Infinite Life and Power. And so we find it true—first the natural man, then the spiritual.

Through thought, and through thought alone, the second man, the Lord from Heaven, is gradually evolved out of the first man, which is of the earth earthy. Through a perfectly natural process of evolution, out of the first man Adam—sense perception—is evolved the Christ man—Divine self-realization. Impossible, however, is it for anything to be evolved that was not first involved; and so man finds that the Lord Christ has always been within and he has known it not.

It is the same today as it was many years ago with Jacob when he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not." This and all that followed he found simply by using the stones of the place where he was; for with the stones of the place he made for himself a pillow, and it was while sleeping on this pillow that he beheld the ladder set upon the earth and reaching to the heavens, upon which the angels were ascending and descending, and thus it was that he entered into communion with the life of the heavens. Later, then, he transformed the pillow into a pillar that served as a guide to other men.

And so with every human soul—we must use simply the stones of the place where we are. The only stones with which human life can build is thought. It and it alone is the molding, the creative power—earnest, sincere thought of the place where we are, this constitutes the stones of the place where we are and with which we can make a pillow upon which for the time being to rest. Through this and this alone will the life of the heavens be opened to us; for angels ascending—aspiration—will in time bring to us angels descending—inspiration. Then with Jacob of old we will cry out, "Behold, the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not." Then our pillow, the thought that gives us the knowledge that the Infinite Divine Life is always within, the Essential Essence of the human soul itself, we can convert into a pillar, a pillar that will be a guide to lead other men into this same realization and life.

And so the entire problem of human life is wonderfully simple and easy if we are but true to the highest within us, and keep ourselves free from the various perplexing and mystifying theological theories and dogmas, which ordinarily give merely a promise of spiritual awakening, realization, and power in some other form of life, rather than actualizing it here and now in this life.

But only as man becomes conscious of the Lord Christ within, only as he becomes conscious—realizes in thought that he is one with the Infinite Life and Power—does this great fact become a moving and mighty force in the affairs of his daily life. Until this is true he remains in the condition of the eagle, which, though unchained, thinking nevertheless that he was still chained, remained in captivity when the freedom of the heavens awaited simply the spreading of his wings.

Although the answer to our title has been given both in lines and between lines long before this, it may be an aid to us, especially in making practical what is to follow, to put it as best we can into a definite form: The greatest thing ever known—indeed, the greatest thing that ever can be known—is that in our real essential nature we are one with the Infinite Life and Power, and that by coming into, and dwelling continually in, the conscious living realization of this great fact, we enable to be manifested unto and actualized within us the qualities and powers of the Divine Life, and this in the exact degree of the completeness of this realization on our part.

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Ralph Waldo Trine

  • Lived from September 6th, 1866 to February, 22nd 1958
  • Born in Mt. Morris, Illinois
  • Most popular book is In Tune With the Infinite
  • Was an early leader in the New Thought movement.
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