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The Greatest Thing Ever Known

Originally Published: 1898

by Thomas Y. Crowell & Company Publishers, New York

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>> More by Ralph Waldo Trine


I. The Greatest Thing Ever known

II. Divine Energies in Every-Day Life

III. The Master's Great But Lost Gift

IV. The Philosopher's Ripest Life Thought

V. Sustained In Peace and Safety Forever


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 to-day, that may be true for to-morrow, but one equally true for yesterday, to-day, 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 every-day 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 ex-istence. 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 onenot 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."

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