‘SUMMUM BONUM’ IN LIFE

Ralph Waldo Trine
© 2007-2009 StasoSphere

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Ralph Waldo Trine was a philosopher, mystic, teacher and author of many books, and was one of the early mentors of the New Thought Movement. His writings had a great influence on many of his contemporaries including Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science. He was a true pioneer in the area of life-transforming thought. No other New Thought author has sold more books than he, his writings reaching far beyond New Thought circles out to the general public, which has bought and read Trine’s books without ever knowing that they were New Thought.
Trine was born on 6th September, 1866, in Mount Morris, northern Illinois. He was educated at Carthage College Academy, Knox College, A.B. 1891; and studied at the University of Winsconsin and later at John Hopkins University in the fields of history and political science. He was much interested in social and economic problems, having won a $100 prize for an essay on “The Effects of Human Education on the Prevention of Crime.”
After spending some time as a graduate student at the latter University, Ralph was a special correspondent for The Boston Daily Evening Transcript. Whilst working in this capacity, he built himself a little cabin on the edge of a pine grove – testament to the peace and simplicity of the man.
He married a graduate of the School of Expression (which became Curry College) who became Grace Hyde Trine, an author and poetess in her own right, and together they had a son, Robert. Trine lived for years at Mt. Airy, New York, and was deeply involved in the metaphysical seminars at Oscawana.
He began his writing career in his early 30s. He was much influenced by the writings of Fitche, Emerson and the Scottish scientist, Henry Drummond, his “What All the World’s A-Seeking” expanding on a number of the themes covered in Drummond’s inspirational classic, “The Greatest Thing in the World.” His remarkable seminal book, “In Tune with the Infinite” was launched in 1897 and went on to sell over 2 million copies, and has stood the test of time for over a century. It was read by such luminaries as Queen Victoria, Janet Gaynor and Henry Ford. It is interesting that Henry Ford, pioneer of mass produced automobiles, attributed his success directly to having read “In Tune with the Infinite.” After reading the book, Ford ordered it on mass, and distributed copies freely to high profile industrialists. It’s a true mark of how powerful the book was and still is!

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In “What All The World’s A-Seeking” Ralph Waldo Trine has written:
“What is the summum bonum in life? Human nature seems to run in this way, seems to be governed by a great paradoxical law which says, that whenever a man self-centred, thinking of, living for and in himself, is very desirous for place, for preferment, for honor, the very fact of his being thus is of itself a sufficient indicator that he is too small to have them, and mankind refuses to accord them. While the one who forgets self, and who, losing sight of these things, makes it his chief aim in life to help, to aid, and to serve others, by this very fact makes it known that he is large enough, is great enough to have them, and his fellow-men instinctively bestow them upon him.
This is a great law which many would profit by to recognize. Our prevailing thought forces determine the mental atmosphere we create around us, and all who come within its influence are affected in one way or another, according to the quality of that atmosphere; and, though they may not always get the exact thoughts, they nevertheless get the effects of the emotions dominating the originator of the thoughts, and hence the creator of this particular mental atmosphere, and the more sensitively organized the person the more sensitive he or she is to this atmosphere, even at times to getting the exact and very thoughts. So even in this the prophecy is beginning to be fulfilled,—there is nothing hid that shall not be revealed.
And would we have all the world love us, we must first then love all the world,—merely a great scientific fact. Why is it that all people instinctively dislike and shun the little, the mean, the self-centred, the selfish, while all the world instinctively, irresistibly, loves and longs for the company of the great-hearted, the tender-hearted, the loving, the magnanimous, the sympathetic, the brave? The mere answer—because—will not satisfy. There is a deep, scientific reason for it, either this or it is not true.
Is it your ambition to become a great states man? Note the very first thing, then, the word itself,—states-man, a man who gives his life to the service of the State. And do you not recognize the fact that, when one says—a man who gives his life to the service of the State, it is but another way of saying—a man who gives his life to the service of his fellow-men; for what, after all, is any country, any State, in the true sense of the term, but the aggregate, the great body of its individual citizenship. And he who lives for and unto himself, who puts the interests of his own small self before the interests of the thousands, can never become a states-man; for a statesman must be a larger man than this.
The one great trouble with our country to-day is that we have but few statesmen. We have a great swarm, a great hoard of politicians; but it is only now and then that we find a man who is large enough truly to deserve the name—statesman. The large majority in public life to-day are there not for the purpose of serving the best interests of those whom they are supposed to represent, but they are there purely for self, purely for self-aggrandizement in this form or in that, as the case may be.
Let our public offices—municipal, state, and federal—be filled with men who are in love with the human kind, large men, men whose lives are founded upon this great law of service, and we will then have them filled with statesmen. Never let this glorious word be disgraced, degraded, by applying it to the little, self-centred whelps who are unable to get beyond the politician stage. Then enter public life; but enter it as a man, not as a barnacle: enter it as a statesman, not as a politician.
Is it the ambition of your life to accumulate great wealth, and thus to acquire a great name, and along with it happiness and satisfaction? Then remember that whether these will come to you will depend entirely upon the use and disposition you make of your wealth. If you regard it as a private trust to be used for the highest good of mankind, then well and good, these will come to you. If your object, however, is to pile it up, to hoard it, then neither will come; and you will find it a life as unsatisfactory as one can live.
There is, there can be, no greatness in things, in material things, of themselves. The greatness is determined entirely by the use and disposition made of them. The greatest greatness and the only true greatness in the world is unselfish love and service and self-devotion to one’s fellow-men.
It is a great law of our being that we become like those things we contemplate. If we contemplate those that are true and noble and elevating, we grow in the likeness of these. If we contemplate merely material things, as gold or silver or copper or iron, our souls, our natures, and even our faces become like them, hard and flinty, robbed of their finer and better and grander qualities. Call to mind the person or picture of the miser, and you will quickly see that this is true. Merely nature’s great law. He thought he was going to be a master: he finds himself the slave. Instead of possessing his wealth, his wealth possesses him. How often have we seen persons of nearly or quite this kind! Some can be found almost anywhere. You can call to mind a few, perhaps many.
True gentlemanliness and politeness always comes from within, and is born of a life of love, kindliness, and service. This is the universal language, known and understood everywhere, even when our words are not. There is, you know, a beautiful old proverb which says, “He who is kind and courteous to strangers thereby shows himself a citizen of the world.” And there is nothing so remembered, and that so endears one to all mankind, as this universal language. Even dumb animals understand it and are affected by it. How quickly the dog, for example, knows and makes it known when he is spoken to and treated kindly or the reverse! And here shall not a word be spoken in connection with that great body of our fellow-creatures whom, because we do not understand their language, we are accustomed to call dumb? The attitude we have assumed toward these fellow-creatures, and the treatment they have been subjected to in the past, is something almost appalling.
Never should we forget that we are all the same in motive,—pleasure and happiness: we differ only in method; and this difference in method is solely by reason of some souls being at any particular time more fully evolved, and thus having a greater knowledge of the great, immutable laws under which we live, and by putting the life into more and ever more complete harmony with these higher laws and forces, and in this way bringing about the highest, the keenest, the most abiding pleasure and happiness instead of seeking it on the lower planes.
The wise man is he who, when he desires to rid a room of darkness or gloom, does not attempt to drive it out directly, but who throws open the doors and the windows, that the room may be flooded with the golden sunlight; for in its presence darkness and gloom cannot remain. So the way to help a fellow-man and a brother to the higher and better life is not by ever prating upon and holding up to view his errors, his faults, his shortcomings, any more than in the case of children, but by recognizing and ever calling forth the higher, the nobler, by opening the doors and the windows of his own soul, and thus bringing about a spiritual perception, that he may the more carefully listen to the inner voice, that he may the more carefully follow “the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” For in the exact proportion that the interior perception comes will the outer life and conduct accord with it,—so far, and no farther.
Where in all the world’s history is to be found a more beautiful or valuable incident than this? A group of men, self-centred, self-assertive, have found a poor woman who, in her blindness and weakness, has committed an error, the same one that they, in all probability, have committed not once, but many times; for the rule is that they are first to condemn who are-most at fault themselves. They bring her to the Master, they tell him that she has committed a sin,—ay, more, that she has been taken in the very act,—and ask what shall be done with her, informing him that, in accordance with the olden laws, such a one should be stoned.
But, quicker than thought, that great incarnation of spiritual power and insight reads their motives; and, after allowing them to give full expression to their accusations, he turns, and calmly says, “He among you that is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” So saying, he stoops down, as if he is writing in the sand. The accusers, feeling the keen and just rebuke, in the mean time sneak out, until not one remains. The Master, after all have gone, turns to the woman, his sister, and kindly and gently says, “And where are thine accusers? doth no man condemn thee?” “No man, Lord.” “And neither do I condemn thee: go thou, and sin no more.” Oh, the beauty, the soul pathos! Oh, the royal-hearted brother! Oh, the invaluable lesson to us all!
We make our own heaven or our own hell, and the only heaven or hell that will ever be ours is that of our own making. The order of the universe is one thing: we take our lives out of harmony with and so pervert the laws under which we live, and make it another. The order is the all good. We pervert the laws, and what we call evil is the result,—simply the result of the violation of law; and we then wonder that a just and loving God could permit such and such things. We wonder at what we term the “strange, inscrutable dispensations of Providence,” when all is of our own making. We can be our own best friends or we can be our own worst enemies; and the only real enemy one can ever have is the self, the very self.
Each individual life, after it has reached a certain age or degree of intelligence, lives in the midst of the surroundings or environments of its own creation; and this by reason of that wonderful power, the drawing power of mind, which is continually operating in every life, whether it is conscious of it or not.
We are all living, so to speak, in a vast ocean of thought. The very atmosphere about us is charged with the thought-forces that are being continually sent out.
A stalk of wheat and a stock of corn are growing side by side, within an inch of each other. The soil is the same for both; but the wheat converts the food it takes from the soil into wheat, the likeness of itself, while the corn converts the food it takes from the same soil into corn, the likeness of itself. What that which each has taken from the soil is converted into is determined by the soul, the interior life, the interior forces of each. This same grain taken as food by two persons will be converted into the body of a criminal in the one case, and into the body of a saint in the other, each after its kind; and its kind is determined by the inner life of each. And what again determines the inner life of each? The thoughts and emotions that are habitually entertained and that inevitably, sooner or later, manifest themselves in outer material form.
Thought is the great builder in human life: it is the determining factor. Continually think thoughts that are good, and your life will show forth in goodness, and your body in health and beauty. Continually think evil thoughts, and your life will show forth in evil, and your body in weakness and repulsiveness. Think thoughts of love, and you will love and will be loved. Think thoughts of hatred, and you will hate and will be hated. Each follows its kind.
It is by virtue of this law that each person creates his own “atmosphere”; and this atmosphere is determined by the character of the thoughts he habitually entertains. It is, in fact, simply his thought atmosphere—the atmosphere which other people detect and are influenced by.
In this way each person creates the atmosphere of his own room; a family, the atmosphere of the house in which they live, so that the moment you enter the door you feel influences kindred to the thoughts and hence to the lives of those who dwell there. You get a feeling of peace and harmony or a feeling of disquietude and inharmony. You get a welcome, want-to-stay feeling or a cold, want-to-get-away feeling, according to their thought attitude toward you, even though but few words be spoken. Its inhabitants so make, so determine the atmosphere of a particular village or city. The sympathetic thoughts sent out by a vast amphitheatre of people, as they cheer a contestant, carry him to goals he never could reach by his own efforts alone.
The same is true in regard to an orator and his audience. We are all much more influenced by the thought-forces and mental states of those around us and of the world at large than we have even the slightest conception of. If not self-hypnotized into certain beliefs and practices, we are, so to speak, semi-hypnotized through the influence of the thoughts of others, even though unconsciously both on their part and on ours. We are so influenced and enslaved in just the degree that we fail to recognize the power and omnipotence of our own forces, and so become slaves to custom, conventionality, the opinions of others, and so in like proportion lose our own individuality and powers.
He who in his own mind takes the attitude of the slave, by the power of his own thoughts and the forces he thus attracts to him, becomes the slave. He who in his own mind takes the attitude of the master, by the same power of his own thoughts and the forces he thus attracts to him, becomes the master. Each is building his world from within, and, if outside forces play, it is because he allows them to play; and he has it in his own power to determine whether these shall be positive, uplifting, ennobling, strengthening, success-giving, or negative, degrading, weakening, failure-bringing.
Every act is preceded and given birth to by a thought, the act repeated forms the habit, the habit determines the character, and character determines the life, the destiny,—a most significant, a most tremendous truth: thought on the one hand, life, destiny, on the other. And how simplified, when we realize that it is merely the thought of the present hour, and the next when it comes, and the next, and the next! so life, destiny, on the one hand, the thoughts of the present hour, on the other. This is the secret of character-building. How wonderfully simple, though what vigilance it demands!
Unconsciously we are forming habits every moment of our lives. Some are habits of a desirable nature; some are those of a most undesirable nature. Some, though not so bad in themselves, are exceedingly bad in their cumulative effects, and cause us at times much loss, much pain and anguish, while their opposites would, on the contrary, bring us much peace and joy, as well as a continually increasing power.
There is nothing more true in connection with human life than that we grow into the likeness of those things we contemplate. Literally and scientifically and necessarily true is it that, “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” The “is” part is his character. His character is the sum total of his habits. His habits have been formed by his conscious acts; but every conscious act is, as we have found, preceded by a thought. And so we have it—thought on the one hand, character, life, destiny on the other. And simple it becomes when we bear in mind that it is simply the thought of the present moment, and the next moment when it is upon us, and then the next, and so on through all time.
Each one is so apt to think that his own conditions, his own trials or troubles or sorrows, or his own struggles, as the case may be, are greater than those of the great mass of mankind, or possibly greater than those of anyone else in the world. He forgets that each one has his own peculiar trials or troubles or borrows to bear, or struggles in habits to overcome, and that his is but the common lot of all the human race. We are apt to make the mistake in this—in that we see and feel keenly our own trials, or adverse conditions, or characteristics to be overcome, while those of others we do not see so clearly, and hence we are apt to think that they are not at all equal to our own. Each has his own problems to work out. Each must work out his own problems. Each must grow the insight that will enable him to see what the causes are that have brought the unfavorable conditions into his life; each must grow the strength that will enable him to face these conditions, and to set into operation forces that will bring about a different set of conditions. We may be of aid to one another by way of suggestion, by way of bringing to one another a knowledge of certain higher laws and forces,—laws and forces that will make it easier to do that which we would do. The doing, however, must be done by each one for himself.
All life is from within out. This is something that cannot be reiterated too often. The springs of life are all from within. This being true, it would be well for us to give more time to the inner life than we are accustomed to give to it.”

Excerpts from “What All The World’s A-Seeking” by Ralph Waldo Trine, New York, Dodge Publishing Company, 220 East Twenty-Third Street
© 2003-2008 Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation

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