Tag Archives: Ralph Trine

Was the Greatest Spirituality Book of All Time Written 120 Years Ago?


Christopher Jolly via unsplash.com

This story originally appeared on my Wake Up Call column at Patheos, April 2017.

Every few years there’s a spirituality book that captures the imagination of the public and becomes a big bestseller. Think The Secret by Rhonda Byrne or A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, or before that, you may remember The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield from the early-90’s or even Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach from the early-70’s.

Well, once upon a time there was a spirituality book that was even bigger than those classics. It came out all the way back in 1897 and since it’s now 120 years old, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of it. It’s called In Tune with the Infinite by Ralph Waldo Trine and it’s considered by some to be the greatest spiritual book of all time.

in-tune-with-the-infinite-ralph-waldo-trineA pioneer in the era’s New Thought Movement, Trine wrote over a dozen books, but it was this one that caught fire with the public and went on to sell over 2 million copies. Just how popular was In Tune with the Infinite? I actually have a worn dustcover from the 1909 edition and here’s what the publisher says on it:

It has become a world classic in its line. One traveler writes that he has come across a man reading it sitting on the banks of the Yukon; another that he finds it in the shops and even the little railway stations in Burmah and Ceylon. An American reviewer has said: “For one to say that he has never head of ‘In Tune with the Infinite’ is similar to saying that he has never heard of the Constitution of the United States.”

For a book that achieved such worldwide popularity, it’s main message was relatively simple: God is within us at all times and accessible by us at all times. By realizing that we have this presence inside us, and by getting “in tune” with this infinite and divine source of love and guidance, our lives and world can be changed for the better. Trine writes it’s up to us:

You and I have the power, the power within us, to open or close ourselves to this divine inflow exactly as we choose. This we have through the power of mind, through the operation of thought.

I’ve included 11 of my favorite passages below, adding category headings. I’ve also done some light editing, updating verbiage that was dated or awkward, shortening some of Trine’s writings to avoid redundancy and, where possible, making the language gender neutral. Before you begin, here’s a sample from the book’s prelude that talks to just how important our mindset is:

The optimist is right. The pessimist is right. The one differs from the other as the light from the dark. Yet both are right. Each is right from their own particular point of view, and this point of view is the determining factor in the life of each. It determines whether you have a life of power or of impotence, of peace or pain, of success or failure.

Once you read the passages below, I’m sure you’ll get the gist of Trine’s powerful message. Read them slowly and you may agree that much of what he writes has the ring of truth, even today.

#1. What I Call God.

The great central fact of the universe is that the Spirit of Infinite Life and Power is behind all. It animates all, manifests itself in and through all…it is creating, working, ruling through the agency of great immutable laws and forces that run through all the universe that surrounds us on every side.

Every act of our everyday lives is governed by these same great laws and forces…this Spirit of Infinite Life and Power that is behind all is what I call God.

God, then, is this Infinite Spirit which fills all the universe with Himself alone, so that all is from Him and in Him, and there is nothing that is outside. In Him we live and move and have our being. He is the life of our life, our very life itself.

#2. Find Your Center.

Find your center and live in it. Surrender it to no person, to no thing. In the degree that you do this, you will find yourself growing stronger and stronger in it….and how can one find your center? By realizing your oneness with the Infinite Power, and by living continually in this realization.

#3. Wash Your Windows.

If the windows of your soul are dirty and streaked, covered with matter foreign to them, then the world as you look out of them will be dirty and streaked and out of order…go wash your windows, and instead of longing for some other world you will discover the wonderful beauties of this world. If you don’t find transcendent beauties on every hand here, the chances are that you will never find them anywhere.

#4. Recognize, Listen, Obey.

When we come into the recognition of our own true selves, to the realization of the oneness of our life with the Infinite Life, when we open ourselves to this divine inflow, the voice of intuition, the voice of the soul, the voice of God speaks clearly.

When we recognize, listen to, and obey it, it speaks ever more clearly, until there comes the time when it is unerring, absolutely unerring, in its guidance.

With a mind at peace, and with a heart going out in love to all, go into the quiet of your own interior self, holding the thought I am one with the Infinite Spirit of Life, the life of my life.

#5. Love.

Tell me how much one loves and I will tell you how much they have seen of God. Tell me how much they love and I will tell you how much they live with God. Live only in the thought of love for all and you will draw love to you from all. Live in the thought of malice or hatred, and malice and hatred will come back to you.

#6. Know Yourself.

There is no better way to help yourself than to know yourself. Become aware of the powers that are lying dormant within your own soul…for it is through your own soul that the voice of God speaks to you. This is the interior guide. This is the light that lights every person that comes into the world. This is conscience. This is intuition. This is the voice of the higher self, the voice of the soul, the voice of God.

#7. Do Little to Do Much.

Those who are truly awake to the real powers within are those who seem to be doing so little, yet who in reality are doing so much. They seem to be doing so little because they are working with higher agencies, and yet are doing so much because of this very fact. They do their work on the higher plane. They keep so completely their connection with the Infinite Power that It does the work for them and they are relieved of the responsibility. They are the care-less people. They are careless because it is the Infinite Power that is working through them, and with this Infinite Power they are simply co-operating.

#8. Seeing the Good in All.

The moment we recognize ourselves as one with (the Infinite) we become so filled with love that we see only the good in all. And when we realize that we are all one with this Infinite Spirit, then we realize that in a sense we are all one with each other…wherever we go, whenever we come in contact with our fellow man, we are able to recognize the God within. We thus look only for the good, and we find it. It always pays.

#9. The Law of Prosperity.

This is the law: When apparent adversity comes, be not cast down by it, but make the best of it, and always look forward for better things, for more prosperous conditions. To hold yourself in this attitude of mind is to set into operation subtle, silent, and irresistible forces that sooner or later will actualize in material form that which is today merely an idea. But ideas have power, and ideas, when rightly planted and rightly tended, are the seeds that actualize material conditions.

#10. All Can Obtain It.

No human soul need be without it. When we turn our face in the right direction it comes as simply and as naturally as the flower blooms and the winds blow. It is not to be bought with money or with price. It is a condition waiting simply to be realized, by rich and by poor, by king and by peasant, by master and by servant the world over. All are equal heirs to it.

#11. Bring Joy Everywhere You Go.

Carry with you an inspiration and continually shed a benediction wherever you go; so that your friends and all people will say, your coming brings peace and joy into our homes; as you pass along the street, tired, and weary, and even sin-sick men will feel a certain divine touch that will awaken new desires and a new life in them; that will make the very horse, as you pass him, turn his head with a strange, half-human, longing look. Such are the subtle powers of the human soul when it makes itself translucent to the Divine.


Do you know the 100-year old secret behind “The Secret”?

secretWhen it comes to spiritual texts, I’m a voracious reader. I’ve previously written here, and on my Pathos column Wake Up Call, about several of my favorites, including the works of Thomas MooreMirabai Starr and the Gnostic gospels.

And while I usually find value in virtually every book I read, one text that came up a little short for me was The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. Based loosely on the Law of Attraction, it seemed to me a faint echo of ideas I had read elsewhere from the likes of Ralph Waldo Trine and Charles F. Hannel.

With The History of New Thought, From Mind Cure to Positive Thinking and the Prosperity Gospel, author John S. Haller Jr. sets the record straight as to where much of the thinking behind The Secret and similar modern-day bestsellers originated. It all started with something called the “New Thought” movement.

New Thought was a distinctly American take on spirituality that came to light in the late-1800’s and early 1900’s. The movement represented a move away from traditional religion, and the strict Biblically-based teachings of the church, toward a new-found spirituality.

The founding father of New Thought is generally recognized as the great American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, a former Protestant pastor who himself had quit the church due to what he saw as the confines of the institution. As Heller points out, Emerson, and many of the New Thought leaders who were to follow him, came from religious backgrounds but had reached a similar conclusion:

Both the Bible and the pulpit had become less authoritative and therefore less weighty in their ability to direct individual thought and activity. No longer did the dogmatic accounts of endless punishment, election, and material resurrection carry the day.

So if the church and the bible were on the way out, who and what would fill the void? A plethora of newly minted free thinkers and philosophers with teachings built around “healing, self-discovery, and empowerment”. As Heller points out, the teachings of these new spiritual leaders were based on wisdom collected from many sources:

They saw no reason why God would speak only through a Moses or Paul and not through someone like Whitman or Emerson. The same applied to the lessons learned from Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Confucianism, which they considered as important as scripture.

The names of the New Thought leaders are many and due to the sheer number of personalities and philosophies, Haller is only able to briefly touch on the key players in the movement, including Hannel, Robert Collier and Elizabeth Towne. Yet, what he does tell us is often compelling and whets our appetite for learning more about these individuals.

Take this passage on the religious leader and author Horatio W. Dresser:

A devoted acolyte of Emerson, Dresser viewed individuality as an escape into greater freedom. It was a positive quality that, when augmented by self-reliance, humility, love, and the desire to attain a higher self, led to the Christ ideal made real…harmony of action between the Father’s will and the son’s will.

Or this summation of the philosophy of Trine, author of the spiritual classic In Tune With The Infinite:

One awakened God within not by trumpeting his or her accomplishments…but by choosing silence for short periods every day to contemplate God, by regarding wealth as a private trust to be used for the good of humankind, and by recognizing that character was the greatest power in the world.

Or this quote from Ernest Holmes, founder of the Religion Science movement:

We believe that heaven is within us and that we experience it to the degree that we become conscious of it…we believe in our own soul, our own spirit, and our own destiny; for we understand that the life of each of us is God.

As you can tell by these passages, New Thought was very much a “do-it-yourself” movement, based on the idea that everyone could access “the indwelling God”. This God was not found up high in the heavens as most people had been taught, but was “a universal spirit diffused over all of nature”. As Heller reports, the movement was truly groundbreaking in that it took God out of the church:

A new age had come, one in which human beings were privileged to hear the voice of God through silent prayer and inward illumination…human nature became the means through which God unfolded his plan.

Heller seems to genuinely admire the people in The History of New Thought and it comes through in his spirited, detailed reporting. On the flip side, he dismisses The Secret, Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life and related texts that have co-opted the New Thought message and transformed it into a system for personal gain.

These recently discovered “keys,” “laws,” “steps,” and “secrets” to health and happiness are little more than plagiarisms of ideas first identified in the nineteenth and early twentieth century…New Thought’s legacy has been compromised time and again by its unsavory commercialism.

It raises the point, why go to an inferior secondary source to search for meaning and enlightenment, when you can access the real thing? Most of the original New Thought texts that are the basis for what became the New Age movement are still in print. Not sure where to start? There’s no better place to sample this revolutionary moment in American spirituality than Heller’s fine book.

A version of this post originally appeared in my Patheos column Wake Up Call on 2/24/13.

How to listen to God.

Let us be silent, and we may hear the whispers of the Gods. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

What do evangelical Christians, devotees of the Bhagavad Gita and this humble blogger have in common? We all believe in the power of a direct and personal relationship with God.

For me, this personal relationship means that I start most mornings with a specific ritual. After rolling (or these days, hobbling) out of bed, I flick on the coffeemaker and begin stretching, followed by a cup of coffee, meditation and/or prayer, more coffee and a three or four-mile run.

It’s at different points during this morning routine that I find and connect with the essence of God within. It literally gives me a feeling of warmth and love inside and gets me ready for the day ahead, hopefully to spread the compassion and good vibes I feel to everyone I encounter.

On some days, I take an additional step. I talk to and listen to God.

Now, this is not a traditional conversation, as it’s often wordless and involves more listening than talking. I simply ask for guidance in whatever single area of my life most needs it. While this may sound nuts to those less spiritually-inclined, I’m practicing a tradition that has been around for some time (see John 10:27) and recommended by some of the leading spiritual lights of our age.

One regular conversationalist with God was Ralph Trine, an early New Thought Movement leader. Trine believed there was a “divine inflow” that we all could tap into for guidance and advice on any life matter. In his great lost classic In Tune with the Infinite, which sold over two million copies and was credited by Henry Ford as the key to his success, Trine wrote:

“It is through your own soul that the voice of God speaks to you. This is the interior guide.”

Perhaps our greatest American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, also believed there was a source of guidance available to us all called the “divine soul”. Emerson had his own way of communicating with this source which he referred to as “lowly listening” (more on that later):

“There is a soul at the center of nature and over the will of every man….we prosper when we accept its advice…we need only obey. There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening we shall hear the right word.”

Ram Dass also talked to the importance of listening for guidance in his modern-day classic Paths to God, Living The Bhagvad Gita. Here he discusses the benefits of “adopting a Gita perspective”:

“Instead of always preoccupying ourselves with trying to get what we think we want or need, we’ll start to quiet, we’ll start to listen. We’ll wait for that inner prompting. We’ll try to hear, rather than decide, what it is we should do next. And as we listen, we’ll hear our dharma more and more clearly.”

When it comes to a heart-to-heart with God, I’ve distilled my personal process down to three steps—but by no means do I want to make this sound easy. It probably took me a decade or so to perfect the first step—but after that, step two came much faster, as did step three though I know this can be a tricky one for a lot of people.

1. Go to a place where you can quiet the mind and be still.

Unless you walk around in a perpetual state of Zen, this is a necessary first step. And as a reader of The Inner Way, I’m guessing you already have a good idea what technique for quieting the mind works best for you.

For me, I’m best able to quiet my mind by focusing on my breathing via meditation or by taking a brisk run along the river that lines my neighborhood. But there are many other ways to get there, as well. As Douglas Block points out in his book Listening to Your Inner Voice:

“You can achieve this stillness through any process that relaxes you and slows down your thoughts—meditation, visualization, long walks, exercise, driving on a country road…”

2. Engage in what Ralph Waldo Emerson refers to as “lowly listening”.

It’s pretty much what it sounds like. Once in a relaxed state, put your concern out to God. Then, while not trying too hard, “listen” within. Scholar and author Richard Geldard, who has written two books on Emerson’s philosophy, explains what happens during this lowly listening phase:

“Solitude, stillness, reflection, judgement and understanding all come together to guide us.”

Emerson discussed the process of lowly listening is in one of a series of essays titled Spiritual Laws. He wrote:

“Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into you as life, place yourself in the full center of that flood, then you are without effort impelled to truth, to right, and a perfect contentment.”

The key is listening. As author Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee points out in his enlightening new book Prayer of the Heart in Christian and Sufi Mysticism

“Learning to pray is learning to listen. Within the heart we learn to wait with patience for God’s words, which may come even when we have not asked.”

3. Separate the word of God from the voice of the ego.

A friend once told me that she hears lots of words in her head, the problem is figuring which are the right ones. And maybe that’s the hard part. But once you’ re able to tune in to the “soul at the center of nature” as Emerson calls it, you’ll find there’s a single, authentic voice there.

When I say voice, it doesn’t always come through in words (though it can), but usually in the form of a deep-seeded intuition. One moment you’re questioning the correct next step at work, at home, in love or in life. The next moment you know the answer with certainty.

The one important part is learning to separate the false voice of the ego with the true voice of the soul and God. Vaughan-Lee advises that

“Such listening requires both attentiveness and discrimination, as it is not always easy to discriminate between the voice of the ego and the voice of our Beloved. But there is a distinct difference: the words of the ego and mind belong to duality; the words of the heart carry the imprint of oneness. In the heart there is no argument, no you and me, just an unfolding oneness. The heart embraces a difficulty, while the ego takes sides.”

What’s the importance of this morning conversation with God? Again, in the words of Ralph Trine:

“The little time spent in the quiet each day, alone with one’s God, that we may make and keep our connection with the Infinite source—our source and our life—will be a boon to any life. It will prove, if we are faithful, to be the most priceless possession that we have.”

That pretty well sums it up. It’s a priceless moment, one that helps me—and can help you—start every day in the right frame of mind, with the added assurance that any additional wisdom or guidance you need is never too far away.