Greatness and Goodness

To Listen while you read along, click the play button.


Chapter 9

Greatness and Goodness

Goodness, simplicity, greatness–these three are one, and this trinity of perfection cannot be separated. All greatness springs from goodness, and all goodness is profoundly simple. Without goodness there is no greatness. Some men pass through the world as destructive forces, like the tornado or the avalanche, but they are not great; they are to greatness as the avalanche is to the mountain. The work of greatness is enduring and preservative, and not violent and destructive. The greatest souls are the most gentle.

Greatness is never obtrusive. It works in silence seeking no recognition. This is why it is not easily perceived and recognized. Like the mountain, it towers up in its vastness, so that those in its immediate vicinity, who receive its shelter and shade, do not see it. Its sublime grandeur is only beheld as they recede from it. The great man is not seen by his contemporaries; the majesty of his form is only outlined by its recession in time. This is the awe and enchantment of distance. Men occupy themselves with the small things; their houses, trees, lands. Few contemplate the mountain at whose base they live, and fewer still essay to explore it. But in the distance these small things disappear, and then the solitary beauty of the mountain is perceived. Popularity, noisy obtrusiveness, and shallow show, these superficialities rapidly disappear, and leave behind no enduring mark; whereas greatness slowly emerges from obscurity, and endures forever.

Jewish Rabbi and rabble alike saw not the divine beauty of Jesus; they saw only and unlettered carpenter.

To his acquaintances, Homer was only a blind beggar, but the centuries reveal him as Homer the immortal poet. Two hundred years after the farmer of Stratford (and all that is known of him) has disappeared, the real Shakespeare is discerned.

All true genius is impersonal. It belongs not to the man through whom it is manifested; it belongs to all. It is a diffusion of pure Truth; the Light of Heaven descending on all mankind.

Every work of Genius in whatsoever department of art, is a symbolic manifestation of impersonal Truth. It is universal, and finds a response in every heart in every age and race. Anything short of this is not genius, is not greatness. That work which defends a religion perishes; it is religion that lives. Theories about immortality fade away; immortal man endures; commentaries upon Truth come to the dust; Truth alone remains. That only is true in art which represents the True; that only is great in life which is universally and eternally true. And the True is the Good; the Good is the True.

Every immortal work springs from the Eternal Goodness in the human heart, and it is clothed with the sweet and unaffected simplicity of goodness. The greatest art is, like nature, artless. It knows no trick, no pose, no studied effort.

There are no stage-tricks in Shakespeare; and he is the greatest dramatists because he is the simplest.

The critics, not understanding the wise simplicity of greatness, always condemned the loftiest work. They cannot discriminate between the childish and the childlike. The True, the Beautiful, the Great, is always child-like, and is perennially fresh and young.

The great man is always the good man; He is always simple. He draws from, nay, lives in, the inexhaustible fountain of divine Goodness within; he inhabits the Heavenly Places; communes with the vanished great ones; lives with the Invisible: he is inspired, and breathes the airs of Heaven.

He who would be great let him learn to be good. He will therefore become great by not seeking greatness. Aiming at greatness a man arrives at nothingness; aiming at nothingness he arrives at greatness. The desire to be great is an indication of littleness, of personal vanity and obtrusiveness. The willingness to disappear from gaze, the utter absence of self-aggrandizement is the witness of greatness.

Littleness seeks and loves authority. Greatness is never authoritative, and it thereby becomes the authority to which the after ages appeal. He who seeks, loses; he who is willing to lose, wins all men. Be your simple self, your better self, your impersonal self, and lo! You are great! He who selfishly seeks authority shall succeed only in becoming a trembling apologist courting protection behind the back of acknowledged greatness. He who will become the servant of all men, desiring no personal authority, shall live as a man, and shall be called great. “Abide in the simple and noble regions of your life, obey your heart, and you shall reproduce the foreworld again.” Forget your own little self, and fall back upon the universal self and you shall reproduce, in living and enduring forms, a thousand beautiful experiences; You shall find within yourself that simple goodness which is greatness.

“It is as easy to be great as to be small,” says Emerson; and he utters a profound truth. Forgetfulness of self is the whole of greatness, as it is the whole of goodness and happiness. In a fleeting moment of self-forgetfulness the smallest soul becomes great; extend that moment indefinitely, and there is a great soul, a great life. Cast away your personality (your petty cravings, vanities, and ambitions) as a worthless garment, and dwell in the loving, compassionate, selfless regions of your soul, and you are no longer small–you are great.

Claiming personal authority, a man descends into littleness; practicing goodness, a man ascends into greatness. The presumptuousness of the small may, for a time, obscure the humility of the great, but it is at last swallowed up by it, as the noisy river is lost in the calm ocean.

The vulgarity of ignorance and the pride of learning must disappear. Their worthlessness is equal. They have no part in the Soul of goodness. If you would do, you must be. You shall not mistake information for Knowledge; You must know yourself as pure Knowledge. You shall not confuse learning with Wisdom; You must apprehend yourself as undefiled wisdom.

Would you write a living book? You must first live; you shall draw around you the mystic garment of a manifold experience, and shall learn, in enjoyment and suffering, gladness and sorrow, conquest and defeat, that which no book and no teacher can teach you. You shall learn of life, of your soul; You shall tread the Lonely Road, and shall become; You shall be. You shall then write your book, and it shall live; it shall be more than a book. Let your book first live in you, then shall you live in your book.

Would you carve a statue that would captivate the ages, or paint a picture that shall endure? You shall acquaint yourself with the Divine beauty within you. You shall comprehend and adore the Invisible Beauty; you shall know the Principles which are the sole of Form; you shall perceive the matchless symmetry and faultless proportions of Life, of Being, of the Universe; thus knowing the eternally True you shall carve or paint the indescribably Beautiful.

Would you produce an imperishable poem? You shall first live your poem; you shall think and act rhythmically; you shall find the never failing source of inspiration in the loving places of the heart. Then shall immortal lines flow from you without effort, and, as the flowers of wood and field spontaneously spring, so shall beautiful thoughts grow up in your heart and, enshrined in words as moulds to their beauty, shall subdue the hearts of men.

Would you compose such music as would gladden and uplift the world? You shall adjust your soul to the Heavenly Harmonies. You shall know that yourself, that life and the universe is Music. You shall touch the chords of Life. You shall know that music is everywhere; that it is the Heart of Being; Then shall you here with your spiritual ear the Deathless Symphonies.

Would you preach the Living Word? You shall forgo yourself, and become that Word. You shall know one thing–that the human heart is good, is divine; You shall live one thing–Love. You shall love all, seeing no evil, thinking no evil, believing no evil; then, though you speak but little, your every act shall be a power, your every word a precept. By you’re pure thought, your selfless deed, though it appear hidden, you shall preach, down the ages, to untold multitudes of aspiring souls.

To him who chooses Goodness, sacrificing all, is given that which is more than and includes all. He becomes the possessor of the Best, communes with the Highest, and enters the company of the Great.

The greatness that is flawless, rounded, and complete is above and beyond all art. It is Perfect Goodness in manifestation; therefore the greatest souls are always teachers.

end of chapter 9

Chapter 10 – Heaven in the Heart