Character-Building Thought Power by Ralph Waldo Trine

[amazon-product align=”right” alink=”0000FF” bordercolor=”000000″ height=”240″ region=”us” tracking_id=”varsblah-20″]1600965938[/amazon-product]“Thought is at the bottom of all progress or retrogression, of all success or failure, of all that is desirable or undesirable in human life,” writes Ralph Waldo Trine in Character-Building Thought Power. Thoughts create actions. Actions become habits. Habits shape character. Character determines life. The nature of the thoughts we entertain will determine the nature of the lives we live.

But how do we control our thoughts, especially the unconscious ones being formed every moment of our lives? Well, much like how our thoughts came to dominate our minds in the first place, it starts with small steps. “Whenever one does a certain thing in a certain way it is easier to do the same thing in the same way the next time, and still easier the next, and the next, and the next, until in time it comes to pass that no effort is required, or no effort worth speaking of.” Even if our attempts occasionally result in failure, “every earnest effort adds an increment of power that will eventually accomplish the end aimed at”.

Still, it’s best to deal with negative thoughts the moment they arrive. “The thought must be banished from the mind the instant it enters; dalliance with it means failure and defeat, or a fight that will be indescribably fiercer than it would be if the thought is ejected at the beginning.” But rather than directly battle our thoughts, we can consciously choose to focus on other things. The negative thoughts and accompanying addictions will become increasingly weaker; in time, they won’t bother us at all.

Ultimately, we all have problems but complaining about them will simply leave us sad and weak. We need to accept them “with a keen appreciation of every opportunity and a keen alertness at every turn”. They are exactly what we need for learning and growth. And even though we may not understand why, we’ll be grateful once we do.


“Life is not, we may say, for mere passing pleasure, but for the highest unfoldment that one can attain to, the noblest character that one can grow, and for the greatest service that one can render to all mankind.”

Even though Trine wrote over a dozen highly successful books (Henry Ford cited In Tune with the Infinite as the sole reason for his success), this particular one may fall short for readers wanting more. And even though it can be read in an hour or so, it’s packed with a few too many ideas (including an odd digression into happiness as we age) that might be better suited in other works. For the most part, the book is about the “thoroughly scientific” and “immutable” law of attraction, something Trine believed “cannot be reiterated too often”. By understanding and working in harmony with this law, “it will work for our highest good and will take us wheresoever we desire”. By opposing and resisting this law, “it will eventually break us to pieces”.

Much like in As A Man Thinketh, the element of chance is totally ignored: “Personally, I do not believe there is any such thing as chance in the whole of human life, nor even in the world or the great universe in which we live,” Trine writes. “The one great law of cause and effect is absolute; and effect is always kindred to its own peculiar cause, although we may have at times to go back considerably farther than we are accustomed to in order to find the cause, the parent of this or that effect, or actualised, though not necessarily permanently actualised, condition.” So much for humility.

Despite the potentially off-putting religious overtones (not to mention talk of lives before birth and lives after death), there’s an important message about personal development. “Every human life can be made indeed most glorious, however humble it may begin, or however humble it may remain or exalted it may become,” Trine explains. But in order to live the lives we want, we must form our ideals and then follow them continually, “whatever may arise, wherever they may lead”. We must understand that we are in control of our lives because “heredity is a reed that is easily broken”.

Trine also suggests meditation, which has benefits nobody can dispute: “There is nothing that will bring us such abundant returns as to take a little time in the quiet each day of our lives. We need this to get the kinks out of our minds, and hence out of our lives. We need this to form better the higher ideals of life. We need this in order to see clearly in mind the things upon which we would concentrate and focus the thought-forces.” And even if you don’t believe in the idea of influencing others through mental suggestion (which has “tremendous possibilities for good if we will but study into it carefully, understand it fully, and use it rightly”), practices like loving-kindness meditation can at least benefit us as individuals in the here and now.

Once again, my biggest problem is that too much emphasis is placed on thought. That’s why his suggestions for dealing with addictions and reaching a state of “easy, full, and complete control” come across as somewhat simplistic. Fortunately, like Plato’s suggestion in The Republic that we strive for a balance between brains and brawn, Trine recognises the power of both action and thought: “If the Oriental [Eastern] would do his contemplating, and then get up and do his work, he would be in a better condition; he would be living a more normal and satisfactory life. If we in the Occident [West] would take more time from the rush and activity of life for contemplation, for meditation, for idealisation, for becoming acquainted with our real selves, and then go about our work manifesting the powers of our real selves, we would be far better off, because we would be living a more natural, a more normal life.”

The message seems to be that just because your brain can’t tell the difference between something you vividly imagine doing and something you actually do, doesn’t mean the world can’t too. We still need to take action in order to achieve our ideals. As Trine continues: “To find one’s centre, to become centred in the Infinite, is the first great essential of every satisfactory life; and then to go out, thinking, speaking, working, loving, living, from this centre.” Now that sounds good to me!

If you enjoyed this post, please remember to Like, Tweet, and Share it using the links at the top or bottom of the page. And remember to subscribe to free alerts or follow me on Twitter to be notified when the next review is released. For more on the subject, read my review of Self-Development and the Way to Power.