The Great Secret

The Great Secret:  Life’s Meaning as Revealed Through Ancient, Hidden Traditions  by Maurice Maeterlinck

The Great Secret

Life’s Meaning as Revealed Through Ancient, Hidden Traditions

Maurice Maeterlinck

“Spirit is the source of all, the only certitude, the sole eternal reality.”

Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949) was known to the world as the “Shakespeare of Belgium” and the recipient of the 1911 Nobel Prize for literature. What is less known about Maeterlinck is that he spent many years delving deeply into the world’s great spiritual traditions. The Great Secret, first published in 1922, is his masterwork. It lives up to its title in every way.

What is the great secret? We believe Maeterlinck’s choice of title alludes to many things. First, to the idea that the world’s great religions all share the same roots, roots that have been obscured by the institutions that grew out of them. The great secret is the core of beliefs upon which all subsequent beliefs have been based and which have been passed down for millennia by initiates and mystics, sages and priests who have kept alive through the oral tradition what our institutions have covered over with myth, with beliefs that would be palatable to the masses. Most of all, the great secret is the inextinguishable truth acknowledged by our ancestors and to which the truly faithful inevitably return – the fact that none of us knows and never will know anything of God.

As Maeterlinck says, the supreme great secret, the ultimate key to any true faith, is adherence to the honest confession made by our ancestors – We know nothing. We can know nothing. As the ancient Vedas of India stated it, “Those who know Him best regard Him as incomprehensible and those who know nothing at all of Him believe they know him perfectly.” As Maeterlinck explains, the confession of ignorance recorded on the first pages of humanity’s earliest sacred texts is the one subsequent belief systems have eagerly discarded. It is a confession of “absolute ignorance as regards the nature, attributes, character, purposes, and existence of God.” “The Great Secret,” he says, “the only secret, is that all things are secret.” None of us can know the unknowable.

In this brilliant and remarkably concise work, Maeterlinck follows the “great mysterious river which since the beginning of history has been flowing beneath all the religions, all the faiths, and all the philosophies, beneath all the visible and everyday manifestations of human thought.” He traces the oral traditions back to their beginnings and gives to each of the major conductors – India, Egypt, Persia, Chaldea, Ancient Greece, the Gnostics, the Neoplatonists, The Cabala, the Alchemists, the Modern Occultists, the Metaphychists – their proper place in the evolution of spiritual thought. He also points out along the way the beliefs that have endured and been part of the world’s great religious and spiritual traditions.

One of the other aspects of the great secret which Maeterlinck emphasizes has endured since the beginning of time is the belief that it is only through silence and contemplation that we can achieve true faith – that “the only divinity which we can hope to understand is to be found in the depths of our own souls.”

The Gleam of Light Team

The Great Secret
Maurice Maeterlinck
2003, The Book Tree

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