Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph_Waldo_Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, and mystic. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and he disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.

Emerson is considered one of America’s greatest philosophers who managed to introduce European and Eastern thought to the New World, and greatly contributed in forming a unique American quality that came from an original and distinguished mind, which was open to all kinds of influence. He was one of the major figures of the Transcendentalism movement, a period which was also called the American Renaissance, that took place between 1835-1865. It was a glorious time when literature, poetry and philosophical thought flourished, and Emerson’s influence acted as a catalyst for other great writers such as Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson and Henry David Thoreau, who was the closest of Emerson’s friends.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, a Western, or Yankee mystic, as he is often referred to, had extensively read the philosophies of Plato, Confucius and Kant and the works of great writers, such as William Shakespeare, Sir Francis Bacon and Samuel Coleridge. In his own writings he managed to combine religion with philosophy, as well as ancient classical ideas with super-naturalism and mysticism. He supported the infinite potential of an over-soul, which he accepted as an inseparable part of the human existence, and termed it as the “infinitude of every man.” Having been influenced by the European Romanticism of that time, he promoted ethics, aesthetics and advanced thought, not only in the theoretical but also in the practical aspect of life. He was a non-conformist and a great supporter of human rights, a proponent of abolition of slavery, and one who believed that man has to be in absolute harmony with nature and with himself.

Emerson gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, formulating and expressing the philosophy of Transcendentalism in his 1836 essay, Nature. Following this ground-breaking work, he gave a speech entitled “The American Scholar” in 1837, which Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. considered to be America’s “Intellectual Declaration of Independence”.

Emerson wrote most of his important essays as lectures first, then revised them for print. His first two collections of essays – Essays: First Series and Essays: Second Series, published respectively in 1841 and 1844 – represent the core of his thinking, and include such well-known essays as Self-Reliance, The Over-Soul, Circles, The Poet and Experience. Together with Nature, these essays made the decade from the mid-1830s to the mid-1840s Emerson’s most fertile period.

Emerson wrote on a number of subjects, never espousing fixed philosophical tenets, but developing certain ideas such as individuality, freedom, the ability for humankind to realize almost anything, and the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world. Emerson’s “nature” was more philosophical than naturalistic: “Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul.” As a natural mystic, Emerson is one of several figures who “took a more pantheist or pandeist approach by rejecting views of God as separate from the world.”

He remains among the linchpins of the American romantic movement, and his work has greatly influenced the thinkers, writers and poets that have followed him. When asked to sum up his work, he said his central doctrine was “the infinitude of the private man.” Emerson is also well known as a mentor and friend of fellow Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau.

Emerson was introduced to Indian philosophy when reading the works of French philosopher Victor Cousin. In 1845, Emerson’s journals show he was reading the Bhagavad Gita and Henry Thomas Colebrooke’s Essays on the Vedas. Emerson was strongly influenced by Vedanta, and much of his writing has strong shades of nondualism. One of the clearest examples of this can be found in his essay “The Over-soul”:

“We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related, the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we exist and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one. We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul.”

Emerson’s religious views were often considered radical at the time. He believed that all things are connected to God and, therefore, all things are divine. Critics believed that Emerson was removing the central God figure; as Henry Ware, Jr. said, Emerson was in danger of taking away “the Father of the Universe” and leaving “but a company of children in an orphan asylum”. Emerson was partly influenced by German philosophy and Biblical criticism. His views, the basis of Transcendentalism, suggested that God does not have to reveal the truth but that the truth could be intuitively experienced directly from nature. When asked his religious belief, Emerson stated, “I am more of a Quaker than anything else. I believe in the ‘still, small voice,’ and that voice is Christ within us.”

Emerson’s writings, during his early years, show that he had a strong belief in self-reliance, he maintained that wisdom came to men by divine influx, that nature was the means to unlock all secrets of wisdom, and make men enlightened. One of the most important works of his early period is his book “Nature,” which he wrote in 1836. It is a masterpiece in lyrical prose, which expresses young Emerson’s idealism and can be compared with Thoreau’s “Walden” and Whitman’s “Song of myself.” In it, Emerson combines his personal beliefs, confessions and experiences with prophecy, while Mother Nature takes the place of Jesus guiding man on his way to salvation.

Emerson declared the literary independence from England, and as it was depicted in his work “The American Scholar,” in 1837. He was against the imitations of others, and against following traditions of the past, which he considered to be of minor importance. In “History” he states that conformist and compliance with tradition equal to spiritual suicide. He greatly appreciated philosophers who wrote out of personal experience and inner wisdom, such as Coleridge, Kant and Spinoza, and those who were able to relate the soul to the divine spirit. For him, the human form was the link to the universal mind and that was why he praised “the great servants of the race” such as Plato, Swedenborg, Shakespeare and Goethe, who offer humanity, eternal youth, wisdom and prophecy.

In his early years, he was an anti-conformist, who had even rejected the Unitarian Church which he had served as a priest and he was against social rules as they were applied on human relationships. In “Friendship,” he supported the view that “like only can know or understand like.” However, in his later works, Emerson seems to accept the idea of less reliance to self, he accepted fate and showed respect for society. In his “Conduct of Life,” which he wrote in 1860, he seems to realize human limitations in a universe that constantly evolves while in “Illusions” he turns his attention to the Hindu “maya,” which is the phenomenal universe from which the soul has to find its path to ascension.

He called himself a poet. Many see him as a philosopher or essayist and others as a prophet or a mystic. By his own definition a mystic is someone “who lead us into another region, – the world of morals or of will. What is singular about this region of thought is its claim. Wherever the sentiment of right comes in, it takes precedence of every thing else. For other things, I make poetry of them; but the moral sentiment makes poetry of me.”

A mystic to Emerson was a master of the realm of will, volition and choice – a seer of moral truth and higher value. Mystics teach us how to be and how to live. They instruct in the art of here and now. They are spiritual teachers and they are able to convey the true nature of moral value, not from rules or dogma found in books, but from the immediacy of the experience that flows from their own moral awakening. Emerson himself described the function of a real teacher in his essay Spiritual Laws this way:

“The man may teach by doing, and not otherwise. If he can communicate himself, he can teach, but not by words. He teaches who gives, and he learns who receives. There is no teaching until the pupil is brought into the same state or principle in which you are; a transfusion takes place; he is you, and you are he; then is a teaching; and by no unfriendly chance or bad company can he ever quite lose the benefit.”

Emerson developed a profound evolutionary philosophy well ahead of the curve. He was writing about evolution three decades before Darwin would publish On the Origin of Species. He detailed how spirit became manifest in the continuous transformation of the universe well before Rudolf Steiner, Henri Bergson, Sri Aurobindo or Pierre Teilhard de Chardin were even born. How did he come up with his magnificent vision of reality? By the power of his intuition.

Emerson was a champion of intutition. Those who gathered around him were called to trust in the truth of intellectual instinct. In his essay Self-Reliance Emerson instructs us to find “the aboriginal Self, on which a universal reliance may be grounded.” To Emerson there is a deep universal self from which all intuition flows. It is a knowledge that arises of its own accord, it comes to us spontaneously and when it does we know it can be trusted beyond the need for external verification or empirical proof. Intuition is our direct connection to the “source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct. We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teachings are tuitions.”

As a lecturer and orator, Emerson—nicknamed the Concord Sage—became the leading voice of intellectual culture in the United States. James Russell Lowell, editor of the Atlantic Monthly and the North American Review, commented in his My Study Windows (1871), that Emerson was not only the “most steadily attractive lecturer in America,” but also “one of the pioneers of the lecturing system.” Theodore Parker, a minister and Transcendentalist, noted Emerson’s ability to influence and inspire others: “the brilliant genius of Emerson rose in the winter nights, and hung over Boston, drawing the eyes of ingenuous young people to look up to that great new star, a beauty and a mystery, which charmed for the moment, while it gave also perennial inspiration, as it led them forward along new paths, and towards new hopes”.

Emerson’s work not only influenced his contemporaries, such as Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau, but would continue to influence thinkers and writers in the United States and around the world down to the present. Notable thinkers who recognize Emerson’s influence include Nietzsche and William James, Emerson’s godson. “There is little disagreement that Emerson was the most influential writer of 19th-century America, though these days he is largely the concern of scholars. Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau and William James were all positive Emersonians, while Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry James were Emersonians in denial — while they set themselves in opposition to the sage, there was no escaping his influence.

In his book The American Religion, Harold Bloom repeatedly refers to Emerson as “The prophet of the American Religion,” which in the context of the book refers to indigenously American religions such as Mormonism and Christian Science, which arose largely in Emerson’s lifetime, but also to Mainline Protestant churches that Bloom says have become in the United States more gnostic than their European counterparts. In The Western Canon, Harold Bloom compares Emerson to Michel de Montaigne: “The only equivalent reading experience that I know is to reread endlessly in the notebooks and journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American version of Montaigne.” Several of Emerson’s poems were included in Bloom’s The Best Poems of the English Language, although he wrote that none of the poems are as outstanding as the best of Emerson’s essays, which Bloom listed as Self-Reliance, Circles, Experience, and “nearly all of Conduct of Life.”

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Waldo_Emerson

http://www.deepspirits.com/great-people/ralph-waldo-emerson/

http://philosophyisnotaluxury.com/2010/05/01/who-was-ralph-waldo-emerson/

Excerpts from his writings:

The Senses and the Soul

“What we know is a point to what we do not know. The first questions are still to be asked. Let any man bestow a thought on himself, how he came hither, and whither he tends, and he will find that all the literature, all the philosophy that is on record, have done little to dull the edge of inquiry. The globe that swims so silently with us through the sea of space, has never a port, but with its little convoy of friendly orbs pursues its voyage through the signs of heaven, to renew its navigation again forever. The wonderful tidings our glasses and calendars give us concerning the hospitable lights that hang around us in the deep, do not appease but inflame our curiosity; and in like manner, our culture does not lead to any goal, but its richest results of thought and action are only new preparation.

Here on the surface of our swimming earth we come out of silence into society already formed, into language, customs, and traditions, ready made, and the multitude of our associates discountenance us from expressing any surprise at the somewhat agreeable novelty of Being, and frown down any intimation on our part of a disposition to assume our own vows, to preserve our independence, and to institute any inquiry into the sweet and sublime vision which surrounds us.

And yet there seems no need that any should fear we should grow too wise. The path of truth has obstacles enough of its own. We dwell on the surface of nature. We dwell amidst surfaces; and surface laps so closely on surface, that we cannot easily pierce to see the interior organism. Then the subtlety of things! Under every cause, another cause. Truth soars too high or dives too deep, for the most resolute inquirer. See of how much we know nothing. See the strange position of man. Our science neither comprehends him as a whole, nor any one of its particulars. See the action and reaction of Will and Necessity. See his passions, and their origin in the deeps of nature and circumstance. See the Fear that rides even the brave. See the omnipresent Hope, whose fountains in our consciousness no metaphysician can find. Consider the phenomenon of Laughter, and explore the elements of the Comic. What do we know of the mystery of Music? and what of Form? why this stroke, this outline should express beauty, and that other not? See the occult region of Demonology, with coincidence, foresight, dreams, and omens. Consider the appearance of Death, the formidable secret of our destiny, looming up as the barrier of nature.

Our ignorance is great enough, and yet the fact most surprising is not our ignorance, but the aversation of men from knowledge. That which, one would say, would unite all minds and join all hands, the ambition to push as far as fate would permit, the planted garden of man on every hand into the kingdom of Night, really fires the heart of few and solitary men. Tell men to study themselves, and for the most part, they find nothing less interesting. Whilst we walk environed before and behind with Will, Fate, Hope, Fear, Love, and Death, these phantoms or angels, whom we catch at but cannot embrace, it is droll to see the contentment and incuriosity of man. All take for granted, — the learned as well as the unlearned, — that a great deal, nay, almost all, is known and forever settled. But in truth all is now to be begun, and every new mind ought to take the attitude of Columbus, launch out from the gaping loiterers on the shore, and sail west for a new world.

This profound ignorance, this deep sleep of the higher faculties of man, coexists with a great abundance of what are called the means of learning, great activity of book-making, and of formal teaching. Go into one of our public libraries, when a new box of books and journals has arrived with the usual importation of the periodical literature of England. The best names of Britain are on the covers. What a mass of literary production for a single week or month! We speculate upon it before we read. We say, what an invention is the press and the journal, by which a hundred pale students, each a hive of distilled flowers of learning, of thought, — each a poet, — each an accomplished man whom the selectest influences have joined to breed and enrich, are made to unite their manifold streams for the information and delight of everybody who can read! How lame is speech, how imperfect the communication of the ancient Harper, wandering from castle to hamlet, to sing to a vagrant audience his melodious thoughts! These unopened books contain the chosen verses of a hundred minstrels, born, living, and singing in distant countries and different languages; for, the intellectual wealth of the world, like its commercial, rolls to London, and through that great heart is hurled again to the extremities. And here, too, is the result, not poetic, of how much thought, how much experience, and how much suffering of wise and cultivated men! How can we in America expect books of our own, whilst this bale of wisdom arrives once or twice in a month at our ports?

In this mind we open the books, and begin to read. We find they are books about books; and then perhaps the book criticized was itself a compilation or digest of others; so that the page we read is at third or fourth hand from the event or sentiment which it describes. Then we find that much the largest proportion of the pages relates exclusively to matter of fact — to the superficial fact, and, as if systematically, shuns any reference to a thought or law which the fact indicated. A large part again, both of the prose and verse, is gleanings from old compositions, and the oft repeated praise of such is repeated in the phrase of the present day. We have even the mortification to find one more deduction still from our anticipated prize, namely, that a large portion of ostentatious criticism is merely a hired advertisement of the great booksellers. In the course of our turning of leaves, we fall at last on an extraordinary passage — a record of thought and virtue, or a clarion strain of poetry, or perchance a traveller makes us acquainted with strange modes of life and some relic of primeval religion, or, rarer yet, a profound sentence is here printed — shines here new but eternal on these linen pages, — we wonder whence it came, — or perhaps trace it instantly home — aut Erasmus aut Diabolus — to the only head it could come from.

A few thoughts are all we glean from the best inspection of the paper pile; all the rest is combination and confectionary. A little part abides in our memory, and goes to exalt the sense of duty, and make us happier. For the rest, our heated expectation is chilled and disappointed. Some indirect benefit will no doubt accrue. If we read with braced and active mind, we learn this negative fact, itself a piece of human life. We contrast this mountain of dross with the grains of gold, — we oversee the writer, and learn somewhat of the laws of writing. But a lesson as good we might be learning elsewhere.

Now what is true of a month’s or a year’s issue of new books, seems to me with a little qualification true of the age. The stock-writers, (for the honesty of the literary class has given this population a name,) vastly out-number the thinking men. One man, two men, — possibly, three or four, — have cast behind them the long-descended costume of the academy, and the expectations of fashion, and have said, This world is too fair, this world comes home too near to me than that I should walk a stranger in it, and live at second-hand, fed by other men’s doctrines, or treading only in their steps; I feel a higher right herein, and will hearken to the Oracle myself. Such have perceived the extreme poverty of literature, have seen that there was not and could not be help for the fervent soul, except through its own energy. But the great number of those who have voluminously ministered to the popular tastes were men of talents, who had some feat which each could do with words, but who have not added to wisdom or to virtue. Talent amuses; Wisdom instructs. Talent shows me what another man can do; Genius acquaints me with the spacious circuits of the common nature. One is carpentry; the other is growth. To make a step into the world of thought is now given to but few men; to make a second step beyond the first, only one in a country can do; but to carry the thought on to three steps, marks a great teacher. Aladdin’s palace with its one unfinished window, which all the gems in the royal treasury cannot finish in the style of the meanest of the profusion of jewelled windows that were built by the Genie in a night, is but too true an image of the efforts of talent to add one verse to the copious text which inspiration writes by one or another scribe from age to age.

It is not that the literary class or those for whom they write, are not lovers of truth, and amenable to principles. All are so. The hunger of men for truth is immense; but they are not erect on their feet; the senses are too strong for the soul. Our senses barbarize us. When the ideal world recedes before the senses, we are on a retrograde march. The savage surrenders to his senses; he is subject to paroxysms of joy and fear; he is lewd, and a drunkard. The Esquimaux in the exhilaration of the morning sun, when he is invigorated by sleep, will sell his bed. He is the fool of the moment’s sensations to the degree of losing sight of the whole amount of his sensations in so many years. And there is an Esquimaux in every man which makes us believe in the permanence of this moment’s state of our game more than our own experience will warrant. In the fine day we despise the house. At sea, the passengers always judge from the weather of the present moment of the probable length of the voyage. In a fresh breeze, they are sure of a good run; becalmed, they are equally sure of a long passage. In trade, the momentary state of the markets betrays continually the experienced and long-sighted. In politics, and in our opinion of the prospects of society, we are in like manner the slaves of the hour. Meet one or two malignant declaimers, and we are weary of life, and distrust the permanence of good institutions. A single man in a ragged coat at an election looks revolutionary. But ride in a stage-coach with one or two benevolent persons in good spirits, and the Republic seems to us safe.

It is but an extension of the despotism of sense, — shall I say, only a calculated sensuality, — a little more comprehensive devotion which subjugates the eminent and the reputed wise, and hinders an ideal culture. In the great stakes which the leaders of society esteem not at all fanciful but solid, in the best reputed professions and operations, what is there which will bear the scrutiny of reason? The most active lives have so much routine as to preclude progress almost equally with the most inactive. We defer to the noted merchants whose influence is felt not only in their native cities, but in most parts of the globe; but our respect does them and ourselves great injustice, for their trade is without system, their affairs unfold themselves after no law of the mind; but are bubble built on bubble without end; a work of arithmetic, not of commerce, much less of considerate humanity. They add voyage to voyage, and buy stocks that they may buy stocks, and no ulterior purpose is thought of. When you see their dexterity in particulars, you cannot overestimate the resources of good sense, and when you find how empty they are of all remote aims, you cannot underestimate their philosophy.

The men of letters and the professions we have charged with the like surrender to routine. It is no otherwise with the men of office. Statesmen are solitary. At no time do they form a class. Governments, for the most part, are carried on by political merchants quite without principle, and according to the maxims of trade and huckster; so that what is true of merchants is true of public officers. Why should we suffer ourselves to be cheated by sounding names and fair shows? The titles, the property, the notoriety, the brief consequence of our fellows are only the decoration of the sacrifice, and add to the melancholy of the observer.

“The earth goes on the earth glittering with gold,

The earth goes to the earth sooner than it should,

The earth builds on the earth castles and towers,

The earth says to the earth, all this is ours.”

All this is covered up by the speedy succession of the particulars, which tread so close on each other’s heel, as to allow no space for the man to question the whole thing. There is somewhat terrific in this mask of routine. Captain Franklin, after six weeks travelling on the ice to the North Pole, found himself two hundred miles south of the spot he had set out from. The ice had floated; and we sometimes start to think we are spelling out the same sentences, saying the same words, repeating the same acts as in former years. Our ice may float also.

This preponderance of the senses can we balance and redress? Can we give permanence to the lightnings of thought which lick up in a moment these combustible mountains of sensation and custom, and reveal the moral order after which the earth is to be rebuilt anew? Grave questions truly, but such as to leave us no option. To know the facts is already a choosing of sides, ranges us on the party of Light and Reason, sounds the signal for the strife, and prophesies an end to the insanity and a restoration of the balance and rectitude of man.”

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

“Always do what you are afraid to do.”

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”

“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”

“The purpose of life is . . . to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”

“Each man takes care that his neighbor shall not cheat him. But, a day comes when he begins to care that he does not cheat his neighbor. Then all goes well – he has changed his market-cart into a chariot of the sun.”

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

“The earth laughs in flowers.”

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

“Make the most of yourself….for that is all there is of you.”

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

“Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.”

“Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.”

“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

“A great man is always willing to be little.”

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”

“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.”

“Every artist was first an amateur.”

“People do not seem to realise that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.”

“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.”

“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”

“You become what you think about all day long.”

“Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself.”

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”

“Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis.”

“The good news is that the moment you decide that what you know is more important than what you have been taught to believe, you will have shifted gears in your quest for abundance. Success comes from within, not from without.”

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn”

“Nothing external to you has any power over you.”

“In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.”

“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”

“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whisper of God.”

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”

“People only see what they are prepared to see.”

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

“You are constantly invited to be what you are.”

“He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses.”

“Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion. Life is like a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue. . . . ”

“All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.”

“Life is a series of surprises and would not be worth taking or keeping if it were not.”

“Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.”

“We are always getting ready to live but never living.”

“Whatever course you decide upon there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires….courage.”

“This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life.”

“When you were born you were crying and everyone else was smiling. Live your life so at the end, your’re the one who is smiling and everyone else is crying.”

“Every wall is a door.”

“Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.”

“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.”

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

“I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.”

“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.”

“The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows…”

“I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.”

“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”

“Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world.”

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

“The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship.”

“Never lose an opportunity for seeing something beautiful for beauty is God’s handwriting.”

“I dream of a better tomorrow, where chickens can cross the road and not be questioned about their motives.”

“The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself.”

“Teach that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake.”

“Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.”

“The only true gift is a portion of thyself.”

“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.”

“Moderation in all things, including moderation.”

“Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house, a world; and beyond its world a heaven. Know then, that the world exists for you: build, therefore, your own world.”

“Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long that they have come to esteem the religious, learned and civil institutions as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property. They measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is.”

“Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say “I think,” “I am,” but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.”

“To laugh often and love much,

To win the respect of intelligent

persons and the affection of children;

To earn the approbation of honest critics,

And to endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;

To find the best in others;

To give one’s self;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by

a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed

social condition;

To have played, and laughed, with enthusiasm

and sung, with exultation;

To know, even one life, has breathed easier

because you have lived.

This, is to have succeeded.”

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About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, and our lazy dog, Amos, in a lovely little mountain town called Paradise, situated on the ridge of the Little Grand Canyon, in the Northern California Sierra Nevadas. I have several other sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: http://www.pbase.com/1heart Essays on the Conscious Process: http://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/ Poetry and Prosetry: http://feelingtoinfinity.wordpress.com/ Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: https://westernmystics.wordpress.com/ Free Transliterations of Spiritual Texts: http://freetransliterations1.blogspot.com/ Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: https://spiritguidesparrow.wordpress.com/ Thank You!
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One Response to Ralph Waldo Emerson

  1. Bob OHearn says:

    “Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes.

    Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?

    Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe?

    The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship”

    ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson. An excerpt from his book Nature published in 1836

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