Essay on God, Or Gods, By Ralph Waldo Emerson

Essay on God, Or Gods, By Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Religion is generally viewed as a common belief shared by a group of people. These groups then create dogmas and doctrines that are to be followed and perceived as true. From the doctrines rituals and rites form leading to a sense of unity through initiation. Once a person is initiated they are granted membership into the religion and are given a sense of belonging. The sense of being part of a bigger picture is a commonality found in all humans. The usual uniting factor that binds people to a religion is the belief in the same higher being, usually called God, or Gods. While Ralph Waldo Emerson was a man of religion he was not a man of traditional religion. His approach on religion came from a much earthlier source in quite the literal sense. Emerson believed that the only religion one needed to follow was one of nature or the belief of transcendentalism. Emerson’s sense of nature was much broader than the denotative meaning, he believed nature to be both wilderness and the essence of the human soul.
Some have called Emerson a Unitarian or a Christian who asserts the unity of God and rejects the doctrine of the Trinity. This evidence can be found in his essay titled Nature where he will only occasionally refer to God in the proper noun form but it was more common to use the common noun form of god. While Ralph Waldo Emerson was a pastor at one point in his life the death of his wife caused him to remove himself from the church and travel to Europe where he met with many writers such as Thomas Carlyle and Samuel Coleridge (Baym and Levine 506). upon his return from Europe Emerson started working as a lecture until 1836 when he anonymously published Nature at his own expense. David M. Robinson, a professor at Oregon State Univer...

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... means that Emerson viewed nature as an outlet to allow a reflection of self and to rise above the things that cause fear and oppression of the mind. In “The American Scholar” Emerson wrote “the one thing in the world of value is the active soul” (Emerson 539). As before mentioned Emerson believed the way to spiritual enlightenment was finding one’s self in nature. Just a few lines before Emerson writes about the active soul he mentions that “Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst” (Emerson 539). From here one can extrapolate that Emerson believed knowledge to be a powerful tool however man must use the knowledge in the right way. Some may call this wisdom, and wisdom is only achieved through life experiences and a thorough understanding of the soul or self which Emerson believed could be achieved through the study and exploration of nature.

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