Ralph Waldo Emerson believed in the potential within every individual to achieve
a heightened state of being and awareness through a close observation of the
world and an introspective look at himself. Infused in his work are the
influences of transcendentalism and his life as a Unitarian pastor. James D.
Hart, when discussing the spirit of transcendentalism, states, "Man may fulfill
his divine potentialities either through a rapt mystical state, in which the
divine is infused into the human, or through coming into contact with the truth,
beauty, and goodness embodied in nature and originating in the Over-Soul. Thus
occurs the doctrine of correspondence between the tangible world and the human
mind, and the identity of moral and physical laws" (Hart 674). This concept is
the embodiment of Emerson's sermons and essays, and any one of his works
fulfills or inspires a divine potential.
"Self Reliance," published in 1841, is one of Emerson's most influential essays,
and its title addresses a central concept of American Transcendentalism. The
essay promotes self trust and independence of the individual, and this idea is
expressed in the final lines, "Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing
can bring you peace but the triumph of the principal" (Lauter 1638). The
principal he refers to is a moral truth that can only be developed in one's own
mind. As man lives in search of this truth, he achieves human divinity. "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...
... middle of paper ...
... and divine because nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of
your own mind" (Lauter 1624).
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Young Emerson Speaks. New York: Kennikat Press Inc., 1938.
Hart, James D., The Oxford Companion to American Literature. 6th ed. New York:
OxfordUniversity Press, 1995.
Howe, Daniel Walker. The Unitarian Conscience. Massachusetts: Harvard University
Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 3rd ed. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. "Self Reliance."Lauter 1622
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. "Nature."Lauter 1582
Whitman, Walt. "Song of Myself."Lauter 2743
Wilbur, Earl Morse. A History of Unitarianism In Transylvania, England, and
America. Boston: Beacon Press, 1945.
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