As the leader of the transcendentalist movement, American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson adhered to the idea that everything in our world is a scaled down representation of the universe at large. Emerson used his Transcendentalist philosophy as a vehicle to share his ideas. He promoted the ideas that the human race should avoid false consistency, and conformity in general in order to follow their own instincts and ideas so that everyone might arrive at a personalized understanding of the world and the universe. These themes of non-conformity, individuality and personal interpretation of universal existence permeated Emerson’s work. Through his writings, Emerson was propelled to the forefront of the political scene of his day.
The early years of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s life led to him becoming the central figure of the Transcendentalist movement. Emerson was born in Boston, Massachusetts to a family that would eventually have eight children. Following in his father’s footsteps, Emerson became a minister after graduating from Harvard. After his wife of two years died, her death and his “recent crisis of faith” caused Emerson to resign from his position as a minister (“Ralph Waldo Emerson”). To gain a new perspective of the world, Emerson traveled Europe. After returning home, Emerson remarried and began giving lectures that were different from the sermons he previously preached. These lectures talked of “spiritual experience and ethical living” (“Ralph Waldo Emerson”). Through his lectures and essays, Emerson quickly became the leading figure of American Transcendentalism.
Transcendentalism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a philosophy that emphasizes the a priori conditions of knowledge and experience or the unknowable char...
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...Nature.” One writer describes “Nature” as being written “by a man of genius” because he is so in awe of Emerson’s writing (Chapman). For example, in “Nature,” Emerson says that “the happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship” (Nature). This means that if man pays attention to the beauty of nature, he will see how everything reflects the beauty of God, thus God is in nature. When man sees God in all creation, he will realize that nature is worshiping God, and he will want to worship God as well. Emerson’s writing reflects his belief that the notions of conforming to the ideals and demands of polite society have rendered man helpless, dependent and stagnant. He promotes self-sufficiency and argues that such an approach to life and existence allows man to achieve a higher level of self-realization in order to grow to attain authentic independence.
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