Ralph Waldo Emerson And His Transcendentalist Views
A comparison of two similar characters or writers from a particular era. You will write how the two characters are similar and different from each other. If you are writing about the differences between two authors or two literary works you will have to provide details and an explanation and examination of how the events took place.' Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau both reference about the transcendentalist movement in their literary works.
The transcendentalist movement was a major movement especially in literature. Henry David Thoreau preached about transcendentalism from more of a physical point of view. He was one with nature, he lived off of the land. Ralph Waldo Emerson preached about transcendentalism from more of a religious standpoint. He talked more about how if you are one with God you are content with your life and how 'Envy is ignorance; imitation is suicide.' He talked more about transcendentalism in his preaching then physically living out the idea.
Who was Ralph Waldo Emerson? Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on May 25, 1803, and died on April 27, 1882. He was born to Ruth Haskins and the Reverend William Emerson, a Unitarian minister. He got his mane from his mother's brother Ralph and his father's great-grandmother was named Rebecca Waldo. Since his father died only two weeks before his eighth birthday, Emerson was mainly raised by his mother, with the help of the other women in the family; his aunt Mary Moody Emerson in particular had a profound effect on him. In 1812, Ralph Waldo Emerson began his educational experience at the Boston Latin School when he had reached the age of nine. Then, only at the age of fourteen, he attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After studying at Harvard for four years and teaching for a short time in his life, Emerson entered the ministry. He was assigned to the Old Second Church, which was located in Boston, Massachusetts, but soon became an unwilling preacher. After his nineteen-year-old wife passed away from tuberculosis, he resigned from the ministry. (Poets.org paragraph 2)
One year after his wife’s passing he sailed to Europe to visit Thomas Carlyle and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The friendship that Emerson and Thomas shared was long lasting and unforgettable; some of the insights of Thomas helped Emerson formulate his own philosophy. On his way back to New England, Emerson became known for challenging the traditional way of thinking and living. In 1835, he remarried to Lydia Jackson and decided to settle in Concord, Massachusetts. Emerson became the main mediator for Transcendentalism, which was known as the American philosophical and literary movement. It was centered in New England during the time period of the 19th century where people went against scientific rationalism. (Poets.org paragraph 3)
In America, 'transcendentalism' was mostly common in literature, and often had a religious nature. The American transcendentalists seemed to turn down the Christian concept of God. Theirs was a extensive view of seeing God in his creation, and not only as the Creator. Emerson did not want to escape from the physical world into the spiritual, but instead, he wanted to have an union of both. He wrote, 'It is better...to look upon external beauty as Michelangelo did, as 'the frail and weary weed, in which God dresses the soul, which he had called into time.''
Emerson states that each person has to produce according to his own ability, and not imitate others. He states in the essay of “Self Reliance,” “Envy is ignorance; imitation is suicide.” In this quotation, he is saying that each person should act and think for themselves. He believes that if an individual imitated society, they are surrendering their creativity and their ability of free will. He believes that the human race would be much more efficient if people acted for themselves. The common experiences of humankind have a unique response in each individual. God never created any human being exactly like you before and will never make anyone exactly like you ever again. Emerson encourages each person to trust himself and to work within the circumstances into which he is been born. Emerson believes that great men accept their highest destiny and lead in the war to end “Chaos” and the “Dark.”
In the essay of “Self Reliance”, Emerson says “Ne te quaesiveris extra” which is Latin for 'do not look outside yourself.' This is the first line of Emerson's essay and it the whole purpose of this essay. He is stating that a person shouldn’t look for help from an outside force. He is saying that you should trust yourself. People need to have faith in themselves if they want to succeed in life. If a man or a women is looking for some inspiration, the best place to look lies within yourself. You are the best answer to your problems. All a human needs to do in life is have trust in God and, most importantly, yourself.
Emerson begins by encouraging humans to be bold to ask questions, to go against society. He tried to persuade people to go against tradition and think for themselves. He believes that people need to have trust in themselves and God. In his essay “Self Reliance,” Emerson cites Moses, Plato and Milton as examples of men in history who used ways of thinking and were not afraid to voice their own original thoughts and findings. Emerson preaches that it takes lots of practice for a man to become fully aware of his inner thoughts. But one he has mastered this, he should not keep his ideas to himself, he believes that man should preach and spread his ideas to influence and encourage others to do the same.
Emerson believes that society never advances, it goes in a continuous cycle of going forwards and backwards, never making any true improvement. Since people conform to society, there is no real change happening. They just go on with their lives doing whatever the government tells them to do. People need to look within themselves and listen to their intuition. If people actually thought for themselves and questioned the ways society works, then it could advance onto new levels. People need to ask question and question everything around them. This will be the only way that society can advance.
Emerson mentions prayer many times in his essay. He says that “prayer to a being outside oneself for help is superstitious.” Emerson believes that God is in each and everyone of us, so therefore men and women do not need prayer if they are at one with Him. People should not pray to God just because they need something. Emerson believes that just praying to go to get something back in return is false prayer. He believes that you should pray to God just to talk with Him. He wants humans to be alone with God and their thoughts. He believes that we should thank God for everything that He does for us. Emerson says “I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.” Emerson likes to be alone with his thoughts. Before the service begins, he is just alone with his thoughts. He feels like he is closer with God if he is alone. He believes that he is alone with just God and his thoughts, just how he preaches we, as humans, should live.
Emerson believes it is sad that humans today measures the material worth of people rather than what each man is inside. People in society today look only at material things and then base their judgment off of that. Emerson believes that each person has their own worth, their internal worth, and that we should all get to know them for what’s on the inside, not the outside. A poor man could have the most wonderful personality but since people judge on material worth, nobody would ever get to know. Everyone chooses to associate themselves with the richer class who sold their soul for money or material goods and yet the good people in the world go unnoticed.