Saturday, May 25, 2013

May 25 - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Essayist and lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on May 25, 1803, in Boston. Educated at Harvard, he became a unitarian minister after the death of his young wife, but chafed at its theological constraints. In the 1830s he began to form the foundations of the Transcendentalist movement in American literature by gathering around him a circle of writers and thinkers that included Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, the Alcott family and others. He developed his views on the mystical harmonies of man and nature, the perfectibility of the human spirit, and the human soul’s unity with what he called the divine “Over-Soul.” He extolled the values of non-conformity, intellectual and spiritual independence, and self-reliance. Emerson’s 1836 essay “Nature,” in which he reimagined the divine as a vast, immanent, visible entity (which he called nature), earned him reproach as an atheist but served as the spiritual bedrock on which transcendentalism became a cultural movement.

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