Ralph Waldo Emerson
May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American lecturer, philosopher, essayist, and poet, best remembered for leading the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and he disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.
Emerson gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, formulating and expressing the philosophy of Transcendentalism in his 1836 essay, Nature. Following this ground-breaking work, he gave a speech entitled The American Scholar in 1837, which Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. considered to be America's "Intellectual Declaration of Independence". Considered one of the great lecturers of the time, Emerson had an enthusiasm and respect for his audience that enraptured crowds.
Emerson wrote most of his important essays as lectures first, then revised them for print. His first two collections of essays – Essays: First Series and Essays: Second Series, published respectively in 1841 and 1844 – represent the core of his thinking, and include such well-known essays as Self-Reliance, The Over-Soul, Circles, The Poet and Experience. Together with Nature, these essays made the decade from the mid-1830s to the mid-1840s Emerson's most fertile period.
Influence on New Thought:
It should first be noted that Emerson was a student and fan of the works of Emmauel Swedenborg - the great mystic and seer whos’ influence can also be seen in Quimby and his students.
Ernest Holmes discovered the writings of Emerson when he was 18yrs old. Holmes latter recalled that reading
Emerson was “like drinking water.”
From Spirit’s in Rebellion:
“In the beginning of the essay on “History,” Emerson writes: “There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate....Of the universal mind, each individual is one more incarnation” Holmes interpreted this to mean “I am that mind in which everything is and because that Mind in which everything is is the Mind I use, I can perceive and understand the nature of things that are akin to me in that mind in whom we life and move and have our being.”
As early as 1839 Emerson, who had been reading translations of oriental scriptures from his sixteenth year, included within the term “Bible” the sacred writings of the other great religions, as sharing with the Hebrew-Christian Scriptures “ethical revelation.” That is, accepting revelation as a source of religious knowledge, he did not restrict that revelation to the Hebrew-Christian tradition. Nor did he think that it was derogatory to Christianity to recognize the achievements of other religions.