Some of Emerson’s Key Ideas. English 215 The Citadel. “It is one soul which animates all men.”.
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Emerson believed that, in the deepest, truest part of each one of us, we are all alike. And on that deepest level, we as humans are not wretched sinners desperate for redemption but are instead already “part or particle of God.”
How do we tap into the “one light which beams out of a thousand stars”? Studying ancient texts or following charismatic leaders will not do it. We must instead take action for ourselves. Thinking comes from living; “there is virtue yet in the hoe and the spade.”
There is a profound link between labor and thought. But we must be careful not to become our jobs— “the mechanic, a machine; the sailor, a rope of a ship.” Instead we must act and think for ourselves, struggling to be “the whole man.”
How will we know when our actions and thoughts are true? By seeing if our thoughts and deeds are in harmony with nature. RWE believed that one could follow nature back to the mind of God. If we hold strong to what we know to be true, we can withstand an unnatural, conformist society.
RWE wrote these pieces before Darwin argued that nature is a battlefield on which the weak and maladapted are weeded out. E’s opposition of nature and society rests on the idea that nature perfectly reflects all that is holy in the hearts and minds of humanity.