Ralph Waldo Emerson, the sage of Concord, the intellectual center of philosophical originality, philosopher and poet, embodied the finest spirit and highest ideals of his age… a bold and creative thinker who had no peers in presenting truth. His lectures and essays are models of clarity, style and thought which made him a formidable presence in American life.
The mystical harmonies of man and nature, the values of non-conformity, intellectual and spiritual independence, the glory of the human spirit, a powerful champion of the American Indian, a constant foe of the traditional American educational system, made him a brilliant voice for creative independence. The geniuses in our society received recognition and giant support from him.
His letter endorsing Walt Whitman’s LEAVES OF GRASS hailed the poet as “the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed.”
Emerson’s quotes are treasured by all thinking human beings. “Whoever would be a man, must be a nonconformist… A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
His classic was an essay that I have called the “Gate to Freedom.” How many people are in the cages of traditional thought and morality, paralyzed by the thought of breaking out of the chains that others have put them in… others who find their own security in putting other locks on the chains. How many read the words of this essay and praise the words but tremble in fear of living it.
I have it framed in my study. Here it is for YOU, now, to study, reflect and meditate on, and if you can find the personal courage, to LIVE this:
O father O mother O wife O children O brothers and sisters O relatives O friends… I have lived with you after appearances hitherto.
Henceforward, I AM THE TRUTH. Be it known unto you that hence-forward I obey no law less than my eternal law.
I appeal from your customs. I MUST BE MYSELF. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep, is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever truly rejoices me and the heart appoints.
If you are noble, I will love you. If you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your own companions. I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly, but truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, however long we have dwelt in lies, to finally live in truth.
Does that sound harsh? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and if we follow the truth, it will bring us OUT SAFE AT LAST.” Emerson
There, in that essay is the latitude and longitude of the GATE TO FREEDOM, and perhaps more importantly, the gate to TRUTH.
Let those who want to keep us in their secure cages, quiver and tremble, upset and even furious at our new found freedom and independence. Those who have the courage to walk through this gate are a terrible THREAT to all who choose to stay in the cages and their response will be anger and attacks.
Another relevant quote for your pleasure:
A spark of fire is infinitely deep, but a mass of fire reaching from earth upward into heaven, this is the sign of the robust, burning, united radiant soul.
LIFE IS OUR DICTIONARY.
Emerson’s independence and creativity became classics to the Unitarian Christian tradition. As a Unitarian minister, he refused to serve the sacrament of communion, calling it the ultimate in superstition and primitive mythology. His congregation loved it… and joyfully accepted his stand on that primitive ritual.
If you feel like you may have been put in a cage by the thin lipped orthodox in our society and culture… you may want to start reading Emerson. His brilliant thought can open for you, THE GATES OF FREEDOM.