William Edelen: The Gate To Freedom

The Contrary Minister

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.


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.



One Comment

Emerson proclaims that “he is the TRUTH and obeys the eternal law”. He explains that “those (who that?) who want to keep us in their secure cages, quiver and tremble and be upset and 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.” Emerson, trapped as he must be by Descartes’ faith in the absolute objectivity of science, holds TRUTH (all caps apparently) as a rigid unwavering thing and the freedom and independence of the human mind to identify truth our greatest asset. Yet though Emerson does not seem to know it, there is nothing as rigid as our persistent myth of the absolute objectivity of science and our belief in the total dependability of the human mind. The author of this piece, William Edelen, states that Emerson embodied the finest spirit and highest ideals of his age… a bold and creative thinker who had no peers in presenting truth”. That may well be true, but Emerson has been gone more than a century and a lot has taken place, Mr. Edelen. Emerson is no longer a reliable commentator on today’s insights about spirit and matter (I will not call them truths).

The “Religion of Zarathustra” (Zorastrianism), a 1926 book by a Persian scholar named Taraporewala,(look up on Amazon) carefully tracks our TRUTHS from the seemingly Eternal Ancient wisdom of the Aryans which reflected their needs at the time until they eventually encountered the mythology of the Avesta and the Veda and thus onward to Ahura Mazda and the great prophet Zarathustra, and the eternal laws of good and evil. The Avesta cycle of birth and death was later modified and eventually Mithraism and the supreme being Asura Varruna described a heavenly light, an all-embracing Father who presided over the annual festival of fecundity and love. (Forget Victoria and the Puritans).

The Zoroastrian faith weakened as the rulers of the ancient world came to think more of their power and position than of their religion, imagining themselves as “a chosen people of God”. The new eclectic faith of Mani began to spread: Zoroastrian priests called him “the fiend incarnate”. Very early Christian writers were also abusive. Nevertheless Manichaeism expanded as a heretical offshoot of Christianity amongst the Cathars in Italy, Southern France, and the Baltic and even to the Uigurs in Western China. Catharists began to see The Almighty as a higher God than Yahweh or the Eternal Father or who rules (guess what) the church in Rome. Mani saw the struggle between Spirit and Matter as the basis for a solution to the problem of Good and Evil: a notion anathema to Newtonians. As the Sasanian Dynasty in Persian decayed, Mani taught that Light was Spirit and Good while darkness was Matter and thus Evil. He also threw in portions of the Sermon on the Mount and the teachings of Buddha. His faith and his faithful were finally exterminated in the Catharist region of France in 1805 but remained in southern Iran and the orient long thereafter. Mazdak introduced a new mythology just year before the onslaught of Islamic culture into Persia. His teachers were driven from the land, he was treacherously murdered and Mazdakism uprooted. its teachings destroyed. The new invading Islamic faith cooperated in this and set thing back apace. The revolutionary and communistic preachings of Mazdak (he advocated communal ownership of all worldly possessions and equality between men and women). He also preached the separation of good and evil, light and darkness, . It was more than a century before Lenin felt safe to advocate “peace, land and bread”. I drag you through all these old mythologies to emphasize the way in which they build upon earlier insights, answer new questions no longer adequately explained in the older mythologies, absorb wider human experience and a deeper humanity, and, we hope, think up new ways to nurture ourselves and to avoid cataclysm.

It is amazing to read, in this account of the forgotten myths, Emerson’s emphasis upon his Truths, and upon his Western Scientific myths which insist upon the materiality of our world and upon our objectivity in experiencing its wonder (read Schopenhauer, Quantum Physics, or The Bell Theorem). Emerson is insistent upon “my eternal law and gateway to truth” and also upon his-newly found, albeit illusionary, “freedom” of thought and independence”. What a shame that Emerson (1803-1882) missed Schopenhauer (publshed 1820 and seldom read until 1848), and never bumped into Werner Heisenberg (the inseparabiliy of time and space). But even had he done so, chances are he might have called these His Truth as well.