Ralph Waldo Emerson eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 403 pages of information about Ralph Waldo Emerson.

But above intellectual curiosity, there is the sentiment of virtue.  Man is born for the good, for the perfect, low as he now lies in evil and weakness.  “The sentiment of virtue is a reverence and delight in the presence of certain divine laws.—­These laws refuse to be adequately stated.—­They elude our persevering thought; yet we read them hourly in each other’s faces, in each other’s actions, in our own remorse.—­The intuition of the moral sentiment is an insight of the perfection of the laws of the soul.  These laws execute themselves.—­As we are, so we associate.  The good, by affinity, seek the good; the vile, by affinity, the vile.  Thus, of their own volition, souls proceed into heaven, into hell.”

These facts, Emerson says, have always suggested to man that the world is the product not of manifold power, but of one will, of one mind,—­that one mind is everywhere active.—­“All things proceed out of the same spirit, and all things conspire with it.”  While a man seeks good ends, nature helps him; when he seeks other ends, his being shrinks, “he becomes less and less, a mote, a point, until absolute badness is absolute death.”—­“When he says ‘I ought;’ when love warms him; when he chooses, warned from on high, the good and great deed; then deep melodies wander through his soul from Supreme Wisdom.”

“This sentiment lies at the foundation of society and successively creates all forms of worship.—­This thought dwelled always deepest in the minds of men in the devout and contemplative East; not alone in Palestine, where it reached its purest expression, but in Egypt, in Persia, in India, in China.  Europe has always owed to Oriental genius its divine impulses.  What these holy bards said, all sane men found agreeable and true.  And the unique impression of Jesus upon mankind, whose name is not so much written as ploughed into the history of this world, is proof of the subtle virtue of this infusion.”

But this truth cannot be received at second hand; it is an intuition.  What another announces, I must find true in myself, or I must reject it.  If the word of another is taken instead of this primary faith, the church, the state, art, letters, life, all suffer degradation,—­“the doctrine of inspiration is lost; the base doctrine of the majority of voices usurps the place of the doctrine of the soul.”

The following extract will show the view that he takes of Christianity and its Founder, and sufficiently explain the antagonism called forth by the discourse:—­

“Jesus Christ belonged to the true race of prophets.  He saw with open eye the mystery of the soul.  Drawn by its severe harmony, ravished with its beauty, he lived in it, and had his being there.  Alone in all history he estimated the greatness of man.  One man was true to what is in you and me.  He saw that God incarnates himself in man, and evermore goes forth anew to take possession of his World.  He said, in
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Ralph Waldo Emerson from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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