Ralph Waldo Emerson eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 403 pages of information about Ralph Waldo Emerson.
tax him with plagiarism.—­But the inventor only knows how to borrow.  When we are praising Plato, it seems we are praising quotations from Solon and Sophron and Philolaus.  Be it so.  Every book is a quotation; and every house is a quotation out of all forests and mines and stone quarries; and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.”

The reader will, I hope, remember this last general statement when he learns from what wide fields of authorship Emerson filled his storehouses.

A few sentences from Emerson will show us the probable source of some of the deepest thought of Plato and his disciples.

The conception of the fundamental Unity, he says, finds its highest expression in the religious writings of the East, especially in the Indian Scriptures. “’The whole world is but a manifestation of Vishnu, who is identical with all things, and is to be regarded by the wise as not differing from but as the same as themselves.  I neither am going nor coming; nor is my dwelling in any one place; nor art thou, thou; nor are others, others; nor am I, I.’  As if he had said, ’All is for the soul, and the soul is Vishnu; and animals and stars are transient paintings; and light is whitewash; and durations are deceptive; and form is imprisonment; and heaven itself a decoy.’” All of which we see reproduced in Emerson’s poem “Brahma.”—­“The country of unity, of immovable institutions, the seat of a philosophy delighting in abstractions, of men faithful in doctrine and in practice to the idea of a deaf, unimplorable, immense fate, is Asia; and it realizes this faith in the social institution of caste.  On the other side, the genius of Europe is active and creative:  it resists caste by culture; its philosophy was a discipline; it is a land of arts, inventions, trade, freedom.”—­“Plato came to join, and by contact to enhance, the energy of each.”

But Emerson says,—­and some will smile at hearing him say it of another,—­“The acutest German, the lovingest disciple, could never tell what Platonism was; indeed, admirable texts can be quoted on both sides of every great question from him.”

The transcendent intellectual and moral superiorities of this “Euclid of holiness,” as Emerson calls him, with his “soliform eye and his boniform soul,”—­the two quaint adjectives being from the mint of Cudworth,—­are fully dilated upon in the addition to the original article called “Plato:  New Readings.”

Few readers will be satisfied with the Essay entitled “Swedenborg; or, the Mystic.”  The believers in his special communion as a revealer of divine truth will find him reduced to the level of other seers.  The believers of the different creeds of Christianity will take offence at the statement that “Swedenborg and Behmen both failed by attaching themselves to the Christian symbol, instead of to the moral sentiment, which carries innumerable christianities, humanities, divinities in its bosom.”  The men of science will smile at the exorbitant claims

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Ralph Waldo Emerson from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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