To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded
Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was a Minister, an essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society. He disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.
Emerson gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, formulating and expressing the philosophy of Transcendentalism in his 1836 essay, Nature. Following this ground-breaking work, he gave a speech entitled "The American Scholar" in 1837, which Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. considered to be America's "Intellectual Declaration of Independence".
Emerson wrote most of his important essays as lectures first, then revised them for print. His first two collections of essays – Essays: First Series and Essays: Second Series, published respectively in 1841 and 1844 – represent the core of his thinking, and include such well-known essays as Self-Reliance, The Over-Soul, Circles, The Poet and Experience. Together with Nature, these essays made the decade from the mid-1830s to the mid-1840s Emerson's most fertile period.
Emerson wrote on a number of subjects, never espousing fixed philosophical tenets, but developing certain ideas such as individuality, freedom, the ability for humankind to realize almost anything, and the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world. Emerson's "nature" was more philosophical than naturalistic: "Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul."
His essays remain among the linchpins of American thinking, and his work has greatly influenced the thinkers, writers and poets that have followed him. When asked to sum up his work, he said his central doctrine was "the infinitude of the private man." Emerson is also well known as a mentor and friend of fellow Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. These two in American literature, as well as Emily Dickinson, E.E. Cummings, Henry Miller, and Robinson Jeffers "were clearly familiar with the wakeful state", as documented in the source book "The Leap: The psychology of spiritual awakening". Much in Chapter 1 of his book 'Nature', such as "all mean egotism vanishes" (ref.1, p.13) shows that he did have awakened experiences in association with natural surroundings.
However, Richard Maurice Bucke, who made as detailed analysis of the lives of 50 people, as seems possible, concluded that neither Ralph Waldo Emerson or any of the above, actually attained the final stage of wakefulness, which he terms 'Cosmic Conscious'. In his chapter on Emerson he actually provides quotes from Emerson that confirm his conclusion. The only one who did attain a permanent, final state of what Taylor referred to as 'Natural Wakefulness' in America was Walter Whitman
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