There is a time to reflect back and look at things from the past. Ralph Waldo Emerson was considered a brilliant philosopher of his time, Mid 1800’s. In the 60’s a lots of the hippies adopted him for their mantra. Emerson wanted to live a quiet life in the woods. His contemporary, Henry Thoreau was of like mind. The hippies wanted to live in communes and share their toils being one happy family. Don’t believe any of those communes lasted very long, for a variety of reasons. But look at what Emerson had to say.
From this transfer of the world into the consciousness, this beholding of all things in the mind, follow easily his whole ethics. It is simpler to be self-dependent. The height, the deity of man is, to be self-sustained, to need no gift, no foreign force. Society is good when it does not violate me; but best when it is likest to solitude. Everything real is self-existent. Everything divine shares the self-existence of Deity. All that you call the world is the shadow of that substance which you are, the perpetual creation of the powers of thought, of those that are dependent and of those that are independent of your will. Do not cumber yourself with fruitless pains to mend and remedy remote effects; let the soul be erect, and all things will go well. You think me the child of my circumstances: I make my circumstance. Let any thought or motive of mine be different from that they are, the difference will transform my condition and economy. I — this thought which is called I, — is the mould into which the world is poured like melted wax. The mould is invisible, but the world betrays the shape of the mould. You call it the power of circumstance, but it is the power of me. Am I in harmony with myself? my position will seem to you just and commanding. Am I vicious and insane? my fortunes will seem to you obscure and descending. As I am, so shall I associate, and, so shall I act; Caesar’s history will paint out Caesar. Jesus acted so, because he thought so. I do not wish to overlook or to gainsay any reality; I say, I make my circumstance: but if you ask me, Whence am I? I feel like other men my relation to that Fact which cannot be spoken, or defined, nor even thought, but which exists, and will exist.
To be self dependent, does not mean to be dependent of government yet this is how the socialists of the 60’s have corrupted their ideals. What’s interesting is lots of these people accepted Marx’s teaching and wanted the ideal world he espoused. Marx and Emerson are at other ends of the spectrum. Emerson talks about being at one with nature. This has a wide appeal to those who want to be natural, IE the hippies. Today many of these people are some of the government bureaucrats and lawmakers wanting to tell people how to live.
The Transcendentalist adopts the whole connection of spiritual doctrine. He believes in miracle, in the perpetual openness of the human mind to new influx of light and power; he believes in inspiration, and in ecstasy. He wishes that the spiritual principle should be suffered to demonstrate itself to the end, in all possible applications to the state of man, without the admission of anything unspiritual; that is, anything positive, dogmatic, personal. Thus, the spiritual measure of inspiration is the depth of the thought, and never, who said it? And so he resists all attempts to palm other rules and measures on the spirit than its own.
Emerson states that one should resist imposing rules on others. That one should be allowed to live within their own rules as given by the spirit. Not many people walk this way. So many have notions on how others should live, both right and left wing philosophies, and for to the government to impose their beliefs on others. The biggest imposition of others onto others is morality. The 20th amendment is a good example of imposing ones views onto others. Wasn’t very successful, in fact it created an era of lawlessness. Oh this imposition came from the right, the holy temperance people.
You will see by this sketch that there is no such thing as a Transcendental "party;" that there is no pure Transcendentalist; that we know of none but prophets and heralds of such a philosophy; that all who by strong bias of nature have leaned to the spiritual side in doctrine, have stopped short of their goal. We have had many harbingers and forerunners; but of a purely spiritual life, history has afforded no example. I mean, we have yet no man who has leaned entirely on his character, and eaten angels’ food; who, trusting to his sentiments, found life made of miracles; who, working for universal aims, found himself fed, he knew not how; clothed, sheltered, and weaponed, he knew not how, and yet it was done by his own hands. Only in the instinct of the lower animals, we find the suggestion of the methods of it, and something higher than our understanding. The squirrel hoards nuts, and the bee gathers honey, without knowing what they do, and they are thus provided for without selfishness or disgrace.
Emerson is fascinating in that he espouses just the opposite of how the left wants to live. Yet it was the generation of the 60’s lefties that proclaimed Emerson as being the person to live by.
Society also has its duties in reference to this class, and must behold them with what charity it can. Possibly some benefit may yet accrue from them to the state. In our Mechanics’ Fair, there must be not only bridges, ploughs, carpenters’ planes, and baking troughs, but also some few finer instruments, — raingauges, thermometers, and telescopes; and in society, besides farmers, sailors, and weavers, there must be a few persons of purer fire kept specially as gauges and meters of character; persons of a fine, detecting instinct, who betray the smallest accumulations of wit and feeling in the bystander. Perhaps too there might be room for the exciters and monitors; collectors of the heavenly spark with power to convey the electricity to others. Or, as the storm-tossed vessel at sea speaks the frigate or `line packet’ to learn its longitude, so it may not be without its advantage that we should now and then encounter rare and gifted men, to compare the points of our spiritual compass, and verify our bearings from superior chronometers.
Emerson says be a participant in society, contribute. He does not espouse about being a leech. He truly expected people to work for their livelihood and there should be a variety of doors for people to enter into for a productive society.
The other thing to look at is his reference to a higher power and spirituality. Something Marx wants to destroy. For in Marx it is the Federal Government that is the higher power not man’s spirituality. One of the first thing Marxist’s do is to ban churches.