Monday, January 02, 2006
Emerson: The Father of Introverted Modern America where Truth is Relative and Self Manufactured
In the latest Weekly Standard, Bostonian writer Patrick J. Walsh makes some keen observations about Ralph Waldo Emerson in his piece on Nathaniel Hawthorne:
And this one:
Hawthorne...rejected the Transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson that was blustering about him in Concord. In Mosses from an Old Manse, he wrote of Emerson's flock of followers: "Never was a poor little country village infested with such a variety of queer strangely-dressed, oddly-behaved mortals, most of whom took upon themselves to be important agents of the world's destiny, yet were simply bores of very intense water." As for Emerson, Hawthorne added, "I sought nothing from him as a philosopher."
"[W]hen Emerson said he could no longer celebrate the Lord's Supper unless the bread and wine were removed, an important step in the vaporization of religion in America had taken place." Randall Stewart likewise regretted Emerson's influence on the American spirit, recognizing his doctrine as radically "anti-Christian." Christians believe that Christ healed the division between the world of spirit and the world of matter and became the bread of life. Emerson's staged refusal was a rejection of the material world of things as unredeemed.
And this one:
Emerson, and not Hawthorne, is the father of our introverted modern America, where truth is relative and self-manufactured. This religion of self infects every level of society, ranging from the Self Help sections in bookstores to the slogans of advertisement, from movies to public television, from college curriculums to gum-chewing stars. It penetrates the chambers of the Supreme Court, where Sandra Day O'Connor ruled in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that there is "the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe." All are the offspring of Emerson's gnostic gospel "that the soul makes its own world" and "nothing is sacred but the integrity of your own mind." Yale's Harold Bloom, a professed Gnostic, celebrates this "freedom from nature, time, history, community and other selves" in The American Religion.
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