The Spiritual Teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Spiritual Teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson

By Richard G. Geldard
Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne, 2001. Paperback, x + 196 pages.

Susan Roberson examines Emerson's career and intellectual development as a Unitarian preacher between 1826 and 1832, including Emerson's concept, of self-reliance, his introduction of a new hero suited for a new age, and his merging of his identity with this ideal.

Wesley Mort and Robert Burkholder present fourteen new essays on Emerson, his philosophy, and his colleagues, connecting Transcendentalism to persistent currents in American thought. Among the contributors, Robert D. Richardson, Jr., describes Emerson as an editor; Ronald A. Bosco probes Emerson's teaching of the "Somewhat Spheral and Infinite" existing in every person; and Albert J. von Frank analyzes Emerson's construction of the" Intimate Sphere." This academic anthology enriches our understanding of Emerson and his closest colleagues.

Published in 1993 as The Esoteric Emerson, the new edition of Richard Geldard's book describes the Concord sage as a poet and essayist who inspired a spiritual literature and inaugurated an enduring philosophical movement outside Unitarianism. Geldard describes Emerson as a New England Socrates. Previous generations, Emerson emphasized, "beheld God and nature face to face." His contemporaries seemed content to comprehend spirituality through historic writing bequeathed from earlier generations. However Emerson observed that poetry and philosophy issue from "an original relation to the universe" rather than from history, tradition, or "religion of revelation."


March/April 2002