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what did Emerson mean by "that divine idea which each of us represent"?

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blackboiant | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 25, 2012 at 10:40 PM via web

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what did Emerson mean by "that divine idea which each of us represent"?

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yaday | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted November 27, 2012 at 5:31 PM (Answer #1)

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Emerson's "Self-Reliance" is a work which strongly promotes his philosophy of individualism.   Emerson, at the beginning of the essays, speaks of a time where every man comes to a halt in his own education and realizes nothing more can be bestowed upon him through traditional methods.   Humans are placed in a position where they can catch "one ray" if it were to fall, and that "we but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represent."  Emerson preaches not selfishness but the presence of divine spirit in every individual.   This concept embodies the idea of Transcendentalism:  each individual has potential for goodness/greatness and in a way, is his own mini-god.   Emerson, in the essay, discusses that self-trust is the means by which we discover "that divine idea which each of us represents."   Rather than fighting for new means, Emerson emphasizes for people to accept the position "divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporories, the connection of events."   In other words, make greatness with one's current state of being.   

Compared to the early American thinkers, in particular, the Puritans, Emerson's views are highly radical/liberal.   Rather than having an elected few be in the company of the great spirit, all individuals have the potential to harness this direct power from God.    However, in order to do so, one must be independent aka "self-reliant."   

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