Self-Reliance Questions and Answers
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Who is the "Aboriginal Self" or the "Trustee" according to Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self-Reliance"?

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In “Self Reliance,” Ralph Waldo Emerson speaks of “the aboriginal self: the “source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct.”

For Emerson, the human soul is part of “that deep force… in which all things find their common origin.” He sees this divine spirit that unites the universe as the wellspring of the human soul and the source of intuition, or “primary wisdom.” Because we are one part of this universal spirit, we inherit its intellect and share its knowledge.

Here is the fountain of action and of thought. Here are the lungs of that inspiration which giveth man wisdom, and which cannot be denied without impiety and atheism. We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams.

Our wisdom, along with any knowledge of abstract ideals we have, is not...

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