Essays: First Series Summary
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

“History” condenses an entire series of lectures on the philosophy of history that Emerson had delivered after giving up his Unitarian pulpit in 1839. The philosophy is essentially mystical: History is the record of the universal mind, and people are “inlets” to that universal mind (which in the ninth lecture Emerson will call the over-soul) in that they have unmediated access to the wisdom of the ages. The essay might be summarized in an aphorism found in the eighth paragraph: “There is properly no history; only biography.” Individual experience shows us universal experience.