Essays: First Series

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 92

“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.

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