Ralph Waldo Emerson, the founder of the Transcendentalist Movement, was a philosopher, activist, and author, as well as a guide and patron of other writers, especially his friend Henry David Thoreau. Emerson's Transcendentalism embraced some principles of Christianity, Eastern religions, and the English Romantics, but was not a subcategory of any of them; instead, it was a new, truly American philosophy, with the idea of self-reliance at its core.
Emerson was born in Boston. His father and grandfather were both Unitarian ministers, and the call to preach is clearly evident in Emerson's writing. However, he advocated a break with some of the formal teachings of the Unitarian Church. For instance, he caused an uproar while giving the graduation address at Harvard Divinity School when he disavowed the divinity of Jesus. Although Jesus was a good, insightful man who saw the truth clearly, said Emerson, Jesus was not God, and focusing on Jesus' divinity had done harm to the Church. Instead of blindly worshipping, each person should attempt to perceive the truth as clearly as Jesus had.
Emerson helped edit the magazine, The Dial, which published many Transcendentalist writings in the 1880s, and his first book of essays, Nature, (1836) was one of the most important publications of the Transcendentalists. In it, Emerson espouses the belief...
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