Thursday, May 7, 2009

an original relation...

A couple of days ago, we marked the "beginning" of the American Unitarian movement with WEC's Baltimore Sermon. Today, I take up again the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, starting with his first book, Nature. Published in 1836 and generally recognized as the "beginning" of the transcendental movement, "Nature" was received with some respect and some bewilderment by the Unitarian establishment and, of course, transcendentalism (largely composed, at first, of "Boston Unitarians") had much to do with the short lived period of Boston Unitarian Christianity. This blog celebrates that period up to, and including, Emerson and the transcendental movement (roughly 1819-the Civil War.) It was an amazing period in American religious history and it defined us in many ways.

From the Introduction to "Nature"

"Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?...The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts...

Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul. Strictly speaking, therefore, all that is separate from us, all which Philosophy distinguishes as the NOT ME, that is, both nature and art, all other men and my own body, must be ranked under this name, NATURE."



David G. Markham said...

Hi BU:

Thanks for the reference yesterday to Emerson and the Tao. I ordered the book and it was shipped to me today.

I appreciate your sharing the history of transcendentalism and the Bostonian Unitarians in the early part of the 19th century.

The split of the mind and body has advanced our scientific understanding of the world, but has it gone to far? Are we moving back from a reductionistic approach from our investigating life to a more systemic and wholistic approach?

UUs have captured the system in their value of the interdependent web of all existence. To what extent does this value/principle come from our transcendalist forebearers?

All the best,

David Markham

slt said...

Hi David,
I hope you find the book valuable.
I must admit that I once found statements like "the interdependent web of all existence" somewhat meaningless. Reading the transcendentalists all these years has changed me completely. Blessings, BU