Emerson’s Essays

Ralph Waldo Emerson, author Emerson's Essays

Emerson’s Essays

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within.”

“The divine in man has had no more easy, methodically distinct expression.” - Henry David Thoreau
“His influence has been more beneficial to me than that of any other American… From him I first learned what is meant by an inward life.” - Margaret Fuller
“No teacher ever taught, that so provided for his pupil’s setting up independently.” - Walt Whitman
“As long as our English language lasts men’s hearts will be cheered and their souls strengthened…by the noble and musical pages with which he has enriched it.” - William James
“Emerson is more than a philosopher…he is the Philosopher of Democracy… When democracy has articulated itself, it will have no difficulty finding itself already proposed in Emerson.” - John Dewey
"He is a fixed star in the firmament of philosophy... Alone as yet among Americans....by the originality and beauty of the expression he gave to thoughts that are old and imperishable." George Santayana, Poet, philosopher, and novelist

Our first recommendation, Emerson’s Essays, is especially meaningful to us at Gleam of Light Press. It was Emerson’s ideas about the “gleam of light” and its importance in all of our lives that inspired our name. Emerson is our touchstone. He will remain with us, as he does with so many, as a constant source of inspiration.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) has been called “the deeper voice of America,” not just because he was America’s first voice ― first public thinker, poet-philosopher, literary sage ― but because his voice remains as relevant as any for those who look most deeply into the idea of Americanism. For many, in America and throughout the world, Emerson represents the deeper voice of humankind. In Emerson’s view, the voice that resonates in our innermost being. The voice he urges us to listen to.

Called by other names ― intuition, inspiration, grace ― this is the gleam of light that Emerson points to as our most reliable guide, our most powerful and often neglected essential self. Emerson’s “self-reliance” is in fact a reliance on this inner voice, the voice of the soul.

In addition to being an inspiration to countless artists and contemplatives over the years, Emersonian thought continues to inspire exhaustive scholarship ― in relation to literature and art, religion and spirituality, ethics and morality, politics, science, education, Eastern philosophy, American culture ― the list goes on. And yet, Emerson’s emphasis was not on thoughts but on thinking. His highest aim was not to advance particular ideas or beliefs but to inspire readers to grow more conscious of their own.

What is often left unsaid about Emerson that really needs to be said when recommending his essays? Emerson is not an easy read. He has been mercilessly criticized for the very formlessness that is also touted as his greatest strength. This was Emerson’s genius. He wrote in a way that was so original, so seemingly unconscious of form, his works find their power in a life of their own and in the magical effects of poetry. His essays beg to be absorbed and contemplated in the quiet, privileged hours when we turn to the literature that most renews us, that elevates us in ways few works of literature can.

We recommend any edition of Emerson’s Essays that includes the entire “First and Second Series.” Though the series do not begin with “Self Reliance,” this essay is the strongest introduction to Emerson and hence a good beginning. For a fuller understanding of Emerson’s “self-reliance” and of Emersonian thought, “Self Reliance” is ideally accompanied by “The Over Soul,” “Spiritual Laws,” “Compensation,” and “Experience.” For the aspiring creative writer, “Art” and “Poetry” are not to be missed. “Love” and “Friendship,” are also among our favorites.

The Gleam of Light Team

Emerson’s Essays
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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