- Paperback: 196 pages
- Publisher: Lindisfarne Books; 2nd edition (May 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0970109733
- ISBN-13: 978-0970109736
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,048,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Spiritual Teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson 2nd Edition
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"A magnificent book, through which Emerson's teaching becomes again an instigator.... It contains our own best thoughts." -- ROGER LIPSEY, editor and biographer of Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, author of An Art of Our Own: The Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art
About the Author
Richard Geldard is a graduate of Bowdoin College, The Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, and Stanford University, where he earned his doctorate in Dramatic Literature and Classics. He has also studied at St. John’s College, Oxford. Before turning to writing, he was an educator, teaching English and philosophy at secondary, undergraduate and graduate levels. He also taught Greek Philosophy and The Science of Mind at Yeshiva College in New York, where he also supervised the General Studies program at the university’s boys' and girls' high schools. His most recent appointment was at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpenteria, California, where he taught the Greek Mystery Religions. Dr. Geldard is also on the Board of Directors of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Institute and is the Academic Advisor to the Institute's web site, RWE.org, the Internet's leading site devoted to the life and works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He is a frequent lecturer and the author of seven books, including studies of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Greek philosophy and culture. Mr. Geldard is presently a full-time writer and lecturer living in New York City and the Hudson Valley. He is married to the artist and writer Astrid Fitzgerald. His website is RGBooks.com www.rgbooks.com.
Robert Richardson is the author of Emerson: The Mind on Fire.
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Top Customer Reviews
But reading Emerson directly is at once an enlightening and maddening experience: "enlightening" because Emerson was a philosopher in the best sense of the word -- a lover of wisdom -- and "maddening" because he was _not_ a philosopher in any _other_ sense of the word. He was stubbornly disinclined to argumentation or even systematic exposition; his essays read more like sermons than like philosophical arguments; he preferred to deliver himself of his oracular insights without, it seems, subjecting them either to the criticism of other minds or even to the rigors of critical self-reflection, on the view that Reason was an all but infallible source of insight into truth and its objects are known with the same immediacy with which we know that we are awake. (It is a curious view of reason which makes no allowances for improvement of one's understanding.)
As a result of this take-it-or-leave it approach, his writings are all too easy to misunderstand, and for this he must bear much of the blame. For example, his remarks on charity in "Self-reliance" have led some readers to suppose that he was opposed to charity altogether, whereas in truth he believed that we are each of us suited by talent and temperament to be "charitable" to a special class of persons for whom we are therefore _truly_ responsible. Then, too, his remark in the same essay on "a foolish consistency" has been infamously and endlessly misquoted -- but even in its proper context it invites misunderstanding by failing to pay sufficient attention to the non-foolish variety of consistency (which Emerson supposed would take care of itself more or less automatically). Here again, Emerson's account of Reason, in giving so much weight to intuition, leaves strangely little room for reflection.
But in my own opinion, at least, Emerson's insights are genuine, sometimes brilliant, and essentially right, and it would be a shame if the readers who needed him most were unable to profit from his writings merely because he had been needlessly obscure. It would be nice, then, to have from another writer the guidance that Emerson himself was unwilling or unable to provide.
As you've probably guessed by now, that's where Richard Geldard comes in.
In this volume (which is a revised edition of _The Esoteric Emerson_, so don't buy them both!) Geldard does a marvelous job of exposition. He knows his Emerson backwards and forwards, and he sets out the essential features of Emerson's thought in clear and orderly fashion, chapter by chapter.
His essential "take" on Emerson, as you can tell from his title, is that Emerson is best approached as a spiritual teacher. I think this is not only correct but even obviously so; yet it is surprising how few available critical studies of Emerson are actually written from this point of view. At any rate, Geldard's exposition will provide the reader of Emerson with a much-needed "map" of the territory traversed in his writings.
I suspect that Geldard's "map" will make Emerson available to many readers who might otherwise have found him unpalatable. Some readers may, for example, be put off by what seems to be Emerson's extraordinarily cavalier attitude toward tradition in favor of present experience.
But according to Geldard, Emerson's actual meaning was as follows: "We have to break, lovingly, the vessels of our tradition in order to become one with the source of that tradition" [p. 176]. Now, certainly there is a difference in emphasis here with the religious tradition in which Emerson was brought up. But surely this is not far from, say, the Christian doctrine that the scriptures are a closed book unless read "in the Spirit." (Granted, Emerson had much more in common with the Quakers than with the Calvinists in what he made of this point. Nevertheless it is not alien to even the most theologically conservative Christianity.)
Not being a Christian myself, though, I am interested not primarily in reconciling Emerson with Christian theology but in simple exposition of his teaching. And Geldard excels in this regard: in ten straightforward chapters he sets out the essentials of Emerson's teaching and places it into the context of his life. Not bad for 177 pages of text.
There are one or two points on which I wish Geldard had done a _little_ bit more explaining (for example, on the difference between the meanings of "idealism" in its philosophical and its popular senses), since he does not seem to be presuming any prior acquaintance with philosophy on the part of his readers. But this is just nitpicking on my part. (Hey, I have my own favorite hobby horses too.) This is a fine book and it will be of immense value to anyone who wants to understand what in the world Emerson was on about.
And when I first started reading these essays, I was bewildered why this woman thought I might enjoy this kind of stuff. It was awkward and difficult and my mind repeatedly got tripped up to what he was trying to get across. And then in the midst of all this confusion, something profound would stick out. He'd say something like:
"All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen." and I would have to stop and think about that. I would have no other choice but to come to the clear realization that all that I saw had to have come from all that I could not see.
With each and every essay, I could feel my heart and my mind coming together as One. I could feel my soul leaping with joy over the profound Truths that I would continually stumble across:
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
"Everything in Nature contains all the powers of Nature. Everything is made of one hidden stuff..."
"People only see what they are prepared to see..."
I never read anything like Emerson in my whole life. He was on a wavelength that I wanted so much to be on. At the end of the year, I placed that copy of Emerson's essays on my teacher's desk and she looked up at me and said, "No, John...it's for you."
I just remember thinking that I never received a greater gift and even though I had yet to make the leap from reading inspirational stuff, to embodying it, the foundation work was being laid down and when I finally became aware that I was truly on a Spiritual path and that I have always been on one, I thought of that morning in 1982 when Emerson's essays were tossed on my desk.
This is a great read for those who are familiar with Emerson and for those who are not. I have a friend that insists that Emerson is good for "cute one liners..." But he underestimates Emerson's power to literally take the reader on a journey of transcendence. Even though I didn't fully understand what I was reading when I was a teen, I knew that after I was through reading him I was in a better place if even if for a little while.
And that is how I exxplain Spiritual Growth to people. People want growth to come fully orbed and they don't want to engage in the seemingly mundane aspect of cultivating their spirituality. But I tell them that spiritual growth comes glimpse by glimpse by precious glimpse. And yes, there are breaks in between the glimpses, but even the breaks can contain glimpses of Light in them if you are willing to look at it right.
Emerson said that we become what we think about all day long. What are you thinking about right now because I've got news for you, you will manifest what you are predominantly thinking about so take a deep breath in...and take a deep breath out...affirm that you are a center of good and that only good can come to you and only good can come through you...feel this, affirm this throughout the day, be expectant of this good to rush in at your slightest invitation and good will come into your life because it has to. You've decreed it and so now it must be.
I don't know what I was thinking that day when I was blessed enough to meet Ralph waldo Emerson for the first time, but that dear, sweet teacher (who has long since made her passing) saw something in me and knew I was ready for a deeper understanding of life.
Here's knowing that you are, too.
Peace and Blessings,
john, "the Light Coach"