Lecture 3 - The Transcendentalists
As you listen to this essay and read the text, keep in mind that the world of Quimby and practitioners of mental science was a society of the common man. The world of Emerson and the Transcendentalists was of a learned and intellectual society. Eric Butterworth was an intellectual, and his preference for Emerson and the Transcendentalists is evident throughout this lecture.
He makes a subtle but interesting comment at the end of clip 38. Eric says that perhaps those who also favor Emerson and the Transcendentalists over Quimby and the mental healers are those who are "more deeply rooted feelings within traditional religion."
The most profound statment Eric makes in this lecture is his assertion, in clip 49, that the Divinity School Address can be considered as the birth of New Thought.
Let's take a moment now to get still and touch that deep stream within ourselves from which all truth flows. There are so many methods and techniques that are suggested in our day, relative to the silence, to inner prayer or to meditation.
Emerson, who was one of the great transcendentalists, stressed the idea of living with immeasurable mind. For just a moment, without really reaching for anything or trying to accomplish anything particular other than just to let go, may we get a feeling a immersion in the infinite, limitless mind. The creative process. Jesus called it the kingdom within. Just get the feeling of slipping into the cool, refreshing waters, as if you were stepping into a pool. Think of this as the limitless, immeasurable mind of the infinite. There's nowhere to go. Nothing to do. Just be.
As Emerson tells us, there is a point where the mind is open on one end, to the infinite flow. We acknowledge this process and we have faith that even in this moment, something enriching, something healing, something guiding, is taking place in our consciousness. That we shall thus be better able not only to deal with that which is presented to us in this hour, but that which we may face as we go forth from here. We are grateful for this sense of awareness of the whole of us, of our oneness with infinite mind. Amen.
As a little introduction to our third lecture of the series, we have of antecedents of the new insight in truth, I probably should admit that perhaps my approach is a little presumptuous. I cannot speak for all teachers or teachings within the wide spectrum that is called truth or metaphysics or Unity or Religious Science or whatever. Therefore I can only say that I have made an arbitrary selection, and have made some arbitrary considerations of what I consider to be antecedence.
Actually, a teacher, regardless of what his field, teaches his own consciousness. We may like to hang on every word of the teacher, we may like to feel that this teacher is teaching a doctrine or for instance, many people say that I am teaching Unity. Well I'm affiliated with the Unity Movement, but a teacher teaches his own consciousness. I've always loved the remark that was made by Professor Alfred Whitehead at the University of England when someone asked him what he was teaching at the university. Without any hesitation, he replied, "I teach Whitehead 1, Whitehead 2, and Whitehead 3."
Then that would seem to be a little egotistical, but I don't think it is at all. I think that's exactly what happens, and certainly that's all I can teach is myself, my own consciousness. I say that basically because in dealing with this whole outline that I have suggested as to Antecedents, obviously this is where I am, these are the Antecedents that I feel have been greatly influenced in what I call the new insight in truth, and certainly what I call the new insight in truth is truth as I see it. I think I certainly must qualify my considerations on that basis.
Tonight we're going to think a little bit about the Transcendentalists, and the influence upon this movement in America which we refer to as metaphysics or truth or New Thought or whatever. You may recall how two weeks ago we stressed the influence of Plato on what I would call the unfolding stream of truth, and how what in philosophy they refer to as neo-Platonism gave rise to Transcendentalism, and certainly to my dear friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Now as I have pointed out, New Thought in America is quite often claimed to have originated with Quimby. The claim is often made this way. It couldn't be the mental healer. We're not certainly deriding Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. As a matter of fact, next week we're going to spend the whole hour dealing with him, so we certainly feel that he's an important figure.
Usually, the aspect of New Thought that places emphasis on the mental science approach, and certainly that influence in part is in all of the truth ideals that are presented. There is the indication that Quimby was the founding father of this whole unfolding stream. You note that last week we talked a little bit about the fact that we considered as we looked at the psychological roots that had an influence in this direction, that Franz Mesmer was an antecedent of both Freud and of Quimby, two certainly diverse streams or schools of thought which I doubt if they would speak to one another. One line coming from Mesmer leading to psychotherapy, and the other leading to the influence of New Thought through the Quimby/Mary Baker Eddy stream.
However, it has always been my contention, and again purely my own observation, that another strong, major contribution to the concepts of New Thought was made by Emerson and what is referred to as New England Transcendentalism. It's always been my feeling that probably this was the stronger influence on New Thought, and perhaps especially the part of the New Thought teaching that gives some recognition to what is called Christian metaphysics, and to those who have perhaps more deeply rooted feelings within tradition religion, as the basis of their personal observations.
Now Emerson was not the founder of the school of transcendentalism. He simply reflected the ideals and probably was its most articulate spokesman. Transcendentalism, both the word and the concept, began with Emmanuel Kant, the German philosopher and I like to give dates for the academic approach here, 1724 to 1804. Now let me make one thing clear. That is I certainly do not recommend that you read Kant. If you have any interest in that direction, and have any background in philosophy, you probably have already stumbled along through Kant. If you are adventuresome, and you have a dictionary that's aching to be used, then you might read his Critique of Pure Reason.
We're taking certain aspects of Kant out of the context of his overall, philosophic observation, certainly. We're dealing with a certain facet of his approach that we feel has touched off the school of Transcendentalism, especially as we like to deal with it in New Thought.
We must recognize that Kant caused an upheaval in the history of human thought. Not only were most of the philosophers of Western Europe and America, for 100 years after his death, his intellectual descendants, but I think it is obvious that his spirit dominated the culture of the Western World during that time. Now that could be argued certainly, but I think there would be a great deal of support for it.
Now it's also interesting that the poets of the 19th Century, Wordsworth and Coleridge and Shelley and Keats and Tennyson and Browning and some of the American poets, and we would include perhaps Walt Whitman, were to a certain degree the creations of the idealism that was touched off by Kant. As we have said, and we'll deal with tonight his influence is most strongly seen with Emerson.
Now transcendentalism, as set forth by Kant, is diametrically to the philosophic view that holds that all knowledge arises with sensation and experience. A priori knowledge is the term that is used philosophically. In other words, the transcendental approach was the attempt to bridge the worlds of religion and science, to heal this rift that was created, as we pointed out a couple of weeks ago, when the Church, in its attempt to stamp out analytical intellectualism, created this great breach between science and religion. Kant had a desire to bring back this wholeness again.
Now the transcendentalist was usually a sublimated theist, which simply means that he had some strong roots in religion, in the awareness of God, the awareness of certain spiritual ideals. Emerson was originally a minister. Kant studied for the ministry and did some preaching in his early years.
However he was first of all a philosopher, and so he believed in no devil, no evil, no hell, no dualism of any kind, no spiritual authority, no savior, no church. Which would qualify him for the appellation of atheist in terms of most folks, but there was a very deep, spiritual focus in his thinking. Though it doesn't always come through, as I say, if you read Kant, because it's very abstruse.
In a time when the materialistic concept of man was prevalent, Kant introduced the idea of intuition. In other words, the idea that man could not be explained in terms of determinism, and that his knowledge did not all arise from sensation and experience.
He used a simple illustration, an arithmetic equation such as seven plus five equals twelve. Now we know this is true, but how do you know it's true? I think most of us would stop and think about it, and we'd have to admit that we know it's true because somebody once told us seven plus five equals twelve, or we studied a multiplication table and we memorized it, and so we know it.
The point is, do we know it merely as a result of knowing the meanings of words used in the equation? Kant argued in the typical way the philosopher approaches things, that we cannot know the truth of the equation merely by knowing the definitions, or the meanings of the words which are employed in it. For neither the meaning of the word seven, and after all it is a word, even though it indicates units of seven, we can't know it by the meaning of the word seven, nor that of the word plus, or that of the word five, nor that of the combination of all three words. None of them contains or implies the meaning of the word twelve. Now that's a typical philosophic way of getting at things.
He said that in order to know that seven plus five equal twelve, there must be a special power in the mind that does not consist in merely understanding the meaning of words. To him, this implied the action of what we call intuition. We might think of intuition as being revealed in much clearer ways.
But out of this concept of the spiritual open-endedness of man as a thinking creature, came a series of works phrased in a dreadful jargon of technical terms famous for their near intelligibility to scholars.
To Kant, there were two worlds. Not the old this world and the world beyond of orthodoxy, but rather, he refers to the concept of a spiritual dimension in which reality exists. Now this, I think, has distinct bearing upon one of the fundamentals, and a very strong fundamental in truth or metaphysics.
The world that we see and describe is the world of space-time. It is the world to which science applies itself, and this space-time world is not reality, it is only appearance. Now this concept we find very strong in Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science, and we find it through much of the metaphysical teachings.
The things of the world are forms in which we perceive and conceive things. They are the forms which we impose on things by virtue of the structure of our own minds. In other words, a stone is a stone, because we think it is a stone, and because we see it in this way, and because we apply the name stone to what we see.
Now he says that man wears blue glasses, and so everything he sees is blue. He sees things in a certain way, and so the world of appearance is the result of the peculiarity of his thinking. In other words, the world of appearance is the blue world that he sees through the blue glasses.
He says there's a reality behind all of this. This is revealed when he takes off his glasses. It's not a matter of looking into something beyond, but it's a matter of seeing clearly. Paul says, "We see in a mirror darkly, but then we see face to face," you see.
Now Kant says we can never know reality because it's unknowable. To define it is to limit it. The glasses are simply a part of our human makeup, and yet we cannot understand life or the universe unless we know that there is something more, unless we know that there is something more than the blue world that we see when we look through blue glasses.
Now actually, this I think is more simply expressed in Jesus' parable, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Now, what is suggested here, and this is why I think Kant seems to make a point of the fact that you can never know reality anymore than you can know God, or that you can know truth, or that you can know the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven. That is that this is not something that you go somewhere to see, nor is it actually something that you unearth within things, but it is a perspective from which we see.
In other words, we see from the consciousness of reality, and then we see clearly face to face. It's an act of faith, it's an expanded awareness, whereas suddenly, instead of seeing in the sense of Jesus, instead of seeing the lame person, we see the person whole and we say, "Get up and walk," you see. This then is a very fundamental aspect of this teaching, I think. I think the thing that is implied here in a very interesting and very important observation that we don't lose sight of, is that much of our development in consciousness should be toward developing not a series of definitions, of metaphysical terms, which is so often where the student applies himself, but the development of a perception, from which we can see and see the same things that we deal with in everyday life, but see them in a different way.
As I say so often, man's not in the world of set it right, but to see it right. Right seeing is the passport from the earthly experience to the heaven of accomplishment. The scientist sees appearances. The transcendentalist sees reality, looking at the same world. One sees from a perspective of depth.
Now Wordsworth talks of this and Wordsworth is certainly one of the spiritual children, poetically, of Kant. He says, "A primrose by the river's brim, A yellow Primrose was to him, And it was nothing more."
Well now what more can a primrose be? Ask the scientist what more there is in the flower besides the petals, the stalk and the leaves. The botanist will certainly respond, he can tell us a great deal more. He knows about the smaller parts. He knows the mechanisms of the seeds and of the flower, the stamens and the pistil and the whole thing, their functions and the way they act. The physicist can tell us more. He can tell us about the atoms of which the plant is composed, and how they move, but still in the end, for the botanist and the physicist, the primrose remains simply a primrose.
Neither can tell us what is that something more that the poet perceives, that which Emerson refers to as the unanalyzable residuum [The term is from Thomas Troward, not Emerson]. Maybe it's the beauty of the flower. Maybe it's a particular energy that radiates from the flower that we receive, that lifts us in consciousness just by being near it, but this is something that the scientist, as a scientist, says nothing about, and he trains himself not to see it, and not to think this, because he feels this will actually distort his analytical approach to the fundamental qualities of the primrose.
This is a reality that's not caught by scientific analysis. It is a spirit, it is a presence. Again, it's something that Wordsworth describes. In this case I think he's simply talking about the view that he sees in nature, perhaps the light of the setting sun. He says,
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.
Now Wordsworth is not denying the scientific view that the sunset is a scene of violent commotion of particles. He just ignores it. He says it's irrelevant. It's information that the scientist needs to know for his particular research, but it has no relevancy whatever to the fact that when you sit, looking at a sunset, you feel its warmth, you're inspired by its beauty, and it has that particular relationship with you.
Tennyson, another of the poetic children of Kant, expressed the same thought in that lovely little couplet, I'm sure you remember it.
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
Now there's something more in the flower that's plainly identified by what we call God. According to the poem, if I knew all about the flower, I would know God. Yet you can't find this in a textbook on botany. No scientific knowledge of the flower would ever find the word God or the idea of transcendence in it, because that's not science, because that's not factual, that's not experience in a sensual sense.
Yet Kant maintained that God was unknowable. He said there is a limit where the intellect fails and breaks down, and this limit is where the questions concerning God and immortality arise.
Now Kant also shunned the tendency to dogmatize religion. Remember he was a philosopher, but also he was a sublimated theist. He said,
"Our conceptions always require a sense content to work with, and as the words God and soul cover no distinct sense content whatever, it follows that theoretically speaking, they're words devoid of any significance whatever." [Eric is quoting from chapter three of The Varieties of Religious Experience, where William James is summarizing Kant's beliefs.]
Yet strangely enough, they have a definite meaning for our practice. He says,
"We can act as if there were a god, feel as if we were free, consider nature as if she were full of special designs, lay plans as if we were to be immortal, and then we find that these words do make a genuine difference in our life, and so we have the strange phenomenon of a mind believing with all its strength in the real presence of a set of things of no one of which it can form any notion whatever."
Again, this is the strange pull you see between the philosopher and his analytical approach, and yet this strong sense of the reality of the presence, leading to transcendentalism.
Now as I say, we're picking from Kant a particular thread that he espoused, which I'm sure had its roots in neo-Platonism, perhaps in Plato himself. Kant was a philosopher of great breadth, but he was bound by his massive intellect, and I think, trapped in his pedantry, so that it never, ever seemed to break through in his writing. This real, vital awareness of the transcendent. Someone once said that to understand Kant, you should read Emerson. Emerson uniquely articulates this concept that was touched off by Kant. For instance, here is something of Emerson that talks about the idea of intuition. He says,
"Meantime, whilst the doors of the temple stand open, night and day, before every man, and the oracles of this truth cease never, it is guarded by one stern condition; this, namely; it is an intuition. It cannot be received at second hand. Truly speaking, it is not instruction, but provocation, that I can receive from another soul. What he announces, I must find true in me, or wholly reject; and on his word, or as his second, be he who he may, I can accept nothing." [Divinity School Address]
That's a very important insight, and of course, relates also to Browning's, "Truth is within ourselves, and the key is releasing our imprisoned splendour." In other words, no matter who the teacher is, no matter that we feel he has tremendous insights, great mind, great creativity, a genius for spirituality, and then a human sense out of our sense of inadequacy, we are inclined so often to sit at the feet of the great so-called masters of the world, and let the jewels of truth come forth from their lips, and we lap them up and absorb them as if they're feeding our very souls.
I think this is a very beautiful insight that so often is overlooked in this process. That is when he says, "It is not instruction, but provocation that I can receive from another." That the truth is not which comes to you from another, but it is that which you experience within yourself in the releasement of your innateness under, perhaps, the influence or the love or the consciousness of the teacher or whoever it is that you may be accepting your inspiration from.
That's a very important insight, and I think as we hold to this, then we develop a greater, to use Emerson's term, self reliance. A greater recognition that even if we have not been exposed to certain great minds, even if we do not have a background of academic learning, even if we have not had the opportunity to learn from or to sit at the feet of certain teachers, yet each of us has the same unique relationship with the divine flow. All we need to do is continually have faith in ourself, and to release that inner transcendence. This of course is the transcendental approach.
Now let's look a little more specifically at Ralph Waldo Emerson. Again, dates, 1803 - 1882. It is difficult to evaluate the great part played on the thinking of our time by Emerson. Emerson is rejected by many religionists as being an atheist, though I can hardly understand why. He is quite often criticized by literary people as being a very poor essayist, and yet probably is one of the most prolific essayists of our day. He has no direct descendants in terms of setting off a school of thought where people are going around today, preaching Emersonianism, though I am quite confident there are a lot of others that are much more influenced by Emerson than I am, and I have been to a great extent.
I think the important thing is that I believe that not only did Emerson play a great role in the thinking of our whole American society, but I think that he's had a tremendous influence on what I would call the rebirth of truth and New Thought. Certainly as I say, a great influence on my thinking.
Emerson, as we said, was originally a minister. He was obviously one who what I would call was what I would call an iconoclast. He had the feel for spiritual things, but he just didn't have the stomach for forms and rituals and the various formalisms of theology and the dogmatisms and so forth.
He went through the motions for a good while, I strongly suspect his father being a minister, that he was influenced into going into the ministry to follow in his father's footsteps. Though certainly one could not say, in reading Emerson, that he ever abandoned his position in terms of his realization of the spiritual flow, or the content of life as being transcendental, but Emerson, in one day, stood up before his congregation. In a sense, laid it on the line. He gave a talk that day on the Lord's Supper, in which he questioned the whole idea of Holy Communion.
His congregation loved him. He was obviously one of the great preachers of his day. He forced them to make a decision, a decision between accepting Emerson as he was, which meant the rituals had to go, and the forms and the sacraments had to go, or else let him go and go on as they were. It was a great tug and pull, you can imagine. Though they loved Emerson very much, they agreed to let him go, because they had to hold on to their traditions, which is not unusual, I think, when we stop and think of the way religions affect people.
In this particular sermon, which has become one of his classic essays on the Lord's Supper, he challenges in I think a very interesting and very convincing way, whether Jesus ever intended the Lord's Supper to be an institution or a sacrament, whether when He had the Passover with His disciples, he wasn't doing what every head of the household was doing at that time. Simply going through the traditions that were so much a part of their background, for after all, he was a Jew and the disciples were Jews.
Then he goes on and very carefully analyzes in a very loving way, the whole process of Holy Communion, and questions it and says he can no longer, in good conscience, follow through with it.
I think it is interesting that Emerson had a, what I like to feel, is a very healthy-minded approach to Jesus. He never abandoned this aspect of his life. He certainly developed a new awareness. His concept of Jesus is one that certainly has influenced my awareness. He said,
Jesus Christ belonged to the true race of prophets. He saw with open eye the mystery of the soul. ... Alone in all history, he estimated the greatness of man. One man was true to what is in you and me. He saw that God incarnates himself in man, and evermore goes forth anew to take possession of his world. He said ... 'I am divine. Through me, God acts; through me, speaks. Would you see God, see me; or, see thee, when thou also thinkest as I now think.'
Now this is, I believe, a very profound insight, but one which demystifies Jesus and puts Him down on the level of the human, but one who had the higher vision, the higher aspiration, and the greater expanded consciousness. In other words, it takes away the idea of the Divine Incarnation, that Jesus was very God, specially endowed, and makes Him one of us, who achieved the tremendous overcoming that he refers to as The Christ, but that he achieved only what every one of us can achieve, and perhaps ultimately will achieve through long periods of time, as we continue in the quest. This was Emerson's position.
Now actually, the strange thing is that Emerson was thought of as an extreme radical by most persons. Actually he was a very mild, frail, friendly, extremely loving and sincere person. He lived in Concord, Massachusetts, as certainly one of the most respected of citizens. He was conservative even in his manner of dress. He was certainly not the overt radical that Thoreau was. Thoreau was a contemporary of Emerson, and was almost like a son to Emerson, and was certainly a spiritual child of Emerson.
You see, Thoreau was caught up with the actual doingness of the things that Emerson was dealing with. Emerson actually suggested tremendous, radical innovations, but he continued in his conservative ways. Thoreau simply did what Emerson talked about, and I think that is so classically indicated in the story that is told of Emerson on Thoreau, and it was during a time of the war that we were involved in then. Emerson had very strong feelings about what was happening in our society, and how the war was tearing at the fabric of our society, and all the terms that we've used in recent years during the Vietnam War.
He had many things to say about it, but he continued in his very patriotic, stable, conservative way. Thoreau was caught up with the ideals of Emerson, and became a very radical. He was a war resister and was thrown into jail. The story is told how Emerson went over to visit his good friend, and almost loving son, Thoreau. He stood through the bars and he said, "Henry, what are you doing in there?" Thoreau looked back at him and said, "Mister Emerson, what are you doing out there?"
The thing is, Emerson had the beautiful, consistent ideal of transcendentalism. He held to this. He was a writer, he was an essayist, he was a lecturer. Perhaps many are not aware of the fact that through many years, Emerson was the most popular, the most heard, lecturer in America. Went all over the country, spoke on all the forums and all the platforms. The interesting thing was he was such a compelling speaker and had so many sensible things to say, that the people who rejected him as an atheist on Sunday still came to hear him on Monday night in the lecture hall, which was, I think, a good commentary upon the common sense of the transcendental approach.
It was during this time that his influence certainly reached out in many areas. It is undoubtedly true that some of the keenest insights and strengths of Abraham Lincoln came from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Woodrow Wilson, obviously, was tremendously influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson, as was were a lot of the poets and a lot of the writers and so forth through these years. This is why I say his influence reached in all directions, aside from being a strong influence in the ultimate outworking of this stream that we call New Thought or the New Insight In Truth.
Emerson was very concerned as a very patriotic American. Concerned for what was happening in America, but he was never the pessimist. He was never talking negatively about the doom of our country, and we were losing all that is right, and so forth. He took the long range view. He felt that all cultures have always had certain troubles and difficulties, and he stressed the idea that anytime is a good time if we just know what to do with it. If we can just find the insights in ourself to grow through the experiences and to profit by the challenges, and then to get on with it.
Emerson went back to his former divinity school in Harvard, and he gave an address which is one of his classic essays. It's written in most of many of, I should say many of the collections of essays of Emerson. The famous Divinity School Address, it is referred to. It was his formal declaration of independence, as a thinker. Independence from formalistic religion. In my estimation, this could well be considered, at least from a certain perspective, as the birth of New Thought in America. As I say, much more so than Quimby, though again we're not deriding Quimby.
In this, he's talking to the students of religion, the divinity school students. He talks about the God of Law. He talks about the idea that there is a law of compensation, that for instance, what would you have quoth God pay for it and take it. He says that they are involved in their study of religion as a high water mark, much as people in Pittsburgh talk about lines on the front of the buildings because that's when the Jonestown flood came and that's what happened to it.
He says that religion, for most religionists and theologians and ultimately, for congregations, is a matter of looking back to times when something happened. He stresses the need to update all of this, and to get into a consciousness of what he calls a first-hand and immediate experience of God. That we stop looking backward to times when things happened, that we realize that we are in this now and God is speaking to us today. Revelation is an everyday experience if we open our minds to hear. He says
"Every man is an inlet, and may become an outlet to all there is in God." [TruthUnity note: Unfortunately, this well-known sentence is Emilie Cady's attribution to Emerson. Emerson used "inlet" and "outlet" in several places, but this phrase comes from Lessons In Truth and Finding the Christ in Ourselves.]
"There is no screen or ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens, so is there no bar or wall in the soul where man, the effect, ceases, and God, the cause, begins. The walls are taken away. We lie open on one side to the deeps of spiritual nature, to the attributes of God." [The Oversoul]
Emerson had this great sense of the omnipresence of mind, and I think made great contributions to mental science or Religious Science or Unity or whatever in modern times. He says,
"Mind is the creator of the world, and is ever creating, and at least, matter is simply dead mind. Mind makes the senses that it sees with. The genius of man is a continuation of the power that made him, and that has not done making him."
There is this sense of the continuity of the process of creativity within man. Emerson is one who certainly I have no question about suggesting that you read, and there are many, many things of Emerson. I think that every student of truth should read some of the classic works of Emerson such as Self Reliance and Compensation, and the Oversoul. There's some others that are my favorites. Circles, the Divinity School Address, and there's so many of them. Most of these are found in almost any collection of Emerson that you will find.
You've heard me use the term that life is lived from within out. This is an Emersonian concept, and it's one that's, to me, is very significant in trying to understand our relationship to the whole. He talks about the idea that
"Man is that noble and endogenous plant which grows from within outward, and thus the best discovery the discoverer makes for himself."
This word, endogenous, I think is rather interesting. It is practically defined as that which is produced from within, as possibly contrasted with the word indigenous, which deals with something as being a product of a climate or a country or some outer forces. Man is an endogenous individual, and this, I think, is so very important because most of us have been conditioned to feel and to believe that our lives are the result of environment, that our lives are formed by relationships with our parents. Our lives are made by what we have implanted in our consciousness through education, through the influence of the world. Our lives are totally dependent upon what happens to us, and what we amass out of the world's wealth and so forth.
This becomes almost a compulsion with us. It's like I say, a child is almost unconsciously fitted early in life with a begging bowl and he goes out into the world with his bowl begging everywhere for love from his parents and for money from the marketplace and for reassurance from people and so forth. He's always begging and he feels that his security and his success in life are directly indicated by what he amasses in his little bowl. If he doesn't get much in his bowl, then it's because people didn't love me, people were unkind, everything was against me, and so forth.
Therefore this concept of the transcendental approach which Emerson espouses that life is lived from within, that a person comes into life not empty, going into the world to be filled from all sides, but he comes into the world as a dynamic creature to be discovered and released. All the world out here can do is provide the challenge to awaken that imprisoned splendour within himself. This is so very important.
Emerson, of course, was probably one of the foremost persons espousing the doctrine of positive thinking long before Norman Vincent Peale, and a lot of other modern truth-teachers and pseudo-truth teachers and so forth.
For instance, Emerson said,
"Don't have a dismal picture on the wall, and do not dog with sables and glooms in your conversation. Don't be a cynic and a disconsolate preacher, don't bewail and bemoan. Omit the negative propositions and nerve yourself about with incessant affirmatives."
If that doesn't talk about positive thinking, I don't know what it does. Anyway, this is Emerson and we could spend hours talking about Emerson and I wish we could because certainly there's so much that the man says, but I should say, read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions, or as the child once said, draw your own delusions.
I'd also like to comment very briefly about another great friend who was a product of the transcendentalist stream, a spiritual child undoubtedly of the Kantian philosophy. This is Robert Browning. Robert Browning, dates are 1812 to 1889 so he was a contemporary of Emerson and Wordsworth. Perhaps his greatest work is the very long poem Paracelsus. Certainly I might say that I've had some beautiful, almost mystical experiences from Paracelsus. Certainly I have had a great and beautiful relationship with the works of Wordsworth. It's almost hard to say as in words works. Wordsworth touches more of a spiritual awareness, but Browning has a kind of a intellectual flavor that challenges the mind too, and I suppose that's where I am.
Browning is an enigma to most persons, and I think that's one of the problems of academia. That's why Emerson has been an enigma to so many people, because there's always a desire, a compulsion, to fit people into pigeon holes. Where does he belong? What do you do with a person like Emerson? I guess you might say, "What do you do with a person like Butterworth?" I don't know, he doesn't fit into the religious stream either, you see.
In philosophy, there's always a sense, what is he? Is he a pantheist or a transcendentalist, and so forth. Browning has been an enigma because from a literary sense, he's been judged as being very inferior as a poet. I'm not qualified of course to determine the greatness of his poetry in a literary sense, but I suspect at least from my own sense that I can testify that he is a great poet in terms of the experience that comes and from the tremendous insights that the man expressed.
Probably the most quoted series of lines from any poet in all history, at least in relationship to the modern day New Thought-ers, or Religion Scientists or Unity people or whatever, truth-teachers, is this beautiful thought which we've already vaguely referred to.
TRUTH is within ourselves; it takes no rise
From outward things, whate’er you may believe.
There is an inmost centre in us all,
Where truth abides in fullness; and around,
Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in,
This perfect, clear perception—which is truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
Binds it, and makes all error: and, to KNOW,
Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendour may escape,
Than in effecting entry for a light
Supposed to be without.
Now that strikes right at the very heart of this new insight in truth, I believe.
Browning sees a potential of greatness in every person, and of course this again, is implicit in transcendentalism. I would like to suggest in bringing this lecture to a close, Browning's thought relative his vision for the future of man, which I think is probably the greatest vision for the future of man that has ever been uttered. That's one man's viewpoint, of course. Now listen to these words, if you're not aware of them.
For these things tend still upward, progress is
The law of life, man is not Man as yet.
Nor shall I deem his object served, his end
Attained, his genuine strength put fairly forth,
While only here and there a star dispels
The darkness, here and there a towering mind
O'erlooks its prostrate fellows: when the host
Is out at once to the despair of night,
When all mankind alike is perfected,
Equal in full-blown powers then, not till then,
I say, begins man's general infancy.
Now let me just suggest what that does for me in consciousness and what it means. We tend and have always done so, to determine the progress of civilization in terms of what great minds have said and what great lives have achieved. He likens this to a shooting star, a light that suddenly comes out in the heavens. Ah, it's beautiful, and we have a passing parade of great lights, or great luminaries and this is what makes history to a large extent.
He says that this in no way reflects the ultimate of our society, where only here and there, a star dispels the darkness. Here and there a towering mind overlooks its prostrate fellows. Then he goes on and he says, "When the host is out at once," thinking of every person as a potential star, "When every star is suddenly revealed at one time, when every person becomes the towering mind, the great giant, when all mankind is perfected." Not just when we look to a Jesus or to a Buddha or to some modern saint, but when everyone is perfected.
Of course, for most persons, that's almost impossible to realize when we think of the sorted and the perverted phases of human nature. He's looking idealistically, you see, way down the road. This great vision that when every single person, the billions and billions of person alive, all achieve perfection, all at that particular point, then begins the general infancy of mankind.
In other words, he's seeing mankind in a collective sense and this, I think, is a little something that is suggested, if not directly stated, by Teilhard de Chardin.
That we're only seeing the preparatory stage. We think of civilization, which has its rises and its falls and we think of the great things we've achieved, but all of this, all the turmoil and all the high points and the low points, in his vision, is simply the development stage coming to the point where the race of man begins. What happens beyond there, who knows? You see, but one can conjecture and perhaps this is just a mind-blowing exercise. What it does do is it points, as Browning does so often, and as Emerson does, and as all the transcendentalists do, it points to the innate genius of every person.
This is why Emerson suggests that Jesus was a person, and that if we want to see God, we can see Him or we can see ourselves when we do as He does. When we achieve that consciousness that every person has that God potential within him. This is innate in the whole transcendentalist approach, and I think it's a concept and a very beautiful concept which provides the heart and the soul of metaphysics, whereas the mind of metaphysics perhaps is more clearly articulated in the Quimby New Thought stream, which we'll deal with next week.
I feel that transcendentalism is a very, very vital influence as an antecedent of the New Insight In Truth. That's where I stand at least.
All right, we're glad you could join us tonight. Now let's just take a moment to go on our way letting a thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson become a motivation theme in consciousness. When he says, and he made this statement to the Divinity School students, "Live with the privilege of immeasurable mind."
"Live with the privilege of immeasurable mind."
Realize that you live in mind in the infinite sea of intelligence and creativity. You're in it, you're of it, within you, expressing through you. You have the privilege of the expansiveness of mind. Accept it, rejoice in it, be grateful for it, use it, express it, positive creativity in all you do. Live with the privilege of immeasurable mind.
We give thanks for that. Amen.