Ralph Waldo Emerson is a famed poet who was originally a Unitarian minister. Later in life he became a writer and a public speaker. Emerson was the founder of Transcendentalism and is noted as one of the world's greatest thinkers. He was born on May 25, 1803 in Boston, Massachusetts and died on April 27, 1882.
Ralph Waldo Emerson achieved worldwide fame as a lecturer and author of such works as Self Reliance, History, The Over-Soul, and Fate. Emerson drew from the works of great philosophers who inspired him. He studied works from English and German Romanticism, Neoplatonism, Kantianism, and Hinduism.
Using the art of oration, he addressed audiences with his compelling rhetoric and his revolutionary concepts. Emerson was such a powerful and profound speaker that he earned the nickname "the sage of Concord". Emerson perceived thought not only as a process, but as a scientific evolution of the mind to willfully pursue thinking as a deliberate act. In this respect, he was a philosopher and a teacher, showing others how to think for themselves.
Emerson's philosophy embraced thought as a metaphysics of process that was influenced by mood and emotion. He believed in the intuition of spirit rather than the hard cold facts of science. This is transcendentalism, which is a belief that the natural world holds spiritual truths, and it is an optimistic view of the human spirit. He introduced his existentialist ethics of self improvement to the world.
Emerson followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a minister. When his young wife and two brothers died from tuberculosis, he lost his faith. No longer able to administer the sacrament, Emerson resigned the ministry. At this time, he devoted his life to his writing and lectures. Emerson kept a journal until approximately five years before his death, which presents a dynamic peek into the mind of this exceptional thinker.
The essays that he wrote brought Emerson public fame and infamy. Today, scholars and educators dole out the study sheets and include essays such as Self Reliance and The American Scholar on the required reading lists for literature classes.
Emerson's lectures covered all aspects of life, culture and society. The topics of his speaking engagements covered more than religion and transcendentalism. He lectured about moral character, education, arts and sciences. Emerson was active in asserting his opinions on political power and reform and the social order of nations. He was a passionate advocate for the abolishment of slavery in his later life.
Ralph Waldo Emerson had a wide reaching influence upon others. Great literary masters such as Henry David Thoreau and John Dewey were impressed by Emerson's philosophies and lectures. To this day, Emerson stands as the main voice for transcendentalism and the American literary and philosophic movement.