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Words of Wisdom

Be, Rather than Appear to Be – Excerpt from the Essay “Spiritual Laws” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (vegetarian)

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Ralph Waldo Emerson was a renowned 19th-century American essayist, philosopher, lecturer, poet, and a leader of the transcendental philosophical movement. Emerson is most famous for his essays, through which he expresses ideas of freedom, spirituality, individuality, the great ability of humans to have profound realizations and the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world. Today, we will read a selection from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essays, First Series, Essay 4 entitled “Spiritual Laws,” in which the philosopher talks about the virtues of humankind with an in depth description on mannerisms, nature, and our belief in God.

“Over all things that are agreeable to his nature and genius, the man has the highest right. Everywhere he may take what belongs to his spiritual estate, nor can he take anything else, though all doors were open, nor can all the force of men hinder him from taking so much.”

“God screens us evermore from premature ideas. Our eyes are holden that we cannot see things that stare us in the face, until the hour arrives when the mind is ripened; then we behold them, and the time when we saw them not is like a dream.”

“A man passes for that he is worth. What he is engraves itself on his face, on his form, on his fortunes, in letters of light. Concealment avails him nothing; boasting nothing. There is confession in the glances of our eyes; in our smiles; in salutations; and the grasp of hands.”

“Virtue is the adherence in action to the nature of things, and the nature of things makes it prevalent. It consists in a perpetual substitution of being for seeming, and with sublime propriety God is described as saying, I am. The lesson which these observations convey is, be, and not seem. Let us acquiesce. Let us take our bloated nothingness out of the path of the divine circuits. Let us unlearn our wisdom of the world. Let us lie low in the Lord's power, and learn that truth alone makes rich and great.”
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