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Emerson Glossary

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A Selected Emerson Glossary

The following terms are a few that Emerson used frequently in his work and which often have a unique, even specialized, connotation. Having a basic grasp of these words, as he used them, will enhance your understanding and appreciation for his work. [exerpted from Emerson’s work by Richard Geldard and contained in his book, The Spiritual Teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Art — the soul’s action on the world; to educate the perception of beauty
Beauty — one expression for the universe
Behavior — my manner of life
Body — my office, where I work
Character — a reserved force which acts directly by presence; a latent power
Considerations — the positive centers of my actions
Civilization — the powers of a good woman
Culture — my widest sympathies and affinities
Dialectic — to Platonize; to drive through a subject to its essence
Ethics — the soul illustrated in daily life
Existence — the soul’s need for an organ in nature
Fate — the limitations of my inheritance and the natural world
Freedom — without any hindrance that does not arise out of my own constitution
Generalization — a new influx of divinity into the mind
History — the record of the works of the Universal Mind
Illusions — the games and masks of my self-deception
Instinct — revelations of the soul in the mind
Intellect — the organ which sees an object as it stands in the light of science (cool and disengaged)
Intuition — an insight into the perfection of the laws of the soul
Jesus (his purpose) — to redeem us from a formal religion; to teach us to seek our well-being in the formation of the soul
Literature — the soul’s record in the world; a platform whence we may command a view of our present life
Logic — the procession or proportionate unfolding of the intuition
Love of Truth — abstaining from dogmatism, recognizing the opposite negations between which the being is strung respect for the highest law of being
Man (human being) — a stupendous antagonism, a dragging together of the poles of the universe; a god in ruins
Manners — silent and mediate expressions of the soul
Nature — an endless combination of repetition of a very few laws
Obedience — the eye which reads the laws of the universe
Philosophy — the account which the human mind gives to itself of the constitution of the world
Politics — the activity of the soul illustrated in power
Power — my abilities and energies
Purpose of the World — to realize the transformation of genius into practical power
Religion — the emotion of reverence inspired by the soul
Repose — the opposite of truth; synonymous with ignorance
Science — the discovery of the soul’s methods
Soul — not an organ, but animates the organs; not a function but uses function; not a faculty but a light; not intellect or will but the master of the intellect and the will; related to the world
Teaching — he who gives, and he learns who receives; there is no teaching until the pupil is brought into the same state or principle in which you are; a transformation takes place; then is a teaching
Thinking — a pious reception
Trades — the learning of the soul in nature by labor
Transcendentalism — Intuitive thought; also Idealism; consciousness as the ground state of the universe
Virtue — the adherence in action to the nature of things; a perpetual substitution of being for seeming
Wealth — my gains and losses
Wisdom — to finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road; to live the greatest number of good hours
Worship — my belief

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