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Remembering The Emerson Who Sought God

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Remembering The Emerson Who Sought God

 by Richard Higgins

I

t is hard to overcome strong first impressions. This helps explain why, when it comes to religion, Ralph Waldo Emerson is often seen as a borderline atheist, a pantheist, a mystic who waltzed in the spiritual ether or, as Harold Bloom has argued, an American gnostic. The first view is just wrong, and the rest can be pressed only on flimsy, evanescent evidence. The bicentennial of Emerson’s birth offers an opportunity to consider why they miss the mark and to look at the religious legacy of the man John Dewey called America’s Plato.

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