Thoreau and emerson relationship

My Friend, My Friend | University of Massachusetts Press

thoreau and emerson relationship

Scott F. Parker gets friendly with Emerson & Thoreau. memory for their leading roles in American transcendentalism, and also for their personal relationship. Free Essay: Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau as Fathers of The basic tenets of Transcendentalism involve the relationships between one's. Despite the disparity in their circumstances, Thoreau and Emerson quickly formed a close relationship that lasted until Thoreau's death at the age of forty- four.

The two men continued to interact, but it is apparent in studying their journals that the relationship was strained; there were disappointments, frustrations and misunderstandings on both sides.

InEmerson became ill with a serious case of measles, and the fear that he might die caused Thoreau to seek a reconciliation with him that seems to have restored their friendship. When Thoreau died of tuberculosis inEmerson gave the address at his funeral. When published as an essay, that address not only eulogized Thoreau but also became, according to Buell, the most influential piece written on Thoreau: What is argued is how reciprocal the influence was and what the issues were that arose between the two men during their relationship.

Certainly the relationship was weighty with expectations on both sides. And yet, there is evidence that Emerson had an established pattern of embracing a new poet with enthusiasm, only to become disillusioned with him when he failed to meet high expectations of continued performance. Both relationships held great importance, and both deaths left behind a weight of unfulfilled expectations. For Thoreau, it was the loss of the only significant friendship he had experienced before Emerson, and the grief nearly overcame him.

For Emerson, the death of Waldo helped to highlight his concerns that Thoreau was not living up to his potential. Many scholars suggest that the strain in their relationship began to emerge about this time, but suggest different causes for it.


Emerson appears to have suffered some inconveniency from his experience of Mr. Thoreau as an intimate. A relationship that is forged under such influence may not change and grow easily. In My Friend, My Friend, Harmon Smith puts forth the idea that, after feeling for so long that he did not measure up, the idea of emerging from the role of student to the role of colleague was intimidating for Thoreau.

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Whether or not that is true, entries in the journals of both men show the rift between them. Thoreau felt betrayed, Emerson alienated and disappointed. The different pathways down which their separate lives were progressing only added to the distance between them. Each person creates his own philosophy and belief to match his own character and personal experiences. They were primarily unified by their protest against theoretical dogmatism and by their philosophical-religious visions.

Nevertheless, their personal views differed, just as their theoretical beliefs differed and even contradicted one another. Hence, transcendentalism was not a monolithic movement. Its representatives did not hold to any formal philosophical idea or religious doctrine.

It was rather a composite of different spiritual streams and liberal ideas of the Enlightenment, which revolutionized and provided new impetus to the the spirit and thought of the time. Studies In New England Transcendentalism. Although New England had won political freedom with the Declaration of Independence inAmerica was still strongly bound to the intellectual, cultural and religious convictions of her mother colony 50 years later. Geschichte der Nordamerikanischen Kultur. The reformatory religious doctrine established by the clergymen Johannes Calvin was later adopted by the Puritans, who rejected the authority of the Church and sought to overcome the social demoralization of their time 2.

They argued in favour of a purification of the Church from sin and immorality. They therefore saw the human being as incapable of finding redemption by means of his own will and effort. He was required to undertake a moral regeneration through rigorous self-discipline and devoutness. Since the human being was supposed to be spiritually blinded, he could recognize the will of God only by a strenuous study of the Holy Scripture.

The Calvinists called for an emotionless, rational interpretation of the Bible by authorized clergymen.

Thoreau/Emerson Relationship by Pippa M. on Prezi

Believers were compelled to adhere to particular analytic requirements and were therefore not able to attain dialectic knowledge of diverse biblical readings 3. A group of liberal Christians, who were intensely influenced by those ideas, sought to unify reason and enthusiasm in an ethical system that allowed for self-contained and enlightened judgement.

The most significant representative of this religious insight was the Unitarian 5 William Ellery Chaning —who is also regarded as the forerunner of transcendentalism.

They propagated a critical confrontation with theological questions in order to console the religious crisis of their time. Believing that a scientifically based view could give firm evidence of biblical revelation, they attached themselves to the Empiricist doctrine of John Locke 8. According to Locke, human intuitive knowledge is restricted to the confines of deductive logic, which means that all assertion can only be deduced through information gained by our sensory perception.

As a consequence, he considered human cognitive competence as very constrained, as it is only based on empirical knowledge. Consequently, this view rejected the assumption that Divine Truth may be received directly by the human soul without any exertion of the faculty of judgement 9.

Thoreau's Relationship With Emerson | The Connection

Transcendentalism as a Social Movement Their emphasized principle of reasoning helped overcome the bigotry of the Puritans, but on the other hand, it suggested that religious practice in New England was doomed to freeze into dogmatism and social materialism. European Enlightenment and the democratic concept of liberty was revived on a spiritual level by the emergence of transcendentalism. Its members criticized the stubborn adherence of the Unitarians to the Bible as the only and direct relation to God, since they regarded it as an historical document of a less enlightened time.

Averting themselves from historically based dogmatism, they turned towards the inner life of the individual and towards the intuitive font of Truth. They believed in the vocation of man to recognize Divine Revelation within himself, beyond empirical experience. The following statement by the transcendentalist George Ripley could well summarize the religious standpoint of the group: As a very well-read woman and a strong, impulsive and vivid character, she incited Emerson to think critically and to maintain a liberal religious attitude.

He considered it a formality without any truthful spiritual significance. This was the death of his wife, Ellen Louisa Tucker, only two years after their marriage. As a result of this tragic experience, the young Emerson fell into a deep emotional crisis, which he strived to overcome by his search for the existence of God, as his famous biographer Richardson describes.

thoreau and emerson relationship

In their writings he finally found confirmation and reinforcement of his vision of an intuitive philosophy and of his personal desire for an unrestricted relationship with God.

Oxford Dictionary of English.

thoreau and emerson relationship

The transcendental question turns towards the subject, assuming that the subject in the process of cognition constitutes the object in his consciousness. Accordingly, cognition is not to be understood as a passive acceptance of a given fact, but as an active accomplishment of the subject. Thus, Kant deduces that we are able to recognize certain general regularities and phenomena of reality, because they already exist a priori in our cognitive faculty and are projected into objects.

He saw reason as a higher spiritual faculty, where ideas in their significance - according to Plato 23 - as unique, true and original images dwell. The opening sentences of the essay have a spontaneous and self-reliant character in their denial of all tradition. It builds the sepulchers of our fathers.

It writes biographies, histories, and criticism.

thoreau and emerson relationship

Emerson calls for breaking with conformity, and insists on becoming more self-reliant. As manifestations of Divine Creation, they are all accessible to the human mind. We, through their eyes. Gazing at the stars, he becomes aware of his own separateness from the material world. Visible every night, they demonstrate that God is ever-present.

Emerson saw a special bond between the object of observation and the observer, especially in the human capacity to rejoice in something. When retreating oneself in nature, the individual can experience them as parallel creations of the same omnipresent Spirit.

He discloses that the human being is endowed with a particular property which enables him to recognize the identity of man and nature. Thus, the image of the subject and object sharing one particular property is similar to the Kantian a priori idea: In nature, the individual casts off his earthly existence and experiences the divine universal spirit as a force which flows through man and nature. Due to this energy which dwells also in man, the individual is able to experience a moment of confidence and delight in the eternal universal energy: In the woods, too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period so ever of life is always a child.

In the woods there is a perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. I am standing on the bare ground, - my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into the infinite space, - all mean egotism vanishes.

I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part and particle of God.

thoreau and emerson relationship

In the contemplative removal of all ontological restrictions between subjectivity and the absolute being by abolishment of all egotistic aspirations, the individual experiences a sameness among nature, God and himself. In the moment of immersion with the Universal Soul, the individual encounters the greatest form of blessedness. To experience awe in the presence of nature, means to approach it with a balance between our inner and outer senses.

Therefore, it is the particular harmony between man's inner processes and the outer world that enables the soul to elevate itself. Thus, Emerson shifts religious significance towards the moral responsibility of the individual. He makes clear that only he, who pays attention to his conscience, may live in harmony with his own self and the surrounding world: He who does a good deed is instantly ennobled.

He who does a mean deed is by the action itself contracted […] If a man dissemble, deceive, he deceives himself, and goes out of acquaintance with his own being.

Thus, he discerns that every decision, every action has its equilibrating counterpart in the universe of causality. In this self-regulating system each action is followed by its consequence and falls back on the actor himself.

Reward and punishment are not issued by an external divine power, but are the result of a continuously balancing universe: There is no other separate, ultimate resource, for God is within him, God about him, he is a part of God himself. In order to be perpetually open to its sound, the soul must be free from material attachments and egotistic interests. The individual should be self-sufficient, self-reliant and should be able to rest within his own self.