Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson

S+ Stimulant: Self-Reliance


“I sought not to bring them to me, but to themselves.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Transcendentalism is an American literary, political, and philosophical movement of the early nineteenth century, centered around Ralph Waldo Emerson. Other important transcendentalists were Henry David Thoreau & Margaret Fuller who criticized their contemporary society for its unthinking conformity, and urged that each person find, in Emerson’s words, “an original relation to the universe.”

Transcendentalists believed that society and its institutions, particularly organized religion and political parties, ultimately corrupt the purity of the individual. They had faith that people are at their best when truly “self-reliant” and independent. In their view it is only from such ‘real’ individuals that true community could be formed. The movement openly drew inspiration from ancient Indian teachings and texts such as the Vedas, Unpanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.


Self-Reliance, an essay written in 1847 by American transcendentalist philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson is as pertinent today as it was then. It contains the most thorough statement of one of Emerson’s recurrent themes, the need for each individual to avoid conformity and false consistency, and follow his or her own instincts and ideas. The text is in essence an articulation of Transcendental thought which believes in an inherent goodness of both people and nature. Emerson discusses self-reliance in the Eastern sense, the title in no way endorses pursuit of the ego or the self-concerned self.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson

To read Emerson’s the full essay, please click HERE

To learn about the Transcendentalism, please click HERE

[Sources: Wikipedia and Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

Published: May 27th, 2014

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