September 23, 2007

Emerson's Evolution

Emerson, Evolution, and Transmigration by Robert C. Gordon, PhD
Posted 6/24/03
Although Ralph Waldo Emerson broke with his Unitarian faith in 1832, he was enough a product of Christian theology to still retain its conceptions of time, of history, and of human origins. During the 1840s, he rejected this deep structure of the Christian world-view, and became the first to conceive the idea that the spiritual transformation of the individual played a crucial role in the process of upward evolution. While in his first book Nature, published in 1836, he had advanced the more modest conclusion that human spiritual development contributed directly to social improvement, during the 1840s he went much further, asserting that individual spiritual progress was vital to evolutionary progress. Emerson made this metaphysical leap through his brilliant fusion of neo-Platonism, science, Hegel, and India's philosophy of samsara.
As a result of these powerful influences, Emerson came to believe that the course of evolution was to create more and more mystically-gifted individuals, people who were surrendered to the Deep Force and therefore perfect channels for bringing its spiritual power into the life of everyday. According to his mature beliefs, when a critical mass of individuals had evolved far enough to become perfect vehicles of the divine consciousness, channeling the power of Spirit into the affairs of common experience, they would inaugurate a Heavenly life here on earth. While Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Aurobindo Ghose are often credited as the first to achieve this metaphysical insight, the palm instead is Emerson's. He advanced a New World version of just their wisdom decades before either Aurobindo or Teilhard de Chardin was born.

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