Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Like other transcendentalist writers, Emerson believes that the individual is intrinsically united with God, nature, and their fellow man. In “History,” he explains that the past is a record of the “universal mind”—the thoughts, ideas, and experiences that are inherent to all people and connect them across time. According to Emerson, history is a cycle in which every individual discovers these same ingrained principles through their own personal experiences. Studying history allows the individual to…

read analysis of Unity


Emerson believes that history is not only a record of the “universal mind,” but also of the “universal nature” of the singular spirit that is present in all things. Human beings are not merely united intellectually and emotionally through common experiences, but spiritually through a divine “spark of light” that exists in all individuals. Throughout “History” Emerson argues that just as the mind connects people with each other, the soul connects people with the…

read analysis of Spirituality

Creation and Nature

Expanding on the themes of unity and spirituality, Emerson illustrates the inherent affiliation between the divine human soul and nature, and how that connection inevitably manifests in the creations—fine art, architecture, and literature—that individuals make. In Emerson’s view, nature is “an endless combination and repetition of a very few laws,” serving as an outward manifestation of the internal universal spirit that unites all things. He argues that artists have a proclivity—whether deliberate or subconscious—to echo…

read analysis of Creation and Nature
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