BRAHMA by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet.He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and he disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.

Emerson gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, formulating and expressing the philosophy of Transcendentalism in his 1836 essay, Nature.

Emerson’s work not only influenced his contemporaries, such as Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau, but would continue to influence thinkers and writers in the United States and around the world down to the present. Notable thinkers who recognize Emerson’s influence include Nietzsche and William James, Emerson’s godson.

In the poem, “Brahma”, the overall theme is the divine relationship and continuity of life and the unity of the universe.

IF the red slayer think he slays,

Or if the slain think he is slain,

They know not well the subtle ways

I keep, and pass, and turn again.

Far or forgot to me is near;

Shadow and sunlight are the same;

The vanished gods to me appear;

And one to me are shame and fame.

They reckon ill who leave me out;

When me they fly, I am the wings;

I am the doubter and the doubt,

And I the hymn the Brahmin sings

The strong gods pine for my abode,

And pine in vain the sacred Seven;

But thou, meek lover of the good!

Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes

Ralph Waldo Emerson quote

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About the alchemist

Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn't make any sense. ~Rumi
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8 Responses to BRAHMA by Ralph Waldo Emerson

  1. leefeller says:

    My limited enlightenment requires a high colonic… for I must read more than Chesty Puller quotes. I find Emerson’s poem most enlightening. A poem I wrote called “Feelings” emulates in some small strange way some of what Emerson is addressing, but mine appears more like an Irish Ditty. http://piousunyn.com/2014/03/27/feelings/

  2. Arvind

    it is quite remarkable that what Emerson says is fully echoed (or the other way round, surely,) in the Bhagavad Gita –

    IF the red slayer think he slays,
    Or if the slain think he is slain,
    They know not well the subtle ways – Emerson

    ”He who thinks this Self to be a slayer and he who thinks this Self to be slain, are both ignorant; the Soul slays not, nor is it slain.
    It is neither born nor does it die. Coming into being and ceasing to be do not take place in It. Unborn, eternal, constant and ancient, It is not slain when the body is slain.”

    Indrajit

    • Indrajit,
      In the poem, Emerson assumes the role of Brahma, the Hindu God of creation. Emerson is able to use clever, yet complex paradoxical logic in order to present his philosophy in poetic terms. Throughout the poem, Emerson alludes to Hindu mythology. The knowledge of which he gained through reading the Bhagavad-Gita and other Hindu scriptures.
      He was criticized for using the term “Brahma” , but he paid no attention to them. Emerson was admirer of Hinduism and its teachings.

  3. For a poetry festival once, I recited one of his poems. Absolutely loved his poetry!

  4. danieljmiess says:

    I love how Emerson was beyond most in Western society. He saw the good in all religions!

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