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His philosophical exposition has a peculiar power and an organic unity whose cumulative effect was highly suggestive and stimulating to his contemporary readers’ imaginations.
American Scholar” (August 31, 1837), Emerson described the resources and duties of the new liberated intellectual that he himself had become.
He graduated in 1821 and taught school while preparing for part-time study in the Harvard Divinity School.
Though Emerson was licensed to preach in the Unitarian community in 1826, illness slowed the progress of his career, and he was not ordained to the Unitarian ministry at the Second Church, Boston, until 1829.
This address was in effect a challenge to the Harvard intelligentsia, warning against pedantry, imitation of others, traditionalism, and scholarship unrelated to life.
Emerson’s “Address at Divinity College,” Harvard University, in 1838 was another challenge, this time directed against a lifeless Christian tradition, especially Unitarianism as he had known it.
Emerson felt that there was no place for free will in the chains of mechanical cause and effect that rationalist philosophers conceived the world as being made up of.
This world could be known only through the senses rather than through thought and intuition; it determined men physically and psychologically; and yet it made them victims of circumstance, beings whose superfluous mental powers were incapable of truly ascertaining reality.
When Emerson left the church, he was in search of a more certain conviction of God than that granted by the historical evidences of miracles.
He wanted his own revelation—i.e., a direct and immediate experience of God. In Paris he saw Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu’s collection of natural specimens arranged in a developmental order that confirmed his belief in man’s spiritual relation to and established himself as a popular and influential lecturer.