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LEADER RESOURCE 4: Words of the Transcendentalists

The Religion that is afraid of science dishonours God and commits suicide. It acknowledges that it is not equal to the whole of truth, that it legislates, tyrannizes over a village of God's empires but is not the immutable universal law. Every influx of atheism, of skepticism is thus made useful as a mercury pill assaulting and removing a diseased religion and making way for truth.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

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Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

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Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world. No hope so bright but is the beginning of its own fulfillment.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims

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Talk of mysteries! — Think of our life in nature, — daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, — rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! the solid earth! the actual world! the common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? where are we?

— Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods

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The law will never make men free; it is men who have got to make the law free.

— Henry David Thoreau, Slavery in Massachusetts

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The perception of beauty is a moral test.

— Henry David Thoreau

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The wisest man preaches no doctrines; he has no scheme; he sees no rafter, not even a cobweb, against the heavens. It is clear sky. If I ever see more clearly at one time than at another, the medium through which I see is clearer.

— Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

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Simplify, simplify.

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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How many persons must there be who cannot worship alone, since they are content with so little!

— Margaret Fuller, letter to Rev. W. H. Channing

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Very early I knew that the only object in life was to grow.

— Margaret Fuller

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All around us lies what we neither understand nor use. Our capacities, our instincts for this our present sphere are but half developed. Let us confine ourselves to that till the lesson be learned; let us be completely natural; before we trouble ourselves with the supernatural. I never see any of these things but I long to get away and lie under a green tree and let the wind blow on me. There is marvel and charm enough in that for me.

— Margaret Fuller, Summer on the Lakes

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Our ideals are our better selves.
— Amos Bronson Alcott

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Thought means life, since those who do not think so do not live in any high or real sense. Thinking makes the man.
— Amos Bronson Alcott

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Dreaming is an act of pure imagination, attesting in all men a creative power, which if it were available in waking, would make every man a Dante or Shakespeare.

— Frederick Henry Hedge

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The immortality of the soul is assented to rather than believed,— believed rather than lived.

— Orestes Brownson

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The little flower that opens in the meadows lives and dies in a season; but what agencies have concentrated themselves to produce it! So the human soul lives in the midst of heavenly help.

— Elizabeth Palmer Peabody

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But is it not the fact that religion emanates from the nature, from the moral state of the individual? Is it not therefore true that unless the nature be completely exercised, the moral state harmonized, the religion cannot be healthy?

Fidelity to conscience is inconsistent with retiring modesty. If it be so, let the modesty succumb. It can be only a false modesty which can be thus endangered.

— Harriet Martineau

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If a test of civilization be sought, none can be so sure as the condition of that half of society over which the other half has power.

— Harriet Martineau

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You had better live your best and act your best and think your best today; for today is the sure preparation for tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that follow.

— Harriet Martineau

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Last updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.

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