I consider Ralph Waldo Emerson one of my greatest teachers even though he passed on well over a century ago. Emerson was the founder of the Transcendental movement in America; his philosophy emphasized the all-pervading spirit of the universe, wherein God existed everywhere. To understand the greatness of Emerson, it is important to remember that during his period of history, spiritual guidance was the exclusive domain of the established religions. Emerson was challenging the dogma and rhetoric of traditional religion. In perhaps his best-known and most frequently quoted essay, “Self-Reliance,” this provocative American author examined the basic tenets of what it means to be your own person. I can still remember the impact that the essays “Self-Reliance” and “On the Necessity of Civil Disobedience”—by Emerson’s contemporary Henry David Thoreau—had on me when I was a seventeen-year-old high school student.
People who truly understand what is meant by self-reliance know they must live their lives by ethics rather than rules. The rules are not reasons to live a certain way. It is the integrity of your own mind that you must first consult if you are ever to experience this quality of self-reliance. This lesson applies to all areas of your life, from making decisions for yourself about how you spend your free time, to how you will dress, to what you will eat, to how you will raise your children. Don’t let the voices within you grow faint and inaudible in favor of that societal conspiracy. Be yourself and run your life by what you know to be right and in harmony with your spiritual essence. That is, by the integrity of your own mind.
Be yourself, respect yourself, and create a harmonious relationship between the integrity of your own mind and your daily conduct. See the unfolding of God in everyone and in all life. Know that all are equal in the invisible realm of the spirit.
Another of my great teachers, from my own lifetime, was Abraham Maslow who cautioned us to be “independent of the good opinion of others.” If we are true to the divine wisdom within, we’ll be ready to follow our path and make our unique contribution to the world.