GLOBAL AND ECUMENICAL IN SCOPE
CANADIAN IN PERSPECTIVE
Wayne A. Holst, Editor
My E-Mail Address:
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Enhancing your reading experience is very
important to me. I am currently involved in
up-grading the layout and presentation of
Colleagues List, so please bear with me.
I am attempting to reduce the length, but
not the content and quality, of each issue.
Please let me know how I'm doing.
Ralph Waldo Emerson and his Essential
Spiritual Writings is the Special Item
book notice I share with you this week.
For those seeking perspective on many
of the modern spiritualities influencing
our world, especially in the West, this
investigation of the writings of an early
American, New England religious figure
should be helpful.
Please scroll down through this letter
to read and learn more about him.
Colleague Communications this week
are from regular contributors Marty,
Rolheiser and Taylor. Enjoy them!
Net Notes offer 10 items from the
www I found helpful this week.
Wisdom of the Week = the reflections
of six special contributors await you.
Three big news stories, written as
they took place, are provided from
the archives of the New York Times.
We conclude this issue with words
from Anne Frank of Amsterdam.
We begin building our fall program
of Adult Spiritual Development at
St. David's United Church, Calgary
and you are welcome to journey
together with us into a new year.
Thanks for accompanying me on my
Colleagues List. I hope you find some
of this rich collection to be helpful.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Essential Spiritual Writings
Introduction by Jon M. Sweeney
Orbis Books, Maryknoll NW
2016. Paper. 153 pages. $32.00 CAD
“Belief consists in accepting the affirmations
of the soul; unbelief, in denying them.” RWE
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1883),
“the Concord Sage,” was a lecturer and an
essayist, who became the preeminent exponent
of Transcendentalism. After studies at Harvard
Divinity School he became a Congregational
minister, but eventually resigned, judging,
“This mode of commemorating Christ is not
suitable to me.” Strongly influenced by Indian
philosophy and religion, he believed that we
can receive divine truth through nature.
Though he is considered one of the most
significant intellectual figures in American
history, this volume offers a fresh perspective
by highlighting his extensive writings on
spiritual themes. Like his friend Henry David
Thoreau, Emerson is one of those who might
have described himself as “spiritual, not
religious,” thus speaking directly to a
generation of contemporary seekers.
Emerson Wikipedia Bio:
Jon M. Sweeney, editorial director of
Franciscan Media, is a scholar, author,
and culture critic with a wide range of
interests. His many books include The
Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale
of Mystery, Death, and Salvation, and
Francis of Assisi in His Own Words.
For the Modern Spiritual Masters Series
he has edited Phyllis Tickle: Essential
The Sage of Concord (Mass.) remains an
enormous figure on the historical spectrum
of American intellectual and cultural life...
Telling the story of Emerson's life, of its
place in the history of American religion and
letters, has (tended in our recent past) to
become a way to avoid his actual writings.
This volume aims to address this (neglect).
This collection of Emerson's words aims to
actually demonstrate why he was Concord's
All of Emerson's writings in this volume are
taken from his published, written work.
I want to offer a portrait of the mature
Emerson... I want to (share) what would
most faithfully match what was available
to readers during his lifetime about what
this leading light of Transcendentalism
thought and said. He published (a great
deal) in his lifetime and there is much
available upon which an editor might draw.
(Emerson was born (1803) in Boston and
died (1883) in his beloved Concord. He
broke from Unitarianism (his father was
a Unitarian minister and he studied to be
one) and, in a true sense, he pre-dated
the modernist (scientific) challenges to
traditional and doctrinal Christianity.)
Emerson focused on the divinity of the
individual, and many continue to resent
him for this same reason - that he
elevated the individual at the expense of
dismantling just about everything else.
Walter Percy, the American Catholic
novelist wrote that "Emerson's was the
mind most singly responsible for
legitimizing the abandonment of tradition,
history, and even society in the name of
the imperial Self and the pursuit of
(The editor does a nice job of outlining how
the Calvinist faith of the original Puritan
Christians of New England branched out into
Unitarianism, and then, Transcendentalism.
He leaves it to the reader to reflect on
modern expressions and implications.)
(Reviewing his era in the seminal development
of American religion we learn how traditional
Christianity was transformed. Emerson refined
what eventually became a spirituality of 'nature'
and 'self' worship - which was a substitute for
classic European Christianity developed by
Harvard seminarians who were dissatisfied
with how intellectualism had come to dominate
It was Emerson's combination of affability,
determination, and idealism that led him
to being the leader of the Transcendentalist
movement. Emerson believed that the only
way of knowing the Divine, as well as truth -
was by intuition and experience, in the natural,
created world, rather than the inherited special
providence of revealed religion. He believed
that every human mind was imbued with a
divine instinct... and the divinity inside
every person too often had gone untapped...
Many Christians (at the time, and today also)
have retained the classic notion of revelation -
the idea that there were certain truths revealed
by God in the Bible that "stand outside" any
normal ways of human knowledge... Emerson
believed that Christian faith had dwelled too
much on revelation.
(Emerson also believed that divine exclusivity
in the mission, teachings, and person of Jesus
Christ needed to be jettisoned, and this caused
considerable debate and reaction on the part
of many contemporaries as well as those today
who believe he sought to "dismantle" historic
Christianity. Critics claimed then and do now
that he was too optimistic regarding human
nature. He denied any reality to evil and failed
to acknowledge how the human heart too often
reveals that it is far from divine.)
(Emerson needs to be listened to in our time
if for no other reason than many of his ideas
are evident in currently popular "spiritualisms"
- and he is the unacknowledged source of a
lot of these fermentive ideas. To better note
and understand such modern movements
we need to better understand their roots.)
Particularly, later in life, Emerson wrote often
of ways to stimulate growth in the life of the
soul... His writings demonstrate the unique
qualities of the working philosopher, community
organizer, man of letters, and public intellectual.
Lawrence Buell wrote of him: "his writings still
(retain) the power to startle and excite, (and)
to produce unexpected flashes of insight."
- from the Introduction
To better understand some of the characteristics
of modern North American (and in many ways
global) religion today, I suggest a visit to the
beautiful town of Concord, Massachusetts. Many
of the ideas we contend with, seem to have
Here is the Wikipedia article about the town:
today, Concord has had a hugely disproportionate
influence on human affairs than its population
over the years might suggest.
My wife Marlene and I spent more than one day
here several years ago while visiting New England.
The magic of this place - for so many reasons -
continues to inspire and haunt us.
Marlene loved the Alcott family home (remember
Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women"?) and I - the
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where so many New
England luminaries - like Nathaniel Hawthorne,
Henry David Thoreau, and of course, Ralph Waldo
Emerson himself - were laid to rest.
A culture all its own developed here during the
nineteenth century. It was created, I believe,
through a unique blending of nature, people.
and ideas. The resulting influence on the world,
however, has been incalculable.
The tall white spire of the Unitarian Church in
the centre of town indicates that this place was
not your typical Protestant early-American
community. While deeply rooted in New England,
dotted with lovely white-spired churches, the
history of this church is special. Emerson was
never the minister here, or a member, by his
own choice. He moved beyond institutional
religion. Yet his influence is inseparable from
the church building as well as the community.
I could argue that, in many ways, Concord - its
history, as well as many of its surnames and
facilities - represents the heart of America.
(Please consult the Wikipedia article above
to help you understand what I mean.)
But now a little about the book.
Emerson wrote good material all through his
life, and that life has been well documented.
This book focuses mainly on his spiritual writings
and how his spirituality evolved over the years.
The editor provides dozens of literary selections
and groups them under themes such as: Introducing
His Thought, After Christianity, Divinity and the Soul,
Stoic Values, To Cultivate Virtue, and Encountering
the Holy. The book closes with several worthwhile
pages of Memorable Aphorisms (selected quotes from
I often grow weary of reading so much of the
New Age fluff that is in such abundance today.
While Emerson covers many of the same themes
as trendy New Agers, this author writes with vigor,
clarity and intelligence. Moderns may mouth
Emerson's themes but most cannot come close
to his substance.
A book like this helps us to understand a lot
of the inherent issues of the modern religious
quest. Even though Emerson has been dead
for 135 years, much of what concerned him
also concerns us - even though we may end
up following different spiritual paths than he.
Buy the book from Orbis:
Buy the Book from Amazon.ca:
April 25th, 2016
"Pornography and Prince"
San Antonio, TX
Personal Web Site
April 25th, 2016
"Marking an Anniversary"
200 Years Since the Founding of
the Oblates of Mary Immaculate
Personal Web Log
April 25th, 2016
"Mass Media Fail to Explore Religious Motives"
Pop Music Priest
in a Secular World
April 22nd, 2016
INDIAN PRIEST SENT HOME
Not Charged in Canada
April 26th, 2016
Statement of Faithful Obedience
April 28th, 2016
FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE BARD
On the 400th Anniversary of His Death
April 21st, 2016
Commemorating William Shakespeare
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
BBC Radio 3 (UK)
April 24th, 2016
WHAT OF CONTEMPORARY LITURGIES
Are They Essentially Entertainment?
Christian Week Online
April 24th, 2016
LIFTING THE VEIL
OFF THE 'NONES'
"The Nones Are Alright"
A New Book From Orbis
National Catholic Reporter
April 27th, 2016
TARRED AS 'ANTI-CHRIST'
For Stance Defending Muslims
Religion News Service
April 28th, 2016
FOR EVANGELICAL CHURCHES
Living in a Secular Age
The Christian Post
April 28th, 2016
BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY:
THE COST OF REPORTING A RAPE
Issues at Core of Mormon Identity
New York Times
April 26th, 2016
IN CANADA ACCOUNT FOR THEIR
RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL OBLIGATIONS
Challenging News Misunderstandings
United Church of Canada
April 27th, 2016
Anglican Church in Canada
April 29th, 2016
WISDOM OF THE WEEK
From Sojourners and the Bruderhof online:
There is a higher law than the law of government.
That's the law of conscience.
- Stokely Carmichael
The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and
also to love our enemies; probably because
generally they are the same people.
- G.K. Chesterton
There are two kinds of people: those who do
the work and those who take the credit.
Try to be in the first group; there is less
- Indira Gandhi
The duties and cares of the day crowd about us
when we awake each day – if they have not already
dispelled our night’s rest. How can everything be
accommodated in one day? When will I do this,
when that? How will it all be accomplished?
Thus agitated, we are tempted to run and rush.
And so we must take the reins in hand and
remind ourselves, “Let go of your plans.
The first hour of your morning belongs to God.
Tackle the day’s work that he charges you with,
and he will give you the power to accomplish it.”
- Edith Stein
The great and golden rule of art, as well as of life,
is this: that the more distinct, sharp, and wiry the
bounding line, the more perfect the work of art,
and the less keen and sharp, the greater is the
evidence of weak imitation, plagiarism, and bungling.
What is it that distinguishes honesty from knavery,
but the hard line of rectitude and certainty in the
actions and intentions? Leave out this line and you
leave out life itself; all is chaos again, and the line
of the Almighty must be drawn out upon it before
man or beast can exist.
- William Blake
Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has
to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without
getting tired. How does a lamp burn?
Through the continuous input of small drops of oil.
If the drops of oil run out, the light of the lamp will
cease, and the bridegroom will say, “I do not know
you” (Matt. 25:12). What are these drops of oil in
our lamps? They are the small things of daily life:
faithfulness, small words of kindness, a thought
for others, our way of being silent, of looking, of
speaking, and of acting. These are the true drops
of love that keep your religious life burning like a
- Mother Teresa
ON THIS DAY
From the archives of the New York Times
"World's Worst Nuclear Reactor Disaster"
"UN Founding Meeting in San Francisco"
"South Vietnam Falls to Communist Forces"
CLOSING THOUGHT - Anne Frank
The final forming of a person's character
lies in their own hands.
For Those Interested:
Beginning a New Program Year - 2016-17
Adult Spiritual Development/ ACTS Ministry
at St. David's United Church, Calgary
NEW SPIRITUAL TRAVEL PROJECT
The Planning Cycle Begins With a Question:
"Where Would You Like to Travel Next?"
Beginning our process to find a destination
for a trip somewhere in the world in 2017.