To Re-Enchant the World : A Philosophy of Unitarian Universalism

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In that true ray most of the relations of earth seemed mere films, phenomena. I perceive that I am dealt with by superior powers. This is a pleasure, a joy, an existence which I have not procured myself. I speak as a witness on the stand, and tell what I have perceived. Presently the clouds shut down again; yet we retain the belief that this petty web we weave will at last be overshot and reticulated with veins of the blue, and that the moments will characterize the days.

Broadly speaking, it was the goal of self-culture to make it possible for the moments to characterize the days, as it were; to develop a sense of spirituality in every day life. The Transcendentalists sought this in a variety of ways.

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First and foremost, they looked to nature as a source of revelations concerning the spiritual life. To watch for, describe, all the divine features which I detect in Nature. Emerson also looked to nature for spiritual insight and moral instruction.

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We pave the earth for miles with stones and forbid the grass. We build street on street all round the horizon and shut out the sky and the wind; false and costly tastes are generated for wise and cheap ones; thousands are poor and cannot see the face of the world; the senses are impaired, and the susceptibility to beauty; and life made vulgar. Our feeling in the presence of nature is an admonishing hint.

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Go and hear in a woodland valley the harmless roarings of the South wind and see the shining boughs of the trees in the sun, the swift sailing clouds, and you shall think a man is a fool to be mean and unhappy when every day is made illustrious by these splendid shows.

Then falls the enchanting night; all the trees are wind-harps; out shine the stars; and we say, Blessed by light and darkness, ebb and flow, cold and heat, these restless pulsations of nature which throb for us. In the presence of nature a man of feeling is not suffered to lose sight of the instant creation. The world was not made a great while ago.

According to his own account, Thoreau spent half of each day in the out-of-doors. Frequently, fellow Transcendentalists accompanied him on these outings. These writings are a treasury of spiritual insights occasioned by his encounters with the natural world. Thoreau regarded the time he spent in the out-of-doors as a spiritual discipline. In this context, periods of motion and activity — that is, excursions — alternated with interludes of rest and reverie, or contemplation. And if the excursions were often undertaken with companions, contemplation was usually pursued in solitude.

I grew in those seasons like the corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. I realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the forsaking of works. Contemplation was a spiritual discipline for Emerson as well. The simple habit of sitting alone occasionally to explore what facts of moment lie in the memory may have the effect in some more favored hour to open to the student the kingdom of spiritual nature.

He may become aware that there around him roll new at this moment and inexhaustible the waters of Life; that the world he has lived in so heedless, so gross, is illumed with meaning, that every fact is magical; every atom alive, and he is the heir of it all. In fact, all of the Transcendentalists were voracious readers; so much so, that reading was for them another form of spiritual discipline. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object.

Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written. Emerson and Parker were known for their extensive libraries. Margaret Fuller was a discerning reader and book reviewer. Alcott and Thoreau compiled lengthy lists of the books they had read. The book exists for us, perchance, which will explain our miracles and reveal new ones. The at present unutterable things we may find somewhere uttered. These same questions that disturb and puzzle and confound us have in their turn occurred to all the wise men; not one has been omitted; and each has answered them, according to his ability, by his words and his life.

Their reading included poetry, philosophy, mythology, history, science and biography. They were especially attracted to the sacred texts of other religious traditions, including those of India and China. They were inspired by these, and found that they confirmed the truth of their own spiritual views. Because they felt the Universal Spirit present in all times and places, they looked for — and discovered — evidence of it in all religious faiths. Writing was yet another spiritual discipline for the Transcendentalists. Virtually all of them wrote, lectured or preached, and most of them kept a journal or diary.

Emerson, Thoreau and Alcott are especially noted for having kept journals. Certainly, the best of Alcott is in his journal, and many people feel the same about Thoreau.


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Emerson began writing his journal at the age of seventeen, when he was a student at Harvard. I suppose every lover of truth would find his account in it if he never had two related thoughts without putting them down.

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It is not for what is recorded, though that may be the agreeable entertainment of later years, and the pleasant remembrances of what we were, but for the habit of rendering account to yourself of yourself in some more rigorous manner and at more certain intervals than mere conversation or casual reverie of solitude require. Alcott kept his journal for over fifty years, amounting to approximately five million words. In it he recorded his moods, thoughts and the events of a busy life. They record his patient search for the One that lies forever hidden in the Many. Believing that every life has an emblematic meaning and is an epitome of ultimate truth, he laid up these abundant materials against the time when he himself, no longer sunk and bewildered in blind activity, might hope to discern the Whole, comprising all the parts.

And in this effort he did not entirely fail. He made his Journals a mirror, however flawed and beclouded, not only of his times but of himself. Aside from keeping a journal as a means of promoting his own self-culture, Alcott made the concept of self-culture the basis of his theories and methods of education. These conversations were more akin to Socratic dialogs.

It is the method of human culture. By it I come nearer the hearts of those whom I shall address than by any other means. I reach the facts of the case. I am placed thereby in the simplest relations. There is nothing arbitrary, nothing presuming. Conversation must be my organ of address to the public mind Web, Tablet, Phone, eReader.

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Content Protection. Read Aloud. Flag as inappropriate. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are. Please follow the detailed Help center instructions to transfer the files to supported eReaders. Similar ebooks. See more. Richard Grigg. Since the seventeenth century, Western culture has been undergoing what historians and sociologists call secularization, the process via which religious institutions lose more and more of their power in society.

Whereas Western society was once held together by the Christian Church, it is now held together by the rational procedures dictated by modern capitalism. Instead, they are simply technical dicta about the most efficient means to an economic end. One visible aspect of the process of secularization is the weakening, and perhaps eventual withering away, of traditional religious institutions.


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  • This process is already fully visible in Western Europe, and is evident, on a more subterranean level, in American society as well. But the withering of the old religious institutions does not mean that religion and spirituality themselves will simply disappear. Rather, they can take on new forms, as is evident in the New Age movement in American society. Yet, there is a difficulty with New Age sorts of spiritualities when compared with the old-time religion: these new spiritualities tend to be very individualistic, if not idiosyncratic. That is, my view of the world has the aura of reality as long as most of the people around me acknowledge that view and reinforce it.

    But individualistic New Age pieties seem to have no such social reinforcement underpinning them. Hence the central argument of To Re-Enchant the World: the Unitarian Universalist community accomplishes the unique task of re-enchanting the world by bringing a host of individual spiritualities into a single community where all of them are affirmed and thus granted social plausibility. The U.

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    While Unitarian Universalists can bring many different spiritual ways into the U. The book also considers rituals common to the U. Finally, To Re-Enchant the World makes some predictions about the future of Unitarian Universalism and even touches on the delicate issue of U. I'm hoping to eventually become a military chaplain. If someone were to come with me with a question about their faith, I would like to at least be able to have a somewhat intelligent conversation with them.

    This is not such a serious problem within the U. Thanks -Butterfly. UnTheist Well-Known Member. The Selfish Gene. Gentoo The Feisty Penguin. Bishka Veteran Member.



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