Do Not Seek Outside Yourself

Swiping my way through my Twitter feed the other day I saw this:

Flashing back to my college years, I remembered being forced to read something by Emerson and having to write a paper.  I didn’t remember anything at all about what I read or wrote — other than the fact that I found Emerson to be a total snooze, and that the professor seemed to find it incredible that I wasn’t inspired.

But I did click the link and, to my shock and embarrassment, I realized that “Self-Reliance” was the piece by Emerson that had bored me in college.  Daniel’s article made it seem fascinating, so I found Emerson’s original online.  It opens with this:

“Ne te quaesiveris extra.”¹

“Man is his own star; and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man,
Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.”

~Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher’s Honest Man’s Fortune

Cast the bantling² on the rocks,
Suckle him with the she-wolf’s teat;
Wintered with the hawk and fox,
Power and speed be hands and feet.

Inspired, moved, I was sucked in.  How could I have been bored by this in college?  I can only say that I wasn’t mature enough to appreciate it back then.  Thirty-odd years of living, growing, and maturing have made “Self-Reliance” into a great essay.  I now wholeheartedly recommend that you read it in its entirety.

Note: The Beaumont and Fletcher quote from “Self-Reliance” echoes the opening lines of Crowley’s “Book of the Law.”  Here’s an idea for an article, blog post, or term paper: examine “Self-Reliance” through the lens of Thelema.  Emerson came along fifty years before Crowley…

1: “Do not seek outside yourself”

2: A bantling is a young child.  Probably has same root as bantam, meaning small.

 

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