lecturing and writing.
His address in Cambridge
, though it contained no reference to himself, was after all a justification of the way of life he had chosen: a declaration of intellectual independence for himself and his countrymen, an exhortation of self-trust to the individual thinking man. “If the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts and there abide, the huge world will come round to him.”
Such advice to cut loose from the moorings of the past was not unknown in Phi Beta Kappa orations, though it had never been so brilliantly phrased; but when Emerson
applied precisely the same doctrine, in 1838, to the graduating class at the Harvard Divinity School, he roused a storm of disapproval.
“A tempest in our washbowl,” he wrote coolly to Carlyle
, but it was more than that.
The great sentence of the Divinity School address, “God is, not was; he speaketh, not spake,” was the emphasis of a superb rhetorician upon the immediacy of the soul's access to God.
It has been the burden of a thousand prophets in all religions.
The young priests of the Divinity School, their eyes wearied with Hebrew and Greek
, seem to have enjoyed Emerson
's injunction to turn away from past records and historical authorities and to drink from the living fountain