American Sage: The Spiritual Teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson

American Sage The Spiritual Teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson by Barry M. Andrews Book Cover
American Sage: The Spiritual Teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson
by Barry M. Andrews

From the Preface to my latest book, American Sage: The Spiritual Teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, published by the University of Massachusetts Press, now available on-line and in many bookstores:

Ralph Waldo Emerson was often said to be the Sage of Concord. The title is not off the mark, nor is it simply a timeworn cliché. Classical philosophy depicted the sage as an ideal figure. The notion is based on a type of ethics that emphasizes the cultivation of virtue. Steeped in the classical tradition and the virtue ethics of Harvard College and the Unitarian church, the nature of his spirituality was further shaped by religious and intellectual crosscurrents of the nineteenth century—particularly the Romantic revolution, the rise of secularism, and the discovery of Eastern forms of spirituality. As a result, Emerson’s spiritual teaching is both timeless and modern, universal and uniquely American.

As a minister, I have gained wisdom and guidance through Emerson’s teachings and spiritual practice. As a teacher, I have seen how he enriches the spiritual lives of others when they grasp his meaning. In this book, I have taken Emerson’s message seriously, and explained as best I can the substance of his writings. Mine is not an academic or critical study, treating its subject at arm’s length. Such books are important, but so are books—and there are only a few—that make Emerson’s writings intelligible to seekers curious to know what he was all about, written for the most part in every-day language. At the same time, I have sought to ground my efforts in solid scholarship, paying attention to accuracy and historical detail. Emerson is not for everyone. But if readers learn nothing else, it is that each of us must find our own spiritual path. That is all that Emerson ever wanted for his audience.

Here are a few advance reviews:

“[Andrews] succeeds in making Emerson’s ideas and recommended spiritual practices accessible and relevant to contemporary readers. Those interested in 19th-century American spiritualism or the father of transcendentalism should take a look.”―Publishers Weekly

“Andrews presents Emerson as a spiritual guide, whose goal was to bring sustaining principles and ethical practices to his readers. American Sage is an ideal companion for readers working through Emerson’s essays, a reading group on spirituality, and any number of classroom situations.”―David M. Robinson, author of Emerson and the Conduct of Life: Pragmatism and Ethical Purpose in the Later Work

“In a style that is both scholarly and highly readable, Andrews offers an insightful account of Emerson’s teachings as a ‘sage’ of spirituality, demonstrating how his ideas are relevant to readers of today who are poised between faith and unbelief.”―Phyllis Cole, author of Mary Moody Emerson and the Origins of Transcendentalism: A Family History

My New Book: Transcendentalism Yesterday and Today

Transcendentalism Yesterday and Today
by Barry M. Andrews

Transcendentalism isn’t just a phase in Unitarian Universalist history, it is an ongoing source of inspiration for Unitarian Universalists today. Drawing upon ancient wisdom and modern knowledge, Transcendentalist spirituality is at once timeless and timely. The Transcendentalists sought to cultivate the soul through such practices as walks in nature, solitude, contemplation, reading, religious cosmopolitanism, simple living, and action from principle. Unitarian Universalists today will find these practices congenial to their own spiritual growth. The Transcendentalists show us that by concerted effort we can become receptive to insights that will elevate our spirit and motivate us in our efforts to protect nature and make society more just.

Barry Andrews has given us an inspiring perspective on the nature of spirituality in his engaging account of the New England Transcendentalists and their “bold assertion that faith could only be had at first hand, as a direct result of experience.” In this collection of sermons and addresses, works that speak clearly and directly to the modern search for new forms of belief, Andrews explains the “religious naturalism” that Emerson, Fuller, and Thoreau advocated, a form of devotion well-fitted to the life of today. —David Robinson, University Professor Emeritus, Oregon State University.

Most Americans have read Emerson and Thoreau in high school, yet few of us realize that their words can add spiritual depth to our own lives. Barry Andrews has devoted his life to keeping the legacy of Transcendentalist spirituality alive in the contemporary world, and this book is the fruit of his efforts. Following the example of his mentor Emerson, Andrews offers us “the very oldest of thoughts cast into the mould of these new times.” —Daniel McKanan, Ralph Waldo Emerson Senior Lecturer, Harvard Divinity School.

No one has done a better job of lifting up the relevance of the Transcendentalists for today than Barry Andrews. Barry here brings out the best in them, to challenge each of us to bring their heritage into our personal and interpersonal practice today, attending to those who ask us to become better than we now are, to transcend ourselves, and thus leave a heritage for our children, and our children’s children. John Buehrens, former President, UUA; author of Conflagration: How the Transcendentalists Sparked the Struggle for Racial, Gender, and Social Justice (Beacon, 2020). The book is available at Amazon and other on-line retailers.