"the Sphinx must solve her own riddle": Emerson, secrecy, and the self-reflexive method

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Abstract

This article offers a fresh approach to the religious thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson, exploring (1) the particular conception of secrecy in connection with which he understands the human spiritual predicament and (2) his response to this predicament by means of a self-reflexive turn in his writing - a procedure designed to undermine quests for truth elsewhere and so to restore the self to the wholeness implicit in its initial conditions. The operation of this method will be traced through a number of Emerson's major works, including the second "Nature" (from Essays: Second Series), "History," and the poem "The Sphinx." Along the way, Emerson's thought will be discussed in relation to the history of Emerson criticism, alternative views of secrecy in religion, and the theory and practice of religious nondualism, to which Emerson's intellectual project bears considerable resemblance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)835-861
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Religion
Volume71
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2003

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