“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal psalms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
In perhaps his best known and most frequently quoted essay, “Self-Reliance,” Emerson expresses that to be fully alive one must resist social enculturation and be a nonconformist. Society expects conformity at the expense of personal liberty. It demands that you fit in or be an outcast. In contrast to this way of thinking, Emerson valued the integrity of the individual mind.[googmonify]4494413162:right:250:250[/googmonify]
Many people are not aware that Emerson was also a minister and had given much thought to what is and is not sacred. To him it was not the rules, laws, and societal mores, but the self-determined mind. Further on in “Self-Reliance” Emerson declares, “No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature.” This profoundly courageous statement is from a man who understood that divinity and sacredness are not in the institutions of the church but in the minds of individuals. Our conduct makes us divine creatures, not our memberships. How we use our minds as freethinking people is what makes us sacred, not how well we cite the laws to protect our malice or vanity.