Profound and Relevant Messages from Ralph Waldo Emerson with Mark Matousek

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In these times of chronic planetary, traumatic stress, we have access to the radical and relevant philosophy of the American treasure, Ralph Waldo Emerson. His transformational and prescient wisdom addresses the current pressing needs of the world today. Emerson’s philosophy of self-reliance which, in his terms, was much more than standing alone as a self-sufficient individual. It is about paying attention to the well-being of the spirit and reliance on the divine intelligence that we all share. He encourages us to pay attention to our angle of vision. Matousek shares, “Knowing our ‘angle of vision’ is the first step toward self-awareness. Whether it's using Emerson's philosophy or using standard mindfulness practice, it is recognizing that you are not your story.” Emerson’s philosophy encourages us to be constantly vigilant to separate truth from falsehood. Like his friend Henry David Thoreau, he felt that the natural world has much to teach us and advocated listening to it. He was disinvited to speak at his Alma Mater of Harvard for 30 years because he told young theologians that basically they’re wasting their time in school and studying the Bible. Rather, they should go into the woods because they don't need an intermediary to connect them to the Divine. He encouraged us to listen to the sermon of the trees. Keeping a journal was a daily practice for him and he was ahead of his time in his clarity that nonduality is the basis of life. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Mark Matousek is a teacher, spiritual seeker, and award-winning author of many books. He leads transformative workshops, intensives, and guided writing sessions that mentors participants to reach their artistic and personal goals by using writing as a tool for insight, innovation, and clarity of purpose. He’s the founder of the Seekers Forum, an online community for self-inquiry. 

Mark Matousek’s book include: 

  • Sex Death Enlightenment: A True Story (Riverhead 2000)
  • The Boy He Left Behind: A Man's Search for His Lost Father (Riverhead 1997)
  • When You're Falling, Dive: Lessons in the Art of Living (Bloomsbury 2009)
  • Ethical Wisdom: The Search for a Moral Life (Anchor Books 2011)
  • Writing to Awaken: A Journey of Truth, Transformation, and Self-Discovery (Reveal Press 2017) AND
  • Lessons from an American Stoic: How Emerson Can Change Your Life (HarperOne 2023) 

To learn more about the work of Mark Matousek go to Or 

Topics explored in this dialogue include: 

  • What made Matousek take The Portable Emerson as the only book to accompany him to India
  • What is the historical view of the turbulent societal change in which Emerson lived
  • How Emerson was accused of blasphemy in his talk to young theologians at Harvard about not needing books but be educated by going to the woods
  • What is the misconception of what Emerson meant by self-reliance
  • How keeping a daily journal moves us toward awakening, freedom, and insight
  • How the importance of knowing our angle of vision helps us to truly see reality
  • How chasing the question of the why of things is a fool’s game. Better to move on to how you might better live your life
  • How grief and loss does not stain the soul
  • How might we turn our deficits into assets
  • How ecstasy is a place of expanded consciousness that extends our natural vitality
  • Emerson was dialectical and inclusive of paradox in his thinking rather than binary, either/or thinking
  • Why having confidence in yourself is important
  • How we are a culture of imitators. Thoreau urges us to express our original genius
  • How Emerson was expressing the concept of nondualism in the 1800s
  • How Emerson invited us to invite into our circle the wholeness of all life 

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 10/24/2023   Program Number: 3801

Music Playlist

Album: Optimism Collection 1
Artist: Muriel Anderson

Essay: Track 02 - Daylight
Music 1: Track 06 - Bells for Marcel
Music 2: Track 07 - Ferryboat Crossing
Music 3: Track 11 - Mr Chester