Ralph Waldo Emerson: The Church, God, The Infinitude of the Private Man, & The Buddha

Ralph Waldo EmersonIn his famous address delivered to the senior class at Divinity College, Cambridge, on July 15th, 1838, Ralph Waldo Emerson attacked the teachings of the Church of his day in such a confrontational way that it would be years before he would once again be invited back to talk.

“As it appears to us,” he said, “and as it has appeared for ages, it is not the doctrine of the soul, but an exaggeration of the personal, the positive, the ritual.  It has dwelt, it dwells, with noxious exaggeration about the person of Jesus.  The soul knows no persons.  It invites every man to expand to the full circle of the universe.”

Emerson exhibited extraordinary courage in thus speaking out.  He was facing and battling a world inhabited by false ideas about the true nature of men and women and their integral place in the universe.

We still face such a world today, filled with dead and dying myths that hang on and continue to cloud our vision of our own greatness.

Emerson also declared:

“That which shows God in me, fortifies me.  That which shows God out of me, makes me a wart and a wen.”

And again:

“I have only one doctrine, the infinitude of the private man.”

He was trying to wake people up to their vast, limitless potential as simple human beings.

Our world is being torn apart by religions whose tenets and dogmas have separated us into different warring camps, each holding aloft the banner of their own unique God.

God, we know, is not in people; because if God was in people we would not go on slaughtering each other.  To kill God is the deepest sin, yet we go on with the bloodbath.  Therefore we know God is not in people.

This is the insanity of the vision we hold of ourselves through our religions.

We are base, corrupted, sinful, in need of saving.

This was the vision that Emerson, with his entire life, was struggling to uproot from the minds of humanity. Rather, God is within.  The universe itself is within.  Our vast potential, equal to God and the universe, is waiting to be brought forth from within our ordinary, everyday lives.

This vast, untapped world is synonymous with the world of the Buddha.

The Buddha is not some unique, supernatural being, but rather a great state of life, filled with wisdom, compassion, and eternity, that lies indwelling within each individual human being, and, indeed, within all life.  The true role of religion is to recognize and foster this existing human potential; to bring forth the transformation of men and women everywhere that will lead to the gradual birth of a truly great spiritual global civilization unlike anything we have ever experienced before.

When people change, then everything else – politics, economics, education – will change.

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The Buddha & The Dream of AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America“.

He has been practicing Buddhism for over forty years with the Soka Gakkai International, the largest Buddhist lay organization in the world now, with 12,000,000 members in 192 countries around the globe.

To arrange talks, contact the author.


Buckminster Fuller, Visionary – Bring Out Your Own Unique Power and Self.

Buckminster FullerBuckminster Fuller, American architect, author, designer, and inventor, was the popularizer of “Spaceship Earth” and the “geodesic dome”.

Interestingly, he was a grand nephew of the American Transcendentalist, Margaret Fuller, one of the most amazing women of the early American Renaissance, and a close friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

As a young man, Fuller worked at a wide variety of jobs, until, at age 32, in 1927, he experienced a pivotal time in his life.  His daughter Alexandra died of polio and spinal meningitis when she was nearly four.  Fuller lost his job, and he and his wife had no savings just as their daughter Allegra was born.  This led to Fuller actually contemplating suicide as a way for his family to benefit from their life insurance policy.

About this time, Fuller experienced an incident that was to profoundly influence his life.  He stated that at one time he felt as though he became suspended several feet above the ground, enclosed in a white sphere of light.  A voice spoke to him, saying:

“From now on you need never await temporal attestation to your thought. You think the truth. You do not have the right to eliminate yourself. You do not belong to you. You belong to the Universe. Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others.”

Fuller decided that, from then on, he would embark on “an experiment to find what a single individual could contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.”

He decided to “search for the principles governing the universe and help advance the evolution of humanity in accordance with them… finding ways of doing more with less to the end that all people everywhere can have more and more.”  This led him eventually to popularizing the structure of the “geodesic dome”.

Geodesic Dome Buckminster Fuller

Geodesic Dome

I made notes in the past of some of Fuller’s sayings, and the following are some of his comments that struck me:

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.”

“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person. ”

“The minute you choose to do what you really want to do, it’s a different kind of life.”

“Sometimes I think we’re alone. Sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the thought is quite staggering”

“If success or failure of this planet and of human beings depended on how I am and what I do… HOW WOULD I BE? WHAT WOULD I DO?”

This is the kind of spirit and vision young people, especially, need to foster in their lives.

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Handbook for Youth in a Muddied AgeFrom my book, “Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age”:

“Youth, burn with boldness!

“Let nothing stand in the way of your dream!

“Never doubt yourself, never doubt your dream was made to be forged and realized beyond even your imagining.

“You are here because the universe is here.

“Beckon from the depths of your heart the grand vision, hold it forever untarnished before your eyes, never give in.

“Make the world mirror your own heart.

“Make the world the crucible of your dream.”
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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America“.

Follow his journey on Facebook.  To arrange talks and readings, contact the author.

Traveling to a New America/ New YouTube Series on Facebook

Traveling to a New America“, a nation-wide journey undertaken by author and filmmaker James Hilgendorf , aimed at spreading a new vision and Renaissance of the American spirit, is continuing with talks, readings, interviews with people of all ages on the streets, Facebook sharing, and, now, a new YouTube series of short video pieces, meant to empower and encourage the limitless potential within everyone, especially the youth of America and the world.

This will be the first in a series.  This one is titled “Time for a New Vision for Youth”.

To follow this series of YouTube presentations, follow “Traveling to a New America” on Facebook.

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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Explore a few of his titles:

Handbook for Youth in a Muddied AgeA New Myth for America BuddhismForever Here, a book by James HilgendorfMaybe We Need A New Religion

Richard Wright – Black Boy

Richard WrightI finished Richard Wright’s book, “Black Boy” today.  An extraordinary tour-de-force of the human spirit.

Fifty years ago, perhaps, I remember reading “Native Son”, and I constantly had to put the book down, its emotional impact was so great.  I could not take too much at a time.

Near the end of “Black Boy”, one paragraph stuck out to me:

“My cynicism – which had been my protection against an America that had cast me out – slid from me and, timidly, I began to wonder if a solution of unity was possible.  My life as a Negro in America had led me to feel – though my helplessness had made me try to hide it from myself – that the problem of human unity was more important than bread, more important than physical living itself; for I felt that without a common bond uniting men, without a continuous current of shared thought and feeling circulating through the social system, like blood coursing through the body, there could be no living worthy of being call human.”

“A common bond uniting men”.  This is what he was looking for.  He thought he might have found it in those days, with the rise of Communism and its call to unite the workers of the world, but he found, through his own experience and disillusionment, that at the bottom of the Communist movement – as at the bottom of all movements thoughout history until his time – political, economic, social – was the human heart.   The human heart, with its abysses and peaks, its ever-changing volatility, its morphing into opposites.

How to unite humanity?

We have had philosophies and religions from time immemorial, and all they did, in the end, was  divide us.  All the talk of peace and love and brotherhood, but never able to control the devil of division and hatred and all-out war.

It had to do with our identity.  Who are we?  What are we doing here?

We were Romans or Greeks, or Christians or pagans, or Muslims or heretics, or southerners or northerners, or black or white or yellow or brown – the whole lot of us come in kaleidoscopic shades of mind and thought or inclinations – was there ever to be a story told of who we are and have been all along that resonated with the truth of reality?

The Buddha & The Dream of America

The Buddha & The Dream of America" by James Hilgendorf

Such a story has now entered upon the world’s stage.  You may never have noticed it – what with the fracturing of alliances and identities shaking the old foundations of the world’s pinions – but it is now here, staring you in the eye from the corner grocery store, from the eye of the cab driver, the hair stylist, insurance sales people, bartenders, steel workers, dancers, automobile repair mechanics, horse trainers – it is now everywhere, the recognition of the Buddha coming forth, appearing in simple lives, greater than any movie stars or puffed-up politicians or owners of super yachts or bank presidents.

No, this is something new, never before seen.  This is a unity welling forth from the very foundations of Life itself, the human being revealed at last in all his or her glory, the ache of compassion deep as the cosmos, the knowledge of who we are, the gods we have worshiped for millennia upon the altars of our prayers and dreams.

We are those same gods.  We are the simple human being.  The universe is our self-same playground.

Richard Wright struggled and sought, through unbelievable pain, to come to some kind of revelation that would release his energies and mind and heart and soul into some kind of dream and myth that would unite the hearts of ordinary men and women and children worldwide.  He did not find it; but it lives and breathes and grows now.

The Buddha is coming to America, and reaching beyond, to the world.

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America.

To arrange talks, contact the author.  Or order his books online.

Traveling to a New America – People Along the Way/Homeless

Kenneth.  Homeless.
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Traveling to a New America - Homeless“I was born and raised in Oakland, California.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to live at home for thirty years because the cost of living has soared and the cost of rents.  Economically I haven’t been able to sustain a job that was paying the wages to support my lifestyle.  It’s been kind of rough.  I’ve lived my life here basically in the last thirty years homeless.”

What do think about America, all the divisiveness going on in our country?

“I think it’s going to take us going back to the basics of the days I once knew even before civil rights when we helped one another.  People went and helped one another on a personal level.  Today we have a lot of technology, social media, and different things, but it takes away the personal touch of going to your neighbor and seeing if they’re all right or going to help support one another, because the only way we’re going to win is that the poor people have to stick together.  I’m talking about the 99 percent, okay.”

If you had a vision of a great America, what would it look like?

“Well, today in our country, which is the great United States of America, that was founded on brotherhood, I have never seen a time in my life where the country was so honest about what they felt.  We have violence in our streets, we got people exposing one another, we have our President firing people on the spot.  It’s a for-real day, people are being for-real more than any other time I’ve ever seen.  Even if they’re stopping you and shooting you on the freeway, they’re being for real with their feelings, and I think we’re trying to find the answer, but the answer is in God’s love.  The answer is in his love that we already know, but we need to apply it in a much more nicer way.  And sometimes that takes going up to one another and taking them by the hand, because so many people have become discombobulated over the years of so much alienation.  So it’s important for us to realize that sometimes you have to take your brother by the hand, or take your sister by the hand and really help.  Because that’s the main thing about life today, we’re going to have to take one another by the hand.”

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America.”

To arrange talks or readings, contact the author.

Barriers Are Here To Make Us Grow

Yellow FlowerToday I came across a very tiny yellow flower that had somehow lodged its roots into a slim crack in the sidewalk concrete.

What a lovely flower!  Shining, effervescent, a bold venturer where no other flower would go.

All alone, yet seeming to care nothing for that fact.  Enough simply to be.

There are many such flowers, hidden from the popular gaze, off in woods, or behind walls and sheds in alleyways.  They struggle against odds to put forth their beauty in rare and unique ways.

They go forth in the most difficult of paths, testing their strength for those that will follow.

Concrete or heavy stones are welcome, find a way over or under, or bend with the life force within to lift sod and stone irresistibly.

This tiny yellow flower sends forth a bravado that matches the sun.

We should all be so bright.  To challenge with gaiety immovable stones and concrete ways, to strut our stuff and lend brightness and bravado and challenge to the universe around.

I love you, my little prince, or princess.

Barriers are here to make us grow.
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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling and giving talks and interviewing people from towns and cities all across America, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America.

To arrange talks or readings, contact the author.

Be A Dream

FlowersBe a dream.
Be the unfolding of
Transformation.
Light from dark,
Joy from dead-end
Black holes of
No light.
Wherever you are,
Wherever you go,
Poles switch from
South to north,
Laughter bursts
Into eruptions of
Overcoming,
Vision,
Eternity,
Stars,
Suns,
Reflections of
Yourself.
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Traveling to a New AmericaThis year and next, James Hilgendorf is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people, giving talks, opening up a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.

Healthcare & A Morally Bankrupt Congress

Today, with the slim passage and repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the Republican establishment in Congress have indeed shown for all to see their true nature and colors.  They, and their party, are truly a morally bankrupt lot.  They have thrown to the dogs a large portion of the American populace.

For what?  For money.  For spite.  For an unbelievable unconcern for the welfare of the people.

The Affordable Care Act was never perfect, but it gave millions of Americans access to healthcare where before they had none.  Against the rapacity and greed of insurance companies and drug manufacturers, the ACA interposed a long-needed helping hand. Now the Republican Party has opted to repeal the Act, while replacing it with nothing but greed.

A New Myth for America BuddhismOur American health care system has long been recognized as one of the shoddiest in the industrialized world.  We spend much more than other advanced nations, and yet our results are consistently on the bottom rung of the ladder compared to countries like Germany, England, Canada, and others, who provide health care to all of their citizens.

The problem is money and greed, and a system that siphons off much of the monies spent on healthcare for their own enrichment.  Our healthcare system is based on profit, and this is where the Republican majority in Congress would like to return us to.  Never mind the real suffering caused by such a blatently immoral and cold-blooded act.  It is, for them, simply a matter of dollars.

The Affordable Care Act needs to be changed and expanded, and the real way to do this is to get rid of the influence of the insurance and drug companies – get them out of the business of national healthcare entirely – and enact a single-payer, Medicare-for-All type of national healthcare insurance plan for everyone.

It’s the humane thing to do.  It’s the right thing to do.  It’s the moral thing to do.

To all the Republican Congress, and to the Republican Party itself – shame on you!  You deserve, and will certainly get, the contempt of the American people.

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of nine non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  He is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Traveling to a New America – Pioneers from our Past – Josephine Baker

Josephine BakerShe was born in 1906 in St. Louis, Missouri, as Frieda McDonald.  Raised in a poor black family, she dropped out of school at the age of twelve, and was performing on stage at age thirteen.

At age nineteen, she went to Paris and, almost overnight, became a tremendous sensation as a dancer and singer.  Her name now was Josephine Baker.

Until her death in 1975, she was a living legend.  She was one of the highest paid entertainers in Europe.

During the second world war, she fought on the side of the resistance and was a spy for France.  She deeply loved her adopted country.  She told the military authorities: “Do with me what you wish.”

She hid arms in her home, and had a radio receiver there also, with which she communicated with General DeGaulle in London.  She had coded messages encrypted into her music.  She took Jewish refugees into her troupe, most of whom were due to be deported to concentration camps.  For any of these efforts, she could have lost her life.

In the 1950’s she began adopting poor children from other countries, until she had an even dozen.  She called them her “Rainbow Tribe”.  She called her home her “World Village.”

When Josephine returned to the United States to perform, she met a solid wall of racism.  She refused to perform to segregated audiences, and because of this, she lost a lot of money.  But she didn’t care.  It only motivated her to begin a lifelong struggle against racial discrimination.  In 1963, she was at the side of Martin Luther King, Jr., in the march on Washington.

At her funeral in Paris, 20,000 people gathered to pay their respects.  She was the first American woman buried in France with military honors.
Josephine was truly a great lady.  She was also a great world citizen.

At the core of her life was a passion for living, and a fierce determination to show the entire world that there exists but one race, the human race.
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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of nine non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  He is on a continuing journey to towns and cities all across America, meeting people and interviewing them, and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America“.

To arrange talks, readings, discussions, contact the author.

“Maybe We Need A New Religion” Revised Edition Published.

“Maybe We Need A New Religion”, by author James Hilgendorf, has been released in a new, updated, and revised edition.

The book was originally conceived when the author read a report of a young ten-year-old boy, who, after being exposed to continuing newspaper and television reports about the fighting going on all over the Middle East, involving Christians, Muslims and Jews, remarked:

Maybe We Need A New Religion“Maybe we need a new religion.”

The author writes:

“Religions proclaim similar messages – peace, brotherhood, happiness – yet down on the ground, down in the trenches, there is something wrong, religion only seems to add to the acidic brew of divisions among people.

“People today, especially young people, deeply sense the drift away from the old anchors of meaning in their lives.  They are vaguely searching for something, but do not find it in our mainstream religions.

“More and more people are coming to realize that the religions we currently have, and have had for thousands of years, are no longer functioning to give us the answers we are looking for.
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The book is an in-depth look into the roots of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and what our religions tell us about ourselves and our relationship to the world and universe around us.  Who are we really?  What are we doing here on this seemingly insignificant planet in the first place, in a universe whose vast reaches of space and time now being revealed by science are almost beyond the scope of human imagination.

Even though billions of people still pay homage, in whatever degree of respect, to our mainstream religions, the myths that we have lived under for thousands of years are crumbling to dust, there is a vacuum that is being vaguely sensed and felt, especially by young people in our world today.

Science itself is revealing a universe around us that is astounding in its implications, one with new potentials and laws that are outdating any of our prior concepts – a world of electrons and quarks and bosons and strings, interconnected on all fronts, a world governed by laws that not only apply to the environment we see around us, but to our very lives themselves.

We are greater than we have ever imagined.  We are one with this universe around us. This is the message of the book.

Hilgendorf is a poet also, and part of the book is filled with poems and prose-poems of inspiration.  This is one such piece:

THE BIG ONE

“When things get really tough, you cannot weaken, you cannot give in.

“Everything will conspire to stop you.

“So this is the big one.  This is the biggest of the big ones you have encountered thus far.

“Nothing seems to move.  You have to move.  With everything, every fiber, with utter determination.

“It is all yours to have, but it has to come from within, the fierce resolve, the unrelenting action, as though to scale a previously unscaled ridge.

“This is a great, great benefit.  You are about to grow beyond your old irresolute self, the one who could not believe in the range of your beauty and power; who tried to find a foundation of support elsewhere, not in your bare, naked self, your bare hands carving out everything you dream of and are capable of.

“Honor and praise and appreciate yourself.

“Then impact the world.”

“Maybe We Need A New Religion” is available through bookstores, and in paperback and ebook format through online booksellers.

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Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of nine non-fiction books that are opening the way to a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.

This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting and interviewing people and giving talks, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America.

To arrange talks, contact the author.