Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essay on Compensation

If you’ve read earlier parts of this blog, you’d have seen that blogpost on Napoleon Hill’s book– Think and Grow Rich. I like Napoleon Hill because his principles prove true now, as they were back when the book was first published in 1937. (Also his chapter on Sexual Transmutation explains a lot of things. mwahahaaha! 😉 )

I was re-reading one of Mr. Hill’s books last holyweek and it mentioned Ralph Waldo Emerson– a lot—specifically Mr. Emerson’s essay on compensation.

I read the essay, and it’s an essay on how Mr. Emerson believes one can live their life. After I read it, it supplemented everything that I ever thought I learned from Mr. Hill, Mr. Andrew Matthews, or Ms. Bryne.

Sidenote: I do practice the law of attraction, and besides some crappy things notwithstanding (which I have to remind myself a lot are not really crappy things at all but payment for some happy things that have happened, and will happen in the future)– I think my life’s pretty blessed because of it. 🙂

Back to the essay.

The essay is about 30 pages (BIG FONT) and downloadable in any of the usual sites (will post one at the end of this post). The law of compensation’s really just karma, but without the you-turning-into-a-grasshopper-in-your-next-life bit. It’s not even very religious, although he does talk about religion, there’s a priest’s sermon at the start of it, and some discussion on going to hell in it. 🙂

So I’m just going to put some of the quotes I love from his essay here, and I hope that at least one person who reads the quotes will think of reading the essay and benefits from it. 🙂


“Things refuse to be mismanaged long. Res nolunt diu male administrari.”

“Every secret is told, every crime is punished, every virtue rewarded, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty. What we call retribution is the universal necessity by which the whole appears wherever a part appears.”

“Every act rewards itself, or in other words integrates itself, in a twofold manner: first in the thing, or in real nature; and secondly in the circumstance, or in apparent nature. Men call the circumstance the retribution. “

“Fear is an instructor of great sagacity and the herald of all revolutions. One thing he always teaches, that there is rottenness where he appears.”

“Commit a crime, and the earth is made of glass.”

“Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults.”

“Our strength grows out of our weakness. Not until we are pricked and stung and sorely shot at, awakens the indignation which arms itself with secret forces. A great man is always willing to be little.”

“There can be no excess to love, none to knowledge, none to beauty, when these attributes are considered in the purest sense. The soul refuses all limits. It affirms in man always an Optimism, never a Pessimism.”

” The death of a dear friend, wife, brother, lover, which seemed nothing but privation, somewhat later assumes the aspect of a guide or genius; for it commonly operates revolutions in our way of life, terminates an epoch of infancy or of youth which was waiting to be closed, breaks up a wonted occupation, or a household, or style of living, and allows the formation of new ones more friendly to the growth of character. It permits or constrains the formation of new acquaintances and the reception of new influences that prove of the first importance to the next years; and the man or woman who would have remained a sunny garden-flower, with no room for its roots and too much sunshine for its head, by the falling of the walls and the neglect of the gardener is made the banian of the forest, yielding shade and fruit to wide neighborhoods of men.”


Not the most easiest of reads (especially compared to Mr. Matthews or The Secret), but I liked it all the same. I would recommend that you take a few minutes and read it. 🙂

Note: There’s a part about being lucky in the essay— saying that one should be afraid when one gets lucky. There was a time that I was afraid of being lucky, and believed that being lucky meant that I would have to pay for it, and pay for it dearly. I was very afraid.

One day, I just stopped being afraid and just knew that I was lucky, and that it didn’t mean a bad thing. I believe that I pay for being lucky with temperance, attempting to do/doing the right thing, and faith. All three being really difficult things to do most of the time, and I fail–a lot. But as I quote Emerson, “Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults.”

And actually, I practiced those recently too, and I’m happier because of it. Of course said happiness came after “the doing”,” the doing” was such a hard business when everything in me was telling me to chop heads off, but doing the right thing will always pay off.

And that’s what you call—faith. 🙂

link on the essay on compensation, and his other essays here

** photo from Wikipedia

On another note: lighter things up ahead! 🙂 I actually wrote this a few weeks ago, but never felt like posting it until now. 🙂


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