A few significant quotes cited in the course

On the state of Unitarianism and religion:

Channing to Martineau, 1841:
Old Unitarianism must undergo important modifications or developments. Thus I have felt for years. . . . Its history is singular. It began as a protest against the rejection of reason, — against mental slavery. It pledged itself to progress as its life and end; but it has gradually grown stationary, and now we have a Unitarian Orthodoxy. Perhaps this is not to be wondered at or deplored, for all reforming bodies seemed doomed to stop, in order to keep the ground, much or little, which they have gained. They become conservative, and out of them must spring new reformers, to be persecuted generally by the old.

The churches decline. All over New England they decline. They cannot draw the rich, nor drive the poor, as once they did of old. Why is it so? They have an idea which is behind the age; a theology that did very well for the seventeenth century; but is feeble in the nineteenth. Their science is not good science; you must take it on faith, not knowledge: It does not represent a fact. Their history is not good history: it does not represent man, but old dreams of miracles. They have an idea of God which is not adequate to the purposes of science or philanthropy, and yet more valueless for the purposes of piety. There shall rise up one day men with the intellect of an Aristotle and the heart of a Jesus, and with the beauty of life which belongs to man.
—Theodore Parker, First service of the 28th Congregational Society held in the Music Hall (after move from the dingy Melodeon), 21 November 1852

On the evolutionary impulse:

Nature develops from stage to stage and in each stage takes up its past and transforms it into stuff of its new development. We see too that human nature is of the same make; all the earth-past is there in it. It has an element of matter taken up by life, an element of life taken up by mind, an element of mind which is being taken up by spirit. —Sri Aurobindo

Man is himself a little more than an ambitious nothing. He is a littleness that reaches to a wideness and a grandeur that are beyond him . . . This cannot be the end of the mysterious upward surge of Nature. There is something beyond, something that [human]kind shall be; it is seen now only in broken glimpses through rifts in the great wall of limitations. . . . —Aurobindo, The Hour of God

The world is deriving vigor, not from that which is gone by, but from that which is coming; not from the unhealthy moisture of the evening, but from the nameless influences of the morning. . . . We appear to be approaching an age which will be the silent pause of merely physical force before the powers of the mind. —Sampson Reed, Growth of the Mind, 1826

Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.
—Theodore Parker, "Of Justice and the Conscience," Ten Sermons of Religion, 1852

We are, at this very moment, passing through a change of age. The future will decide what is the best name to describe the era we are entering. The word matters little. What does matter is that we should be told that, at the cost of what we are enduring, life is taking a step, and a decisive step, in us and in our environment. After the long maturation that has been steadily going on during the apparent immobility of the agricultural centuries, the hour has come at last, characterised by the birth pangs inevitable in another change of state. . . . To us, in our brief span of life, falls the honour and good fortune of coinciding with a critical change of the noosphere*. —Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
*As distinguished from the biosphere, the noosphere is the realm of mind and spirit.

Our earth of factory chimneys and offices, . . . our earth — this great organism lives, in final analysis, only because of, and for the sake of, a new soul. Beneath the change of age lies a change of thought . . . which, without appreciably changing our bodies, has made new creatures of us. In the final analysis it is, if I am not mistaken, that we have become conscious of the movement which is carrying us along, and have thereby realised the formidable problems set us by this reflective exercise of the human effort.
— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Even Unitarianism clings to a tenuous shadow of this Christo-centric theory of religion, in a nervous effort, after affirming Jesus to be purely human, to find in his teaching some element so uniquely exceptional as to set him apart from all other religious prophets as having a perpetual relation to mankind which they cannot share. But this talk of a Christo-centric world is only the hazy cloud of words left by a vanishing system of theology. According to the great doctrine of evolution, as Science unfolds it, the history of man is not Christo-centric, but Cosmo-centric.
—William James Potter, “The Free Religious Association: Its 25 Years and Their Meaning”, Boston, May 27, 1892

Who am I? What could you mean by "God"? Where does truth come from?

Much as Christians have insisted that they rest on an infallible Bible, they have never really shaped their creeds by the Bible, whether fallible or infallible; but always primarily by the actual condition of things within and without themselves, putting their trust in this, and making the Bible mean essentially what this demanded.
A traditional faith, no less than a heretical one, rests on the authority of the natural faculties; and the difference is only in the condition and treatment of these faculties. The traditionalist may imagine that he has taken his belief on the "divine authority of the Bible or the Church." He has really been decided by that point of discernment at which his Spiritual Consciousness has arrived. He has obeyed his own undeveloped religious senses. And so it lies gazing at a dead Bible and a dead creed, self-condemned to inflict its own death on that from which it is seeking life. For his conscience is none the less stifled and perverted by the errors of the Bible and the creed, for the reason that he has taken them upon his own authority and interprets them by his own state.
—Samuel Johnson, Real and Imaginary Authority

The conception which a man forms of God, depends on the character and attainment of the man himself.
—Theodore Parker, Discourse of Religion, 1842

Emerson in his Journals:
I grow in God. I am only a form of him.
He is the soul of me. I can even with mountainous aspiring say, I am God.

Tat Tvam Asi — “Thou art That!”
One of the Mahãvãkyas (Grand Pronouncements) in Vedantic Hinduism
—Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7

Samuel Johnson: Transcendentalism, in Lectures, Essays, and Sermons (1883), p431
By intuition of God we do not mean a theological dogma or a devout sentiment; we do not mean belief in ?a God,? Christian or other; but that presumption of the infinite as involved in our perception of the finite, of the whole as implied by the part, of substance behind all phenomena, and of thought as of one nature with its object, which the laws of mind require, and which can be detected, in conscious or unconscious forms, through all epochs and stages of religious belief.

No definition of religion, I think, will satisfy the philosophy of the subject which does not in some way denote the contact which the finite mind has with the vitalizing and sustaining Energy of the universe. It is not necessary that the definition should embrace the idea of a personal Deity, not necessary that it should attempt the impossible problem, which most theological systems do attempt, of defining the Infinite; but it must, in order to cover all the facts, in some way recognize the Infinite, in other words, recognize that the human soul is conscious of a life that is not bounded by its material organism nor by any limits which itself can measure, but opens outward into the whole infinity and eternity of things, and is a natural, inherent part of the universal order. —William James Potter (1829-1893), a Unitarian minister and leader of the Free Religious Association

As a result of a thousand million years of evolution, the universe is becoming conscious of itself.
—Julian Huxley, New Bottles for New Wine, 1959

On the anti-slavery struggle as driven by an evolutionary impulse:

The course of history is one everywhere. It is a constant progress of amelioration. Like the amelioration in the pear-tree, or apple-tree, so well-known to botanists. One must look to the planters of the South with the same feelings that he would regard the spider and the fly, the tiger and the deer. It is a barbarism. The people are barbarous. They are still in the animal state. They are not accountable like those whose eyes have once been opened. . . . This progress of amelioration is very slow. Still we have gone forward a great way since [the time when Columbus first took slaves from America and the slave trade began]. Yet it becomes essential, it becomes imperative, as man rises in the scale of civilization, as the ameliorating and expanding principles find effect in him; — it becomes as imperative that this institution should become discreditable, and should perish, as the old institutions which have gone before.
—Emerson’s Address at Worcester, August 1849

If the black man carries in his bosom an indispensable element of a new and coming civilization, for the sake of that element, no wrong, nor strength, nor circumstance, can hurt him: He will survive and play his part. . . . The might and right are here: here is the anti-slave: here is man: and if you have man, black or white is an insignificance. . . . I esteem the occasion of this jubilee to be the proud discovery, that the black race can contend with the white; that, in the great anthem which we call history, a piece of many parts and vast compass, after playing a long time a very low and subdued accompaniment, they perceive the time arrived when they can strike in with effect, and take a master’s part in the music. The civility of the world has reached that pitch, that their more moral genius is becoming indispensable, and the quality of this race is to be honored for itself. For this, they have been preserved in sandy deserts, in rice-swamps, in kitchens and shoe-shops, so long: now let them emerge, clothed in their own form. . . . —Emerson’s Address on the Emancipation of the British West Indies, 1844

One’s own culture, the unfolding of his own nature, is the chief end of man. A divine impulse at the core of his being impels him to this. The destiny of organized nature is amelioration [improvement], and who can tell its limits? It is for man to tame the chaos; on every side, whilst he lives, to scatter the seeds of science and of song, that climate, corn, animals, men, may be milder, and the germs of love and benefit may be multiplied. —Emerson, Uses of Great Men, in Representative Men.

The history of mankind interests us only as it exhibits a steady gain of truth and right, in the incessant conflict which it records, between the material and the moral nature.
—Emerson, Address on the Emancipation of the British West Indies, 1844

On meditation:

Henry Thoreau, from Walden, Chapter Four, “Sounds,” on meditation
Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveller’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. I realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the forsaking of works. For the most part, I minded not how the hours went.

I saw that there was no self: that selfishness was all folly, and the result of circumstance; that it was only because I thought self real that I suffered; that I had only to live in the idea of the all, and all was mine. This truth came to me, and I received it unhesitatingly; so that I was for that hour taken up into God. In that true ray most of the relations of earth seemed mere films, phenomena. —Margaret Fuller