Metaphors / Daddy / Cut / The Thin People / I Am Vertical / Bee Poems / November Graveyard / Mirror / Apprehensions / Eyemote / Guestbook / Lady Lazarus /In Plaster / Mirror / Black Rook in Rainy Weather / Mary's Song / Getting There / Ariel / Fever 103 / Elm / The Moon and the Yew Tree / The Bee Keeper's Daughter / Firesong //Sheep in Fog/ Lorelei / Stings / The Bee Meeting / Burning the Letters / Words/Balloons/The Queen's Complaint/Moonrise/Sonnet to Satan/Thalidomide/ Maenad/Edge/ Last Words/All the Dead Dears/The Death of Myth Making
(with annotations and comments)
"But souls that of his own good life partake,
He loves as his own self; dear as his eye
They are to Him: He'll never them forsake:
When they shall die, then God himself shall die:
They live, they live in blest eternity."
Space is ample, east and west,
But two cannot go abreast,
Cannot travel in it two:
Yonder masterful cuckoo
Crowds every egg out of the nest,
Quick or dead, except its own;
A spell is laid on sod and stone,
Night and Day 've been tampered with,
Every quality and pith
Surcharged and sultry with a power
That works its will on age and hour.
ESSAY IX: The Over-Soul (Paragraphs numbered by the editor)
1]There is a difference between one and another hour of life, in their authority and subsequent effect. Our faith comes in moments; our vice is habitual. Yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences. For this reason, the argument which is always forthcoming to silence those who conceive extraordinary hopes of man, namely, the appeal to experience, is for ever invalid and vain. We give up the past to the objector, and yet we hope. He must explain this hope. We grant that human life is mean; but how did we find out that it was mean? What is the ground of this uneasiness of ours; of this old discontent? What is the universal sense of want and ignorance, but the fine innuendo by which the soul makes its enormous claim? Why do men feel that the natural history of man has never been written, but he is always leaving behind what you have said of him, and it becomes old, and books of metaphysics worthless? The philosophy of six thousand years has not searched the chambers and magazines of the soul. In its experiments there has always remained, in the last analysis, a residuum it could not resolve. Man is a stream whose source is hidden. Our being is descending into us from we know not whence. The most exact calculator has no prescience that somewhat incalculable may not balk the very next moment. I am constrained every moment to acknowledge a higher origin for events than the will I call mine.
2]As with events, so is it with thoughts. When I watch that flowing river, which, out of regions I see not, pours for a season its streams into me, I see that I am a pensioner; not a cause, but a surprised spectator of this ethereal water; that I desire and look up, and put myself in the attitude of reception, but from some alien energy the visions come.
3]2The Supreme Critic on the errors of the past and the present, and the only prophet of that which must be, is that great nature in which we rest, as the earth lies in the soft arms of the atmosphere; that Unity, that Over-soul, within which every man's particular being is contained and made one with all other;that common heart, of which all sincere conversation is the worship, to which all right action is submission; that overpowering reality which confutes our tricks and talents, and constrains every one to pass for what he is, and to speak from his character, and not from his tongue, and which evermore tends to pass into our thought and hand, and become wisdom, and virtue, and power, and beauty. We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we exist, and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one. We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are the shining parts, is the soul. Only by the vision of that Wisdom can the horoscope of the ages be read, and by falling back on our better thoughts, by yielding to the spirit of prophecy which is innate in every man, we can know what it saith. Every man's words, who speaks from that life, must sound vain to those who do not dwell in the same thought on their own part. I dare not speak for it. My words do not carry its august sense; they fall short and cold. Only itself can inspire whom it will, and behold! their speech shall be lyrical, and sweet, and universal as the rising of the wind.3 Yet I desire, even by profane words, if I may not use sacred, to indicate the heaven of this deity, and to report what hints I have collected of the transcendent simplicity and energy of the Highest Law.
4]If we consider what happens in conversation, in reveries, in remorse, in times of passion, in surprises, in the instructions of dreams, wherein often we see ourselves in masquerade, -- the droll disguises only magnifying and enhancing a real element, and forcing it on our distinct notice, -- we shall catch many hints that will broaden and lighten into knowledge of the secret of nature. All goes to show that the soul in man is not an organ, but animates and exercises all the organs; is not a function, like the power of memory, of calculation, of comparison, but uses these as hands and feet; is not a faculty, but a light4; is not the intellect or the will, but the master of the intellect and the will; is the background of our being, in which they lie, -- an immensity not possessed and that cannot be possessed. From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all. A man is the facade of a temple wherein all wisdom and all good abide. What we commonly call man, the eating, drinking, planting, counting man, does not, as we know him, represent himself, but misrepresents himself. Him we do not respect, but the soul, whose organ he is, would he let it appear through his action, would make our knees bend. When it breathes through his intellect, it is genius; when it breathes through his will, it is virtue; when it flows through his affection, it is love. And the blindness of the intellect begins, when it would be something of itself. The weakness of the will begins, when the individual would be something of himself. All reform aims, in some one particular, to let the soul have its way through us; in other words, to engage us to obey.
5]Of this pure nature every man is at some time sensible. Language cannot paint it with his colors. It is too subtle. It is undefinable, unmeasurable, but we know that it pervades and contains us. We know that all spiritual being is in man. A wise old proverb says, "God comes to see us without bell"; that is, as there is no screen or ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens, so is there no bar or wall in the soul where man, the effect, ceases, and God, the cause, begins.5 The walls are taken away. We lie open on one side to the deeps of spiritual nature, to the attributes of God. Justice we see and know, Love, Freedom, Power. These natures no man ever got above, but they tower over us, and most in the moment when our interests tempt us to wound them.
6]The sovereignty of this nature whereof we speak is made known by its independency of those limitations which circumscribe us on every hand. The soul circumscribes all things. As I have said, it contradicts all experience. In like manner it abolishes time and space.6 The influence of the senses has, in most men, overpowered the mind to that degree, that the walls of time and space have come to look real and insurmountable; and to speak with levity of these limits is, in the world, the sign of insanity. Yet time and space are but inverse measures of the force of the soul. The spirit sports with time, --
"Can crowd eternity into an hour, Or stretch an hour to eternity."
7]We are often made to feel that there is another youth and age than that which is measured from the year of our natural birth. Some thoughts always find us young, and keep us so. Such a thought is the love of the universal and eternal beauty. Every man parts from that contemplation with the feeling that it rather belongs to ages than to mortal life. The least activity of the intellectual powers redeems us in a degree from the conditions of time. In sickness, in languor, give us a strain of poetry, or a profound sentence, and we are refreshed; or produce a volume of Plato, or Shakespeare, or remind us of their names, and instantly we come into a feeling of longevity. See how the deep, divine thought reduces centuries, and millenniums, and makes itself present through all ages. Is the teaching of Christ less effective now than it was when first his mouth was opened? The emphasis of facts and persons in my thought has nothing to do with time. And so, always, the soul's scale is one; the scale of the senses and the understanding is another. Before the revelations of the soul, Time, Space, and Nature shrink away. In common speech, we refer all things to time, as we habitually refer the immensely sundered stars to one concave sphere. And so we say that the Judgment is distant or near, that the Millennium approaches, that a day of certain political, moral, social reforms is at hand, and the like, when we mean, that, in the nature of things, one of the facts we contemplate is external and fugitive, and the other is permanent and connate with the soul. The things we now esteem fixed shall, one by one, detach themselves, like ripe fruit, from our experience, and fall. The wind shall blow them none knows whither. The landscape, the figures, Boston, London, are facts as fugitive as any institution past, or any whiff of mist or smoke, and so is society, and so is the world. The soul looketh steadily forwards, creating a world before her, leaving worlds behind her. She has no dates, nor rites, nor persons, nor specialties, nor men. The soul knows only the soul; the web of events is the flowing robe in which she is clothed.
8]After its own law and not by arithmetic is the rate of its progress to be computed. The soul's advances are not made by gradation, such as can be represented by motion in a straight line; but rather by ascension of state, such as can be represented by metamorphosis, -- from the egg to the worm, from the worm to the fly7 . The growths of genius are of a certain total character, that does not advance the elect individual first over John, then Adam, then Richard, and give to each the pain of discovered inferiority, but by every throe of growth the man expands there where he works, passing, at each pulsation, classes, populations, of men. With each divine impulse the mind rends the thin rinds of the visible and finite, and comes out into eternity, and inspires and expires its air. It converses with truths that have always been spoken in the world, and becomes conscious of a closer sympathy with Zeno and Arrian, than with persons in the house.
9]This is the law of moral and of mental gain. The simple rise as by specific levity, not into a particular virtue, but into the region of all the virtues. They are in the spirit which contains them all. The soul requires purity, but purity is not it; requires justice, but justice is not that; requires beneficence, but is somewhat better; so that there is a kind of descent and accommodation felt when we leave speaking of moral nature, to urge a virtue which it enjoins. To the well-born child, all the virtues are natural, and not painfully acquired. Speak to his heart, and the man becomes suddenly virtuous.
10]Within the same sentiment is the germ of intellectual growth, which obeys the same law. Those who are capable of humility, of justice, of love, of aspiration, stand already on a platform that commands the sciences and arts, speech and poetry, action and grace. For whoso dwells in this moral beatitude already anticipates those special powers which men prize so highly. The lover has no talent, no skill, which passes for quite nothing with his enamoured maiden, however little she may possess of related faculty; and the heart which abandons itself to the Supreme Mind finds itself related to all its works, and will travel a royal road to particular knowledges and powers. In ascending to this primary and aboriginal sentiment, we have come from our remote station on the circumference instantaneously to the centre of the world, where, as in the closet of God, we see causes, and anticipate the universe, which is but a slow effect.
11]One mode of the divine teaching is the incarnation of the spirit in a form, -- in forms, like my own. I live in society; with persons who answer to thoughts in my own mind, or express a certain obedience to the great instincts to which I live. I see its presence to them. I am certified of a common nature; and these other souls, these separated selves, draw me as nothing else can. They stir in me the new emotions we call passion; of love, hatred, fear, admiration, pity; thence comes conversation, competition, persuasion, cities, and war. Persons are supplementary to the primary teaching of the soul. In youth we are mad for persons. Childhood and youth see all the world in them. But the larger experience of man discovers the identical nature appearing through them all. Persons themselves acquaint us with the impersonal. In all conversation between two persons, tacit reference is made, as to a third party, to a common nature. That third party or common nature is not social; it is impersonal; is God8 . And so in groups where debate is earnest, and especially on high questions, the company become aware that the thought rises to an equal level in all bosoms, that all have a spiritual property in what was said, as well as the sayer. They all become wiser than they were. It arches over them like a temple, this unity of thought, in which every heart beats with nobler sense of power and duty, and thinks and acts with unusual solemnity. All are conscious of attaining to a higher self-possession. It shines for all. There is a certain wisdom of humanity which is common to the greatest men with the lowest, and which our ordinary education often labors to silence and obstruct. The mind is one, and the best minds, who love truth for its own sake, think much less of property in truth. They accept it thankfully everywhere, and do not label or stamp it with any man's name, for it is theirs long beforehand, and from eternity. The learned and the studious of thought have no monopoly of wisdom. Their violence of direction in some degree disqualifies them to think truly. We owe many valuable observations to people who are not very acute or profound, and who say the thing without effort, which we want and have long been hunting in vain. The action of the soul is oftener in that which is felt and left unsaid, than in that which is said in any conversation. It broods over every society, and they unconsciously seek for it in each other. We know better than we do. We do not yet possess ourselves, and we know at the same time that we are much more. I feel the same truth how often in my trivial conversation with my neighbors, that somewhat higher in each of us overlooks this by-play, and Jove nods to Jove from behind each of us.
12]Men descend to meet. In their habitual and mean service to the world, for which they forsake their native nobleness, they resemble those Arabian sheiks, who dwell in mean houses, and affect an external poverty, to escape the rapacity of the Pacha, and reserve all their display of wealth for their interior and guarded retirements.
13]As it is present in all persons, so it is in every period of life. It is adult already in the infant man. In my dealing with my child, my Latin and Greek, my accomplishments and my money stead me nothing; but as much soul as I have avails. If I am wilful, he sets his will against mine, one for one, and leaves me, if I please, the degradation of beating him by my superiority of strength. But if I renounce my will, and act for the soul, setting that up as umpire between us two, out of his young eyes looks the same soul; he reveres and loves with me.
14]The soul is the perceiver and revealer of truth.9 We know truth when we see it, let skeptic and scoffer say what they choose. Foolish people ask you, when you have spoken what they do not wish to hear, `How do you know it is truth, and not an error of your own?' We know truth when we see it, from opinion, as we know when we are awake that we are awake. It was a grand sentence of Emanuel Swedenborg, which would alone indicate the greatness of that man's perception, --"It is no proof of a man's understanding to be able to confirm whatever he pleases; but to be able to discern that what is true is true, and that what is false is false, this is the mark and character of intelligence." In the book I read, the good thought returns to me, as every truth will, the image of the whole soul. To the bad thought which I find in it, the same soul becomes a discerning, separating sword, and lops it away. We are wiser than we know. If we will not interfere with our thought, but will act entirely, or see how the thing stands in God, we know the particular thing, and every thing, and every man. For the Maker of all things and all persons stands behind us, and casts his dread omniscience through us over things.
15]But beyond this recognition of its own in particular passages of the individual's experience, it also reveals truth. And here we should seek to reinforce ourselves by its very presence, and to speak with a worthier, loftier strain of that advent. For the soul's communication of truth is the highest event in nature, since it then does not give somewhat from itself, but it gives itself, or passes into and becomes that man whom it enlightens; or, in proportion to that truth he receives, it takes him to itself.10
16]We distinguish the announcements of the soul, its manifestations of its own nature, by the term Revelation. These are always attended by the emotion of the sublime. For this communication is an influx of the Divine mind into our mind. It is an ebb of the individual rivulet before the flowing surges of the sea of life. Every distinct apprehension of this central commandment agitates men with awe and delight. A thrill passes through all men at the reception of new truth, or at the performance of a great action, which comes out of the heart of nature. In these communications, the power to see is not separated from the will to do, but the insight proceeds from obedience, and the obedience proceeds from a joyful perception. Every moment when the individual feels himself invaded by it is memorable. By the necessity of our constitution, a certain enthusiasm attends the individual's consciousness of that divine presence. The character and duration of this enthusiasm varies with the state of the individual, from an ecstasy and trance and prophetic inspiration, -- which is its rarer appearance, -- to the faintest glow of virtuous emotion, in which form it warms, like our household fires, all the families and associations of men, and makes society possible. A certain tendency to insanity has always attended the opening of the religious sense in men, as if they had been "blasted with excess of light." The trances of Socrates11 , the "union" of Plotinus12, the vision of Porphyry13, the conversion of Paul14, the aurora of Behmen15, the convulsions of George Fox and his Quakers16, the illumination of Swedenborg17, are of this kind. What was in the case of these remarkable persons a ravishment has, in innumerable instances in common life, been exhibited in less striking manner. Everywhere the history of religion betrays a tendency to enthusiasm. The rapture of the Moravian18 and Quietist; the opening of the internal sense of the Word, in the language of the New Jerusalem Church; the revival of the Calvinistic churches; the experiences of the Methodists, are varying forms of that shudder of awe and delight with which the individual soul always mingles with the universal soul.
16]The nature of these revelations is the same; they are perceptions of the absolute law. They are solutions of the soul's own questions. They do not answer the questions which the understanding asks. The soul answers never by words, but by the thing itself that is inquired after.
17]Revelation is the disclosure of the soul. The popular notion of a revelation is, that it is a telling of fortunes. In past oracles of the soul, the understanding seeks to find answers to sensual questions, and undertakes to tell from God how long men shall exist, what their hands shall do, and who shall be their company, adding names, and dates, and places. But we must pick no locks. We must check this low curiosity. An answer in words is delusive; it is really no answer to the questions you ask. Do not require a description of the countries towards which you sail. The description does not describe them to you, and to-morrow you arrive there, and know them by inhabiting them. Men ask concerning the immortality of the soul, the employments of heaven, the state of the sinner, and so forth. They even dream that Jesus has left replies to precisely these interrogatories. Never a moment did that sublime spirit speak in their patois. To truth, justice, love, the attributes of the soul, the idea of immutableness is essentially associated. Jesus, living in these moral sentiments, heedless of sensual fortunes, heeding only the manifestations of these, never made the separation of the idea of duration from the essence of these attributes, nor uttered a syllable concerning the duration of the soul. It was left to his disciples to sever duration from the moral elements, and to teach the immortality of the soul as a doctrine, and maintain it by evidences. The moment the doctrine of the immortality is separately taught, man is already fallen. In the flowing of love, in the adoration of humility, there is no question of continuance. No inspired man ever asks this question, or condescends to these evidences. For the soul is true to itself, and the man in whom it is shed abroad cannot wander from the present, which is infinite, to a future which would be finite.
18]These questions which we lust to ask about the future are a confession of sin. God has no answer for them. No answer in words can reply to a question of things. It is not in an arbitrary "decree of God," but in the nature of man, that a veil shuts down on the facts of to-morrow; for the soul will not have us read any other cipher than that of cause and effect. By this veil, which curtains events, it instructs the children of men to live in to-day. The only mode of obtaining an answer to these questions of the senses is to forego all low curiosity, and, accepting the tide of being which floats us into the secret of nature, work and live, work and live, and all unawares the advancing soul has built and forged for itself a new condition, and the question and the answer are one.
19]By the same fire, vital, consecrating, celestial, which burns until it shall dissolve all things into the waves and surges of an ocean of light, we see and know each other, and what spirit each is of. Who can tell the grounds of his knowledge of the character of the several individuals in his circle of friends? No man. Yet their acts and words do not disappoint him. In that man, though he knew no ill of him, he put no trust. In that other, though they had seldom met, authentic signs had yet passed, to signify that he might be trusted as one who had an interest in his own character. We know each other very well, -- which of us has been just to himself, and whether that which we teach or behold is only an aspiration, or is our honest effort also.
20]We are all discerners of spirits. That diagnosis lies aloft in our life or unconscious power. The intercourse of society, -- its trade, its religion, its friendships, its quarrels,--- is one wide, judicial investigation of character. In full court, or in small committee, or confronted face to face, accuser and accused, men offer themselves to be judged. Against their will they exhibit those decisive trifles by which character is read. But who judges? and what? Not our understanding. We do not read them by learning or craft. No; the wisdom of the wise man consists herein, that he does not judge them; he lets them judge themselves, and merely reads and records their own verdict.19
21]By virtue of this inevitable nature, private will is overpowered, and, maugre our efforts or our imperfections, your genius will speak from you, and mine from me. That which we are, we shall teach, not voluntarily, but involuntarily. Thoughts come into our minds by avenues which we never left open, and thoughts go out of our minds through avenues which we never voluntarily opened. Character teaches over our head. The infallible index of true progress is found in the tone the man takes. Neither his age, nor his breeding, nor company, nor books, nor actions, nor talents, nor all together, can hinder him from being deferential to a higher spirit than his own. If he have not found his home in God, his manners, his forms of speech, the turn of his sentences, the build, shall I say, of all his opinions, will involuntarily confess it, let him brave it out how he will. If he have found his centre, the Deity will shine through him, through all the disguises of ignorance, of ungenial temperament, of unfavorable circumstance. The tone of seeking is one, and the tone of having is another.
22]The great distinction between teachers sacred or literary, --between poets like Herbert, and poets like Pope, -- between philosophers like Spinoza, Kant, and Coleridge, and philosophers like Locke, Paley, Mackintosh, and Stewart, -- between men of the world, who are reckoned accomplished talkers, and here and there a fervent mystic, prophesying, half insane under the infinitude of his thought, -- is, that one class speak from within, or from experience, as parties and possessors of the fact; and the other class, from without, as spectators merely, or perhaps as acquainted with the fact on the evidence of third persons. It is of no use to preach to me from without. I can do that too easily myself. Jesus speaks always from within, and in a degree that transcends all others. In that is the miracle. I believe beforehand that it ought so to be. All men stand continually in the expectation of the appearance of such a teacher. But if a man do not speak from within the veil, where the word is one with that it tells of, let him lowly confess it. 20
23]The same Omniscience flows into the intellect, and makes what we call genius. Much of the wisdom of the world is not wisdom, and the most illuminated class of men are no doubt superior to literary fame, and are not writers. Among the multitude of scholars and authors, we feel no hallowing presence; we are sensible of a knack and skill rather than of inspiration; they have a light, and know not whence it comes, and call it their own; their talent is some exaggerated faculty, some overgrown member, so that their strength is a disease. In these instances the intellectual gifts do not make the impression of virtue, but almost of vice; and we feel that a man's talents stand in the way of his advancement in truth. But genius is religious. It is a larger imbibing of the common heart. It is not anomalous, but more like, and not less like other men. There is, in all great poets, a wisdom of humanity which is superior to any talents they exercise. The author, the wit, the partisan, the fine gentleman, does not take place of the man. Humanity shines in Homer, in Chaucer, in Spenser, in Shakespeare, in Milton. They are content with truth. They use the positive degree. They seem frigid and phlegmatic to those who have been spiced with the frantic passion and violent coloring of inferior, but popular writers. For they are poets by the free course which they allow to the informing soul, which through their eyes beholds again, and blesses the things which it hath made. The soul is superior to its knowledge; wiser than any of its works. The great poet makes us feel our own wealth, and then we think less of his compositions. His best communication to our mind is to teach us to despise all he has done. 21 Shakespeare carries us to such a lofty strain of intelligent activity, as to suggest a wealth which beggars his own; and we then feel that the splendid works which he has created, and which in other hours we extol as a sort of self-existent poetry, take no stronger hold of real nature than the shadow of a passing traveler on the rock. The inspiration which uttered itself in Hamlet and Lear could utter things as good from day to day, for ever. Why, then, should I make account of Hamlet and Lear, as if we had not the soul from which they fell as syllables from the tongue?
24]This energy does not descend into individual life on any other condition than entire possession. It comes to the lowly and simple; it comes to whomsoever will put off what is foreign and proud; it comes as insight; it comes as serenity and grandeur. When we see those whom it inhabits, we are apprized of new degrees of greatness. From that inspiration the man comes back with a changed tone. He does not talk with men with an eye to their opinion. He tries them. It requires of us to be plain and true. The vain traveler attempts to embellish his life by quoting my lord, and the prince, and the countess, who thus said or did to him ._ The ambitious vulgar show you their spoons, and brooches, and rings, and preserve their cards and compliments. The more cultivated, in their account of their own experience, cull out the pleasing, poetic circumstance, -- the visit to Rome, the man of genius they saw, the brilliant friend they know; still further on, perhaps, the gorgeous landscape, the mountain lights, the mountain thoughts, they enjoyed yesterday, -- and so seek to throw a romantic color over their life. But the soul that ascends to worship the great God is plain and true; has no rose-color, no fine friends, no chivalry, no adventures; does not want admiration; dwells in the hour that now is, in the earnest experience of the common day, -- by reason of the present moment and the mere trifle having become porous to thought, and bibulous of the sea of light.
25]Converse with a mind that is grandly simple, and literature looks like word-catching. The simplest utterances are worthiest to be written, yet are they so cheap, and so things of course, that, in the infinite riches of the soul, it is like gathering a few pebbles off the ground, or bottling a little air in a phial, when the whole earth and the whole atmosphere are ours. Nothing can pass there, or make you one of the circle, but the casting aside your trappings, and dealing man to man in naked truth, plain confession, and omniscient affirmation.
26]Souls such as these treat you as gods would; walk as gods in the earth, accepting without any admiration your wit, your bounty, your virtue even, -- say rather your act of duty, for your virtue they own as their proper blood, royal as themselves, and over-royal, and the father of the gods. But what rebuke their plain fraternal bearing casts on the mutual flattery with which authors solace each other and wound themselves! These flatter not. I do not wonder that these men go to see Cromwell, and Christina, and Charles the Second, and James the First, and the Grand Turk. For they are, in their own elevation, the fellows of kings, and must feel the servile tone of conversation in the world. They must always be a godsend to princes, for they confront them, a king to a king, without ducking or concession, and give a high nature the refreshment and satisfaction of resistance, of plain humanity, of even companionship, and of new ideas. They leave them wiser and superior men. Souls like these make us feel that sincerity is more excellent than flattery. Deal so plainly with man and woman, as to constrain the utmost sincerity, and destroy all hope of trifling with you. It is the highest compliment you can pay. Their "highest praising," said Milton, "is not flattery, and their plainest advice is a kind of praising."
27]Ineffable is the union of man and God in every act of the soul. The simplest person, who in his integrity worships God, becomes God; yet for ever and ever the influx of this better and universal self is new and unsearchable. It inspires awe and astonishment. How dear, how soothing to man, arises the idea of God, peopling the lonely place, effacing the scars of our mistakes and disappointments! When we have broken our god of tradition, and ceased from our god of rhetoric, then may God fire the heart with his presence. It is the doubling of the heart itself, nay, the infinite enlargement of the heart with a power of growth to a new infinity on every side. It inspires in man an infallible trust. He has not the conviction, but the sight, that the best is the true, and may in that thought easily dismiss all particular uncertainties and fears, and adjourn to the sure revelation of time, the solution of his private riddles. He is sure that his welfare is dear to the heart of being. In the presence of law to his mind, he is overflowed with a reliance so universal, that it sweeps away all cherished hopes and the most stable projects of mortal condition in its flood. He believes that he cannot escape from his good. The things that are really for thee gravitate to thee. You are running to seek your friend. Let your feet run, but your mind need not. If you do not find him, will you not acquiesce that it is best you should not find him? for there is a power, which, as it is in you, is in him also, and could therefore very well bring you together, if it were for the best. You are preparing with eagerness to go and render a service to which your talent and your taste invite you, the love of men and the hope of fame. Has it not occurred to you, that you have no right to go, unless you are equally willing to be prevented from going? O, believe, as thou livest, that every sound that is spoken over the round world, which thou oughtest to hear, will vibrate on thine ear! Every proverb, every book, every byword that belongs to thee for aid or comfort, shall surely come home through open or winding passages. Every friend whom not thy fantastic will, but the great and tender heart in thee craveth, shall lock thee in his embrace. And this, because the heart in thee is the heart of all; not a valve, not a wall, not an intersection is there anywhere in nature, but one blood rolls uninterruptedly an endless circulation through all men, as the water of the globe is all one sea, and, truly seen, its tide is one.
28]Let man, then, learn the revelation of all nature and all thought to his heart; this, namely; that the Highest dwells with him; that the sources of nature are in his own mind, if the sentiment of duty is there. But if he would know what the great God speaketh, he must `go into his closet and shut the door,' as Jesus said. God will not make himself manifest to cowards. He must greatly listen to himself, withdrawing himself from all the accents of other men's devotion. Even their prayers are hurtful to him, until he have made his own. Our religion vulgarly stands on numbers of believers. Whenever the appeal is made -- no matter how indirectly -- to numbers, proclamation is then and there made, that religion is not. He that finds God a sweet, enveloping thought to him never counts his company. When I sit in that presence, who shall dare to come in? When I rest in perfect humility, when I burn with pure love, what can Calvin or Swedenborg say?
29]It makes no difference whether the appeal is to numbers or to one. The faith that stands on authority is not faith. The reliance on authority measures the decline of religion, the withdrawal of the soul. The position men have given to Jesus, now for many centuries of history, is a position of authority. It characterizes themselves. It cannot alter the eternal facts. Great is the soul, and plain. It is no flatterer, it is no follower; it never appeals from itself. It believes in itself. Before the immense possibilities of man, all mere experience, all past biography, however spotless and sainted, shrinks away. Before that heaven which our presentiments foreshow us, we cannot easily praise any form of life we have seen or read of. We not only affirm that we have few great men, but, absolutely speaking, that we have none; that we have no history, no record of any character or mode of living, that entirely contents us. The saints and demigods whom history worships we are constrained to accept with a grain of allowance. Though in our lonely hours we draw a new strength out of their memory, yet, pressed on our attention, as they are by the thoughtless and customary, they fatigue and invade. The soul gives itself, alone, original, and pure, to the Lonely, Original, and Pure, who, on that condition, gladly inhabits, leads, and speaks through it. Then is it glad, young, and nimble. It is not wise, but it sees through all things. It is not called religious, but it is innocent. It calls the light its own, and feels that the grass grows and the stone falls by a law inferior to, and dependent on, its nature. Behold, it saith, I am born into the great, the universal mind. I, the imperfect, adore my own Perfect. I am somehow receptive of the great soul, and thereby I do overlook the sun and the stars, and feel them to be the fair accidents and effects which change and pass. More and more the surges of everlasting nature enter into me, and I become public and human in my regards and actions. So come I to live in thoughts, and act with energies, which are immortal. Thus revering the soul, and learning, as the ancient said, that "its beauty is immense," man will come to see that the world is the perennial miracle which the soul worketh, and be less astonished at particular wonders; he will learn that there is no profane history; that all history is sacred; that the universe is represented in an atom, in a moment of time. He will weave no longer a spotted life of shreds and patches, but he will live with a divine unity. He will cease from what is base and frivolous in his life, and be content with all places and with any service he can render. He will calmly front the morrow in the negligency of that trust which carries God with it, and so hath already the whole future in the bottom of the heart.
1 More, Henry (1614-1687)-English Platonist philosopher. The verse indicates that individuals may share a common life with God and become the "eye" of God, anticipating the unity of humanity and God in the human transcending higher self or "Oversoul". See paragraph 3 where Emerson teaches the common unity of humanity, the unveiling of the higher self in a forward moving evolution, and the transcending of the subject-object dichotomy.
2 Here Emerson, despite the power of the object bursting through the web of thought, attempts to define the Oversoul.
3 See chapter xi of the Bagavad Gita, The Book of the Manifesting of the One and the Manifold, where the word is both an expression and a depiction of the Oversoul. For example, the word expresses the unity of all things in the being of god or Krishna:
Then, O King! the God, so saying,
Stood, to Pritha's Son displaying
All the splendour, wonder, dread
Of His vast Almighty-head.
Out of countless eyes beholding,
Out of countless mouths commanding,
Countless mystic forms enfolding
In one Form: supremely standing
Countless radiant glories wearing,
Countless heavenly weapons bearing,
Crowned with garlands of star-clusters,
Robed in garb of woven lustres,
Breathing from His perfect Presence
Breaths of every subtle essence
Of all heavenly odours; shedding
Blinding brilliance; overspreading .
Boundless, beautiful . all spaces
With His all-regarding faces;
So He showed! If there should rise
Suddenly within the skies
Sunburst of a thousand suns
Flooding earth with beams undeemed-of,
Then might be that Holy One's
Majesty and radiance dreamed of!
So did Pandu's Son behold
All this universe enfold
All its huge diversity
Into one vast shape, and be
Visible, and viewed, and blended
In one Body . subtle, splendid,
Nameless . th' All-comprehending
God of Gods, the Never-Ending
4 See the Gospel of John Chapter 8:12 where Christ states: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Here Christ offers the great unity in multiplicity of the Bagavad Gita as an inner light to all men who open themselves to unity with the Christ consciousness (Oversoul). As Emerson stated in paragraph 3,"Within man is the soul of the whole." Every physical organ, life process, idea, and emotion is used by our higher soul as a tool for expression of the godhead but our essential selves or higher ego is none of those things but part of the universal substance of God. Here Emerson uses the term "soul" for the higher ego. Other theologians or mystics may use "soul" to encompass the emotions, sensations, and intellect but the oversoul transcends all the objectifiable attributes. It illumines and enlivens these attributes and appears as genius, virtue, and love.
Emerson illuminates the inner regions of the spirit and boldly states that God
lies at the heart of the human being. Rudolf Steiner in his introduction to
his book Mysticism
at the Dawn of the Modern Age states that God's creativity depends on the
existence of a spirit or faculty that is now part of the inner human being:
"What takes place in the inner life of man is not a mental repetition, but a real part of the universal process. The world would not be what it is if it were not active in the human soul. And if one calls the highest which is attainable by man the divine, then one must say that the divine does not exist as something external to be repeated as an image in the human spirit, but that the divine is awakened in man. For this Angelus Silesius has found the right words: “I know that without me God cannot live for a moment; if I come to naught He must needs give up the ghost.” “God cannot make a single worm without me; if I do not preserve it with Him, it must fall apart forthwith.” Such an assertion can only be made by one who premises that something appears in man without which an external being cannot exist. If everything which belongs to the “worm” also existed without man, it would be impossible to say that the worm must “fall apart” if man does not preserve it."
6 "In the primal Divine Father — says the Gnosis — lies the ground of the world, and only in what proceeds from Him do we find something to which the soul can struggle through if it turns away from all material conceptions and searches a little for its own innermost depth. And this is Silence: the eternal Silence in which there is neither space nor time, but silence only." see Rudolf Steiner :Christ and the Spiritual World: The Search for the Holy Grail FIRST LECTURE:DECEMBER 28, 1913.
It is very difficult to think about the abolition of space and time. Our pictorial imagination requires an inner space of at least two dimensions and our aural imagination requires time for sounds to unfold. Without space and time all images and sounds collapse into a unity; therefore space and time, whatever their epistemological essence (as part of thinking, or as part of an exterior material world), are necessary for the oversoul to express itself to normal human consciousness. Even thinking in Silence seems to require duration or else thought cannot evolve and unfold. Of course the mystic may perceive time and space differently from the normal waking consciousness. Emerson states:
"Can crowd eternity into an hour, Or stretch an hour to eternity."
Here he exposes the extreme plasticity of time without abolishing it. Has Emerson really experienced a state of spaceless, durationless being? He describes how thinking abolishes time by uniting the thinker with thoughts of universal truth and beauty that transcend Earthly duration. Thinking into these "higher time streams" may enable me to experience past and future times, but as a living, spiritual being I continually evolve in my own time current. Lack of time or its abolition suggests stasis.
Perhaps his consciousness surrounded space and time and felt them infold into each other at the center or unity of the Godhead.-
In this fragment from Little Gidding, T.S. Eliot wrestles with the "timeless" experience:
"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always-
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one. "--Little Gidding from "Four Quartets" of T. S. Eliot
7Emerson recognizes the need for evolution but he feels that evolution doesn't involve time, but an ascension of state. In normal consciousness we experience each evolutionary stage in temporal succession, but higher thinking unites all the stages into a unified whole. Goethe treated plant development in terms of ascension of evolutionary states where a non-sensory reality, the non-material archetypical or "ur" plant, pushes into materiality in complex ways determined by its own nature and outer material conditions. Seed, stem, leaf, calyx, blossom, fruit and seed unfold in time to our ordinary consciousness; however the reality of the plant is the total "motion" through physicality, not any individual snapshot at a point in time. If we observe a seed and later a stem we would only observe two unrelated sensory impressions except for the activation of our our non-material thinking which unites them into a whole and as part of a larger whole. Space and time "circumscribe" or cut out a piece of the phenomena and present a piece of it to our consciousness, but if we strive to think the entire archetypal plant, then our thinking circumscribes space and time. Here our thought incorporates space-time into the thought-object as part of its internal structure so it is no longer part of a "container" in which the object resides. (see Chapter 5 of Man Or Matter by Ernst Lehrs for an excellent discussion of Goethe's Plant studies which seeped into Emerson's thinking)(see also Form as Movement in Goethe's 'The Metamorphosis of Plants' by Zemplén Gábor).
Emerson was aware of Goethe's plant studies. In "Representative Men" Emerson explicitly discussed plant metamorphosis:
"He has contributed a key to many parts of nature, through the rare turn for unity and simplicity in his mind. Thus Goethe suggested the leading idea of modern botany, that a leaf or the eye of a leaf is the unit of botany, and that every part of a plant is only a transformed leaf to meet a new condition; and, by varying the conditions, a leaf may be converted into any other organ, and any other organ into a leaf."
8The higher self or oversoul unites human beings in the Godhead, not in social groups. Emerson recognized that at this stage of evolution humans must break away from the unity of blood, race, nation, and church and seek independence in order to develop their own egos. It is in the ego that the oversoul reveals itself. Finding the source of the oversoul in individuality allows for unity of all humanity without regard for the old social norms. Humans who fully realize their individuality perceive the same power of the ego in others and then freely associate. The free human perceives the divinity in others.
9The truth is of the same substance as the higher self of woman or man. Christ, in John14:6 said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." The higher ego, "I am" or "oversoul" is living truth. Whatever enlivens the ego is true and whatever deadens it is false.
times the truth of the oversoul may manifest outwardly in an individual bringing
truth into our every day consciousness. In Christ, the archetypal human, the
oversoul shined in complete unity with a human being justifying Christ's claim
that "I and the Father are one."
11For example see Plato's Symposium where Apollodorus relates how Socrates becomes entranced before attending dinner at Agathon's :
"After some such conversation, he told me, they started off. Then Socrates, becoming absorbed in his own thoughts by the way, fell behind him as they went; and when my friend began to wait for him he bade him go on ahead. [174e] So he came to Agathon's house, and found the door open; where he found himself in a rather ridiculous position. For he was met immediately by a servant from within, who took him where the company was reclining, and he found them just about to dine. However, as soon as Agathon saw him "Ha, Aristodemus," he cried, "right welcome to a place at table with us! If you came on some other errand, put it off to another time: only yesterday I went round to invite you, but failed to see you. But how is it you do not bring us Socrates?"
At that I turned back for Socrates, he said, but saw no sign of him coming after me: so I told them how I myself had come along with Socrates, since he had asked me to dine with them.
"Very good of you to come," he said, "but where is the man?"
[175a] "He was coming in just now behind me: I am wondering myself where he can be."
"Go at once," said Agathon to the servant, "and see if you can fetch in Socrates. You, Aristodemus, take a place by Eryximachus."
So the attendant washed him and made him ready for reclining, when another of the servants came in with the news that our good Socrates had retreated into their neighbors' porch; there he was standing, and when bidden to come in, he refused.
"How strange!" said Agathon, "you must go on bidding him, and by no means let him go."
[175b] But this Aristodemus forbade: "No," said he, "let him alone; it is a habit he has. Occasionally he turns aside, anywhere at random, and there he stands. He will be here presently, I expect. So do not disturb him; let him be."
(see entire Symposium here)
12Plotinus (204-270 AD): founder of Neoplatonism influenced by Egyptian, Greek, Persian, and Indian ideas who later lectured in Rome.
"Plotinus was a pantheist of the world-rejecting type. He envisaged God as an impersonal Unity - infinite, eternal, with no spatial location, and (curious, but consistent) without thought, knowledge or movement. This conception is strikingly close to that of Taoism."--from "Plotinus - Union with the One" by Paul Harrison.
In Plotinus the act of contemplation achieves an active, productive union with the "One":
"In his system, Plotinus raises intellectual contemplation to the status of a productive principle; and it is by virtue of contemplation that all existents are said to be united as a single, all-pervasive reality." from an Excellent discussion of Plotinus found in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
13 Porphry studied under Plotinus in Rome circa 265 AD. He later edited the works of Plotinus into an influential collection called the Enneads.
Like Plotinus, Porphry taught the three hypostases (the underlying archetypal substances) which include 1) the One or Absolute, 2) the Nous or Divine Mind, and 3) Psuche or the World Soul. From the ineffable One the Nous emanates and coalesces and the the World Soul is a further emanation from the Nous. The spiritual archetype of the World Soul enters into space-time of materiality as creative consciousness and hence forms a link between material creation and the Godhead and is a likely Neoplatonic source for Emerson's Oversoul.
Porphry also taught that the mystic or philosopher may reflect on the World Soul and unite with it and emanate back through the Divine Mind and unite with the One in a process called reversion. Here the mystic completes a creative process by receiving a new form and order from the One. See http://www.kheper.net/topics/Neoplatonism/Porphyry.htm for more information on Porphry and Neoplatonism.
14 see Acts Chapter 9 for Paul's conversion:
1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
15"Aurora" by Jacob Behmen (Jakob Boehme) 1575-1624, great German mystic or "theosopher". The following discussion of Boehme is from "Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Age" by Rudolf Steiner :
"What we encounter in the works of the master shoemaker of Görlitz, Jacob Boehme (1575–1624), is like the jubilation of nature, which, at the peak of its development, admires its essence. Before us appears a man whose words have wings, woven out of the blissful feeling that he sees the knowledge in himself shining as higher wisdom. Jacob Boehme describes his condition as a devotion which only desires to be wisdom, and as a wisdom which desires to live in devotion alone: “When I wrestled and fought, with God's assistance, there arose a wondrous light in my soul which was altogether foreign to wild nature, and by which I first understood what God and man are, and what God has to do with man.” Jacob Boehme no longer feels himself to be a separate personality which utters its insights; he feels himself to be an organ of the great universal spirit which speaks in him. The limits of his personality do not appear to him as limits of the spirit which speaks out of him. For him this spirit is omnipresent. He knows that “the sophist will censure him” when he speaks of the beginning of the world and of its creation, “since I was not there and did not see it myself. Let him be told that in the essence of my soul and body, when I was not yet the I, but Adam's essence, I was indeed there, and that I myself have forfeited my felicity in Adam.” It is only in external similes that Boehme can intimate how the light broke forth within himself. When as a boy he once is on the summit of a mountain, above where great red stones seem to close the mountain off, he sees an open entrance, and in its depths a vessel containing gold. He is overcome with awe, and goes his way without touching the treasure. Later he is serving his apprenticeship with a shoemaker in Görlitz. A stranger walks into the store and asks for a pair of shoes. Boehme is not allowed to sell them to him in the master's absence. The stranger leaves, but after a while calls the apprentice outside and says to him, Jacob, you are little, but one day you will become an altogether different man, at whom the world will be filled with astonishment. At a more mature period of his life Jacob Boehme sees the sunshine reflected in a burnished pewter vessel; the sight which confronts him seems to him to reveal a profound mystery. From the time he experiences this manifestation he believes himself to be in possession of the key to the mysterious language of nature. — He lives as a spiritual hermit, supporting himself modestly by his trade, and at the same time setting down, as if for his own memory, the notes which sound in him when he feels the spirit within himself. The zealotry of priestly fanaticism makes his life difficult. He wants to read only that scripture which the light within himself illuminates for him, but is pursued and tormented by those to whom only the external scripture, the rigid, dogmatic creed, is accessible.
Jacob Boehme is filled with a restlessness which impels him toward cognition, because a universal mystery lives in his soul. He feels himself to be immersed in a divine harmony with his spirit, but when he looks around him he sees disharmony everywhere in the divine works. To man belongs the light of wisdom, yet he is exposed to error; there lives in him the impulse toward the good, and yet the dissonance of evil can be heard throughout the course of human development. Nature is governed by great natural laws, and yet its harmony is disturbed by superfluities and by the wild struggle of the elements. How is the disharmony in the harmonious, universal whole to be understood? This question torments Jacob Boehme. It comes to occupy the center of his world of ideas. He wants to attain a conception of the universal whole which includes the inharmonious too. For how can a conception explain the world which leaves the existing inharmonious elements aside, unexplained? Disharmony must be explained through harmony, evil through good itself. In speaking of these things, let us limit ourselves to good and evil; in the latter, disharmony in the narrower sense finds its expression in human life. For this is what Jacob Boehme basically limits himself to. He can do this, for to him nature and man appear as one essence. He sees similar laws and processes in both. The non-functional is for him an evil in nature, just as the evil is for him something non-functional in human destiny. Here and there it is the same basic forces which are at work. To one who has understood the origin of evil in man, the origin of evil in nature is also plain. — How is it possible for evil as well as for good to flow out of the same primordial essence? If one speaks in the spirit of Jacob Boehme, one gives the following answer: The primordial essence does not exist in itself alone. The diversity of the world participates in this existence. As the human body does not live its life as a single part, but as a multiplicity of parts, so too does the primordial essence. And as human life is poured into this multiplicity of parts, so is the primordial essence poured into the diversity of the things of this world. Just as it is true that the whole man has one life, so is it true that each part has its own life. And it no more contradicts the whole harmonious life of man that his hand should turn against his own body and wound it, than it is impossible that the things of the world, which live the life of the primordial essence in their own way, should turn against one another. Thus the primordial life, in distributing itself over different lives, bestows upon each life the capacity of turning itself against the whole. It is not out of the good that the evil flows, but out of the manner in which the good lives. As the light can only shine when it penetrates the darkness, so the good can only come to life when it permeates its opposite. Out of the “abyss” of darkness shines the light; out of the “abyss” of the indifferent, the good brings itself forth. And as in the shadow it is only brightness which requires a reference to light, while the darkness is felt to be self-evident, as something that weakens the light, so too in the world it is only the lawfulness in all things which is sought, and the evil, the non-functional, which is accepted as the self-evident. Hence, although for Jacob Boehme the primordial essence is the All, nothing in the world can be understood unless one keeps in sight both the primordial essence and its opposite. “The good has swallowed the evil or the repugnant into itself ... Every being has good and evil within itself; and in its development, having to decide between them, it becomes an opposition of qualities, since one of them seeks to overcome the other.” It is therefore entirely in the spirit of Jacob Boehme to see both good and evil in every object and process of the world; but it is not in his spirit to seek the primordial essence without further ado in the mixture of the good with the evil. The primordial essence had to swallow the evil, but the evil is not a part of the primordial essence. Jacob Boehme seeks the primordial foundation of the world, but the world itself arose out of the abyss by means of the primordial foundation. “The external world is not God, and in eternity is not to be called God, but is only a being in which God reveals Himself ... When one says, God is everything, God is heaven and earth and also the external world, then this is true; for everything has its origin from Him and in Him. But what am I to do with such a saying that is not a religion?” — With this conception as a background, his ideas about the nature of the world developed in Jacob Boehme's spirit in such a way that he lets the lawful world arise out of the abyss in a succession of stages. This world is built up in seven natural forms. The primordial essence receives a form in dark acerbity, silently enclosed within itself and motionless. It is under the symbol of salt that Boehme conceives this acerbity. With such designations he leans upon Paracelsus, who has borrowed the names for the process of nature from the chemical processes (cf. above). By swallowing its opposite, the first natural form takes on the shape of the second; the harsh and motionless takes on motion; energy and life enter into it. Mercury is the symbol for this second form. In the struggle of stillness with motion, of death with life, the third natural form (sulphur) appears. This life, with its internal struggle, is revealed to itself; henceforth it does not live in an external struggle of its parts; like a uniformly shining lightning, illuminating itself, it thrills through its own being (fire). This fourth natural form ascends to the fifth, the living struggle of the parts reposing within itself (water). On this level exists an inner acerbity and silence as on the first, only it is not an absolute quiet, a silence of the inner contrasts, but an inner movement of the contrasts. It is not the quiet which reposes within itself, but which has motion, which was kindled by the fiery lightning of the fourth stage. On the sixth level, the primordial essence itself becomes aware of itself as such an inner life; it perceives itself through sense organs. It is the living organisms, endowed with senses, which represent this natural form. Jacob Boehme calls it sound or resonance, and thus sets up the sensory impression of hearing as a symbol for sensory perception in general. The seventh natural form is the spirit elevating itself by virtue of its sensory perceptions (wisdom). It finds itself again as itself, as the primordial foundation, within the world which has grown out of the abyss and shaped itself out of harmonious and inharmonious elements. “The Holy Ghost brings the splendor of majesty into the entity in which the Divinity stands revealed.” — With such conceptions Jacob Boehme seeks to fathom that world which, in accordance with the knowledge of his time, appears to him as the real one. For him facts are what the natural science of his time and the Bible regard as such. His way of thinking is one thing, his world of facts another. One can imagine the former as applied to a quite different factual knowledge. And thus there appears before our mind a Jacob Boehme who could also be living at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century. Such a man would not penetrate with his thinking the biblical story of the Creation and the struggle of the angels with the devils, but rather Lyell's geological insights and the “natural history of creation” of Haeckel. One who penetrates to the spirit of Jacob Boehme's writings must come to this conviction.-"Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Age" by Rudolf Steiner
Steiner emphasizes Boehme's attention to the reality of evil. Evil arises because the unity of the Godhead must flow into multiplicity for creation to take place and each conscious individual possessing the "primordial essence" has the ability and the freedom to turn itself against the whole. Emerson didn't accept the idea of pure malignity. In discussing Swedenborg, he stated:
"His cardinal position in morals is that evils should be shunned as sins. But he does not know what evil is, or what good is, who thinks any ground remains to be occupied, after saying that evil is to be shunned as evil. I doubt not he was led by the desire to insert the element of personality of Deity. But nothing is added. One man, you say, dreads erysipelas,- show him that this dread is evil: or, one dreads hell,- show him that dread is evil. He who loves goodness, harbors angels, reveres reverence and lives with God. The less we have to do with our sins the better. No man can afford to waste his moments in compunctions. "That is active duty," say the Hindoos, "which is not for our bondage; that is knowledge, which is for our liberation: all other duty is good only unto weariness."
Another dogma, growing out of this pernicious theologic limitation, is his Inferno. Swedenborg has devils. Evil, according to old philosophers, is good in the making. That pure malignity can exist is the extreme proposition of unbelief. It is not to be entertained by a rational agent; it is atheism; it is the last profanation. Euripides rightly said,-
"Goodness and being in the gods are one;
He who imputes ill to them makes them none."
To what a painful perversion had Gothic theology arrived, that Swedenborg admitted no conversion for evil spirits!"
-Emerson, Swedenborg; or, the Mystic
from Representative Men (1850)
16 Fox founded the Quakers in 1624. Fox believed that we must seek for heaven and God within ourselves and not be led by the hierarchical structures of outer institutions. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Fox
17 See Emerson essay on Swedenborg in Swedenborg; or, the Mystic from Representative Men (1850).
18 Moravian Church -founded by John Huss in Czechoslovakia, the Moravian Church was probably the first Protestant Church breaking away from Catholicism almost 100 years before Luther. Huss was burned at the stake for heresies such as translating the Mass from Latin into native tongues and abolishing indulgences. Later Huss's followers reformed the Church as an evangelical Christian communion in 1457. This version of the Church initially existed within the Catholic Church as a reform movement but later broke away from Rome and endured much persecution. In 1722 a company of the Moravian faithful took refuge in the town of Herrnhut in Saxony where they built a town under the leadership of Graf von Zinzendorf. In Herrnhut they revived the elements of the original church and founded the Renewed Moravian Church (1727).
The Moravians of Herrnhut penetrated German literature through Goethe. A Herrenhuter, Susanna Katarina von Klettenberg, cared for Goethe during his serious illness at the age of 19 and introduced him to many mystical writers including Paracelsus, Valentinius, and Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont. Goethe's "Confessions of a Beautiful Soul" chapter in Wilhelm Meister is a tribute to this remarkable woman.
-(see "The Time Is At Hand" by Paul Allen and Joan Allen)
-also see this excellent biography of Goethe: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (August 28, 1749 - March 22, 1832) by Jane K. Brown, University of Washington
19 -Emerson's essays on Goethe and other Representative men are good examples of Emerson's judgments (or of great men "judging themselves"?). Goethe" or "the Writer" from Representative Men (1850) by Ralph Waldo Emerson states Emerson's ultimate moral dissatisfaction with Goethe based on what Emerson perceives to be Goethe's sacrifice of the unity of the Oversoul to the complexity of Goethe's love of his cultural milieu:
"I dare not say that Goethe ascended to the highest grounds from which genius has spoken. He has not worshipped the highest unity; he is incapable of a self-surrender to the moral sentiment. There are nobler strains in poetry than any he has sounded. There are writers poorer in talent, whose tone is purer, and more touches the heart. Goethe can never be dear to men. His is not even the devotion to pure truth; but to truth for the sake of culture. He has no aims less large than the conquest of universal nature, of universal truth, to be his portion: a man not to be bribed, nor deceived, nor overawed; of a stoical self-command and self-denial, and having one test for all men,- What can you teach me? All possessions are valued by him for that only; rank, privileges, health, time, Being itself. " (Goethe or the Writer from Representative Men (1850) by Ralph Waldo Emerson )
I believe that the key to this fascinating passage lies in the words "He has no aims less large than the conquest of universal nature, of universal truth, to be his portion..." Emerson accuses Goethe of being immoral by using his other-wordly genius to usurp universal knowledge for himself. Rather than sacrificing his Genius on the alter of the Oversoul, he attempts to personalize the Oversoul for his own use. Goethe used his super human powers to achieve personal and cultural ideals, not inner purity. Emerson states that from Goethe:
"...... nothing was hid, nothing withholden. The lurking daemons sat to him, and the saint who saw the daemons; and the metaphysical elements took form. "Piety itself is no aim, but only a means whereby through purest inward peace we may attain to highest culture." And his penetration of every secret of the fine arts will make Goethe still more statuesque."
Although Goethe's life arc may have conflicted with Emerson's moral views, may not one argue that Goethe was a conduit to awaken humanity to the complexity of the Oversoul and the herald of the modern age? That Goethe could infuse culture with the greatest wisdom and still live comfortably as an influential human being is to Emerson an instance of the lower ego's ascension to power. Goethe's may have used spirit and nature to augment himself but this increase in the power of the personality may have been necessary in creating the autonomous ego that was to come to the ultimate alienation of the 20th century.
Emerson sees geniuses as usually in opposition to society and maladjusted:
"All the geniuses are usually so ill-assorted and sickly that one is ever wishing them somewhere else. We seldom see anybody who is not uneasy or afraid to live. ...." (Goethe or the Writer from Representative Men (1850) by Ralph Waldo Emerson )
"...... was entirely at home and happy in his century and the world. None was so fit to live, or more heartily enjoyed the game. In this aim of culture, which is the genius of his works, is their power."
Here is the crux of Emerson's argument:
" The idea of absolute, eternal truth, without reference to my own enlargement by it, is higher. "
What a judgment! Emerson is saying that Goethe used his access to absolute and eternal truth for his "own enlargement". But if not for this "enlargement", how would this truth penetrate the world? Cannot the complexity of the Oversoul permeate humanity through the extreme hard work of a socially healthy individual? Emerson's temperament seems to be in conflict with Goethe's life choices; he therefore recognizes Goethe's overriding genius while simultaneously claiming that "the works" elevate Goethe the individual and his culture without reaching inwardly to the "doxa" or the shining light of eternal truth. Emerson's opinion of the hero of Wilhelm Meister summarizes his opinion of Goethe:
"Goethe's hero, on the contrary, has so many weaknesses and impurities and keeps such bad company, that the sober English public, when the book was translated, were disgusted. And yet it is so crammed with wisdom, with knowledge of the world and with knowledge of laws; the persons so truly and subtly drawn, and with such few strokes, and not a word too much,- the book remains ever so new and unexhausted, that we must even let it go its way and be willing to get what good from it we can, assured that it has only begun its office and has millions of readers yet to serve."
this letter where Emerson expresses his reservations about Goethe to his
friend Carlyle who was a great admirer of Goethe.)
20 For example see John 14 where Christ's words are the glory of the Father pouring through his essential being:
"And Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus said to him, Am I so long a time with you, and you have not known Me, Philip? The one seeing Me has seen the Father! And how do you say, Show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The Words which I speak to you I do not speak from Myself, but the Father who abides in Me, He does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me; but if not, believe Me because of the works themselves."
Here Christ's word is"....one with what it tells of..."
21 Sometimes the increasing force of Emerson's sentences (auxesis) within a paragraph overshoots the mark and lands upon an hyperbole; although this may only be an hyperbole to the abstract, rational mind which borrows only a portion of the light of the Oversoul rather than "imbibing the common heart" of humanity like the great writers and poets. All wisdom does not reside in the intellect alone. The Oversoul must permeate the entire thinking, feeling, and willing of the human being. Great poets cannot produce works that surpass the spiritual glory of any individual human being. But from this can we conclude:
" The great poet makes us feel our own wealth, and then we think less of his compositions. His best communication to our mind is to teach us to despise all he has done."
Emerson's exaggerations shock our thinking. If Shakespeare's best communications teach us to despise his entire body of work then we will also despise the meager products of our own industry and most likely all the works of the world. If I feel my "own wealth" then I love the Oversoul and the spirit of the world and humanity and hence I love the works of Shakespeare.
Emerson's hyperbole forces the rational mind to dismiss the statement or to embrace a paradox. By embracing the paradox we transcend ordinary logical modes of thought. The hyperbole forces a change of consciousness in the reader. Despising or hating may be necessary in uncovering the Oversoul within. If we locate Shakespeare's genius as a force outside of ourselves we then denigrate the power of our own soul when we engage a work of genius. Our recognition of Shakespeare's genius requires that we have the same soul powers within ourselves by necessity or else we would never be receptive to these works. Our inner being completes the works. Imagination creates the images and concepts which gives life to this art. The work is a joint enterprise between the writer and the reader.
So if we learn to think think less of Shakespeare's "compositions" we learn to love more the works of art that are brought to life by our participation in those compositions. We "despise" the one sided relationship where we denigrate ourselves in relation to the great works. We despise limitations placed on our consciousness. Christ's words in John reiterate the paradox of the needing hate to achieve an ascension of state:
"He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.(John 12:25)"
"Hate" doesn't necessarily mean a virulent emotional
response that overwhelms the soul. "Hate" may be simply a natural
antipathy to a stagnant, unchanging existence and a desire not to cling to present
forms but to accept increasing changes of consciousness that transition smoothly
to future states of being including death.
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