its streams into me,” the “Unity . . . within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other; that common heart . . . that overpowering reality”(Collected Works 139 ). Nature is but the physical manifestation of the universal force, ‘the Over-Soul’. Consequently, it should be noted that ‘the Over-soul’ is the real essence of everything and also the power that contains and overpower everything in the world.
To believe your own thought … – that is genius. Trust thyself: every
Heart Vibrates to that iron string whose would be a man must be
Nonconformist Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then?
…..live ever in a new day.
“Self-Reliance” (Collected Works 2:27)
This Chapter provides the methodology of the dissertation. As it was explained in chapter one, chapter two gives an elaboration on the three concepts that are selected from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s philosophy. The first part deals with the notion “unity” and it is followed by the second and last section ‘individuality’ and ‘microcosm’. In each section the concepts are fully explained and elaborated on according to the ideas of Emerson.
۲.۲. Emerson’s philosophy
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American essayist, philosopher and poet was an important figure in America and also in the world. He was under the influence of many Western and Eastern philosophies such as Transcendentalism, Hinduism, Persian Mysticism or Sufism and also some important figures like, Samuel Tailor Coleridge, William Wordsworth and Emanuel Swedenborg. He was also the leading spokesperson of the transcendental movement in America.
The term “Transcendentalism” was first introduced by German philosopher Immanuel Kant and was published in his Critique of Practical Reason. He applies the term to any aspect of the spiritual or nonmaterial world of experience (Wayne, The Encyclopedia of Transcendentalism 161), while American Transcendentalism that Emerson followed and developed began as a crisis of faith and as a reaction against Boston Unitarianism (Wayne, Encyclopedia of Transcendentalism 65).
In exploring the role of the individual, Transcendentalism rejected the need for biblical Christianity, replacing belief in God of the Bible with the divinity of humanity. It looked to individual intuition rather than the scientific rationalism as the ultimate source of knowledge, but indeed, it is the belief in a higher knowledge than achieved by human reason. It maintains the goodness of humanity, the glories of nature, and the importance of free individual expression. This school also holds that material objects do not have any real existence of their own; rather, they are diffused aspects of God, ‘the Over-Soul’ (66). As transcendentalists were interested in “Idealism”, they defended “Orthodox Unitarians” by locating religious authority in human nature which, like Plato, they believed to be higher than the Bible or the person of Christ. Indeed, they emphasized exploring the truth of the world through individual power of each person, the intuition of the moral nature, the overwhelming sense of God as no external power but an immanent presence in the universe and in human being (65).
Emerson, as an American intellectual and author, helped the development of Transcendentalism. He offered a simple definition of Transcendentalism as “Idealism” as it appeared in 1842 and an emphasis on the power of inspiration and on individual culture (65). It involves man’s interaction with nature, and the idea that man belongs to one universal and benign omnipresent power known as ‘the Over-Soul’ (66). In one of his essays, “Nature”, he has depicted his theory of Transcendentalism and also his personal view of nature.
In addition to “Transcendentalism”, Emerson studied other philosophies like “Persian Mysticism”, “German Romanticism”, “Buddhism”, “Hinduism” and other philosophies. He also followed the writings of the thinkers Swedenborg, Wordsworth, Colleridge and more figures.
۲.۲.۲. Unity in Emerson’s Philosophy
The days of days, the great day of the teast of life,
is that in which the inward eye opens to the unity
in things, to the omnipresence of law… this beatitude
is not in us so much as we are in it (Essays 140).
Unity in existence is Emerson’s transcendentalist and somehow idealist philosophy that is reflected in his essay “The Over-Soul” (1841). Human’s mind finds unity through variety that is present in the world; it looks for one that shall be all. Thus, it can be said that the relationship between ‘unity and variety’ is the law of nature and it is also the law of philosophy. Emerson explores the essence which is the first cause, the soul that contains all in itself. He asks everyone to understand this universal soul through his intuition power. This idea leads to the universal unity that Emerson believes to be the supreme power of the world, ‘the Over-Soul’.
Emerson believes that this universal power contains everything, so each person feels united with all creatures in the world:
That great nature in which we rest … that Unity, that Over-soul, within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other … 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 ONE” (Collected Works 4:139).
Tiffany Wayne in his book, Critical Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson, recites Emerson’s words to explain what he means by ‘the Over-soul’: “The universal soul which is not an organ, but animates and exercises all organs … is not a faculty, but a light; is not the intellect or the will, but the master of the intellect and will (5). Also, in the essay “Transcendentalism”, Emerson asserts that ‘the Over-Soul’ is the divine spirit or mind that is present in every man and in all of nature. It is an all-pervading, omnipresent, supreme mind; a kind of cosmic unity among man, God, and nature (Complete works 304). This united spirit has double nature; ‘matter’ and ‘thought’. ‘Matter’ that is the material world affords man types on picture to express ‘thought’ and it is in fact the projection of ‘thought’. Consequently, it is phenomenal that is nothing by itself but its reality is in the divine’s mind (Sharma 54). To add more, it should be considered that according to Emerson, man except his body is also the divine’s mind. Finally, he considers ‘the Over-Soul’ instead of God as the power that rules the world and embraces it; the universal soul that contains within God, nature and man.
In his speech at Harvard (1834) he wants the scholar to be a symbol of unity. He addresses the teachers and advises them to teach in a way that helps the students to have a deeper view to life. Consequently, they will find this unity:
In whatever you teach, arouse the sense of wonder and reverence for the deeper causes of life. Then indeed facts will become eloquent and transparent; they will become transformed into energy, instead of remaining mere data. This energy will force the student to connect and to compare whatever he perceives; he will not only relate facts to each other horizontally but will discover that everything in the world is related to a deeper dimension, until he finally arrives at the realization of laws whi
ch permeate the universe. These laws will tell him that there is an order behind the flight of appearance, a principle within the transient, and he will see that he himself, as body and as mind, is a part of this cosmos. (Collected Works 64)
Emerson expresses his ideas regarding teaching and asks teachers to educate students in a way that stir a sense of wonder to explore the hidden truth of the world, the reality that is behind the surface of the things in the world. This investigation leads to understanding the interrelation that is present between the particles in the world. It also brings this knowledge that there is a power as the source of everything in the universe and man himself is part of this force.
Emerson sees the unity in everything in the world. This view is not limited to something special but it contains every essence in the world. In essay, “Compensation”, Emerson asserts that the soul and heart of all men are one. He adds that there is large numbers of various forms of art, but all speak of one thing. So in every part of his writings he speaks about this spirit of unity everywhere. Emerson declares in “The American Scholar” that one must investigate in things, first individually, and then connect these apparently-quite-various things to each other in the direction of unity (Complete Works 4:95). He asserts in the essay “Compensation” that unity not only is to be found in the analogous things but also among the objects that are not alike. The river, as it flows, resembles the air that flows over it and the laws of harmonic sound reappear in harmonic colors (Essays 275).In the same essay he gives some examples that shows the existence of unity not only in objects, but also in actions and generally in every essence: “The wise man, in doing one thing, does all; or, in the one thing he does rightly, he sees the likeness of all which is done rightly”(Complete Essays and Other Writings of Emerson 25).
As Emerson believes that there is unity among everything, he believes that man is united with other things. He asserts that there is a congruity which subsists between man and the world of which he is lord, not because he is the most subtle inhabitant, but because he is its head and heart, and find something of himself in every great and small thing (Collected Works 3:542).
Plato, instead of a supreme creator or god, focused on humanity and the individual in the material and spiritual world. He believed in using intuition to understand everyone’s self and the world (Payne 100). In fact Plato was one of the earliest philosophers who developed a theory of Idealism1 and his ideas introduced a new outlook for human beings to know the universe. The influence of Plato is clearly seen on Emerson’s writings. In the essay “Nature”, Emerson puts emphasis on living in the world of eternity, of the love of beauty and goodness and in a conviction of the universal superiority and truth (Essays 273). Hence, in this way he becomes an absolute idealist like Plato. In other words, Plato shaped Emerson’s idea of unity.
According to Emerson, ideas, forms and laws which he calls ‘spirit’ is prior to physical, phenomenal and material entity which he entitles ‘nature’ (Sharma 220). In the first section of his book, Nature, Emerson provides the