Emerson

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narrow-minded insistence on one’s own personality or mere intellectual selfishness. He believes that individuality must become subservient to or at least expressed through the universal soul of the world or ‘the Over-Soul’. Indeed, Emerson’s praise for individual was based on this belief that there was an integral connection between God, man, and nature. Actually, the human is capable of much insight, morality and imagination, all of which are originated from his intimate relationship to a higher entity than him, ‘the Over-Soul’ (Payne 100). Payne explains that according to Emerson ‘the Over-Soul’ manifests itself in individual acts of intuition and in the spontaneity of life and consciousness (114). In deed, it is the larger experience of man, which as Tiffany Wayne recites of Emerson, is “the identical nature appearing through all” (qtd. in Wayne, Critical companion to Emerson 207). In fact, he maintains that everyone should try to know the truth of the world individually but this knowledge comes from the relation with a higher power.
In order to make a relation with the higher power of the world man should accept ‘self-reliance’ in order to be able to understand the truth of the world intuitively. Emerson confirms that we must not “imitate any being”, but rather cultivate that self-reliance which grows out of the scripture doctrine of the value of the soul” (qtd. in Myerson 76). He is quite in agreement with Sufis in saying that “through the source of self-reliance, man is led at once to the truth of the world” (Ekhtiar 56).He believes that when someone trusts himself, he will be directly led to the essence of genius and of virtue, to primary wisdom or intuition. In an early entry in his journals, he says “Make your own Bible” (Collected Works, 3:235).When he speaks about ‘self-reliance’ he doesn’t mean egotism and selfishness. As Lawrence Buell writes : “Emerson uses “I” to acknowledge, indeed proclaim, subjectivity of vision but offer the “I” as exemplary of any person’s capability”(77).In fact, when he speaks about individuality he refers not to one’s lower, materialistic, egotistical self, but to one’s higher principled, moral self. He declares that we must not “distrust” ourselves but instead must “value our own souls” (Collected Works, 2:263). He makes a distinction between “private will” and “divine will”. Private will is related to the “Willingness” or selfish part of everyone’s character but divine will is the eternal tendency to the good of the whole which is active in every atom and every moment (Bosco and Myerson 100).
As it was explained Emerson was affected from the ideas of the German philosopher, Emanuel Kant. Mansour Ekhtiar states that the root of some of Emerson’s ideas comes from that of Kant. Kant made a distinction between two kinds of experiences: the world of sense and that of understanding. He believed that understanding revealed everything through intuition as they were, but sensory experience showed things as they appeared (157). In his Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Practical Reason, Kant declares that some aspects of knowledge like God and morality could be understood intuitively, what he believes to be obtained through that kind of experience that he names ‘understanding’. Similarly, Emerson believes that everyone should use his intuition to make a relation with ‘the Over-Soul’. He writes in “Self-Reliance”:
The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-reliance … what is the aboriginal self on which a universal reliance may be grounded? What is the nature and power of that science-baffling star, without parallax, without calculable elements, which shoots a ray of beauty even into trivial and impure actions; if the least mark of independence appear? The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue and of life, which we call spontaneity or instinct. We denote this primary wisdom as intuition…In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go; all things find their common origin (Complete works 4:155).
As Emerson believed that the truth of the world would be understood intuitively, so everyone needs self-trust and they should rely on their own understanding of the truth. Emerson brings some reasons to encourage the reader to accept the influence of self-reliance and intuition. In a Journal in 1825, Emerson writes: “the ancient doctrine that a human is but a larger or less emanation from the infinite soul is so agreeable to man’s imagination that it has always been a cherished part of popular belief, “man is but the poor organ through which the breath of him is blown; A torch not lighted for itself (Collected works 2:53).It is the organ through which the universal spirit makes a relation to the individual and tries to take him back.
The idea of individuality is to be found in the ideas of William Blake and generally the visionary poets. The influence of European Romantic writers, like William Blake, is very obvious in the writings of Emerson. Blake’s writings revealed an idiosyncratic mysticism arising from his individual perception of religious subjects. Also, it should be mentioned that he is involved in the artists of the ‘Visionary Art’.
‘Visionary art’ transcends the physical and portrays a wider vision including spiritual and mystical theme. This kind of art is to be known through subjective realm of each individual. It is also worth mentioning that all of the visionary artists use their unconventionally psychic imagination. Joseph Nechvatal, the famous artist of this realm of art, explains that everyone should use the intuitive inner eye to reach to a visionary realm that embraces the entire spectrum of imaginary spaces, from infinitude of forms to formless voids. William Blake calls it ‘divine imagination’, and Sufis ‘alam al-mithal’. Plato also, believes it to be the ‘realm of archetypes’ (Blake and Visionary Art). Percy Bysshe Shelley in his essay “A Defense of Poetry”, also argues that poetry is created in or immediately after the moments of visionary ascent that is understood intuitively of the eternal that is the perfect, non-physical world. He strives to show that poetry is the rendering of such intangible moments in words and images (45).Thus, Emerson, in his usage of the individual power and intuition resembles the visionary artists like Blake since he looks for the .
As mentioned, Emerson like Blake believed in an individual understanding of the religion and the universe. They both resisted established institutions of religion like Christianity, to emphasize more on experiences accessible through the subjective realm of each individual. As Will Stone declares, Blake’s religious philosophy is a call for each individual to recognize the potential of their own creativity and imagination (72). One of the features of Blake’s visionary poetry is the exploration of the same essence of everything in the world (qtd. in Sharma72). That essence is hidden behind the appearances and appearances can be deceiving. It is common between Emerson and Blake that they both understand the reality of the objects not through the senses, but through the intuition. Emerson is in search of unity in universe. He believes that everyone through his intuition should find the truth of the world individually. In fact he will obey his own rule through relation with the soul of the whole or ‘the Over-Soul’. Emerson envisioned true religion as a personal underestanding rather than an institutional connection with the divine like Christianity or any religion. The wise man, Emerson felt, is his own court and creates his own party, and he seeks a direct contact with God (Sharma 393).
Now and then, Emerson asserts that everything realized by each individual is the truth that is understandable by all people. He puts emphasis on the unity of all creatures to explain what each individual understands through the relation with the universal truth of the world. He finds ‘the universal soul’ as the essence of everything and consequently as the real identity of everything that is explored through individual power of every person.
۲.۲ Microcosm in Emerson’s Philosophy
A leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the
whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole. Each
particle
is a Microcosm and faithfully renders the likeness of the world
(Nature).
Emerson believes that ‘the universal soul’ is present in every creature, and also human. In the essay “Compensation” he points to the presence of ‘the universal soul’ in each object: “We can never surprise nature in a corner, never tell where to set the first stone; … the wholeness we admire in order of the world is the result of infinite distribution. Every natural fact is an “emanation” and that from which it emanates is an emanation also, and from every emanation is a new emanation (Essays 51). As Wayne explains, Emerson here reveals that every object is an emanation of ‘the universal soul’ of the world, even the tiniest object.
It is worth mentioning that in this notion of microcosm Emerson was under the influence of William Ellery Channing (1780-1842), one of early Unitarian ministers that rejected the harsh, unforgiving congregational Calvinism and preached a form of religion which is more humanistic and emotionally expressive. Marshal Walkers in his book The Literature of the United States wrote that Channing made God and the human intelligence similar. He opposed the traditional way of worshiping God: “God is another name for human intelligence raised above all error and imperfection, and extended to all possible truth … we see God around us, because he dwells within us (57).Emerson developed some lectures in favor of Unitarian beliefs. Moreover, like Channing, he introduced a new definition of God and rejected the established religions like Christianity to provide a new approach toward God. For Emerson, God exists in every creature. He opposed conformity to traditional religion or Christianity and argued against the dependence on the thought of the past. In his essay “The American Scholar”, He made his audiences aware not to give up their freedom as individuals to the established customs and restricting beliefs. In other words, Emerson made his own religious doctrine to highlight the individual power and the existence of the truth within each creature in the universe.
In addition to Channing, Emerson’s strong belief in the existence of the true essence of the universe inside each object has also been reinforced by another thinker, Plato. Emerson considers God as what exists inside. In “The Over-Soul”, the Christian God is replaced by the platonic concept, an all-including primal spirit that both contains man and is to be found within him; that is “the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE” (Essays 139).
The replaced God as Emerson

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