to find the truth of the world.
Emerson’s articles were the best sources in the study for understanding his philosophy. Most of the articles were included in two books, Essays, First Series and Essays: Second Series. Among the essays “The Over-Soul”, “Self-reliance”, “Nature”, and “Compensation” contained information more about the three concepts under study in this dissertation. Actually, most of the quotations are chosen from these articles.
The researcher studied many articles, but they were not helpful, although their topics showed similarity but very few articles on Emerson contained useful arguments about his philosophy, especially mystical views. Some of them like “Mr. Emerson and Transcendentalism”(2006) by William Batchelder Greene and “Emerson and Mysticism”(2004) written by Patrick F. Queen evaluated his ideas under the influence of Transcendentalism and Persian mysticism.
One of the books Master plots in eight volumes prepared explanations and analyses of many poems including Emerson’s by many different critics. The volumes provided the analysis of some of the poems of Emerson in this study.
The researcher found some relations between the writings of William Blake and Emerson. A dissertation entitled “William Blake’s American legacy: transcendentalism and visionary poetics in Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman” by Clare Frances Elliott explored the influence of William Blake on the American thinkers like Emerson and Whitman. It encouraged the researcher to study the similarities among these three artists as all of them wrote visionary poetry. The realm of “Visionary Art” considers the exploration of the truth of the world through individual understanding of every person. This view resembles Emerson’s notion of individuality as he believes the universal truth of the world should be explored through individual power of each person. Even it should be considered that the visionary artists look into the truth of the world through their intuition. In chapter three and four of this study there are some references to the poems of the visionary poets like Blake.
Emerson’s poems are selected from the book Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Poems (2004) that is published by the website “poemhunter.com” and the poem “Unity” also got from the same website are both primary sources of this thesis. The poems presented in chapter three and four include “Unity”, “The Sphinx”, “Brahma”, “Xenophanes”, “Woodnotes I, II”, “The World-Soul”, and “Each and all” that reflect Emerson’s notions of ‘unity’, ‘individuality’ and ‘microcosm’.
۱.۵ Material and Approach
Some notions and doctrines of Emerson have been used through this thesis which chapter two is devoted to defining them. Furthermore, the reason of choosing the concepts for the study will be presented.
In this study three concepts ‘unity’, ‘individuality’ and ‘microcosm’ are chosen from Emerson’s philosophy. The mentioned notions will be defined thoroughly in chapter two according to Emerson’s ideas. Then, in chapter three and four the notions are shown in the selected poems. The researcher tries to display the main idea of this dissertation through the three notions that is the united spirit of the world which is the true identity of everything. Although the concepts ‘individuality’ and ‘microcosm’ speak about the power of individual person to find the truth of the universe and also the presence of the universal soul in each creature but the researcher tries to reveal other idea through these two concepts and also the notion of ‘unity’. She finds the essence of this dissertation in the three concepts as it is shown in the poems that the united soul of the world is the real truth of everything. Consequently, the study reveals the main idea of the research through some of Emerson’s poems.
۱.۶. Thesis Outline
This thesis is conducted in five chapters to deal with some of Emerson poems in terms of Emerson’s notion of ‘unity’, ‘individuality’ and ‘microcosm’.
The first chapter under the title of Introduction gives a brief account of Emerson’s biography, and then it presents “Hypothesis”, “Significance of the Study”, “Purpose of the Study”, and “Research Questions”. It is followed by introducing literature and studies used in this thesis under the title of “Review of Literature”. Finally, “Material and Methodology” deals with the definition of key terms and notions which is followed by “Motivation and Delimitation”.
The second chapter entitled Emerson’s Philosophy is divided into three sections. The three selected concepts are thoroughly discussed in each part of this chapter.
The third chapter yields an analysis of the poems in terms of Emerson’s concept of “unity”. The notion draws a new image of man and the living beings in the world for the reader. Consequently, he is able to find a new identity for everything and also man and a broader and better view of life.
The fourth chapter analyzes the same poems by applying the other two notions ‘individuality’ and ‘microcosm’. The poems illustrate that each person should investigate the reality of the universe individually. Also, some poems reveal the presence of the universal soul in each entity. Man while learns that he can find the meaning of the universe through his personal relation to the eternal reality of the world and also in himself, he will make a new identity for himself that brings calmness and enriches his understanding. Furthermore, to know that the sum of the world is present in each substance makes everything sacred to human and he will be more eager to know himself and other creatures as the entities that contain the whole soul of the world inside.
The fifth chapter, entitled “Conclusion” gives a short summary of five chapters. It is followed by findings which are the answers to the raised questions of this thesis and also the foundations of the researches of this thesis. Then it suggests further ideas for future researchers.
۱.۵.۱. Definition of Key Terms
There are some Emersonian philosophical terms and other notions which have been used in this thesis frequently. Although in chapter two, they have been explained, a brief definition of them is given in the following section. The terms are “unity”, “individuality”, “microcosm”, “the Over-Soul”, “understanding and reason”, “duality and unity”.
Individuality: At first it should be mentioned that Emerson believes that ‘the Over-Soul’ is the truth of the world as it is the real essence of everything in the universe. Emerson holds that everyone should understand the truth of the world individually, but this knowledge is attainable through the relation of every individual with ‘the Over-Soul’. Actually, everyone should trust himself and through the relation with the “universal soul” or ‘the Over-soul’ understand the truth of the existence individually. He states that “the conscience of each man is to him the moral standard” (Collected Work I, 320). Actually, everyone should trust himself and through the relation with the “universal soul” understand the truth of the world individually. The eminent critic Lawrence Buell, in his book Emerson, recites Emerson’s words in his essay “Self-reliance” to emphasize the importance of the human self in understanding the truth of the world and the presence of ‘the Over-Soul’ in everything especially human mind: “nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind” (43). The same idea is reflected in the essay “Self-reliance” in other words: “Believe in your own thought; trust yourself” (Essays 30). Also he writes: “Your genuine action will explain itself and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing”. This is clearly a call for individuality in men that he asks his readers to try in their life. “No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature” (30). Finally, it is very important to mention that by ind
ividual understanding he doesn’t mean the egotistical and selfish character of each person but he wants to show the subjectivity of vision. In fact, he asks each person to find the truth of the world individually but through relation with ‘the Over-Soul’.
Microcosm: One of Emerson’s notions is ‘microcosm’ through which he reveals the presence of the ‘universal soul’ in each entity and also in man. He shows that everything is complete and contains the reality of the world, ‘the Over-Soul’. He states in “The Self-Reliance” that ‘the Over-Soul’ is in everything: … each particle is a microcosm and faithfully renders the likeness of the world” (Essays 139). Also, Emerson reveals the existence of the universal Soul in human being in another essay “Compensation”: “The intuition of the moral nature, the overwhelming sense of God as no external power, but an immanent presence, in the universe and in ourselves” (Essays 54).
Reason and Understanding: Emerson was touched by some figures that shaped many of his ideas. The philosopher Emanuel Kant was directly influential in Emerson’s writings. In the theory of the two kinds of knowledge, “Understanding and Reason”, Emerson followed Kant that believed if everyone knows the world through his intuition or “understanding” he will find the experiences as they are but if he uses his sense to explore the world, he can understand the universe as it seems. Likewise, Emerson believed to Kant’s doctrine of knowledge, but he used different words for defining his own meaning. Emerson used the words “understanding” instead of sense and “reason” instead of understanding. In the essay “The Transcendentalist” Emerson explained that if someone knows the world by his understanding he considers the appearance of things but if he studies the world through his reason he uses his conscious and he will see the nature has behind itself a meaning”(Collected Works II,145). The person that understands the world through his reason is led to the world of intuition and finds the truth behind the surface, the universal truth and the unity throughout the world.
Unity: Emerson speaks of unity many times in his writings. He emphasizes the wholeness among all the essences in the world. To Emerson all dualities and multiple things have the same essence. He names this essence ‘the Over-soul’. Moreover, He believes that there is an interrelation among all the substances of the world and each one is related to this whole soul in the universe. Also he maintains that man, God and nature are one truth that is the “Over-soul”. This united spirit contains and overpower everything in the world.
The Over-Soul: It is an Emersonian notion that refers to the universal soul of the world. It is the united spirit that encompasses and rules everything. He also refers to it as the “universal soul” and “the One”. According to Emerson man, God and nature are one reality that is named ‘the Over-soul’. Emerson defines ‘the Over-soul’ in the essay “History” as “one mind common to all individual men” (Essays 20). ‘The Over-Soul’ is a “flowing river, which pours for a season