Emerson’s approach to universal spirituality offers a mystical truth that is beyond the understanding of the ordinary. When defining what that spirit is, it pervades through nature and our comprehension fails us to understand it, nonetheless there are still those that still consider that nature has spiritual properties. Consequently, our awareness of nature’s spirit could only be minimal or even frivolous, this disregard doesn’t diminish the influence or the credit of the mystery.
He focuses on three simple questions or in Emerson’s case three problems. “what is matter? Whence is it? and Whereto?” (Pg. 237). In the first question (what is matter?), Emerson goes about answering this using the philosophy of idealism, matter is an anomaly and not a physical object. Nature is an experience and just as our world is diverse our experiences must be unique to us. Nonetheless, given Emerson’s earlier statements in regard to us bring it upon nature to be molded in our image, Emerson acknowledges that nature is imbued by the human emotions that we bestow upon it. Amusingly, this conclusion means that nature as an object itself and ultimately remains estranged to us.
Now on to the other two questions, (Whence is it? and Whereto?), Emerson proclaims that nature’s dynamic spirit conveys itself through human beings. The most accurate principle is that a universal essence lives in us all and everything around us. This essence, or spirit for a better term, acts as the “joie de vivre” or vital force behind the endless creation that lives around us. It forms the harmony and fellowship between nature, spirit, and humanity.
Yet, we the readers can think of Emerson’s “word to the wise” in the introduction, “we are now so far from the road to the truth.” (Pg. 215). The asymmetry that drives us apart from nature, this idea is the point that he was actually advising us about. He brought it up to our attention giving us a new look on how we fit into the bigger picture.
- Emerson, Ralph W.” Nature”. 1836.
- Bayum, Nina, and Robert S Levine, editors. The Norton Anthology of American Literature: 1820-1865. 8th ed., B, W.W Norton & Company Inc, 2012. pg.215, 237-238. Pdf