The essay, “Nature,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, is biblical in its transcendental scope. “Nature” espouses numerous grand philosophical ideas in its narrative, however the theme is simple, self-awareness, and consciousness, via unity with nature. The essay begins with, and ends with mankind’s lack of gratitude for the awesomeness that is nature and consciousness. Being in awareness of its majesty as the stars in the sky, “. . . If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would man believe and adore. . .” The transparent eyeball, becoming one with nature, the observer is the observed. Nature is a reflection of man’s consciousness.
“Nature,” pretty much sums up, and speaks to my spiritual beliefs, many of the philosophies, and concepts therein are known to me. Emerson eloquently illustrates that nature offers a key to self-awareness, to consciousness, and unity with the oneness, or god.
In this series I am going to explore with you this seminal “Transcendentalist” work. Let’s eat dessert first. In other words I am starting on the last chapter.
By: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Chapter 8 Prospects
As stated above, “Nature” opens and ends with the idea that mankind takes nature for granted. Let us note that “nature” represents everything, the oneness, and not literally nature, although it is used allegorically. In this chapter as Emerson explores the prospects of his thought, he takes his aim at Science, ” Empirical science is apt to cloud the sight, and, by the very knowledge of functions and processes, to bereave the student of the manly contemplation of the whole.” Emerson ascertains that to know quantifiable facts will not lead man to truth of existence, “. . . that a dream may let us deeper into the secret of nature than a hundred concerted experiments.”
An excerpt from the poem, “Man” by George Herbert, is used to make a point here. For space sake I have linked the entire poem but, Emerson starts with, “Man is all symmetry,” I am including the next to last stanza:
More servants wait on man
Than he’ll take notice of; in ev’ry path
He treads down that which doth befriend him,
When sickness makes him pale and wan.
Oh mighty love! Man is one world, and hath
Another to attend him.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In this regard Emerson quotes Plato, (which is actually Aristotle…oops Ralph) “poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history.” That poetry an artistic reflection of nature brings one closer to oneness than facts. Then Emerson quotes himself, but hey, it’s good, “The foundations of man are not in matter but in spirit . . . But who can set limits to the remedial force of spirit?” What follows is my favorite quote, “A man is a god in ruins.” In unity with nature, will all of creation, when we merge our consciousness in the stillness of the moment we are gods, however in a state of amnesia, a state of distraction, and immersion in the material we lose our creative force.
In concluding the book and homogenizing his philosophy, Emerson take man to task for his disregard, “The ruin or the blank that we see when we look at nature, is in our own eye,” we see a reflection of our inner perceptions. “The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken, and in heaps, is because man is disunited with himself.”
Offering a solution, Emerson suggest, “It will not need when the mind is prepared for study, to search for objects. The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” It is there for us to see if we are aware observers.
In the final paragraph, Emerson ask, “So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes? It shall answer the endless inquiry of the intellect-, What is truth? and of the affections,-What is good? by yielding itself passive to the educated Will.”
We mankind are not merely of the world, and nature, we are the world and nature. As I read the essay, I kept hearing, “Man know thyself,” and that I believe was the crux of his Transcendent idea, when in the moment, conscious awareness in the Absolute oneness. . . we are mighty creators.