Self Reliance-Waldo Ralph Emerson Essay, Research Paper
In his Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson writes of the over-soul , the belief that mankind is united through very similar beliefs through this over-soul . Our instinctive actions in making moral choices are all part of this over-soul. This over-soul exists universally among men and is the basis of deriving the basic laws of government. The idea of the over-soul is evident in and greatly influences religion and faith. It is seen in the inherent morals of all men, therefore there is truth to the existence of the over-soul.Emerson writes of the over-soul; that Unity, that Over-soul, within which every man s particular being is contained and made one with all other; that common heart, of which all sincere conversation is the worship, to which all right action is submission; that overpowering reality which confutes our tricks and talents, and constrains every one to pass for what he is, and to speak from his character, and not from his tongue, and which evermore tends to pass into our thought and hand, and become wisdom, and virtue, and power, and beauty (52). With this, Emerson says that the common instinct instilled in man lets him see the truth for himself. This reality found from the shared over-soul, is the purest form of truth. All men have this ability to perceive the truth; we are unified and united with a common knowledge of goodness. Man s instinctive actions in making moral choices are all part of the over-soul. Man can perceive that which is ultimately good, only if he looks past the set laws and dogmas of the majority. It is true that all men have certain inherent morals. These morals that uniquely define man, are what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. This human characteristic to distinguish between what is morally right from wrong is evident in every individual and constitutes a unifying all embodying entity , the over-soul. Along with our natural instincts as animals, we are given the ability to choose whether we will submit to our animal urges or follow the true path of the over-soul. The over-soul exists universally among men and is the basis of deriving the basic laws of government. Emerson writes, Justice we see and know, Love, Freedom, Power. These natures no man ever got above, but they tower over us, and most in the moment when our interests tempt us to wound them (53). Through the over-soul, the importance of the ideals of justice, love, freedom, and power, can be seen. The general laws in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, concerning the justice and freedom of men, all carry hints of moral, or nearly religious attributes. There are many similar laws in other free countries that carry the nearly the same intent and purpose as our laws of freedom and justice. The hints of morally and spiritually derived laws of the United States are justifiable, due to the amiable and pious characters of its drafters, the founding fathers of this country. These men were unquestionably of good moral values, seeing truth in the idea that all men deserved freedom and justice. Their desire to oppose that which forcibly limited their freedom was greatly influenced by the over-soul. They embodied these truths into the laws and rights formulated in our government.The idea of the over-soul is evident in, and greatly influences religion and faith. Emerson writes, there is no screen or ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens, so there is no bar or wall in the soul where man, the effect, ceases, and God, the cause, begins (53). Emerson believed that God was forever influencing, but not forcing, man to do what is right. Constantly mentioning God in his writings, Emerson s beliefs were greatly influenced by religion. The ability to see what is true is always present; one must only look hard enough to see the truth. Emerson s over-soul, is this constant truth that remains with man, and is always available to him if he seeks it, just as God remains with us and available if sought.Trusting oneself and relying on oneself for the answers are the main points of Emerson s Self-Reliance. He writes, And this deep power in which we exist, and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one (52). The deep power of which he speaks of, is the over-soul that remains with us. The over-soul will always remain a part of us, or yet, we will remain part of it at all times.
His idea that the over-soul can exist without being seen shares many aspects with Emerson s spiritual beliefs. Emerson writes of the over-soul being the influence of God. He mentions many times in his writings, God, another entity which can not be seen by but obviously very real to Emerson. In many faiths and religions, there are numerous ideas of the existence of invisible, yet still influential, entities. Some of these figures, for example, are the various respectable gods of different cultures, angels, demons, spirits, and ghosts. It can be argued that the ideas of what are considered or categorized as good or bad are too vague and ambiguous, yet Emerson believed that by looking to oneself for what was true, one could distinguish between good and bad . This ability to believe ones feelings other than what the majority believed, was greatly supported, admired, and encouraged by Emerson. Even though the over-soul can not be seen as a physical object, this does not mean it can not exist. Emerson writes, Of this pure nature every man is at some time sensible. Language cannot paint it with his colors. It is too subtile. It is undefinable, unmeasurable, but we know that it pervades and contains us. We know that all spiritual being is in man (53). He admits that the over-soul can not be defined nor measured, but even with this, Emerson stands firm in his belief that man is still affected by it.Emerson believed that by looking to oneself for the answers, even if it meant going against public belief, government laws, and rationality, one would find the truest answer. It was very important to Emerson to stick to these self-realized true answers and oppose anything that would want to steer one away from these beliefs.Emerson writes, To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,-that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost (19). With these sentences, Emerson believed that all men should express their innermost ideas believed to be true. If these views were genuine, then these truths would eventually also be seen as true to others. In essence, Emerson is saying that people will listen to you if you strongly speak out for what you believe to be true.On the over-soul s autonomous existence Emerson writes, The sovereignty of this nature whereof we speak is made known by its independency of those limitations which circumscribe us on every hand (53). With this, Emerson explains how the over-soul exists independent of us, yet we are dependent upon it. The over-soul will remain strong and powerful and the same, no matter what we does. The over-soul can change us in many ways, while it remains the same. The soul circumscribes all things (53). We are never away from the influence of the over-soul. It remains as an invisible shroud forever affecting our daily lives. Found truly inherent in man and an unperturbed constant force, Ralph Waldo Emerson s over-soul exists unseen and undefined. From being the basis of laws of the United States government, to its evidence in religious faith, the over-soul is clearly something that is real and definite. Our instinctive actions in making moral choices are all part of this over-soul. It is seen in the inherent morals of all men, therefore there is truth to the existence of the over-soul.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Self-Reliance and Other Essays. Ed. Stanley Applebaum. Canada: General Publishing company Ltd, 1993.