Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay, Research Paper
Americas Transcendental Voice
Ralph Waldo Emerson was one of the true fathers of transcendentalism in America. He was said to be the founding member of the smallest church. The congregation included only himself, and his church waited on the world to see his views as the truth. Emerson’s beliefs were greatly influenced by friends he met in Europe and the romantic movement of the time. Transcendentalists of the time did not believe in miracles, they thought everything had a common sense answer. They believed that the mind was not just a blank slate to be filled only with what we can perceive through our senses, but something which was capable of intuition and imagination. Emerson believed that God along with great peace and serenity could be found in nature. This essay will trace how Emerson’s transcendental beliefs are reflected in Nature. This essay will also follow Emersion’s appreciation of nature, his transcendental quest to find truths that were beyond the reach of man’s limited senses.
In his first chapter entitled Nature Emerson writes “To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society.”(615) This reflects his feelings towards society and how it must be left behind to truly find God. Later in this chapter he marvels over how God Had made the atmosphere in such a way that we can see the rest of the universe, God’s almighty handiwork. Emerson ponders just what the future generations of people will still appreciate the city of stars God has provided. In Nature Emerson also expresses his love and admiration for the poet when he writes how a woodcutter sees a tree as a stick of timber where the poet sees it for what it is, a tree. Also in this first chapter Emerson expresses his transcendental belief that children are closer to God when he writes, “The sun illuminates only the eye of a man, but shines into the eye and the heart of a child.”(616). From this first chapter we can tell that Emerson had an almost insatiable love of nature, he believed that god was all around us, in our fields, our forests, and our rivers.
The second chapter of Nature is entitled Commodity. In Commodity Emerson is ranking all the advantages which our senses owe to nature. He describes them as a temporary benefit and not ultimate like the service to the soul.(617) Emerson asks, “What angles invented these splendid ornaments, these rich conveniences, this ocean or air above, this ocean of water beneath.”(617) His question is answered by his later writings in Commodity where he discusses his belief that nature is a ministry to man and all the parts or nature work into each others hands for the profit of man. Emerson concludes Commodity with the phrase, “a man is fed, not that he may be fed, but that he may work.” This statement summarizes Commodity and the perseverance involved in attaining his transcendental goal of peace in nature.
Beauty is the third and longest chapter in Nature. In this chapter Emerson
expresses his love on all things natural. The first sentence in this chapter is, “A
nobler want of man is served by nature, namely, the love of Beauty.”(618) This
sentence summarizes what Beauty is about. Richardson wrote, “His
feelings for nature was already intense. He was his when the persistent spring
clouds gave way to the blue skies of June. Emerson loved the picturesque glitter
of a summer’s morning landscape.” (Richardson 125)
Emerson compares himself to most other people who don’t appreciate the beauty in nature by writing, “The inhabitants of cities suppose that the country landscape is pleasant only half the year. I please myself with the graces of the winter scenery.” This quote makes it seem that Emerson wants to share his enlightenment with the people of the city who are not as in touch with the spiritual relationship to the appreciation of beauty. Emerson also reiterates his transcendental views by writing how a presence of a higher spiritual element is essential to the perfect beauty found in nature.
In the fourth chapter of Nature Emerson attempts to explain how language has its roots in nature. He writes how nature is a vehicle of thought and how words are merely sign of natural facts. Emerson believes that language of natural history is to give us some help in understanding our super-natural history. He writes, “Every word which is used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some material appearance.” “This is apparent in his transcendental views and the way he writes about nature. Emerson once wrote “All science has one aim, namely, to find a theory of nature.” (615) He believed that science was looking in the right place and that the church was preaching ignorance and hiding behind the bible. This was the reason for Emerson to say about himself, ”To be a good minister it was necessary to leave the ministry.”(612) Emerson thought he and science were on the right path to finding God in nature.