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Much comes by spontaneous intuition, which is to be got in no other way; but much is to precede that, and much to follow it. There are two things to be considered in the matter of inspiration, one is the Infinite God from whom it comes, the other the finite capacity which is to receive it. If Newton had never studied, it would be as easy for God to reveal the calculus to his dog Diamond as to Newton. We once heard of a man who thought every thing was in the soul, and so gave up all reading, all continuous thought. Said another, “ if all is in the soul, it takes a man to find it.”
Here are some of the most important conclusions Mr. Emerson has hitherto arrived at.
Man is above nature, the material world. Last winter, in his lectures, he was understood to affirm “ the identity of man with nature; a doctrine which seems to have come from his Oriental reading before named, a doctrine false as well as inconsistent with the first principles of his philosophy. But in his printed works he sees clearly the distinction between the two, a fact not seen by the Hindoo philosophers, but first by the Hebrew and Greek writers. Emerson puts man far before nat
“We are taught by great actions that the universe is the propevery
individual in it. Every rational creature has all nature for his dowry and estate. It is his if he will. divest himself of it; he may creep into a corner, and abdicate his kingdom, as most men do, but he is entitled to the world by his constitution. In proportion to the energy of his thought and will, he takes up the world into himself.”
"Thus in art, does nature work through the will of a man filled with the beauty of her first works.”
“Nature is thoroughly mediate. It is made to serve. ceives the dominion of man as meekly as the ass on which the Saviour rode. It offers all its kingdoms to man as the raw material which he may mould into what is useful.”—Nature, pp. 25, 30, 50–51.
Nature is “ an appendix to the soul.”
Then the man is superior to the accidents of his past history or present condition :
“No man ever prayed heartily, without learning something."Nature, p. 92.
“ The highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton, is that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and
watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.”
“Kingdom and lordship, power and estate are a gaudier vocabulary than private John and Edward in a small house and common day's work; but the things of life are the same to both; the sum total of both is the same. Why all this deference to Alfred, and Scanderbeg, and Gustavus ? Suppose they were virtuous ; did they wear out virtue ? As great a stake depends on your private act to-day, as followed their public and renowned steps. When private men shall act with vast views, the lustre will be transferred from the actions of kings to those of gentlemen."-Essays, pp. 37, 38, 51 - 52.
Hence a man must be true to his present conviction, careless of consistency :
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Out upon your guarded lips! Sew them up with packthread, do. Else, if you would be a man, speak what you think to day in words as hard as cannon balls, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day."-Essays, p. 47.
The man must not be a slave to a single form of thought:
“ How wearisome the grammarian, the phrenologist, the political or religious fanatic, or indeed any possessed mortal, whose balance is lost by the exaggeration of a single topic. It is incipient insanity.”—Essays, p. 280.
Man is inferior to the great law of God, which overrides the world; “ His wealth and greatness consist in his being the channel through which heaven flows to earth ; ” “ the word of a poet is only the mouth of divine wisdom ; ” “ the man on whom the soul descends — alone can teach ;” all nature“ from the sponge up to Hercules is to bint or to thunder man the laws of right and wrong.” This ethical character seems the end of nature: 6 the moral law lies at the centre of nature and radiates to the circumference. It is the pith and marrow of every substance, every relation, every process. All things with which we deal point to us. What is a farm but a mute Gospel ?" Yet he sometimes tells us that man is identical with God under certain circumstances, an old Hindoo notion, a little favored by some passages in the New Testament, and revived NO. X.
by Hegel in modern times, in whom it seems less inconsistent than in Emerson.
This moral law continually gives men their compensation. “ You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong."
“ And this law of laws which the pulpit, the senate and the college deny, is hourly preached in all markets and all languages, by flights of proverbs, whose teaching is as true and as omnipresent as that of birds and fies. All things are double, one against another. Tit for tat; an
for an eye; a tooth for a tooth ; blood for blood; measure for measure; love for love. — Give and it shall be given you. — He that watereth shall be watered himself. What will you have ? quoth God; pay for it and take it. - Nothing venture, nothing have. — Thou shalt be paid exactly for what thou hast done, no more, no less.
Who doth not work shall not eat. — Harm watch, harm catch. — Curses always recoil on the head of him who imprecates them. - If you put a chain around the neck of a slave, the other end fastens itself around your own. Bad counsel confounds the adviser. - The devil is an ass."
“ There is no den in the wide world to hide a rogue. There is no such thing as concealment. Commit a crime, and the earth is made of glass. Commit a crime, and it seems as if a coat of snow fell on the ground, such as reveals in the woods the track of every partridge and fox and squirrel and mole. You cannot recall the spoken word, you cannot wipe out the foot-track, you cannot draw up the ladder, so as to leave no inlet or clew. Always some damning circumstance transpires. The laws and substances of nature, water, snow, wind, gravitation, become penalties to the thief.”
“ Neither can it be said, on the other hand, that the gain of rectitude must be bought by any loss. There is no penalty to virtue ; no penalty to wisdom ; they are proper additions of being. In a virtuous action, I properly am ; in a virtuous act, I add to the world; I plant into deserts, conquered from Chaos and Nothing, and see the darkness receding on the limits of the horizon. There can be no excess to love ; none to knowledge; none to beauty, when these attributes are considered in the purest sense. The soul refuses all limits. It affirms in man always an Optimism never a Pessimism."--Essays, pp. 90, 95 - 96, 100.
By virtue of obedience to this law great men are great, and only so :
“ We do not yet see that virtue is Height, and that a man or a company of men plastic and permeable to principles, by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities, nations, kings, rich men, poets, who are not."
“A true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of things. Where he is, there is a nature. He measures you, and all men, and all events. You are constrained to accept his standard. Ordinarily every body in society reminds us of somewhat else or some other person. Character, reality, reminds you of nothing else. It takes place of the whole creation. The man must be so much that he must make all circumstances indifferent,
put all means into the shade. This all great men are and do. Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his thought ; and posterity seem to follow his steps as a procession.”-Essays, pp. 57, 50.
Through this any man has the power of all men :
“Do that which is assigned thee, and thou canst not hope too much or dare too much. There is at this moment, there is for me an utterance bare and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or the trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses, or Dante, but different from all these. Not possibly will the soul, all rich, all eloquent, with thousand-cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if I can hear what these patriarchs say, surely I can reply to them in the same pitch of voice ; for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature. Dwell up there in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart, and thou shalt reproduce the Foreworld again.”
“ The great poet makes us feel our own wealth, and then we think less of his compositions. His greatest communication to our mind, is, to teach us to despise all he has done. Shakspeare carries us to such a lofty strain of intelligent activity, as to sug. gest a wealth which beggars his own; and we then feel that the splendid works which he has created, and which in other hours we extol as a sort of self-existent poetry, take no stronger hold of real nature than the shadow of a passing traveller on the rock.” Essays, pp. 68 — 69, 239.
Yet he once says there is no progress of mankind; “ Society never advances.”
“The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He is supported on crutches, but loses so much support of muscle. He has got a fine Geneva watch, but he has lost the skill to tell the hour by the sun. A Greenwich nautical almanac he has, and so being sure of the information when he wants it, the man in the street does not know a star in the sky. The solstice he does not observe ; the equinox he knows as little ; and the whole bright calendar of the year is without a dial in his mind. His note-books impair his memory; his libraries overload his wit ; the insurance office increases the number of accidents; and it may be
a question whether machinery does not encumber; whether we have not lost by refinement some energy, by a christianity entrenched in establishments and forms, some vigor of wild virtue. For every stoic was a stoic; but in Christendom where is the Christian?”- Essays, pp. 69 — 70.
But this is an exaggeration, which he elsewhere corrects, and justly says that the great men of the nineteenth century will one day be quoted to prove the barbarism of their age.
He teaches an absolute trust in God:
“ Ineffable is the union of man and God in every act of the soul. The simplest person, who in his integrity worships God, becomes God; yet forever and ever the influx of tbis better and universal self is new and unsearchable. Ever it inspires awe and astonishment.
When we have broken our god of tradition, and ceased from our god of rhetoric, then may God fire the heart with His presence. It is the doubling of the heart itself, nay, the infinite enlargement of the heart with a power of growth to a new infinity on every side. It inspires in man an infallible trust. He has not the conviction, but the sight that the best is the true, and may in that thought easily dismiss all particular uncertainties and fears, and adjourn to the sure revelation of time, the solution of his private riddles. He is sure that his welfare is dear to the heart of being. In the presence of law to his mind, he is overflowed with a reliance so universal, that it sweeps away all cherished hopes and the most stable projects of mortal condition in its flood. He believes that he cannot escape from his good.”—Essays, pp. 241 — 242.
“In how many churches, by how many prophets, tell me, is man made sensible that he is an infinite Soul; that the earth and heavens are passing into his mind ; that he is drinking forever the soul of God? Where now sounds the persuasion, that by its very melody imparadises my heart, and so affirms its own origin in heaven ? Where shall I hear words such as in elder ages drew men to leave all and follow — father and mother, house and land, wife and child ? Where shall I hear these august laws of moral being so pronounced, as to fill my ear, and I feel ennobled by the offer of my uttermost action and passion? The test of the true faith, certainly, should be its power to charm and com. mand the soul, as the laws of nature control the activity of the hands, - so commanding that we find pleasure and honor in obeying. The faith should blend with the light of rising and of setting suns, with the flying cloud, the singing bird, and the breath of flowers. But now the priest’s Sabbath has lost the splendor of nature ; it is unlovely ; we are glad when it is done; we can