American Studies I
14 March 2011
The Harmony of Individualism and Connecting with the Over-Soul
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a theorist, and an active affiliate of the Transcendentalists, a group of writers, artists, and reformers who promoted individualism and connecting with a Universal Being, Over-Soul. The individual exists as a single, separate being. He is independent of others, self-governing, and can freely express his ideas. He is a being who can think, dream, and imagine free from the influence of another being. The Over-Soul is the connate relationship between the human being, Nature, and a divine. These two philosophies, individualism and connecting with the Over-Soul, of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalists, are supportive of each other in that Nature creates individualism, the divine grants every human being a place in which they may be an individual, and Nature and the individual balance each other to create a certain delight.
The Transcendentalists, along with Ralph Waldo Emerson, were zealous admirers of Nature, and therefore the Over-Soul. They found that Nature was cathartic and created the perfect individual. Nature is an exotic woman, one with vast beauty; she is angelic and pure, yet never consistent as Emerson expressed in his essay "Nature". He wrote "Nature always wears the colors of the spirit" (390). Nature, the Over-Soul, is seen in "different colors" by every man who looks upon her. These colors are his sentiments, which are never the same; hence, Nature is never the same. This distinction is personality, and personality is individualism. Nature creates an individual for every man who visits her and spends time in her arms. However, in order to see her colors, man must connect with her, and thus the Over-Soul. In this way, Nature creates individualism.
Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalists believed in a venerable being, a divine. This divine, being part of the Over-Soul, designates a path for every human being; he selects their destiny. This concept is detailed in Emerson's essay "Nature" which reads "Accept the place the divine providence has found for you ... obeying the Almighty effort and advancing on Chaos and Dark" (391). One must accept the path granted to them by a divine, and hence by the Over-Soul. They must venture onward upon the unexplored road ahead to make new discoveries, reach implausible goals, and leave their imprint on the world. This path is individualism; every being has a separate, dissimilar path, and destiny, to follow. Therefore, every being has exclusivity, and is therefore an individual. By finding the designated path, one must connect with the Over-Soul, since the divine chose this path. Once this connection is made and the path is found, one may embark on their individual journey.
Balance and harmony are fundamental; energy is balanced in the universe, motion and force are balanced, the water cycle is in balance, and there is balance in the electromagnetic force. Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalists believed the Over-Soul balanced individualism. Emerson elucidated this idea in "Nature" stating that "The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable ... They nod to me, and I to them ... Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both" (389-90). Man connects with Nature, the vegetable, and therefore the Over-Soul, to create a certain enchantment. Emerson wrote that this delight is not created solely by Nature and the Over-Soul, but with the help of man, meaning the individual. The individual and the Over-Soul correspond; they work together to create delight and felicity.
The Transcendentalists and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson believed strongly in connecting with the Over-Soul, which consisted of Nature, the human being, and a divine, feeling this connection was therapeutic. They promoted the idea of individualism and using one's own imagination to flourish; along with this they encouraged the individual to express their opinions and ideas without constraint. The two concepts of connecting with the Over-Soul and being an individual support each other. Individualism is produced by Nature; every being sees her differently and in this way she creates personality. A divine chooses a destiny, or path, for every being; by following this path, an individual is created because every being has a different destiny. The Over-Soul and individualism balance each other in that their harmony creates a certain delight. Emerson and the Transcendentalists venerated the Over-Soul's mystifying powers and the inconceivable effect it had on the individual. The Over-Soul and the individual complement each other; they harmonize to form the perfect chord.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. "Nature." Prentice Hall Literature: Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes.
Ed. Kate Kinsella, et al. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education Inc, 2005. 388-390. Print.