Emerson’s Models of Nature Essay

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Emerson’s Models of Nature The main concept which permeates the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson is that “the fundamental context of our lives is nature” (Richardson, Jr., Emerson and Nature 97). Emerson presents his theory of nature and its relation to man in three essays spanning almost a decade: Nature (1836), “The Method of Nature” (1841) and “Nature” (1844). There are many common threads connecting these works. One of the most notable is Emerson’s belief in the interconnection between all things – between all natural phenomena as well as between nature and the soul. Also, there exists behind and beyond Nature a Spirit from which all things originate. It is the invisible which gives rise to the visible and embodies truth and…show more content…
However, this process is wholly contingent upon one’s willingness and capacity to lay oneself open to nature and connect with it in such a way that one sees beyond nature to the Spirit. Emerson’s use of the eyeball metaphor perfectly illustrates the moment of access to this realm: “I become a transparent eye-ball: I am nothing: I see all: the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me: I am part or particle of God” (2). Attaining such a state is the only way that Emerson sees humanity as being able to “enjoy an original relation to the universe” (1) but this not a simple task. “In this kind of visual relationship between the eye and the world, the eye stands completely passive and unselective while the surrounding world flows unbroken into it” (Tanner 313). This passivity is unattainable so long as we allow culture to exert its influence on our consciousness because, for Emerson, the institutions of culture – poetry, physical and intellectual science, and religion (15) – all question the reality of nature as a result of, what Emerson terms, their Idealism which is the practice of subordinating nature to ideas. Essential to Emerson’s theory of nature is that “Any distrust of the permanence of laws would paralyze the faculties of man” (12). To cast doubt on the validity of nature, the very basis of language, morals and beauty, is to cut off any avenue to a holistic understanding of nature. Despite the scientific format
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