Spirit in Emerson's Nature Essay

Submitted By reganrls
Words: 946
Pages: 4

Regan Smith
Visions of Environment
March 10 2015
Enlightenment through Nature The relationship between people and their natural environment has been rapidly changing across the world. One example of this is the United States, where usage of the environment has gone from one of sustainable agriculture to unjustifiable exploitation in just a few centuries. This has resulted in irreversible damage including pollution, destruction of land, and loss of species. In an 1836 essay titled Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson explores the purpose of our relationship with the environment by describing how an individual should view and interact with nature and what he should hope to achieve through this connection. He begins by splitting the world into two parts: Nature and the Soul. Nature is defined as everything separate from an individual’s Soul. (Emerson 4). Both of these originate from a “Universal Soul” which he refers to as the “Spirit” (Emerson 24). Emerson’s piece suggests that the ultimate goal each of our individual Souls craves is to achieve harmony and enlightenment with this Universal Spirit. This can be accomplished through our interactions with nature. This connection of our individual Soul to that of a Universal Spirit along with our need to grow close to it is referenced throughout Nature. In the chapter Language, Emerson states that there are clear parallels found across all species in nature. This is evidence that the creation of all beings was completed by one divine Spirit or Creator. “So intimate is this Unity, that, it is easily seen, it lies under the undermost garment of nature and betrays its source in Universal Spirit” (Emerson 38). This Creator is not only where all souls come from, but, more importantly, is what they all strive to return to. Our need to rediscover this divine being comes from the enlightenment we will receive if we are successful. “It is (the Creator), therefore, to us, the present expositor of the divine mind. It is a fixed point whereby we may measure our departure” (Emerson 56). Our departure would allow a soul to “create its own world” and achieve “purification” (Emerson 56). The Universal Spirit is a divine being which, if successfully rejoined, provides enlightenment and purification of an individual’s Soul. The Universal Spirit also created the portion of the world separate from the Soul: Nature. Emerson suggests that nature is not mere material, but actually a sort of divine spectacle. “the question of the absolute existence of nature still remains open… we must regard nature as a phenomenon, not as a substance, to attribute necessary existence to Spirit” (Emerson 43). This vision of nature as supernatural is evidence that it is imbued with the Spirit; it is the mechanism by which Spirit communicates to Souls. “Standing on the bare ground… I see all, the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me” (Emerson 8). Emerson describes spending time in the wilderness as being much more precious than civilization because wilderness is where he can connect with the Spirit, therefore achieving the first step to enlightenment of his Soul. The entire purpose of Nature is to guide the Soul back to the Universal Spirit to reach enlightenment and purification. One way Nature does this by fulfilling the needs of the individual Soul. This simplest of these includes things such as raw materials and any other resources a person requires to be productive. “It (nature) offers all its kingdoms to man as the raw material which he may mould into what is useful” (Emerson 35). It is not wrong, according to Emerson, to utilize what Nature has provided as long as you are using it to elevate man, and help Souls