its reality is in the divine’s mind (Sharma 54). To add more, it should be considered that according to Emerson, man except his body is also the divine’s mind. Finally, he considers ‘the Over-Soul’ instead of God as the power that rules the world and embraces it; the universal soul that contains within God, nature and man.
In his speech at Harvard (1834) he wants the scholar to be a symbol of unity. He addresses the teachers and advises them to teach in a way that helps the students to have a deeper view to life. Consequently, they will find this unity:
In whatever you teach, arouse the sense of wonder and reverence for the deeper causes of life. Then indeed facts will become eloquent and transparent; they will become transformed into energy, instead of remaining mere data. This energy will force the student to connect and to compare whatever he perceives; he will not only relate facts to each other horizontally but will discover that everything in the world is related to a deeper dimension, until he finally arrives at the realization of laws which permeate the universe. These laws will tell him that there is an order behind the flight of appearance, a principle within the transient, and he will see that he himself, as body and as mind, is a part of this cosmos. (Collected Works 64)
Emerson expresses his ideas regarding teaching and asks teachers to educate students in a way that stir a sense of wonder to explore the hidden truth of the world, the reality that is behind the surface of the things in the world. This investigation leads to understanding the interrelation that is present between the particles in the world. It also brings this knowledge that there is a power as the source of everything in the universe and man himself is part of this force.
Emerson sees the unity in everything in the world. This view is not limited to something special but it contains every essence in the world. In essay, “Compensation”, Emerson asserts that the soul and heart of all men are one. He adds that there is large numbers of various forms of art, but all speak of one thing. So in every part of his writings he speaks about this spirit of unity everywhere. Emerson declares in “The American Scholar” that one must investigate in things, first individually, and then connect these apparently-quite-various things to each other in the direction of unity (Complete Works 4:95). He asserts in the essay “Compensation” that unity not only is to be found in the analogous things but also among the objects that are not alike. The river, as it flows, resembles the air that flows over it and the laws of harmonic sound reappear in harmonic colors (Essays 275).In the same essay he gives some examples that shows the existence of unity not only in objects, but also in actions and generally in every essence: “The wise man, in doing one thing, does all; or, in the one thing he does rightly, he sees the likeness of all which is done rightly”(Complete Essays and Other Writings of Emerson 25).
As Emerson believes that there is unity among everything, he believes that man is united with other things. He asserts that there is a congruity which subsists between man and the world of which he is lord, not because he is the most subtle inhabitant, but because he is its head and heart, and find something of himself in every great and small thing (Collected Works 3:542).
Plato, instead of a supreme creator or god, focused on humanity and the individual in the material and spiritual world. He believed in using intuition to understand everyone’s self and the world (Payne 100). In fact Plato was one of the earliest philosophers who developed a theory of Idealism1 and his ideas introduced a new outlook for human beings to know the universe. The influence of Plato is clearly seen on Emerson’s writings. In the essay “Nature”, Emerson puts emphasis on living in the world of eternity, of the love of beauty and goodness and in a conviction of the universal superiority and truth (Essays 273). Hence, in this way he becomes an absolute idealist like Plato. In other words, Plato shaped Emerson’s idea of unity.
According to Emerson, ideas, forms and laws which he calls ‘spirit’ is prior to physical, phenomenal and material entity which he entitles ‘nature’ (Sharma 220). In the first section of his book, Nature, Emerson provides the core definition of Nature as everything which is “not me,” that is, everything outside of the “me” of the individual soul or mind, including even one’s own body as it is part of the material rather than spiritual world. The individual must be an observer of the “not me”, while also understanding that everything that exists in nature has its correspondent in the spiritual world and is reflective of some higher, or transcendental, truth about human existence and morality. As it was noted Emerson defines Nature as “not me”. It inspires man, so it connects outside nature to the inside nature of man. He believes that human soul and nature are related as “print to seal”(Sharma 123). Henry David Thoreau also believes that nature is the symbol of spirit (Payne 123). When someone loses himself in nature, as Emerson states, he becomes a transparent eyeball and feels the universal being transmit itself into his consciousness, so he feels unity with God (Collected Works, 1: 101).
The eloquent introduction to the praise of the beauty of nature soon gives place to a deeper vein of thought as Emerson states: “When the mind opens, and reveals the laws which traverse the universe, and make things what they are, then shrinks the great world at once into a mere illustration and fable of the mind” (qtd. in Payne 194). In fact, he states that understanding nature leads to knowing the universal reality of the world that its true essence is the human’s mind.
As mentioned earlier, Emanuel Kant, the German philosopher, affirms that there are two kinds of experiences: “Understanding and sense”. “Understanding” illustrates the universe as it is but sense reveals the world as it appears. He states that some essence like God can be known through intuition. Accordingly, Emerson utilized this doctrine, but he made his own names: “understanding” and “reason” (Masters 54). In the essay “The Transcendentalist”, Emerson tries to make distinction between materialists and idealists. The materialists are those who believe in knowing the world through their understanding and opposed to this group are idealists, who begin with the fact of human consciousness and trust in their “reason”. When someone relies on his understanding he knows the universe through his senses, so the visible objects are ultimate and nature exists absolute; it is the power of empirical reasoning, but if he believes in “reason” and uses it to experience the world, he will see nature permeated with higher knowledge (Complete Essays and Other Writings 91). Indeed, Emerson believes everybody who looks at the world through reason lives in the world of the universal superiority, employs his consciousness and considers the world as an appearance (Masters 54). In relation to this everything in the world has a deeper meaning other than its appearance. This idea leads to understanding the universal spirit of the world or ‘the Over-Soul’ that is the real essence of everything and also, the unity that is understandable among all entities in the world.
According to Emerson the material world has many appearances but the reality of these appearances is the same which is “thought”. The world of thought embraces everything in the universe and man is able to understand it through the power of his “reason” (Sharma 165). The “reason” as Emerson mentions in a letter to his brother Edward, is “the highest faculty of the soul, what we mean often by the soul itself” (Bosco and Myerson 43). It is the intuitive power to comprehend intellectual and spiritual truth of the world. Emerson deems t
hat through intuition and indeed this power of “reason”, every person is able to find the universal truth of the universe or ‘the Over-Soul’. As it was mentioned above, the material world is revealed in many shapes and different ways in the world, but the essence of these matters are the same in the world of “thought”. In fact, the Creation in its reality leads to unity that is understandable to everyone who uses his individual intuition to realize it.
Emerson tries to solve the problem of variety in unity. He states in Nature, that Xenophanes (570-480), the Greek philosopher, in his old age complained of unity which he found everywhere. “He was weary of seeing the same entity in the tedious variety of forms” (Essays 276). In the same book Emerson remarks that various objects in nature leave identical impression. He states that the creatures have the same essence. He also affirms that various shapes come to unity since the real entity of the things is one universal truth. Emerson’s essay “Plato; or the Philosopher” sets out the principle of unity and diversity in things, the tension between the One and Many:
Philosophy is the account which the human mind gives to itself of the constitution of the world. Two cardinal facts lie forever at the base; Unity, or Identity and the other Variety. We unite all things by perceiving the law which pervades them; by perceiving the superficial differences and the profound resemblances. But every mental act, –this very perception of identity or oneness, ‒ recognizes the difference of things, Oneness and otherness. It is impossible to speak or to think without embracing both. (Collected Works 4:234)
In fact Emerson wants to show that duality is found in the world but unity is also concurrently among the substance. In another essay “Poetry and Imagination”, he tries to describe the poetic curse of nature. He asserts that its multiplicity is resolved into unity as the real quality of every substance is one essence and all the substance in the world are united to each other and shape a whole (Collected Works 3:542).
It is worth mentioning that Emerson’s doctrine of unity resembles the Sufis’ tenets. The technique used by Emerson and Persian mystics, Sufis, appears to be analogous. Both start from variety, describe the sensory existence of the world that is duality or illusion and finally meet unity (Ekhtiar 64). Like Sufis, As Yogendra Sharma states, Emerson states that everything has an opposite or complement partner, which makes it a whole. He deems that dualism rules nature and each quality suggests another one which together they make a whole (67). In the essay “Compensation,” Emerson writes: “polarity, or action and reaction, we meet in every part of nature. An inevitable dualism bisects nature, so that each thing is a half, and suggests another thing to make it whole; as, spirit, matter; man, woman; odd, even; subjective, objective; in, out; upper, under; motion, rest; yes, nay”(Essays 53).He asserts that each entity has a spiritual meaning which is common to all the essence in the universe. In fact all the objects and essence have the same spiritual meaning and there is unity among them (Payne 49). Emerson again writes in another place of dualism and unity as “two