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The Over Soul

The Over Soul

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Published by Randolph Dible

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Published by: Randolph Dible on Apr 03, 2009
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 The Over-SoulRandy Dible12.2008Emerson begins The Over-Soul with the denial of the comprehensiveness of our attempts at systematic and exhaustive accounts of reality, in favor of an originalreality which remains ineffable and holy. “The philosophy of six thousand years hasnot searched the chambers and magazines of the soul. In its experiments there hasalways remained, in the last analysis, a residuum it could not resolve. Man is astream whose source is hidden. … I am constrained every moment to acknowledgea higher origin for events than the will I call mine.”
Emerson wastes no time andimmediately we follow his acknowledgement of this higher and ultimate realitywhich we intuit to be our spiritual source, however ineffable, more than familiar,(and often overlooked by the grossly-attuned society) which he calls the Over-Soul,that Unity, sole prophet, and ‘great nature,’ “the eternal ONE.”
And furthermore,this eternal ONE operates at every level, akin to the dependent origination of Buddhism, but only in the omnipresence of the principle (we mustn’t confuse aprinciple of emptiness with a principle of oneness), at every level of reality; from thephenomena and the seer, to the subject and the object, and everything else too.Given a duality, you are given a level (by having two poles, you have a segment),and here you find a ONE, in the case of levels, a line, or a plane. His point is thatsubject and object are one, two sides of the same coin.“I dare not speak for it. My words do not carry its august [venerable]sense;they fall short and cold. Only itself can inspire whom it will, and behold! their
 The Portable Emerson, pp. 210
, pp. 211
speech shall be lyrical, and sweet, and universal as the rising of the wind.” HereEmerson speaks of the unspeakable, which is called apophasis, the way of alludingto the transcendental. The transcendental, ultimate truth or reality cannot beexpressed in the same way conventional meanings are conveyed by virtue of itsposition outside words and their meanings. When It chooses to manifest, It will doso only in a sublime way, as in the highest poetry. Emerson continues to describethe traces of the Immortal in our experience. He calls them hints and he calls it“the secret of nature.” The Over-Soul is behind the masquerade, behind the scenes,backstage, and It is the omnivident audience, “the background of our being,”
but itis also the actor, the agent, oneself, but to be clear, not the gross subjective form,such as the ego, but the ONE. He goes into such distinctions then, regarding theSoul’s distinction from the body, intellect, will and organ. He tells us its location,within or behind: “…a light shines through us upon things and makes us aware thatwe are nothing, but the light is all.”
And furthermore, man misrepresents himself,does not respect himself, insofar as he does not know his true identity [the Over-Soul], but can manifest the spirit, and when that happens, and word gets out, it iscalled Genius and Virtue and Love. This can happen when we obey the Soul, and letit have its way. We are in the way, we are in our way, and have to let.“It is undefinable, unmeasurable; but we know that it pervades and containsus. We know that all spiritual being is in man. A wise old proverb says, “God comesto see us without bell;” that is, as there is no screen or ceiling between our headsand the infinite heavens, so is there no bar or wall in the soul, where man, the
effect, ceases, and God, the cause, begins. The walls are taken away.”
Thesemantic explosion of the connotative language of the poetic genius in Emersonhere tells us that we are one with God, and illustrates it with a metaphor that is alsoa literal scene: the walls are taken away. We are cosmic, not just from our origins,but presently we are as profound as any other star in the night sky, but we takeourselves for granted, more than anything else. Ultimate reality is outer-most andinner-most, and even the boundary is taken away.“The soul circumscribes all things. As I have said, it contradicts allexperience. In like manner it abolishes space and time. The influence of the senseshas in most men overpowered mind to that degree that the walls of space and timehave come to look real and insurmountable; and to speak with levity of these limitsis, in the world, the sign of insanity. Yet space and time are but inverse measures of the force of the soul….”
This could very well have been a quote fromSchopenhauer. The Kantian influence is clear. We know that Emerson was familiarwith Kant, but these revelations regarding the nature of space and time wereobviously the products of the genius of the spirit we find in Emerson. Kant’s
Transcendental Aesthetic
was an exposition of the nature of space and time,reasoning from first principles of extension and necessary conditions formathematical and physical possibilities. But Emerson wasn’t reasoning from set-ups, but from let-ups. He allowed the poetic genius to speak through his undefiledmind about the nature of space and time. In contrast to Kant, Emerson here got tothe same metaphysical insights from the nature of limitation and of the soul. This isclose to Schopenhauer’s route to the nature of space and time, but in Emerson we
Ibid., pp. 212
Ibid., pp. 213

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