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Divine Messages Revealed Through Nature Michelle Ewens May 9, 2011

Divine Messages Revealed Through Nature


The emphases on Nature in early American literature reflect the settler¶s desire to conquer and control the land, while the quintessential poets of the Romantic age emphasized overcoming the self and living in harmony with Nature. Early American writings portray psychological repression and projection which was due to a lack of self-awareness on behalf of the Puritans and Pilgrims. God fearing Christian attitudes stemmed from the settler¶s neurotic tendencies to deny their natural tendencies. A refusal to confront such subconscious desires which were deemed sinful manifested in the material world through a projection of sinfulness onto others. ³The failure of consciousness to absorb the unconscious leads to lunacy while the success of the consciousness to assimilate the unconscious leads to sainthood´ (Cooper, 1979). We either learn from inner knowledge that is revealed to us through our struggle for full selfawareness, or we learn from mistakes that are made in the material world which were caused from a refusal to confront our true nature. History reveals to us the patterns of human behavior, but inner knowledge reveals to us the patterns of our psyche. When one doesn¶t know oneself, the world acts as a stage to which the subconscious creates situations which verify conscious beliefs. In this way the settlers projected their undisclosed sinfulness onto the ³savages´ and ³witches´. Later on the Romantic writers sublimated their self-awareness into Nature and divine messages were revealed by their psyche. I will begin this paper by analyzing early American literature and will discuss the settler¶s desire for power and wealth as this is a projection of the self-glorifying ego.


Nature, as described by John Smith was untamed. The wilderness was something he wanted to control. This view of uncivilized wilderness was expressed by many of the settlers as something which they could conquer for self-glorification. The General History of Virginia is about ³His descriptions of New World riches and wilderness delights which confirmed the European dream of America as a place of freedom, joy, and abundance´ (McMichael & Leonard, 2006, p. 24). The dream of westward expansion was a general notion that Manifest Destiny was a God given right. Englishman¶s superiority was a strong held belief which made the settler¶s think they had a right to conquer the entire world. This belief was in contrast with the Native American world view of the Great Spirit in Nature. The Natives believed that the land was not something which should be conquered. They strived to live in harmony with Nature. The Natives believed that they already owned the land and were living in it according to the laws of the Great Spirit. The Iroquois Constitution stated that the five nations would offer peace to all those who abided by the Great Binding Laws of peace. However, the settlers saw the Natives as savages who were untamed and uncivilized so they did not cooperate with them or accept their peace offerings. Christian missionaries tried to convert the ³savages´, but the Natives insisted on worshiping the Great Spirit in their own way. Red Jacket wrote, ³Brother, you say you have not come to get our land or our money, but to enlighten our minds´ (Red Jacket, 1805). The settlers
believed that they were morally superior to the Indians and battles soon emerged. The Colonialist government declared that, ³No fellowship could exist between the religion of God and the works of the devil´ (Drake, 1843, p. 283). The settlers eradicated most of the Natives in the Indian Wars. The



early Americans used Christianity to justify the slaughter. These acts reflect the lunacy which is derived from self-repression that projects sin upon others. Early American literature also portrayed the struggle of good vs. evil. Since many people lacked self-awareness, they expressed a dual nature of man which lacked harmony. The denial of the psyche caused Christians to hypocritically glorify their goodness. This split from the psyche caused a cultural neurosis which manifested through the rules and regulations of the church. Lacking harmony, this ³civility´ was overcompensation for a lack of real morals which is derived from the conscience. Manners of behavior were strict and in keeping with the fundamental teachings of the church and some ³deviants´ were charged with heresy for claiming to have a conscience that communicated with God. Those who deviated from the normal standards of the church were ostracized from society. Anne Hutchinson was put to trial for not abiding by standard religious practices. ³She stressed the individual's intuition as a means of reaching God and salvation, rather than the observance of institutionalized beliefs and the precepts of ministers´ (Welde, 1637). ³Sinners´ were punished and judged harshly by the Puritans and Pilgrims. In the early 18th century people began to question human nature on a deeper level. This is emphasized in the sermons of Jonathan Edwards. In Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God Edwards wrote, ³They (sinners) deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God¶s using His power at any moment to destroy them´ (Leonard & McMichael, p. 174, 2006). Through Edwards writings we witness the evolution of moral consciousness unfold. He revealed the ³evil´ that resides within



all of human nature. In his sermons he portrays this evil as an outside force. This characterizes the neurotic split of the psyche which was still common at the time, but we begin to see an assimilation of the subconscious emerge during this period as well. Edwards embarks on subconscious assimilation in his writings which reflect divine inspiration through Nature. In Images or Shadows of Divine Things, Edwards describes mystical awakenings and lessons he learns from these encounters in the natural world. One example taken from this writing depicts the epiphany he experienced while observing roses. ³Roses grow, upon briars, which is to signify that all temporal sweets are mixed with bitter´ (McMichael & Leonard, 2006, p. 186). This symbolized the assimilation of duality in which beauty emerges from suffering. Furthermore he conjures up images of death in which creativity sprouts. Destruction and death of old ways transforms spirit into new life and creates new ideas/beliefs. In the 18th century, Reason and Revolution in literature was born from a newfound self awareness of the individual. This period portrays new intellectualism that contrasted from the old superstitions of the repressed settlers. Paine and Franklin called for a common sense approach to life. Around this time, writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne exposed the folly and hypocrisy of the Puritanical Christian mindset which was split from duality. In Young Goodman Brown, the hero enters a dream world in the wilderness where he finds himself at the devil¶s ceremony. The subconscious state of the character and the people he encounters during his voyage neatly parallel the repressed subconscious mindset of the Puritans. Hawthorne depicts Nature as having supernatural elements; reflecting the superstitious beliefs of the people during the early 1800¶s. The symbolism of Nature and superstitious beliefs are also revealed through



Washington Irving¶s, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. These mythical stories were born from the superstitious consciousness of the repressed Pilgrims and Puritans. Washington Irving abandoned society and his career as a lawyer to become a writer. He poked fun of the mainstream people and their superstitions. In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane is a foolish and shallow person who was comically portrayed as being superstitious. The townspeople thought he was very intelligent because he could read the tombstones and he recited verses from Psalms or Cotton Mather¶s book on witches. However, Ichabod was not very smart because he scared himself in the woods by imagining ghosts and goblins. The trees and wind were viewed by him as howling sounds of spirits and the branches looked to him like goblin arms ready to attack him. When he got very frightened he sang a bible verse in a nasally pitch. The women swooned over this. Irving¶s satire is quite comical. He poked fun at society in a way that spoke volumes of his own individuality. There was no headless horseman in the woods. Brom Bones, a rival of Ichabod through a pumpkin at him which killed him. This story was very dark and witty. This point in literature marks the time of the Revolutionary War. Changes were taking place both culturally and politically. Imaginative literature emerged through a death of old superstitious beliefs and a new rebirth of human consciousness emerges in which the psyche took center stage in American literature. Edgar Allan Poe wrote about dark subject matters which portrayed his inner battle with his psyche. Poe confronts his own dark subconscious in his writings which reflect the transcendental philosophy which places great emphasis on the individual. Poe¶s struggle with



³inner demons´ reveal the assimilation process of his dark nature into his fantasies of ideals. Poe believed that the most pleasurable experience is that which is found when contemplating Beauty. He says in The Philosophy of Composition, ³Beauty is pure elevation of the soul-not of intellect or heart´ (McMichael & Leonard, 2006). The death of a beloved woman is a common theme in his writings. We can see the dark and depressing elements spoken symbolically through nature, animals, and settings which are found in his writings. He describes the tree trunks and setting in ³The Fall of the House of the Usher´: an utter and depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveler upon opium´ (McMichael and Leonard, 2006). This description characterizes much of Poe¶s writings. ³The Raven´ is a story about a man¶s descent into psychosis after his beloved dies. A raven speaks to him about his Lenore. The raven is symbolic of a parroting messenger of death. The raven is actually mimicking his psyche. This is an example of how a synchronicity occurs in nature and how it is expressed in a way that only the individual can understand and accept as truth. Carl Jung the psychologist who developed the theory of the archetype (universal symbolic representations) claimed that nature communicates to the psyche through synchronicity. ³Synchronicity (by Jung) is the phenomenon, when event in outside world meaningfully (i.e. semantically) coincides with psychological condition of one or another person´ (Limar, V. Igor, 2009). Mystical experiences are frequently conjured up by intense meditation and prayer, solitude in nature, periods of severe depression and despair, and through encounters with natural beauty. They are least likely to occur at times when one is happy and content. Poe may have met his mystical encounters through contemplating Beauty of a woman and from suffering, while Emerson



received his transcendental experiences through encounters with Beauty from Nature and the periods of solitude when he contemplated the meaning of life. Emerson defined Nature as a discipline of understanding in intellectual truths and claimed that people receive messages from Nature in forms that mirror their belief system (McMichael & Leonard, 2006, p. 562.) Mystical experiences with the divine and synchronicity inspired the allegorical poetry of the Romantic period. Divine messages are often indescribable because they are so subjective. Ordinary language does not reveal the full messages which take place in the vast inner world of the psyche. Walt Whitman and Emily Dickenson try to convey such mystical experiences in their poetry, but the reader is often left perplexed. When the impression of the poem is well received the reader shares in the other worldly experience of the poet. The transcendental experiences of Emerson, Dickenson, and Whitman suggest that they did overcome the individual state and experienced the divine. To conquer the individual, one must first eradicate all cultural conditioning. To accomplish this first task, one must deviate from normality and question authority as well as societal standards. Once this stage is completed then the individual arises. Transcendentalism occurs when the individual confronts himself and questions his own thoughts and belief systems. At this point the ego shatters and divine messages are perceived as coming from an outside source. The answers to questions that are posed during times of self-reflection and contemplation are often delivered through synchronistic allegories. Transformation occurs during this period of self-awakening.



The inner revolution which gives rise to transcendentalism is referred to as the individuation process. ³This psychological process is admittedly painful and for many people a positive torture. But, as always, every step forward along the path of individuation is achieved only at the cost of suffering´ (Pennachio, 1992). While some writers were transformed through inner struggles, other writers like Frederick Douglass were transformed through outer struggles which brought about immense suffering. Douglass wanted reform of the outside world since this is where he found corruption. Those who find corruption inside may revolt against themselves such as Poe did. Henry David Thoreau called for a revolution and reformation in Civil Disobedience. He acknowledged that breaking away from traditional standards of thought ³not only divides States and churches, it divides families; it divides the individual, separating the diabolical in him from the divine´ (McMichaels & Leonard, 2006, p. 771). Thoreau transcended his societal identity as well as his ego. He practiced a life of simplicity even though he graduated from Harvard. In this way he lived a life according to his ideals. The Civil War broke out several years after the publication of Civil Disobedience. It is unlikely that slavery was the cause of the Civil War. There were only about 250,000 abolitionists in America at that time. There were economical issues taking place as well as corruption in the banking systems and in corporations which were causing a split between the political powers of the North and South. Besides Thoreau, there were other writers who received divine messages from Nature that also called for a revolution and personal reform. Jonathan Edwards did not reach the individual state which Thoreau had attained in his lifetime so he continued to believe in duality



and preached that evil arises from an outside source. Edwards wrote to the masses in order to reform them. He warned them of punishment from God if they did not reform. This neurotic way of perceiving the world captivates a person into a helpless state whereby only an outside source can save him. Perhaps salvation can be achieved through believing in Grace. This paper will not address the nature of Miracles. Transcendentalists do not deny God, but they do escape the helpless stage where Fate traps the soul. The level after Fate and helplessness is one in which the individual encounters the powers of his free will. This is referred to as the ³Oversoul´ by Emerson. Here he finds himself at one with everything and no duality exists. Whitman also achieved the Oversoul state. He conquered himself and became one with God; a Creator of his own reality. In Song of Myself he writes, ³I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then, In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass´ (McMichael and Leonard, 2006, p. 1055). Whitman portrayed the world and everything in it as realistic impressions of one harmonious landscape. The end of the Civil War marked the beginning of literary Realism and Naturalism but Romanticism still exists where stories of heroes triumph in spite of all the odds and challenges that get in his way. Romantic poets spoke of divine messages from Nature because such truths were discovered by searching for the source of their idealism. Whitman described the American poet as the bard who speaks the American spirit. If this is true, then the early American writers spoke of the Pilgrim¶s spirit which was born of a desire to control and conquer the world and everything in it. Since they were so repressed and lacked self-knowledge, they conquered the



outside world in hopes that it would bring them happiness. The Romantic poets also expressed a desire to control and conquer, but it was an inner battle. Their main desire was to unite with God and to live in harmony with everything. While this may be an idealistic goal, happiness is often found in pursuing such goals and in realizing that life is profound and meaningful. The evolution of consciousness is an intellectual process which is revealed through early American literature.



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