Book: Ralph Waldo Emerson Review: Satyendra Nath Dwivedi

There is no great and no small To the Soul that maketh all; And when it cometh, all things are And it cometh everywhere. Part 2 Friendship We have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken. From the highest degree of passionate love to the lowest degree of good-will, they make the sweetness of life. Our intellectual and active powers increase with our affection. We overestimate the conscience of our friend. His goodness seems better than our goodness, his nature finer, his temptations less. Everything that is his, - his name, his form, his dress, books and instruments, - fancy enhances. Our own thought sounds new and larger from his mouth. The soul environs itself with friends that it may enter into a grander selfacquaintance or solitude; and it goes alone for a reason that it may exalt its conversation or society. Love, which is the essence of God, is not for levity, but for the total worth of man. Let us not have this childish luxury in our regards, but the austerest worth; let us approach our friend with an audacious trust in the truth of his heart, in the breadth, impossible to be overturned, of his foundations.


Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person hypocrisy begins. We parry and fund the approach of our fellow man by compliments, by gossip, by amusement, by affairs. We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds. Friendship demands a religious treatment. We talk of choosing our friends, but friends are self-elected. Reverence is a great part of it. The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one. The essence of friendship is entireness, a total magnanimity and trust. It must not surmise or provide for infirmity. It treats its objects as a god, that it may deify both. Prudence Prudence is the virtue of the senses. It is the science of appearances. It is the outmost action of the inward life. It is content to seek health of body by complying with physical conditions, and health of mind by the laws of the intellect. Let a man learn that everything in nature go by law, and that what he sows he reaps. By diligence and self-command let him put the bread he eats at his own disposal, that he may not stand in bitter and fast relations to other men; for the best good of wealth is freedom. Let him practice the minor virtues. Let him not make his fellow-creatures wait. Let his words be of fate. Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society. Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great. Really and underneath their external diversities, all men are of one heart and mind. Truth, frankness, courage, love, humility and all the virtues range themselves on the side of prudence, or the art of securing a present well-being. Heroism Life is a festival only to the wise. Towards all the external evil the man within the breast assumes a warlike attitude, and affirms his ability to cope single handed with the infinite army of enemies. To this military attitude of the soul we give the name ‘Heroism’.


The Hero is a mind of such balance that no disturbance can shake his will, but pleasantly and as it were merrily he advances to his own music, alike in frightful alarms and in the tipsy mirth of universal dissoluteness. Heroism feels and never reasons, and therefore is always right; and although a different breeding, different religion and greater intellectual activity would have modified or even reversed the particular action, yet for the hero that thing he does is the highest deed, and is not open to the censure of philosophers and divines. Heroism is an obedience to a secret impulse of an individual’s character. Self-trust is the essence of heroism. The essence of greatness is the perception that virtue is enough. Poverty is an ornament. It does not need plenty, and can very well abide its loss. The first step of worthiness will be to disabuse us of our superstitious associations with places and times, with number and size. Where the heart is, there the muses, there the gods sojourn, and not in any geography of fame. See to it only that thyself is here, and art and nature, hope and fate, friends, angels and the Supreme Being shall not be from the chamber where those sittest. The Over-Soul The supreme Critic on the errors of the past and the present, and the only profit of that which must be, is that great nature in which we rest as the earth lies in the soft arms of the atmosphere; that Unity, that Over-Soul, within which every man’s particular being is constrained and made on with all other; that common heart of which all sincere conversation is the Worship, to which all right action is submission; that overpowering reality which confides our training and talents, and constraints every one to pass for what he is, and to speak from his tongue, and which evermore tends to pass into our thought and hand and become wisdom and virtue and power and beauty. We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole of which these are the shining parts, is the Soul. The soul in man is not an organ, but animates and exercises all the organs; is not a function, like the power of memory, of calculation, of comparison, but uses these as hands and feet; is not the intellect or the will, but the master of the intellect and will; is the background of our being, in which they lie, - an immensity not possessed and that cannot be possessed. From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.


The soul circumscribes all things. In like manner it abolishes time and space. Before the revelations of the soul, Time, Space and Nature shrink away. The soul looketh steadily forwards, creating a world before her. She has no dates, nor rites, nor persons, nor specialties, nor men. The soul knows only the soul; the web of events is the flowing robe in which she is clothed. The faith that stands on authority is not faith. The reliance on authority measures the decline of religion, the withdrawal of the soul. Circles St. Augustine described the nature of God as “a circle whose centre is everywhere and its circumference nowhere”. Every man believes that he has a greater possibility. The continuous effort to raise himself above himself, to work a pitch above his last height, betrays itself in a man’s relation. We thirst for approbation, yet cannot forgive the approver. Men cease to interest us when we find their limitations. We learn that God is; that he is in me; and that all things are shadows of Him. In nature every moment is new; the past is always swallowed and forgotten; the coming only is sacred. Nothing is secure, but life, transition, the energizing spirit. No love can be bound by oath or covenant to secure it against a higher love. No truth so sublime but it may be trivial tomorrow in the light of new thoughts. People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them. Life is a series of surprises. We do not guess today the mood, the pleasures, the power of tomorrow, when we are building up our being. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. The way of life is wonderful; it is by abandonment. The great moments of history are the facilities of performance through the strength of ideas. Intellect Intellect lies behind genius, which is intellect constructive. Intellect is the simple power anterior to all action or construction. Our spontaneous action is always the best. Our thinking is a pious reception. Our truth of thought is therefore vitiated as much by too violent direction by our will, as by too great negligence. We determine what we will think. We only open our senses, clear away as we call all obstruction from the fact, and suffer the intellect to see.


All our progress is an unfolding like the vegetable bud. You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge, as the plant has roots, bud and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason. By trusting it to the end, it shall ripen into truth and you shall know why you believe. The constructive intellect (genius) produces thoughts, sentences, poems, plans, designs, systems. It is the generation of the mind, the marriage of thought with nature. To genius must always go two gifts: the thought and the publication. The thought of genius is spontaneous; but the power of picture or expression, in the most enriched and flowing nature, implies a mixture of will, a certain control over the spontaneous states, without which no production is possible. Truth is our element of life, yet if a man fasten his attention on a single aspect of truth and apply himself to that alone for a long time, the truth becomes distorted and not itself but falsehood. God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please, you can never have both. Between then as pendulum, man oscillates. Art Because the soul is progressive, it never quite repeats itself, but in every act attempts the production of a new fairer whole. This appears both in works of useful and fine arts, if we employ the popular distinction of works according to their aim either at use or beauty. Historically viewed, it has been the office of art to educate the perception of beauty. We are immersed in beauty, but our eyes have no clear vision. It needs, by the exhibition of single traits, to assist and lead the dormant taste. The virtue of art lies in detachment, in sequestering one object from the embarrassing variety. Painting and sculpture are gymnastics of the eye, its training to the niceties and curiosities of its function. There is no statue like this living man, with his infinite advantage over all ideal sculpture, of perpetual variety. Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing. All great actions have been simple, and all great pictures are. Art should exhilarate, and throw down the walls of circumstances on every side, awakening in the beholder the same sense of universal relation and power which the work evinced in the artist, and its highest effect is to make new artists. Beauty must comeback to the useful arts, and the distinction between fine and useful arts be forgotten. In nature, all is useful, all is beautiful.


When science is learned in love, and its powers are wielded by love, they will appear the supplements and continuations of the material creation. Review: Satyendra Nath Dwivedi


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