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MAN EXPLAINED BY NATURE

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exceedingly condensed and enigmatical, we can best understand it if we first study the larger and plainer expression of his thought in his essays. Let it suffice now to point out the fact that, as Emerson prefaced with "The Sphinx" the collection of his poems, so he made his address on "Nature" introduce the edition of his prose. Where one begins in philosophy, there he is likely to end. If we begin with the seemingly fixed successions of the outward world, we shall be apt to apply the category of necessity to man, and shall deny his freedom, responsibility, sin, and guilt; whereas, if we begin with man's conscience and free will, we have the only possible key to the mysteries of nature, for nature's laws are only the regularities of freedom. Emerson makes the fundamental mistake! of interpreting man by nature, instead of interpreting nature by man. English Unitarians were materalists, and they thought of nature as consisting of dead lumps and as subject to unvarying law. Emerson did not wholly escape from their influence. "If you wish to understand intellectual philosophy," he says, turn inward by introversion, but study natural science. Every time you discover a law of things, you discover a principle of mind." He adds, indeed, that if you wish to know nature, you must study mind. But, for all that, he begins with nature, and finds there his key to unlock the secrets of the soul.

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Cabot, in his admirable biography of Emerson, seeks to mitigate any unfavorable judgment which this fact may lead us to form, by explaining what our author means by nature. In itself, he would say, nature is blind and opaque, is equivalent to fate, is the bondage

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DEFECT IN EMERSON'S THINKING

of the spirit. Man, as a part of nature, is the victim of environment. But he is not simply a part of nature; he is not mere effect; he potentially shares the cause. On one side of his being he is open to the divine Mind. He may detach himself from nature, he may be a finite creator. To thought and inspired will, nature is transparent and plastic. When we yield to the remedial force of spirit, evil is no more seen. The prerogative of man is to feel this infinity within him, and to make himself its willing instrument. Evil without only reflects his unbelief. [There is freedom to resist the evil and to appropriate the powers of good. This is Cabot's ingenious interpretation of Emerson's doctrine. Emerson himself, in our opinion, would have smiled at it, as philosophically defining what he meant to leave undefined. He was no Ixion, to turn his cloud into a Juno. His conception of nature was not that of something external and capable of management by will. Nature, he would say, is itself will; but will without freedom, a necessitated and deterministic will; and the only essential difference between Emerson and Schopenhauer was that, in Emerson's view, this will makes for good, to Schopenhauer, for evil.

While thus indicating the fatal defect in Emerson's thinking, we may, with all the more frankness, credit him with whatever is good in transcendentalism. That much abused and little understood word denoted a method of thought compounded of English idealism, German intuitionalism, and Oriental immanence. In England, Locke had declared that intellect has no ideas which are not ultimately derived from the senses. Leibnitz, however, had replied that intellect itself can

EMERSON'S TRANSCENDENTALISM,

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not be so derived; and Berkeley had insisted that material things cannot be proved to exist apart from mind. It was easy for Hume to infer that we know mental substance within, as little as we know material substance without. Emerson did not conclude, with Hume, that we need no cause for our ideas, in the " world, in the soul, or in God. He rather held with Berkeley, that, while things do not exist independently of consciousness, they do exist independently of our consciousness, namely, in the mind of God, who in a correct philosophy takes the place of a mindless external world as the cause of our ideas.

Emerson's transcendentalism regarded the universe as spiritual rather than material, and in this he rendered a great service to contemporary thought. English theology had hardened into Deism-God was far away, an absentee God, sitting on the outside of the universe ever since he made it. New England had felt the influence. The old Calvinism was superseded by Arminianism, and American independence recognized the kingdom of man rather than the kingdom of God. It was well that Emerson struck the note of idealism. It summoned his generation to a new recognition of the spiritual nature of the world. If his protest against materialism had only been accompanied by a deeper ethical study of man, he might have led his followers into theism rather than into pantheism. Norton calls Emerson's essay on Nature "an outburst of Romanticism on Puritan ground," and Romanticism was pantheistic rather than theistic.

German intuitionalism was the second factor in Emerson's transcendentalism. Kant, in his investiga

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PERVERSION OF INTUITIONALISM

tion of our processes of knowing, had shown the element of truth in the discarded doctrine of innate ideas, and had declared that the mind employs, in all its exercises, assumptions of time and space, substance and cause, design and right, assumptions which never can be proved, because they are the basis of all proof. The categories are intuitional. We have an original and unverifiable knowledge of principles which lie at the basis of all thinking; and, though these principles are undemonstrable, our mental and moral nature is so constructed that we cannot avoid acting upon them. (Here, and not in mere argument, lies our reason for belief in God. Emerson seized upon the element of truth in intuitionalism, but he sadly exaggerated and perverted it. Instead of accepting it as the regulative principle of all knowledge, he transformed it into a positive source of knowledge. Instead of learning from it how we are to learn, he learned from it what we are to learn. The inner light took the place of all the outer lights which God has given us.) Man became a law to himself; ceased to recognize authority of any sort; had no need of revelation from without. "We must not seek advantages from another," says Emerson; “the fountain of all good is in ourselves. ). . Each admirable genius is but a successful diver in that sea whose floor of pearls is all your own.. Be lord of a day, through wisdom and justice, and you can put up your history-books." It is as if, in virtue of our eyesight, we should deny that we need external light whereby to see, or require any special objects to be lit up by that light, or are dependent upon the sun from which that light shines upon us.

AUTHORITY OF HISTORIC REVELATIONS

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This is the proper place to state our chief objection to Emerson's intuitionalism, and to point out the need of that external authority which he rejected. God does not leave the child or the race to build up all its knowledge anew. As acquired truth finds legitimate forms of expression, it becomes authority for others than those who originally perceived it. All advance in human intelligence depends upon our reverent reception of the treasure which comes to us from the past. God requires us to trust his historic revelations, and to pay respect to the teaching of parents, discoverers, and experts, in education, business, science, and art. Religious truth is particularly subject to this law. We are not the first who have come in contact with God, since all men live, move, and have their being in him. God's revelations to the individual always build upon his teachings of the race. To despise authority, and to set ourselves up as primary recipients of revelation, is to pour contempt upon the whole process of evolution and the organic connection of the generations; is, in short, to substitute individualism for racial unity. (Individual experiences of God and of his grace have been recorded in Scripture, and the Scriptures accordingly are able to make us wise unto I salvation. They specially and predominantly testify to Christ as a divine and atoning Saviour, and show how his teaching and work have made God accessible to men. God bids us bow to Christ, as his representative, and as our supreme authority; and the witness of God is this, that God gave to us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son.

.God is light. But light diffused cannot be seen; we

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