Download American Metempsychosis: Emerson, Whitman, and the New by John Michael Corrigan PDF

By John Michael Corrigan

"The transmigration of souls is not any fantasy. i might it have been, yet women and men are just part human." With those phrases, Ralph Waldo Emerson confronts a hindrance that illuminates the formation of yank individualism: to adapt and turn into absolutely human calls for a heightened engagement with background. american citizens, Emerson argues, needs to observe history's chronology in themselves--because their very own minds and our bodies are its evolving record.

Whereas scholarship has tended to lessen the paranormal underpinnings of Emerson's inspiration of the self, his depictions of "the metempsychosis of nature" show deep roots in mystical traditions from Hinduism and Buddhism to Platonism and Christian esotericism. In essay after essay, Emerson makes use of metempsychosis as an open-ended template to appreciate human development.

In Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman transforms Emerson's belief of metempsychotic selfhood into an expressly poetic occasion. His imaginative and prescient of transmigration viscerally celebrates the poet's skill to imagine and dwell in different our bodies; his American poet seeks to include the whole country into his personal individual in order that he can communicate for each guy and lady.

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Additional info for American Metempsychosis: Emerson, Whitman, and the New Poetry

Example text

These have sought to give an explanation of Nature; of beasts, plants, and minerals.  ] Pythagoras said that the soul of man endured penance in the low forms of ferocious, the metempsychotic mind / 25 gluttonous, obscene beasts. The pig was the purgatory of the glutton. A like faith had the Brahmin. Swedenborg taught that the soul creates evermore the body; that certain affections clothe themselves in certain forms as cunning in the fox, innocence in the lamb, cruelty in the laughing hyena. These opinions have failed to persuade men of their truth and yet are all valuable as the materials of truth, as proofs of an obstinate belief in the human mind that these creatures have a relation to itself.

Here, Emerson presents a very modern predicament: while the steps of the series may suggest a rational construction running from beginning to end, the individual can neither verify nor understand the nature of its construction; all he knows is his own petty place in the sequence of being, and his sequential movement becomes, during the course of the essay, a poverty that he can never fully overcome. Just as much as this dilemma demonstrates Emerson’s skepticism, it also expresses his underlying mystical sensibility.

Human beings repeat themselves; the “divine energy,” on the other hand, “never rests or repeats itself; but casts its old garb, and reappears, another creature; the old energy in a new form, with all the vigor of the earth, the Ancient of Days in the dew of the morning” (LL 1: 179). The soul shuffles off one body only to take another, fitter form, a process clearly metempsychotic, yet new at every moment in a way that evades systematization. Emerson instills this uneasy tension between soul and consciousness into every level of his subject matter.

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