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 issue that illuminates the formation of yankee individualism: to conform and develop into totally human calls for a heightened engagement with background. american citizens, Emerson argues, needs to notice 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 proposal of the self, his depictions of "the metempsychosis of nature" display 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 notion 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 converse for each guy and lady.

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

Example text

Emerson’s ingenuity is perhaps most pronounced in his adaptation of Platonic mimesis; he is able to establish and interweave two contradictory values into the fluctuating pattern of double consciousness. On the one hand, he maintains the univocal power of the soul over the material world in the order of genesis; on the other hand, he argues that the soul and the body are equal in the order of time. Unlike Swedenborg, Emerson maintains that true marriage is only possible in time and, thus, the material world is not a copy of divine essence, but a necessary feature in the soul’s eternal development.

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” (W 2: 163). As the soul looks forward beyond the present into an unknown, unwritten future, the world that flies out behind the soul to be incorporated into a new manifestation of being has to be radically discarded: “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.

Just as much as this dilemma demonstrates Emerson’s skepticism, it also expresses his underlying mystical sensibility. Reverberating powerfully in Emerson’s formulation of soul’s experience of the metempsychotic series is the Plotinian amorphon,64 a shapeless, unbounded abundance from which all individuation, including Intellect, soul, and body, emanates and to which all seek to return. ”65 The soul can be understood as that abundance upon which the origin and the series that flows from it are constituted, an abundance which, in numerous other writings, becomes a vanishing point in being, rather than an immanent superfluity.

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