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Copyright, 18SG, 
By William R. Thayer. 

John Wilson and Son, Cambridge. 



^ I ^HE oldest masterpiece in literature contains the profoundly 
-^ sad utterances of a mighty soul, upon whom tlie frailty 
of man, the mystery of evil, the pangs of conscience, the 
sorrows and disappointments and failures of life, laid an 
almost intolerable burden. " My soul is weary of my life," he 
cried; "I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak 
in the bitterness of my soul. I will say unto God, Do not con- 
demn me; show me wherefore thou contendest with me. Is it 
good unto thee that thou shouldcst oppress, that thou shouldest 
despise the work of thine hands, and shine upon the counsel 
of the wicked ? " Across the ages that cry of anguish sounds 
to us distinct, pathetic, human ; and it has had numberless 
echoes in every land which, since Job's Epic of Sorrow was 
written, has left literary records of itself Prophets, preachers, 
and poets, and builders and destroyers of philosophic systems, 
have wailed forth similar notes of doubt and agony, and liave 
attempted to discover, by Reason or l)y Faith, the cause of the 
heaviness of life and a remedy for it. 

Who has not felt his heart sink within him as he realized 
the awful discrepancy between what mankind would be and 
what they are, between the attainment and the desire ! How 
insignificant the individual appears, — a mere time-bubble float- 
ing for a moment between two eternities, a child who must face 
the inexorable forces by which the stars arc l^alanccd ! Only 
by drudgery can he keep himself alive on the planet, only by 
bitter experience does he come at last to know which habits 
are wholesome and whicli harmful ; and when, after blind 

gropings for superhuman help, he reaches tlie conviction that 
there is a moral purpose — and consequently a moral Ruler — 
in the universe, he is perplexed by a thousand fresh enigmas. 
Out of the shadows a Voice asks him : " Why does the Source 
of all virtue and goodness make goodness and virtue so hard 
for mankind to practise ? Why does the God of truth veil 
truth from his creatures ? And what, if God })refers the good 
to the wicked, becomes of the wicked ? 

" Looked at from one side, the record of organic life on 
earth seems but the tale of a perpetual conflict between the 
strong and the weak, — a conflict in which the strong always 
win and the weak always perish. Those fittest to survive de- 
stroy their inferiors. But what becomes of those that fail ? 
Were they created merely that their stronger enemies might 
destroy them? And, after all, the fittest themselves arc soon 
superseded : in a few generations they take the place of the 
weak; they are doomed to destruction, and creatures a little 
stronger live in their stead. To the tender-hearted, this spec- 
tacle of the incessant slaughter of countless millions of indi- 
viduals is appalling, saddening. Wherefore this extravagant 
waste of life ? To keep each species up to the level of its best 
members ? But in the perspective of geology the existence 
of a species dwindles to a span of no greater relative breadth 
than the existence of the individual in the view of history. 
xVnd what value can a Creator who despises the component 
members of a race set upon the race as a whole ? 

" Wo talk of the forward march of civilization and of the 
superiority of our time over preceding ages, and assume that 
a beneficent Power is guiding mankind towards perfection. 
We persistently look ahead to tliat ideal millennium which, 
with the sense of the reality of Sorrow, has lived in the imag- 
ination and poetic longings of noblc-hcartcd men. But Avhat 
of the generations dead, to Avhicli no inkling of Utopia was 
ever whispered ? Did they shoot up and wither merely to fur- 
nish manure from which our larger growth should spring ? 
May not a similar lot be ours and all men's ? Alas ! if we are 
here only to work for a posterity which must in turn perish, 
how vain, how unutterably hopeless is life ! 

••* And see how slowly, with what infinite pain and patience, 
a people rises toward what we call civihzation 1 Every im- 
provement in mechanical implement, every increase of knowl- 
edge and recognition of a higher moral standard, requires 
years, perhaps centuries, for dissemination. Each helpful 
thouoht or device has been wrested from the invisible Keeper 
of Knowledge, who grudgingly surrenders it to his mortal 
antagonist. Life is a cruel combat between frailty and omnipo- 
tence, in which the former can gain nothing, and the latter 
can lose nothing. 

" The religions that have dominated mankind have been 
pervaded with the conviction that life is hard, that happiness 
is illusory, that by renunciation alone can peace of mind be 
attained. Do you not hear a piteous Terror sighing througli 
every creed ? This conflict between good and evil has been 
typified as a struggle between a personal God and a personal 
Devil. The human race, it is preached, is under a blight. 
Utterly unworthy, it must hasten to perdition, but for the sac- 
rifice of some saviour. Prometheus, Buddha, Clu-ist, by their 
sublime unselfishness earn for mortals a larger hope of salva- 
tion. If the good fail to thrive in this world, they will be 
rewarded in the next ; and though the wicked flourish here, 
hell awaits them hereafter. The conception of divine venge- 
ance jangles strangely with the assertion that God is love. 
Yet Christianity offers a great hope, promises that in the 
end the rigliteous shall be cared for by God ; it holds out to 
the down-trodden and afflicted a prospect of rest and comfort ; 
it gives strength to bear present ills for the sake of winning 
divine approval. Nevertheless, what Christian can justify the 
prevalence of wrongs, of sin, of pain, of failure, in a world 
ruled by a God whose pretended attributes are right, justice, 
mercy, love ? Among men, the honest do not steal, the truth- 
ful do not lie, the loving are not cruel ; why should not the 
works of your divinity correspond to the character you ascribe 
to him?" 

Then will the universe clothe itself in mourning to him who 
has listened to this Voice. Pain, disease, crime ; the pettiness 


of daily life ; the vast uneducated multitudes stretching like 
a Slough of Despond over the Past and into the Future ; tlie 
incubus of poverty ; heredity crippling offspring to punish 
the sins of the fathers ; the plaintive cry of the children, the 
curses of the wicked, the jests of the ribald, — will blot out of 
his heart the belief in a world governed by a deity which dearly 
loves it. A crushing sense of the futility of every effort will 
come over him. Why toil to lift one or two, when millions 
must inevitably fall? What will become of those millions when 
they have fallen ? Were every American a paragon of virtue 
and enlightenment, would not Asia, Africa, and the Oceanic 
hordes remain unsaved ? Alas ! poor wretches, sinking by 
myriads in the angry ocean, the little cork I toss you can keep 
none of you from drowning. And so, with a soul full of 
anguish and compassion, or of desperate wrath and bitterness, 
according as his nature leads him to heed chiefly the sufferings 
of others or his own, he is ready to acknowledge with the 
pessimist that life is not worth living. 

But is this the end ? Is life at bottom an abyss of woe spun 
across with a gossamer film of illusions through which all 
except children — light-footed in their blissful ignorance — 
must sink ? Are these failures and wrongs, this weariness and 
despair, not real, — nay, the only realities ? Is the " worship 
of sorrow" not for all hearts? Has not that lamentation of 
Job resounded through the ages, — an endless, pitiful wail like 
that heard by Dante in the starless air of Hell, an awful 
affirmation of the hopelessness of living ? 

Let us listen to one who sings apart from the dolorous choir, 
— to Emerson. 

Emerson's works, like the Bible or Shakspeare or those 
collections of proverbs in which in every language are summed 
up the wit and wisdom of unnumbered nameless poets and 
philosophers, might furnish texts for sermons of any color, 
Theist or pantheist or agnostic might bind his arguments with 
quotations from the many-sided Essays. Nay, at different 
times Emerson tells a different story to the same person, — as I 
have experienced in reading his essay on Fate, for instance, 

which has seemed to me both an inspiring assertion of the free- 
dom of the will and an unanswerable argument for fatalism. 
This apparent shifting is the obstacle that prevents many per- 
sons from understanding Emerson. We shun uncertainty, and 
seek amid the unceasing changes of life an immutable stand- 
point. Those religions which have influenced for the longest 
time the largest numbers of human beings have accordingly 
made the boldest pretension of resting on impregnable founda- 
tions and asserted an adequate knowledge of heavenly as well 
as of earthly affairs. To bring order out of the seeming chaos 
of the natural and spiritual worlds is the incessant effort of 
Reason. It deduces laws, it weaves theories, — cables which 
connect it with the shore, no matter how far it drift upon the 
undiscovered sea. It has rules for everything, a pigeon-hole 
for everything ; and when a fact does not fall directly under 
the law. Reason complacently argues from the exception the 
truth of the law, itself. But are we really governed by as many 
rules capable of exact demonstration as we persuade ourselves ? 
Is there not much that is spontaneous and unconscious in our 
actions ? Speaking precisely, is not the tracing of laws an 
after-process of the Reason, which strives to impose its ex-post- 
facto logic on our lives ? For example, we neither love nor 
hate by logic, nor by any other formula recognized at the mo- 
ment. Each act, each event is new, and will be tinged by the 
individuality of each person. The logician who thinks to con- 
found Emerson by demanding syllogistic corroboration, or by 
confronting him with contradictory opinions bearing on the 
same subject, will get no satisfaction. " Let me remind you 
that I am only an experimenter. Do not set the least value on 
what I do, or the least discredit on what I do not, — as if I 
pretended to settle anything as true or false. I unsettle all 
things ; no facts to me are sacred, none profane. I simply 
experiment, — an endless Seeker, with no Past at my back." ^ 
The object of the present essay is therefore to state as briefly 
and as clearly as possible what may he called Emerson's lead- 
ing views, often borrowing, for the sake of exactness, his own 

1 Circles. 


language, which defies condensation. To attempt to attack 
them with the usual weapons of philosophical criticism would 
be ludicrously unprofitable, for only Quixotic philosophers dis- 
})lay their prowess by overthrowing systems which do not exist. 
Emerson's creed, lilie Shakspeare's, baffles definition ; but 
who on this account is blind to the religion and philosophy in 
Hamlet and 3Iacheth ? If in one place Emerson makes a half- 
statement, be sure that somewhere else its complement and 
corrective have been recorded. He can be understood only by 
those who seek for the spirit of all his work. To single out a 
paragraph or chapter as representative, generally misrepresents 
him. Let us examine, then, the Emersonian scheme, taking 
care always to remember this warning of his : " I know better 
than to claim any completeness for my picture. I am a frag- 
ment, and this is a fragment of me. I can very confidently 
announce one or another law, which throws itself into relief 
and form, but / am too young yet hy some ages to compile a 
coder 1 

Emerson divides the Universe into Nature and Soul, com- 
prising under the former all that is not me in the natural world 
and in art. Nature is man's teacher. First of all she dis- 
closes herself to him as Commodity P- She is not only the 
material, but the result of man's labor. She furnishes every- 
thing except the spirit that directs his labor. She is his home, 
workshop, and playground ; his food and raiment. These 
functions and relations all men, even the dullest, recognize. 
But the cleverer man docs not stop here ; he watches her 
metliods and invents devices for lessening his toil and increas- 
ing his comforts. " The private poor man hatli cities, ships, 
canals, bridges, built for him. He goes to the post-office, and 
the human race run on liis errands ; to the book-shop, and the 
human race read and write of all that happens, for him ; to 
the court-house, and nations repair his wrongs." 

But Nature has a higher purpose than merely to feed and 
clothe man, — services she renders equally to the meanest 

1 Experience. ^ Nature, chap. ii. 

animals ; in threefold fashion she satisfies his love of Beauty} 

First, natural forms in and for themselves give pleasure, by 
resting the weary and by causing purely sensuous delight. The 
tradesman " comes out of the din and craft of the street and 
sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again." A gorgeous 
sunrise or sunset, a varied landscape, the succession of plants, 
and the orderly march of tribes of birds and insects, have a 
perennial fascination for the sympathetic observer. But a higher 
element — the spiritual — is essential to its perfection. This 
pageant of land and sea and sky is more than a mere wonder- 
stirring yet meaningless show, it is the emblem of the Divine 
Mind. " Beauty is the mark God sets upon virtue." Finally, 
*' the beauty of the world may be viewed as it becomes an 
object of the intellect." Nature has correspondence with 
thought, as well as with virtue and emotion ; and from intel- 
lectual admiration is born that desire to re-embody beauty in 
new forms from which Art springs. " No reason can be asked 
or given why the soul seeks beauty. Truth and goodness and 
beauty are but different faces of the same All." Higher than 
the beauty in Nature, however, is the inward beauty of the 
soul, which it heralds. 

Again, Nature is the vehicle of thought ; she furnishes 
Languagey Words are primarily signs of natural facts ; later, 
they become symbols of spiritual facts. With metaphors 
learned from the outside world we clothe our inmost thoughts 
susceptible of expression : the poet in words, the sculptor in a 
statue, the musician in sounds. "Man is conscious of a uni- 
versal soul within or behind his individual life, wherein, as in 
a firmament, the natures of Justice, Truth, Love, Freedom, 
arise and shine. This universal soul, he calls Reason : it is 
not mine or thine or his, but we are its ; we are its property 
and men." But how disproportionate it seems that we should 
use this " grand cipher," which Reason stamps upon Nature, " to 
expedite the affairs of our pot and kettle ! " " We are like 
travellers using the cinders of a volcano to roast their eggs." 
When, therefore, we ask ourselves if these symbols have not 

^ Nature, chap. iii. 2 ibid., chap. iv. 


some inherent significance, we are forced to conclude that 
" this relation between the mind and matter is not fancied by- 
some poet, but stands in the will of God. . . . There seems to 
be a necessity in spirit to manifest itself in material forms ; 
and day and night, river and storm, beast and bird, acid and 
alkali, pre-exist in necessary Ideas in the mind of God, and 
are what they are by virtue of preceding affections in the 
world of spirit. A Fact is the end or last issue of spirit." 

And now man discovers that "Nature is a Discipline.'''' I 
Every atom, every property of matter brings a lesson. First, 
the understanding is instructed in intellectual truths ; it per- 
ceives differences. Each natural object has a peculiar use. 
Space and Time teach that " things are not huddled and 
lumped, but sundered and individual." Therefore " the wise 
man shows his wisdom in separation, in gradation, and 
Ms scale of creatures and of merits is as wide as nature. The 
foolish have no range in their scale, but suppose every man is 
as every other man. What is not good they call the worst, 
and what is not hateful they call the best." Behold, next, 
liow every event proclaims " the exercise of the Will or the 
lesson of power." Inch by inch all natural forces are subju- 
gated by the man of character. " His victorious thought 
comes up with and reduces all things, until the world be- 
comes at last only a realized will, — the double of the man." 
Moreover, all things are moral ; Nature is the ally of reli- 
gion, for " every natural process is a version of a moral 
sentence." Borne in upon the mind from all sides is the 
conviction of a Unity, in which all exists and which per- 
meates all. 

Since to the " one end of Discipline all parts of Nature 
conspire, a noble doubt perpetually suggests itself, — whether 
this end be not the Final Cause of the Universe, and whether 
Nature outwardly exists." This doubt can never be settled, 
because the evidence of the senses can never be tested, and 
must always be ideal. Let no one argue from this Idealism.,'^ 
however, that the stability of the material world is in danger. 

1 Nature, chap. v. ^ Ibid., chap. vi. 



" God never jests with us," but guards inviolably the perma- 
nence of Nature. As our culture in Idealism widens, we 
outgrow our earlier superstition that " man and Nature are 
indissolubly joined . . . that things are ultimates." We 
escape from the " despotism of the senses, which binds us to 
Nature as if we were a part of it, and shows us Nature aloof, 
and, as it were, afloat. ... If the Reason be stimulated to 
more earnest vision, outlines and surfaces become transparent, 
and are no longer seen ; causes and spirits are seen through 
them." And Nature herself urges us to our emancipation ; 
the poet helps us ; the philosopher, the student of intellectual 
science, and, finally, ethics and religion, help us to perceive 
that Nature is an " appendix of the soul." 

Nature is the perpetual reminder of God. "It always 
speaks of Spirit,^ suggests the absolute. . . . And of that 
ineffable essence which we call Spirit, he that thinks most will 
say least." But he will come to recognize that " it does not 
act upon us from without, that is, in space and time, but 
spiritually, or through ourselves : therefore that Spirit, that is, 
the Supreme Being, does not build up Nature around us, but 
puts it forth through us, as the life of the tree puts forth new 
branches and leaves through the pores of the old." Under- 
standing this, we are " animated to create our own world 
through the purification of our soul." Emerson closes this 
essay on Nature — the purest and loftiest spiritual message 
yet uttered in America — with this promise : "As fast as you 
conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will 
unfold its great proportions ... so fast will disagreeable ap- 
pearances, — swine, spiders, snakes, pests, mad-houses, prisons, 
enemies, — vanish ; they are temporary, and shall be no more 
seen.- . . . The kingdom of man over Nature, which cometh 
not with observation, — a dominion such as now is beyond his 
dream of God, — he shall enter without more wonder than the 
blind man feels who is gradually restored to perfect sight." 

Even from this glimpse we see two principles illuminating 
Emerson's faith, — a high Idealism, bespeaking Unity, immor- 

^ Nature, chap. vii. 


tal and infinite, and an unshaken belief in the majesty of the 
Individual. Intuition apprises us immediately of an ineffable 
Spirit whose abode is the Universe, whose emblems are Wis- 
dom, Virtue, and Love. It follows that every individual is a 
part of this Spirit, and that he is not necessarily the fallen, 
despicable wretch depicted by Moses and still bemoaned in 
many churches, but a living child of God, — and who can say 
how much that means ? 

Emerson is the unwearied champion of Individuals. All 
his sentences are addressed to them. He reveals to them the 
possibilities lying within reach of all. Mere bigness and burly 
multitudes get no praise from him. The glib cant of the 
demagogue issues not from his lips. " Leave this hypocritical 
prating about the masses," he says sternly. "Masses are rude, 
lame, unmade, pernicious in their demands and influence, and 
need not to be flattered, but to be schooled. I wish not to 
concede anything to them, but to tame, drive, divide, and break 
them up, and draw individuals out of them. The worst of 
charity is, that the lives you are asked to preserve are not 
worth preserving. Masses ! the calamity is the masses." ^ 
Yet Emerson brings the humblest of his listeners up to the 
level of the world-heroes. You feel in reading him that no 
act of heroism, no ordeal of devotion, no supreme renunciation 
would be hard. " I like that every chair shall be a throne 
and hold a king."^ Probably no actual king, except the ever- 
beautiful Marcus Aurelius, could have filled Emerson's 
" throne " worthily. 

The Individual, being a sharer in the Infinite Spirit, must 
rise in the world of spirit. Each virtue shall add a plume to 
his wings. He must be self-reliant. With such a sponsor, 
what has he to fear ? It ill becomes one who knows that he 
is on a mission for the infinite and eternal to quail before the 
finite and transitory. " Why should we feel ourselves to be 
men, unless it be to succeed in everything, everywhere?" 
exclaims Mirabeau. Emerson adds, " That we are here is 
proof that we ought to be here."^ The day dawns when 

^ Considerations by the Way. ^ Manners. 


we realize that we must be ourselves, trust ourselves, accept- 
ing cheerfully the time and land into which Providence has 
called us. Little will it avail us to pray the prayers and 
accept the creeds of others. The authors of those prayers 
and creeds relied courageously upon themselves ; they ad- 
monish us to imitate, not their words, but their self-reliance. 
Why should we ransack England, Italy, and Greece for 
patterns ? We shall find no more in Rome than we take 
with us thither. 

All things conspire to acquaint the Individual with Spirit. 
Out of dangers and trials he shall extract self-confidence and 
courage. The strength that lay in each difficulty shall, when 
overcome, be added to his strength. Art shall make visible 
for him Beauty, which before lurked dimly in his mind, and 
Beauty shall delight him as the charm that invariably vivifies 
perfect work. Books shall introduce him to the assembly of 
the choice spirits whom the ages have elected to represent 
Immanity. Friendship shall bring him face to face with those 
who are pursuing a soul's journey similar to his. Love, finally, 
shall disclose to hira most intimately and sweetly the embodi- 
ment of the Universal Love. 

But the integrity of the Individual must be carefully guarded ; 
he must not be deceived into mistaking any of these for the 
end of his existence : God alone is that. So he is frequently 
reminded, if he linger too long over business or art or books 
or friends, that only the Eternal can permanently satisfy him. 
These reminders often seem rude, often they cause heartache ; 
but at last he understands their purpose. " The death of a 
dear friend, wife, brother, lover, which seemed nothing but 
privation, somewhat later assumes the aspect of a guide or 
genius; for it commonly operates revolutions in our way of 
life, terminates an epoch of infancy or youth which was waiting 
to be closed, breaks up a wonted occupation or a household or 
style of living, and allows the formation of new ones more 
friendly to the growth of character. . . . And the man or 
woman who would have remained a sunny garden-flower, with 
no room for its roots and too much sunshine for its head, by 
the falling of the walls and the neglect of the gardener is made 


the banian of the forest, yielding shade and fruit to wide 
neighborhoods of men." ^ 

One truth of vital importance must, therefore, be learned, — 
nothing abides except Spirit. Matter and its accidents under- 
go unintermitted change. Life is fluid, not sohd ; progressive, 
not stationary. The soul is. 

When once this truth has been grasped we wonder no longer 
why laws, religions, and social customs cannot be permanent. 
They are dams made to fit one time ; the river of Humanity 
flows through all times. See, for example, how significant 
this is when applied to ethics. The ethical codes, one after 
another, grow too small, and must be cast off, or repaired and 
enlarged. As men's faith in a personal God diminishes, their 
need of a personal symbol of him diminishes; Christ the 
Man has more significance than Christ the God. Likewise, 
many enlightened persons no longer believe in everlasting 
damnation, —a scheme of compensation evidently contrary to 
all the testimony of life, because it assumes that the universal 
flux will cease and that the guilty soul will remain in a fixed 
shape in hell, in spite of the fact that all souls are moving. 
Moreover, it attaches an absolute value to a human, relative 
act. Which of us would dare to assert that a single act or a 
sinole thought is the summary and completion of his career, 
or that it is even conceivable that any momentary experience 
should become solid, unchanged forevermore? Look where 
we will, development, or unfolding, is going on ; no end is 
reached, or thinkable. The human imagination has drawn a 
finite, temporal hell to do what it intends shall be an infinite 
and eternal work. Let us beware of usmg our foot-rule and 
hour-^lass to measure immeasurable Space and Time. All 
human theories of retribution must be false if they are false to 
this law of life ; namely. Growth, or Being, or Becoming. 

Emerson overthrows the fetich Consistency because under 
the pretence of being consistent men too often remain 
dwarfed. They are tethered to a dogma, they have eaten 
all the food within their reach; and yet, instead of going forth 

1 Compensation. ' See Self-Reliance. 


to feed in the inexhaustible pastures of the universe, their 
consistency makes them revolve hungrily in their little disk of 
stubble. Life is larger than a theory, — does it not include 
all theories ? The soul is larger than a dogma. But Consis- 
tency, which cannot grow, denies the right of growth to his 
victim. The clinging to the Past indicates an ignoble suspi- 
cion that the Present and Future must fall short, and that 
the infinite has limitations. The healthy soul welcomes 
change as the creator of newer, grander conditions. " In 
proportion to the vigor of the individual, these revolutions 
are frequent, until in some happier mind they are incessant, 
and all worldly relations hang very loosely about him, becom- 
ing, as it were, a transparent fluid membrane through which 
the living form is seen, and not, as in most men, an indurated 
heterogeneous fabric of many dates and of no settled character, 
in which the man is imprisoned." ^ 


There are two questions which every earnest man has asked 
himself, oftenest in trembling or grim desperation: "Am I 
the puppet of Fate ? " " What means this crushing mystery 
of Sin ? " Upon the answers to these questions depend his 
views of morals, his happiness in this world, his hope of im- 
mortality, his belief in God. If he ask himself in vain ; if, 
in spite of diligent self-questioning and entreaty, the reply 
never come, — he will turn to the great wise men who stand at 
the entrance to the temple as spokesmen of the gods invisible 
within. Lucky will it be if from any lips issue words to put 
his perplexity at rest ! It is only too likely that their re- 
sponses will be his old riddles in new garb. Then will he 
depart in sorrow, crying out with Omar Khayyam, — 

" O thou who didst with pitfall and with gin 
Beset the Road I was to wander in, 

Thou wilt not with Predestined Evil round 
Enmesh, and then impute my Fall to Sin ! 

" O thou who Man of baser Earth didst make, 
And even with Paradise devise the Snake, 

For all the Sin wherewith the Face of ]\Ian 
Is blackened, Man's Forgiveness give — and take." 2 

1 Compensation. ^ Rubaiyat, Ixxx. Ixxxi. 



It seems that the Keeper of these secrets has never yet 
revealed them to mortal coaxing or compulsion. They are 
impregnable to the assaults of dialecticians. Philosophical 
and scientific system-makers have hurled ingeniously contrived 
engines against the adamantine stronghold. After the din 
and dust of the concussion vanish, the rock rises there, grim, 
silent, awful; and the splinters of the puny battering-ram 
strew its base. Nevertheless, though dialectics fail and vision 
be dim, we live, and, in living, by hints and inklings we begin 
to infer something concerning those secrets which we could 
not take by storm. Emerson's inestimable worth appears in 
this ; he furnishes you with no weapon of attack, but by preg- 
nant hints and by discovering hidden relations he will assist 
you towards a reasonable certainty. In 1853 he wrote to 
Carlyle in regard to the essay on Fate, then recently writ- 
ten : " You will survive the reading, and will be a sure proof 
that the nut is not cracked. For when we find out what fate 
is, I suppose the Sphinx and we are done for, and Sphinx, 
(Edipus, and the world ought by good rights to roll down 
the steep into the sea." ^ 

Of what nature, then, is the assistance Emerson gives us 
towards accepting that bitter mystery, the apparent conflict of 
Fate and Free-will ? Certainly no single phrase sums up his 
views. We need not hope to win him for an ally for either 
camp. He states with unflinching candor that Fate is omni- 
present. "Great men, great nations, have not been boasters 
and buffoons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have 
manned themselves to face it." ^ He shows how heredity, sex, 
temperament, circumstances inevitably shape, limit, bind the 
individual. He describes the perpetual struggle between brute 
matter and thought, " the spirit which composes and decom- 
poses Nature,"— a struggle, fierce and necessary, between God 
and Devil. But even from the darkest aspect of the enigma 
Emerson plucks radiant counsel. " If you believe in Fate to 
your harm," he says, " believe in it at least for your good. 
For if Fate is so prevailing, man also is part of it, and can 
confront fate with fate.'" ^ 

1 Carlyle-Emerson Correspondence, ii. 217. ^ Fate. 


Admit the scope of Fate, you must equally admit the free- 
dom of the Will. Should this contradiction clash with your logic, 
it will nevertheless tally with your experience. Intellect, in 
that which pertains to itself, testifies to a Necessity ; Will, 
in that which pertains to Will, testifies to Freedom : you must 
believe both, since each has no authority either to prove or dis- 
prove matters outside of its sj)here. The intuition which 
makes you aware of moral responsibility is as indubitable as 
any other fact which enters your consciousness. Yet it neces- 
sarily transcends mathematical demonstration. Will you on 
this account scornfully toss it away as chimerical or worthless ? 
Then for the same reason you must deny the commonest, yet 
inscrutably secret, facts of experience, such as the union of 
mind and matter, or variety proceeding from unity, or motion 
from rest. So Emerson maintains that the moral sentiment 
demands the freedom of the Will. Every fact is moral, and 
manifests the moral nature of Spirit. Fate, therefore, dissi- 
pates the immoral delusion that trusts in luck or chance or a 
law-breaking " special Providence." Fate presupposes and 
asserts the permanence and sacredness of Law and of that 
" Blessed Unity which holds natures and souls in perfect so- 
lution and compels every atom to serve a universal end." 
Believing absolutely in the beneficence of the Great Spirit, 
from whom all things ebb and to whom all things flow back, 
Emerson could not help believing that the end served by every 
atom is not only universal, but ultimately good. With our 
relative knowledge we cannot possibly prove that what seems 
transiently bad will remain eternally bad, or that even from 
what is bad at the moment good may not be derived ; yet even 
measuring by our every-day standard of good and bad, we de- 
tect numerous instances, either in our own lives or in history, 
of great blessings originating in apparent calamities. This 
being true of phenomena whose purport we presume to deter- 
mine, why should not the same be true of all phenomena ? 
Our shortsightedness extends to our view of morals. We do 
not behold crime immediately punished according to our code, 
and we exclaim, therefore, that the guilty escape, or that there 
is no moral law. But every account is settled, though we be 


not present at the settlement ; and " every ultimate fact is the 
first of a new series." ^ Evidently, were Emerson a professed 
fatalist and nothing more, he would meet Fate as a friendly, 
and not as a malignant, power. 

A recent critic^ has brought tlie charge against Emerson 
" that he has little to say of that horrid burden and impediment 
on the soul which the churches call Sin, and which, by what- 
ever name we call it, is a very real catastrophe in the moral 
nature of man. He had no eye, like Dante's, for the vileness, 
the cruelty, the utter despicableness to which humanity may be 
moulded. The courses of Nature and the prodigious injustice 
of man in society affect him with neither horror nor awe." 
If this charge were true, Emerson's name would already be 
foro-otten, — nay, it would never have emerged from obscurity. 
Not by " mere playing w^ith words" did he rise to be one of the 
great moral forces of this century. Not by shutting his eyes, 
not by betaking himself to the clouds, when his questioners put 
to him this bitter puzzle or pointed at the hideous spectres of 
evil, did he soothe their terrible doubts and revive their courage. 
If he had not known their need, how could he have ministered 
to them ? How could his spirit still speak the right word to a 
new generation of inquirers ? The truth is, that to bring such 
a charge against Emerson is to proclaim an imperfect under- 
standing of his teaching and a crippled appreciation of his 
character. Emerson does not shut his eyes upon the nightmare 
of Sin. Less than any other modern moralist does he blink 
the truth, because he has no theory or sect to serve by half- 
statements or by suppression. On the contrary, it is because 
he has dared to scrutinize all that he dares to tell all. We call his 
tone optimistic from its habitual healthy ring ; but let nobody 
suppose it lacks other notes, or that he wished himself to be 
thought of as singing pretty little ditties, jocund madrigals, and 
ballads of fair weather. 

In the chapters on Fate and Power, in those on Com- 
pensation and Considerations by the Way and Behavior, 
— not to mention others, — Emerson's deep realization of the 

1 Circles. ^ Mr. John Morley. 


existence and mystery of Evil is recorded. Listen to a few of 

his stern facts : — 

- We must see that the world is rough and surly, aud will not mind 
drowning a man or a woman, but swallows your ship like a gram of dust 
The diseases, the elements, fortune, gravity, lightning, respect uo persons. 
- Let us not deny it up and down. Providence has a wild, rough, incal- 
culable road to its end, and it is of no use to try to whitewash its huge, 
mixed instrumentalities, or to dress up that terrific benefactor in a clean 
shirt and white neckcloth of a student of divinity.- "Nature work 
very hard, and only hits the white once in a million throws. In mankind 
she is contented if she yield one master m a century.' - 

Let these, from among a hundred quotable passages of iden- 
tical import, bear witness that Emerson, " unshaken, unseduced, 
unterrified," dared "to look at the monster. The quotations 
that follow help to corroborate and to explain why the hideous 
spectacle overcame neither his courage nor his hope : — 

" Fate keeps everything alive so long as the smallest thread of public 
neces4tv holds it on to the tree. The coxcomb and bully and thief class 
are allowed as proletaries, every one of their vices being the excess or 
acridity of a virtue. The mass are animal, in pupilage, and near chim- 
panzee." 2 "In front of these sinister facts, the first lesson of history is 
the good of evil."i " Nothing, Falsehood, may indeed stand as the great 
nicht, or shade, on which, as a background, the living nniverse paints 
itself forth : but no fact is begotten by it; it cannot work, for it is not. 
It cannot work any good ; it cannot work any harm. It is harm, inasmuch 
as it is worse not to be than to be." ^ " Our philosophy is affirmative, and 
readily accepts the testimony of negative facts, as every shadow points to 
the sun " " " The Medical College piles up in its museum its grim mon- 
sters of morbid anatomv, and there are melancholy sceptics with a taste 
for carrion who batten on the hideous facts in history, — perseciitions, 
inquisitions, St. Bartholomew massacres, devilish lives, Nero, Caesar 
Boro-ia, Marat, Lopez, men in whom every ray of humanity was 
extinguished, parricides, matricides, and whatever moral monsters. 
These are not cheerful facts, but they do not disturb a healthy mmd; 
they require of us a patience as robust as the energy that attacks us, and 
an unresting exploration of final causes. Wolf, snake, and crocodile are 
not inharmonious in nature, but are made useful as checks, scavengers, 
and pioneers; but we must have a scope as large as Nature's to deal with 
beast-like men, detect what scullion function is assigned them, and 
foresee in the secular melioration of the planet how these will become 
unnecessary and will die out." ^ 

1 Fate. 2 Considerations by the Way. ^ Compensation. 

i Spiritual Laws. ^ Courage. 


Emerson looks upon Sin as relative. He sees, with eyes as 
keen as Darwin's, tlie everlasting reciprocity between tlie indi- 
vidual and his environment. He understands that in order to 
lift the individual you must take him from his lower up to a 
higher plane. Why this is true, Emerson pretends not to ex- 
plain, fully aware that it is as inexplicable as that anytliing 
is; but he insists that the realization of this truth suffices to 
direct our conduct. " I have learned," he says, " that I cannot 
dispose of other people's facts. . . . They wish to be saved 
from the mischiefs of their vices, hut not from their vices.'' ^ 
Emerson stands on a high cliff, beneath which a crowd of 
unfortunates call to him to extricate them from a bog. From 
his eminence he sees, beyond the slough, firm land, pleasant 
meadows, and wooded hills, and he replies to the strugglers : 
" You can never be comfortable while you remain where you 
are ; a few brave steps will bring your feet upon solid ground." 
He does not tell them to try to fill up the bog, or to spend 
their lives in wondering why it is there and why they are in- 
volved in it, but he tells them to go out of it. Once let them 
reach a stable footing, and all thought of their plight will 
vanish. This may illustrate, however rudely, the manner in 
which life answers most of our questions : not by a direct Yes, 
or M, not by a glib phrase, but by a roundabout experience 
in which we live the answer. 

In our ordinary transactions we look for a definite, tangible 
payment for work. By the introduction of a neutral symbol 
of "^exchange we are apt to lose sight of the intrinsic conditions 
of compensation. In early times if a man wanted a cow he 
did a si)ecified piece of work and received a cow as wages ; 
now we work ostensibly for money,— of no value in itself unless 
it be the equivalent of a considerable number of articles. 
Hence vagueness arises concerning the true relations between 
work and wages. Moreover, we are inclined to imagine that 
rewards in the moral world come in the same fashion as in the 

It need hardly be pointed out that this view has dominated 

1 Experience. 


every organized system of religion. The good Mohammedan 
is to be rewarded in heaven by unrestricted license to gratify 
his sensual appetites, without risk of satiety. The North 
American Indian, through whose robust veins and wiry muscles 
vibrates the desire of activity, hopes to awaken in a " happy 
hunting-ground," — a region where game never grows scarce, 
and where every arrow hits the mark. The more libidinous 
Asiatic, finding his chief solace in the flesh, commands that 
his women be buried alive with him, so that they may be ready 
for his pleasure upon his arrival in the other world. The Turk 
has faith that Allah will people heaven with houris ; the more 
sceptical and careful Asiatic deems it prudent to provide for 
his own comfort. What Arab ever left his darling horse out 
of his dream of heaven ? The Christian ideal of paradise 
has varied in accordance with the large variety of peoples who 
have called themselves Christians. Doubtless, no two ideals 
agree ; but the underlying characteristic of all has been that 
heaven is a place where all wrongs will be righted and all 
longings satisfied. The Almighty sits there as a judge who 
rewards or punishes mortals according to their good or evil 
deeds on earth. The virtuous will receive a crown, the sym- 
bol— is it not? — of their dearest desire; while the wicked 
will be doomed to everlasting torment. So completely, at 
times, has this fiction of what we may call the " reward-of- 
merit" scheme of compensation contaminated branches of tlie 
Christian Church that its members did not even wait for the 
sentence of the Almighty Judge, but assumed to know before 
doomsday what He would decree. The Catholics, for instance, 
had a tariff, in which was set down the cost of any transgres- 
sion. If a nobleman wished to kill an enemy, or to rob the 
poor, or to outrage defenceless women, he could do so with 
impunity, provided he bought an " indulgence" of the Pope, — 
the indulgence being a certificate for notifying the recording 
angel in heaven that the sinner had settled his score on earth. 
Even to-day, millions of Catholics are taught that the felicity of 
the souls of their loved ones in the other world can be enhanced 
by the burning of candles in this!— a superstition which, like 
that of those persons who by means of table-rappings and 


slate-scratcliings think to communicate with the spirits of 
departed friends, begets pity, and not contempt. 

These examples are cited solely to illustrate the pathetic 
extreme to which the notion that heaven is a, place for the distri- 
bution of prizes has carried professing Christians. Other illus- 
trations might have been chosen whicli would liave shown less 
forcibly the same fact ; for the characteristic alkided to is trace- 
able even in such noble visions as the " divine rose of Love " of 
Dante's Paradise. As religion becomes more spiritual, men 
cherish purer views of heaven ; so that if nothing remained of 
a race except the picture it had drawn, in hope and in fear, of 
heaven, we could determine accurately its civilization. 

But is it not possible that here on earth are the conditions 
supposed to obtain in the imaginary heaven ? that to-day, that 
every day, is a "day of judgment" ? What if it turn out that a 
man may not wait until the end of time to be punished for his 
evil deed, but that he is punished on the spot, — that the com- 
mission of the wrong and the punishment are simultaneous ? 
What if it be true that " virtue is its own reward " ? 

If we follow the standards of the stock-exchange and the 
political platform, or even those of many theologies, we shall 
hear that "the wicked prosper ; the good are unhappy ; Wrong 
very often tramples upon Right." Not until we agree as to 
what makes true prpsperity can we establish wherein true com- 
pensation lies. Let us define prosperity, therefore, as "that 
state in which the Spirit can most fully exercise its relations 
with God." Neither wealth, nor social position, nor business 
success, nor public honor, nor any other external profit is 
essential to this communion. " Be cheerful also, and seek not 
external help, nor the tranquillity which others give : a man 
Ihen must stand erect, not be kept erect by others," says 
Marcus Aurelius ; and he adds in another passage : " Things 
do not touch the soul, for they are external and remain immov- 
able ; but our perturbations come only from the opinion which 
is within. . . . Does any one do wrong ? It is to himself that 
he does the wrong." Is not this the meaning of Goethe's 
saying: "Every debt is paid in this life"? Is not this the 
clue to Emerson's doctrine of Compensation? 


The soul's health abides in God, in Goodness. Every good 
act increases our store of goodness and strengthens our rela- 
tions with God. Every bad act, on the other hand, removes 
us by just so much from him ; in this removal, this depriva- 
tion, consists our punishment. Since the greatest imaginable 
bliss is to be pervaded by spirit, the greatest calamity is to be 
cut off therefrom ; and each act, to the extent of its moral 
value, immediately takes us nearer to or farther from the Over- 
Soul. The compensation coincides with the work. The attempt 
to separate the good from the price which must be paid for it 
would never be tried, says Emerson, were it not that " when 
the disease began in the will, of rebellion and separation, the 
intellect is at once infected, so that man ceases to see God 
whole in each object, but is able to see the sensual allurement 
of an object, but not see the sensual hurt, and thinks he can 
cut off that which he would have from that which he would 
not have." ^ Is this not a more reasonable and spiritual view 
than that other in which the avenging deity is represented as 
pursuing culprits but never overtaking them until they stumble 
over the precipice of death into the bottomless pit of hell ? 

In this view each sinful act draws a film between the indi- 
vidual and the Great Spirit, until, in the end, no light could 
pierce for the guidance of the sinner. His spiritual life be- 
comes warped. One by one the qualities that ennoble are 
quenched, for want of nourishment. Should the degradation 
continue to the lowest conceivable limit, should every channel 
of communication with God be closed, the soul must go out 
from, or, more precisely, could not enter into, the individual. 
It is as if we should descend the scale of organic life : at each 
descent some organ or faculty would be extinguished, until we 
reached those shapeless creatures whose single attribute is life; 
beyond them is Nothingness, the real perdition. In this de- 
parture from perfection, in this loss of those characteristics 
which we associate with the noblest ideal, in this imbruting, 
lives the real curse of guilt, the real punishment ; and not in 
the confinement of the wretch in a prison during this life and 

' Compensation. 


in a hell during the next. " Crime and punishment grow out 
of one stem." Be it again noted that in the ordinary concep- 
tion of heaven and hell, Time enters as an impossible element: 
tortures and rewards are referred to temporal standards ; but 
Spirit is eternal. 

Over the world of possessions the same balance is held. 
Despite apparent disparity, justice is done. The peasant, 
seehig only the splendor, power, ease, and luxury of the king, 
dreams that if he were king all his desires could be easily 
gratified ; he does not see the cares and responsibilities of 
kingship, which make a sovereign often less free than his sub- 
jects. We daily hear persons who would " give anything " 
(that is, nothing) to own So-and-so's millions ; but they forget 
that the millionnaire has paid cent for cent for all his fortune, 
and that he has acquired with it its very real limitations and 
burdens. These persons " see the mermaid's head," but over- 
look " the dragon's tail." So, too, with genius. Everybody 
would -gladly write the great poem or symphony, or paint the 
great picture ; but how many would pay the artist's price for 
the privilege ? How many would learn with Dante, during 
twenty years of exile, how hard it is to mount and descend a 
stranger's stairs, and how salt is a stranger's bread ? How 
many would bear Beethoven's burden of melancholy and deaf- 
ness ? How many would share Michael Angelo's ninety years 
of titanic but unspeakably sad loneliness ? We arrange to re- 
ceive everything and to give nothing, and our hearts convict 
the plan as ignoble. " He is base — and that is the one base 
thing in the universe — to receive favors and render none."^ 

Thus the " radical tragedy of Nature, the seeming distinc- 
tion of More or Less," assumes a different aspect. Inequalities, 
injustice, deprivations, the lifting up of the dishonest and the 
beating down of the virtuous, affect the external world, and not 
the Soul. The wise man knows that equality is everywhere 
preserved. The immemorial experience of mankind empha- 
sizes the fact tliat upon no race, time of life, rank, or posses- 
sions is conferred the right to a monopoly in happiness. The 

1 Compensation. 


spiritual sustenance necessary for the soul's welfare, like light 
and air, is free to all. Does any one think of Socrates or 
Christ as poor? or of Spinoza, patiently grinding lenses in 
Amsterdam, as lacking in aught that the worldly rich Dutch 
merchants could have given him ? Which of us would prefer 
to be Yanderbilt, with all his millions, rather than Emerson ? 

You cannot hril)e him who places virtue above all other 
things, unless you offer him virtue. Shall you persuade him 
to lead a virtuous life by promising him a heaven filled with 
rewards that he despises? Does the lover ask for any higher 
recompense than the bliss of loving? Yerily, we insult man's 
divinest attributes w^hen we treat them like mercenaries hired 
to fight the battle of life with him! 

I fear that to those unacquainted with Emerson a controver- 
sial temper may seem at times to intrude itself into this 
review of the problems of Fate, Sin, and Compensation ; but 
Emerson never descends to controversy. He never argues, — 
he affirms. He tells what he sees ; if you do not see it like- 
wise, he does not present credentials testifying to his veracity. 
He addresses the soul rather than the intellect. He knows 
that spiritual experience is not less but more real because it 
eludes verbal expression. The misunderstandings and wrang- 
lings which we call " theology " arise from the vain attempt to 
explain spiritual experience in terms of material experience, 
to fortify Faith (which is not Reason) by Reason (which is not 
Faith). Should we smile at, or pity, a father who should try 
to demonstrate to us, by means of the binomial theorem, that 
he loved his children ? Emerson excels as a spiritual guide 
and mental stimulator because he never falls into this confu- 
sion. He does not try to overthrow by Faith the evidence that 
Reason has authority to judge ; neither does he, like so many 
theologians, lead Faith away from her coign of vantage to be 
attacked and grievously wounded by Reason. Both bring him 
priceless messages, but of different quality. 

Health needs no advocate. Emerson takes this truth for 
granted, and he also takes it for granted that you will know 
intuitively when you are in health. Pain in the physical world 


and evil in the moral world are the symptoms of ill-health. Be 
sure that whatever lifts, broadens, cheers, is good for you, and 
that whatever lowers, warps, depresses, is bad for you. Do not 
waste time philosophizing why the latter should be, but get rid 
of it in all haste. Emerson calls the theological problems of 
predestination, original sin, and evil " the soul's mumps, mea- 
sles, and whooping-coughs," and he declares that " a simple 
mind will not know these enemies." His object is not to tell 
you why the poisonous air stifles you, but to call you away from 
the miasma into a salubrious neighborhood. Of all men he has 
the largest faculty of discovering spiritual good. He finds it 
everywhere and in everybody. Carlyle took him through the 
slums of London, and asked : " Don't you believe in a hell 
now ? " Emerson said firmly, " No." For him, at the bottom 
of the deepest well the stars are shining. Underneath the 
evil on the surface he sees the permanent substance. Good. 
We marvel at the keenness of his insight. He takes pagans 
or Christians, ancients or moderns, to illustrate his convictions, 
and the very wealth and variety of his illustrations suggest to 
us that Virtue has belonged to no single age or people, neither 
has it been the honor of any particular creed ; the godlike m 
man hallows all ages and places. 

Emerson extols to-day ; he never disturbs himself about 
the future. If you are doing your best now, he says, you are 
fittino- yourself for any career that may come to you five years 
or five hundred years hence. Herein his teaching differs 
from that of Buddha and the Stoics and from the interpreta- 
tion his followers have assigned to Christ's teaching. The 
Hindoo saviour exhorts his disciples to destroy all desire, be- 
cause thus alone can they be absorbed into that dreamless rest 
which is Nirvana. The Stoics aspired to attain to tranquillity 
by smothering the passions and by keeping austerely in view 
the axiom that it mattered not whether one lived or died; 
and Christ's words have been so read that " othcr-worldliness " 
— or the regulating of conduct with an eye upon the rewards 
and demands of the next life, to the maiming of the highest 
development in this life — has been a prominent and depress- 
ing characteristic among almost all classes of Christians. 


With Emerson, however, the " eternal Now" is all important- 
Hair-shirts, sackcloth and ashes, monasticism, and other pious 
methods of stunting the growth of the soul he would abolish 
as being as harmful as the British practice of dwarfing physi- 
cal growth by dosing prospective jockeys with gin. He dis- 
approves as much of the remorse which wastes the Present by 
brooding over the Past, as of the discontent which wastes the 
Present by brooding over the Future. Repentence manifests 
itself in the turning to good works, not in the consumption of 
precious hours by weeping over the irrevocable. To reach your 
Heaven you must journey through To-day ; therefore let To- 
day's journey bring you on as bravely and as far as possible. 
Your welfare can be found wherever you are ; do not imagine 
that it awaits you in Paris or Athens. God fills all zones 
with his presence. Cultivate, then, a noble contentment and 
a high reverence for your surroundings, — parents, friends, 
business, and native land. Cheerfulness and courage are the 
supreme virtues after Emerson's heart ; they shine through his 
writings and lived in his conduct. He exacts a deep patriotism 
and a love of one's time. 

The practicalness of his teaching stimulates every one who 
has tasted it: and what teaching is more than miserable hum- 
bug unless it be practical ? We have in him a unique combi- 
nation of common sense and spiritual insight. Mr. Lowell's 
couplet says, with truth, — 

" A Greek head on right Yankee shoulders, -whose range 
Has Olympus for one pole, for t' other the Exchange." 

Other philosophers bewilder you with their abstractions, — 
their " subjectives" and "objectives," their " ologies" and 
" isms," — until they convert your search for truth into a search 
of meanings in the dictionary. Emerson discourses to you of 
the everlasting verities, and uses for examples the common facts 
and events of your daily life. In his hand the vulgarest object 
sparkles with a divine lustre. Has it not been remarked that 
his sentences have the homeliness as well as the pith of prov- 
erbs? He beckons mankind from hopeless sfjcculation over 
the mysteries of the universe, and points out that improvement 


and liappiness lie only in or through present realities. '" The 
only path of escape known in all the worlds of God is per- 
formance." 1 He alone is consistent who obeys the voice of 
the Spirit, and that voice calls him ever upward. It has no 
fixed cry, no password whose significance has been worn 
away by repetition. To each it speaks new words, suited to 
his new conditions ; what it whispered to the child it no longer 
wiiispers to the man. But though the message change, the 
voice changes not ; in the evening of life we recognize that it 
emanates from the same eternal source whence it came to 
gladden our infancy and our prime. 

The complaint is heard that Emerson does not lift the cur- 
tain of Death and allow us to peer into the mystery beyond, 
and that he has little to tell us about the immortality of the 
soul. Persons who make this complaint have failed lamentably 
to apprehend the unvarying theme of his belief, which is the 
imperishability of Spirit. They have been blind, too, to his 
written word. " Men ask," he says, " concerning the immor- 
tality of the soul, the employments of heaven, the state of the 
sinner, and so forth. Tbey even dream that Jesus has left 
replies to precisely these interrogatories. Never a moment did 
that sublime spirit speak in their patois. To truth, justice, 
love, the attributes of the soul, the idea of imrautableness is 
essentially associated. Jesus, living in these moral sentiments, 
heedless of sensual fortunes, heeding only the manifestations 
of these, never made the separation of the idea of duration 
from the essence of these attributes, nor uttered a syllable con- 
cerning the duration of the soul. It was left to his disciples 
to sever duration from the moral elements and to teach the 
immortality of tlie soul as a doctrine and maintain it by 
evidences. The moment the doctrine of the immortality of 
the soul is separately taught, man is already fallen." ^ Seek 
where you will througli Emerson's prose or poetry, and you 
will find that conviction re-affirmed, — 

" Wliat is excellent, 
As God lives, is permanent; 
Hearts are dust, hearts' loves remain; 
Heart's love will meet thee again." ^ 

1 Worship. 2 The Over-Soul. 3 Threnody. 


Those who had personal acquaintance with Emerson state 
that one thing particularly impressed them, — " the sense tliat 
he seemed to have of a certain great amplitude of time and 
leisure : it was the behavior of one who really hdieved in an 
immortal life, and had adjusted his conduct accordingly." ^ 
Happy the man whose soul has been brimmed with a sense 
of that great amplitude in his converse with Emerson's 
thoughts ! 

But let us not blink the fact that many persons do not 
understand Emerson ; that some pronounce his Essays 
" commonplace," while others lift their eyebrows and with 
a superior air say, "moonshine;" that others again with 
exemplary modesty — if genuine — declare that " he is too 
deep for them." There is another class of Emersonian 
fanatics who take it amiss that everybody will not w^orship 
at the little altar they have dedicated to him. By argument 
or sarcasm or browbeating they would capture that homage 
which is worthless unless it come by love. But those who 
have imbibed even the humblest drop of Emerson's meaning 
will be annoyed by none of these, for they have learned from 
him that only the Infinite can satisfy all needs and appease all 
yearnings. To no book, or music, or landscape, or friend is 
it granted to say the right word at every moment ; but 
it is Emerson's high distinction to appeal to us in those 
moments the soul recognizes as the best. Seek him in lower 
moods, and his words kindle no response. 

These are some of the keys of the instrument upon which 
Emerson plays his mighty Hymn of Life. To those persons 
who require an explanation of the universe by reference to 
fixed dogmas, Emerson must seem vague, and obscure to those 
who are not accustomed to contemplate earnestly matters 
pertaining to the Spirit ; but to those who, in reverence and 
sympathy, seek his wisdom he unfolds precious revelations. 
He strips things and persons of their material wrap, and shows, 
beneath, the Spirit, which is their substance, imperishable and 
infinite, the soul of the world. 

1 A Western Journey with Mr. Emerson, by Prof. J. B. Thayer. 


One hesitates to hand to a stranger a mere cupful from so 
broad and pure a lake ; but to all of us — both to those who 
have listened gratefully to his words, and to those who have 
not — the supreme fact of Emerson's life endures as an en- 
couragement and a blessing. That we all understand; and 
we can never forget that there was recently among us a pure 
and beautiful spirit who looked out upon the world we see, 
who lived in conditions similar to those which surround 
us, who shirked no duty as son, husband, father, friend, or 
citizen, who was familiar with the wisdom of the ages, who 
knew the frailty and the strength, the disappointments and the 
aspirations, of humanity, and who gave to us and to posterity 
out of the sincerity of his soul a message of joy. " Fair is the 
prize and the hope is great," Plato, antiquity's sentinel, calls 
from his watch in Athens. Wlr heissen Emli hoffen,— 
" We bid you to hope," — Goethe echoes, mounting guard at 
Weimar. And Emerson from Concord responds serenely : 

" Lowly faithful, banish fear, 
Right onward drive unharmed; 
The port, well worth the cruise, is near, 
And every wave is charmed." 


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