What is the importance of Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, "Nature?" What message was Emerson trying to convey to his readers?

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In “Nature,” Emerson lays out his conception of transcendental unity. Nature, or its comtemplation, is a path towards unity with God. As he puts it, in the woods “I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.” In other words, it is through the experience of Nature that one‘s identity (or “mean egoism”) is lost or merged with a kind of divine infinite, represented by God’s creation. Emerson argues that this state is fundamentally non-rational; being in Nature in this way is not about intellectual engagement or trying to “figure out“ natural processes, but instead is a kind of uncritical, poetic openness to beauty. 

Emerson argues that this state is fundamentally non-rational; being in Nature in this way is not about intellectual engagement or trying to “figure out“ natural processes, but instead is a kind of intuitive openness to beauty. This is why he says that children are more aware of Nature than adults. The result of this openness is what he terms a kind of “occult relation“ between man and plants, in which, for instance, “the waving of the boughs in the storm” gives rise to “a higher thought or better emotion.” In this way Nature, and man’s sensitivity to it, exist in a kind of tension; he concludes by warning that the emotions of man are reflected by Nature: “Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.”

 

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Emerson's "Nature" contains all of his fundamental ideas, giving rise to its importance. In this essay Emerson embraces a message of a dualistic perspective on the world, maintaining that the universe is composed of two parts: the self, which represents the soul, and the other, meaning the exterior world. This world Emerson terms Nature, a world which is subordinate to the Self.

Emerson feels that through the dualistic concept of nature and "the idea of man," which he terms the Over-Soul, rather than through books and the teachings of the past, knowledge can be attained. Further, he contends that man should "unfetter" himself from the past and "find a pure standard in the idea of man." This original relationship of man with nature, Emerson feels, will provide new insights. Thus, Emerson's conviction that man can learn through his contact with nature underscores a precept of Romanticism that the contemplation of the natural world leads to the discovery of Truth. Talking this concept further, Transcendentalists such as Emerson feel that nature is, therefore, a reflection of the divine spirit.

A concern of Emerson is that people tend to lose their sense of wonder in nature as they age. For, those who never lose this delight in nature remain young in their spirit because nature assuages their troubles so that they, then, are able to apprehend more.

The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood.

Another of the effects of this communion with nature is that a higher level of thought and emotion overtake man, producing great delight as well as knowledge. For, the beauty and grandeur are not just in nature, but also in man's acquired perceptions and responses to nature.

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