"I Am The Doubter And The Doubt"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Emerson's religion and philosophy were influenced by the religions of the East. In this poem he reflects the Hindu concept of Brahma as described in Chapter 9 of the Bhagavad-Gita: Brahma is "the origin of all gods . . . the soul . . . in the heart of all beings . . . the beginning and the middle and also the end of existing things . . . also eternal time . . . and Death . . . and Birth." Brahma, then, resembles Emerson's concept of the Oversoul, which is the Deity or "Universal Mind" that runs through all of history and inspires mankind to noble deeds and thoughts. "Finite bodies," say the Hindus and Emerson, "belong to an eternal, indestructible, and infinite spirit," a spirit that was never born and will never die. The universe is a divine and "perfect whole," an "All" into which everything is merged. There is no killing and no death, this poem tells us. "Shadow and sunlight are the same." Opposites, even good and evil, are really complementary parts of the divine Whole:

Far or forgot to me is near;
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame.
They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.