Self Reliance and Other Essays

Emerson and Whitman: Nature as a Divine Teacher College

For Emerson and Whitman, nature is more than just the trees that line the street, or even the flowers that rest beautifully within the vase. Both men find such a deeper harmony and value within nature, in a way that is very relevant to the transcendental theories each of them express. In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s, “Nature” and “Self-Reliance” and Walt Whitman’s, “Song of Myself” nature can even be considered in a spiritual light. Both men understand nature as a teacher who, when understood through the right perspective, can illuminate the divine order of life and qualities of the individual self.

Emerson finds an essential knowledge in nature; in many ways nature is a tool to truly understand life: “All Science has one aim, namely, to find a theory of nature” (215). Emerson is suggesting here that nature holds an ultimate truth. He explains, “We have theories of races and of function, but scarcely yet a remote approximation to an idea of creation” (215). With all the things that science has been able to explain, we still do not have an explanation for the essence of the creation of life. Nature is the ultimate example of life itself and to learn from nature one can unlock the truth about life’s great questions. Emerson understands...

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