Date: ca. 1857 George Eastman House Collection
Perhaps more than any other American writer of his day, Emerson embodied not only the intrepid American spirit, but also the extraordinary individual spirit at the very core of each of us. His many invaluable contributions to American literature, while clearly the product of a very different time and place, continue to inform and enlighten us more than one hundred years after he departed this life.
Recent contemplation and conversation have prompted me to explore the contrasts and the common grounds within our modern intellectual debate regarding the value of both scientific and spiritual insights in coming to terms with the nature of human consciousness. More specifically, there is an ongoing debate regarding how we might best seek to explain consciousness, whether it would be using only the most cutting edge technologies of modern Neuroscience and Psychology that are available in the 21st century, or to seek an expansion and sophistication of our ability to explain comprehensively the nature of consciousness by the inclusion of additional facets of both a philosophical and spiritual temperament.
According to Lawrence Buell, in his epic work entitled, “Emerson:”
“After starting down the ministerial path his family expected of him, Emerson abruptly changed course and struck out on his own as a freelance writer-lecturer. In his thirties, he achieved regional celebrity as the leading voice of the avant-garde movement known as Transcendentalism…the label was slapped on the movement by its detractors as a synonym for foreign nonsense…the Transcendentalists (thought) of themselves as a network: as a vanguard in the United States for advanced contemporary thought about Philosophy,theology, education, social reform, literature and the arts.”
Emerson provides us with a particularly profound starting point for this investigation in his essay entitled, “Experience:”
“The great gifts are not got by analysis. Everything good is on the highway. The middle region of our being is the temperate zone. We may climb into the thin and cold realm of pure geometry and lifeless science, or sink into that of sensation. Between these extremes is the equator of life, of thought, of spirit, of poetry,–a narrow belt.”
In the postings to come, I hope to illuminate the many examples of literature, science, and the spirit, which cry out for inclusion from “the middle region of our being.”
….more to come…