Posts Tagged ‘Emerson’

Spirituality of nature in Emerson’s “Nature” and Thoreau’s “Walking

I chose this topic for my final paper because I found Emerson and Thoreau to be the most interesting authors we have read this semester. I found their writings on the religious aspects of nature to be the most interesting because they incorporated aspects of Christianity into their transcendental ideals. They also seemed to have a more open interpretation of religious morals and where those can be found. Nature served as the incarnation of God on Earth as well as a place of worship in their writings. I want to focus mainly on the “Spirit” chapter in Emerson’s “Nature” and the beginning of Thoreau’s “Walking”. Emerson explains his thoughts on the spirituality of nature in his chapter titled “Spirit” which would be my main focus. Thoreau likens nature to God and Heaven in the beginning of “Walking” which would be another focus of my paper.

1. How do the authors combine aspects of Christianity with their perspective of nature?
2. Do the authors see nature as the incarnation of God, a place of worship, or both?
3. How does “human nature” play a role in the authors’ interpretation of morality?

Question 1: Emerson and Nature

Upon reading Emerson’s “Nature” it does not take the reader long to notice that Emerson’s idea of nature is a little complex. The duality of man and nature exists on many levels: man can be in awe of nature; nature serves man; nature is above man; man is above nature. The duality changes in accordance with man’s need. A way to explain this complex duality is by assigning nature the gender of woman. The duality of man and woman mimics the same changes as that of man and nature. When man is a child, his mom is his God and he is in awe of her; when man is married his wife serves him, and man is above her; when man is older and in need he returns to his mother—as Emerson returns to nature when his life is in disorder.

There are many instances in chapter one of “Nature” that support the idea of nature as a woman. Emerson himself refers to nature as “her” when he states, “neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection” (Emerson 6). The same can be said about a woman. Man will never extort her secret or satisfy his curiosity because he will never understand her; he will never know her thoughts or understand her strength. Man has always wondered about the woman that is why he constrains her as he does with nature. Emerson also states that nature sees man as her “creature” and despite all his “griefs, he shall be glad with me” (Emerson 7). Man is born of a woman and he will always return to her whether she be a mother, wife, or servant.

On page eight Emerson describes the woods as a place that man can return to and always be a child without troubles—“there I feel that nothing can befall me… which nature cannot repair.” This is the exact relationship between a man and his mother. A mother will always try to remove the troubles of her son’s life and will always protect him. He will always find comfort in her. By nature being a woman, it will satisfy Emerson’s complexity with nature; it will comfort man, supply him, serve him, and inspire him.


Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature. Ch./Art: Full book p. ix-76 pub. American Renaissance 2009