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Universal Power, which will not be seen face to face, but must be received and sympathetically known. It is remarkable that we have out of the deeps of antiquity, in the oracles ascribed to the half-fabulous Zoroaster, a statement of this fact, which every lover and seeker of truth will recognise. “ It is not proper,” said Zoroaster, “to understand the Intelligence with vehemence, but it you incline your mind, you will apprehend it: not too earnestly, but bringing a pure and inquiring eye. You will not understand it as when understanding some particular thing, but with the flower of the mind. Things divine are not attainable by mortals who understand sensual things, but only the light-armed arrive at the summit.”
And because ecstasy is the law and cause of Nature, therefore you cannot interpret it in too high and deep a sense. Nature represents the best meaning of the wisest man. Does the sunset landscape seem to you the palace of Friendship,—those purple skies and lovely waters the amphitheatre dressed and garnished only for the exchange of thought and love of the purest souls? It is that. All the other meanings which base men have put on it are conjectural and false. You cannot bathe twice in the same river, said Heraclitus; and I add, a man never sees the same object twice : with his own enlargement the object acquires new aspects.
Does not the same law hold for virtue? It is vitiated by too much will. He who aims at progress, should aim at an infinite, not at a special benefit. The reforms whose fame now fills the land with Temperance, AntiSlavery, Non-Resistance, No Government, Equal Labour; fair and generous as each appears, are poor bitter things when prosecuted for themselves as an end. To every reform, in proportion to its energy, early disgusts are incident; so that the disciple is surprised at the very hour of his first triumphs, with chagrins, and sickness, and a general distrust : so that he shuns his associates, hates the enterprise which lately seemed so fair, and meditates to cast himself into the arms of that society and manner of life which he had newly abandoned with so much pride and hope. Is it that he attached the value of virtue to some particular practices, as the denial of certain appetites in certain specified indulgences, and, afterward, allowing the soul to depart, found himself still as wicked and as far from happiness in that abstinence, as he had been in the abuse? But the soul can be appeased not by a deed, but by a tendency. It is in a hope that she feels her wings. You shall love rectitude, and not the disuse of money or the avoidance of trade : an unimpeded mind, and not a monkish diet; sympathy and usefulness, and not hoeing or coopering. Tell me not how great your project is, or how pure, the civil liberation of the world, its conversion into a Christian church, the establishment of public education, cleaner diet, a new division of labour and of land, laws of love for laws of property ;-I say to you plainly, there is no end to which your practical faculty can aim, so sacred or so large, that, if pursued for itself, will not at last become carrion and an offence to the nostril. The imaginative faculty of the soul must be fed with objects immense and eternal. Your end should be one inapprehensible to the senses : then will it be a god always approached, -never touched ; always giving health. A man adorns himself with prayer and love as an aim adorns an action. What is strong but goodness, and what is energetic but the presence of a brave man? The doctrine in vegetable physiology of the presence, or the general influence of any substance over and above its chemical influence, as of an alkali or a living plant, is more predicable of man. You need not speak to me, I need not go where you are, that you should exert magnetism on me. Be you only whole and sufficient, and I shall feel you in every part of my life and fortune, and I can as easily dodge the gravitation of the globe as escape your influence.
But there are other examples of this total and supreme influence, besides Nature and the conscience. “From the poisonous tree, the world,” say the Brahmins, “two
species of fruit are produced, sweet as the waters of life: Love, or the society of beautiful souls; and Poetry, whose taste is like the immortal juice of Vishnu.” What is Love, and why is it the chief good, but because it is an overpowering enthusiasm ? Never self-possessed or prudent, it is all abandonment. Is it not a certain admirable wisdom, preferable to all other advantages, and whereof all others are only secondaries and indemnities, because this is that in which the individual is no longer his own foolish master, but inhales an odorous and celestial air; is wrapt round with awe of the object, blending for the time that object with the real and only good, and consults every omen in Nature with tremulous interest. When we speak truly,- is not he only unhappy who is not in love? his fancied freedom and self-ruleis it not so much death ? He who is in love is wise, and is becoming wiser; seeth newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it, with his eyes and his mind, those virtues which it possesses. Therefore, if the object be not itself a living and expanding soul, he presently exhausts it. But the love remains in his mind, and the wisdom it brought him; and it craves a new and higher object. And the reason why all men honour love, is because it looks up and not down; aspires and not despairs.
And what is Genius but finer love, a love impersonal, a love of the flower and perfection of things, and a desire to draw a new picture or copy of the same? It looks to the cause and life: it proceeds from within outward, whilst Talent goes from without inward. Talent finds its models, and methods, and ends in society, exists for exhibition, and goes to the soul only for power to work. Genius is its own end, and draws its means, and the style of its architecture, from within, going abroad only for audience and spectator, as we adapt our voice and phrase to the distance and character of the ear we speak to. All your learning of all literatures would never enable you to anticipate one of its thoughts or expressions, and yet each is natural and familiar as household
words. Here about us coils for ever the ancient enigma, so old and so unutterable. Behold! there is the sun, and the rain, and the rocks : the old sun, the old stones. How easy were it to describe all this fitly: yet no word can pass. Nature is a mute; and man, her articulate speaking brother, lo! he also is a mute. Yet when Genius arrives, its speech is like a river, it has no straining to describe, more than there is straining in Nature to exist. When thought is best, there is most of it. Genius sheds wisdom like perfume, and advertises us that it flows out of a deeper source than the foregoing silence, that it knows so deeply and speaks so musically because it is itself a mutation of the thing it describes. It is sun, and moon, and wave, and fire, in music, as astronomy is thought and harmony in masses of matter.
What is all history but the work of ideas; a record of the incomputable energy which his infinite aspirations infuse into man? Has anything grand and lasting been done? Who did it? Plainly not any man, but all men : it was the prevalence and inundation of an idea. What brought the Pilgrims here? One man says, civil liberty; and another, the desire of founding a church; and a third discovers that the motive force was plantation and trade. But if the Puritans could rise from the dust, they could not answer. It is to be seen in what they were, and not in what they designed : it was the growth, the budding and expansion of the human race, and resembled herein the sequent Revolution, which was not begun in Concord, or Lexington, or Virginia, but was the overflowing of the sense of natural right in every clear and active spirit of the period. Is a man boastful and knowing, and his own master ?-we turn from him without hope; but let him be filled with awe and dread before the Vast and the Divine, which uses him, glad to be used, and our eye is riveted to the chain of events. What a debt is ours to that old religion which, in the childhood of most of us, still dwelt like a sabbath morning in the country of New England, teaching privation, self-denial, and sorrow! A man was born,
not for prosperity, but to suffer for the benefit of others; like the noble rock-maple which, all around our villages, bleeds for the service of man. Not praise, not men's acceptance of our doing, but the spirit's holy errand through us absorbed the thought. How dignified was this! How all that is called talents and success in our noisy capitals becomes buzz and din before this manworthiness. How our friendships, and the complaisances we use, shame us now! Shall we not quit our companions, as if they were thieves and pot-companions, and betake ourselves to some desert cliff of Mount Katahdin, some unvisited recess in Moosehead Lake, to bewail our innocency, and to recover it, and with it the power to communicate again with these sharers of a more sacred idea ? .
And what is to replace for us the piety of that race? We cannot have theirs; it glides away from us day by day, but we also can bask in the great morning which rises for ever out of the eastern sea, and be ourselves the children of the light. I stand here to say, Let us worship the mighty and transcendant Soul. It is the office, I doubt not, of this age, to annul that adulterous divorce which the superstition of many ages has effected between the intellect and holiness. The lovers of goodness have been one class, the students of wisdom another; as if either could exist in any purity without the other. Truth is always holy, holiness always wise. I will that we keep terms with sin and a sinful literature and society no longer, but live a life of discovery and performance. Accept the intellect, and it will accept us. Be the lowly ministers of that pure omniscience, and deny it not before men. It will burn up all profane literature, all base current opinions, all the false powers of the world as in a moment of time. I draw from Nature the lesson of an intimate divinity. Our health and reason as men, needs our respect to this fact against the heedlessness and against the contradiction of society. The sanity of man needs the poise of this immanent force. His nobility needs the assurance of this