The Over-Soul
Ralph Waldo Emerson


"But souls that of his own good life partake,
He loves as his own self; dear as his eye
They are to Him: He'll never them forsake:
When they shall die, then God himself shall die:
They live, they live in blest eternity."
Henry More

Space is ample, east and west,
But two cannot go abreast,
Cannot travel in it two:
Yonder masterful cuckoo
Crowds every egg out of the nest,
Quick or dead, except its own;
A spell is laid on sod and stone,
Night and Day 've been tampered with,
Every quality and pith
Surcharged and sultry with a power
That works its will on age and hour.

The Over-Soul

There is a difference between one and another hour of life, in
their authority and subsequent effect. Our faith comes in moments;
our vice is habitual. Yet there is a depth in those brief moments
which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other
experiences. For this reason, the argument which is always
forthcoming to silence those who conceive extraordinary hopes of man,
namely, the appeal to experience, is for ever invalid and vain. We
give up the past to the objector, and yet we hope. He must explain
this hope. We grant that human life is mean; but how did we find out
that it was mean? What is the ground of this uneasiness of ours; of
this old discontent? What is the universal sense of want and
ignorance, but the fine inuendo by which the soul makes its enormous
claim? Why do men feel that the natural history of man has never
been written, but he is always leaving behind what you have said of
him, and it becomes old, and books of metaphysics worthless? The
philosophy of six thousand years has not searched the chambers and
magazines of the soul. In its experiments there has always remained,
in the last analysis, a residuum it could not resolve. Man is a
stream whose source is hidden. Our being is descending into us from
we know not whence. The most exact calculator has no prescience that
somewhat incalculable may not balk the very next moment. I am
constrained every moment to acknowledge a higher origin for events
than the will I call mine.

As with events, so is it with thoughts. When I watch that
flowing river, which, out of regions I see not, pours for a season
its streams into me, I see that I am a pensioner; not a cause, but a
surprised spectator of this ethereal water; that I desire and look
up, and put myself in the attitude of reception, but from some alien
energy the visions come.

The Supreme Critic on the errors of the past and the present,
and the only prophet of that which must be, is that great nature in
which we rest, as the earth lies in the soft arms of the atmosphere;
that Unity, that Over-soul, within which every man's particular being
is contained and made one with all other;that common heart, of which
all sincere conversation is the worship, to which all right action is
submission; that overpowering reality which confutes our tricks and
talents, and constrains every one to pass for what he is, and to
speak from his character, and not from his tongue, and which evermore
tends to pass into our thought and hand, and become wisdom, and
virtue, and power, and beauty. We live in succession, in division,
in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the
whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part
and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE. And this deep
power in which we exist, and whose beatitude is all accessible to us,
is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of
seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject
and the object, are one. We see the world piece by piece, as the
sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these
are the shining parts, is the soul. Only by the vision of that
Wisdom can the horoscope of the ages be read, and by falling back on
our better thoughts, by yielding to the spirit of prophecy which is
innate in every man, we can know what it saith. Every man's words,
who speaks from that life, must sound vain to those who do not dwell
in the same thought on their own part. I dare not speak for it. My
words do not carry its august sense; they fall short and cold. Only
itself can inspire whom it will, and behold! their speech shall be
lyrical, and sweet, and universal as the rising of the wind. Yet I
desire, even by profane words, if I may not use sacred, to indicate
the heaven of this deity, and to report what hints I have collected
of the transcendent simplicity and energy of the Highest Law.

If we consider what happens in conversation, in reveries, in
remorse, in times of passion, in surprises, in the instructions of
dreams, wherein often we see ourselves in masquerade, -- the droll
disguises only magnifying and enhancing a real element, and forcing
it on our distinct notice, -- we shall catch many hints that will
broaden and lighten into knowledge of the secret of nature. All goes
to show that the soul in man is not an organ, but animates and
exercises all the organs; is not a function, like the power of
memory, of calculation, of comparison, but uses these as hands and
feet; is not a faculty, but a light; is not the intellect or the
will, but the master of the intellect and the will; is the background
of our being, in which they lie, -- an immensity not possessed and
that cannot be possessed. From within or from behind, a light shines
through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but
the light is all. A man is the fasade of a temple wherein all wisdom
and all good abide. What we commonly call man, the eating, drinking,
planting, counting man, does not, as we know him, represent himself,
but misrepresents himself. Him we do not respect, but the soul,
whose organ he is, would he let it appear through his action, would
make our knees bend. When it breathes through his intellect, it is
genius; when it breathes through his will, it is virtue; when it
flows through his affection, it is love. And the blindness of the
intellect begins, when it would be something of itself. The weakness
of the will begins, when the individual would be something of
himself. All reform aims, in some one particular, to let the soul
have its way through us; in other words, to engage us to obey.

Of this pure nature every man is at some time sensible.
Language cannot paint it with his colors. It is too subtile. It is
undefinable, unmeasurable, but we know that it pervades and contains
us. We know that all spiritual being is in man. A wise old proverb
says, "God comes to see us without bell"; that is, as there is no
screen or ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens, so is
there no bar or wall in the soul where man, the effect, ceases, and
God, the cause, begins. The walls are taken away. We lie open on
one side to the deeps of spiritual nature, to the attributes of God.
Justice we see and know, Love, Freedom, Power. These natures no man
ever got above, but they tower over us, and most in the moment when
our interests tempt us to wound them.

The sovereignty of this nature whereof we speak is made known
by its independency of those limitations which circumscribe us on
every hand. The soul circumscribes all things. As I have said, it
contradicts all experience. In like manner it abolishes time and
space. The influence of the senses has, in most men, overpowered the
mind to that degree, that the walls of time and space have come to
look real and insurmountable; and to speak with levity of these
limits is, in the world, the sign of insanity. Yet time and space
are but inverse measures of the force of the soul. The spirit sports
with time, --

"Can crowd eternity into an hour,
Or stretch an hour to eternity."

We are often made to feel that there is another youth and age
than that which is measured from the year of our natural birth. Some
thoughts always find us young, and keep us so. Such a thought is the
love of the universal and eternal beauty. Every man parts from that
contemplation with the feeling that it rather belongs to ages than to
mortal life. The least activity of the intellectual powers redeems
us in a degree from the conditions of time. In sickness, in languor,
give us a strain of poetry, or a profound sentence, and we are
refreshed; or produce a volume of Plato, or Shakspeare, or remind us
of their names, and instantly we come into a feeling of longevity.
See how the deep, divine thought reduces centuries, and millenniums,
and makes itself present through all ages. Is the teaching of Christ
less effective now than it was when first his mouth was opened? The
emphasis of facts and persons in my thought has nothing to do with
time. And so, always, the soul's scale is one; the scale of the
senses and the understanding is another. Before the revelations of
the soul, Time, Space, and Nature shrink away. In common speech, we
refer all things to time, as we habitually refer the immensely
sundered stars to one concave sphere. And so we say that the
Judgment is distant or near, that the Millennium approaches, that a
day of certain political, moral, social reforms is at hand, and the
like, when we mean, that, in the nature of things, one of the facts
we contemplate is external and fugitive, and the other is permanent
and connate with the soul. The things we now esteem fixed shall, one
by one, detach themselves, like ripe fruit, from our experience, and
fall. The wind shall blow them none knows whither. The landscape,
the figures, Boston, London, are facts as fugitive as any institution
past, or any whiff of mist or smoke, and so is society, and so is the
world. The soul looketh steadily forwards, creating a world before
her, leaving worlds behind her. She has no dates, nor rites, nor
persons, nor specialties, nor men. The soul knows only the soul; the
web of events is the flowing robe in which she is clothed.


After its own law and not by arithmetic is the rate of its
progress to be computed. The soul's advances are not made by
gradation, such as can be represented by motion in a straight line;
but rather by ascension of state, such as can be represented by
metamorphosis, -- from the egg to the worm, from the worm to the fly.
The growths of genius are of a certain _total_ character, that does
not advance the elect individual first over John, then Adam, then
Richard, and give to each the pain of discovered inferiority, but by
every throe of growth the man expands there where he works, passing,
at each pulsation, classes, populations, of men. With each divine
impulse the mind rends the thin rinds of the visible and finite, and
comes out into eternity, and inspires and expires its air. It
converses with truths that have always been spoken in the world, and
becomes conscious of a closer sympathy with Zeno and Arrian, than
with persons in the house.

This is the law of moral and of mental gain. The simple rise
as by specific levity, not into a particular virtue, but into the
region of all the virtues. They are in the spirit which contains
them all. The soul requires purity, but purity is not it; requires
justice, but justice is not that; requires beneficence, but is
somewhat better; so that there is a kind of descent and accommodation
felt when we leave speaking of moral nature, to urge a virtue which
it enjoins. To the well-born child, all the virtues are natural, and
not painfully acquired. Speak to his heart, and the man becomes
suddenly virtuous.

Within the same sentiment is the germ of intellectual growth,
which obeys the same law. Those who are capable of humility, of
justice, of love, of aspiration, stand already on a platform that
commands the sciences and arts, speech and poetry, action and grace.
For whoso dwells in this moral beatitude already anticipates those
special powers which men prize so highly. The lover has no talent,
no skill, which passes for quite nothing with his enamoured maiden,
however little she may possess of related faculty; and the heart
which abandons itself to the Supreme Mind finds itself related to all
its works, and will travel a royal road to particular knowledges and
powers. In ascending to this primary and aboriginal sentiment, we
have come from our remote station on the circumference
instantaneously to the centre of the world, where, as in the closet
of God, we see causes, and anticipate the universe, which is but a
slow effect.

One mode of the divine teaching is the incarnation of the
spirit in a form, -- in forms, like my own. I live in society; with
persons who answer to thoughts in my own mind, or express a certain
obedience to the great instincts to which I live. I see its presence
to them. I am certified of a common nature; and these other souls,
these separated selves, draw me as nothing else can. They stir in me
the new emotions we call passion; of love, hatred, fear, admiration,
pity; thence comes conversation, competition, persuasion, cities, and
war. Persons are supplementary to the primary teaching of the soul.
In youth we are mad for persons. Childhood and youth see all the
world in them. But the larger experience of man discovers the
identical nature appearing through them all. Persons themselves
acquaint us with the impersonal. In all conversation between two
persons, tacit reference is made, as to a third party, to a common
nature. That third party or common nature is not social; it is
impersonal; is God. And so in groups where debate is earnest, and
especially on high questions, the company become aware that the
thought rises to an equal level in all bosoms, that all have a
spiritual property in what was said, as well as the sayer. They all
become wiser than they were. It arches over them like a temple, this
unity of thought, in which every heart beats with nobler sense of
power and duty, and thinks and acts with unusual solemnity. All are
conscious of attaining to a higher self-possession. It shines for
all. There is a certain wisdom of humanity which is common to the
greatest men with the lowest, and which our ordinary education often
labors to silence and obstruct. The mind is one, and the best minds,
who love truth for its own sake, think much less of property in
truth. They accept it thankfully everywhere, and do not label or
stamp it with any man's name, for it is theirs long beforehand, and
from eternity. The learned and the studious of thought have no
monopoly of wisdom. Their violence of direction in some degree
disqualifies them to think truly. We owe many valuable observations
to people who are not very acute or profound, and who say the thing
without effort, which we want and have long been hunting in vain.
The action of the soul is oftener in that which is felt and left
unsaid, than in that which is said in any conversation. It broods
over every society, and they unconsciously seek for it in each other.
We know better than we do. We do not yet possess ourselves, and we
know at the same time that we are much more. I feel the same truth
how often in my trivial conversation with my neighbours, that
somewhat higher in each of us overlooks this by-play, and Jove nods
to Jove from behind each of us.

Men descend to meet. In their habitual and mean service to the
world, for which they forsake their native nobleness, they resemble
those Arabian sheiks, who dwell in mean houses, and affect an
external poverty, to escape the rapacity of the Pacha, and reserve
all their display of wealth for their interior and guarded
retirements.

As it is present in all persons, so it is in every period of
life. It is adult already in the infant man. In my dealing with my
child, my Latin and Greek, my accomplishments and my money stead me
nothing; but as much soul as I have avails. If I am wilful, he sets
his will against mine, one for one, and leaves me, if I please, the
degradation of beating him by my superiority of strength. But if I
renounce my will, and act for the soul, setting that up as umpire
between us two, out of his young eyes looks the same soul; he reveres
and loves with me.

The soul is the perceiver and revealer of truth. We know truth
when we see it, let skeptic and scoffer say what they choose.
Foolish people ask you, when you have spoken what they do not wish to
hear, `How do you know it is truth, and not an error of your own?' We
know truth when we see it, from opinion, as we know when we are awake
that we are awake. It was a grand sentence of Emanuel Swedenborg,
which would alone indicate the greatness of that man's perception, --
"It is no proof of a man's understanding to be able to confirm
whatever he pleases; but to be able to discern that what is true is
true, and that what is false is false, this is the mark and character
of intelligence." In the book I read, the good thought returns to me,
as every truth will, the image of the whole soul. To the bad thought
which I find in it, the same soul becomes a discerning, separating
sword, and lops it away. We are wiser than we know. If we will not
interfere with our thought, but will act entirely, or see how the
thing stands in God, we know the particular thing, and every thing,
and every man. For the Maker of all things and all persons stands
behind us, and casts his dread omniscience through us over things.

But beyond this recognition of its own in particular passages
of the individual's experience, it also reveals truth. And here we
should seek to reinforce ourselves by its very presence, and to speak
with a worthier, loftier strain of that advent. For the soul's
communication of truth is the highest event in nature, since it then
does not give somewhat from itself, but it gives itself, or passes
into and becomes that man whom it enlightens; or, in proportion to
that truth he receives, it takes him to itself.

We distinguish the announcements of the soul, its
manifestations of its own nature, by the term _Revelation_. These
are always attended by the emotion of the sublime. For this
communication is an influx of the Divine mind into our mind. It is
an ebb of the individual rivulet before the flowing surges of the sea
of life. Every distinct apprehension of this central commandment
agitates men with awe and delight. A thrill passes through all men
at the reception of new truth, or at the performance of a great
action, which comes out of the heart of nature. In these
communications, the power to see is not separated from the will to
do, but the insight proceeds from obedience, and the obedience
proceeds from a joyful perception. Every moment when the individual
feels himself invaded by it is memorable. By the necessity of our
constitution, a certain enthusiasm attends the individual's
consciousness of that divine presence. The character and duration of
this enthusiasm varies with the state of the individual, from an
ecstasy and trance and prophetic inspiration, -- which is its rarer
appearance, -- to the faintest glow of virtuous emotion, in which
form it warms, like our household fires, all the families and
associations of men, and makes society possible. A certain tendency
to insanity has always attended the opening of the religious sense in
men, as if they had been "blasted with excess of light." The trances
of Socrates, the "union" of Plotinus, the vision of Porphyry, the
conversion of Paul, the aurora of Behmen, the convulsions of George
Fox and his Quakers, the illumination of Swedenborg, are of this
kind. What was in the case of these remarkable persons a ravishment
has, in innumerable instances in common life, been exhibited in less
striking manner. Everywhere the history of religion betrays a
tendency to enthusiasm. The rapture of the Moravian and Quietist;
the opening of the internal sense of the Word, in the language of the
New Jerusalem Church; the _revival_ of the Calvinistic churches; the
_experiences_ of the Methodists, are varying forms of that shudder of
awe and delight with which the individual soul always mingles with
the universal soul.

The nature of these revelations is the same; they are
perceptions of the absolute law. They are solutions of the soul's
own questions. They do not answer the questions which the
understanding asks. The soul answers never by words, but by the
thing itself that is inquired after.

Revelation is the disclosure of the soul. The popular notion
of a revelation is, that it is a telling of fortunes. In past
oracles of the soul, the understanding seeks to find answers to
sensual questions, and undertakes to tell from God how long men shall
exist, what their hands shall do, and who shall be their company,
adding names, and dates, and places. But we must pick no locks. We
must check this low curiosity. An answer in words is delusive; it is
really no answer to the questions you ask. Do not require a
description of the countries towards which you sail. The description
does not describe them to you, and to-morrow you arrive there, and
know them by inhabiting them. Men ask concerning the immortality of
the soul, the employments of heaven, the state of the sinner, and so
forth. They even dream that Jesus has left replies to precisely
these interrogatories. Never a moment did that sublime spirit speak
in their _patois_. To truth, justice, love, the attributes of the
soul, the idea of immutableness is essentially associated. Jesus,
living in these moral sentiments, heedless of sensual fortunes,
heeding only the manifestations of these, never made the separation
of the idea of duration from the essence of these attributes, nor
uttered a syllable concerning the duration of the soul. It was left
to his disciples to sever duration from the moral elements, and to
teach the immortality of the soul as a doctrine, and maintain it by
evidences. The moment the doctrine of the immortality is separately
taught, man is already fallen. In the flowing of love, in the
adoration of humility, there is no question of continuance. No
inspired man ever asks this question, or condescends to these
evidences. For the soul is true to itself, and the man in whom it is
shed abroad cannot wander from the present, which is infinite, to a
future which would be finite.

These questions which we lust to ask about the future are a
confession of sin. God has no answer for them. No answer in words
can reply to a question of things. It is not in an arbitrary "decree
of God," but in the nature of man, that a veil shuts down on the
facts of to-morrow; for the soul will not have us read any other
cipher than that of cause and effect. By this veil, which curtains
events, it instructs the children of men to live in to-day. The only
mode of obtaining an answer to these questions of the senses is to
forego all low curiosity, and, accepting the tide of being which
floats us into the secret of nature, work and live, work and live,
and all unawares the advancing soul has built and forged for itself a
new condition, and the question and the answer are one.

By the same fire, vital, consecrating, celestial, which burns
until it shall dissolve all things into the waves and surges of an
ocean of light, we see and know each other, and what spirit each is
of. Who can tell the grounds of his knowledge of the character of
the several individuals in his circle of friends? No man. Yet their
acts and words do not disappoint him. In that man, though he knew no
ill of him, he put no trust. In that other, though they had seldom
met, authentic signs had yet passed, to signify that he might be
trusted as one who had an interest in his own character. We know
each other very well, -- which of us has been just to himself, and
whether that which we teach or behold is only an aspiration, or is
our honest effort also.

We are all discerners of spirits. That diagnosis lies aloft in
our life or unconscious power. The intercourse of society, -- its
trade, its religion, its friendships, its quarrels,--- is one wide,
judicial investigation of character. In full court, or in small
committee, or confronted face to face, accuser and accused, men offer
themselves to be judged. Against their will they exhibit those
decisive trifles by which character is read. But who judges? and
what? Not our understanding. We do not read them by learning or
craft. No; the wisdom of the wise man consists herein, that he does
not judge them; he lets them judge themselves, and merely reads and
records their own verdict.

By virtue of this inevitable nature, private will is
overpowered, and, maugre our efforts or our imperfections, your
genius will speak from you, and mine from me. That which we are, we
shall teach, not voluntarily, but involuntarily. Thoughts come into
our minds by avenues which we never left open, and thoughts go out of
our minds through avenues which we never voluntarily opened.
Character teaches over our head. The infallible index of true
progress is found in the tone the man takes. Neither his age, nor
his breeding, nor company, nor books, nor actions, nor talents, nor
all together, can hinder him from being deferential to a higher
spirit than his own. If he have not found his home in God, his
manners, his forms of speech, the turn of his sentences, the build,
shall I say, of all his opinions, will involuntarily confess it, let
him brave it out how he will. If he have found his centre, the Deity
will shine through him, through all the disguises of ignorance, of
ungenial temperament, of unfavorable circumstance. The tone of
seeking is one, and the tone of having is another.

The great distinction between teachers sacred or literary, --
between poets like Herbert, and poets like Pope, -- between
philosophers like Spinoza, Kant, and Coleridge, and philosophers like
Locke, Paley, Mackintosh, and Stewart, -- between men of the world,
who are reckoned accomplished talkers, and here and there a fervent
mystic, prophesying, half insane under the infinitude of his thought,
-- is, that one class speak _from within_, or from experience, as
parties and possessors of the fact; and the other class, _from
without_, as spectators merely, or perhaps as acquainted with the
fact on the evidence of third persons. It is of no use to preach to
me from without. I can do that too easily myself. Jesus speaks
always from within, and in a degree that transcends all others. In
that is the miracle. I believe beforehand that it ought so to be.
All men stand continually in the expectation of the appearance of
such a teacher. But if a man do not speak from within the veil,
where the word is one with that it tells of, let him lowly confess
it.


The same Omniscience flows into the intellect, and makes what
we call genius. Much of the wisdom of the world is not wisdom, and
the most illuminated class of men are no doubt superior to literary
fame, and are not writers. Among the multitude of scholars and
authors, we feel no hallowing presence; we are sensible of a knack
and skill rather than of inspiration; they have a light, and know not
whence it comes, and call it their own; their talent is some
exaggerated faculty, some overgrown member, so that their strength is
a disease. In these instances the intellectual gifts do not make the
impression of virtue, but almost of vice; and we feel that a man's
talents stand in the way of his advancement in truth. But genius is
religious. It is a larger imbibing of the common heart. It is not
anomalous, but more like, and not less like other men. There is, in
all great poets, a wisdom of humanity which is superior to any
talents they exercise. The author, the wit, the partisan, the fine
gentleman, does not take place of the man. Humanity shines in Homer,
in Chaucer, in Spenser, in Shakspeare, in Milton. They are content
with truth. They use the positive degree. They seem frigid and
phlegmatic to those who have been spiced with the frantic passion and
violent coloring of inferior, but popular writers. For they are
poets by the free course which they allow to the informing soul,
which through their eyes beholds again, and blesses the things which
it hath made. The soul is superior to its knowledge; wiser than any
of its works. The great poet makes us feel our own wealth, and then
we think less of his compositions. His best communication to our
mind is to teach us to despise all he has done. Shakspeare carries
us to such a lofty strain of intelligent activity, as to suggest a
wealth which beggars his own; and we then feel that the splendid
works which he has created, and which in other hours we extol as a
sort of self-existent poetry, take no stronger hold of real nature
than the shadow of a passing traveller on the rock. The inspiration
which uttered itself in Hamlet and Lear could utter things as good
from day to day, for ever. Why, then, should I make account of
Hamlet and Lear, as if we had not the soul from which they fell as
syllables from the tongue?

This energy does not descend into individual life on any other
condition than entire possession. It comes to the lowly and simple;
it comes to whomsoever will put off what is foreign and proud; it
comes as insight; it comes as serenity and grandeur. When we see
those whom it inhabits, we are apprized of new degrees of greatness.
From that inspiration the man comes back with a changed tone. He
does not talk with men with an eye to their opinion. He tries them.
It requires of us to be plain and true. The vain traveller attempts
to embellish his life by quoting my lord, and the prince, and the
countess, who thus said or did to _him._ The ambitious vulgar show
you their spoons, and brooches, and rings, and preserve their cards
and compliments. The more cultivated, in their account of their own
experience, cull out the pleasing, poetic circumstance, -- the visit
to Rome, the man of genius they saw, the brilliant friend they know;
still further on, perhaps, the gorgeous landscape, the mountain
lights, the mountain thoughts, they enjoyed yesterday, -- and so seek
to throw a romantic color over their life. But the soul that ascends
to worship the great God is plain and true; has no rose-color, no
fine friends, no chivalry, no adventures; does not want admiration;
dwells in the hour that now is, in the earnest experience of the
common day, -- by reason of the present moment and the mere trifle
having become porous to thought, and bibulous of the sea of light.

Converse with a mind that is grandly simple, and literature
looks like word-catching. The simplest utterances are worthiest to
be written, yet are they so cheap, and so things of course, that, in
the infinite riches of the soul, it is like gathering a few pebbles
off the ground, or bottling a little air in a phial, when the whole
earth and the whole atmosphere are ours. Nothing can pass there, or
make you one of the circle, but the casting aside your trappings, and
dealing man to man in naked truth, plain confession, and omniscient
affirmation.

Souls such as these treat you as gods would; walk as gods in
the earth, accepting without any admiration your wit, your bounty,
your virtue even, -- say rather your act of duty, for your virtue
they own as their proper blood, royal as themselves, and over-royal,
and the father of the gods. But what rebuke their plain fraternal
bearing casts on the mutual flattery with which authors solace each
other and wound themselves! These flatter not. I do not wonder that
these men go to see Cromwell, and Christina, and Charles the Second,
and James the First, and the Grand Turk. For they are, in their own
elevation, the fellows of kings, and must feel the servile tone of
conversation in the world. They must always be a godsend to princes,
for they confront them, a king to a king, without ducking or
concession, and give a high nature the refreshment and satisfaction
of resistance, of plain humanity, of even companionship, and of new
ideas. They leave them wiser and superior men. Souls like these
make us feel that sincerity is more excellent than flattery. Deal so
plainly with man and woman, as to constrain the utmost sincerity, and
destroy all hope of trifling with you. It is the highest compliment
you can pay. Their "highest praising," said Milton, "is not
flattery, and their plainest advice is a kind of praising."

Ineffable is the union of man and God in every act of the soul.
The simplest person, who in his integrity worships God, becomes God;
yet for ever and ever the influx of this better and universal self is
new and unsearchable. It inspires awe and astonishment. How dear,
how soothing to man, arises the idea of God, peopling the lonely
place, effacing the scars of our mistakes and disappointments! When
we have broken our god of tradition, and ceased from our god of
rhetoric, then may God fire the heart with his presence. It is the
doubling of the heart itself, nay, the infinite enlargement of the
heart with a power of growth to a new infinity on every side. It
inspires in man an infallible trust. He has not the conviction, but
the sight, that the best is the true, and may in that thought easily
dismiss all particular uncertainties and fears, and adjourn to the
sure revelation of time, the solution of his private riddles. He is
sure that his welfare is dear to the heart of being. In the presence
of law to his mind, he is overflowed with a reliance so universal,
that it sweeps away all cherished hopes and the most stable projects
of mortal condition in its flood. He believes that he cannot escape
from his good. The things that are really for thee gravitate to
thee. You are running to seek your friend. Let your feet run, but
your mind need not. If you do not find him, will you not acquiesce
that it is best you should not find him? for there is a power, which,
as it is in you, is in him also, and could therefore very well bring
you together, if it were for the best. You are preparing with
eagerness to go and render a service to which your talent and your
taste invite you, the love of men and the hope of fame. Has it not
occurred to you, that you have no right to go, unless you are equally
willing to be prevented from going? O, believe, as thou livest, that
every sound that is spoken over the round world, which thou oughtest
to hear, will vibrate on thine ear! Every proverb, every book, every
byword that belongs to thee for aid or comfort, shall surely come
home through open or winding passages. Every friend whom not thy
fantastic will, but the great and tender heart in thee craveth, shall
lock thee in his embrace. And this, because the heart in thee is the
heart of all; not a valve, not a wall, not an intersection is there
anywhere in nature, but one blood rolls uninterruptedly an endless
circulation through all men, as the water of the globe is all one
sea, and, truly seen, its tide is one.

Let man, then, learn the revelation of all nature and all
thought to his heart; this, namely; that the Highest dwells with him;
that the sources of nature are in his own mind, if the sentiment of
duty is there. But if he would know what the great God speaketh, he
must `go into his closet and shut the door,' as Jesus said. God will
not make himself manifest to cowards. He must greatly listen to
himself, withdrawing himself from all the accents of other men's
devotion. Even their prayers are hurtful to him, until he have made
his own. Our religion vulgarly stands on numbers of believers.
Whenever the appeal is made -- no matter how indirectly -- to
numbers, proclamation is then and there made, that religion is not.
He that finds God a sweet, enveloping thought to him never counts his
company. When I sit in that presence, who shall dare to come in?
When I rest in perfect humility, when I burn with pure love, what can
Calvin or Swedenborg say?

It makes no difference whether the appeal is to numbers or to
one. The faith that stands on authority is not faith. The reliance
on authority measures the decline of religion, the withdrawal of the
soul. The position men have given to Jesus, now for many centuries
of history, is a position of authority. It characterizes themselves.
It cannot alter the eternal facts. Great is the soul, and plain. It
is no flatterer, it is no follower; it never appeals from itself. It
believes in itself. Before the immense possibilities of man, all
mere experience, all past biography, however spotless and sainted,
shrinks away. Before that heaven which our presentiments foreshow
us, we cannot easily praise any form of life we have seen or read of.
We not only affirm that we have few great men, but, absolutely
speaking, that we have none; that we have no history, no record of
any character or mode of living, that entirely contents us. The
saints and demigods whom history worships we are constrained to
accept with a grain of allowance. Though in our lonely hours we draw
a new strength out of their memory, yet, pressed on our attention, as
they are by the thoughtless and customary, they fatigue and invade.
The soul gives itself, alone, original, and pure, to the Lonely,
Original, and Pure, who, on that condition, gladly inhabits, leads,
and speaks through it. Then is it glad, young, and nimble. It is
not wise, but it sees through all things. It is not called
religious, but it is innocent. It calls the light its own, and feels
that the grass grows and the stone falls by a law inferior to, and
dependent on, its nature. Behold, it saith, I am born into the
great, the universal mind. I, the imperfect, adore my own Perfect.
I am somehow receptive of the great soul, and thereby I do overlook
the sun and the stars, and feel them to be the fair accidents and
effects which change and pass. More and more the surges of
everlasting nature enter into me, and I become public and human in my
regards and actions. So come I to live in thoughts, and act with
energies, which are immortal. Thus revering the soul, and learning,
as the ancient said, that "its beauty is immense," man will come to
see that the world is the perennial miracle which the soul worketh,
and be less astonished at particular wonders; he will learn that
there is no profane history; that all history is sacred; that the
universe is represented in an atom, in a moment of time. He will
weave no longer a spotted life of shreds and patches, but he will
live with a divine unity. He will cease from what is base and
frivolous in his life, and be content with all places and with any
service he can render. He will calmly front the morrow in the
negligency of that trust which carries God with it, and so hath
already the whole future in the bottom of the heart.