Nature as Spirit’s Symbol

Emerson believed that Nature was emblematic of Spirit, that Her productivity and instinctuality were symbolic expressions of Its creative intelligence. If this be true, then the philosopher’s desire for a romantic partner is analgous to his or her desire for wisdom. The two are both erotic desires, though the one be for flesh and blood, the other for divinity.

This analogical perspective on the Nature/Spirit relation helps us avoid duality, but a difference still manifests itself.

The mind wants to know what is true and what is false, while the heart wants to know who is to be loved and who is to be hated. The mind impersonally reflects the light of phenomena, but the heart feels the warmth of faces and intuits the source of light behind them. The mind tends to observe, but the heart tends to get involved.

How is the philosopher to reconcile his spiritual longing for truth with his bodily desire for union? Perhaps it is the ideal of Goodness that mediates between the truth of the mind and the beauty of the heart. Attention to the Good prevents ideology from distorting ethical relationships by keeping the mind’s eye open to the voice of the heart.

It is the beauty of Nature that leads the philosopher to the truths of Spirit, and it is the Good which serves as the fulcrum balancing each desire (for Love and for Knowlege).

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