Emerson–The Sequel!

By February 19, 2008

Well now, Ben beat me to it. But, since I might have some interesting things to say in addition (and I have an admin logon this week bwahaha) I’m just going to make it a new post.

I actually gave a paper at MHA on the exact subject of Mormonism’s use of Emerson, particularly the Divinity School Address, in its media. Specifically, I broke down the quote used at the beginning of the new Joseph Smith movie which essentially presents Emerson’s words

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as the thesis for the film. The final selection that appears on the screen reads,”The need for new revelation was

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never greater than now. Ralph Waldo Emerson July 15, 1838. ” Clearly, the intended audience reaction was to make Emerson look like a type of John the Baptist figure , heralding in the Restoration in the hallowed walls of Harvard.

As we’ve touched on in Ben’s post, Emerson was clearly not a John the Baptist figure for Joseph Smith and it is problematic that he has been commandeered for the job since there are significant differences between both men’s idealogies of revelation. Below is a selection from my own analysis of both Emerson and Joseph Smith’s theologies of revelation, God, and the interaction between humanity and the divine. I know it’s pretty substantial, but if you choose to peruse it might give a little bit more information on the topic (and at the very least some great quotes from Emerson’s journals). I should also note that for the sake of comparison, I decided to set the dichotomy up between ideas mostly presented in The Divinity School Address and the currently canonized First Vision account. I chose this particular account because it is the one used today in LDS media.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, as Henry James, Sr. labeled him, is a man “without a handle.”[i] Similarly, Richard Bushman expressed the impossibility of pinning any particular doctrine down to Joseph Smith as “his teaching[s]…are epigrammatic and oracular. He never presented his ideas systematically in clear, logical order; they came in flashes and bursts.”[ii] Both Emerson’s and Smith’s ideas are liable to contradictions or vagaries and, as many scholars have noted, defy definition. However, some concrete ideas can be gleaned from revisiting select essays, journals, autobiographies, and sermons.

Emerson’s revelation has a variety of names within his works. In the “Divinity School Address,” he describes the “oracles of truth” as “intuition.”[iii] Intuition, by definition, implies a type of distilling knowledge, emerging from an untapped source within, granting truth. Intuition, or revelation, for Emerson was not a flash of light from an impersonal source but an “announcement of the soul… [a] manifestation of its own nature.”[iv] It was a fusion of the self with the Universal Mind and a metaphysical understanding that came with the rejection of “all mean egotism” to become “part or parcel of God.”[v] This intuition from within, becoming part of everything without, describes Emerson’s need for “new revelation.”[vi] Revelation, or intuition, is thus a passive experience, devoid of any particular desire or question.

Emerson’s revelation is also distinctly non-verbal, neither written nor spoken. As he writes in the “Divinity School Address,” “In the game of life…man and God interact. These laws . . . will not be written out on paper, or spoken by the tongue.”[vii] Thus, we receive revelation as a feeling or a sentiment, but never verbally. Spiritual communication, to Emerson, exists on a higher

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form of understanding above the human constructs of language and prayer, as Emerson writes in his journals, “does not at all consist in words but wholly is a state of mind.”[viii] The dismissal of language as a medium for revelation and Emerson’s ideal of inner intuition mark two clear theological boundaries between Emerson in the “Divinity School Address” and Smith’s First Vision.

Whereas Emerson’s ideal of revelation was intrinsic yet cosmologically universal, Smith’s concept was a diametric opposite. Emerson encourages acting as an open receiver of any intuition that reveals itself to your mind. Smith, however, went into the grove of trees with a direct and specific inquiry-which church should he join? In recounting his vision, Smith also outlines what is essentially a biblical vision as revelatory experience; wholly external, wholly conversational, and wholly oppositional to Emerson’s non-verbal, internal aesthetic. Joseph Smith, as he recounts in his autobiography of 1838, “came to the determination to ‘ask of God'” and when he “asked the Personages who stood above him in the light… [he] was answered.[ix]

By claiming to have seen and heard God, Smith presents another extreme opposition to Emerson’s Divinity School theology. As stated above, saw and spoke to two separate personages, human in form and corporeal in material. In his 1844 “King Follett Address,” Smith would specify, “if you were to see [God] today, you would see Him like a man in form-like [ourselves] in all the person, image, and very form as a man.”[x] The contrast could not be clearer by juxtaposing Smith’s King Follett sermon to Emerson’s cynical journal entry from May 1836. “When cultivated men speak of God they demand a biography of him . . . Absolute goodness, absolute truth must leave their infinity & take form for us. We want fingers & sides & hair.”[xi] Instead, Emerson believed God was the immaterial Oversoul, an abstract Unity. In his essay “Nature” he separates the physical world, or the “me,” from the spiritual and omnipresent “not me.”[xii] God, in Emerson, is the immaterial “not me” of “Nature.” Finally, Emerson articulates his theology most plainly in the “Divinity School Address.” “The soul knows no persons. It invites every man to expand to the full circle of the universe.”[xiii] Drawing a connection from this concept of an immaterial God to Smith’s First Vision, as the film and conference addresses imply, is obviously contradictory. Emerson implicitly denied the personage of God, while Smith “could not deny” an individual, personal, and material deity.[xiv]

Smith and Emerson both shared a fascination and determination in describing the

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nature of God. In the King Follett sermon, Smith directly states that it is the purpose of men to know the character of God, and Emerson echoes the same in his journals, writing, “I count it the great object of my life to study the nature of God.”[xv] However, though both men shared the same “theoptical” drive, as Emerson termed his God-seeking, Emerson’s theology on the relationship between God and man is significantly more abstract than that of Joseph Smith.[xvi] As he writes in the “Divinity School Address,” “God incarnates himself in man.”[xvii] God’s embedded presence in man implies that Man is God, part of the Oversoul. On September 29, 1830, early in his career, he expressed this belief clearly-“In certain moments I have known that I existed directly from God . . . and in my ultimate consciousness am He.”[xviii] Here, man both comes from and is God. Emerson goes one step further in the “Divinity School Address” to specify that not only is God an internal force, but anything that dictates otherwise demeans the soul. “That which shows God in me, fortifies me. That which shows God out of me, makes me a wart and a wen. There is no longer a necessary reason for my being.”[xix] His opinions explicitly mark a chasm between the understanding of Joseph Smith and Emerson’s Theism. Smith’s insistence that he had seen God and his son Jesus Christ with human form, and they spoke to him, would essentially equate to Emerson’s horror of having “no reason for being.”

While Emerson’s revelation was a process to discovering that one is God, Joseph Smith taught that revelation’s purpose was to teach men how to be like God. The First Vision in Mormonism is considered the heralding event for a Restoration of doctrines which teach humanity how to progress toward exaltation, or become divine themselves. Joseph Smith presented his followers with a more human God and thus a more divine humanity. Emerson, in contrast, wrote in October 1836, “As long as the soul seeks an external God…it always must be uncertain what may be done & what may become of it.”[xx] To Emerson, making God an individual literally took the divine out of the soul of man. Emerson thus bluntly states that an external God stunts transcendence, while Smith insists that the existence of an anthropomorphic deity authenticates our ability to become divine.

The use of the “Divinity School Address” in the film Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration must now seem problematic in the extreme. Noting these vast differences in conceptions of revelation, the nature of God, and the God-man interface, the claim that Emerson’s call for “new revelation” directly parallels the revelations of Joseph Smith seems nearly impossible.

However, though the quotation is problematic in light of the significant differences between Emerson and Smith’s theology of revelation, it is important not to pass over profound similarities. Granted, Emerson’s call for “new revelation” was not meant to be a call for a rare biblical vision. Instead, Emerson’s “Divinity School Address” was a call for all to learn truth firsthand, a call that the fourteen year old Joseph Smith exercised in 1820. Therefore, the legitimate connection to Joseph Smith is not found in the visionary result of the First Vision, but rather in its catalyst. Though the outcomes of Joseph Smith’s revelations differentiate themselves clearly from Emerson through direct, external answers and an individualized, material God, the very reasons and methods of Smith’s first prayer are inescapably linked to the reasons and methods of Emerson’s own search for transcendence.

The first major similarity in seeking revelation can be summarized from the “Divinity School Address” itself. “[Revelation] cannot be received second hand. Truly speaking, it is not instruction but provocation that I can receive from another soul.”[xxi] This declaration, given to newly graduating ministers from Harvard Divinity, challenged the institution of the clergy. It could no longer be an institution of intellectualized sermons based on logic and reiteration, but should instead provoke congregations to inquiry and then towards an Emersonian experience of intuition. Joseph Smith, paralleling Emerson’s description of the problems of American religion, experienced confusion through perhaps this same issue of biblical higher criticism and religious intellectualism within varied denominations. As he recorded in his 1838 autobiography, “If any person needed wisdom from God, I did; … for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible”[xxii] Unable to determine a second-hand truth through the logic of clergy, Smith sought revelation first-hand, just as Emerson encouraged eighteen years later in the “Divinity School Address.”

The privilege of first-hand revelation

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is available to all that will seek it, according to Emerson. Exhorting the graduating ministry once again, Emerson underscored their duty to provoke. He charged, “It is the office of a true teacher to show us that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake….Acquaint men at first hand with deity.”[xxiii] Joseph Smith’s very identity as an unknown farmboy made him an American “everyman” who dedicated his life to showing that “God is, not was; that he speaketh, not spake.” During his service as a religious leader he encouraged all to seek their own personal witnesses of truth and “acquaint men at first hand with deity.” Consequently, Smith exemplified a model of what Emerson was asking from the new graduates of Harvard Divinity.

Finally, Smith and Emerson both sought God in nature. Smith, in his boyhood confusion, could have prayed in a local chapel or by his own bedside, but instead he recognized a connection to deity in the natural world. It was a connection Emerson repeatedly made from his first published work, “Nature” until the end of his life. The “Divinity School Address” actually begins by recalling Nature like an inspirational muse.[xxiv] Just as Emerson begins his lecture on new revelation by noting the beauty of the New England spring, Joseph Smith sought his own revelation by walking into an untouched grove of trees.

These similarities restore legitimacy to the use of Emerson in the film Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration, especially when considering its purpose as a missionary tool. If viewed as a method of spiritual dialogue with the audience, the film’s use of Emerson’s words underscores an individual spiritual responsibility. Before opening on any scene, the quote appears–“The need for new revelation was never greater than now.” It is visually bolded at the beginning and underscored after the final scene with an invitation by visitor’s center staff to ask questions. It is a missionary parentheses that encourages the audience to seek their own “new revelation…now.” Considering the actions of the young, unpretentious Joseph Smith, an audience member might be provoked to ask his same questions, “Who is right… and how shall I know it?”[xxv] The same audience member might then seek their own “first hand” acquaintance with deity. Though the outcome may neither be a Sacred Grove nor an infamous “transparent eyeball” experience, the impetus toward seeking revelation in the film is the same as it was for Emerson and as it was for Joseph Smith.

It is unnecessary to make every Mormon an Emerson scholar, but the reflection of analysis does imply certain responsibility in the LDS media, especially when dealing with a wide release. It does not take a deep reading of the “Divinity School Address” to recognize that if an LDS audience had been at Harvard Divinity in 1838 rather than a Unitarian, the response would have been just as harsh and backlash just as sharp. I do not wish to sound overly critical or accusatory. I acknowledge the notable and profound similarities indicated in increasingly more informed and historical connections between Emerson and Smith in Mormon media. Instead, I wish to sound fair and cautious. The possibility of misrepresentation, especially in more popular media genres, is ever-present. And so, speaking as a member of the LDS church, I am an advocate for better understanding within all media, Mormon or other. After all, we should not misquote Ralph Waldo Emerson to fit our biases any more than any other group should misinterpret Joseph Smith to fit theirs.


[i] Harold Bloom, The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 41. Packer, “Ralph Waldo Emerson,” 726.[ii] Bushman, Joseph Smith, xxi.[iii] Emerson, Essential Writings, 66.[iv] Ibid, 243.[v] Ibid, 6.[vi] Ibid, 71; Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration, film.

[vii] Ibid, 64.

[viii] Emerson, Journals, vol. III, 308; as quoted in Geldard, God in Concord, 48.

[ix] Smith, “Joseph Smith History,” 48-49.

[x] Joseph Smith Jr., Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Alma P. Burton, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977), Appendix A, 340.

[xi] Emerson, Journals, vol. V, 162. 22 May 1836.

[xii] Emerson, Essential Writings, 3-4.

[xiii] Emerson, Essential Writings, 68.

[xiv] Smith, “Joseph Smith-History,” 51.

[xv] Richard Higgins, “Remembering the Emerson who Sought God” Harvard Divinity Bulletin (Cambridge:

Harvard Divinity School, 2006), accessed 20 November 2006, www.hds.harvard.edu/news/bulletin/articles/higgins.

[xvi] Emerson, Journals, vol. III, 263 n. The science of “God Knowing,” or theoptics, is further explained in Geldard, God in Concord, 61.

[xvii] Emerson, Essential Writings, 67.

[xviii] Rebecca Taylor, Emerson, Smith, and American religion : a comparison and contrast of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Joseph Smith Jr.’s religious ideas in relation to the historical setting in which they developed, A University Scholar Project, (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1992), c.30.

[xix] Emerson, Essential Writings,

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69.

[xx] Emerson, Journals, vol. V, 223. 19 October 1836.

[xxi] Emerson, Essential Writings, 66.

[xxii] Joseph Smith, “Joseph Smith-History” The Pearl of Great Price: A Selection from the Revelations, Translations, and Narrations of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1981), 48.

[xxiii] Emerson, Essential Writings, 75-76.

[xxiv] Emerson, Essential Writings, 63.

[xxv] Joseph Smith, “Joseph Smith-History” The Pearl of Great Price: A Selection from the Revelations, Translations, and Narrations of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1981), 48.

[xxvi] Jared Hickman, “‘No Creed to Circumscribe my Mind”: Joseph Smith, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Romantic Theology” Archive of Restoration Culture: Summer Fellows’ Papers, 2000-2002, ed. Richard Bushman. (Provo, Utah: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Religion, 2003); Richard H. Broadhead, “Prophets in America, ca 1830: Emerson, Nat Turner, Joseph Smith,” Journal of Mormon History 29 (2003): 43-65.; Bloom, The American Religion, 112, 114-115, 122-123.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. Ah…you’ve redeemed my Mormon Emerson!

    Comment by stan — February 19, 2008 @ 7:32 pm

  2. But seriously, even recognizing the huge differences in the theologies of the two, I too divine a familiar spirit between the sage and the prophet (which you do a great job with in yer paper, by the way). My own Mormonism (which might seem a bit heretical, perhaps Bahai-ish, to some) is sort of a melding of Smith and Emerson (perhaps that’s why beliefnet ranks me only 87% Mormon). Ideas about the oversoul fit my conception of Godhood (the spirit of the gods; sort of an extension of David O. McKay’s idea of emanation), and RWE’s doctrine of compensation rings truer to me than the typical conception of Judgement Day, etc. etc…I’m rambling and probably edging on thread hijacking. Great post Heidi.

    Comment by stan — February 19, 2008 @ 7:32 pm

  3. Very, very well done. See, I told you that yours would be much better than mine.

    I think you bring up a very important point about our use of Emerson, especially his quote at the beginning of the new JS movie: While Emerson and Joseph may have had vastly different ideas of what revelation meant, that quote can be taken to mean, at its very foundation, a personal yearning for individual contact with the Divine. In that regards, it can be seen as fitting.

    Comment by Ben — February 19, 2008 @ 7:51 pm

  4. I assume you are going to publish this (or a version of this)? If not, you should.

    Comment by SC Taysom — February 19, 2008 @ 7:53 pm

  5. What percent Mormon would RWE be?

    Comment by stan — February 19, 2008 @ 7:54 pm

  6. Another important similarity which you hint to in your post is how both Joseph and RWE saw understanding the divine as essential to understanding ourselves. In his King Follett sermon, Joseph taught that “if men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.”
    Likewise, Emerson gives the same sort of instruction, only using his form of the Divine:

    Nature then becomes to him the measure of his attainments. So much of nature as he is ignorant of, so much of his own mind does he not yet possess. And, in fine, the ancient precept, ‘Know thyself,’ and the modern precept, ‘Study nature,’ become at last one maxim. (“American Scholar,” in The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 87)

    Comment by Ben — February 19, 2008 @ 7:57 pm

  7. Great post, Heidi. I’ve learned quite a bit about Emerson and Latter-day Saints from your (and Ben’s) posts today. I second Taysom’s notion to find a venue to publish this, if you have not already.

    Comment by Christopher — February 19, 2008 @ 7:58 pm

  8. stan- I’ve been one to say “If I wasn’t born Mormon, I think I’d be Trascendentalist…heck…why not be both?” I love his Compensation too and I’m prone to sudden mad dancing in the rain and nature-touchy-feely-spirit-rejuvination. And even though people diss on self-reliance, I think there are some good things there and, though it may sound strange, especially things that I think women particularly could benefit from.

    sc taysom- I actually had an offer from Dialogue but their edits and critiques of my logic scared me away! Well, that wasn’t everything. It also was the first paper I wrote in grad school and on rereading it for publication I just was rather underwhelmed with myself. Maybe I’ll buck up and take another look, though I don’t think Dialogue would want me back after declining. ::sigh:: Oh silly, silly, overly-self-critical Heidi.

    Comment by Heidi — February 19, 2008 @ 8:55 pm

  9. Heidi, all I can say is that your feelings are very, very common. Everybody hates the critiques of peer review and despises re-reading stuff for publication. I wouldn’t write Dialogue off even if you did turn them down. Plus, that isn’t the only venue for a project like this. Come up with some twist that broadens the topic a bit and you could submit it to a more general publication geared toward religion in America. FWIW.

    Comment by SC Taysom — February 19, 2008 @ 9:07 pm

  10. Hmm. Did my comment end up in a spam filter?

    I was going to raise the difference between Joseph the materialist and Emerson who is arguably a kind of neoPlatonism focused the opposite direction. Sure there’s the focus on nature but then arguably that’s the major theme in Plotinus too.

    Anyway while there are a lot of similarities that basic stance regarding matter is always there I think that ought make us question the similarities.

    Comment by Clark — February 19, 2008 @ 11:21 pm

  11. Clark, I checked the spam filter, and there’s no comment from you there. I have no clue what happened to your comment.

    Comment by Christopher — February 19, 2008 @ 11:42 pm

  12. C’est la vie.

    It’s interesting that there is a real issue that I think comparing Emerson and Smith highlights. Mormons reject creation ex nihlo of course. It’s our main difference with most other Christians. Yet this then creates a problem.

    We want to say God is in the universe and that there is no ‘origin.’ Yet then what do we say about the foundation (or ground) of existence? In a sense we end up moving to the kind of ‘deistic’ view that encompasses the classic Deists (like Emerson) as well as the neoPlatonists, Stoics, Spinozists and so forth. It’s just that we don’t call this God.

    Most Deists or folks with more deist tendencies reject the interventionist and anthropomorphic aspects of God. Mormons emphasize those – arguably more than conservative Christians do. But what then is the relationship of Being and God?

    Orson Pratt, so far as I know, is the only one to really grapple with this. He does an atrocious job of it of course. With this weird almost Stoic view of fluids – except the fluids are made of atoms. Then he makes the 19th century conception of the aether into this Deist God or neoPlatonic One or Stoic World-Soul. The spiritual fluid that is in and through all things. Only for him its a fluid in the way a 19th century chemist thinks of fluids. Very weird. Yet, at the same time, at least an honest effort at dealing with the issue.

    Comment by Clark — February 20, 2008 @ 1:38 am

  13. To add, I should say that some of the recent attempts by some thinkers to reconcile aspects of process theology with Mormon thought are interesting here. (The most obvious examples being Blake Ostler and James McLachlan) I don’t think it ultimately works though. At least no more than Pratt’s does. But it’s good that at least the process thought guys are trying.

    Comment by Clark — February 20, 2008 @ 1:42 am

  14. Very insightful. FWIW, I did a 36 page essay on Emerson and Smith for an American Literature class at San Jose State. It was interesting to pull out numerous parallel teachings from Emerson and Smith, and then to note the dates, with Joseph typically preceeding Emerson. I compared the “light” passages in D&C 88 with passages in Nature.

    While Emerson typically rejects the notion of a personal God, and shocked the Divinity school by telling the ministers to be that they should see Jesus as a man, and rejects the idea of finding out about the after-life, or seeking a personal answer in words, I find his poem Threnody directly contradicts nearly everything else he says. In the poem, structured much like the letters from Liberty Jail, his despair turns to light on recieving a personal answer in words regarding his lost son, Waldo.

    I decided that the key differences in the two men stem from Emerson’s primarily mystic experience (other than Threnody) in contrast to Joseph’s experience bridging the numinous and the mystic. (Citing Kotlko’s Sunstone essay on Mormonism and Mysticism, and Ninian Smart on the implications of the bridging). Common teachings grew from the mystic common ground. Joseph’s distinctive eschatological view, completely alien to Emerson’s thought, grows from his numinous theophanies.

    It is fun to imagine a young Joseph Smith, recovering from his leg surgery, hobbling along the ocean beaches near Concord, and passing the slightly older Emerson.

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

    Comment by Kevin Christensen — February 20, 2008 @ 10:11 am

  15. I’m not sure it’s fair to say that Joseph’s eschatology grows from his theophanies. Certainly there are some elements there and some interesting parallels to classic Jewish apocalyptic literature. But just as I think apocalyptic literature demands we consider the historic situation of persecution and a hope for redemption *now* I think Joseph and the Church’s context brings us to that moment. That is as important as the religious experiences were that historical context really helped determined emphasis and interpretation as well as arguably bringing about many of the experiences.

    Beyond that though I agree. The difference between the numinous and mystical is pretty significant and a key difference between Mormons and Platonists like the transcendentalists. Where there is common ground is that Mormons often find the profound and spiritual in this world rather than in some otherworldly realm. In that way they are like that old Zen story about the guy seeking enlightenment.

    Before seeking enlightenment mountains were just mountains. While seeking enlightenment mountains weren’t just mountains. Once enlightenment was found mountains were mountains.

    Meaning that often folks seeking the profound mystical experience seek something otherworldly. But many authentic mystical encounters (such as Emerson’s view of nature) are in the world. We recognize as enchanted that which was always here.

    The difference that Mormonism adds is that we take what was other worldly and make in part of this world. So in a way it’s a further step yet.

    Comment by Clark — February 20, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

  16. Clark, kind of like repositioning the Garden of Eden to Missouri – or, now, in multiple locations around the world in our temples? Like believing that if it is a figurative account, location really doesn’t matter – as long as it is solidly within this world?

    Comment by Ray — February 20, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

  17. Insightful, as always, Clark.

    FWIW, here is the passage in Ninian Smart’s Worldviews that underlies my current view of Joseph Smith’s distinctiveness. And it should be evident that I use his definitions of the key terms.
    “If you stress the numinous, you stress that our salvation or liberation (our becoming holy) must flow from God the Other. It is he who brings it to us through his grace. You also stress the supreme power and dynamism of God as creator of the cosmos. If, on the other hand, you stress the mystical and non-dual, you tend to stress how we attain salvation and liberation through our own effort at mediation, not by the intervention of the Other… If we combine the two, but accent the numinous, we see mystical union as a kind of close embrace with the other—like human love, where the two are one and yet the two-ness remains. If the accent is on the mystical rather than the numinous, then God tends to be seen as a being whom we worship, but in such a way that we get beyond duality.” Smart, Worldviews, 71–72.

    Comment by Kevin Christensen — February 20, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  18. Ray, was it a re-positioning or simply a positioning? (Yes, I know of the tradition of Eden being in Palestian) I know a lot bring up the William Blake parallels here. I’m not sure I buy it. The big difference between say Blake and Smith is that Joseph took things very realistically. That is we aren’t talking about a form such that the form of Eden is in many places. Rather it is the historic Eden (or rather the place Adam was cast out to) was in Missouri.

    So I think Joseph tends to move quite away from the allegorical even though he has an appreciation for the allegorical as a way to discover the literal.

    Comment by Clark — February 20, 2008 @ 4:25 pm

  19. Interesting post, Heidi. I’d love to see you write something about the “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting” Wordsworth quote that is almost obligatorily used in conference talks that mention pre-earth life. In my Mormons and Film class recently, we watched “Man’s Search For Happiness,” a film that the Church premiered at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York and then played on Temple Square for years. You may have seen the 1987 remake. The film attempts to answer the “Where am I from/Why am I here/Where am I going?” questions and begins with a description of pre-earth life. And guess what? The obligatory Wordsworth quote shows up. I had no idea that Mormons have related the quote to pre-earth life for so long. I wonder when it was first used.

    Comment by Katherine — February 22, 2008 @ 6:54 pm

  20. […] also agree with Clark in believing that these similarities can be easily overstated (see here and here). While both hoped to collapse the distance between the sacred and the profane, I just can’t […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » The Transformation of Joseph? — March 13, 2008 @ 10:48 am

  21. […] in case you didnt get enough on Emerson back in February (see here and here), this is an encore […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » The Role of Friendship and Community — June 3, 2008 @ 11:21 am

  22. Well said. I just started studying Emerson, I was surprised to find his actual teachings were far from that which I had assumed by the general use of the few popular quotes. Your paper helps fill in the blanks. Thanks.

    Comment by Gage — June 7, 2009 @ 10:53 pm


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