Sunday, January 8, 2012

Transcendental Love

From a discussion on a friend's post, Surviving The Twin Flame, at his blog New Earth Light. The early "ultimate love and loss" that Emerson experienced, referred to here, was the passing of his beloved first wife after three years of marriage.

Carl and Heather,

Just wanted to address your comments re the Emerson quote on love. For the sake of general readability, here is that quote again:

"I know how delicious is this cup of love–I existing for you, you existing for me; but it is a child clinging to his toy, an attempt to eternize the fireside and nuptial chamber; to keep the picture alphabet through which our first lessons were prettily conveyed. This early dream of love, though beautiful, is only one scene in our life-play. In the processions of the soul from within outward, it enlarges its circles, like light proceeding from an orb. It passes from loving one to loving all; and so, this one beautiful soul opens the divine door through which he enters to the society of all true and pure souls. Thus in our first years are we put in training for a love which knows neither sex, person, nor partiality; but which seeks virtue and wisdom everywhere, to the end of increasing virtue and wisdom.”

Carl, you wrote:

"He sounds scolding toward anyone who holds onto an earlier idealized affection, calling it a child's toy and just a lesson to love everything, which suggests to me a lack of compassion and full integration for the depth of what he experienced. That remains my opinion and sense of it, because I know how hard it can be to grow beyond that first eternal paired peer love that created us. It becomes a joy when we realize our full destiny in human divine consciousness, which more are achieving now."

For my part, I see Emerson's perspective there as being perfectly representative of Transcendentalism. Since he identified himself as a transcendentalist, it is only to be expected that he would express their views. Transcendentalism is a close cousin of cosmic consciousness, and Emerson was held up as one of the examples of
cosmic consciousness in Richard Maurice Bucke's classic, Cosmic Consciousness.

I think it is precisely because Emerson knew the ultimate pangs of love and loss, that he was able to come to the perspective he voiced in that quote. Naturally it took a while for him to get there.

Someone asked a spiritual teacher about soul mates. The teacher said that everyone on the planet is our soul mate. That if we have a moment with the guy selling newspapers on the street, that guy is our soulmate in that moment. He says, "I don't mean to destroy dreams, but to expand them."

Heather, you wrote of Emerson:

"Emerson - from my first reading of what he wrote, I felt that there was a lot of pain there for he hadn't healed from his experience or fully accepted it..we can't replace our twin but we can love others...ultimately we have to heal and forgive from the first separation from our twin..which was very painful."

I feel Emerson did go through the healing over the years, in regard to his lost love. He moved on, he married again, had children, wrote his masterpieces of philosophy and literature. As a Transcendentalist, he exemplified a transcendental view of love, one more in sync with cosmic consciousness, where the love of one expands to embrace all.

Having said all that, I agree that Emerson's tone may be a tad dismissive of romantic love, but like the other spiritual teacher I quoted, he was really about expanding rather than contracting our experience.

Carl replied:

Thanks Jen for the poem and further comments. I like the point that defenders of Cosmic Consciousness hopefully don't mean to destroy dreams but rather expand them. I think everyone should be able to pursue their entry into love without degrading any other, just like the spiritual path itself. Romance works for a lot of people as initiation into higher states of love, and if they continue to hold their personal beloved more closely than the corner guy selling newspapers well, who is anyone to disagree, I certainly don't. Romantics didn't say they don't have a love for everyone, in fact people in personal love usually overflow with love for everything. It's the brokenhearted and superior to that experience who can sound less generous. I almost like Emerson's poem, but then he implies that his lost beloved is only a half-god and he's better off without her. Why isn't everyone a full god, why doesn't he just honestly miss her? He still sounds in denial of hurt and not wholly healed to me.

And I responded:

Hi Carl,

In the poem "Give All To Love" those lines "When half-gods go, the gods arrive" may refer to the realization that the girl he loved was not the right match, since she apparently wasn't that into him:

"But when the surprise,
First vague shadow of surmise
Flits across her bosom young,
Of a joy apart from thee,
Free be she, fancy-free"

Another meaning may relate to the 'early dream of love' as a half-god.
From what I've read of Emerson, he is opposed to burdening the objects of our love both culturally (he objected to the structure of marriage) and personally, focusing our expectations on them.

Pondering this subject, I am reminded of W.B. Yeats' poem, "Speech After Long Silence," wherein he speaks of "the supreme theme of art and song":

"Bodily decrepitude is wisdom; young
We loved each other and were ignorant."

I am sure it is true that it is easier for one who is more advanced in years to resonate with and embrace the Transcendentalist attitude about love. I don't at all agree that bodily decreptitude equals wisdom, and it doesn't seem to me that this is the "supreme theme of art and song," but those are still great lines!