Ralph Waldo Emerson, from "Nature"
. . orbs in heaven to furnish man with the dictionary and grammar of
his municipal speech? Whilst we use this grand cipher to expedite the
affairs of our pot and kettle, we feel that we have not yet put it to
its use, neither are able. We life like travellers using the cinders
of a volcano to roast their eggs. Whilst we see that it always stands
ready to clothe what we would say, we cannot avoid the question, whether
the characters are not significant of themselves. Have mountains, and
waves, and skies, no significance but what we consciously give them,
when we employ them as emblems of our thoughts? The world is emblematic.
Parts of speech are metaphors because the whole of nature is a metaphor
of the human mind. The laws of moral nature answer
to those of matter as face to face in a glass. "The visible
world and the relation of its parts, is the dial plate of the invisible."
The axioms of physics translate the laws of ethics. Thus, "the
whole is greater than its part," "reaction is equal to action;"
"the smallest weight may be made to lift the greatest, the difference
of weight being compensated by time;" and many the like propositions,
which have all ethical as well as physical sense. These proportions
have a much more extensive and universal sense when applied to human
life, than when confined to technical use.
In like manner, the memorable words of history, and the proverbs of nations, consist usually of a natural fact, selected as a picture or parable of a moral truth. Thus; A rolling stone gathers no moss; A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush; A cripple in the right way, will beat a racer in the wrong; Make hay whilst the sun shines; 'T is hard to carry a full cup even; Vinegar is the son of wine; The last ounce broke the camels back; Long-lived trees make roots first;and the like. In their primary sense these are trivial facts, but we repeat them for the value of their analogical import. What is true of proverbs, is true of all fables, parables, and allegories.
This relation between the mind and matter is not fancied by some poet, but stands in the will of God, and so is free to be known by all men. It appears to men, or it does not appear. When in fortunate hours we ponder this miracle, the wise man doubts, if, at all other times, he is not blind and deaf;
these things be,
for the universe becomes transparent, and the light of higher laws than its own, shines through it. It is the standing problem which has exercised the wonder and the study of every fine genius since the world began; from the era of the Egyptians and the Brahmins, to that of Pythagoras, of Plato, of Bacon, of Leibnitz, of Swedenborg. There sits the Sphinx at the road-side, and from age to age, as each prophet comes by, he tries his fortune at reading her riddle. There seems to be a necessity in spirit to manifest itself in material forms; . . .