In Emerson’s new account of evolutionary spirituality the human soul is on a journey of its own creation – a journey from its original source through the process of manifestation to a perfected state of purity. And the soul has many lifetimes to make this journey. Emerson does not however mean to imply that the human soul in transition is a passive traveler along this developmental path. To the contrary he states about Fate that, “It is everywhere bound or limitation. But Fate has its lord; limitation its limits; is different seen from above and from below; from within and from without. For, though Fate is immense, so is power, which is the other fact in the dual world, immense.”
“Man is … a stupendous antagonism.” Emerson exclaims. We human beings have a strength of will that can antagonize and challenge the limitations of fate with a power that comes from creation itself because within us is “the lightning which explodes and fashions planets.”
This duel of the power vs. Fate is part of the destiny of creation. These are the opposing forces that fuel the process of evolution forward. It is this battle against the limitations of Fate that allows us “to bring up our conduct to the loftiness of nature.” And Emerson makes it clear that the real power of human beings is their freedom to think. “So far as a man thinks, he is free.”
The struggle teaches us courage and it refines the soul and delivers it to a lofty height of purity and a direct connection to the higher power of nature. “I see that when souls reach a certain clearness of perception, they accept a knowledge and motive above selfishness. A breath of will blows eternally through the universe of souls in the direction of the Right and Necessary. It is the air which all intellects inhale and exhale, and it is the wind which blows the worlds into order and orbit.”
As we come to this height of being we begin to see our true nature as universal mind and “seeing its immortality, he says, I am immortal; seeing its invincibility, he says, I am strong. It is not in us, but we are in it. It is of the maker, not of what is made. All things are touched and changed by it.”
We may all be on this journey to immortality, but Emerson does not believe that we are all going along the journey at the same pace. “Of two men, each obeying his own thought, he whose thought is deepest will be the strongest character. Always one man more than another represents the will of Divine Providence to the period.” Emerson seems clear that at any given time there will be different degrees of enlightenment exhibited by different individuals. The true representatives of Divine Providence are heroes who see that there is only one right way to go and take it. They are the individuals who lead humanity forward and create the trails and the pathways that others will follow. In this way the evolution of extraordinary individuals is the guiding force in Emerson’s evolutionary spirituality.
I think it is important once again to emphasize that Emerson’s thinking about Evolution is holistic. He doesn’t see the universe as a static backdrop, a stage upon which the drama of evolution unfolds. He sees the evolving universe as an organically growing whole. You cannot draw distinctions between objects. That is why we can be both the initiators of evolution and its products. There is a profound ecological interconnectedness to Emerson’s thinking. As he sees it nothing is truly separate even the opposing forces of the universe Fate and Freedom are not completely distinct because they exist in a constant state of flux in which “fate slides into freedom, and freedom into fate.” As Emerson so beautifully puts it, “Our life is consentaneous and far-related. This knot of nature is so well tied, that nobody was ever cunning enough to find the two ends. Nature is intricate, overlapped, interweaved, and endless.”