Circles, By Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay

944 words - 4 pages

In the midst of all of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays, “Circles,” is undoubtedly a piece which masterfully incorporates Emerson’s philosophies of etymology with the spiritual. Etymology, down to its core, deals with the origin of certain phrases, words, or examples used to describe an object of meaning. Emerson uses this technique to craft a spiritual essay that pushes the reader to see the universe from a different perspective, and to tear away from the social norms of what is expected of religion to follow his or her own path. To do this, however, Emerson stresses the importance of understanding and reason. To understand is to classify, differentiate, and compare. To reason, on the other hand, exceeds understanding by serving as the intuitive facility to the soul. To do this, one must become a poet as described by Emerson.
“Circles” begins by starting small and describing the circles of the eye, then gradually moves to the circles in the universe, explaining that the circles in the universe are never ending. For example, Emerson himself explains “around every circle another can be drawn” (Emerson 123). This is the understanding portion. However, there is one caveat. Emerson explains that the circles eventually go on to reach God, who is both the circumference and the center of the circle. If God serves as both the circumference and the center of the great chain of circles, it means there is no clearly defined beginning or end. Nevertheless, like many things in nature, the presence of God as a figure of the circumference of circles symbolizes his elusively. If one circle can be drawn after the other, and God is the circumference of the circle, it symbolizes the beauty and elusively of nature. This is the reason portion of circles. Only a poet open minded in these beliefs can reach enlightenment from understanding and reasoning the never ending nature of the universe and all things inside of it.
In Emerson’s appeal to reason in the first paragraph, he recites the statement that “St. Augustine described the nature of God as a circle whose center was everywhere and its circumference nowhere” (Emerson 123). When understanding this statement, one must begin by starting at the smallest unit of what is matter, an atom. That atom is god, the center of the universe. Around that atom, however, a circumference is formed, creating a new circle, the process repeats without ever ending. However, because the circumference is never ending, God’s presence can be symbolically represented in this manner. Also from a spiritual standpoint, this basically describes how God is imminent being, that transcends time and space; likewise, because we are all part of God, we can accomplish the same thing when we open our minds...

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