Transcendentalism was one of the main theological threads in the fabric of American Unitarianism in the 19th C. I’m one of those people who still think of themselves as a transcendentalists. I was, therefore, fascinated to find an excellent article on transcendentalist poet Jones Very online.
Nothing brand new in this article, but if you don’t know about Very it’s an excellent introduction to him.
Jones Very was ordained a Unitarian minister and one of the transcendentalists. In 1838 he had a spiritual opening or awakening, where he seems to have pretty completely eradicated his sense of self in an overwhelming experience of oneness with the universe.
Jones Very wrote quite a lot of poetry while in this transcendent state. You’ll find some good samples of his poems on the above Web site, or in “The New Oxford Book of English Poetry.” Eventually he got Ralph Waldo Emerson to edit his poems for publication. Emerson, so it is said, suggested some changes to the poems.
No, said Very, these are how I received the poems from god.
And Emerson is reported to have replied, Surely god knows how to spell and punctuate properly.
Very is an example of the ecstatic tradition within Unitarian Universalism — and he raises some interesting questions within our predominately rationalistic faith tradition. Was he simply insane? — or did he actually come open to the universe? Would you like to have him as your minister? — or even in your congregation? Questions to ponder….