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Walt Whitman: The Spirit Made Manifest in Words Walt Whitman: The Spirit Made Manifest in Words
by Rene Wadlow
2021-05-31 08:51:26
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I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be
            blith and strong,the carpenter singing his as he measures his plank,  The mason singing his as he makes ready for work or leaves off work
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the
            deckhand singing on the steam boat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter
            singing as he stands.
Walt Whitman (1819 -1892) "I hear America singing".

walt01_400Walt Whitman, whose birth anniversary we mark on 31 May, believed that democracy can flourish only through regular contact with Nature "outdoor light and air and growth, farm-scenes, animals, fields, trees, birds, sun-warm and free skies."  For Whitman, all nature had consciousness.  Man was a link in the evolution of consciousness. Consciousness was more static in plants and trees, more active in animals and self-reflective in man, but all partook of the same consciousness which he called Spirit or Soul. This energy is manifested in all including "the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is"  As he wrote "I bear the soul befitting me, I too have consciousness/identity/ and all the rocks and mountains have, and all the earth."

Whitman grew up in the Quaker tradition of Elias Hicks who, as Whitman's family, lived on Long Island, near New York City and Brooklyn.  Elias Hicks placed his whole emphasis on the Inner Light as the source of all religious knowledge.  This left small space for the historical Jesus and none for the Bible.

For Whitman, Jesus was like him, confident, companion to the neglected, singer of human decency, an advocate of equality.  For Whitman in his poem "To him who was crucified" Jesus is a colleague, not a savior.

"Do not mind because many sounding your name do not understand you.
I understand you...
We walk silent among disputes and assertions but reject not
the disputens nor anything that is asserted...
We walk free, a band of dear friends the whole earth over,
journeying up and down till we make our ineffaceable
mark upon time and diverse eras."

Whitman's grandfather and father were "Hicksites" as Hicks followers were called, and Walt Whitman was taken to meet Hicks as a special gift for his 10th birthday.

The Inner Light and its impact on the Soul could be known in silence and inner experience.  However the Spirit had to become manifest in words in order to reach others.  "A perfect writer would make words sing, dance, kiss, do the male and female act, bear children, weap, bleed, rage, stab, steal, fire cannon, stear ships, rack cities."

Words for Whitman are the magic that creates worlds.  The Spirit is the experience that binds each man to man and into the one cosmos.  Soul is where this miracle takes place and where the cosmos is revealed in all its spender.


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

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