"There is one mind common to all individual men.
Of the works of this mind history is the record. Man is explicable by nothing
less than all his history. All the facts of history pre-exist as laws. Each
law in turn is made by circumstances predominant. The creation of
a thousand forests is in one acorn, and Egypt, Greece, Rome, Gaul, Britain,
America, lie folded already in the first man. Epoch after epoch, camp, kingdom,
empire, republic, democracy, are merely the application of this manifold spirit
to the manifold world."
"Whatever concept one may hold, from a metaphysical point of view, concerning the freedom of the will, certainly its appearances, which are human actions,
like every other natural event, are determined by universal laws. However obscure their causes, history, which is concerned with narrating these appearances,
permits us to hope that if we attend to the play of freedom of the human will in the large, we may be able to discern a regular movement in it, and that what
seems complex and chaotic in the single individual may be seen from the standpoint of the human race as a whole to be a steady and progressive though
slow evolution of its original endowment."
Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View (1784)
Some Eastern religious and philosophical approaches
Advaita Vedanta proposes a non-dualism wherein the individual spirit (Atman) is seen as being identical with
ultimate reality (Brahman).
That which is nearest is least observed. The Atman is the nearest
of the near, therefore a careless and unsteady mind gets no clue
to the Atman. But one who is alert, calm, self-restrained, and
discriminating, ignores the external world and, diving more and
more into the inner world, realizes the glory of the Atman and becomes great.
Stand upon the Atman, then only can we truly
love the world. Take a very, very high stand;
knowing our universal nature, we must look
with perfect calmness upon all the panorama of the world.
This is the secret of spiritual life: to think that I am the Atman and not the body, and that the whole of
this universe with all its relations, with all its good and all its evil, is but as a series of
paintings - scenes on a canvas - of which I am the witness.
In Philosophy "Metaphysics" is the branch of Philosophy dealing with "being": how things exist, what things really are, what essence is, what it is 'to be' something, etc.
The word comes from a "book" of some thirteen treatises written by Aristotle which were traditionally arranged, by scholars who lived in the centuries after Aristotle's
life-time in the fourth century B.C., after those of his "books" which considered physics and natural science.
It may be that for want of other terminology directly suited to reference such elusive subject matter the term MetaPhysica, (in Greek it means "after physics" or
"beyond physics"), was adopted in relation to Aristotle's "book" of "metaphysical" treatises.
A Shankara quotation relating to metaphysics
"The entire universe is truly the Self. There exists nothing at all other than the Self. The enlightened person
sees everything in the world as his own Self, just as one views earthenware jars and pots as nothing but clay".
Many, if not most, people would surely see differences between how western and how eastern philosophy approach the actualities of human existence. For westerners
society seems to largely result from human action whilst for the easterners existence is "somehow" there to be contemplated.
Within western philosophy Kant and Plato are definitely extremely highly regarded whilst Shankara and Vivekananda can be seen to have been particularly prominent within
the "Eastern" and "Vedic" traditions of Advaita Vedanta.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803-1882) was, in his time, the leading voice of intellectual culture in the United States. He remains widely influential
to this day through his essays, lectures, poems, and philosophical writings.
In the later eighteen-twenties Ralph Waldo Emerson read, and was very significantly influenced by, a work by a French philosopher named Victor Cousin.
A key section of Cousin's work reads as follows:
"What is the business of history? What is the stuff of which it is made? Who is the personage of history? Man : evidently man and human nature.
There are many different elements in history. What are they? Evidently again, the elements of human nature. History is therefore the development of humanity,
and of humanity only; for nothing else but humanity develops itself, for nothing else than humanity is free. …
… Moreover, when we have all the elements, I mean all the essential elements, their mutual relations do, as it were, discover themselves. We draw from the
nature of these different elements, if not all their possible relations, at least their general and fundamental relations."
Introduction to the History of Philosophy (1829)
Even before he had first read Cousin, (in 1829), Emerson had expressed views in his private Journals which suggest that he accepted that Human Nature, and Human Beings, tend to display three identifiable aspects and orientations:
Imagine hope to be removed from the human breast & see how Society will sink, how the strong bands of order & improvement will be relaxed & what a deathlike stillness would take the place of the restless energies that now move the world. The scholar will extinguish his midnight lamp, the merchant will furl his white sails & bid them seek the deep no more. The anxious patriot who stood out for his country to the last & devised in the last beleagured citadel, profound schemes for its deliverance and aggrandizement, will sheathe his sword and blot his fame. Remove hope, & the world becomes a blank and rottenness.
(Journal entry made between October and December, 1823)
In all districts of all lands, in all the classes of communities thousands of minds are intently occupied, the merchant in his compting house, the mechanist over his plans, the statesman at his map, his treaty, & his tariff, the scholar in the skilful history & eloquence of antiquity, each stung to the quick with the desire of exalting himself to a hasty & yet unfound height above the level of his peers. Each is absorbed in the prospect of good accruing to himself but each is no less contributing to the utmost of his ability to fix & adorn human civilization.
(Journal entry of December, 1824)
Our neighbours are occupied with employments of infinite diversity. Some are intent on commercial speculations; some engage warmly in political contention; some are found all day long at their books …
(This dates from January - February, 1828)
The quotes from Emerson are reminiscent of a line from another "leading voice of intellectual culture" - William Shakespeare.
There's neither honesty, manhood, nor good fellowship in thee.
William Shakespeare: Henry IV (Pt 1), Act I, Scene II