Transcendentalist Queen Margaret Fuller on Transcendence – The Marginalian

This article is excerpted from Chapter VI of thinking.

“I am determined to stand out,” Margaret Fuller (May 23, 1810–July 19, 1850) writing to her former mentor. She is fifteen. The year is 1825 and she is ineligible for any formal education, so she has taken charge of her character herself, with the firm guidance of her father – a man who has tempered his disappointment that his firstborn was not a son with the option of treating his eldest daughter as a creature of mind. When the first rings of her hair were cut, he composed a poem on her head as a temple to the divine mind. At the age of six, Margaret was reading in Latin. At the age of twelve, she was conversing with her father on philosophy and pure mathematics. She described herself as “more of what needs more”. At fifteen, this is her daily routine:

I get up a little before five, walk for an hour, then practice the piano until seven, when we have breakfast. After that, I read French – Sismondi literature of southern Europe – until eight; Then two or three lectures on Brown’s philosophy. At about half past nine, I go to Mr. Perkins’ school, study Greek until twelve, when the school was dismissed, and come home, and train again until dinner, two o’clock. Then, when I can, I read in Italian for two hours.

Many years later, she would write in response to repeated criticisms of her unfamiliar leadership, often mistaken for vanity, in which a confident woman’s resolve tends to be:

In an environment like mine, what might seem so poisonous or pretentious in my character was absolutely required to prevent the heart from breaking and enthusiasm from extinction.

Thoughts and silent thoughts about time, place and death. The Art of Margaret C. Cook from a rare English edition by Walt Whitman grass leaves. (available as a copy)

From the platform of her early childhood, Margaret conducts an investigation into the building blocks of character. In a six-page essay, she wrote, “Nothing distinguishes man from man more broadly than the energy of will,” postulating that the will to triumph consists of imagination, perseverance, and “extreme confidence in the future.” But these elements are not weighted equally – they outweigh above all perseverance, which fuels a “non-exhaustive climb and rush” toward achievement. She wrote, having lived just over a decade, “really strong-willed returns to competition, calm, not grieving over failure, and wiser than nature.”

Over the next twenty-five years, this teen, moved by what she calls a “strong impulse of ambition,” would persevere in writing the founding thesis of the women’s liberation movement, be the nation’s most trusted author of literary and artistic criticism, and serve as the first editor-in-chief of a major New York newspaper and the only woman in the room. Editing, she advocated for prison reform and voting rights for Negroes, and became America’s first foreign war correspondent. All this she would have accomplished while suffering from chronic, debilitating pain at the base of her neck – the result of a congenital spinal deformity that made it difficult to tilt her head down in order to write and was often accompanied by severe depression.

The only known photograph of Margaret Fuller

Time and time again, she rose to reach “continuing works of strong beauty”, signing her poignant editorial articles not in her name but with a single star – at first a symbol imbued with deliberate anonymity, designed to disguise the author’s gender and thus avoid any bias to the article’s credibility, but soon became the acknowledged seal Widely used for Fuller’s official voice. Literature will be her weapon of choice – “a medium of presentation of all humanity, a substance around which all knowledge, all experience, all science, all ideal as well as all that is practical in our nature can gather.”

Behind the public face of unprecedented discrimination, Fuller will mourn and struggle for private satisfaction – the same tidal force that removed barriers of prejudice and tradition would end up sinking her heart. Time and time again she would entrap herself in intellectual infatuation and unequal fines that did not achieve what she so desperately desired: the “perfection of being” – the sublime integration of emotion, intellect, and as she would realize only at the end of her short life of the body. Yet she was bent to have an inner life examined as she was to engage in world life, earthly, and cosmic existence. “I cannot live without my own star,” Fuller wrote when she was the age when her contemporary, Maria Michel, discovered the comet that made her America’s first professional astronomer – “I can’t live without my own star” – “but my feet are on the ground and I would like to walk over them until my wings grow. I will use a microscope in addition to my telescope. with me “.

A Solar System quilt by contemporary Eileen Harding Baker Fuller, set over seven years to teach women astronomy when they were barred from higher education in the sciences. (Available as a print and a face mask.)

At twenty-one, Margaret Fuller reached her “own star” through a superlative experience she later described as transcending “the extremes of emotional grief”—a revelation that stripped all sense of self and, in that nudity of existence, made her more of herself.

Similar ad for how anesthetic breaks down consciousness, but without the help of any outside substance.

Challenging his novel, he reveals, with Fuller’s linguistic prowess, the first of the four features of superlative experiences – indescribability – that William James formulated for a later generation.

Fuller recounts in her diary that she was forced to go to church on Thanksgiving Day while feeling “exhausted by mental struggles and in a mood of childlike sadness”—sadness of her symphonic potential that had been muted by those charged with directing her life. Later you will remember:

I felt great strength, generosity, and tenderness in me, but it seemed to me as if they were all unrecognized, and as if it was impossible to use them in life. I was only twenty-one years old. The past was worthless, the future hopeless; Yet… my ambition seemed too high.

Looking around the benches, this young woman who later described herself as having “no normal childhood” now finds herself the envy of all little children. Once freed from duty, she headed out into the fields and walked–almost running–for hours, under “slow processions of mournful clouds…passing over a cold blue sky.” It is unable to contain the thoughts that lingered years ago and that have now erupted to the surface:

It seemed to me that I couldn’t go back to a world where I had no place… I couldn’t part, and I couldn’t seem to live any longer.

So she stops thinking and instead notes nature in its irrepressible liveliness – the “dark and silent” trees; The small stream “shrinked, soundless, choked with withered leaves,” and yet it “did not completely lose itself in the ground.”

Suddenly the sun shone with such translucent sweetness, like the last smile of a dying lover, which you will use when the weather is rough all through the cold autumn days. And even then, a ray of her true sun passed through my thoughts, from her original surroundings, which has not left me since.

Art of Bing Zhou from Snail with the right heart

The beam flashes her memory as a little girl, and she stops on the stairs to wonder how she grew up:

What does it look like to be Margaret Fuller? what does that mean? What should I do about it? I remembered all the times and ways the same thought came back. You have seen how long a soul must learn to act within the constraints of time, space, and human nature; But I saw, also, that he ought to do it,–that he ought to make all this wrong to be true… I saw that there is no soul; That selfishness was all foolishness and the result of circumstances. It is only because I thought I suffered from being honest with myself; That I just had to live in the idea of ​​the whole, and it was all mine.

A generation later, Canadian psychiatrist and open-air physician Maurice Buck would fall under the spell of Whitman and give this type of experience a name in his groundbreaking model of cosmic consciousness.

Complete with Fuller’s contemporary Coleridge on the transcendence of nature and human nature after glimpsing it all in a storm, then leap two centuries ahead with Nick Cave in Music, Feeling, and Transcendence.

For other excerpts from thinkingSee Elizabeth Peabody (who first recognized Fuller’s genius and presided over its entry into the transcendent universe) on middle age and the art of self-renewal, Rachel Carson on the ocean and the meaning of life, Charles Darwin on love, loss, and the beautiful banality of survival, Emily Dickinson’s electric love letters to love Her life, and the startling story of how Kepler invented science fiction and revolutionized our understanding of the universe while defending his mother in a witchcraft trial.

Leave a Comment