Les Transcendantalistes ont été parmi les premiers Américains à éprouver une fascination pour l’Orient, et pour l’Inde et la religion hindoue en particulier. La notion de continuité entre le monde, l’homme, et Dieu est sans doute l’élément qui fascine le plus les Transcendantalistes dans les religions orientales. Comme l’affirme S. Ahlstrom,

‘These several tendencies led [Emerson] to discover a community of spirit with the higher philosophy of India. Brahma and karma and other concepts of Oriental religion entered his thinking. The idea of a thing was more important to him than its materiality, yet he regarded no fact as profane – the Each was taken up in the All, the system of Nature was identical with the Oversoul. 88

Dans la pensée de Thoreau également, le refus du dualisme entre la nature et l’homme, entre le corps vil et l’esprit noble, exprimé dans l’hindouisme, est développé :

‘ We are so degraded that we cannot speak simply of the necessary functions of human nature. In earlier ages, in some countries, every function was reverently spoken of and regulated by law. Nothing was too trivial for the Hindoo lawgiver, however offensive it may be to modern taste. He teaches how to eat, drink, cohabit, void excrement and urine, and the like, elevating what is mean, and does not falsely excuse himself by calling these things trifles.’ ‘Every man is the builder of a temple, called his body, to the god he worships, after a style purely his own, nor can he get off by hammering marble instead. We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones. Any nobleness begins at once to refine a man's features, any meanness or sensuality to imbrute them. 89

Certes, le monisme implicite dans cette notion de continuité n’empêche pas Emerson d’appréhender le dualisme, qu’il nomme « polarité » :

‘ POLARITY, or action and reaction, we meet in every part of nature; in darkness and light; in heat and cold; in the ebb and flow of waters; in male and female; in the inspiration and expiration of plants and animals; in the equation of quantity and quality in the fluids of the animal body; in the systole and diastole of the heart; in the undulations of fluids, and of sound; in the centrifugal and centripetal gravity; in electricity, galvanism, and chemical affinity. Superinduce magnetism at one end of a needle; the opposite magnetism takes place at the other end. If the south attracts, the north repels. To empty here, you must condense there. An inevitable dualism bisects nature, so that each thing is a half, and suggests another thing to make it whole; as, spirit, matter; man, woman; odd, even; subjective, objective; in, out; upper, under; motion, rest; yea, nay. 90

Cependant, ce dualisme présent dans la nature n’est pas l’essence de la nature. A un niveau plus profond, tout est un, la partie reflète et comprend le tout, « l’univers est représenté dans chacune de ses particules. Chaque chose dans la nature contient tout. » 91 Le dualisme, présent dans chaque élément de la nature, ne caractérise cependant pas l’Être, l’Âme, la Nature, ou Dieu :

‘The soul is. Under all this running sea of circumstance, whose waters ebb and flow with perfect balance, lies the aboriginal abyss of real Being. Essence, or God, is not a relation, or a part, but the whole. Being is the vast affirmative, excluding negation, self-balanced, and swallowing up all relations, parts, and times within itself. Nature, truth, virtue, are the influx from thence. 92

En conséquence, la relation juste de l’homme à Dieu ne peut être empreinte de dualisme, car l’homme et Dieu sont Un :

‘ Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul. It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works good. But prayer as a means to effect a private end is meanness and theft. It supposes dualism and not unity in nature and consciousness. As soon as the man is at one with God, he will not beg. He will then see prayer in all action. 93

Ici encore, nous retrouvons un élément très présent dans le New Age contemporain : la préoccupation exclusive du bien et du positif, et la négligence quasi totale du négatif, du péché, et du mal. Si le New Age est proche du Calvinisme dans sa relation à la richesse matérielle, à l’ambivalence entre élitisme et démocratie, et entre rationalité et émotion, il s’en distingue complètement dans sa relation au mal. Le transcendantalisme instaure une « religion positive » qui fait rupture avec le judéo-christianisme, et qui sera reprise et développée par les New Agers.


S. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People, pp. 604-605.


H. D. Thoreau, Walden, p. 201.


R. W. Emerson, « Compensation », in in Emerson’s Prose and Poetry, p.139.


« The universe is represented in every one of its particles. Every thing in nature contains all. » Ibid, p. 140.


Ibid, p. 147.


R. W. Emerson, « Self-Reliance », in Emerson’s Prose and Poetry, p. 132.