The United States of the World​​
The world must get rid of all racism, all religious bigotry, all fanaticism, all national borders, all terrorism, all ignorance, all intolerance, all poverty, all tyrants, all corrupt politicians, all injustice and establish in Washington in the District of Columbia a strong central world government uniting us all under a constitution that will allow us to live magnanimously and freely in democratic states and to once again make our world green. 
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Transcendentalism Before and After the Civil War

         ​                                                         ​Daniel F. McNeill
     
     In America before the Civil War, men lived without the traditional borders of their ancestors in Europe. Men of thought and culture in America felt a release within themselves as though the old limits that gave unity to experience no longer applied to them.               
     New England Transcendentalism was a new secular religion that transcended both secularism and religion. Modern secularism excludes religious experience and walks on rationalistic and scientific grounds. Transcendentalism included any element of this kind of secularism but refused to allow its narrow view to limit other elements of experience. Descartes in the 17th century convinced thinkers that truth can be expressed only in rational and mathematical forms and this led most important thinkers to exclude thought not based on reason. Hegel, the German philosopher, wrote famously that whatever is real is rational. For Descartes, a Catholic, a whole area of experience existed beyond what could be categorized rationally. For the philosopher Kant, reality was composed of the phenomenon, the rational side, and the noumenon, the non-rational side. A New England Transcendentalist considered this split dishonest and harmful. He kept the phenomenon and the noumenon united. He was open to all possible experience and refused to conform his mind and spirit to any influence that did not register with him as genuinely his own. He lived in a land without borders and refused any borders blocking worthy experiences within himself. Ralph Waldo Emerson considered the imitation of any man a form of suicide. His non-conformity had a religious side because he believed openness to all morally good experience must lead to discoveries of the divine infused in nature by God himself. Nature held the keys to a perfect and holy human life. An individual who refused all foolish conformities must learn eventually that something is real when the divine in nature teaches that it is also morally right.
      The new secularism that transcended secularism and the new religion that transcended religion did develop however from within the Christian religion. Catholic Christianity very early introduced practices that secularized the divine. Pelagius in the 4th century taught that moral conduct and salvation could be achieved independently of God’s grace. Saint Augustine fought Pelagianism with his doctrine that only through grace could a believer be saved. Only God’s grace operating in the soul could give a human the power to resist evil and do good.  Calvinism agreed with Saint Augustine’s doctrine about grace. Humans were either directly elected by God through grace  or else were not elected and doomed to suffer the consequences.  Transcendentalism took its stand with the mass of humans condemned to live without grace and taught that they had the power within themselves to elect themselves to a glorious human life by opening their minds and souls to all possible worthy human experience.
     European thinkers criticized apostles of Transcendentalism like Emerson and Thoreau of Concord for their naïve disregard for the presence of evil. But Emerson touched the heart and mind of optimistic Americans when he taught them in his popular essays to create their own world and to rely on no one but themselves. Some American critics, eager to find nationalistic inclinations where none existed, describe Transcendentalism as a cultural break of a new nation with the old nations of Europe. It was not. Transcendentalists in New England and elsewhere, frustrated by the lack of higher experience derived from their native circumstances, sought to enlarge their experience with anything gleaned from the past in European art, philosophy, religion and literature or from any higher experience at all available to them from worldwide cultural and religious influences. Dante’s synthesis of art, poetry, philosophy and christianity was a major influence on Transcendentalists. They opened their souls to any experience that transcended their normal experience provided it was genuine.
     Transcendentalism was an expansive humanism that reached into realms of the divine that Christianity for centuries had kept locked in sacred practices and traditional constructions.  The transcendentalists were genuinely out to find the truly human. New England men with a long Protestant tradition behind them accepted the Calvinistic duality between election and damnation but refused to limit their human experience because of it. They were open to the influence of everything including Christian grace. But they knew that grace did not come from any human merit and its influence came and went without any direct human control. As far as they were concerned, everyone was morally obliged first and foremost, whether saved or unsaved, to be a worthy independent human being.
     Traditional Christian experience was not a part of Transcendentalism but it influenced it indirectly and came into it, so to speak, through the back door. Christ’s life and death introduced a new human persona in history that broke radically with humanity’s past. A person could no longer be a real person with only a purely human experience. It had to also include the divine because Christ was divine-human and belief in him now added a divine experience to the merely human. Christ’s self-sacrifice  mysteriously allowed grace to enter a Christian’s soul. A Christian became truly a person by grafting onto himself  the divine. Put differently, a Christian became a whole person by finding the power through Christ to transcend the human. Transcendentalists were also after the whole person, but they believed they could become whole and thus genuine on their own without Christianity. Their becoming  whole and therefore truly human was their aim. Emerson’s great lecture at Harvard College, The American Scholar, expresses  the ideal of wholeness among Transcendentalists. So does Thoreau’s Walden. New Englanders in Hawthorne’s last novel, The Marble Faun, search for higher inspiration in the great creations of art in Rome. They conscientiously ascend towards divine epiphanies in their experience while remaining steadfastly human. But the ideal of wholeness in the human makeup that transcendentalists sought and experienced did not survive the Civil War. A unified and whole America was broken. The cultural wholeness of Transcendentalism was shattered into parts that splintered off in individualistic directions that were selfish or limited. In Christian Science, a new religion with New England origins, the spiritual became totally divorced from material and human realities. It transformed the search for wholeness by belief in Christ’s divine humanity into a science that detached a practitioner from reality. Christian Science believed that only spirit was real and the material world an illusion. The new Mormon religion taught that rather than believe in Christ and miraculously discover the world of God, believers should instead raise the quality of their behavior to make themselves somehow the equal of Christ. Transcendentalism promoted the value of an active human life oriented towards spiritual and mental wholeness, but after the Civil War in a fractured society that had lost its previous unity men rushed headlong into opportunities for material success and sensual pleasures for their own sake without any connection to higher ideals. The Civil War shattered the wholeness of a union of states each with a deep sense of its own individual worth because none doubted the power and integrity of their political sovereignty.  American culture, with Transcendentalism at its top, was shattered too. At the Concord School of Philosophy founded in 1879 in Concord, Massachusetts, Hegelianism became popular. Emerson, Thoreau and Hawthorne believed that that the poet’s truth was the truest truth and that true poetry could  arise only from a truly whole man. They would have been shocked to learn that following their deaths a German philosophy that preached that whatever is real is rational became the dominant philosophy in Concord, the home and holy ground of Transcendentalism.
Daniel McNeill
 Daniel McNeill’s books are for sale at:  amazon.com/author/graceisall


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                                                 Transcendentalism and Baseball

                                                                       Daniel F. McNeill


    By the time of the Civil War, baseball arrived on the scene in America with events in its drama that parallel all the major themes of the Christian religion: a primary state of innocence, the batter setting himself at the plate; a temptation, the offering of the ball by the pitcher; a fall, the self-condemnation by hitting the ball to the diminished role of a base runner; sin, the passive touching of a base; faith, running the bases or taking a daring lead off base; grace, a sudden unmerited aid that  leads to advancement on the bases or scoring a run; and the final redemption of reaching the place at home plate where the player was at the beginning. The game even expresses also a parallel to the idea of predestination in Calvinism. The batter who hits a home run is ipso facto predestined to be saved. He is the exception. He hits the ball so well that his salvation is assured prior to his birth on the bases. Baseball is a game invented by nineteenth-century Protestants and the drama relates to Transcendentalism because Transcendentalists struggled to free themselves from traditional Protestant Christianity. Baseball players struggle to free themselves from the predicaments they face in a game that parallel the basic drama of Christian experience.They face on the base paths a representation of life prescribed for them in a form that they struggle to escape. Transcendentalists also tried to escape from an unwanted form of life. In the case of baseball players, the life they oppose is expressed in a cycle of events parallel to Christianity that they pass through against their will and transcend by scoring a run. For transcendentalists, it is Christianity itself that they transcend.
     Is it not natural for a people who have rid themselves of rule by a European nation to also rid themselves of a European religion? Some writers of the transcendentalist period in the early 19th century like Nathaniel Hawthorne remained Christians but even they sought a genuine new spirituality that the old Catholic and Protestant practices could no longer provide. They all sensed that Christianity fit the past but not their time. However none of them escaped to new spiritual experiences without the key elements of Christian experience remaining in their minds since they all knew the main themes in the bible. Emerson was a consecrated minister before he renounced his ministry. Hawthorne observed in Rome at Saint Peter's Catholics going to confession and confessed that he would have practiced it if he could have believed it would allow him a genuine experience. In his last novel, The Marble Fawn. his American hero and heroine search the artistic and religious remains in Italy for genuine uplifting spiritual experiences. They find little in the Italian Christianity of their time, the 1850s, that is genuine and in their two European friends, Miriam and Donatello, they brush up against genuine evil. Baseball players also test experience to try to find something genuine. Hitting the ball turns out to be a deception that leads only to passivity at one of the bases. Touching a base for safety is a kind of death. A lead off  base is life but it is life with danger because nine enemy players try to force a runner back to his base and block his advancement. The enemy players all want to eliminate a base runner, to put him out. For a player to swing his arms furiously and feel his legs pumping up and down as he runs at top speed towards a new base or towards the plate is real life. The only genuine being of a base runner is base running. The bases threaten to make the base runner accept the falsity of attaching himself to a base rather than running along the course of the bases and existing truly. Evil is borrowed being. It is non-being posing as being. The base runner must not borrow his being by touching a base. Rather than posing as being by holding a foot against a base, he must create his being by leading off base. He has faith that his true being is not identical with his present existence on the bases. He must not let himself become the same as this new existence. Transcendentalists also wanted nothing to do with an existence rooted in the traditional Christian experiences offered them by their Protestant background. They were certain another superior and more genuine existence was possible. If it meant adopting a spiritual way of life that was not Christian, then so be it. Get rid of everything that is not real life. Don’t remain in contact with anything that  prevents you from feeling what is genuine. Leave your base. Try to find your true home.
   William Ellery Channing, a unitarian minister whose thoughts influenced Emerson, taught that God should be imitated by humans to raise themselves to new heights of human and spiritual experience. In the past, religion forced men to worship God and to humble themselves. Channing argued that God’s entrance into human history had created divinity in man and man should strive through elevated behavior to act divinely as God, his divine father, acts. Emerson taught that the imitation of any man was a form of suicide and that acting as God acts meant that a man must be completely free spiritually. He believed that you find your true life only by relying on yourself alone. He gave up his life as a consecrated minister. He left his base. He had the courage to face the perils of existence on his own. Saint Augustine believed the opposite. For him, self-reliance was not Christian. He put the whole meaning of Christianity in one sentence: Et hoc erat totum: nolle quod volebam et velle quod volebas. “And this was all: to not will what I wanted and to will what you (meaning God) wanted.” Emerson would have put the nolle where the velle was and put the velle where the nolle had been so it read: Et hoc erat totum: velle quod volebam et nolle quod volebas. “And this was all: to will what I wanted and not to will what you (God) wanted.” Emerson believed that holiness was natural and that it could be reached  by experience that was genuinely individualistic. Self-reliance. It was the motto of Transcendentalists and baseball players.
     For Hawthorne, evil was a dominate reality in life and the fall of man from grace to sin was for him observable in the daily actions of humans. He got to know  Emerson when he lived in Concord but he made a pointed effort not to proceed along the same  paths that Emerson was following. Transcendentalists like Emerson believed there was no fall of man. They often express a spiritual optimism by their belief in a possible expansive human freedom and independence that Christian thinkers would have judged to have been possible only before the fall of Adam and Eve and the arrival of original sin. A kind of Emersonian optimism about the fall, or rather the lack of a fall, also inhabits the orthodox baseball fan. There must be a parallel with the fall of man in the baseball drama or else the cycle of events that follow batting do not parallel in a true aesthetic pattern the regular development of Christian experience. This means that  every successful hit in a game (except a homerun) is parallel to a fall from grace. Clearly for most baseball players and most baseball fans this is heresy. They follow the orthodox view that a hit is a positive success  whereas in reality it is a fall to a lesser state that happens over and over again before our eyes in every ball game. A batter who reaches base loses power. He transforms whatever form of being he has as a batter to a form of being as a base runner that diminishes his being. He transforms himself from one level of being to a lower level of being.  A batter has the potential to run and when he hits the ball into fair territory he transforms himself to a runner but loses his previous state of being because he can no longer hit. He is no longer a hitter who can also run but a runner who can no longer hit. He condemns himself by striking the ball to being only a runner and his sudden loss of a primal wholeness is a fall to a new reduced state of being. He can not regain the state he has just lost so the only redemption possible is to try to negate what he has become. Yet for the optimistic orthodox baseball fan there is no parallel to some fall from grace in baseball. Even though a batter fails 70 percent of the time, everything is positive. Every batter will get a new chance to bat. Every batter eventually gets on base and even though many more baserunners fail to score than succeed, for the optimistic fan everything is nonetheless positive. Arriving at a base does not in any way diminish a player. Like most Transcendentalists, for most Americans and most baseball fans there is no fall and no original sin either in life or in baseball.
   But what about grace? A transcendentalist, since he believes holiness is natural, must believe that man can raise himself to spiritual heights by his own merit. Grace for a Christian is unmerited. For thinkers like Saint Augustine and Blaise Pascal, it is the sine qua non of Christianity. If God does not give an unmerited assistance directly to man in his soul then his salvation is impossible. The transcendentalist view is in fact an attempt to establish a new basis for religious experience without grace. A transcendentalist gets by without grace but in baseball salvation by grace happens so regularly in hundreds of different actions all parallel to the divine eruption of divine grace in real life. It should be a problem for the orthodox baseball player or the fan who are unwilling to see any connection between baseball and the Christian religion. Someone could object that a sudden arrival of a successful play that brings with it victory and a joyous feeling of release in players and fans exists in every sport. True, but parallels with grace are programmed and prescribed in baseball. It is only by some unmerited assistance that a base runner can be saved. Religious writers tell us that grace from God is by no means a onetime event. A believer must be aided again and again by grace. Sudden salvation happens for a baserunner when a following batter hits a homerun but ordinarily he needs more than one unmerited assistance to succeed. For example, he is on first base and a base hit by a following batter allows him to reach second base. A long fly ball to right field allows him to tag up and run successfully to third base. But he still needs some third form of unmerited assistance to reach home. Then a batter hits a fly ball to center field and a player just misses catching it allowing the runner on third to score without meriting his success by his own individual input. The other aspect that separates grace as represented in baseball from other sports is that a player is automatically diminished in power when he reaches base. He is now weaponless without a bat. His success in reaching base at the beginning of his adventure is in reality a failure. He now is condemned to rely on the actions of others to reach home plate and not only on his individual merit. Football players, hockey and basketball players, are equipped with full.positive power right from the start of their adventure and right through to a conclusion of a successful action. They score points aided only by themselves. A baseball player who does not hit a homerun can not succeed on his own. Unpredictable acts either by players on his own team or by players on the enemy team are needed to provide a player with  changes in the circumstances around him that will allow him to proceed around the bases and reach home. Grace in thousands of different  forms parallel to real grace is prescribed in baseball. Without unmerited assistances, a base runner cannot score unless he has hit a homerun or, when he reaches first base, steals by his own merit second base, third base and then steals home.
     But baseball orthodoxy will not allow various forms of unmerited assistance to be understood as grace. It is heresy to believe baseball has anything to do with religion. It is about the supreme American virtue of having a keen eye out for chances to advance and succeed. A batter does not diminish himself by reaching base according to the orthodox fan. He advances. He avoids an out and establishes himself in the game on a base ready to seize opportunities and advance further along the base paths. Of course it is difficult. He is on his own. He is surrounded by enemies out to defeat him and take away his opportunities for success. But no one in a ball game, just as in American economic life, has the power to keep circumstances locked and under control. Things change. Things are always changing. Opportunities for advancement or defeat are always coming up. A base runner has to be shrewd and clever and quick to take advantage of changes around him that are inevitable. He has his eye out not for some unmerited grace but for some unpredictable act caused by others that will give him the chance to show his merit. The orthodox baseball faith sees only individual merit in baseball. Most batters and most baserunners fail but that’s natural. That’s life. Even if a batter makes an out, he will get another chance to bat. Pick yourself up off the floor. Get back in the fight. Sooner or later you will beat the odds if you have faith only in yourself and your own merit.
     The cycle of a fall from innocence and an experience of sin and faith, grace and salvation, is foreign to the views of many optimistic Americans in their religious beliefs and in their native attitude to life. Christianity is perhaps observable to some minds in the structure of baseball but it is there as something unreal in the background. It can have no meaning for the orthodox baseball fan. Baseball can not be primarily an expression of the Christian religion. The  truth is that Transcendentalism grew out of a negative attitude to Orthodox Christian beliefs as Americans experienced living on their own after breaking their ties with England and with European culture. Christianity existed in the minds of many Transcendentalists but only in their mind. Their spirit was elsewhere. The spirit of the baseball fan is elsewhere too. He wants to be himself and he wants his American game, baseball, to be what it is naturally and nothing more.
     But if we look at what happens every time a player leaves home, rounds the bases and returns home scoring a run, we see the real drama of baseball purely and simply. Every batter tries to live out to the end a three-act drama. Act one is trying to hit the ball as well as hitting it and then touching first base safely. Act two is running from first base and touching second base and then third base. Act three begins when a player’s foot stops touching third base and he runs and touches safely home plate, the place where he was at the beginning, the end that is also a beginning. Each act is a separate but interrelated dramatic experience. When the drama is completed, when the three obligatory scenes are acted out successfully, it is called a run. The complete baseball game is a secondary contrived drama of two teams of nine men each given in any game at least 3 chances to act out individually the three acts of the basic drama. Baseball is not a team sport meaning individuals playing together as one team  against another team of players also playing together as one team. It is mainly about watching at least 54 individuals step up to the plate and try to play out alone without any direct aid from anyone the three acts. The home run hitter succeeds before he is born on the bases. But even he must run and reach first base, then leave it and run to third and finally leave third and touch the plate. Baseball is about individuals escaping their own obliteration and saving themselves by the grace of positive events not caused by themselves. It is implicitly a Christian game. But Transcendentalists decided that Christian experience was behind them and no longer relevant to genuine spiritual experience. The orthodox baseball fan puts behind him any idea that the drama of baseball represents stages of Christian experience. They both reject Christianity, one as a reality spiritually and one as a reality present symbolically in a game.
Daniel McNeill's book on the metaphysics of baseball, The Theater of the Impossible,is for sale at:  amazon.com/author/graceisall