Emerson termed this encompassing unity "The OverSoul." He envisions God in terms that transcend personality or human characteristics by referring to "that Unity, that OverSoul, within which every man's particular being is contained and made one with all other."

This concept of the surrender of the limited self operates in Emerson's ethical philosophy too. There is no discrete or disconnected act in the universe, he wrote. Each act brings its own reaction, the thing that we perceive as its reward or punishment. Useful or compassionate acts are unifying. They connect us to the whole. Those acts that are selfish, limited in goals, or cruel, diminish us by separating us from the essential energy of life. The human being, Emerson explains, "aims to be somebody; to set up for himself; to truck and higgle for a private good; and, in particulars, to ride that he may ride; to dress that he may be dressed; to eat that he may eat; and to govern, that he may be seen."

But all these schemes of personal comfort define fulfillment only in terms of consumption and material success, and diminish the significance and value of life itself. "Life invests itself with inevitable conditions," Emerson continues, "which the unwise seek to dodge, which one and another brags that he does not know, that they do not touch him; but the brag is on his lips, the conditions are in his soul." To Emerson, the spiritual life is a continuing awareness of these conditions, a living out of oneself that is also an intensely inward experience.

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