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Religions 2018, 9(2), 48; doi:10.3390/rel9020048

Sacramental Communion with Nature: From Emerson on the Lord’s Supper to Thoreau’s Transcendental Picnic

English Department, Sewanee: The University of the South, 735 University Ave, Sewanee, TN 37383, USA
Received: 9 January 2018 / Revised: 31 January 2018 / Accepted: 1 February 2018 / Published: 3 February 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transcendentalism and the Religious Experience)
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Abstract

For both Emerson and Thoreau, ocular attentiveness was a crucial means of at least disposing the soul toward experiencing moments of otherwise unpredictable, ecstatic encounter with the divine soul of Nature. But the eye alone was not the sole sensory pathway toward receiving such revelations. Especially in later writing, Thoreau focused special attention on eating and drinking as key bodily—yet also spiritual—modes of experiencing communion with the earth. He applied this sacramental understanding to the several processes of obtaining, preparing, and consuming food, but above all to the thankful appreciation of locally gathered, wild fruits and nuts. Such gifts, freely given, presumably invite “us to picnic with Nature,” thereby dramatizing how “man at length stands in such a relation to Nature as the animals which pluck and eat as they go.” Though Emerson never embraced a comparably sacramental vision of Nature, or showed the same interest in gustatory encounter with wildness, one might interpret his attraction toward other diverse and often spiritualized concepts of communion as a compensatory outcome of his ministerial decision in 1832 to cease administering the Christian church’s sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. View Full-Text
Keywords: Emerson; Thoreau; sacrament; communion; Lord’s Supper; Nature; Transcendentalism Emerson; Thoreau; sacrament; communion; Lord’s Supper; Nature; Transcendentalism
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Gatta, J. Sacramental Communion with Nature: From Emerson on the Lord’s Supper to Thoreau’s Transcendental Picnic. Religions 2018, 9, 48.

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