Both the earliest writings of Iroquois League and Jonathan Edwards and the latter works of Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman contain rich expressions on nature. However, it is the different ways in which nature is presented during the puritan period (16th to 17th) century and during the latter period that sets the works apart. The purists viewed nature as a physical manifestation of God. To them, nature provided the lens through which man could see or sense and understand God. The sheer beauty of nature is in their views illustrative of a Divine Being. Man was part of nature and thus could not have dominion over it. On the other hand, the transcendentalists (Emerson, Thoreau & Whitman) held the premise that man must understand nature in order to increase his aesthetic, moral and intellectual knowledge. Additionally, a return to nature was the only sure way for man to invigorate his spirit and to rejuvenate his soul. Thus, it was important for man to alienate himself from society and rendezvous with nature. Nonetheless, they still held the belief on the interconnectedness between man’s spirituality and nature.
Edward’s writing during the Stockbridge era reveal much of his thoughts about nature and God. Edward’s references on nature are more of an ontological sense and prescribe certain ethics. Edward believed that nature was a physical manifestation of divinity. His belief in nature’s beauty as a physical manifestation of God is evident in a number of his works. In “Two Treatises” Edward asserts that God is “distinguished from all other beings and exalted above them chiefly by his divine beauty.” (McClymond and McDermott, 2012, p. 69). This beauty can be observed in the world around us. Not only does Edward use references to nature due to its aesthetic appeal but also as a way of describing man’s internal thoughts and inclinations. The beauty in “nature” is also seen as having good moral values. As Edward asserts, “[God] deals with man according to his nature of as a rational creature” (McMichael & Leonards, 2011, p. 36).
Edward asserts that man is rational in nature, able to make decisions and comprehend things (Lee, 2000). For this reason, God is able to deal with men. For instance, man must worship God for man is the only of the earthly creatures that is able to understand God. Man cannot hold dominion over the supernatural world. And in this light, man can also not be able to fully dominate nature, but only to some level. Man’s nature to be a rational creature gives a different meaning of “nature.” In this case, “nature” refers to a state of being, as opposed to the physical world. In the book “The Nature of True Virtue”, Edward writes that true………………..Buy whole paper here