Monday, January 14, 2008

America Must Pray - Emily Dickinson

Dickinson was born into an orthodox Congregational family in Amherst, Massachusetts. She would be a product of the changes that swept over the nation following the Civil War. As a young girl Dickinson was familiar with the great hymns of New England but still, she became more and more a restless agnostic. She went into a search for clues to the existence and nature of God. She still had times of prayer and introspections in her poetry. But she went on an evolutionary journey to find spirituality.

Early in her life, she experienced what she thought was a sudden conversion that brought her communion with the great God. She felt for a while that He would listen to her prayers. But in time, she said her experiences had been a figment of her overactive imagination, she realized her spiritual journey was far from over.

At the female seminary Mount Holyoke she joined a prayer group though she refused to be force-fed religious belief. She was self-willed and free-spirited, and when visited by one of the school's spiritual monitors she would not be pinned down as to her beliefs.

In a sense her poems did not make sense, probably because of her own inner spiritual confusion. In fifty-five years she wrote seventeen hundred poems with only seven published in her lifetime. In the end of her days, she began to wear all-white clothing, resolved to continue her search for personal spiritual discovery. She said of prayer that it was only "the little implement through which men reach where the presence [of God] is denied them." With Dickinson God was a distant and unfeeling stranger and yet remained a curiosity who might indeed by the ultimate power and authority! To the end she showed an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and for understanding God and the universe.

But there is little evidence that she truly searched the divine revelation of Scripture nor truly understood true salvation found only in Christ.

Dickinson was a product of her age. The intellectual movement of the transcendentalists, the lingering psychological scars of the War, and Darwin's work on evolution made prior notions of God seem dated and out of focus for her. Se appeared to swim in the recesses of her mind's search for a higher, spiritual truth. Saddened that she was not more firmly anchored spiritually, she wrote:

Savior! I've no one else to tell—
And so I trouble thee.
I am the one who forgot thee so—
Dost thou remember me?