David Hoffmeister: Mysticism is not a coherent philosophy of life, but more a temper of mind. A mystical experience, according to BERTRAND RUSSEL, involves insight, a sense of unity and the unreality of time and space, and a belief that evil is mere appearance. A mystic’s vision is intuitive; he feels the presence of a divine reality behind and within the ordinary world of sense perception. He feels that God and the Supreme Soul animating all things are identical. He sees an essential identity of being between Man, Nature and God. He believes that “all things in the visible world are but forms and manifestations of the one Divine Life, and that these phenomena are changing and temporary, while the soul that informs them is eternal”. The human soul, too, is eternal. Transcendentalism is closely connected to mysticism, for it emphasizes the unintuitive and spiritual above the empirical.
Whitman’s poetry is full of mystic and transcendental strains: He was deeply influenced by Emerson, the American transcendentalist. His thought was intuitive and not systematic like a logician’s. He wrote like a mystic:
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible to proof, is its own proof.
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities, and is content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immorality of things and the excellence of things.
Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the Soul.
Whitman believed the soul to be immortal. He felt identification with all animate and inanimate things around him. What is interesting about Whitman’s mysticism is that, as Schyberg observes, “in his book we can find the typical characteristics of absolutely all the various mystic doctrines”.