Walt Whitman, Spirituality vs. Sexuality
Spirituality is a mixed bag for Walt Whitman. While he takes a great deal of material from Christianity, his conception of religion is much more complicated than the beliefs of one or two faiths mixed together. He is a true Transcendentalist in this sense, having his own specific outlooks on spirituality and what it constitutes. Whitman seems to draw from the many roots of belief to form his own religion, putting himself as the center. When considering “Song of Myself”, it is clear that Christianity is a big influence on Whitman, who makes multiple references to the Bible and basic Christian beliefs. The Christian faith has been historically against homosexuality, especially biblically. Whitman’s sexuality is generally assumed to be homosexual or bisexual based on his poetry, though at times that has been disputed (Buckham). Whitman’s spirituality and sexuality may have been conflicting passions of his. Much of Whitman's poetry resounds with Biblical allusions and innuendo. In the very first cantos of "Song of Myself," he reminds us that we are "forme'd from this soil, this air," which brings us back to the Christian Creation story. In that story, Adam was formed from the dust of the ground, then brought to consciousness by the breath of life. These and similar references run throughout Leaves of Grass, but Whitman's intent seems rather ambiguous. Certainly, he is drawing from America's religious background to create poetry that will unify the nation. However, his conception of these religious roots seems twisted (not in a negative way) -- changed from the original conception of right and wrong, heaven and hell, good and bad. Whitman brings philosophical significance to the most simple objects and actions, reminding America that every sight, sound, taste, and smell can take on spiritual importance to the fully aware and healthy individual. In the first cantos, he says, "I loafe and invite my soul," creating a dualism...
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