Whitman's ambivalence on religion as well as spirituality has emerged as a vital topic in the poem Song of Myself. In author's thoughts, the society has surpassed planned religion altogether with its relative hierarchies and regulations. However, his language seems to be full of Biblical ideas and speaks about both soul and spirit that he considers to be equal to each other. Most importantly, he holds the assumption that both the body and soul exist as the same. That is also contrary to the Christian doctrine, whereby the soul is regarded as of greater importance than the body (Whitman 32). In that case, Whitman holds the thought that body and soul remain immortal because they are linked to the bigger life patterns of nature. The poem is meant to act as a prophetic statement. However, the poet is being careful in avoiding an impression that he is attempting to reveal a new type of scripture as well as making up new regulations that he suggests to be followed.
Whilst Whitman takes great ideals of material from Christianity, his understanding of religion seems to be more complex than beliefs of other faiths linked together. The poet seems to draw ideas from several backgrounds of beliefs in order to formulate his religion and puts himself in the middle of that religion. It is vital to note that most of his literary works have sounds of Biblical illusions as well as innuendo. In his poem, he reminds readers that they are formed from the soil and air that draws them back to the Christian story of creation. That is the story of Adam and Eve, whereby Adam was created from ground dust and brought to a conscious self through a breath of life from the creator (Liebetrau 106). It seems clear that Whitman is drawing his ideas from American religious background in order to unify his nation. Nevertheless, he tends to draw his conception of religious backgrounds that appear to be twisted, although positively twisted. His conception changed from the original idea of wrong and right, good and bad along with heaven and hell. In his attempt to accept the prostitute, deformed, trivial, and despised and the murderer, he is on his way to accept all people in America. In other words, he welcomes ultra-religious, unreligious and those that are godless.
Moreover, religion has become his poetic device and is subject to his artistic hand. Most importantly, he appears to stand still and apart from the whole grime. He places himself at the middle and at a clear position of the observer. In most cases, he emerges as the creator and almost similar to go. He continues to speak of American existence and validates each element in his experiences in America. Whitman has played a part in bringing philosophical importance to simple items and activities. He goes on to remind to the people of America that each sight, taste, smell and sound holds significant spiritual element to each conscious person. That is clearly revealed in his first cantos, where he indicates that he loafs and invites his soul. That is a clear creation of dualism between both substance and spirit. However, in the rest of the poem, Whitman progresses in that pattern. In most cases, he utilizes images of both body and spirit as one. That brings readers to a clear understanding of real conception of spiritual nature. At some point in his poem, he seems to be calling upon the American people to listen and believe. In his judgment, he stipulates that in case they fail to listen, they will be lost in a perpetual land of waste in their modern experiences (Trecker 11). Therefore, he perceives himself as a savior of the American people and a final prophet.
It has become evident that Whitman offers complete voice of private religion. Throughout the poem, he tends to discard traditional Christian opinions of both God and soul. He continues to substitute a view of quasi-Hindu. Moreover, he develops equality between soul and body in his first two lines. He later dethrones God and emphasizes that ultimate significance of individual self is epitome. He is clearly rejecting traditional Christian religion and is trying to substitute it with his veneration of individual self that to him is above all. This poem gives him a chance to individualize himself and most of his words are about natural being and spiritual formation. It is clear that colloquial words link natural being with the spiritual being in his poem. He continues to use several colloquial expressions and is fond of applying foreign words that describe his ideas in religion. Whitman considers and highlights diverse religious beliefs. He tries to entwine them in one line of thought. He seems to be cherishing his spiritual nature rather than a specific religion and regards afterlife in relation to being reborn. In his religious concepts, Whitman ponders both death and immortality throughout his poem and his smallest sprouts indicate that there is no death (Whitman 46). In other words, Whitman adopts private religion and, in most cases, tends to support his beliefs perceiving them as the workable ones. He has a totally different perception of religion. Moreover, he attempts to convince his readers to follow his way of thinking.
Furthermore, the poem reveals the worldview of the persona indicates that humankind along with spirituality interpenetrate each other. That occurs in the most intimate manner possible. Most importantly, the cycle of transformation, death as well as rebirth seem to be unfathomable and endless. The question in his poem by the reader would be if the origins of the poem are from his mystical experiences or that the persona is wholly a literary invention that is constructed to involve the type of universal and all-viewing American bard, which Whitman believes as appropriate for a wide and growing land. From a personal perspective, such questions can be hard to answer with any untruthfulness. It has become clear that Whitman strives to explore the simplest condition of spirituality and relates the same to divine concepts of what God is perceived to be. Therefore, the action by Whitman in providing the simplest nature of the divinity of elements in the spiritual environment tends to indicate the importance of all that is present around the world (Zoeller 34). According to him, spirituality is a part of everyday life and people should consider diverting from their traditional understanding of religion to modern religious beliefs that he stipulates as effective.
Whitman affirms various religious beliefs in his closing sections. The affirmations are on worshiping the ancient and modern. In another section of his poem, Whitman celebrates his position in evolutionary theory. He stipulates that religion and science consist of elements that offer the source of supreme power. It becomes evident to any reader that a section 46 in his poem offers a perpetual journey that he holds no chair, philosophy or church. In another section, Whitman affirms that the body is equalized to the soul (Whitman 45). He also affirms that there is a relationship between individual self and Godhead. Similarly, Whitman proclaims that death and life are two inseparable aspects that are bonded in order to render one to be unimaginable in the absence of the other. The poem offers one of the poet's major themes of religion that he believes to tie him to human beings, the universe and nature. He firstly explores who man is and what makes man as he examines himself and his connections to the spiritual realm. He also acknowledges spiritual and religious nature of man in different aspects and attempts to provide an effective route those readers should follow in their attempts to discover an effective way of life (Upton 46). In his affirmation that there is nothing like death in people's life, he tries to indicate that both body and soul are immortal and linked to supreme forms of nature.
In conclusion, Whitman fills his poet with Biblical illusions and ideas. He stipulates that body and soul exist as the same element and are inseparable. He also holds that they are both immortal and that death does not exist. However, the aim of Whitman is transforming people's ways of thinking and making them think the same way he does. He aims at changing the traditional Christian belief to his private religion that he considers as the most effective and above other religious beliefs. He has developed his poem across the theme of religion among other relevant themes such as sexuality. In his poem, he reveals both body and soul as equal and inseparable. Whitman also goes to the extent of revealing himself as epitome and almost to God himself. In that way, he attempts to reveal the importance of private religion and disregarding the traditional Christian life. In other words, Whitman has developed his theme of religion through his experiences with the American Christianity that has been surrounded with controversies. He takes that opportunity to convince readers of the new religious way that he perceives as supreme than what other people believe.