“The religious sentiment…our highest happiness.”
R. W. Emerson, “The Divinity School Address”
“I dream a quite man
Who explains nothing and defends
Nothing, but only knows
Where the rarest wildflowers
Are blooming, and who goes,
and finds that he is smiling
not by his own will.”
Wendell Berry, “Sabbaths 1999” poem II
In my experience, Emerson is correct. The religious (or spiritual) state of being is our highest happiness. The happiness gained from spirituality is trustworthy, enduring, deep and absolutely free. As Berry expresses, the smile of the spiritual person comes not from the self, but from that deeper source of which a self is but an ephemeral emanation.
But as Berry also expresses, this spiritual happiness is common like the wildflowers; it belongs to anyone who can transcend his or her self importance and attend diligently to the great otherness of which we are all a part. And while temples and scriptures and divine images are one small part of this otherness, trilliums, irises and wild geraniums are equally so.