Emerson’s mind is complex because it has resulted from his wide reading of the East and the West. It puts together virtually incompatible ideals in oriental and occidental thought. Like so many topics that his essays cover, his conception of and discourse on War is both very original and influential. He lays bare the evolutionary and changing view of war as it has come down the ages. Whereas ancient Greek and Roman heroes valued war believing it to be an honorable and manly activity, it needs to be seen against the wisdom of the Vedas and of course through Emerson’s eyes to get to the reality of war.
Emerson is a powerful thinker because even though most countries have relied heavily on war and will still indulge in it when the need arises, they have become conscious of the animalistic nature if this rather insane activity. Emerson is not blind to the merits of waging war. He does begin his discourse by pointing out that people are educated by war and they become manly by indulging in it. He maintains that some of the most civilized of people have stood by the necessity of war. Yet the page of history shows how war has declined because it has gradually lost its glory; and yet is far from over.
For Emerson ideas are more meaningful than circumstances and war is the outcome of the latter. It seems that Emerson’s ideas on war have led so many great minds to cogitate on the topic. Bernard Shaw, Vivekananda and Gandhi are just a few. Wordsworthian and Indian spiritualistic thought seem to come together in Emerson’s mind that refuses to take views for granted. Even Christianity is questioned as it has fostered religious wars. Those who can shun war are morally advanced “for they have not so much madness left in their brains, you have a nation of lovers, of benefactors, of true, great, and able, men. ”