Published Humanitas, Volume XVIII, Nos. 1 and 2, 2005

One of the most significant revelations into Robert Frost’s philosophical dualism of mind or spirit and of matter as the basis of all reality is the insight that emerges when his essay “On Emerson” (delivered in 1958) is read in conjunction with his remarks in “The Future of Man” symposium (1959), and both of these prose works together are perceived as prelude to the poet’s climactic case for dualism in his final volume of poetry, In the Clearing. “On Emerson” was published in Daedalus (Fall of 1959); the “Future of Man” remained in several manuscript forms beyond 1959; and Frost’s final collection of poetry was published at age eighty-eight, on his birthday, March 26, 1962, by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Yet it is also noteworthy that the continuity regarding Frost’s dualism revealed in these works was advanced almost twenty years earlier in a conversation with some Middlebury College students in the poet’s cabin near Bread Loaf, Vermont, in his strong criticism of Emerson’s idealistic monism.1 Indeed, the years 1958-1959 and 1962 mark the climactic culmination of Frost’s lifelong criticism of both the spiritual form of monism, which denies the reality of matter, and the materialistic form, which denies the reality of the spirit. On the positive side these years reveal his conscious strong endorsement of a dualism that recognizes that both spirit and matter are implicated in the perception of all reality. In “On Emerson” he once more rejected the incredibly optimistic idealism in Emerson’s monism. In “The Future of Man” he rebuffed Sir Julian Huxley’s monism of matter. Finally, in In the Clearing, for the first time he extended his dualism by combining it with the uniquely creative power of the human psyche, through its interactions with matter, beyond religion and the arts into the physical sciences and the historical development of man through civil society. When read in conjunction, these three works reveal the continuity and unity in Frost’s dualism during the final decade of his life.

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