In the following passages, religion and nature evoke similarly profound and intimate sentiments for individual experience:
Presentiments are strange things! And so are sympathies; and so are signs: and the three combined make one mystery to which humanity has not yet found the key. I never laughed at presentiments in my life; because I have had strange ones of my own. Sympathies I believe exist (for instance, between far-distant, long-absent, wholly estranged relatives; asserting, notwithstanding their alienation, the unity of the source to which each traces his origin) whose workings baffle mortal comprehension. And signs, for aught we know, may be but the sympathies of Nature with man. [Brontë 303]
“Down superstition!” I commented, as that spectre rose up black by the black yew at the gate. “This is not thy deception, nor thy witchcraft: it is the work of nature. She was roused, and did — no miracle — but her best.”
I broke from St.John; who had followed, and would have detained me. It was my turn to assume ascendancy. My powers were in play, and in force. I told him to forbear question or remark; I desired him to leave me: I must, and would be alone. He obeyed at once. Where there is energy to command well enough, obedience never fails. I mounted my chamber; locked myself in; fell on my knees; and prayed in my way — a different way to St. John’s, but effective in its own fashion. I seemed to penetrate very near a Mighty Spirit; and my soul rushed out in gratitude at His feet. I rose from the thanksgiving — took a resolve — and lay down, unscared, enlightened — eager but for the daylight. [Brontë 520]
St. John is unmarried: he never will marry now. Himself has hitherto sufficed to the toil; and the toil draws near its close: his glorious sun hastens to its setting. The last letter I received from him drew from my eyes human tears, and yet filled my heart with Divine joy: he anticipated his sure reward, his incorruptible crown. I know that a stranger’s hand will write to me next, to say that the good and faithful servant has been called at length into the joy of the Lord. And why weep for this? No fear of death will darken St. John’s last hour: his mind will be unclouded; his heart will be undaunted; his hope will be sure; his faith steadfast. His own words are a pledge of this: —
“My Master,” he says, “has forewarned me. Daily he announces more distinctly, — “Surely I come quickly;” and hourly I more eagerly respond, — “Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!” (Brontë 556)
One hears the voice of Rochester cry out to her as though experiencing a religious epiphany. However, she attributes this to the voice of “nature” — distinguishing it from the more religious experience of a “miracle” or pagan “witchcraft.” “Nature” seems to occupy a position distinct from — but not completely outside of — religion, for Jane.
Her outward (com)passion stems from her human “nature” rather than from a religious source (“ . . . from my eyes human tears, and yet filled my heart with Divine Joy . . . ”). Jane seems to value nature more highly than religion in choosing a married life rooted in passion and compassion rather than one of religious devotion. Further, she attributes “presentiments,” “sympathies,” and “signs” to nature rather than religious experience or faith in God.
Ultimately, Jane seems to live and perpetuate life through nature and the perpetuation of life (she ultimately bears at least one child) in anchoring her faith primarily in nature and married life. St. John lives toward death through lack of passion and faith in religion.
What is the status of nature with regard to religion in this text? Why can’t the two coexist with equal degrees of devotion in the individual? Jane seems to want to separate certain occurrences such as “presentiment,” “signs,” and visions from Christianity as well as from witchcraft despite their connections to both realms.
Why place these outside of the context of either?
Can nature be seen as a shared space between the two? If so, does this say something about the interrelatedness of the two?
Last modified 8 February 2010