In "Song of Myself," Whitman poeticizes the metempsychotic self of Emerson's essays.
provided the poet with a structure for his oceanic views concerning selfhood," (11) no one has observed that Emerson's characterization of the cognitive expansion and accompanying biological adaptation of the individual self as an ever-ascending metempsychotic series provides a decisive prototype for the kind of reincarnation Whitman has in mind.
While Whitman announces himself as the poet of both the soul and the body, the soul nonetheless possesses a particular distinction in "Song of Myself." Whitman repeatedly imagines ascension as the arduous quest of metempsychotic integration in order to attain an unmediated relationship with the soul.
(LG, 83-84) Here, Whitman integrates the ascension of Section 25 and the robust soul of Section 44 into a conversation between self and soul, the poet asking if his metempsychotic assimilation has been completed and the soul answering that the movement upward must continue perpetually.
Certainly, the delineations of Emerson's metempsychotic self inform the way that Whitman presents the end of the stairway as the spot on which two energies, one coming from below and the other from above, coalesce "to launch off fearlessly [...] till the new world fits an orbit for itself." But Whitman much more fully imagines such a spiritual reshaping of the self as a decisive part of the reading process, which offers the most intimate of experiences, the ecstatic bond between master and apprentice, reader and poet, lover and beloved, a process much more reminiscent of the actual stages of Platonic ascent.
Price have argued, Whitman "turns the impersonal act of reading into an intimate experience and talks to us as if the print on the page were itself a sentient being, aware of our presence." (22) Whereas, as in the 1855 preface, this relationship between reader and poet may express a form of intimate union in which a new self is formed from out of all the old divisions, Whitman also imagines the consequences of such metempsychotic assimilation.
The speaker comes to experience firsthand the fuller panoply of metempsychotic assimilation in the sense that he must endure both sides of its dialectic, not simply the feature of consciousness which reaches out to assume and take in, but the other aspect that reluctantly gives way as a new, empowered and robust entity emerges.
While both writers share the bolder strokes of an ascending, metempsychotic sequence collapsed into the mind and body of the new American individual, Whitman's depiction of the loss of individual existence fused with a notion of individual sacrifice reaches biblical intensity.