The Existential Monad

  • Bruce Bond


Here I explore Paul Tillich’s notion of the “ontological” or “existential” self as indivisible, vital presence. Such a self cannot accurately be called a “construction,” since it does not differentiate itself into parts needed to make a “construct.” As indivisible, it bears a striking relation to Leibniz’s notion of the monad. Since our sensation of vital presence brings us into closer consciousness of our eventual extinction, the monadic self is likewise the source of tremendous anxiety that longs for transformation. The poetry of Keats and Whitman gives expression to the existential monad as participating in vital mysteries, joys, and terrors that both connect us to some greater unknown and inspire our imaginative response as a mode of transfiguring, celebrating, and lamenting that connection.


Tillich Keats Whitman Existentialism Leibniz Monad 

Works Cited

  1. Keats, John. “Selected Letters.” Complete Poems and Selected Letters of John Keats. Ed. Jim Pollock. New York: Modern Library, 2001. Print.Google Scholar
  2. Leibniz, G.W. Discourse on Metaphysics; Correspondence with Arnauld; Monadology. Trans. George Montgomery. Peru, IL: Open Court Classics, 1993. Print.Google Scholar
  3. Tillich, Paul. The Courage to Be. New Haven: Yale Nota Bene, 2000. Print.Google Scholar
  4. Whitman, Walt. “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.” The Norton Anthology of Poetry. Ed. Margaret W. Ferguson, Mary Jo. Salter, & Jon Stallworthy. Shorter 5th ed. New York: Norton, 2005. 691–96. Print.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce Bond
    • 1
  1. 1.University of North TexasDentonUSA

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