"It seemed the most spiritual of all the flower people I had ever met." (John Muir)

If so, what part? I know saying "flower people" makes it personification but there are a few other parts of this sentence I'm not sure would be counted.

Does calling the flower "spiritual" make it personification? I've heard of other inanimate objects called spiritual before (spiritual writings), but I'm still not sure.

Or does saying he "met" the flower make it personification?

  • You have left out what 'it' refers to. What seemed spiritual was that antecedent in the sentence before. If that thing seemed like a hippie, that's personification. Don't hold back, now would be a good time to share. Please. Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 22:12
  • "It" refers to a flower he is describing.
    – orange
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 22:14
  • Okay, he is referring to a flower he sees, which reminds him of flower people (personification) who are spiritual (the abstraction is anthropomorphism). The word 'met' belongs to the flower people, not a continuation of the anthropomorphism. Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 22:29
  • @YosefBaskin John Muir was born in 1838, so unless he was the first "flower child" I do not think this has anything to do with hippies. Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 22:31
  • @Cascabel - Egg on face, Eff me. Is there anything left that I said that still holdeth water? Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 22:41

3 Answers 3



I don't think anything about the word spiritual is inherently anthropocentric. However, the first definition seems to refer to a human's spirit, so this could definitely go either way.


Two animals can definitely meet, just as two forces of nature can meet. I don't think this is great support for the personification.

To be honest, I don't have a definitive answer. But contextually, John Muir was an environmentalist so I wouldn't be surprised if he was personifying the flower for the sake of familiarity.


Calypso borealis

John Muir writes, having searched for Calypso borealis, a rare orchid,

But when the sun was getting low and everything seemed most bewildering and discouraging, I found beautiful Calypso on the mossy bank of a stream, growing not in the ground but on a bed of yellow mosses in which its small white bulb had found a soft nest and from which its one leaf and one flower sprung. The flower was white and made the impression of the utmost simple purity like a snowflower. No other bloom was near it, for the bog a short distance below the surface was still frozen, and the water was ice cold. It seemed the most spiritual of all the flower people I had ever met. I sat down beside it and fairly cried for joy.

It seems wonderful that so frail and lovely a plant has such power over human hearts. This Calypso meeting happened some forty-five years ago, and it was more memorable and impressive than any of my meetings with human beings excepting, perhaps, Emerson and one or two others.


The description of the flower (as it occurred in a letter) was Muir's first published writing. He thinks of flowers, wind, and so forth as friends.


No it isn't personification. The definition of spiritual is of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit. (Merriam-Webster Online).

I would interpret this to mean that it, the flower, affects the spirit. The flower is still being referred to as an inanimate object that has an effect on the spirit of the flower people.

After rereading this tortured sentence while referring to the original context (The Life and Letters of John Muir), I imagine he is saying that flower enthusiasts (flower people) would be thrilled, spiritually speaking, to witness the Calypso borealis in its native state, just as Muir describes it himself.

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