An Overview of American Transcendentalism Martin Bickman, University of Colorado Although Transcendentalism as a historical movement was limited in time from the mid s to the late s and in space to eastern Massachusetts, its ripples continue to spread through American culture. It is easier to note its pervasive influence, though, than it is to clarify its doctrines. The fluidity and elusiveness of Transcendentalism was registered even by some of its most intelligent contemporaries.
Origin[ edit ] Transcendentalism is closely related to Unitarianismthe dominant religious movement in Boston in the early nineteenth century. Transcendentalism was not a rejection of Unitarianism; rather, it developed as an organic consequence of the Unitarian emphasis on free conscience and the value of intellectual reason.
The transcendentalists were not content with the sobriety, mildness, and calm rationalism of Unitarianism. Instead, they longed for a more intense spiritual experience. Thus, transcendentalism was not born as a counter-movement to Unitarianism, but as a parallel movement to the very ideas introduced by the Unitarians.
Fromthe group frequently published in their journal The Dialalong with other venues. Second wave of transcendentalists[ edit ] By the late s, Emerson believed that the movement was dying out, and even more so after the death of Margaret Fuller in This is the underlying theme in the majority of transcendentalist essays and papers—all of which are centered on subjects which assert a love for individual expression.
It focuses primarily on personal freedom. Their beliefs are closely linked with those of the Romanticsbut differ by an attempt to embrace or, at least, to not oppose the empiricism of science. Transcendental knowledge[ edit ] Transcendentalists desire to ground their religion and philosophy in principles based upon the German Romanticism of Herder and Schleiermacher.
The transcendental movement can be described as an American outgrowth of English Romanticism. Individualism[ edit ] Transcendentalists believe that society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—corrupt the purity of the individual.
They have faith that people are at their best when truly "self-reliant" and independent. It is only from such real individuals that true community can form.
Even with this necessary individuality, transcendentalists also believe that all people are outlets for the " Over-soul. Indian religions[ edit ] Transcendentalism has been directly influenced by Indian religions.
Henry David Thoreau In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavat Geeta, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial; and I doubt if that philosophy is not to be referred to a previous state of existence, so remote is its sublimity from our conceptions.
I lay down the book and go to my well for water, and lo! I meet his servant come to draw water for his master, and our buckets as it were grate together in the same well. The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges.
Some adherents link it with utopian social change; Brownsonfor example, connected it with early socialism, but others consider it an exclusively individualist and idealist project. Emerson believed the latter; in his lecture " The Transcendentalist ", he suggested that the goal of a purely transcendental outlook on life was impossible to attain in practice: You will see by this sketch that there is no such thing as a transcendental party; that there is no pure transcendentalist; that we know of no one but prophets and heralds of such a philosophy; that all who by strong bias of nature have leaned to the spiritual side in doctrine, have stopped short of their goal.
We have had many harbingers and forerunners; but of a purely spiritual life, history has afforded no example. Shall we say, then, that transcendentalism is the Saturnalia or excess of Faith; the presentiment of a faith proper to man in his integrity, excessive only when his imperfect obedience hinders the satisfaction of his wish.
Influence on other movements[ edit ].Some have stated that Transcendentalism was a cult or so to say, a rejection of God. In reality, the movement was a preference to explain an individual and the world in terms of this individual.
The individual was considered to be the spiritual center of the universe. Though not a cult, transcendentalism has ties to major religions.
From Puritanism we get morality and the doctrine of divine light.
Although Transcendentalism as a historical movement was limited in time from the mid s to the late s and in space to eastern Massachusetts, its ripples continue to spread through American culture.
Transcendentalism was an intellectual movement founded by Ralph Waldo Emerson. There are three cornerstones of the Transcendentalist belief which are* Human senses are limited; they convey knowledge of the physical world, but deeper truths can be grasp /5(3).
Examples of it; Critics against it; Position on it Transcendentalism was an intellectual movement founded by Ralph Waldo Emerson. There are three cornerstones of the Transcendentalist belief which are * Human senses are limited; they convey knowledge of the physical world, but deeper truths can be grasped only through intuition.
Example 1 There are many Transcendentalist themes in the sci-fi action movie Equilibrium starring Christian Bale.
In the movie, John Preston is a Cleric, a law-enforcement officer required to take an emotion-suppressing pill every day so that he can carry out his duties without the interference of feelings. Examples of it; Critics against it; Position on it Transcendentalism was an intellectual movement founded by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
There are three cornerstones of the Transcendentalist belief which are * Human senses are limited; they convey knowledge of the physical world, but deeper truths can be grasped only through intuition.