Early American Transcendentalism Essay

1215 words - 5 pages

Early American transcendentalism has one of the greatest influences towards American society because it is not only a philosophy, but also a religion and physical progression. During the early nineteenth century, Ralph Emerson, Henry Thoreau, and other radical individuals challenged the present day theories of values, ethics, and what it means to live life to the fullest (Timko). If early American transcendentalists were living among civilians today, would present day civilians think the earlier activists were radical and psychotic? During this time, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “There are always two parties, the party of the Past and the party of the Future” (Timko). Early radical, transcendental activists believe that their approach of living is the gateway to America’s future and that they are leading by example, in hopes that other non-transcendentalists, intellectual societies would follow in their footsteps towards actual freedom.
During the nineteenth century, transcendentalism is as much of a philosophy as it is a religion and physical movement. The philosophical aspect of transcendentalism greatly influences early American societies in two major ways because early societies were extremely intellectual, which the thought of transcendentalism as a philosophy drew scholars to grasp it’s message, and this aspect also assisted in the common man’s view on nature and surrounding life. John L. Locke, an English philosopher, refused the concept of intuitive ideas and stated, "There is nothing in the mind except what was first in the senses" (“Locke”). Opposing Locke’s thinking, American transcendentalists believed that an individual’s insight is more important and precious than experience and logic (“Transcendentalism”). Emerson’s clear perception of “self-reliance” assisted in molding American theories about the relationship between individuals and society, God, and surrounding nature (Branch). Transcendentalism was so compelling and radical in the hands of Ralph Waldo Emerson, that his Alma Mata, Harvard, banned him from delivering conferences for more than thirty years. Due to Ralph Emerson’s retaliation, he constructed The American Scholar for Phi Beta Kappa expressing his disapproval of Harvard’s decision to excommunicate his ideology.
Also in this transforming era for America, transcendentalists proved that their unparalleled movements could influence sapient societies by means of religious theories. Transcendentalism is much different from religious movements of its time because it expresses that humanity is inherently good and not tainted by sin’s conception during Adam and Eve’s lives while in the Garden of Eden, which contradicts Christianity’s philosophy of humanity purity. After questioning the Lord’s Supper importance in 1832 and later resigning from his pastoral position in his local church, Ralph Emerson’s interests began to shift towards transcendental studies. His studies were influenced based upon the sacred books of the...

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