Hippies And Transcendentalism Essay

1963 words - 8 pages

Transcendentalism is a belief that centers itself on the mutual benefit of humanity and the environment, and this idea has had reoccurring effects on societies all over the world since its prominence in the mid 1800’s. The American counter-culture movement of the 1960’s is a prime example of revived transcendentalist ideas. One group in particular, the hippies, are notorious for their advocacy for free thought, love, and peace, not to mention to their staunch resistance to war and belligerent action. The influence of transcendentalism is visible and the ideas of popular thinkers had a bigger impact than they ever expected.
Henry David Thoreau was a major contributor to the transcendentalist movement; his greatest works are explicitly influential to the ideology of hippies. His most revered work was inspired by his adventure to Walden Pond in which he attempts to awaken and enlighten his mind. In his book Walden he tells us to “spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that’s falls on the rails” . Here Thoreau is explaining that life should be lived not at a frantic pace but at a pace that would suffice to link the mind and nature as one, from this the hippies gathered that they should lose themselves in the natural processes of nature. Hippies did not stop picking credos there, Thoreau’s “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!” from Walden was good enough to create an entirely new lifestyle for this time-period. From this point large groups of counter-culturists began to congregate in San Francisco and share their ideas with one another. Slouching around was not on the American agenda as the Vietnam War was being fiercely contested at the time, nevertheless Thoreau taught the hippies a little something about the government and war. In his essay On the Duty of Civil Disobedience Thoreau states “the soldier is applauded who refuses to serve in an unjust war by those who do not refuse to sustain the unjust government which makes the war” . This quote in particular encompasses the hippie fervor against the Vietnam War in one tightly knit package. The idea that the United States Government could select men and ship them overseas to “die” for their country was absurd. At the beginning of On The Duty of Civil Disobedience Thoreau “heartily accept[s] the motto, that government is best which governs least… that government is best which governs not at all,” and it seemed that all the hippies accepted that motto as well. War is evil he says, and the hippies concurred.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a driving force in the transcendentalist movement and one of the greatest literary thinkers in North American history. As for his impact on hippies, that that was quite influential as well. Emerson was one of the founders of The Dial, the chief publication for transcendentalists. In one of the volumes he published “Thoughts on Modern Literature” where he proposed, “What then shall hinder the Genius...

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