8th March, 2014
Transcendental and Anti-Transcendental
In the history of American architecture and arts, the American Renaissance produced two kinds of philosophies, namely Transcendentalism which emphasized the Human potential of goodness and exalted the natural world as a symbol or reflection of divine beauty, and Anti-Transcendentalism which partly in reaction to the optimistic, mystical Transcendentalist view, turned their imagination to the dark side of the human spirit and to the hidden evil they saw lurking in and around humans.
Transcendentalism was an important movement in philosophy and literature that flourished during the early to middle years of the nineteenth century. It was a belief that people could transcend, or rise above a physical or a material state. Transcendentalist considered transcendentalism as a philosophy or a way of life, not a religion. This philosophy contained such aspects as self-examination, and the celebration of individualism. Fulfillment was acquired when one communicates with nature to find union with the Over soul – A union between individual consciousness and a collective consciousness. Within this collective consciousness, the individual is the center. Transcendentalist also accepts the concepts of nature as a living mystery. They also believed all knowledge begins with self knowledge, meaning if a person does not know himself, he wouldn’t be able to extend that knowledge.
The transcendentalist stood at the heart of the American Renaissance. They believed in themes like Nonconformity, Self-reliance, Free Thought, Confidence, and importance of nature.
The concept transcendentalism is expressed in Nature, a book by Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the major players in the movement of Transcendentalism. Nature tells of how a person can be in tune with his spiritual self from experiencing nature. Emerson tells of how “in the perpetual youth” and “in the woods we return to reason and faith” (240). This shows how a person can receive knowledge by enjoying the outdoors. Emerson also say, “Standing on the bear bare ground. My head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space- all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball” (240). These lines display the transcendentalist belief that purity and knowledge can be obtained from union with and understanding of nature. Emerson also relates the concept of transcendentalism to human life in his essay, Self-Reliance. In this book, Emerson grapples with another part of transcendentalism, the issue of self-reliance. He sees mankind as somewhat of a coward; that people never express their true selves. Emerson claims that humans are afraid to fail; they are pleased if successful, but are never happy with where and what they are. He expresses transcendentalist ideals by saying that a true person would be a...