Transcendentalism Essay

1380 words - 6 pages

Transcendentalism was an early philosophical, intellectual, and literary movement that thrived in New England in the nineteenth century. Transcendentalism was a collection of new ideas about literature, religion, and philosophy. It began as a squabble in the Unitarian church when intellectuals began questioning and reacting against many of the church’s orthodoxy ways regarding all of the aforementioned subjects: religion, culture, literature, social reform, and philosophy. They in turn developed their own faith focusing on the divinity of humanity and the innate world. Many of the Transcendentalists ideas were expressed heavily by Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his essays such as “Nature”, “Self Reliance”, and also in his poems such as “The Rhodora.” Some may even go as far as to say that Emerson is the definite center of this movement. Emerson was not alone in his path of thought; other prominent authors such as Henry David Thoreau and Margaret Fuller were dubbed as Transcendentalists. The Transcendental movement significantly shaped and changed the course of American literature; many writers were profoundly influenced by Emerson and Thoreau and in turn began using transcendental thought, whether in response to or by how they imitated transcendental ideas. The roots of Transcendentalism began to grow from Emerson’s Nature and Self-Reliance, as well as Thoreau’s Walden, which inspired many writers and intellectuals to take part in this optimistic belief that God is inherent in each and every individual, as well as in nature, and the highest source of knowledge can be achieved through individuality, self-reliance, and the rejection of traditional authority.
American Transcendentalism was mostly used in literary and factual form, and was partly religious. This term “American Transcendentalism” was in fact defined by three very influential people. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a famous essayist and poet, Henry David Thoreau, a naturalist, and Margaret Fuller, a well known feminist, author, and social reformer. Their ideas were a mix of intellectual, artistic, and spiritual elements. They were searching for a different kind of philosophy that was based upon morals and natural appeal. They discovered writings from the eighteenth century from Kant, and ancient writings of Confucius, which helped them to develop ideas for “American Transcendentalism.” Emerson and his peers rejected orthodox Christian views of God and spirituality. They had a much different view of God, creation, and nature—God was a part of his creation, not only the creator. They believed that God was directly inborn in every individual, much different than the church’s ideas. God could neither be understood nor described—but he can be experienced through nature and through the self. The idea of God in this sense was viewed negatively by many orthodox churches. American Transcendentalism was seen as a very radical movement during this time and was not accepted by many. Ideas of secular spirituality...

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