What is Transcendentalism? Though this may sound like a new topic to you, its major tenets have been around for almost a century and many are still influencing modern life today. Transcendentalism is an American literary, political, and philosophical movement of the early nineteenth century, centered around the premises of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Along with Emerson, other important Transcendentalists including Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickenson, and Walt Whitman also took on the unconventional morals of this movement. Today, we are going to delve into a few of these major premises practiced by Transcendentalists. The first principal is that God can be found in both nature and human nature. The second principal is embracing individualism. Both of these aspects play key roles in creating the foundation for Transcendentalism that was both seen in the 19th century and modern society.
We are first going to break down the importance of nature. Transcendentalists believed in a monistic universe, or one in which God is immanent in nature. The creation is an emanation of the creator; although a distinct entity, God is permanently and directly present in all things. This thought can be seen in Emerson’s “Nature” on line seven and thirty, “Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign… / Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.” Here Emerson metaphorically compares nature to the “plantations of God” in which the spirit of God is always present.
Coming back to that same notion that God is everywhere and in everything, Transcendentalist also believed that there was no need for specific religions or churches. Instead of organized religion, they wanted a direct relationship with God. One way they could connect on such a level was through nature. Nature is emblematic, and understanding its "language" can bring us closer to God, “In the woods, we return to reason and faith” (Nature, Line 9). With this idea, Emerson exemplifies the concept of personally connecting with God. Through nature itself we can find guidance. Another thought that Emerson illustrates in this line is the renewal of our minds. Nature provided a place to organize your thoughts, “…a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough” (Nature, Line 5).
So do people today still venture out into nature to hear God’s wisdom? Though I am sure there are a handful of folks, no, this is not a common practice in modern society. However, the importance of nature to human beings is still evident today. Conservation and ‘green’ movements have sprouted up all over the word in hopes to protect such a reliable resource that God has blessed us with. Just as nature was the center for Transcendentalism, nature is the center of our lives; providing us with the resources we need to survive. Nature also still provides us with a dwelling to escape the chaos of society. The soft sounds of nature allow us to forget the troubles of our lives. It is a place where we...