American Transcendentalism: the Life of Spiritual Individuality

Topics: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Transcendentalism Pages: 5 (1669 words) Published: October 6, 2010
In the Second Great Awakening different spurs of religious movements were influenced around the country in the late 18th century. During the religious movement one of the major reforms was Unitarism. In the Unitarian Church the main focus is on God, and the impact God has on the unity of the world . Although many joined this reform, there were others that went against it. They disagreed with the contracted meaning of Christian when referring to God. They favored the name “theist,” that showed “universal designation of the divinity.” These people were called Transcendentalist. Transcendentalism was an idealistic and literary movement that promotes a simple lifestyle and a “semi-religious nature.” The Transcendental Club was founded in 1836 in Boston, Massachusetts. The founder and most popular of them all was a writer and bard, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Others that were involved were a feminist reformer and writer, Margaret Fuller, a minister, Theodore Parker, naturalist and novelist, Henry David Thoreau, James Freeman Clarke and many other members. People became very confused with the beliefs of the transcendentalism. Transcendentalism contained “a combination of intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual attributes.” James Freemen Clarke stated that “we are called like-minded because no two of us think alike.” There was no definite dogma for this belief but there were still values generally held. In An Essay on Transcendentalism, by Charles Mayo Ellis he explained that transcendentalism sustained one’s idea from God, motivation or the pious world. The inner conscience was where all ideas and reason began. Transcendentalists had a very different lifestyle. They were not very successful with all their ideas, but they promoted ideological and social change though their research and the great mind their God gave them.

Emerson also rejected the Unitarism community and was seen to be the founder of the Transcendentalists. He believed Unitarism to be “a cold intellectualism that seemed to destroy the validity of man’s conscience,” meaning stopping a man from thinking. He created a group with his friends that did an extensive research on a philosophy that had a more universal just. A philosophy they revealed was a German transcendentalist by Immanuel Kant in the 18th century. Emerson’s lectures were mostly about the history of the world and what history actually is. America was influence also by the books, Aids of Reflection by Thomas Carlyle and Samuel Coleridge. Al the reform grew by the writings by Bhagavad-Gita of Hinduism, Saying of Confucius, and French authors. Ralph Waldo Emerson created the First Series in 1841 an Essay on History and begins with one of his poems: There is no great and no small

To the Soul that maketh all:
And where it cometh, all things are;
And it cometh everywhere,

I am owner of the sphere
Of the sevens and the solar year,
Of Caesar’s hand, and Plato’s brain,
Of Lord Christ’s heart, and Shakspeare’s strain.

At the end of the poem Emerson’s references to Caesar, Plato, Lord Christ, and Shakespeare, who are still known as great men, would have influenced Americans to keep listening, reading, and understanding his views. Emerson believed in self-reliance. Transcendentalism is focused on the right to reason through one’s conscience and spiritual world. Emerson states in his essay that one who has “the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate.” He described his thought by using the experiences of Plato. Americans would be able to realize if a great man like Plato acted upon Emerson’s statement, and they also were to repeat it, they may become great like him. Emerson continued to explain that one is determines their history and “this human mind wrote history… if the whole of history is in one man, it is all to be explained from individual experience.” If one is an individual their decisions impact where they will end up in life, but also one individual can change the...
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