Transcendentalism was a spiritual, philosophical, literary movement that took place in the Boston area between the 1830s and late 1840s (Buchanan 1). The main idea was that the "soul of the individual is identical to the soul of the world and that it contains what the world contains," and that the mind can apprehend absolute spiritual truths directly without having to detour through authorities and senses. This idea revolved around idealism, which is defined as "any theory positing the primacy of spirit, mind, or language over matter" (Campbell 2-3). Some have stated that Transcendentalism was a cult or so to say, a rejection of God. In reality, the movement was a preference to explain an individual and the world in terms of this individual. The individual was considered to be the spiritual center of the universe. Though not a cult, transcendentalism has ties to major religions. From Puritanism we get morality and the doctrine of divine light. From the Quakers, comes the inner light. Then, with Unitarianism there is the belief of the individual, the true source of the moral light (Reuben 2). Lockean philosophy, which involves all objects of the understanding described to be ideas, and ideas are spoken of as being in the mind, as well as Calvinist beliefs were used to underwrite the belief in Christianity and to focus on science and cognizance (Bickman 2). Ralph Waldo Emerson explains the name and the idea behind the movement with his profound statement, "It is well known to most of my audience, that the Idealism of the present day acquired the name of Transcendental, from the use of that term by Immanuel Kant, of Konigsberg, who replied to the skeptical philosophy of Locke, which insisted that there was nothing in the intellect which was not previously in the experience of the senses, by showing that there was a very important class of ideas, or imperative forms, which did not come by experience but through which experience was acquired: that these were...
Cited: Great Thinkers of the World. HarperCollins Publishers, 1999. 372.
"Transcendentalism." The Cambridge History of American Literature. New York: The
Macmillan Company, 1917
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