Transcendentalism and Transcendental Meditation
"The Transcendentalist adopts the whole connection of spiritual doctrine. He believes in miracle, in the perpetual openness of the human mind to new influx of light and power; he believes in inspiration, and in ecstasy."(Emerson 196). These two lines written by Ralph Waldo Emerson exemplify the whole movement of transcendentalist writers and what they believed in. Though to the writers, transcendentalism was a fight for a belief, unknown to them they could have been fighting for the betterment of human health. The transcendentalist writings of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson have directly affected the health of modern society through the idea of transcendental meditation. Through modern science, scientists have linked increases in health among individuals through the use of transcendental meditation.
"The term transcendental came from the German Romantic philosopher Immanuel Kant. The term refers to the idea that matters of ultimate reality, God, the cosmos, the self transcend, or go beyond, human experience."(www.geocities.com). Transcendental later developed into Transcendentalism, which is The transcending, or going beyond, empiricism, and ascertaining the fundamental principles of human knowledge. Kant (1724-1804) was born and educated in East Prussia. He founded critical philosophy and Transcendental Logic. "Kant made significant revisions to just about every branch of philosophy." (www.philosophy.ucdavis.edu). In the Critique of Pure Reason (1781) Kant showed the great problems of metaphysics: the existence of God, freedom, and immortality and how they are insoluble by scientific thought. Kant's writings had a major influence on Emerson and Thoreau during the time of Transcendentalism and "still have an influence on modern philosophy to the present day." (www.ilt.columbia.edu).
Emerson gives notice to Immanuel Kant in his lecture The Transcendentalist by stating "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 Konigs berg." (Emerson 199). Most transcendentalist were idealist that believed in the perfectibility of man, and they were often engaged in projects intended to make this ideal a reality. On of which was a self-governing, experimental community that met in Emerson's house. This community mainly believed in a monistic universe, or one in which God is immanent in nature, which means that God is permanently and directly present in all things. One of the members of the community and a close friend of Emerson was Henry Thoreau.
On July 12, 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts, Henry David Thoreau was born. His father was a farmer and a pencil manufacturer. Thoreau studied locally and later won admission to Harvard. "When Emerson moved to Concord in 1835, Thoreau formed a close relationship with him (although the friendship would later give way to mutual criticism) and with others associated with the Transcendentalist group." (Thoreau V). Thoreau lived with Emerson working as a handyman, and in 1845 he built a cabin on some of Emerson's property and wrote Walden. Thoreau lived in the woods for two years and stated in Walden "My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly there, but to transact some private business with the fewest obstacles; to be hindered from accomplishing which for want of a little common sense, a little enterprise and business talent, appeared not so sad as foolish."(19). What he wanted to transact was to grieve the untimely death of his brother John Jr., Thoreau's first book "A week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers" was meant to be a tribute to their lives together. Thoreau believed that the acquisition of material goods could consume your life, which meant that he thought that most people would live their lives trying to gather the most material goods, which...
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E.P. Dutton & Co., 1973.
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