Transcendentalism is a literary and philosophical movement of the early 1800’s. Transcendentalists operated with a sense that a new era was coming, they were critics of their modern society for its thoughtless traditionalism, and they advised people to find “an original relation to the universe” (Emerson).
“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).
To do this people must live simply and make the best of their life situations while not passing judgments on others. Nature’s role in helping man find peace and happiness is the key to living a fulfilled life in harmony with the universe. Transcendentalist such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau firmly state that man’s relationship with nature are interdependent, and that in order for man to live a fulfilled life he must respect nature.
Although it is hard to determine exactly when transcendentalism began, a probable date is September 19, 1836 (Hankins, 23), when George Ripley, a Unitarian minister from Boston called a meeting with his friends: Bronson Alcott, Orestes Brownson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederic Hedge, Convers Francis, and James Freeman Clarke. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the flaws of Unitarianism (Hankins, 23).
The natural world is superior to all of humanity. Without reason, land controls us and influences our identities. Through mankind’s power we try to suppress the natural world but never truly succeed. “Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer” by Margaret Attwood, “The Bull Moose” by Alden Nowlan and “Not Just a Platform for my Dance” are comparable poems in a way that all three deal with a theme of the ...
Members called their group “symposium” and met four to five times a year for the next several.
As future meetings became well known in Boston, the public began to refer to them as the “Transcendentalist Club”, and the name stuck (Hankins, 24).
Others joined the group and eventually became regulars including Henry David Thoreau, Sophia Ripley, Caleb Stetson, Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Peabody, and Theodore Parker. Defining transcendentalism was no easy task. Unitarianism influenced nearly all transcendentalists (Hankins, 32).
Two major leaders of the transcendentalists were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
Thoreau was one of the youngest of the club but read Emerson’s work, which led to a long lasting friendship between the two. Thoreau worked with Emerson from 1841 to 1843, where he learned to read and write for the transcendentalist paper, The Dial. In 1845, Thoreau decided to build and live in a small cabin on Walden Pond. During this time, Thoreau kept a journal detailing his life on the pond and his thoughts during that time period. It was this journal that later became one of his most famous works, Walden.
While living at the pond, Thoreau occasionally traveled into town. On one visit, Thoreau was arrested for failing to pay a tax to support an American war in Mexico. His time in jail influenced another of his most influential works, Civil Disobedience. Transcendentalism flourished in the intellectual centers of Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and, because of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s presence, in nearby Concord (Hankins, 34).
Emerson’s essay Nature was an explosion of the main principles of transcendentalism and was published anonymously in 1836.
“Its publication started an intense period of intellectual and literary activity” (Goodman).
Also Emerson’s lecture, The Transcendentalist, which he gave at the Masonic Temple in Boston, MA in January 1842, begins by comparing and contrasting materialists and idealists. Then he speaks of the beliefs and characteristics of the New England Transcendentalist. “He says that solitude is a state of being that should be encouraged for it allows humanity to achieve a higher level of alignment with nature and prevents the contamination that one encounters within a society”(Emerson).
As part of Emerson’s ideals in transcendentalism, he utilizes two concepts known as Solitude and Discipline as they connect to nature. In order to go into solitude, a place where a person can escape the craziness of everyday life, he/she looks to nature to provide stillness. “Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight does not reside in nature, but in man, or in harmony of both”(Emerson).
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a nineteenth-century transcendentalism author. Self-reliance and independence were ideas that were highly valued by him as well as other transcendentalist authors of his time. The transcendentalist believed in non-conformity and a belief that nature was an influential aspect of peoples life. They believed in an Oversoul that everything was a part of; from humans to plants ...
In a similar way, Emerson also said, “Nature always wears the colors of spirit. To a man laboring under calamity, the heat of his own fire hath sadness in it.
Then there is a kind of contempt of the landscape felt by him who has just lost by death a dear friend. The sky is less grand as it shuts down over less worth in the population. ”(Emerson) As Emerson connects man with nature, he believes that one cannot do without the other in order for a balanced universe to exist. To reiterate, solitude is a place a person can escape and be one with nature. For example, an astronaut goes up into space and observes space firsthand. The craziness of his life is not with him and because it is quiet he experiences the beauty and becomes one with nature.
“Astronauts have repeatedly reported inexplicable euphoria, a “cosmic connection” or an increased sensitivity to their place in the Universe”(O’Neil).
Another of Emerson’s ideas is the role of discipline. In fact, Emerson states, “Nature is a Discipline”(Emerson).
He says, “Space, time, society, labor, climate, food, locomotion, the animals, the mechanical forces, give us sincerest lessons, day by day, whose meaning is unlimited. They educate both the Understanding and the Reason”(Emerson).
Emerson means that people take nature for granted and that we can learn a lot from it.
We learn that if we can take care of it nature can be our food supply, our oxygen, and our resource of knowledge. It can also be our inspiration. Some examples of that inspiration our some of the environmental green programs that are all about saving the earth from pollution. They help the earth by spreading the word of recycling and promoting ideas that reduce the use of fossil fuel and other harmful gases that affect the ozone layer. Truly they clean and protect the earth [nature]. If man does not exercise discipline when caring for the environment the result can be disastrous.
Saying Ralph Waldo Emerson is the same as saying Transcendentalism. A word not many understand, a concept seen in his convictions; not only a literary movement but a lifestyle movement and the beginning of a long term change in society. ” What is popularly called Transcendentalism among us, is Idealism;” (Emerson, The Trancendeltalist, from Lectures, 1842)this movement allowed intellectual support ...
For example, the Gulf oil spill. “200 million gallons of oil was released into the Gulf of Mexico which caused the deaths of thousands of sea life animals, resulting in the number 1 largest environmental disaster in U. S History”(The Spill- by the Numbers).
As a result of transcendentalism’s existence since the 1800’s, a modern leader and teacher of Transcendentalism is Eckhart Tolle. Most of Tolle’s early life was filled with deep depression and anxiety. One night he experienced an “inner transformation”(Tolle).
He turned to his spirit and consciousness to help heal his depression.
He utilizes meditation and nature to assist his ideals of peacefulness. “We are all able to access a part of our mind that is totally focused on the moment, it is as if we have no mind. We must live in the moment and appreciate our surroundings, one with nature in order to find balance”(Tolle).
Eckhart Tolle believes, like many transcendentalists of the past, that humanity, happiness, and true spirit rests in our connection with the world around us, living in the moment, appreciating life, and letting go and not judging others. It is with these ideals that we connect with God and fellow man.
In fact Eckhart Tolle is one of the most acclaimed writers on the topic of Transcendentalism. His two books The Power of Now and A New Earth both have sold close to 5 million copies in North America. Approximately 35 million people participated in his webcasts where he is a live host helping others see the benefits of transcendentalism theories. Tolle is not part of any particular religion but is influenced by a wide range pf spiritual works that include Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Transcendentalism is a profound philosophy that is rooted in man’s connection with nature and the universe.
Ralph Waldo Emerson and David Thoreau played intricate roles in the foundations of transcendentalism in their works of poetry and literature. Walden is one of David Thoreau’s most renowned works where he carefully and passionately expresses his love for the pond’s natural environments and delicate eco-systems as they relate to the essence of man and his connection to God. In a similar way, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay called Nature focuses on God, man, and universe, as they are all interconnected in an unbreakable bond where the “soul” of each entity is completely immersed in the other.
Symbolism allows writers to suggest their ideas within a piece of literature. This is found in most types of writing. Stephen Crane expresses this in his short story, The Open Boat. Through symbolism and allegory, it is demonstrated that humans live in a universe that is unconcerned with them. The characters in the story come face to face with this indifference and are nearly overcome by Nature's ...
Nature is at the heart of transcendentalism and therefore must be represented and respected in a manner that is worthy in the eyes of God. As a result, man strives to find peace and harmony with the universe as he attempts to truly embrace nature and his ideals of God transcend creation itself. As God created all that is good, life itself in all it forms: plants, animals, and humans, man must therefore respect all these forms in order to achieve life’s highest prize, oneness with it all.