Transcendentalism was a religious and philosophical movement in the 1820s and 30s in the Eastern region of the U.S. Transcendentalists believe in the goodness of people and their nature, therefore protesting against predestination, and ideas like that from the religious and political parties that they believed corrupted the purity of individuals. Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay Nature, written in 1836, was considered the start of transcendentalism as a major cultural movement. In his essay, and like most written speeches/essays about transcendentalism, he urged individualism among the people. In that same year, the Transcendental Club was formed in Massachusetts by Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Putnam and Frederic Henry Hedge. Along with the death of Margaret Fuller in the late 1840s, came the dying out of transcendentalism, but it was soon followed by a second wave of Transcendentalists.
"What began in New England in the early nineteenth-century as a reform of the Congregational Church grew into what some scholars consider to be one of the most monumental movements of religion, philosophy and literature in American history. Humbly, American Transcendentalism began its transformation of the American intellect through a circle of friends, some of whom were former Unitarian ministers themselves. They desired to further reform the church, which they viewed as a “social religion that did not awaken the individual’s realization of his own spirituality” (Versluis 290). These Transcendentalists drew upon the philosophies and religions of the world to push forth their ideas of the importance of the self in spiritual life. At the forefront of this movement was Ralph Waldo Emerson. Himself a former Unitarian minister, Emerson was and still is viewed as the highest profile member of the “Transcendental Club” that was responsible for the re-thinking of American spirituality (Barna 60). Emerson’s statement regarding the importance of the individual in moral and intellectual development is “Self-Reliance.” His essay supports the American Transcendental movement’s philosophical pillar: that the individual is identical with the world, and that world exists in unity with God. Through this logic, it follows that the individual soul is one with God, thusly eliminating the need for an outside institution (VanSpanckeren Net). In order to fully understand American Transcendentalism, and Emerson’s place in it, the movement’s origin and evolution must first be explored"
By Steven A. Carbone II
2010, VOL. 2 NO. 11 | PG. 1/1
What else you should know:
The roots of Transcendentalism date back to the 1800's when New England was predominantly ruled by Calvanist ideas. William Ellery Channing was one of the main voices of a Transcendentalism, as well as Ralph Waldo Emmerson. In the beginning, Transcendentalism was mainly thought of as a religious movement, later becoming known as a political as well as a philosophical movement due to Emmerson's publication of the essay "Nature." http://transcendentalism-legacy.tamu.edu/authors/emerson/ http://bookish-relish.blogspot.com/2012/07/transcendentalism-of-new-england.html?m=1