Transcendentalism

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2 years ago
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Transcendentalism is the idea that people, men and women equally, have knowledge about themselves and the world around them that "transcends" or goes beyond what they can see, hear, taste, touch or feel. This knowledge comes through intuition and imagination not through the senses. A Transcendentalist is a person who accepts these ideas not as religious beliefs but as a way of understanding life relationships. Men such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau, tried to put transcendentalism into practice and created the Transcendental Club between 1836 and 1860. This movement directly influenced the growing movement of "mental sciences" of the mid-19th century, which would later become known as the the "New Thought" movement.

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This is a picture of Henry David Thoreau. He was born on July 12, 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts. He began writing nature poetry in the 1840s, with poet Ralph Waldo Emerson as a mentor and friend. In 1845 he began his famous two-year stay on Walden Pond, which he wrote about in his master work, Walden. He also became known for his beliefs in Transcendentalism and civil disobedience, and was a dedicated abolitionist.

2 years ago
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Primary source:

"The secretary of the Association for the Advancement of Science requests me . . . to fill the blank against certain questions, among which the most important one was what branch of science I was specially interested in . . . I felt that it would be to make myself the laughing-stock of the scientific community to describe to them that branch of science which specially interests me, i as much as they do not believe in a science which deals with the higher law. So I was obliged to speak to their condition and describe to them that poor part of me which alone they can understand. The fact is I am a mystic, a transcendentalist, and a natural philosopher to boot. Now that I think of it, I should have told them at once that I was a transcendentalist. That would have been the shortest way of telling them that they would not understand my explanations."

This primary source is a journal entry for March 5, 1853, written by Henry Thoreau, pointing out the difficulty of understanding Transcendentalism. In this journal entry, Thoreau is questioned by other scientists on his beliefs. He simply states that him being a Transcendentalist is the easiest explanation because the thought that ideas come from beyond the five senses is something most people during this time did not comprehend.

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Extra info:

Transcendentalism first arose among New England Congregationalists. It developed as a reaction against 18th century rationalism. This is how men such as Henry David Thoreau got involved.

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This is a picture of the Transcendental Club. The club was gathered at a pivotal moment, just as a number of its members were breaking into print. The club was a forum for new ideas, a clearinghouse, full of yeast and ferment, informal, open-ended, far from the usual exclusive social clique conveyed by the word club. The meetings often centered on a single topic; any list of their subjects conveys the tone of the group. Frederic Henry Hedge, Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Ripley, and George Putnam met in Cambridge, Massachusetts on September 8, 1836, to discuss the formation of a new club; their first official meeting was held eleven days later at Ripley's house in Boston. Other members include included Bronson Alcott, Orestes Brownson, Theodore Parker, Henry David Thoreau, William Henry Channing, James Freeman Clarke, Christopher Pearse Cranch, Convers Francis, Sylvester Judd, and Jones Very. Female members included Sophia Ripley, Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Peabody, and Ellen Sturgis Hooper.