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Tim St Amour

.. idity of knowledge which is tied in with feeling and intuition, and an ethics of individualism that stressed self trust, self-reliance, and self sufficiency (Abrams 216). Transcendentalism cannot be properly understood outside the context of Unitarianism, the dominant religion in Boston during the early nineteenth century. Unitarianism had developed during the late eighteenth century as a branch of the liberal wing of Christianity during the First Great Awakening of the 1740s. That awakening revolved around the questions of divine election and original sin, and it saw a brief period of revivalism. The Liberals tended to reject both the Orthodox belief in natural evil and the emotionalism of the revivalists.

In a sort of incorporation of Enlightenment principles with American Christianity, they began to stress the value of intellectual reason as the path to divine wisdom. This is how transcendentalism began to emerge; the Liberalists began to make their own unique theological contribution in rejecting the doctrine of the divine trinity. Transcendentalism is a belief in a higher reality than that found in sense experience, or belief in a higher kind of knowledge than achieved by human reason. Transcendentalism revolves around the existence of absolute goodness, something beyond description and knowable, ultimately only through intuition. In its most specific usage; Transcendentalism refers to a literary and philosophical movement that developed in the United States. Emerson separated the universe into two categories, nature and soul. He sought to explain the interrelation of them.

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He called analogies mans key to these relations (“American Transcendentalism2” 1-2). The term Transcendentalism became applied almost exclusively to doctrines of metaphysical idealism. Transcendentalism opposed the strict ritualism and rigid theology of established religious institutions. Transcendentalist writers expressed semi-religious feelings toward nature, as well as the creative process believing that divinity permeated all objects. Intuition rather than reason, were regarded as the highest human faculty. It was believed in order to comprehend the divine, God, and the universe one must transcend or go beyond the physical and emotional description of normal human thought.

That you must go to the level of the soul and once there it is believed that all people have access to divine inspiration and sought and loved freedom and knowledge and truth (“American Transcendentalism2” 3-5) 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. He wishes that the spiritual principle should be suffered to demonstrate itself to the end, in all possible applications to the state of man, without the admission of anything unspiritual; that is, anything positive, dogmatic, personal. Thus, the spiritual measure of inspiration is the depth of the thought, and never, who said it? And so he resists all attempts to palm other rules and measures on the spirit than its own (“American Transcendentalism2” 6-7). ? Transcendentalism was a literary movement on the mid 1800s in which Ralph Waldo Emerson took a great part.

He contributed many fabulous ideas into the philosophy and influenced many people to put some remarkable ideas and writings in to Transcendentalism. He was the source of most of its poetry and mysticism, and fostered growth of the New England variant. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the son of a Unitarian Minister, was born on May 25, in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1821, he graduated from Harvard College. He got married in 1829, but his wife died less than a year and a half later. At this time in his life, Emerson doubted his beliefs and profession as a minister.

He decided to resign, stating that it was because of the Eucharist (“Biography of Emerson” 1-2). In 1832, he went to Europe where he met some noteworthy people such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Carle. He began giving public lectures, and in 1836, he published Nature. He had become the “sage of Concord” and his literary colleagues became known as the Transcendental Club. “Ralph Waldo Emerson believed in order to comprehend the divine, God, and the universe, one must transcend or go beyond the physical and emotional descriptions of normal human thought” (“American Literary Movements” 1). With these strong thoughts, Emerson became the leader of many philosophers and writers termed transcendentalists. He ignited a literary movement influencing Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau (“American Literary Movements” 2).

Emerson had many great writings, which influenced many and shared his thoughts with the world. His great thinking influenced many and made people realize that peace is important to a high society. Some of his thoughts include: A peaceful nation is protected by its spiritual power, because everyone is its friend. In individual cases it is extremely rare that a person of peace ever attracts violence. Courage must be transferred from war to the cause of peace; cowards can attain nothing great.

The search for the sublime laws of morals and the sources of hope and trust, in man, and not in books, in the present, and not the past, and hopes that these will bring war to an end. (“The Way to Peace” 3-4) Emerson was also a great writer. His first publication Nature showed his idea of Transcendentalism. He applied this type of thinking to most of his works. In 1841, his first volume of essays, including the majority of his most popular work such as “Self-Reliance”, “Prudence”, “Heroism”, and “Art”.

In 1847 to 1848, he went back to England and lectured. He made a collaborative volume called Representative Men (1850). This collection is one of his best works and contains fantastic essays on famous philosophers and writers such as Plato. He once described war as “An epidemic of insanity, breaking out here and there like cholera or influenza, infecting mens brains instead of their bowels” (“Way to Peace” 2). Besides being a great speaker revolutionist and writer, Emerson was also a very recognizable poet.

His last collection of poetry was called May Day and Other Pieces, written in 1867. After this, he stopped writing for duration of time. His mental capabilities went downhill, and a few years later wrote Society and Solitude (1870) and Parnassus (1874), both poetic works. Sadly, Ralph Waldo Emerson died in 1882, remembered as a great philosopher, writer, and a leader of mankind (“Biography of Emerson” 1-2). Transcendentalism was a great literary movement. In fact it was more than just a literary movement, it was a liberator of mankind. Without the influences of Transcendentalism, many of the great writers in American History would not have been as great, and there would be less hope for the future.

The important issues that the Transcendentalists addressed were important for the people of that time to pay attention to, and end the corruption of war. Unfortunately, the transcendental movement, with its optimism about the indwelling divinity, self-sufficiency, and high potentialities of human nature, did not survive the crisis of the Civil War and its aftermath. The end of a great literary movement had arrived, but was the beginning of more to come (Abrams 217)? ? Emersons Concord home and a picture of him. Works Cited Page Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms.

Fort Worth: Harcourt Brau Jovanovich College Publishers, 1985. “American Literary Movements: Transcendentalism.” Oct. 1999 *http:// www.csinet/fountain/english/transc.html.*(10/5/99) . “American Transcendentalism.”(1). Oct. 1999 ** (10/6/99). “American Transcendentalism.” (2).

May 2000* ~rlenat/amertran. html* (5/29/00). “Biography of Emerson.” * http:/ XMCM/RWEmerson/ whoisheohtm. “The Way to Peace.” Oct. 1999 ** (10/5/99).


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