Then and Now

Transcendentalism Then

What is it, and who's involved?

Transcendentalism is centered around Ralph Waldo Emerson. It's basically like a new perspective on the world (new as in 19th century America). It's all about nature and a spiritual and literary reawakening. It started in Massachusets in the 1830's when people realized how peaceful and amazing nature really was. The idea was that we could re-think our lives and how we live them and connect back to God but through nature and outside rather than through the Church. Besides Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Maragret Fuller, Amos Bronson Alcott, Frederick Henry Hedge, and Theodore Parker are all people who were also Transcendentalists.


Transcendentalism Now

Modern Transcendentalism

Even though the idea of transcendentalism was created almost 200 years ago it is still seen in today's modern society. Modern Transcendentalists like Eckhart Tolle teaches it by the transformation of consciousness and a spiritual awakening. Today it is not really associated with any kind of religion it's just about basically becoming one with nature.

  • The New York Times actually wrote an article about a modern transcendentalist Eckhart Tolle. Eckhart Tolle teaches transcendentalism by the transformation of consciousness and a spiritual awakening, he preaches he is "not identified with any religion, but uses teachings from Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism and the Bible". Tolle says that "artists are able to access a part of their mind that is totally focused in the moment," a time he calls “no-mind.” People find this to be weird, but in this case being weird is just not subscribing to the social norms which is the basis of his teachings. He also tries to emphasize the importance to not be afraid to be yourself. He draws on a number of spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, but he has developed his own original formulation based on personal experience.

Emerson and Thoreau

  • Emerson- His anonymously published Nature (1836) stated his belief that one could transcend the materialistic world of sense experience and become conscious of the all-pervading spirit of the universe, and that God could best be found by looking into one's own soul. The essay helped initiate Transcendentalism. In the lecture "The American Scholar" (1837), he warned against pedantry, imitation, traditionalism, and scholarship unrelated to life. His "Address at Divinity College" (1838) was another challenge, directed against a lifeless Christian tradition

  • Thoreau- When not busy weeding his bean rows and trying to protect them from hungry woodchucks or occupied with fishing, swimming, or rowing, he spent long hours observing and recording the local flora and fauna and making journal entries which he would later polish and include in Walden. Midway in his two-year Walden sojourn, Thoreau had spent a night in jail protesting the Mexican-American War, an event he reflected on in the famous and influential essay "Civil Disobedience" (1849). When he left Walden, his life lost much of its illumination. Slowly his Transcendentalism drained away as he turned to a variety of tasks to support himself. The observant and humorous accounts of various journeys he made in this period were published posthumously in Excursions (1863), The Maine Woods (1864), Cape Cod(1865), and A Yankee in Canada (1866). He became a dedicated abolitionist and actively helped speed fleeing slaves north on the Underground Railroad while lecturing and writing against slavery.


Transcendentalism (Stanford University)

By: Goodman, Russell.

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Modern Day Transcendentalism - TRANSCENDENTALISM (Modern Day Transcendentalism - TRANSCENDENTALISM)