Introduction:The mid-19th century literary and philosophical movement known as transcendentalism was idealistic. The first gatherings of visionaries, thinkers, scholars, and authors to debate spiritual concepts took place in New England in 1836. The organisation was referred as the Transcendentalists in the Boston newspapers that advertised their gatherings which often took place at house of George Ripley. Transcendentalism was first conceived as a theological notion based on the principles of American democracy. When a group of Boston clergymen—among them Ralph Waldo Emerson—decided that the Unitarian Church had grown too conservative, they supported a new philosophical system that placed more value on the innate wisdom of the human soul than on church doctrine and law.
In Nutshell: All humans have equal knowledge that "transcends", that is, goes beyond the five senses.
Influence of Sufism and Hinduism
The traditions and beliefs of Islamic Sufism and Hindu pantheism had a significant impact on transcendentalist ideas. They read the texts that European authors had translated in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of religion and faith. They also sought an all-encompassing belief and the genuine meaning of divinity. Asian philosophy is evidently influential in the writings of Emerson and Thoreau. Thoreau kept a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu text, beside his bedside when he wrote Walden. He refers to Walden Pond as "his Ganges River" (a sacred river in India) in one of his notebooks, where he sought refuge in the manner of the old ascetic sages of India. The release of a book about Buddha involved another transcendentalist named Bronson Alcott.
Theory of Oversoul and Beliefs
This is an idealist movement that emphasises the use of imagination and creativity, which the Age of Reason had veered far from. The goal of idealism in the transcendentalist school of thought was to keep applying the original, creative concepts from the earlier Romantic Movement. Transcendentalists sought to liberate society from the rigid constraints of the Age of Reason and create a more perfect, pleasurable setting.
Transcendentalists claimed that established institutions in society, such as politics and religion, had a negative impact on people's inherent goodness. They also thought that people are at their best when they are totally independent and "self-reliant," which is why Emerson wrote the essay with the same name. One of the core principles of transcendentalism is the idea that one should think independently of society's norms. One is encouraged by this idea to think for himself freely, in accordance with his own principles rather than those of others.
Divinity of Nature
They held that people must connect with nature because it is sacred and necessary for survival. Nature was something that transcendentalists loved and didn't believe anyone could control. Transcendentalists contend that if a person has a deep connection to nature, he will be able to comprehend his oversoul and, thus, be able to live a prosperous, fulfilling life without being constrained by social convention.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)
‘‘His Transcendentalist philosophy was a religion of the spiritually emancipated mind and heart, unbounded by church or party.’’
Margaret Fuller (1810-1850)
Walt Whitman (1819–1892)
Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)
Thoreau’s ‘Transcendental’ premises led him to take a negative view of the dominant values of pre-Civil-War-America. He wrote disparagingly of the destruction to the natural environment . . . he deplored the implications of the rise of industrialism . . . he condemned the institution of black slavery.
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864)
Transcendentalism's literary works frequently address five themes. They are nature importance, self-reliance, freedom of thinking, nonconformity, and confidence. Many of the works of various renowned authors from this era contain these themes. Authors like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson were influential during this time.
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