Trans – what?!

The Transcendentalists were a group of New

England writers in the mid-19th century

(1830s and 40s); many were early abolitionists and feminists.

Transcendentalism is an extreme form of

Romanticism and shares its views of Man,

Nature, God, and Society.

Transcendentalism is also rooted in


Romantic Roots

Placed central importance on emotions and the individual

Emphasized intuition and inner perception of truth that differs from reason

Emphasized nature’s beauty, strangeness, and mystery

Emphasized individual expression and artistic freedom

Puritan Roots

Belief in God as a powerful force

Belief that each individual can experience God first-hand

God gave humankind the gift of intuition

Gift of insight

Gift of inspiration

I can pronounce it – now what is it?

Central Idea of Transcendentalism: The way to truth or ultimate reality is not available to reason, logic, science, or the senses; it is available only through intuition

Belief in a higher kind of knowledge than that achieved by human reason


Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Chief founder of


Former Unitarian minister

Lecturer, essayist, and poet

Known for “Self-Reliance,”

“The American Scholar,” and “The Divinity School



Henry David Thoreau:

Emerson’s protégé

Took Emerson’s theories and put them

– into practice

As an experiment, lived for two years

– at Walden Pond outside of Boston

Two major works: Walden and Civil Disobedience (in protest of the U.S.Mexican War and the idea of manifest destiny; inspired Ghandi and Martin Luther

King, Jr.)

Walden Pond

Core Tenets

The individual is paramount.

Major inspirations included nature and intuition.

The spiritual is valued over the rational.

God is present in every aspect of nature, including every human being.

Everyone is capable of apprehending God through the use of intuition.

To exemplify the core tenets: From Emerson’s


Basic Beliefs


– corruptive and makes you conform


– keep life simple


– be yourself; don’t imitate; be true


– gateway to everything


– corrupt, but needed


– the one you love matters most


– beautiful; adds youth; reflection of God


– man, nature, and universe all intertwined

Divine Intellect

Society is corruptive because under its influence and pressure to conform, man is discouraged and distracted from listening to his Divine Intellect and doing what he knows in his heart to be good.

Divine Intellect is the idea that all humans possess higher knowledge but not all know or use it

Unlimited potential of each individual

Set high goals to improve

Food for Thought

“According to Emerson, the Human Mind is so

Powerful it can unlock any Mystery, from the

Intricacies of Nature to the Wonder of God.”

Is the human mind capable of more than many humans require?

Kyle XY clips

The God Particle