Some Basic Tenets of Transcendentalism

Mr. Tourais
11 English B8, F2
Some Basic Tenets of
It is important to remember as you read this that Transcendentalism is a highly
individualistic philosophy, so Transcendentalists tend to disagree with one
another quite readily. This is merely a list of beliefs that many
Transcendentalists might agree with…
1. Transcendentalism is a very optimistic philosophy in that it assumes that all
people and things want to exist in their ideal state.
2. One must have faith in intuition, for no church or creed can communicate truth.
In fact, truth can never be transmitted from one person into another, but must be
accessed by direct experience…
3. …That is why Transcendentalists emphasize self-reliance.
4. Transcendentalists feel that the goal of life is to "transcend" or rise above the
lower animalistic impulses of life and move from the rational to a spiritual realm.
The human soul is a part of the Oversoul, Universal Spirit, or "Float” and will
return to it at death…
6. …Therefore, Death is never to be feared, for at death the soul merely passes back
to the Oversoul…
7. …Also, every individual is to be respected because everyone is a portion of that
Oversoul, or God.
8. This Oversoul/Life Force/God can be found everywhere… therefore, traveling to
holy places is not necessary. Churches are also unnecessary as any place on earth
is a fit place for worship.
9. Miracles are all about us - the whole world is a miracle and the smallest creature
is one, no less significant than the miracles of the Bible or any other sacred text.
In Whitman’s words, "A mouse is a miracle enough to stagger quintillions of
10. More important than a concern about the afterlife, should be a concern for this life.
11. Emphasis should be placed on the here and now. As Thoreau said, "Give me one
world at a time."
12. There is a relationship between all things, one must realize the unity between
oneself and the universe.
13. If God is in everything, and God cannot be evil, then evil does not exist. What we
think of as evil is only the absence of good, just as darkness is just the absence of
14. Light is more powerful than darkness because one ray of light penetrates the dark.
Just so, one act of good can undue a substantial amount of injustice
15. The transcendentalists see the necessity of examples of great leaders, writers,
philosophers, and others to show what an individual can become through thinking
and action.
a. BUT: Remember Tenet #2! Great men and women point us in the
direction of truth, but we must find the truth ourselves.
16. An intelligent person always seeks to revise their beliefs and make them better. It
is foolish to worry about consistency and believe something just because you
believed it yesterday.
17. Societal reform must not be emphasized - true reform comes from within. A
single individual, acting from a place of conscience can affect an entire
(Adapted from
Write a two-page response to the above in which you identify the tenets that you believe
to be true and/or interesting, as well as those tenets which you either find confusing, or
with which you don’t agree.