Elements of transcendentalism:

What is Transcendentalism?
The Transcendentalists can be understood by their context- what they saw as the
current situation, and therefore as what they were rebelling against and what
they were trying to be different from.
They were a generation of well educated people who lived in the decades before
the American Civil War and in the national division that it both reflected and
helped to create.
Romanticism, a social movement originating in the second half of the 18th
Century, was less rational, more intuitive and more in touch with the senses.
Transcendentalism sprung from this movement.
The spiritual hunger of the age gave rise to an intuitive, experiential, passionate,
more-than-just-rational perspective. God gave humankind the gift of intuition,
the gift of insight, the gift of inspiration. Why waste such gifts?
Influence of the East
The scriptures of non-Western cultures were discovered in the West, translated,
and published so that they were more widely available.
Harvard-educated Emerson and others began to read Hindu and Buddhist
scriptures, and examine their own religious assumptions against these scriptures.
In their perspective, a loving God would not have led so much of humanity
astray; there must be truth in these scriptures, too.
Truth, if it agreed with an individual's intuition of truth, must be indeed truth.
Transcendentalist Beliefs
At the level of the human soul, all people had access to divine inspiration and
sought and loved freedom and knowledge and truth.
Celebrate the individual rather than the masses, emotion rather than reason,
nature rather than man.
Individuals have the right to choose their own paths in life, rather than to
conform to society’s expectations.
There were two ways of knowing, through the senses and through intuition, but
asserted that intuition transcended instruction. Individuals should rely on their
own intuition to guide them.
Individuals should be confident in their beliefs, rather than accepting the beliefs
of the masses.
A deep and important connection between man and nature exists that helps
sustain man’s serenity.
Reform begins with the individual, not the group or organization.
Most of the Transcendentalists became involved in social reform movements,
especially anti-slavery and women's rights.
The Transcendentalists:
Read the biographies of the following two prominent transcendentalists and write a
paragraph for each that summarizes the most noteworthy facts of his life.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: (238)
Henry David Thoreau: (250)