Transcendentalism Intro Notes

Transcend: [verb] to go beyond the limits
of; exceed; be above and independent of
the physical universe
“We will walk on our
own feet; we will work
with our own hands; we
will speak our own
minds...A nation of men
will for the first time
exist, because each
believes himself
inspired by the Divine
Soul which also inspires
all men."
Transcendentalism was a
philosophical, spiritual and
literary movement that
flourished in the US in the
decades before the Civil War:
the antebellum period.
•Transcendentalists believed there was an
inherent connection between all living elements
and human beings.
believed that through
the attainment of knowledge,
human beings could
transcend the limitations of
the physical senses and
attain spiritual awareness
and enlightenment.
•They believed that
this knowledge
resided within an
individual and could
be accessed through
meditation, self
aware ness and
communing with
• Personal belief and
meditation was valued over
organized worship and
• No mediator, such as a priest or minister,
was necessary for a person to experience a
connection with the divine.
• They contended that there is
a spark of the divine in all
human beings, and that if we
understand ourselves and are
true to ourselves, then we are
also true to God.
“The foregoing generations beheld God
and Nature face to face; we—through
their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy
an original relation to the universe?”
The Transparent
Eyeball could
absorb and observe
information while
being part of that
information was a
representation of
these ideas.
•Transcendentalists. Like their fictional
counterparts, the Romantics, were
trying to forge a distinctly American
literature and philosophy that valued
the power of the individual.
The Transcendentalist adopts the whole connection of
spiritual doctrine. He believes in miracle, in the
perpetual openness of the human mind … he believes
in inspiration, and in ecstasy. He wishes that the
spiritual principle should be suffered to demonstrate
itself to the end, in all possible applications to the state
of man … that is, anything positive, dogmatic,
personal. Thus, the spiritual measure of inspiration is
the depth of the thought, and never, who said it? And
so he resists all attempts to palm other rules and
measures on the spirit than its own....
- Emerson
The Oversoul
Emerson espoused belief in a force called
the Oversoul.
•The Oversoul was the divine spirit or
mind that was present in every man and
in all of nature. It was an all-pervading,
omniscient, supreme mind. Each part of
nature or of humanity was a reflection of
the divine mind.
In how many churches… is man made
sensible that he is an infinite Soul? That the
earth and heavens are passing into his mind?
That he is drinking forever the soul of God?
. . . But now the priest’s Sabbath has lost the
splendor of nature; it is unlovely; we are
glad when it is done; we can make, we do
make, even sitting in our pews, a far better,
holier, sweeter, for ourselves.
- Emerson
•The most famous of American Transcendentalists are Ralph
Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
•The great American poet Walt Whitman also had
transcendentalist tendencies.
•Underline the aphorism’s as we read Emerson’s Nature.