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Presentation on theme: "Transcendentalism."— Presentation transcript:

1 Transcendentalism

2 What does “transcendentalism” mean?
There is an ideal spiritual state which “transcends” the physical and empirical. A loose collection of eclectic ideas about literature, philosophy, religion, social reform, and the general state of American culture. Transcendentalism had different meanings for each person involved in the movement.

3 Basic idea thanks to Wikipedia
Transcendentalism was a religious and philosophical movement that was developed during the late 1820s and 1830s[1] in the Eastern region of the United States as a protest against the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard University and the doctrine of the Unitarian church taught at Harvard Divinity School. Among the transcendentalists' core beliefs was the inherent goodness of both people and nature.

4 Among the transcendentalists' core beliefs was the inherent goodness of both people and nature.
Transcendentalists believed that society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual. They had faith that people are at their best when truly "self-reliant" and independent. It is only from such real individuals that true community could be formed.

5 Where did it come from? Ralph Waldo Emerson gave German philosopher Immanuel Kant credit for popularizing the term “transcendentalism.” It began as a reform movement in the Unitarian church. It is not a religion—more accurately, it is a philosophy or form of spirituality. It centered around Boston and Concord, MA. in the mid-1800’s. Emerson first expressed his philosophy of transcendentalism in his essay Nature.

6 A Transcendentalist view of the world know this- txt p. 212
Everything in the world, including human beings, is a reflection of the Divine Soul The physical fact of the natural world are a doorway to the spiritual or ideal world. People can use their intuition to behold God’s spirit revealed in nature or in their souls Self reliance and individualism must outweigh external authority and blind conformity

7 More Transcendental ideas
Spontaneous feelings and intuition are superior to deliberate intellectualism and rationality

8 What did Transcendentalists believe?
The intuitive faculty, instead of the rational or sensical, became the means for a conscious union of the individual psyche (known in Sanskrit as Atman) with the world psyche also known as the Oversoul, life-force, prime mover and God (known in Sanskrit as Brahma).

9 Basic Premise #1 An individual is the spiritual center of the universe, and in an individual can be found the clue to nature, history and, ultimately, the cosmos itself. It is not a rejection of the existence of God, but a preference to explain an individual and the world in terms of an individual.

10 Basic Premise #2 The structure of the universe literally duplicates the structure of the individual self—all knowledge, therefore, begins with self-knowledge. This is similar to Aristotle's dictum "know thyself."

11 Basic Premise #3 Transcendentalists accepted the concept of nature as a living mystery, full of signs; nature is symbolic.

12 Basic Premise #4 The belief that individual virtue and happiness depend upon self-realization—this depends upon the reconciliation of two universal psychological tendencies: The desire to embrace the whole world—to know and become one with the world. The desire to withdraw, remain unique and separate—an egotistical existence.

13 Who were the Transcendentalists?
Ralph Waldo Emerson Henry David Thoreau Amos Bronson Alcott Margaret Fuller Ellery Channing

14 Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882 Unitarian minister Poet and essayist
Founded the Transcendental Club Popular lecturer Banned from Harvard for 40 years following his Divinity School address Supporter of abolitionism

15 Ralph Waldo Emerson Emerson’s sense of optimism and hope appealed to audiences who lived in a period of economic downturn, regional strife, and conflict over slavery. Your condition today Emerson seemed to tell his readers and listeners, may seem dull and disheartening, but It need not be. If you discover God within you, he suggested, your lives will partake Of the grandeur of the universe

16 Read Emerson’s bio p What kind of identity did Emerson see in himself? Why? Why was he a rebel from what his family expected of him? How did his message appeal to young people? What lessened his optimism at the end of his life?

17 Henry David Thoreau 1817-1862 Schoolteacher, essayist, poet
Most famous for Walden and Civil Disobedience Influenced environmental movement Supporter of abolitionism

18 Read bio of Thoreau p Why do you think he was misunderstood by a majority of people? What was the purpose of his going to Walden Pond? What was Thoreau protesting? What modern reformers did Thoreau influence?


20 Amos Bronson Alcott 1799-1888 Teacher and writer
Founder of Temple School and Fruitlands Introduced art, music, P.E., nature study, and field trips; banished corporal punishment Father of novelist Louisa May Alcott

21 Margaret Fuller 1810-1850 Journalist, critic, women’s rights activist
First editor of The Dial, a transcendental journal First female journalist to work on a major newspaper—The New York Tribune Taught at Alcott’s Temple School

22 Ellery Channing 1818-1901 Poet and especially close friend of Thoreau
Published the first biography of Thoreau in 1873—Thoreau, The Poet-Naturalist

23 Resources American Transcendental Web: American Transcendentalism: PAL: Chapter Four

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