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Transcendentalism is a 19th-century college of American theological and also philosophical assumed that merged respect for nature and also self-sufficiency with aspects of Unitarianism and also German Romanticism. Writer Ralph Waldo Emerson to be the major practitioner of the movement, which exist loosely in Massachusetts in the early on 1800s before coming to be an organized group in the 1830s.

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The origins of Transcendentalism

Transcendentalism has its beginnings in brand-new England the the early on 1800s and the birth of Unitarianism. It was born indigenous a debate in between “New Light” theologians, who thought that religion should focus on an emotional experience, and also “Old Light” opponents, who valued factor in their religious approach.


These “Old Lights” became known an initial as “liberal Christians” and also then together Unitarians, and were identified by the id that there was no trinity of father, son and holy ghost as in timeless Christian belief, and also that Jesus Christ was a mortal.

Various philosophies started to swirl around this crowd, and the principles that would come to be Transcendentalism separation from Unitarianism end its perceived rationality and instead taken on German Romanticism in a pursuit for a an ext spiritual experience.

Thinkers in the movement taken on ideas brought forth by thinkers Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ancient Indian scripture well-known as the Vedas and spiritual founder Emanuel Swedenborg.


Transcendentalists supported the idea of a personal knowledge of God, believing the no intermediary was required for spiritual insight. They adopted idealism, concentrating on nature and also opposing materialism.

By the 1830s, literature started to show up that bound the Transcendentalist ideas together in a cohesive way and significant the starts of a an ext organized movement.

The Transcendental club

On September 12, 1836, 4 Harvard university alumni—writer and also Bangor, Maine, minister frederic Henry Hodge, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Unitarian ministers George Ripley and also George Putnam—left a solemn event of the bicentennial the Harvard to meet at Willard’s Hotel in Cambridge.


The function was to monitor up top top correspondence in between Hodge and also Emerson and also to talk about the state the Unitarianism and also what they might do about it.

One week later, the four met again in ~ Ripley’s residence in Boston. This was a meeting of a much larger group that had many Unitarian ministers, intellectuals, writers and reformers. There would certainly be 30 much more meetings that what was dubbed “the Transcendental Club” end the next 4 years, special a shifting membership that always included Emerson, Ripley, and Hodge.


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The only dominion the meetings adhered to was that no one would be permitted to attend if their existence prevented the team from mentioning a topic. Emerson’s essay “Nature,” published in 1836, gift Transcendentalist philosophy as the had formed in the club meetings.

This team ceased to satisfy in 1840, yet were involved in the publishing The Dial, at very first helmed through member and also pioneering feminist Margaret Fuller, and later by Emerson, through the mission that addressing Transcendentalist thought and concerns.


Henry David Thoreau got his start in The Dial, report on wildlife in Massachusetts. After ~ its death in 1844, Thoreau moved to Walden Pond wherein he created his most famed work, Walden; or, Life in the Woods.

Brook farm yard

Inspired by various utopian groups like the Shakers, members of the Transcendental society were interested in forming a commune to put their concepts to the test. In 1841, a small group of them, including writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, moved to a property called Brook farm in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.


The venture, helmed through George Ripley, was covered in the pages that The Dial as an idyllic one that connected farm job-related by day and creative work by candlelight in ~ night.

Emerson never joined the farm. He approved of the commune but didn’t want to give up his privacy, like to it is in a constant visitor. Thoreau refused to sign up with as well, detect the entire idea unappealing. Margaret Fuller visited yet felt the farm was destined because that failure.

The farm was run by members buying shares for life-long membership, guaranteeing an yearly return on your investment, and enabling members who might not bought a share come compensate through work. Together farmers, they were fledglings, yet Hawthorne, in particular, was thrilled through the physicality of farming life.

There was also a boarding institution onsite the was the farm’s primary earnings source. The farm verified successful sufficient that in its very first year, members had actually to build new homes on the building to house everyone. There were over 100 residents.

In 1844, complying with a restructuring that carried further growth, the commune started to autumn into a sluggish decline, with members becoming disillusioned by its mission, as well as financial challenges and other problems, and also squabbling amongst themselves. By 1847, this details Transcendentalist experiment to be finished.


Transcendentalism Fades out

As the 1850s arrived, Transcendentalism is considered to have lost some of its influence, an especially following the untimely fatality of Margaret Fuller in one 1850 shipwreck.

Though that is members remained active in the general public eye—notably Emerson, Thoreau and also others in your public opposition come the Fugitive slave Act of 1850—following the failure of Brook Farm, it never again materialized as a cohesive group.

Sources

American Transcendentalism. Philip F. Gura.

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Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism. Chris Jennings.Transcendentalism. Arizona State University.Transcendentalism. Stanford University.