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Transcendentalism What does transcendentalism mean? There is an ideal spiritual state which transcends the physical and empirical. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Transcendentalism

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.

Basic idea thanks to Wikipedia
  • Transcendentalism was a religious and
    philosophical movement that was developed during
    the late 1820s and 1830s1 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.

  • Among the transcendentalists' core beliefs was
    the inherent goodness of both people and nature.
  • Transcendentalists believed that society and its
    institutionsparticularly organized religion and
    political partiesultimately 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.

Where did it come from?
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson gave German philosopher
    Immanuel Kant credit for popularizing the term
  • It began as a reform movement in the Unitarian
  • It is not a religionmore accurately, it is a
    philosophy or form of spirituality.
  • It centered around Boston and Concord, MA. in the
  • Emerson first expressed his philosophy of
    transcendentalism in his essay Nature.

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 Gods
    spirit revealed in nature or in their souls
  • Self reliance and individualism must outweigh
    external authority and blind conformity

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

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).

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

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

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

Basic Premise 4
  • The belief that individual virtue and
    happiness depend upon self-realizationthis
    depends upon the reconciliation of two universal
    psychological tendencies
  • The desire to embrace the whole worldto know and
    become one with the world.
  • The desire to withdraw, remain unique and
    separatean egotistical existence.

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

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

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emersons 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
Read Emersons bio p. 216-217
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?
Henry David Thoreau
  • 1817-1862
  • Schoolteacher, essayist, poet
  • Most famous for Walden and Civil Disobedience
  • Influenced environmental movement
  • Supporter of abolitionism

Read bio of Thoreau p. 230-231
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
(No Transcript)
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

Margaret Fuller
  • 1810-1850
  • Journalist, critic, womens rights activist
  • First editor of The Dial, a transcendental
  • First female journalist to work on a major
    newspaperThe New York Tribune
  • Taught at Alcotts Temple School

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

  • American Transcendental Web http//
  • American Transcendentalism http//
  • PAL Chapter Four http//
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