Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Transcendentalism

Hey guys, this is a link to the wikipedia write-up on transcendentalism, which informed my first sincere experience of nature inside myself, and awakening to what it means to experience this existence.

Woot!
(also, this is maybe derived from in some ways, but not at all the same as transcendental meditation in buddhist practices.)


Transcendentalism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Transcendentalism was a philosophical movement that developed in the 1830s and 1840s in the Eastern region of the United States as a protest to the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard University and the doctrine of theUnitarian church taught at Harvard Divinity School. 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.

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[edit]History

The publication of Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1836 essay Nature is usually considered the watershed moment at which transcendentalism became a major cultural movement. Emerson wrote in his speech "The American Scholar": "We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; Divine Soul which also inspires all men." Emerson closed the essay by calling for a revolution in human consciousness to emerge from the brand new idealist philosophy:
So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes. It shall answer the endless inquiry of the intellect, — What is truth? and of the affections, — What is good? by yielding itself passive to the educated Will. ...Build, therefore, your own world. As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions. A correspondent revolution in things will attend the influx of the spirit.
In the same year, transcendentalism became a coherent movement with the founding of the Transcendental Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on September 8, 1836, by prominent New England intellectuals including George Putnam (1807–78; the Unitarian minister inRoxbury),[2] Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Frederick Henry Hedge, all of them from the same native town.[citation needed] From 1840, the group published frequently in their journal The Dial, along with other venues. Early in the movement's history, the term "Transcendentalists" was used as a pejorative term by critics, who were suggesting their position was beyond sanity and reason.[3]
The transcendentalists varied in their interpretations of the practical aims of will. Some among the group linked it with utopian social change;Brownson connected it with early socialism, while others considered it an exclusively individualist and idealist project. Emerson believed the latter. In his 1842 lecture "The Transcendentalist", Emerson suggested that the goal of a purely transcendental outlook on life was impossible to attain in practice:
You will see by this sketch that there is no such thing as a transcendental party; that there is no pure transcendentalist; that we know of no one but prophets and heralds of such a philosophy; that all who by strong bias of nature have leaned to the spiritual side in doctrine, have stopped short of their goal. We have had many harbingers and forerunners; but of a purely spiritual life, history has afforded no example. I mean, we have yet no man who has leaned entirely on his character, and eaten angels' food; who, trusting to his sentiments, found life made of miracles; who, working for universal aims, found himself fed, he knew not how; clothed, sheltered, and weaponed, he knew not how, and yet it was done by his own hands. ...Shall we say, then, that transcendentalism is the Saturnalia or excess of Faith; the presentiment of a faith proper to man in his integrity, excessive only when his imperfect obedience hinders the satisfaction of his wish.
By the late 1840s, Emerson believed the movement was dying out, and even more so after the death of Margaret Fuller in 1850. "All that can be said", Emerson wrote, "is, that she represents an interesting hour and group in American cultivation".[4] There was, however, a second wave of transcendentalists, including Moncure ConwayOctavius Brooks FrothinghamSamuel Longfellow and Franklin Benjamin Sanborn.[5] Notably, the transgression of the spirit, most often evoked by the poet's prosaic voice, is said to endow in the reader a sense of purposefulness. This is the underlying theme in the majority of transcendentalist essays and papers—all of which are centered on subjects which assert a love for individual expression. [6]

[edit]Origins

Transcendentalism was in many aspects the first notable American intellectual movement. It certainly was the first to inspire succeeding generations of American intellectuals, as well as a number of literary monuments.[7] Rooted in the transcendental philosophy of Immanuel Kant (and of German Idealism more generally), it developed as a reaction against 18th Century rationalism, John Locke's philosophy ofSensualism, and the predestinationism of New England Calvinism. Its fundamental a variety of diverse sources such as: Vedic thought, various religions, and German idealism.[8]
The transcendentalists desired to ground their religion and philosophy in transcendental principles: principles not based on, or falsifiable by, physical experience, but deriving from the inner spiritual or mental essence of the human. Immanuel Kant had called "all knowledge transcendental which is concerned not with objects but with our mode of knowing objects."[9] The transcendentalists were largely unacquainted with German philosophy in the original, and relied primarily on the writings of Thomas CarlyleSamuel Taylor ColeridgeVictor CousinGermaine de Staël, and other English and French commentators for their knowledge of it. In contrast, they were intimately familiar with the English Romantics, and the transcendental movement may be partially described as a slightly later American outgrowth of Romanticism. Another major influence was the mystical spiritualism of Emanuel Swedenborg.
Thoreau in Walden spoke of the Transcendentalists' debt to Vedic thought directly.
In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavat Geeta, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial; and I doubt if that philosophy is not to be referred to a previous state of existence, so remote is its sublimity from our conceptions. I lay down the book and go to my well for water, and lo! there I meet the servant of the Brahmin, priest ofBrahma, and Vishnu and Indra, who still sits in his temple on the Ganges reading the Vedas, or dwells at the root of a tree with his crust and water-jug. I meet his servant come to draw water for his master, and our buckets as it were grate together in the same well. The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges.[10]

[edit]Criticisms

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a novel, The Blithedale Romance (1852), satirizing the movement, and based it on his experiences at Brook Farm, a short-lived utopian community founded on transcendental principles.[11] Edgar Allan Poe wrote a story, "Never Bet the Devil Your Head", in which he embedded elements of deep dislike for transcendentalism, calling its followers "Frogpondians" after the pond on Boston Common.[12] The narrator ridiculed their writings by calling them "metaphor-run" lapsing into "mysticism for mysticism's sake".[13] and called it a "disease." The story specifically mentions the movement and its flagship journal The Dial, though Poe denied that he had any specific targets.[14]
In Poe's essay "The Philosophy of Composition" he offers criticism denouncing "the excess of the suggested meaning... which turns into prose (and that of the very flattest kind) the so-called poetry of the so-called transcendentalists."[15]

[edit]Influence on other movements

Part of a series on
New Thought
Transcendentalists were strong believers in the power of the individual and divine messages. Their beliefs are closely linked with those of the Romantics.
The movement directly influenced the growing movement of "Mental Sciences" of the mid-19th century, which would later become known as the New Thought movement. New Thought considers Emerson its intellectual father.[16] Emma Curtis Hopkins "the teacher of teachers", Ernest Holmes, founder ofReligious Science, the Fillmores, founders of Unity, and Malinda Cramer and Nona L. Brooks, the founders of Divine Science, were all greatly influenced by Transcendentalism.[17]

[edit]Other meanings

[edit]Transcendental idealism

The term "transcendentalism" sometimes serves as shorthand for transcendental idealism, which is the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and later Kantian and German Idealist philosophers.

[edit]Transcendental theology

Another alternative meaning for "transcendentalism" is the classical philosophy that God transcends the manifest world. As John Scotus Erigena put it to Frankish king Charles the Bald in the year 840 AD, "We know not what God is. God himself doesn't know what He is because He is not anything. Literally God is not, because He transcends being.".

[edit]See also

[edit]References

  1. ^ Gura, Philip F. American Transcendentalism: A History. New York: Hill and Wang, 2007: 7–8. ISBN 0-8090-3477-8
  2. ^ "George Putnam"Heralds, Harvard square library.
  3. ^ Loving, Jerome (1999), Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself, University of California Press, p. 185, ISBN 0-520-22687-9.
  4. ^ Rose, Anne C (1981), Transcendentalism as a Social Movement, 1830–1850, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, p. 208, ISBN 0-300-02587-4.
  5. ^ Gura, Philip F (2007), American Transcendentalism: A History, New York: Hill and Wang, p. 8, ISBN 0-8090-3477-8.
  6. ^ Stevenson,Martin K. "Empirical Analysis of the American Transcendental movement". New York, NY: Penguin, 2012:303.
  7. ^ Coviello, Peter. "Transcendentalism" The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature. Oxford University Press, 2004. Oxford Reference Online. Web. 23 Oct. 2011
  8. ^ "Transcendentalism".The Oxford Companion to American Literature. James D. Hart ed.Oxford University Press, 1995. Oxford Reference Online. Web. 24 Oct.2011
  9. ^ Kant, Immanual. Critique of practical reason. Trans. T.K. Abbott. Amherst, N.Y:Prometheus, 1996, p.25.Print.
  10. ^ Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. Boston: Ticknor&Fields, 1854.p.279. Print.
  11. ^ McFarland, Philip (2004), Hawthorne in Concord, New York: Grove Press, p. 149, ISBN 0-8021-1776-7.
  12. ^ Royot, Daniel (2002), "Poe's humor", in Hayes, Kevin J, The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe, Cambridge University Press, pp. 61–2, ISBN 0-521-79727-6.
  13. ^ Ljunquist, Kent (2002), "The poet as critic", in Hayes, Kevin J, The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe, Cambridge University Press, p. 15, ISBN 0-521-79727-6
  14. ^ Sova, Dawn B (2001), Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z, New York: Checkmark Books, p. 170, ISBN 0-8160-4161-X.
  15. ^ Baym, Nina, ed. (2007), The Norton Anthology of American LiteratureB (6th ed.), New York: Norton.
  16. ^ "New Thought"MSN Encarta, Microsoft, retrieved Nov. 16, 2007.
  17. ^ INTA New Thought History Chart, Websyte.

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