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Transcendentalism: What it is?

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Transcendentalism was an intellectual movement founded by Ralph Waldo Emerson. There are three cornerstones of the Transcendentalist belief which are

* Human senses are limited; they convey knowledge of the physical world, but deeper truths can be grasped only through intuition.

* The observation of nature illuminates the nature of human beings.

* God, nature, and humanity are united in a shared universal soul.

(pg. 387 under Literary Analysis)

Our human senses are limited to what we have in the physical world. But the more profound truth can be obtained only by our instincts.

By observing nature, we as human beings become enlighten and understand certain things.

God, nature and the human race are related to one another because we are all part of one.

One example of Transcendentalism is the quote from Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson on page 389 in the 1st line, which states “I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.” This quote shows the transcendental belief that God, nature, and humanity are united in a shared universal soul. The quote shows this belief by saying that nature allows us to become separated from the daily routine of the world so that we take some time to see everything and feel that we are part of nature and part of God.

Another example of Transcendentalism is the short quote from Walden by Henry David Thoreau on page 406 in the last sentence at the top of the page. Here it states “Olympus is but the outside of the Earth everywhere…” Here he shows the transcendental belief that the observation of nature illuminates the nature of human beings. In the quote he talks of Mount Olympus which is a real mountain in Northern Greece and an important setting in Ancient Greek mythology because it is where the gods lived. In this quote he implies that a paradise fit for a God is available everywhere. We must not only view nature’s outside appearance but also its inside so that we can understand certain things better.

There are some examples of Nathaniel Hawthorne criticizing the Transcendentalist beliefs in his parable the Minister’s Black Veil. Since The Minister’s Black Veil was an Anti -Transcendentalist story, it was the opposed transcendental beliefs.

On page 338 in the 5th paragraph in the last sentences Hawthorne states “That mysterious emblem was never once withdrawn. It shook with his measured breath, as he gave out the psalm; it threw its obscurity between him and the holy page, as he read the Scriptures; and while he prayed the veil lay heavily on his uplifted countenance. Did he seek to hide it from the dread Being whom he was addressing.” In this passage from the story we are able to see that Hawthorne is deliberately criticizing the Transcendental belief that God, nature, and humanity are united in a shared universal soul. First of all, he talks of the psalms, holy page and Scriptures which all lead up to the Bible. Then he writes that the Minister was trying to hide something from the dread Being. This is where he capitalizes Being as if to say God and calls God dreadful or frightening. Hawthorne tries to separate humanity and God by separating the Minister from God by using the veil as their boundary.

This criticize is again seen on page 339 in the 2nd paragraph in the 5th sentence where it states “The subject had reference to secret sin, and those sad mysteries which we hide from our nearest and dearest, and would fain conceal from our own consciousness, even forgetting that the Omniscient can detect them.” We can again see Hawthorne criticizing the same Transcendental belief because he says that we hide our sins from everyone even those who we love but we forget that the Omniscient or all-knowing God can still see them.

We believe that Transcendentalism is the right philosophy because it teaches us to be positive and always think and understand carefully. Anti Transcendentalism only focuses on the negative aspect of people such as the uncertainty of people and the limited abilities we have on Earth. Unlike Transcendentalism which says that everything has a good meaning and is connected to a divine power such as God.

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