Mankind has lost its place at the center of God’s universe. Now, when you watch the
weather, or plants growing, or someone suddenly die, what you feel is obnoxious
bafflement. In the past, you might have said God was responsible or the devil... Definitions
of the universe based on speculation or on scriptural faith are no longer automatically
accepted... You would have looked out on this vast and undefined universe in would’ve
thought, as did the thinkers of that day, that we needed a method of conscious-building.
(James Redfield Celestine Prophecy 25).
It is exactly this type of thinking that led to the Transcendental philosophy of the 1800s. This philosophy forever change people’s lives, but today we really only know about Transcendentalism from our history books. Today everybody live in a modern world. A world that has largely forgotten this and many other philosophies. In no other country is this more apparent than in America. That is why I believe the Transcendental philosophy that puts thought and higher thinking over superficial wants and needs is exactly what the world and especially America, needs to believe in and follow. Paul Ruben put it ,that “Americans have lost sight of the American Dream and the principles this country was built on” (Paul Ruben Chapter 4: Early Nineteenth Century American Transcendentalism: A Brief Introduction 1).
Yet, if everyone has forgotten what Transcendentalism is, then first everybody needs a clear definition of what Transcendentalism is. The truth is a clear definition can not be found, but Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary tenth Edition defines Transcendentalism as “1: A philosophy that emphasizes the a prior conditions of knowledge and experience or the unknowable character of ultimate reality that emphasizes the transcendent as the fundamental reality. 2: A philosophy that asserts the privacy of the spiritual and transcendent over the material and empirical” (Marriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary tenth Edition Transcendentalism 265). Perhaps a little clearer is Encarta’s Definition, which states that Transcendentalism as “a Philosophy and literature belief in a higher reality than that achieved by human reason” (Encarta Transcendentalism 1). The definition is so vague because every transcendentalist (especially the founders) had his or her own specific definition, that was hard them selves to describe let alone to others . One of the primary founders of Transcendentalism, Henry David Thoreau, actually stated, “I should have told them at once that I was a Transcendentalist. That would have been the shortest way of telling them that they wouldn’t understand my explanations” (Paul Ruben Thoreau, Journal , v:41). In my own words from what I have read I would say Transcendentalism makes one look past material and reality and on to higher thought to obtain spirituality or enhanced spirituality.
Now that everyone can at best conjure up a brief idea of what Transcendentalism is, everyone needs to know the deeper meaning behind the philosophy. Emerson spoke that two opposing forces exist, “Idealists” and “Materialists”, and that both of them look at “God but in different ways” (Emerson Transcendentalist 1). Emerson, in his speech goes on to say that in the life of a materialist, everything in his or her life will crumble, and only Idea will stay standing (Emerson 10). Also Emerson states, “Transcendentalism is a rightly conceived intellectual aesthetic, a spiritual ferment, not a solid doctrine” (Emerson 4). To start off we have a person that try’s to forget his or her own worth in society, tries to stay far away from idealism, and joins part in a ever changing and evolving thought process, but not a reason to attain a higher state of consciousness. For as Encarta puts it, this “Intuition, rather that reason, was regarded as the highest human faculty” (Encarta 1).
This meaning of transcendentalism then evolves into a “ intercourse between Soul and God” (Ruben 1). In the end one leads their life by direction and in search of Institution to gain a direct link to their God. Now everyone should understand what it was like to be a Transcendentalist.
Since what a transcendentalist should be a little clearer, one may wonder how and why it came into being. That is what will be describe now. Tomas A. Dailey and David M. Kennedy in their textbook The American Pageant stated that around 1810