Transcendentalism Take the quiz to find out if you are a Transcendentalist and don’t even know it!
What does it mean to transcend? • To move beyond or above or independent of the earthly or normal • To surpass or excel • When have you felt transcendent?
Beginnings of Transcendentalism • 1836-1860 It was a reform movement in the Unitarian Church and included many well educated people from New England • Pastor William Ellery Channing taught that the soul of each individual is identical with the soul of the world and contains what the world contains. • We can know this and other truths through INTUITION. • What is intuition? • Are you an intuitive person?
Transcendentalism was a reaction against… • New England Calvinism (Deism) • Locke’s ideas • People who thought nature was scary, incomprehensible, and a struggle between good and evil – life and death • People who thought optimism and idealism was naïve or unrealistic • People who thought human nature was evil • People who thought individualism was selfish or dangerous or should be given up for the greater good of the whole of society
Transcendentalists were influenced by… • Immanuel Kant’s principle that intuitive knowledge does not come from our senses • They liked the Romantic poets and literature (Coleridge, Wordsworth, and other British poets) and thus their writing mimicked the elevated and elaborate style • Eastern philosophy like Buddhism (discovering divinity within oneself) • The women’s rights movement • The Civil Rights movement Transcendentalists influenced…
Transcendentalists believe in the individual • Through one’s individualism, one feels the connection to all beings • The individual can experience god first hand through intuition and nature • The individual is godlike and innately good – society is blamed for corruption of the individual • One should value your own self-reliance over relying on society
Transcendentalists believe in intuition • “understanding” is knowledge based off senses and logic • “reason” is knowledge through a higher, more intuitive or mystical form of perception • We don’t need to rely only on our 5 senses to understand our world and our place in the world – we can receive revelation from God or notice God in nature
Transcendentalists believe in perfection, optimism, and idealism • Stand up if you were given a quote to read to the class… these quotes are by Henry David Thoreau, one of the premiere Transcendentalists in early America. We will be reading excerpts from his essay “Civil Disobedience.” • Listen to the quotes and think about how they represent Transcendentalist thought.
Henry David Thoreau • 1817-62 best known for writing Walden • Graduated from Harvard and became a teacher • Taken in by Emerson and wrote for his transcendentalist journal • Abolitionist • Died of TB
Written in 1846, after his year alone at Walden Pond • Thoreau is arrested for not paying a poll tax which is a tax that you had to pay if you wanted to vote (it was a roadblock for the poor and African Americans) • He only spent one night in jail since his aunt paid the tax for him (with out his permission) Civil Disobedience By Thoreau
Paying taxes is one way in which otherwise well-meaning people collaborate in injustice. People who proclaim that the war in Mexico is wrong and that it is wrong to enforce slavery contradict themselves if they fund both things by paying taxes. Thoreau points out that the same people who applaud soldiers for refusing to fight an unjust war are not themselves willing to refuse to fund the government that started the war. • In a constitutional republic like the United States, people often think that the proper response to an unjust law is to try to use the political process to change the law, but to obey and respect the law until it is changed. But if the law is itself clearly unjust, and the lawmaking process is not designed to quickly obliterate such unjust laws, then Thoreau says the law deserves no respect and it should be broken. Abolitionists, in Thoreau's opinion, should completely withdraw their support of the government and stop paying taxes, even if this means courting imprisonment. Civil Disobedience By Thoreau
Under what circumstances would you be willing to go to jail for a moral or political principle? • OR Alternatively, explain why you wouldn’t be willing to commit civil disobedience under any circumstances. Journal
Ralph Waldo Emerson • 1803-82 • Son of a Unitarian pastor • Dad died when Emerson was 8 • Graduated from Harvard as a minister • Young wife died of TB and he resigned from the ministry • Developed a Transcendental journal called The Dial • Lectured all over the country (over 1,500 lectures)
In your journal, list ways in which you are reliant on others (parents, friends, teachers, government, church, coach, team…) • List ways in which you are self-reliant (do things on your own) • What is the importance of self reliance in your own life? Self-Reliance By Emerson