Monday, 26 August 2019

Ralph Waldo Emerson as a transcendatlist , Meaning and concept of Transcendentalism

Concept of Transcendentalism

Transcendentalism was a movement for reform once complete spiritual freedom and in essence it was a reaction against the pan European system of thought, which was commonly known as the enlightenment. In a way transcendentalism can be regarded as the westward extension of that great movement called romanticism . 

Ralph Waldo Emerson as a transcendatlist , Meaning and concept of Transcendentalism

      Concept of Transcendentalism

Transcendentalism basically relies on instinct and conscience. It is a form of idealism , a philosophical romanticism that arrived in America after a generation or two of its development in Europe. On the continent it was conceived and nurtured on the doctrines of European philosophy and was chiefly Popularised in America by Emerson after he had absorbed it's idea for German and British , Romantics like Goethe , Kent , Coleridge and others . However , transcendentalist as a philosophy in America acquired a special significance. It gradually come to dominate the New England authors in America to such an extent that it become a literary as well as a philosophical movement .

The genesis of transcendentalism in Europe can be located. to the idea of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, whose rejection of the enlightenment ideas that all knowledge and concept depend matter and sense was made in the critique of pure reason . The materialistic theory of the 18th century being questioned subjected everything to do not including god and human soul . The 19th century idealist in Europe opposed such a vein of man of the universe by proposing that the human mind has an innate knowledge of its own which is independent of its sense of the material world . It is believed in certain innate ideas like that of right or wrong , good and evil , god , duty , freedom , immortality etc. Such ideas or knowledge was supposed to exist in the soul as a part of its being and they transcend or go beyond experience. It was Kant in his critique of pure reason, who first made use of the word "Transcendentalism" Kant proceeded from the bales of limitation of the powers of human reasons suggesting that it was restricted in apprehending the great gliding principles like god , freedom , and immorality. In other words there is a need of the transcendentalist knowledge. Which could be supplied through an affinity kinship with the encompassing universe . This communion was achieved partly through contact other nature and partly through listening to the dictates of instinct and inner light .

The movement of transcendentalism derived from Germany and England with an infusion of oriented philosophy found it most significant development in America. The movement gained its impetus from meeting of small groups that came together to discuss new ideas . The group seemed to agree that within the nature of human beings these was something that transcend human experience. These movements also sponsored two important activities ,one was the publication of the Dial (1840-1844) which become the literary organ of disseminating the idea of transcendentalist philosophy. The second activity was in the form of starting Brook from which was an experiment in living close imposition of society and civilization .


It was with the publication of Emerson nature , a seminal essay discussing the new idea , that the movement of American transcendentalism began to take shape . Initially it was confined largely to the new England and more narrowly to the vicinity of Boston and Concord involving a small group of people. This philosophy gradually moved westward and then south till it had influenced a large part of the country. The members of the Boston group consisted of prominent names in literature like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau, James Freeman , clerk Margret , the mystic poet .

Like the earlier idealism of the puritan in America , transcendentalism also aimed to make man morally upright first and when to make him free in mind as well as in body . Transcendentalism believed in living close to nature and accept the dignity of manual labourers. They strongly felt the need of intellectual companionship and emphasized spiritual living . It was believed that every individual relation to God could be established directly by the person himself rather than through a ritualistic church .

The transcendentalist need that human beings are divine in their own right but it was an opinion that was opposed to the doctrine of puritan Calvinist in New England. For the transcendentalist self trust and self reliance were important virtues to be practised at all times because self trust was actually a trust on the voice of God which speaks intuitively within man .

Ralph Waldo Emerson as a transcendentalist

Ralph Waldo Emerson as a transcendatlist , Meaning and concept of Transcendentalism

Ralph Waldo Emerson as a transcendentalist

Nineteenth century American poetry is notable for its inclination, towards the continental romanticism. This intellectual movement was reworked and refashioned in America particularly by a group of people associated with literature, politics , philosophy and other areas . These leading thinkers come to be known as the transcendentalist. The leader of this  intellectual movement was Ralph Waldo Emerson, and original thinker , philosopher , orator , poet , and author . His satire as the leading transcendentalist made him known throughout the nation as " The Sage of Concord " . Emerson writings are filled with acute observations of contemporary men and institutions and they provide insight into human psychology. Emerson has been a critic of American life and his heir have always been incisive and profound.

Emerson works include journals which , contain information early significant writings . They constitute a complete development of his attitude and views of life . The most important thing in these journals is Nature  , in which he expresses dentalism , these essays also contain the germ of later works like oversoul . The American scholar and the divinity school address . The last mentioned work is particularly important because in it Emerson expresses his dissatisfaction with organised religion and his preference his dissatisfaction with organised religion and his preference for the religion of the soul . It is fascinating because Emerson had trained himself to be a clerk but later chosen to give up preaching this gospel , According to the church . By rejecting the church , Emerson also declares his rejection and disregard for all types of authority and preferring the freedom of the individual spirit .

These ideals found expression in the essays . First series (1841) , which consisted of essays like "Self reliance" , "Over Soul" , "Compensation" , "Spiritual laws " , "Love" , "Friendship" , and "History". In all these essays Emerson, expresses his concern with transcendentalism and exposed the various dimensions associated with it . For Emerson and others , transcendentalism is not merely a theory but a practical philosophy which should guide and mould an individual's attitude to life .

The representative men is an important work which not only develops the idea further but also illustrates his concept of greatness.  Emerson through a study of Six men - Plato , the philosopher, Sweden boury the mystic , Montaigne the Skeptic , Shakespeare the poet , Napoleon the man of the word , and Geothe , the writer - undertakes the evolution of greatness . According to him the greatest man of all was Plato because he was both a philosopher and a poet . A great man has more divinity in him and thus he conveys to mankind a sense of his own potentialities ,this line of approach associating greatness to prophet and poet agrees with the Roman concept of the "Vates" therefore for Emerson, a great poet is also a great seas , one through which certain truths of nature and life are revealed.

Emerson used these as his preferred medium to explore and propagate his ideas . As a puritan and transcendentalist, he surrounded himself to this task of intellectual exploration. He was an individualist who believed in the reform of the individual itself and he didn't have much faith in institution reforms . As a poet Emerson was profoundly influenced by the concept of selfhood which gathered from his studies of the Hindu scriptures. He was well aware of the laws of Manu , Vishnupuran , the Bhagavad Gita , and the Upanishads. Emerson's poetry echoes the Vedanta philosophy in its forms as well as content. One of his often quote points "Brahma" the distinct influence of Katha , the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita .

Emerson poems were collected in two volumes entitled poem (1897) , many day and other poems (1876) , some of his famous poems are - The rhodora , Each and all , the problem , the show storm and earth song . It has been mentioned for Emerson, religion was poetry and as a poet his only pleasure was thought, he allowed his deeper impersonal spirit to range over history and nature gathering ideas and knowledge and presenting them as inspired poems . The main themes of his poetry are nature , patriotism , personal or domestic life and reflected philosophy.

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