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The Important Role of Transcendentalism in American History Essay

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The Important Role of Transcendentalism in American History


In 1830, a movement known as Transcendentalism began to gain
popularity in America. Representing an idealistic system of thought,
"strength, courage, self-confidence, and independence of mind"1 were some
basic values admired by the followers of the Transcendental movement.
Transcendentalists opposed many aspects of their government, where they
felt "many unjust laws existed."2 Therefore, they became the leaders of
many modern reform movements. Transcendentalists also had a major affect
on their society. Transcendentalism became a "powerful force for
democracy."3

Originating in the area in and around Concord, Massachusettes,
Transcendentalism was recognized as having an "underlying relationship to
the Romantic movement as a whole."4 Three of the most obvious or well
known sources or origin of Transcendentalism are neo-platonism, German
idealistic philosophy, and certain Eastern mystical writings which were
introduced into the Boston area in the early nineteenth century."5

Transcendental beliefs focused on "the importance of spirit over
matter."6 Ralph Waldo Emerson, a well known Transcendentalist, felt that
"all men aspire to the highest, and most of them spend their lives seeking
money and power only because they see nothing higher."7 Followers also
believed in a spiritual hunger, or the need to find themselves one with the
world. In addition, they believed in "an ascending hierarchy of spiritual
values rising to absolute good, truth, and beauty."8 Transcendentalists
also believed in a supreme being, the Oversoul, and felt that "if the
Oversoul is all powerful and at the same time good, then evil does not
exist."9...


... middle of paper ...


...reconciled few of them."19
It was never united by a set program. Transcendentalism was comprised of
the various interests and labors of many different personal concepts.
Therefore, there were many conflicting values which made it an unsteady
system to follow.

At the time of the Transcendentalism movement, "it preached, practiced,
an idealism that was greatly needed in a rapidly expanding economy."20
However, soon people began to find other, more comprehensible means of
dealing within society. Therefore, they began to turn away from
Transcendentalism. However, even though Transcendentalism is non-existent
as a whole today, many of its ideas, values, and morals are still present
in many of the religions and beliefs of today's society. In conclusion,
Transcendentalism will always be present in the world, it just will not
have as obvious a presence.


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