What is transcendentalism? Mainly transcendentalism can be viewed in various ways. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the author of Self Reliance, explains transcendentalism in three major points. One point is you need to follow your own genius. Another point is the blessing of nonconformity and lastly the horrors of conformity. These points show transcendentalism as very detrimental because it is unexpected that people will be able to all be their own because society will never advance.
Nathaniel Hawthorne gave the first defining statement of a transcendentalist by stating that neither he nor anyone else has ever been able to describe them(very informative). During the 1800’s in Massachusetts the movement of Transcendentalism was born. Beginning as a quarrel within the Unitarian church the movement rippled throughout American culture. “Transcendentalism developed a momentum of its own as it questioned established cultural forms, tried to reintegrate spirit and matter, and attempted to turn ideas into concrete action”(Bickman).
The Transcendentalists envisioned a culture that would foster further acts of culture making, a community that would also liberate the individual, a way of thinking that would also become a way of doing. The transcendentalists taught that each person should follow his or her own genius. There are two obstacles to following your genius and one sure way of finding it. One obstacle that many face believes that traveling will help show your true genius. Yet your true genius is already embedded inside of you. Emerson in his teachings proclaims that “traveling is a fool’s paradise”, and how “the superstition of Traveling… etains its fascination for all educated Americans”. This point shows that Americans believe that they can only fulfill their want for self-culture by leaving behind what they currently understand and by being in a new environment they will be able to expand on their own genius. Another obstacle is imitation because by imitating you aren’t using your true genius you are borrowing from someone else. Emerson reiterates to “Insist on yourself; never imitate”. In the quote Emerson is saying how to harness your true genius you must be extemporaneous.
To put it simply Emerson wants you to not follow what has been taught, but to accept what you believe as fact. If you can manage that then finding your genius will come easy to you. To find your genius you must be your own aboriginal self. You must be able to follow your own instinct and intuition instead of conforming to what others had to say. In conclusion, being able to avoid the obstacles to discover your true genius are very important and by finding your true genius you will then understand a single blessing of nonconformity.
Transcendentalists believe that the blessing of nonconformity is the true meaning of self reliance. To be able to non-conform you must be able to believe that your life is for itself and not for spectacle. People that can display this are able to do all that concerns them, not what the people around you think. Mainly because the people around them have little minds controlled by foolish consistencies. The people who cannot conform to nonconformity will think that their actions are genuine when in reality their conformity explains their actions.
An answer to help people find them true selves is to no longer follow what the greats have to say. Accept what your own mind tells you and be able to live with that answer. That answer is what you truly believe and to you that answer should be correct and if you think differently you have allowed someone to influence you. Self-reliance is for Emerson a declaration of spiritual independence, a plea for religious autonomy. To transcendentalists not allowing accept your own knowledge, as truth is a horror of consistency.
The transcendentalists taught how conformity was the biggest bstacle to self reliance. Society promotes imitation strongly because society never wants to advance. “Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not”(Emerson). Conformity is when people turn outward from themselves to answer questions of understanding themselves and the world. For example, when people travel imitate they seek acceptance or similar results from the person they are imitating. From imitating people develop a hobgoblin that will haunt their little mind and fill their mind with a foolish consistency.
The Unitarian faith that shaped Emerson’s youth and early adulthood was, to be sure, the most advanced form of Christianity in its day. Although the Unitarians still believed that the Bible revealed God’s plan for humankind, they had come to reject the Puritan idea that people were inherently depraved. Also, contrary to almost all other Christian churches, they viewed Jesus Christ as the highest representative of mankind rather than as the son of God. “In his sermons, Emerson struggled to put forward his own ideas while staying within the limits of Unitarian doctrine.
Some of his subsequent essays, such as “Self-Reliance,” echo his early sermons”(Moss & Wilson) Emerson the founder of transcendentalism even had a tough time limiting himself and not expanding upon ideas that could have explored his life as a Christian. People that have the blessing of being able to be a nonconformist will never have the equilibrium because being imitative is a necessity for human evolution. The transcendentalist teaching is a chimera; an impossible idea or hope, that most people will never achieve.
The thought of having a humane society where everyone is unique and imitating is banned how will society evolve. If no one can learn from their mistakes, then how will the human race survive. The transcendentalist teaching is something gods could pull off, but for mere mortals it is irrational to consider. For regular people following snippets of transcendentalism one being every man has a cause. We even say that today; you were put on this planet for a purpose and that is something most people can relate to. So the transcendentalist teaching is meant for gods, but humans can meet some features of it.
On 4 July 1845 Thoreau moved into his hut at Walden, planning to write A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, but with the added purpose of putting to a test the transcendentalist view of life. “I went to the woods,” he wrote in Walden, “because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ” “The basic premise of transcendentalism was that reality lies in the worlds of thought and spirit; yet the world of things reflects intellectual and spiritual truths and hence merits cl attention”(Westbrook). There seems to be a necessity in spirit to manifest itself in material forms,” Emerson wrote; and Thoreau in one of his essays, echoed Emerson: “Let us not underrate the value of a fact; it will one day flow into a truth. ” However, both Emerson and Thoreau thought that material things were being vastly overrated in the America of their times. Believing that “our life is frittered away by detail”(Thoreau), “Thoreau at Walden Pond attempted to simplify his own existence to the utmost in order to free it from the conventions and concerns that in his opinion deaden the spirit”(Westbrook).
Henry Thoreau once famously noted that he had “traveled much in Concord,” and over the years scholars have traveled equally much in Thoreau, finding in him a chorus Of “representative men,” to borrow a title from his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson. He is the exemplar of Emersonian self-reliance; he is the man who put transcendental philosophy into practice on the shores of Walden Pond; he is the voice of political conscience, forerunner of Gandhi and King; and, increasingly of late, he is a prominent poster boy for American environmentalism (Ryden).
Transcendentalism is a way of acting where you put your thoughts over what others believe and you choose to be your aboriginal self. You must realize that your true genius is already inside of you and by traveling or trying to imitate others this goes against your genius. Three this that will help immensely to help you achieve a state of originality. So one is by following your true genius by insisting on yourself; never imitating others. Another is by realizing the blessing of nonconformity. To realize these blessings you must be able to believe that your life is for itself and not for spectacle.
Lastly you must be able to acknowledge that by conforming you lose the chance to evolve because as the waves of evolution move on the water of consistency stays behind and never moves. To conclude transcendentalism is a very rare way of living and if everyone had to abide by it would be detrimental to society. Also always remember what the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail and to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. “