Tuberculosis was the nineteenth-century plague. In 1840s you had a short life expectancy. The largest cities that expanded fast were Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Charleston. Many people didn’t go to school, George Washington was everyone’s favorite hero.
The word transcendental refers to the idea that in determining the ultimate reality of God, the universe, the self, and other important matters, one must transcend, or go beyond, everyday human experience in the physical world. Ralph Waldo Emerson believed transcendentalism was "the very oldest of thoughts cast into the mold of these new times". Referring to Idealism because Idealists said true reality involved ideas rather than the world seen by the senses. Transcendentalists were like Idealists but more practical, they believe in human perfection and work towards it. Emerson was influential and best-known number of the Transcendentalist group. Puritan thought, Jonathan Edwards beliefs, and Romantic William Cullen Bryant were the American costs of Transcendentalism. Jonathan Edwards found God’s wisdom, purity, and love in the sun, moon, and stars – in fact, all nature. Emerson was optimistic. Emerson believed in the power of intuition, our ability to learn directly without conscious use of reasoning. He emphasized the importance of each individual, and his outlook was optimistic. Benjamin Franklin thought rationally while Emerson thought intuitively.
A Transcendentalist’s View of the World
- Everything in the world, including human beings, is a reflection of the Divine Soul
- The physical facts of the natural world are a doorway to the spiritual or ideal world
- People can use their intuition to behold God’s spirit revealed in nature or in their own souls
- Self-reliance and individualism must outweigh external authority and blind conformity to custom and tradition
- Spontaneous feelings and intuition are superior to deliberate intellectualism and rationality