An Essay on Transcendentalism

An Essay on Transcendentalism

An Essay on Transcendentalism

An Essay on Transcendentalism

Excerpt

The keynote of New England Transcendentalism is individualism. It is stressed in virtually every one of the major documents of the movement. Each Transcendentalist was to follow his own intuition wherever it led him, for it was the voice of God speaking within him. Little wonder is it then that it was never a unified movement and that it has been difficult to find a common ground on which to approach all of its highly individualistic members.

Yet there must be a central core to their beliefs or their basic premise is a faulty one. For if their intuition emanates directly from God, it must show a pattern of consistency, for to them God was the source of truth, and truth is unchanging. But the Transcendentalists themselves were not interested in tracing out that consistency. "Damn consistency," Emerson said, for he realized that any attempt within the individual to maintain a constant consistency would more-than-likely end in a devotion to trivialities. "Act singly, and what you have already done singly will justify you now. . . . For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem. These varieties are lost sight of at a little distance, at a little height of thought. One tendency unites them all."

The Transcendentalists therefore were uninterested in elucidating any over-all pattern of belief. They faced each problem as it arose, content that in the . . .

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