Transcendentalism #JusJoJan

Today’s secret woid for Just Jot It January was selected for us by Deborah Drucker, who blogs over at Notes Tied On The Sagebrush, and it is transcendence.

Naturally, I thought immediately of Transcendentalism, which became popular in the Northeast in the mid-19th Century. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were two of its more famous adherents, as well as Walt Whitman and Louisa May Alcott.


Ralph Waldo Emerson. Source: Wikipedia

Wikipedia tells us “Transcendentalism was rooted in English and German Romanticism, the Biblical criticism of Herder and Schleiermacher, the skepticism of Hume, and the transcendental philosophy of Immanuel Kant and of German Idealism. It was also influenced by Indian religions, especially the Upanishads.” It also tells us “Transcendentalists believed that society and its institutions ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual, and had faith that people are at their best when truly ‘self-reliant’ and independent.” (Emphasis mine.)

One of Emerson’s essays was “Self-Reliance,” in which he says “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Read the whole thing, and think to what extent our institutions (the political parties, government, the news media, academia, etc.) have “corrupted” our “purity” as “individuals”…

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Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

14 thoughts on “Transcendentalism #JusJoJan”

  1. I had a college prof who said he was a practicing Transcendentalist. He was a pleasant man, but didn’t seem to transcend the need to give us tests and issue grades. Apparently his faith didn’t cause him to worry about students being corrupted by academia. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  2. I find it really interesting to consider how independence self-reliance was emphasised as the core value. Today, a key alternative I hear is more along the lines of ‘interdependence’ and collaboration.

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      1. Yes! That was such a revelation for me, as I was raised to believe people were inherently ‘bad’. I think that led to a lot of harm and suffering. I found It takes courage at first to realise I can trust that I, like all humans, am doing my best to contribute to life and joy in myself and others … I find that makes it easier to learn quickly from what hasn’t worked out and keep growing

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        1. I was raised to take care of the people around me: my family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, people I go to church with. Mother Teresa once said that if every person swept his own doorstep, the whole world would be clean, and I agree.

          There are bad people, but they’re in the minority. Most people are good in their own way. I’m prone to giving someone the benefit of the doubt.

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