Choose a work by Emerson or Thoreau and demonstrate with quotes how the text is an example of Transcendental thought.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Nature" is a work that clearly demonstrates the basic tenets of Transcendentalism.

  • One of these tenets is a belief that God is present in every aspect of Nature, including every human being. In "Nature" Emerson supports this belief as he writes,

But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars.  The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and vulgar things.  One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime....If the stars should would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!

  • Another tenet of Transcendentalism is that all of Nature is symbolic of the spirit.  Emerson expresses this belief in his writing of "Nature" when he observes,

In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows.  Nature says--he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me....Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

Unlike the Naturalists who perceived an indifferent universe, Emerson believes that Nature is in sympathy with man. He asserts that for the man "laboring under calamity," the heat of "his fire hath sadness in it."  The sky is grey for the man of sorrow, and "shuts down over less worth in the population."

  • Still another tenet of Transcendentalism is the belief that everyone is capable of apprehending God through the use of intuition.  Emerson contends that he can "see all":

Standing on the bare ground--my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space--all mean egotism vanishes.  I become a transparent eyeball.  I am nothing.  I see all.  The currents of the Universal being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.

Exhilarated by Nature's beauty and solice, Emerson and other Transcendentalists felt they were in tune with their better selves, in harmony with the eternal.

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