Transcendentalism is defined by a focus on spirituality, idealist principles, the acceptance of a higher power without remaining inside a religious doctrine, the beauty of nature, and the power of solitude and meditation. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are the two most important figures in Transcendentalism.
Because of his multi-ethnic upbringing, Saul Bellow felt a deep connection to spirituality, although he never codified a permanent belief for himself. He adopted and used many spiritual techniques and thoughts in his books, including Transcendentalism, which he incorporated into Herzog and Humboldt's Gift. Bellow never wrote with the direct intention to address spirituality or to create something "transcendent," but he did acknowledge the influence of the movement on his books. In Humboldt's Gift, protagonist Charlie is striving for literary excellence, but his success is mocked by his friend Humboldt, who claims that a "real" intellectual writes for the joy of creation instead of for money. This exemplifies Bellow's view on the matter; although he admired the idealistic thinking of Transcendentalism, he understood the pragmatic nature of man, and the need to survive as well as create.