Essays on Transcendentalism

Essays on Transcendentalism

The characteristic of transcendentalism is living a simple life. For example, in the play, Walden: Ballad of Thoreau, Jonathan portrays Thoreau living a simple life. He lives in a small cabin he built for himself with few possessions to live with. During those two years he spent in the cabin, he wrote Walden to share all his thoughts, and experiences about nature, understanding society, and scientific observations. This shows that living a simple life can lead to a positive way of thinking. Instead of focusing on all the negativity that technology causes, society can focus on what to and not to pursue, other people, healthier lifestyle, becoming successful, and nature. In addition, Graham Hill is an example of modern-day transcendentalism. He suggested that “less might actually equal more” (Hill).

Essay on transcendentalism (350 words)

Transcendentalism was a movement back in the 19th century. During this period, authors like Thoreau, and Walden emerged as the face of the movement. Their work gave many people new ways of thinking. They emphasized self-reliance, nonconformity, the relationship between man and nature, and living a simple life. As time goes by, these mindsets are slowly fading away. They are being left behind for technology, and new ways of life. Society are becoming more from the simplicity and that is not the way it should be. As society moves into the future, society should return to its simple way of living close to nature.

One of the main characteristics of transcendentalism is knowing the importance of the relationship between man and nature. In Thoreau’s Where I Lived and What I Lived For, Thoreau comes to the realization that he is glad that he did not end up owning the farm because he felt like he would have destroyed the beauty of it, “thus that I had been a rich man without any damage without any damage to my property” (Thoreau). Technological advances have caused abundant of trees to be cut down. People cut down trees for land developments, mining, oil, companies to earn money, and agricultural uses. This mass deforestation causes climate change, the unusual shifts of weather patterns around the world. These patterns in weather patterns lead to rising sea levels due to ice caps melting, droughts, and crop failure. Another example of this transcendentalism is Emerson’s relationship to nature. He states that “the power to produce this delight, does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both” (Emerson). He is saying that humans need to take a step to acknowledge the importance of nature. If humans focus on technology more, then they will take nature for granted. It is important to think about nature first because humans could cause nature to erupt at any time. If society does not see the importance of nature, then people would make nature less of a priority, and distance away from it.

Essay on transcendentalism (500 words)

'Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind” (Walden Citation). The Transcendentalist movement initially began as a reaction to more attention placed on industrialization and material goods but grew into so much more. At the time, new job opportunities opened up, and people’s lives were enhanced by new technologies which made moving to the city convenient and an appeal to many farmers. As a result, society began to shift from a rural to a more urban one as the population began to become more and more concentrated in big cities. Soon, a counterculture arose led by one most radical thinkers of the time, Henry David Thoreau. He believed that there should be less focus on worldly objects or superficial comforts and more on one’s self-reliance and independence. His idea was that these comforts were distractions that could cause a disconnection with one to their inner-self.

When a group of Boston ministers decided that their church had become too conservative, they created a new religious philosophy in accordance with their own beliefs - one that held that truths that come from within and wisdom that comes from self-reflection to a higher standard than church doctrine. Thoreau tested how strong these truths were when he left his community life and lived in a cabin alone for two years. He details this experience in Walden, published in 1854 where he advises readers to follow what they believe, not certain standards that society sets. The Transcendentalist movement began in the 1830s and lasted through the 1860s, causing a definite impact on the art, culture, and literature of the period. The Transcendentalist movement that emerged in the mid-nineteenth century came as a result of an increased focus on industrialization and urbanization, which in contrast, led to individuals having a desire to think less about worldly objects and more on finding meaning from within and through one’s own journey.

Transcendentalism is both a literary and philosophical movement that emphasizes living a simple life. Through their writings and experiences in their lives, transcendentalists find truth in nature, in personal emotion, and in imagination. The path to knowledge lays through personal experience and intuition for transcendentalists. They believed individuals should forge their own path and not rely on others to make decisions for them, but on their own feelings instead. The ideals that Transcendentalists impressed upon others had a major impact on society as it gave a fresh perspective to individuals consumed by the chaotic nature of city life. It taught them to connect to themselves through nature and inner reflection. All human beings are considered to have inner wisdom and can tap into this reservoir of knowledge by tuning into nature and leading a self-reliant lifestyle. The movement also revolves around the belief that everyone has the potential to self-improve and on can connect to God through nature on their own and did not need to be practicing an organized religion or be at a church to make that connection.

Essay on transcendentalism (600 words)

Transcendentalism is important in nature because it conveys multiple meanings. Because the society in which Transcendentalists lived was being controlled more and more by industry, they saw nature as a way to achieve liberation from society. To them and to their followers, nature was considered a place where one could keep in touch with their soul because it was not full of distractions that could make someone become detached from themselves. Truths that people gain about themselves when removed from society and in nature “transcend” what they can understand about themselves in the confinements of civilization.

In nature, one can also be more self-reliant. Self-reliance, according to Ralph Waldo Emerson is achieved by following one’s own instincts and not relying on others for decisions that one can make themselves. They can be their own authority on what is right. In his essay “Self-Reliance” Emerson details how he feels about society and why he prefers for one to be self-reliant. Emerson says “society everywhere is in a conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members” (). He continues by saying that society is a joint-stock company in which individuals “surrender [their] liberty and culture.” (). What he means is that society is based on conformity, rules, and customs. When one is a part of society, they surrender their free will and individualistic nature. They no longer listen to how they really feel inside but conform to the expectations of society. In this way, someone in society is no longer self-reliant because they do not listen to their own feelings and now must make decisions based on what society deems acceptable. In his mind, society discourages individualism.

Lastly, Transcendentalists were visionaries in their attitudes, toward the elimination of slavery, and women’s rights. They were deeply concerned with making the world a better place and rebelled against the social norms of 19th century America, introducing ideas that people soon latched onto and helping to change cultural attitudes around these issues. As time went on, the transcendentalists expanded their goal from themselves onto other people as well. Their goal now was not only based on personal liberation but social liberation as well. Both Thoreau and Emerson practiced “civil disobedience” which is when people do not follow certain laws that they considered to be unjust. They believed people should follow their conscience and rely on their judgments, even of it meant breaking the law. By peacefully refusing to obey these laws people acted in accordance with their own beliefs. Thoreau himself broke the law by refusing to pay taxes because he did not want to support the U.S. government which allowed slavery. His essay titled “Civil Disobedience” was so impactful and inspired later leaders like Mohandas Gandhi and American Civil Rights leaders to fight for what they believed in a peaceful manner. Next, Emerson wrote to president President Martin Van Buren in 1838 to protest the removal of Native Americans from the Eastern U.S. Margaret Fuller, another Transcendentalist, urged women to reject the traditional beliefs that prevented them from achieving equality in society. Through civil disobedience, Transcendentalists inspired a shift in cultural attitudes regarding these issues.

Overall, the ideas of Transcendentalism inspired a major cultural shift in society through the way people viewed themselves, and through literature. People became deeper and more analytical thinkers and their attitudes shifted toward the major industrialism that was happening at the time. They read about these ideas in books and practiced them in their lives. Lastly, civil disobedience inspired others to fight for what they thought was right and gave them an alternative method to get their views across without using violence.

Essay on transcendentalism (800 words)

What kind of people do we have in our world? Are they people that think for themselves or are they allowing outside influences to mold their ideas? Are they really free or are they only free to do what someone tells them to do or how to behave? Back in the 1800s, some people were concerned about this type of bondage in living. Out of these concerns transcendentalism developed as the response of a group of people who felt that it was unfair to live a life that was based on fear. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “Self-Reliance” and Henry David Thoreau wrote “Walden” to express their perspectives on transcendentalism. According to transcendental writers such as Emerson and Thoreau, transcendentalism teaches people to model themselves after nature in order to become self-reliant individuals because nature helps them to escape from reality, they become their own authority and they begin to follow their own instincts and ideas.

First, nature helps them to escape from reality. “ My purpose in going to Walden Pond was not to live cheaply nor to live dearly there, but to transact some private business with the fewest obstacles: to be hindered from accomplishing which for want of a little common sense, a little enterprise and business talent, appeared not so sad as foolish” (Walden, p.15). Thoreau believed that he could gain special, transcendent knowledge about the creation, God and faith from being close to nature. He went to the woods to learn to live deliberately and experience only the essential facts of life. He practiced individualism by separating himself from society and its institutions. He believed that they only corrupted the purity of the individual. Nature in turn frees his mind so that he could connect with his inner spirit. He also believed in the divinity of nature knowing that nature is sacred and it is imperative for individuals to connect with nature.

Additionally, they become their own authority. 'A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages” (Self-Reliant P.19). Emerson is expressing here to stand for what one believes in rather than just following the crowd. Spiritual reality transcends the empirical and scientific. Emerson was put in jail because he refused to pay his poll tax. He did not want to pay for something that he did not believe in. This is called civil disobedience-the refusal to comply with certain laws or to pay taxes and fines, as a peaceful form of political protest. He did not believe in accepting ideas as religion beliefs but as a way of understanding life relationships. This type of thinking allows one to become stronger because he’s not forced to match social expectations or standards.

Above all, they begin to follow their own instincts and ideas. 'No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature (Self-Reliant p. 21). Emerson’s faith was that people were at their best when truly “self-reliant” and independent. Men are at their best when they are independent and not a part of organized religion or politics. The ultimate goal is to do what one believes is right rather than going with what society thinks. If everyone in society were solid, strong and independent individuals would feel fulfilled. However, society would be somewhat rebellious. They would fail to follow laws if they did not agree with them. When one saw this happen they too would follow. It would then look like a boomerang of the beginning. When people were in bondage and not thinking for themselves but following others.

In conclusion, these three principles of transcendentalism surely promote what the beliefs of transcendentalism are. However, more in touch with nature and away from reality will separate communities. People will want to be alone to become in touch with their inner being. People will become their own authority. They will begin to do whatever they feel is right to do. Without a doubt, when people begin to follow their own instincts and ideas one can say that anything goes. Whatever they think is what they do. Others will notice and follow their lead. Sadly to say that this full circle will bring back around the same slave mentalities doing what someone else is doing and not being able to think for one’s self. Let’s ask this question again. What kind of people do we have in our world? Are they people that think for themselves or are they allowing outside influences to mold their ideas? Are they really free or are they only free to do what someone tells them to do or how to behave?


Lawrence, David Herbert. Walden. CRW Publishing Limited, 2004.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Self Reliance & Other Essays. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.

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We've found 51 essays on Transcendentalism

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Compare Essays Baldwin & Emerson

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Self-reliance: Transcendentalism and Emerson

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Walden and Transcendentalism

Henry Thoreau’s masterpiece, Walden or a Life in the Woods, shows the impact transcendentalism had on Thoreau’s worldview. Transcendentalism is a philosophy that asserts the primacy of the spiritual over the material. Transcendentalism puts the emphasis on spiritual growth and understanding as opposed to worldly …

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Transcendentalism in Literature, Philosophy and Culture

Jess Ms. K Accelerated English 10A 26 November 2012 Transcendentalism Final Paper Eras pass, cultural views die out, and society evolves. While this occurs, we still have transcendental views, which are from the mid 1800s, in society whether we realize it or not. Transcendentalism is …

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Into the Wild and Walden

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Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism

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Refusal in Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener

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Transcendentalist Mccandless

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Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that developed in the late 1820s and 1830s in New England.


Transcendentalism was a religious, literary, and political movement that evolved from New England Unitarianism in the 1820s and 1830s. They developed literary as well as theological forms of expression, making perhaps a stronger impact on American literary and artistic culture than they did on American religion.


Writer Ralph Waldo Emerson was the primary practitioner of the movement, which existed loosely in Massachusetts in the early 1800s before becoming an organized group in the 1830s.


Transcendentalists advocated the idea of a personal knowledge of God, believing that no intermediary was needed for spiritual insight. They embraced idealism, focusing on nature and opposing materialism.

Transcendentalism Authors

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Margaret Fuller
  • Amos Bronson Alcott
  • Louisa May Alcott

Transcendentalism books

  • Walden
  • Self‑Reliance
  • American Transcendentalism
  • The American Transce...
  • The essays of Ralph W...

Frequently asked questions

What is the transcendentalism?
The transcendentalism is a philosophical and religious movement that stresses the importance of the individual's experience of God. It is based on the belief that the individual is capable of experiencing God directly, without the need for intermediaries such as the Church or other institutions. Transcendentalists believe that the individual's experience of God is more important than any doctrine or set of beliefs.
How to write transcendentalism essay?
Every transcendentalism essay will be unique, based on the individual writer's understanding of and experience with transcendentalism. However, there are some key elements that should be included in any transcendentalism essay in order to do the subject justice. Firstly, it is important to provide a clear definition of transcendentalism, explaining what the movement entails and how it differs from other philosophical approaches. Secondly, the essay should explore the key ideas and principles of transcendentalism, highlighting how these can be applied to modern life. Thirdly, the essay should discuss the major figures associated with transcendentalism, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and their contributions to the movement. Finally, the essay should reflect on the legacy of transcendentalism and its continued relevance in the modern world. With these elements in place, any transcendentalism essay will provide a comprehensive and insightful exploration of this important philosophical movement.
How to start transcendentalism essay?
The best way to start a transcendentalism essay will vary depending on the specific focus and goals of the essay. However, some tips on how to start a transcendentalism essay include:1. Start by introducing the key concepts of transcendentalism.2. Discuss the history of transcendentalism and how it has influenced thought and culture.3. Introduce the major figures associated with transcendentalism.4. Discuss the key ideas of transcendentalism.5. Use examples and real-world applications to illustrate the key ideas of transcendentalism.6. Conclude by summarizing the key points of transcendentalism and how it can be applied to modern life.
What Was The Name Of The Philosophical Movement Which Developed In New England In The 1820's And 1830's Which Believed That People, Men And Women Equally, Have Knowledge About Themselves And The World Around Them That "transcends" Or Goes Beyond What They Can See, Hear, Taste, Touch Or Feel.
The philosophical movement which developed in New England in the 1820's and 1830's and which believed that people, men and women equally, have knowledge about themselves and the world around them that transcends" or goes beyond what they can see, hear, taste, touch or feel was called transcendentalism. The most famous transcendentalists were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau."

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