Becoming a Transcendentalist Sina SamiePeriod 3 We will walk on our own; we will work with our own hands; we will speak our own minds A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men (The American Scholar). As the essence of transcendentalism, Ralph Waldo Emerson writes about the necessary steps one must take to become closer to God. To become spiritually intimate with God, Emerson conceives, one must separate himself from extraneous influences of society and seek guidance in the natural divinity of God s creations. Together, these two concepts can be analyzed to understand the thoughts of a transcendentalist mind. As the personification of transcendentalism, Emerson, in his works, highlights his principle belief that the purpose of life is to learn the lessons of existence through the observation, understanding and interpretation of Nature. In one of Emerson s most popular essays, Nature, Emerson writes about the responsibility of man to learn from Nature s teachings.
Thus is the unspeakable but intelligible and practical meaning of the world conveyed to man, the immortal pupil, in every object of sense (Idealism). Emerson believes that the answer to any challenging question can be fulfilled if man is prepared to look in the right places. If man would use his observational skills to understand the lessons that are spiritually conveyed him, he would find the true meaning of Nature. To many transcendentalists, including Emerson, Nature is seen as a medium of communication between the factual world and the spiritual world.
God exists. There is a soul at the center of Nature and over the will of every man, so that none of us could wrong the universe (Natural Laws). Much like the theory of divine providence, Emerson s philosophy suggests that God has an impact on the everyday occurrences of their lives To a transcendentalist, God is seen as the eternal guardian of the universe, watching over his creations to make certain no harm is done to it. Similar to his beliefs about finding meaning in life, Emerson also believes in uncovering the lessons of worship advocated in Nature. The happiest man is he who learns from Nature the lessons of worship (Spirit). He believes that each man has his own means of worship, and that the spirituality of man can only be surpassed if he learns from the wisdom of Nature.
Every individual has his own spiritual association with God that is established as a result of his interactions with the natural world. Transcendentalists clearly feel that the greatest way to associate with God is to seek the lessons of spirituality in Nature. In order to unearth this spirituality concealed in Nature, transcendentalists like Emerson believe that it is essential for man to spend time away from the influence of society, renounce all of society s conventional doctrines, and remain self-sufficient, even when his individuality is swayed by social interactions. In Emerson s Nature, Emerson emphasizes the significance of individualism in the principles of transcendentalism.
It is simpler to be self-dependent. The height, the deity of man is, to be self-sustained, to need no gift, no foreign force. Society is good when it does not violate me; but best when it is likest to solitude (Nature). In order to reach an elevated level of spirituality, man must avoid the manipulative effects of society. Only then can he become entirely devoted to his views. To isolate himself from society, Emerson asserts, man must disown all the rules that society forces upon him.
And that s the moment he acts from himself, tossing the laws, the books, idolatries, and customs out the window; we pity him no more but thank and revere him (Self-Reliance). Once man discards all the rules and regulations society uses to govern his life, he becomes self-reliant. From Emerson s aspect, this is a critical step toward raising oneself to the level of divinity of a transcendentalist. When man s individuality is put on the line, Emerson writes, there is always an instinctive force that prevents him from returning to reliance. The boundaries are invisible, but they are never crossed. There is such good will to impart, and such good will to receive, that each threatens to become the other; but the law of individuality collects its secret strength: you are you, and I am I, and so we remain (Uses of Great Men).
When put on the line, man s individuality will always distinguish him from others. As much as he is subconsciously tempted to conform to society, the natural law of individuality will keep him from doing so. Self-reliance, from the transcendentalists viewpoint, is imperative to finding the true divinity of man. As the epitome of transcendentalism, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his work, illustrates to the reader the steps that must be taken by man to reach a superior level of spirituality. Learning the divine lessons of Nature is a critical theme that many transcendentalist writers discuss. In order to learn from such lessons, man must separate himself from outside influences and devote his life to Nature.
Emerson s revolutionary point-of-view continues to influence the minds of scholars around the world on issues such as religion, independence and Nature. Each of the various levels of Emerson s work holds messages that both enlighten and enrich the reader, explaining some of the simplest and most complicated thoughts of man. His brilliance has changed American literature by inspiring American authors such as Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman. Emerson s thoughts will forever leave their mark on the minds of the people who read his writings all over the world.