Amercan Transcendentalism
Major Tenets and Study Guide


I. Major Tenets:
Listed below are tenets (ideas) shared by many, not all, of the authors associated with Transcendentalism.
(In bold are some of the key terms that function in Transcendentalism.)

1. Transcendentalism is a form of philosophical idealism (Platonic).

2. The transcendentalist  rises above the lower animalistic impulses in life, as well as the cultural restrictions
of society, and moves from the rational to a spiritual realm.

3.  God or the Life Force in the universe can be found everywhere, thus no need for churches or holy
places.

4. God can be found in both nature and human nature. God is not super human being but a spirit in us all.

5.  Every person possesses the "inner light" of  God, which must be nourished to sustain us.

6.  Every person possesses "intuition," an essentalist understanding of right and wrong  (moral action).

7. Culture and society tend to corrupt our intuition, establishing other determiners for morality and truth
(church, government, peer groups,etc.) that deny us our own truths.

8.  Thinking helps us to actualize the authority of our intuition.  Thus, we feel what's right/wrong; then we know what's right/wrong.

9.  Learning can also aid intuition and connect us to nature, resulting in the drive for self-culture--learning new ideas and skills.

10. However, the past, in terms of learning and knowledge, should not limit or define who we are today.  The material world is influx; the spiritual
realm  (fixed) mansfests itself in different ways over time.  Hence, emphasis on the here and now.

11. We should live close to nature, for it is our greatest teacher.  Nature is emblematic, and understanding its "language" can
bring us closer to God .  Poets know this, and they write in the language of nature, helping us to connect our lives
to the spiritual realm. They replace the priests and ministers of the church.

12.  Individualism lies at the heart of Transcendentalism.  Every indivudual needs to be self-reliant and thus not depend upon others
if he or she is to be free and to live life fully.  Self-empowered is attained by defying the authority of  "empty" conventions and senseless rules.

13.  The Bible was written for people in the past and may offer some transcending lessons.  But it is not the word of God. or the
ultimate authority on how to live your life.

14. Jesus had God in him too, like all of us, but he was not God.  In many ways, though, he taught valuable lessons and lived a
transcendent life, which should be studied.  The miracles of the Bible are doubted in terms of specialness; the universe around us everyday is
full of the miracles of nature.

15. Evil (dark)  is the absence of good (light), but good is more powerful.  The law of compensation means that good will always arise
from evil.

II. Study Guide for mid-term examination:
Understanding the major tenets of Transcendentism will be useful on the mid-term.  Listed below are several focused topics that might appear on the exam.

Emerson:  Definition of nature (two types); concepts of self-reliance, intuition, and self-culture; nature versus "art;" main characteristics of
the poet; world is emblematic; good and evil--law of compensation; spiritual and human co-creation; arguments for non-conformity.

Thoreau:  Relationship between two aspects of human nature; busking; railroad as metaphor and chapter on "Spring;" solitude and self-culture;
his purpose in going into the woods and writing Walden; the meaning and significance of the title of first chapter, "Economy;" his proclamation-"What shall I
learn of beans and beans of me?"

Douglass:  Major pro-slavery arguments; how he attacks those arguments; his position on religion and slavery; how slavery corrupts family and
marriage for both owners and slaves.

Fuller:  The cult of domesticity; types of marriages, ranked; on slavery and women; male arguments against equality; influence of Transcendentalism
on her views; Fuller as essentialist and/or constructionist.