Transcendentalists believed in individuality, independence, idealism, intuition, simplicity, spirituality, living in the moment, civil disobedience and the importance of nature. They created an American state of mind or identity in which imagination was better than reason and action was better than contemplation- the rugged, resourceful, self-reliant individual. And they had faith and confidence that all would be well because humans could transcend limits and reach astonishing heights.
The Transcendental Club was associated with colorful members between 1836 and 1860. Among these were literary figures RALPH WALDO EMERSON, NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW, and WALT WHITMAN. But the most interesting character by far was HENRY DAVID THOREAU, who tried to put transcendentalism into practice. A great admirer of Emerson, Thoreau nevertheless was his own man — described variously as strange, gentle, fanatic, selfish, a dreamer, a stubborn individualist. For two years Thoreau carried out the most famous experiment in self-reliance when he went to WALDEN POND, built a hut, and tried to live self-sufficiently without the trappings or interference of society. Later, when he wrote about the simplicity and unity of all things in nature, his faith in humanity, and his sturdy individualism, Thoreau reminded everyone that life is wasted pursuing wealth and following social customs. Nature can show that "all good things are wild and free."
Thoreau and Emerson emphasized the transcendentalist idea of human harmony with nature. Transcendentalists believed that the Earth was alive and dynamic, not just dead strata to be observed by scientists. Emerson claimed immersion in the nature is necessary for the improvement of individual- the mutual correlation between the character and nature play a crucial role in maintaining the character’s well-being. They believed that nature can help us improve spiritually and help us connect to the rest of the world. Nature frees our minds so we can connect with our inner spirit. Comprehending things beyond the normal comprehension of man is one of the outcomes of studying nature, which mirrors proper living and interaction with the universe. According to Transcendental ideas, everything is connected, everything is one. Man can discover all universal laws at work from within God’s manifestation illustrating a direct perception of God and openness to the natural world avenues to self-understanding through the presence of the divine spirit in both nature and the human soul.
“The indescribable innocence and beneficence of Nature, —of sun and wind and rain, of summer and winter, —such health, such cheer, they afford forever! … Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable would myself?”
“I wish to speak a word for Nature, for the absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with the freedom and culture merely civil-to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society… Let me live where I will, on this side is the city, on that the wilderness, and ever I am leaving the city more and more, withdrawing in the wilderness”
“Nature is the place where God can be found, he wrote. Nature is thus sacred; it is a source of nourishment, of beauty and inspiration. It is in Nature, therefore, and in Nature alone, that man can find what he needs: it is where God speaks to him; it is where man can regenerate himself, without the help of traditional, institutional religion-since his only religion, indeed, is Nature.”
“In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life-no disgrace, no calamity … A leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole. … So intimate is this Unity, that, it is easily seen, it lies under the undermost garment of nature, and betrays its source in the Universal Spirit.”
“that Unity, that Over-Soul, within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other. … We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE”