Self-Reliance and transcendentalism Essay

Self-Reliance and transcendentalism Essay.

Many people in our world are often trying to be self-reliant; trying to make it on their own and be original in thought and true to themselves. Many of those people end up conforming and doing what has been done in the past. They end up walking down the worn out path that so many have walked before. However, a famous writer named Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that you need to venture off the main path and explore new ideas if you truly want to be great.

Emerson was one of the most famous examples of a transcendentalist. Transcendentalists were basically Idealists, but in a more practical sense. They believed that all people should strive to reach their goals and work hard till they reach human perfectibility. During his time period there was a great amount of positive growth in America and national identity causing many reforms in social, political, literary, and religious aspects of America. Transcendentalists believed that everything was a reflection of the Divine Soul.

When you begin to think about it many people in modern day life have many transcendentalists like qualities; many people try to work to be perfect and don’t stop till they are there.

Emerson brought forth many bold and new ideas in his essay Self-Reliance. One of the main thought of his essay was that if a person wants to be great, they must be come up with completely original ideas and stick with them as shown when he writes “Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.” He said that there was nobody to teach the great writers of his time period, thus if you want to be remembered for your greatness you must start your completely new way of thought. He writes his famous line, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored be little salesmen and philosophers and diviners. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.” This is saying that consistency can be a problem. If you strive to be consistent in all things, you live according to a pattern, you are afraid that people might look down on you for trying something new. Emerson’s ideas in his essay were basically those of transcendentalism.

As a typical modern day teen, I find it quiet interesting to look back at how much more self-reliant my peers around me and I have become over all the years. I used to rely on my mother making my lunch and checking my homework, but now it’s all up to me. Many people that are near my age try to start their own ways; some try starting a band, shirt company, website or something else completely original. On the other hand, some teens have seemingly become less self-reliant. Many end up conforming, trying to fit in, wearing what everyone else wears and doing what everyone else says is cool. They will do what ever it takes to fit in with the crowd. Personally, I believe that no one can be one hundred percent self-reliant, or at lease it isn’t for the best, there must be a balance. You must come up with your own thoughts and believe in yourself, but you can’t survive by yourself. I think to become self-reliant you must get help from others first and learn and be taught how to create something new, but not what.

There are many examples of transcendentalism and Emerson’s Self Reliance in today’s modern day society. There are examples everywhere you look; in the media, songs, T.V. shows, and many other places. One strong example of transcendental thought is in the song Prisoner of Society by The Living End. The song lines are, “We don’t need no one to tell us what to do. Yes were on our own and there’s nothing you can do” saying that they are out by themselves and they will not be influenced by what others say, they are making up their original thought. Another example of a transcendental like person is Bill Gates. He took a brand new idea that was never thought of before and become one of the richest most successful men in history. We use Microsoft products day by day all because of him sticking with original thought.

Emerson brought up many points in Self-Reliance that are still extremely valid in today’s society, and there are many examples of people who demonstrate these transcendental traits. Many of us struggle to try to reach self-reliance, and others don’t much care for it and don’t mind staying on the mainstream path. Emerson was a man that believed in original thought and that message was truly brought forth in his essay; we must try to venture of off the main trail and start our own.

Self-Reliance and transcendentalism Essay

Views of transcendentalism versus puritanism Essay

Views of transcendentalism versus puritanism Essay.

The Puritans see God as mysteriously involved in the acts of the universe, whereas the transcendentalists think God is connected to mankind through nature and intuition. The outlook on Puritan writing is that their style tends to be plain and introspective. Transcendentalist writing shows how nature and feelings are triumphant over logic and rationality. In contrast to the plain style of Puritan writing, Jonathan Edwards frequently strikes his audience with powerful words in his literature. He exemplifies this style in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” but still shows the lowliness of human beings in relation to God’s power, another Puritan trait.

In transcendentalist writing, the spiritual and ideal worlds are revealed through the physical facts of the natural world. A writer who uses transcendental techniques is Ralph Waldo Emerson. The work written by Emerson reflecting Transcendentalism is called “Nature.” The name itself portrays the piece as transcendental, but Emerson uses the forest and its components as symbols of the spiritual world.

In comparison, both the Puritans and the Transcendentalists focus on their own perceptions of the world and human existence.

Edwards’ sermon called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” reiterates the fact that God has more power than man. Wickedness and sin, as Edwards describes, leads man closer and closer into the depths of hell. Mankind is weak and helpless if God is provoked. “There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men’s hands cannot be strong when God rises up,” (Jonathan Edwards). Edwards uses the phrase “Men’s hands cannot be strong when God rises up” to evidently make his point.

His intention is to say that God and his powers should not be taken lightly. No matter how strong the will of man, God has the final say in it all. There is, however, a twist to his intention. Edwards directs the wrath of God mainly upon those who sin and that “He [God] is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it,” (Jonathan Edwards). By using the word “wicked,” Edwards hints at how man acts in order to provoke God. Sin leads towards mankind’s wickedness, therefore angering God. His wrath may come in different ways. Instead of throwing the inhabitants of Earth directly into the fiery depths of hell, He will let mankind destroy itself and withhold His retribution.

“The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher…the floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the meantime is constantly increasing, and you are everyday treasuring up more wrath,” (Jonathan Edwards).

Obviously, Edwards uses the water held behind a dam as a symbol. The dam represents God’s “hand,” and the water is His wrath. Comparing this, Edwards tries to explain that the longer the water is held back, the more force it will have when the dam will no longer support it; the longer God puts off judgment of man’s sin, the more powerful His punishment. The sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is a great example of the Puritan belief of society. A man is ether part of the elect, basically chosen to go to heaven, or of the damned that are sent to hell at God’s force.

On the softer side of God’s presence, Transcendentalism takes place. Their view is that intuition and nature as a whole is more powerful than intellect. In Emerson’s “Nature,” there is a strong sense of God being present through the wilderness and the natural way of life.

“All the parts incessantly work into each other’s hands for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man,” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

What Emerson is trying to get through to his audience is that God works in a process for the good of mankind. When he tells about how the wind, sun, rain, and plant, and how each work together in a cycle to support nature, he is comparing their jobs to God “nourishing” man. Emerson is also trying to say that without nature and its course, man would not survive. The Transcendentalists believe that the physical facts of the natural world are a doorway to the spiritual and ideal world; an apparent example is that “nature always wears the colors of the spirit,” (Emerson, Chapter: Nature). Emerson considers God to be present within physical properties of nature, in this case, color. The use of the word “always” suggests that God and the spiritual world are visible through nature to man no matter the condition. Conversely, do these relations of God and nature apply in any way to man? When a man is described as “a particle of God,” (Emerson, Ch: Nature), he is a piece of God and the spiritual world. There is a connection between man and nature because of God’s visibility through the environment. Ideally, the Transcendentalists show that man is not only a part of God, but also in nature.

People living in the Puritan and Transcendental periods of time believed that God was connected to humanity and the life surrounding it; also, God had the power to reveal himself to mankind and even take control, making Puritanism and Transcendentalism equivalent. Texts like “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and “Nature” are good examples of Puritan and Transcendental writing because they exemplify the characteristics and beliefs of each era. Elements in transcendentalism are knowledge and spiritual existence in nature, whereas Puritanism consists of discipline and God revealed through the inner self of man. Whether it be for “God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment,” (Edwards), or “divine charity [to] nourish man,” (Emerson), God was presented as a power both to reprimand and nurture civilization.

Views of transcendentalism versus puritanism Essay

Thoreau: Solitude Essay

Thoreau: Solitude Essay.

Henry David Thoreau is synonymous with Transcendentalism.  His mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, was the creator of the movement.  Because he truly believed in the concepts, Thoreau actually practiced it to the letter. Transcendentalism, a free meditation in spirituality and individualistic approach to everything, was something that he gave his life to exploring.

 He expounded on these views in Civil Disobedience and through his magnificent Plea for John Brown. Thoreau actually experimented with this idea when he self-imposed an exile on himself for two years at Walden Pond.

  He wrote about his experiment in Walden where he described his solitude in Chapter 5, and through this writing he was able to convey what he learned.  He learned that there was much to be learned in the solitude of society, and that complete solitude is not possible as long as there are natural surroundings because there is a complex society in nature.

            Solitude is the fifth chapter of Walden, written about the famous experiment at Walden Pond. Thoreau delves into a self-realization about nature on a cool windy evening when he is totally alone when it comes to other humans. There is no one around him except the elements, insects, and animals in their natural surroundings. He has gone outside and while he was there, he felt so close to nature that he even considered himself as one with it. This goes along with the Transcendentalist belief that God, nature and mankind are connected through an oversoul.  Nothing says this better than the first line of the chapter.

This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. (Thoreau)  He was keenly aware of the natural night life that was around him and he became entranced what he experienced. He has come to a greater understanding about the world around him that he and others have taken for granted. He took special note of the animals that do their work during the night. The wildest animals do not repose, but seek their prey now; the fox, and skunk, and rabbit, now roam the fields and woods without fear. They are Nature’s watchmen, — links which connect the days of animated life. (Thoreau)

            While living at Walden Pond, Thoreau was not totally isolated.  He had neighbors, even it they were far away be today’s standard.  He rarely interacted with them, but it did happen on occasion.  He explains that Walden Pond is not a vast forest, but rather a small one.  There are houses within a mile of where he lives and he has even had visitors while he was taking a nightly walk by the pond. Even though Walden is small, he feels completely isolated from humans when he is in the small wood.  He says that he knows this because all people are fascinated with nature, so they will play with a piece of it anytime that they are around.

            Thoreau has learned in his solitude that the seasons and the weather bring what is needed to nature. He can see seasons and weather not as something to complain about.  Many wish that whatever their circumstance, then they long for another.  Thoreau has learned to cope by allowing himself to delight in the fact that it is all good for the things on the earth.  So if it is hot, then that is what the plants and animals need at the time.  If the weather is bad, then that is what the items in nature need to help them grow and flourish.  He does not get depressed by not being able to go outside and do what he wants and needs to do.

  Instead he uses the time to focus on these needs in his mind.  Through his solitude, he has the ability to clear his head and to completely focus on what is happening in nature.  He imagines the roots and seeds of the plants. When an early twilight ushered in a long evening in which many thoughts had time to take root and unfold themselves. (Thoreau)  A person cannot focus the mind when it is full of the day’s activities and problems, but when it is alone. It can think clearly about his/her surroundings.  Thoreau even enjoyed the weather that kept him indoors because it allowed him to experience the total meditation he needed.

            Thoreau wonders how men could think that he is alone.  He feels that there are more societies than those created by man.  He presents the argument that no one or nothing is alone on earth because even the earth is a part of a huge galaxy, the Milky Way.

Thoreau is away from other humans, but the complex society of nature is all around him.  The animals in particular have a vast society.  They are all around mankind at all times.  The bullfrogs and all of the nocturnal animals are as busy as people in a city.  Insects by the thousands are there for mankind, but often man is too busy and has so much on his mind that he cannot see what is around him.  If more were in solitude, then they would have the chance to see and contemplate about the world around them.

            According to Thoreau, God is experimenting with man to see if he is addicted to gossip and other temptations of society.

Thoreau feels about his relation to God. Here in particular, he sees himself as being able, like God, to stand aloof from events going on around him. In a sense, life is like being a theater-goer, who can laugh and cry with the characters or remain indifferent. (Kifer)

He feels that man is a part of nature and God’s creation, therefore, God and nature are there for man.  It was a part of a grand design for them to all rely on each other. Instead of having the gossips in town for companions, he has a dog and that solitude is a state of mind.  He asserts that one can be lonely even when one is with many people.

            Thoreau has feels that he is not only on his own as far as being around people, but he is also in the position to provide for himself.  He even equates his need for medicine is as something that can be taken care of through a good deep breath of morning air in the country.  Nature provides all that an individual needs.

            Henry David Thoreau learned about becoming one with nature through his solitude.  He shares his views with others through his book Walden.  The Transcendental views and experiments helped him to become a part of the greater scheme of what he felt was important in the world.

Works Cited

Henry David Thoreau. American Transcendentalist Web. 2, August 2007,

Kifer, Ken. Solitude 2001. 2, August 2007.

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. 1854. Transcendentalist.Com. 2, August 2007,

Thoreau: Solitude Essay