Transcendentalists: Ralph Waldo Emerson and God Essay

Submitted By LAFFYTAFFY00
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Most people consider those who work all their lives, rely on themselves, and do not conform to their surroundings to be peculiar, but in the 1830s and 1840s, these people flourished; they were called Transcendentalists. They were not, what society considered, normal people, for they did things their own way and paid no attention to how others viewed them. They stuck out in society and did what they thought was right in their own eyes. Transcendentalism is the ideology that gives a different perspective on the individual in society by means of self-reliance, nonconformity, and free thinking. By relying solely on themselves, Transcendentalists must be hard working people. They believe that working hard brings happiness. This is evident when Emerson wrote in his work, “Self Reliance”: “A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace”(369). Transcendentalists are happiest when they work harder and longer, and cannot rely on outside sources to help them, making them work harder and longer. They plant and harvest their own food, and when it is time to eat, they make the food into a meal. They also need to make their own clothing because they are not relying on a store to buy it from. Materials to make the clothing are also not being supplied so the transcendentalists must make their own materials. Transcendentalists work by themselves to make a living. Being a transcendentalist necessitates a simple lifestyle, working only for their needs. This brings contentment and allows them a sense of accomplishment. By working solely for themselves, Transcendentalists do not consider working under any other authority, such as the government. In Thoreaus’ essay, “Civil Disobedience” he writes, “This American government...has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will”(388). By saying that man can bend the government to his will, Thoreau is asserting that government does not necessarily need to be followed, but in fact it can be made into whatever it needs to be in order to satisfy personal needs. Transcendentalists agree that people aren’t to obey the government but instead resist it. They choose to disobey because they want to focus only on themselves, civilly resisting the government, like Gandhi, who passively resisted the government., without the use of weapons or force. He simply did not abide by the governments’ rule and conform to the governments idea of a citizen. Likewise, Transcendentalists refused government rule out of desire calmly to follow their own rules and to do whatever it takes to provide for themselves. Therefore, Transcendentalists are nonconformists. They do not conform to the patterns of the world, and at the same time, do not conform to religion. Religion requires a person to follow rules not of their own making. Not accepting the authority of religion is another major point that makes transcendentalists who they are because they strive to have their minds open to new thoughts and not to be hampered by the complications of a religion. In Walden, Thoreau writes, “For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, to have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to ‘glorify God and enjoy him forever’”(383). Thoreau is attacking the Scripture. He is bashing what Christians believe is there purpose: to glorify and enjoy God. He does raise up a good point. Thoreau points out that people have made hasty decisions about God and what they should do about God. In other words, should the believe in him or not. He has gone out to the woods to find life and…