This idea, explored through intuition and self-exploration, not reason or practicality brings the Transcendentalists a divine spirituality. By listening to our inner voice or using our intuition, we can move closer to divinity. The Transcendentalists believed that traditional religions being rigid and organized were unnecessary since each man has the possibility to transcend beyond the accepted idea of religion to internalize divinity from nature and spirituality. This idea reinforces the individuality which defines one of the principles of Transcendentalism.
Emerson believed strongly in individuality, not compliance or conformity. He cautioned his followers not to shadow his actions but to take their own path to self-discovery and spirituality. He felt that each person must listen to their own inner-voice to complete their journey. Emerson writes that one should trust thyself and follow ones instincts and believe that they are correct and true. Emerson felt that if he was imitated, he must have some flaw in his theories of Transcendentalism or impurity of insight.
Transcendentalists also felt that the experience of nature was not necessarily a physical one, rather an intellectual familiarity which intuition or self-reliance made possible. When this is achieved the person is closer to divinity and spirituality and closer to transcending societys edicts and influences. To Transcend The dictionary definition of the term transcend is to rise above or go beyond the limits of, both definitions suggest effort and self-reliance. From the perspective of the Transcendentalist movement this certainly was the endeavor to be achieved.
The Transcendentalists strove to rise above what they deemed trite, mundane or socially driven to a higher level of consciousness or idealism. To obtain that goal, the Transcendentalists sought to interact with their surroundings and all within nature from a self-realized, intuitive aspect; allowing them to transcend accepted religious institutions and obtain their own relationship with the divine. It is not clear whether transcending actually means talking to God or the act of self-awareness where the constraints of rigid society are lost and one can truly understand and be part of nature, the earth, the universe and the divine.
I tend to believe that these authors were striving for self-awareness and truth rather than actual religious experiences. This quest would not be an easy one, it is easy to go to church every week and pray alongside your fellow man but it is much more difficult to seek spirituality and the ideal on your own, and listen to your intuition solely, without the guidance of a learned teacher. Having a structured and ordered path in the realistic world would make the task of transcending as the Transcendentalists view the term impossible.
This must be achieved by individual understanding of the term for each man. No two experiences with God or the divine would be identical as structured religion would have us believe if Transcendentalism is to be thought of as religious. The Transcendentalist would rather need to explore and trust his inner-voice or intuition and take on faith what he perceives from nature and his surroundings. Whereas, the masses who subscribe to traditional religions can follow blindly the teachings of whatever shaman is leading their flock.
Distressed Environment The phrase a distressed environment is symbolic of a distressed spirit (American Transcendentalism Web, Meg Brulatour. Virginia Commonwealth University. Web. 5/13/2012) suggests that the spiritual wellbeing of the populous influences their environment. Brulatour cites Emersons Oversoul theory or the theory that all in nature is connected and that for mankind to transcend or be enlightened, man must also connect with nature in some meaningful, individualistic way.
She uses the term religion synonymously with way of life and philosophy which is misleading, although it is cited at the beginning of her narrative. A better use of the word would be a contrast to those terms as opposed to a simile. The Transcendentalist movement was not considered a religion but rather a way of life apart from organized, recognized and accepted religion of the era. The use of Emersons term Oversoul, meaning the connection of nature and man is a more accurate portrayal of the Transcendental movements teachings that cannot be achieved through religion as it is traditionally presented.
The Oversoul, as Emerson calls it, takes into account interaction between all beings and their surroundings and responsibility for the actions created by the individual which have lasting implications to all that the individual is connected to. The motivation for this connection is personal enlightenment or transcending. This concept is mirrored by other authors of the movement Walt Whitman calls it the float; Sally McFague says it is a quilt. (American Transcendentalism Web, Meg Brulatour. Virginia Commonwealth University. Web. 5/13/2012).
The effects of this phenomenon are apparent throughout the Transcendentalist thinking and propose a main theme to promote the embracement of nature as a means to transcend. The traditional religion of the Romanticism/Transcendentalism era was conducted by a leader such as a Priest, Reverend, Minister, etc. that instructed the parishioners on what to believe and how to behave. The Transcendentalist view of the individual perspective is the complete reverse of this behavior, therefore rendering Transcendentalism almost an anti-religion.