Transcendentalism, coined by Ralph Waldo Emerson, is a unique outlook that sees the world as divided into two realities: material reality and spiritual reality. Transcendentalists highlight the importance of the spiritual over the material when it comes to leading a fulfilling life.
“…but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
This philosophy helps us understand how and why we need to break free from society's constraints and follow our own set of rules and beliefs. Why should we blindly follow the norm when it leaves people more miserable than happy?
Just look at the levels of suicide rates in suburban cities vs rural areas. Following the norm and living the city life is proven to make us more unhappy. This isn't to say we have to all move from the city and forge a rural life, but it's more a message to start to look within for signs of individuality to differ from the crowd and find your own path.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
The picture above is a photo of the cabin in the woods where Henry David Thoreau spent two years and wrote the infamous book, Walden. Transcendentalists have a strong belief that we should develop a spiritual connection with the earth and be in nature more.
Thoreau was a transcendentalist and was inspired by Emerson himself, who gave him that cabin.
Transcendentalism can give us a two-part foundation to rely on:
- Be self-reliant, don't follow society just because everyone else is. Forging your own path of individuality will leave you far happier than a monotonous regular life.
- Connect with nature spiritually, whatever that may mean to you. The material world corrupts us whereas the natural world enriches us.
So in summary, the main lesson is as follows:
Transcendentalism: We need to be in spiritual connection with nature. That is where one can achieve maximum contentment, not within the superfluous desires society has conditioned us to crave. You are your own person.