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Transcendental Ideas: Definitionsm

Towards a Definition of Transcendentalism:
A Few Comments

Henry David Gray, from Emerson: A Statement of N. E. Transcendentalism as Expressed in the Philosophy of Its Chief Exponent, 1917

1. "The spirit of the time is in every form a protest against usage and a search for principles." - Emerson in the opening number of The Dial.
2. "I was given to understand that whatever was unintelligible would be certainly Transcendental." - Charles Dickens in American Notes
3. "I should have told them at once that I was a transcendentalist. That would have been the shortest way of telling them that they would not understand my explanations." - Thoreau, Journal, V:4
4. "The word Transcendentalism, as used at the present day, has two applications. One of which is popular and indefinite, the other, philosophical and precise. In the former sense it describes man, rather than opinions, since it is freely extended to those who hold opinions, not only diverse from each other, but directly opposed." - Noah Porter, 1842
5. Transcendentalism is the recognition in man of the capacity of knowing truth intuitively, or of attaining a scientific knowledge of an order of existence transcending the reach of the senses, and of which we can have no sensible experience." - J. A. Saxton, Dial II: 90
6. "Literally a passing beyond all media in the approach to the Deity, Transcendentalism contained an effort to establish, mainly by the discipline of the intuitive faculty, direct intercourse between the soul and God." - Charles J. Woodbury in Talks with Ralph Waldo Emerson
 7. "Transcendentalism was not ... speculative, but essentially practical and reformatory." - John Orr in "The Transcendentalism of New England," International Review, XIII: 390
8. "Transcendentalism was a distinct philosophical system. Practically it was an assertion of the inalienable worth of man; theoretically it was an assertion of the immanence of divinity in instinct, the transference of supernatural attributes to the natural constitution of mankind. ... Transcendentalism is usually spoken of as a philosophy. It is more justly regarded as a gospel. As a philosophy it is ... so far from uniform, that it may rather be considered several systems than one. ... Transcendentalism was ... an enthusiasm, a wave of sentiment, a breath of mind." - O. B. Frothingham in Transcendentalism in New England, 1876
9. "The problem of transcendental philosophy is no less than this, to revise the experience of mankind and try its teachings by the nature of mankind, to test ethics by conscience, science by reason; to try the creeds of the churches, the constitution of the states, by the constitution of the universe." - Theodore Parker in Works VI: 37
10. "We feel it to be a solemn duty to warn our readers, and in our measure, the public, against this German atheism, which the spirit of darkness is employing ministers of the gospel to smuggle in among us under false pretenses." Princeton Review XII: 71
11. "Protestantism ends in Transcendentalism." - Orestes Brownson in Works, 209
12. "The fundamentals of Transcendentalism are to be felt as sentiments, or grasped by the imagination as poetical wholes, rather than set down in propositions." - Cabot, A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1887, I: 248
13. "First and foremost, it can only be rightly conceived as an intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual ferment, not a strictly reasoned doctrine. It was a renaissance of conscious, living faith in the power of reason, in the reality of spiritual insight, in the privilege, beauty, and glory of life." - Frances Tiffany, "Transcendentalism: The New England Renaissance," Unitarian Review, XXXI: 111.
14. "The Transcendentalist adopts the whole connection of spiritual doctrine. ... If there is anything grand or daring in human thought or virtue, any reliance on the vast, the unknown; any presentiment, any extravagance of faith, the spiritualist adopts it as most in nature. The oriental mind has always tended to this largeness. Buddhism is an expression of it. The Buddhist ... is a Transcendentalist. ... Shall we say then that Transcendentalism is the Saturnalia or excess of Faith; the presentiment of a faith proper to man in his integrity, excessive only when his imperfect obedience hinders the satisfaction of his wish?" - Ralph Waldo Emerson's lecture on "The Transcendentalist," Works I: 317-320
15. "(Transcendentalism was) a blending of Platonic metaphysics and the Puritan spirit, of a philosophy and a character ... taking place at a definite time, in a specially fertilized soil, under particular conditions." - H. C. Goddard, Studies in New England Transcendentalism, 1908.
16. "If I were a Bostonian, I think I would be a Transcendentalist." - Charles Dickens in American Notes 

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