Blue bird

“There are two laws discrete, not reconciled – law for man, and law for thing.” Quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, bird design by Meredith Eliassen, 2018.

 

Transcendentalism is, in many respects, was the first notable American intellectual movement; it was a philosophical movement that developed in the late 1820s and 1830s out of a literary circle in Concord, Massachusetts. Inspired by English and German Romanticism and the idealism of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), it was concerned not with object, but rather with our modes for understanding objects where the human mind became aware of itself.

The transcendentalists longed for a more intense spiritual experience; they believed in the power of the individual and personal freedom. A core belief of transcendentalism is in the inherent goodness of people and nature. Transcendentalism emphasizes subjective intuition of the individual (as opposed to the collective) moral and spiritual sensibilities and the rejection of materialism. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay “Self-Reliance” (1841), “Traveling is a fool’s paradise.” Adherents believe that individuals are capable of generating completely original insights with little attention and deference to past masters by turning to nature for spiritual guidance. Writing children’s literature brought Lydia Maria Child a steady income; she also used it to create a consciousness of empathy. Emerson inspired Child in her writing career even as she reacted against the dichotomy in his logic related to men and women’s roles in society.

Lydia Maria Child attended some Emerson lectures during the early 1840s after he set forth the principles of Transcendentalism in his essay called Nature (1936). Emerson delineated two sects of humans by classifying them into materialists (based upon experience) and idealists (based upon consciousness): “The materialist insists on facts, on history, on the force of circumstances and the animal wants of man; the idealist on the power of Thought and of Will, on inspiration, on miracle, on individual culture.” In Lydia Maria Child’s children’s story called “The Magician’s Shadow Box” (1856) the protagonist’s adventure illustrates a transcendental theme where only from such an individual that is at peace with his environment can contribute to the formation of a true community.