Amos Bronson Alcott

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American Transcendentalism 1835-1880


Introduction[edit]

A New America emerged in the 19th century, a fusion of Eastern esoteric thoughts (Mystical secrets and knowledge of God as a Supreme Being), individuality of the person and nature. The merge of this philosophy by primarily theologians, authors, and poets was a unique effort to address a new America in the form of a Utopia. Any era of a "New" philosophy, art, music or anything else is always evidence of a result of something that has occurred. Transcendentalism was the result of a conflict with science in the Industrial age, with its bleak look at human nature, something new evolved, Romanticism in Art and painting. An extended transformation continued from intersections with European thought and Eastern philosophy, those of beliefs and attitudes, religion, literature and politics. The movement was given the name "American Transcendentalism."

In relation to Amos Bronson Alcott's 1842 time period, this philosophy progressed from the American Romantic period to become a fusion of sorts in unison within Literature and Thought. Transcendentalism occurred at the heart of the American Renaissance of 1835 to 1880. Transcendentalism is understood as an idealism of the time.
The system of philosophy "Transcendentalism Ideology" took its name from German Philosopher Freidrich Schelling. He argued that scientific observation and artistic intuition were complimentary, not opposed, modes of thought. "Nature," Shelling wrote, "is visible Spirit; Spirit is invisible Nature." [1]
However, "American Transcendentalism" was a result from philosopher Emmanuel Kant who called "all knowledge transcendental which is concerned not with objects but with our mode of knowing objects." [2] This philosophy gave authority and led to the inner light that Walt Whitman expressed in his poem of the "self."

[1] "Instant Karma" by John Lennon. A modern Eastern Transcendentalist example, you can "see" the influence of eastern philosophy on western philosophy.

Themes[edit]

Themes and issues of this philosophy (although impossible to simplify) according to Michael Robertson of The Chronicle Review, [3] contain these points: (1.) The Spark of Divinity is within us. (2.) That everything is a microcosm of existence and (3.) That the individual soul is identical to the World soul.

The "Spark" of Divinity alludes to Mystic or Esoteric (Inner self) knowledge of spiritual context. The persona of the self, the hidden knowledge, is exemplified by the scientist Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) and his images of Angels through his automatic writings of 25 years. Mythical refers to an external fact such as Zeus or other Greek and Roman Gods.

Notables[edit]

The Concord School of Philosophy was founded by A. Bronson Alcott. The school (1879-1888) taught adults about ideals, beliefs and values. In a sermon/lecture style of teaching, Alcott focused on the Transcendentalist philosophy.
Table Talk- refers to diary entries, conversations and other notable items that Alcott had with others such as Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau.


Remarks[edit]

1.) German Philosopher Frederich Schelling (1775-1854) and his philosophy of Idealism is instrumental in the gathering of Concord locals and ministers that formed "The Transcendental Club." The Humanities volume II: Culture Continuity and Change. Page 1069.
2.) In the article "I Hear American Singing" by Thomas Hampton of pbs.org, references Emmanuel Kant and the fundamental beginnings of American Transcendentalism.
3.) Michael Robertson, in his article "Reading Whitman Religiously" refers to the Philosophy of Transcendentalism an idea simplified and put into words by Ralph Waldo Emerson, as noted in "Self-Reliance."

Criticisms[edit]

In a letter dated Thursday May 10, 1888 Walt Whitman was being interviewed in Camden and asked to compare authors, Emerson, Alcott and Longfellow. His reaction can be found here in the Whitman archive- [2]

On Sunday February 17, 1889, Walt Whitman expresses his thoughts regarding Alcott's eccentricities as a fellow writer. He is respectful although critical in his response-[3]

Authors F.B. Sanborn and William T. Harris in their book, A. Bronson Alcott: His life and Philosophy suggest through an extensive study, that Alcott was a theological idealist. Alcott's artistic method and literary style showed a relationship of "man to Absolute" rather than "man to man" philosophy. [4]For the most part Alcott kept his rhetorical skills focused on ascent or descent, to or from the vision of God. His style was of continuous oration of the "Genesis" theme and prevented, according to Sanborn, his poetry from having any "go."[5]However, they seemed to have "depth of expression" with a "true philosophical theme." [6]An example of his poetry can be seen here :

"The Seer's Rations"
"Takes sunbeams, spring waters,
Earth's juices, mead's creams
Bathes in floods of sweet ethers,
Comes baptized, from the streams;
Guest of Him, the sweet-lopp'd,-
The Dreamer's quaint dreams.
'Mingles, orals idyllic
With Samain fable
Sage seasoned from cruets,
Of Plutarch's chaste table.
"Pledges Zeus, Zoroaster,
Tastes Cana's glad cheer ;
Suns, globes, on his trencher,
The elements there.
"Bowls of sunrise for breakfast,
Brimful of the East ;
Foaming flagons of frolic
His evenind's gay feast.
"Sov'reign solids of nature,
Solar seeds of the sphere,
Olympian viand
Surprising as rare.
"Thus baiting his genius,
His wonderful word
Brings poets and sibyls
To sup at his board.
"Feeds thus and thus fares he,
Speeds thus and thus cares he,
Thus faces and graces
Life's long euthanasies.
His gifts unabated,
Transfigured, translated,-
The idealist prudent,
Saint, poet, priest, student,
Philosopher, he."[7]



References[edit]

  • Alcott, A. Bronson. Concord Days. Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son, 1872.
  • _____ . The New Connecticut Cambridge: John Wilson & Son, 1881.
  • Folsom, Ed and Kenneth M. Price. Re-Scripting Walt Whitman: An Introduction to his Life and Work. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2005.
  • (2)Hampton, Thomas. "I Hear American Singing." [4] Accessed 13 April 2008.
  • Kirven, Robert H. Angels in Action: What Swedenborg Saw and Heard. West Chester: Chrysalis Books, 1995.
  • (3)Robertson, Michael. "Reading Whitman Religiously" The Chronicle Review: The Chronicle of Higher Education: April 11, 2008 [5]
    (Note: This reference requires a log in and account information)
  • (4,5,6,7)Sanborn, F.B. and William T. Harris. A. Bronson Alcott: His life and Philosophy. Cambridge: University Press, 1893.
  • (1)Sayre, Henry M. The Humanities volume II: Culture Continuity and Change. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2008.
  • Schmidgall, Gary Ed. Walt Whitman: Selected Poems 1855-1892 A New Edition New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.
  • [6] Accessed 13 April 2008 "Disciples: Sunday, February 17, 1889."
  • [7] Accessed 13 April 2008 "Disciples: Thursday, May 10, 1888."
  • You Tube. Accessed, 13 April 2008 "John Lennon and Instant Karma."

Candyangel43 14:40, 16 April 2008 (UTC)

  1. [Sayre, Henry M. The Humanities volume II: Culture Continuity and Change. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2008.]
  2. [www.pbs.org]
  3. Robertson, Michael. "Reading Whitman Religiously" The Chronicle Review: The Chronicle of Higher Education: April 11, 2008
  4. *Sanborn, F.B. and William T. Harris. A. Bronson Alcott: His life and Philosophy. Cambridge: University Press, 1893.
  5. *Sanborn, F.B. and William T. Harris. A. Bronson Alcott: His life and Philosophy. Cambridge: University Press, 1893.
  6. *Sanborn, F.B. and William T. Harris. A. Bronson Alcott: His life and Philosophy. Cambridge: University Press, 1893.
  7. *Sanborn, F.B. and William T. Harris. A. Bronson Alcott: His life and Philosophy. Cambridge: University Press, 1893. Page 621-622.