The Base of Anarchy

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Recently a English class I was attending assigned a paper on Transcendentalism. With the recent outbreak of Anarchy in England, I was very excited to write this essay. This essay is actually not about anarchism, but it is about Transcendentalism. By presenting the philosophy of Transcendentalism, as well as modern day facets of the philosophy, the reader will soon notice that the philosophy shares much in common with Anarchism. This soon led me to the belief that Transcendentalism has been a key factor in building the Anarchist movement.
Hopefully this essay supplements your opinions of the matter as it did mine.

Anarchism is a direct result from this "train of thought;"
Man is Good---Man is inherantly good---Man is individual---(Transcendentalism)---Society Corrupts, not man---Society bad---Society should be overthrown to provide a pure mankind---(Anarchism)

(TRANSCENDENTALISM CAN LEAD TO ANARCHISM)

Keep in mind that this essay compares Anarchism to the Bible from a Christian POV, as this was written for a Christian school. The rest of the essay is purely unbiased and is designed to present the reader with the facts.

Submitted: December 12, 2010

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 12, 2010

A A A

A A A


Pierce
12/12/2010
Transcendentalism Paper
American Literature
 
Recently a English class I was attending assigned a paper on Transcendentalism. With the recent outbreak of Anarchy in England, I was very excited to write this essay. This essay is actually not about anarchism, but it is about Transcendentalism. By presenting the philosophy of Transcendentalism, as well as modern day facets of the philosophy, the reader will soon notice that the philosophy shares much in common with Anarchism. This soon led me to the belief that Transcendentalism has been a key factor in building the Anarchist movement.
Hopefully this essay supplements your opinions on the matter as it did mine.
 
Anarchism is a direct result from this "train of thought;"
Man is Good---Man is inherently good---Man is individual---(Transcendentalism)---Society Corrupts, not man---Society bad---Society should be overthrown to provide a pure mankind---(Anarchism)
 
(TRANSCENDENTALISM CAN LEAD TO ANARCHISM)
 
(Keep in mind that this essay compares Anarchism to the Bible from a Christian POV, as this was written for a Christian school. The rest of the essay is purely unbiased and is designed to present the reader with the facts.)
The Base of Anarchy
Transcendentalism is an idealistic and optimistic view of a cold and unforgiving universe that gained it’s popularity in the mid 19th century America. The philosophy values individualism, nature and the “the Float,” who links all together, according to the philosophy. With it’s idealistic view of man, Transcendentalism often lead to Anarchism, a philosophy that still is alive and well in the twenty first century. Even though Transcendentalism “boomed” in the mid 19th Century, there are still many facets of the philosophy at work in the literature and entertainment industry.
A “lumpy mess of ethical values,” Transcendentalism can be broken down into three main “edges” of the philosophy, helping a “newcomer” to better understand the philosophy. The first and second “edge” of Transcendentalism pertains to the individual and nature, more specifically, how they can “connect” with each other. Focusing on the individual, which is the first “edge,” Transcendentalists believe that “man is inherently good,” and that “society is the corruptor of man,” a lofty and optimistic pair of ideals, which are also prominent in Anarchism. In the philosophy, man is also said to be able to “unlock any secrets the universe presents to him.” In the second “edge,” nature plays a large role as the “key” to “unlock any secrets the universe presents to him (man),” for through connecting with nature, the individual realizes his own “inner spark.” Truly connecting with nature requires the individual to experience and “sense” certain “unexplainable emotions” (by listening to his intuition) in order to “free his mind.” The individual must radiate the right “energy” (mood) to see things clearly, because the nature will return the mood to the onlooker. After finally having a “free mind,” the individual can realize the full potential of his “inner spark,” which in layman’s terms, is one’s intuition. Realizing this, the man will trust nature to guide his “inner spark,” thus revealing the key to the universal mysteries. So, as anyone can see, the first and second “edge” of the philosophy are saturated with idealism and optimism.
The third “edge” of Transcendentalism pertains to “the Float (as Walt Whitman referred to it as),” also known as the “over soul (as Ralph Waldo Emerson referred to it as).” “The Float” is made up of the “inner sparks” (souls) of all living things, and acts as the strange god head of Transcendentalism. Upon death, all living things (at least their soul or “inner spark”) return the “over soul.” The “over soul” is found within mankind and all of nature, yet for some reason resides stronger in nature then it does in man. This explains why Transcendentalists believe that through nature man can “unlock any secrets the universe presents to him.” As the god of the philosophy, “the Float” does little, as it would appear, but merely acts as a link between man and nature.
Although these three ideas are the most common among transcendentalists it should be noted that, some among the group believe in different variations of them. Due to the individualistic nature of the philosophy, this was not seen as a threat by the leaders of Transcendentalism, but was actually encouraged by writers of the time, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson. During the mid 19th century, most Transcendentalists did not want to be part of an organized religion, giving a lot of “wiggle room” to their belief system.
In the mid 19th century, the revolt against traditional morals had begun, and leading the charge was an author named Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson had been a pastor in Boston, but soon after his wife passed away, had begun to question his faith. As a result of this (along with countless other influences of the time), Emerson became what is now known today as a Transcendentalist. Soon he helped to revolutionize American Literature. Many of his writings were influenced by the transcendental philosophy he had adopted, so naturally they contained the philosophy within them. Examples of this can be found predominantly in “Nature,” an essay that became the Transcendentalist’s “doctrine of belief.” In this essay, Emerson displays how nature can soothe, and even guide mankind through life. Emerson states that “There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, no disgrace, no calamity, which nature cannot repair.” Emerson believes that if man connects with nature properly, all of the answers will be revealed, and there is no problem mankind cannot solve. Emerson later wrights that “I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; The currents of the universal being circulate through me; I am part of god.” This profound statement reveals Emerson’s belief that through nature, the transcendentalist can be “one with god.” Just by examining these two passages in nature, Emerson’s world view is clearly presented throughout his wrightings.
Another extraordinarily famous essay by Emerson is “Self Reliance.” The essay is regarded highly by transcendentalists, for even in the essay’s title the individualistic philosophy is presented. Emerson tells of the necessity of self reliance within the essay, saying that; “Envy is ignorance; imitation is suicide.” Throughout “Self Reliance” themes of individualistic nature occur often, and the author soon states that; “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the man-hood of everyone of it’s members. He further suggests that; “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.” As a side note, the reader should take into consideration that this extremely radical philosophy of Emerson’s shares many of the views of modern Anarchism, such as; Society is the corruptor of mankind and that man should be nonconforming to government and cultural control.  As a result of this, Transcendentalism can lead to Anarchism.
Emerson became immensely popular in America, and soon impacted the literary field as well as the young nation. Soon Emerson would pass down his philosophy to a young man named Henry David Thoreau, who would have his own impact on America.
Henry David Thoreau, an eccentric as his neighbors would later describe him, was a teacher that was an open opponent of corporal punishment. He would soon resign, and in 1841, Thoreau moved into the house of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Soon, the young man was transformed by Emerson’s philosophy into a transcendentalist. This was only the beginning of Thoreau’s writing career. In an amazingly short amount of time, Thoreau would become a disciple and close friend of Emerson’s. Wishing to test out the transcendentalist life style, Thoreau moved to a small cabin, which he made himself, on near “Walden Lake.” There he wrote the essay “Walden,” which is now known as the “supreme work” of transcendental literature. In the essay Thoreau wrights of his experiences of living near the lake, living off the land and being a true transcendentalist.
“Wherever I sat, there I might live, and the landscape radiated from me accordingly.” In this statement, Thoreau describes the common belief of transcendental philosophy that nature will “give off” similar temperament that the nature viewer gives to the nature (nature gives what it receives). For an example, if Thoreau was in an unpleasant mood, the he would then interpret nature as unpleasant also. Later on in the essay, Thoreau advises the reader to: “As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes little difference whether you are committed to a farm or a county jail.” If this is not a clear representation of transcendental philosophy, no example can be given the title.  But “Walden” was not the only lasting document of Thoreau’s, for he had written many essays on transcendental beliefs. On of such is titled “Civil Disobedience.” In the essay, Thoreau again suggests that the reader “resist government policies to with which they do not agree.” At first glance this statement may look harmless, but if a law if voted for and made into effect and Thoreau did not agree with it, he would “rebel.” Living up to this philosophy, Thoreau refused to pay his taxes and as a result spent the night in a local jail, where his hatred of government would steadily grow. In “Civil Disobedience” Thoreau promotes the radical philosophy that; “That government is best which governs not at all.” Even after this statement, Thoreau goes on to speak out against a standing army, claiming that a standing army is the arm of the standing government. Through examining these quotes of Thoreau’s, the radical philosophy of Transcendentalism is revealed. As with Emerson, Thoreau would become very popular among Americans in the mid 19th century.
Even though the mid 19th century was the “pinnacle” of Transcendentalism, the philosophy is still alive and well within the literary and entertainment fields today. Several contemporary examples of Transcendental philosophy can be found in; “Into the Wild,” “Star Wars,” “Avatar,” “Pocahontas” and “Dora the Explorer.” Although all but one of these examples are primarily in theater or television, there are still many writings on and influenced by transcendentalist philosophy.
“Into the Wild” is a bestselling book by John Krakauer. It follows the story of Christopher McCandless, a young and idealistic man who journeys into the Alaskan wild. In the novel, Christopher severs ties with his family, donates his life saving to “Oxfan” and journeys into the untamed Alaskan wild with nothing but a .22 rifle, ten pounds of rice, a bus, which he later makes camp in, and a guide to the local flora. As it would seem, the young man leaves behind his material possessions (as well as his entire life) to become “one with nature,” which he certainly did. After living on his own for some time, he died of starvation, shortly after his body was found by a small group of hunters who were passing through the area. Although it is not known why Christopher does these things, it still is known by many as a transcendental writing.
Another example of modern day transcendentalism can be found within “Star Wars.” “Star Wars” is easily the most successful movie franchise to come out of the late 1970’s. Across America, most people know the name “Star Wars,” but what few observe is how Transcendentalism has influenced this movie. Realizing that a major plot point within the movie, “The Force,” has been taken right out of the Transcendentalist philosophy may be startling. In the movie, “the Force” is within the entire universe, connects all of the universe and in death all living things “join” the force. These ideas are obviously influenced by the “Oversoul” found within Transcendentalism. Like with “Into the Wild,” it may not be a transcendental movie, but the influence is noteworthy.
“Avatar,” by James Cameron, is the “latest” in computer generated animation. Warmly received by critics as well as audiences, this movie has a strong transcendental influence. In the movie, the “Navi” (alien species) connect with nature (as well as animals) psychologically and physically through “sockets” in their tails. The “Navi” also believe that the “Tree of Life” connects all living things, and in death they “return” to the earth, thus nourishing and returning to the tree. Without the philosophical influence from transcendentalism, “Avatar” would be an incoherent mess of fighting and monologue.
Like “Avatar,” the next example of modern day transcendental influence focuses on natives who are (yet again) invaded by foreigners. Created by a successful company, “Pocahontas” is the ultimate in transcendentally inspired films. The synopsis of the film is as follows; while the greedy colonists are trying to expand their material wealth by invading the American frontier, a young Indian (Pocahontas) persuades John Smith to see the world in a different way, a more Transcendentalist way. The Trees talk, the humming birds understand English and the adorably moronic mutt is often fodder for natures “high-jinks” throughout the film. Pocahontas demonstrates the value of living in harmony with nature to John Smith, and at the moment that the transcendental influence is at it’s climax, she begins to sing a song. The lyrics of this song that stand out the most are; “but I know every rock and tree and creature, has a life, has a spirit, has a name.” Truly only one of many verses within the song show how deeply transcendentalism has affected “Pocahontas.”
The final example of modern day transcendental influence can be found in a lowly children’s show; “Dora the Explorer.” In the show, Dora, along with a strange talking monkey known as Boots, embark on different adventures every episode. Quite often throughout the show, Dora consults nature, such as a talking bull and a socialistic Spanish skunk. Without these helpful facets of nature, the ultimate goal of the episode would never be attained. “Dora the Explorer” is one of the most popular children’s shows of modern day, and even it has had transcendental influences.
Now that the philosophy of Transcendentalism has been examined as it was at it’s conception and how it has evolved in modern day, what does the Bible have to say about the philosophy? The first piece of the philosophy being examined is the inherent goodness of man.
A large “chunk” of the transcendentalist philosophy pertains to the “goodness” in all of human kind. According to Transcendentalism, no man is inherently evil, but instead evil is created by a corrupt culture/society. Yet, the apostle Paul has something very different to say in Romans 7:18. “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.” This single verse discredits (from a Christian perspective) one of the core beliefs of the philosophy.
Another “chunk” of equal importance to the Transcendentalists is mankind’s connection with nature. If one is a follower of Emerson or Thoreau, there is a fairly good chance that god (“over soul”) will be dragged down to an equal playing field as nature, resulting in praising the creation over the creator. Again, the apostle Paul has something to say in Romans 1:25. “They exchanged the truth for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the creator.” This verse clearly condemns the worship of the creation, and not the creator.
The final facet of the Transcendentalist philosophy being examined pertains to the “Over Soul.” To the transcendentalists, the “Over Soul” is the god who connects all together. Obviously this does not add up with the God of the Bible, for in Deuteronomy 4:35 it states that “there is no other beside him.” From a Christian/ Biblical perspective, no scripture is needed to dispute the “Over Soul.” As a whole, the philosophy of Transcendentalism does not live side by side with the Bible.
Transcendentalism is an idealistic and optimistic world view, which focuses primarily on the individual, that gained popularity in the mid 19th Century. The philosophy may surprisingly lead to Anarchism, a destructive and equally idealistic and optimistic world view. Transcendentalism has influenced some of the most successful literary and entertainment based media forms in the United States, as well as the world. From a Christian standpoint, the philosophy cannot meet up to the “standards” of the Bible.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Works Cited
Brulatour, Meg. "Legacy of Transcendentalism." VirginiaCommonwealthUniversity. Web. 25 Nov. 2010. <http://www.vcu.edu/>.
 
"Deuteronomy 4:35 - Passage Lookup - King James Version - BibleGateway.com." BibleGateway.com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 100 Versions and 50 Languages. Web. 25 Nov. 2010. <http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy 4:35&version=KJV>.
"Romans 1:25 - Passage Lookup - New International Version, ©2010 - BibleGateway.com." BibleGateway.com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 100 Versions and 50 Languages. Web. 25 Nov. 2010. <http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans 1:25&version=NIV>.
 
"Romans 7:18 - Passage Lookup - New International Version, ©2010 - BibleGateway.com." BibleGateway.com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 100 Versions and 50 Languages. Web. 25 Nov. 2010. <http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans 7:18&version=NIV>.
 
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Web. 13 Dec. 2010. <http://www.imdb.com/>.
 
Wikipedia. Web. 13 Dec. 2010. <http://wikipedia.com/>.
 
Prentice Hall American Literature Textbook. Print. 25 Nov. 2010


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