Ralph Emerson wrote many journals and essays dealing with the subject of transcendentalism. One of his most famous works is the essay Self-Reliance.” In “Self-Reliance,” Emerson emphasizes the idea that individuals should rely completely on God. He believes that every person has been placed in their certain life and position by God, and that they need to trust themselves. Emerson argues that God has given each individual the power to handle things, think, and act, and that they need to trust what God has put inside them to do things with their lives. This idea is similar to predestination, except for the fact that we have the choice of which road to take.
Predestination is the idea that a higher power, or God, has planned everything that will happen to a person in their life. Emerson’s idea is that God has given us the choice, but has also given us unique gifts for the paths we can choose to take. In Self-Reliance,” Emerson wrote, “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events” (Runes 362). Emerson also gave the idea of trusting ourselves (363).
Another quote from his popular essay Self-Reliance” supports this idea: “And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort and advancing on Chaos and the Dark” (363). Emerson also believed that we need to be true to ourselves, especially in what we say. In the same essay, he spoke about the importance of expressing our thoughts, even if they contradict what we said before. He acknowledged that people may not understand us if we do this (365).
That goes along with the whole idea above about how transcendentalism was widely misunderstood because even the great minds that thought it up don’t fully understand everything about the philosophy. Emerson concludes this thought by saying, To be great is to be misunderstood” (365). Emerson is obviously the father of transcendentalism, and his great ideas were conveyed in his brilliant essays, journals, and poems. He helped pass the philosophy on to other philosophers and writers. One of these writers is Thoreau.
Thoreau studied under Emerson and also wrote many pieces dealing with the subject of transcendentalism. One of his most popular pieces of writing about transcendentalism is Walden.”