Materialism Vs Transcendentalism

929 Words 4 Pages
Spirituality is a component in every person’s life in varying degrees and is accessed by each individual uniquely. Some people, such as Thoreau and Dickinson, isolate completely from society in order to achieve self-actualization. Others, such as Emerson, are able to reach enlightenment while remaining in contact with society, yet still remain attached to nature. In Transcendentalism, the spirit and soul come in conflict with society when faced with obstacles, including materialism, the influence of societal ideas, and obligations or responsibilities. To the Transcendentalists, money does not make the world go round. Materialism and greed are abhorrent in a Transcendental philosophy. The alluring promise of fame and fortune conflicts with …show more content…
Transcendentalists believe the experience of an individual creates their own unique reality. As Immanuel Kant said, “abstract things like space, time, quantity, causality are only perceived by the human mind” (class discussion 9/15). Based on this idea, everything that happens within society has the potential to alter someone’s beliefs immensely. This is one of the reasons Transcendentalists believe society can poison the mind of an individual. In Self-Reliance, Emerson compares society to a joint-stock company where, “the members agree for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater” (541 Emerson). Emerson believes that for an individual to ensure society will accept them, they must relinquish their right of freedom of thought and individuality. Society forces conformity by rejecting individuals who have unconventional ideas. Society also represses the search for individuality by taking attention away from the individual. Too much energy is put into conforming to societal norms. In poem 620, Emily Dickinson points out if one doesn’t follow societal norms they’re, “straightaway dangerous- And handled with a Chain” (1178 Dickinson). When an individual has an unconventional belief, they’re plainly dangerous and treated with extreme caution and shackled by society. The phrase “handled with a Chain” is …show more content…
Being tied to society by obligation minimizes the time for self-realization while simultaneously placing focus on the temporal world. Obligations interfere with the search for enlightenment, “whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail” (897 Thoreau). It doesn’t matter the type of commitment one has, whether it is to the church to help the less fortunate, to the farm that feeds your community, or to the place of one’s incarceration, these commitments all tie you down. The responsibility for actions destroys spontaneity that is crucial for self discovery. An individual is still unable to maximize the search for self actualization because they are obligated to focus on something else. Emerson has a similar idea in Self-Reliance when speaking about the purity of children’s minds. Children have no obligations in society, unlike man who, “as it were, clapped into jail by his consciousness” (541 Emerson). The influence and obligation of society has trapped individuals by limiting their freedom of actions, retarding the search for self discovery. Due to obligations, a man’s free thinking and search for the spirit is trapped like a fly in a spider’s

Related Documents