Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature
EMERSON said in “The Transcendentalist” (1842):
“What is popularly called
Transcendentalism among us is Idealism; Idealism as it appears in 1842.
As thinkers, mankind has ever divided into two sects, Materialists and Idealists; the
first class founding on experience, the second on consciousness; the first class
beginning to think from the data of the senses, the second class perceive that the
senses are not final, and say, ‘The senses give us representations of things,’ but
what are the things themselves, they cannot tell.
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.”
Emerson on Idealism and Materialism
“These two modes of thinking are both natural, but the idealist contends that his
way of thinking is of a higher nature.
He concedes all that the other a
admits the impressions of sense, admits their coherency, their use and beauty, and
then asks the materialist for his grounds of assurance that things are as his senses
But I, [the idealist] says, a
rm facts not a
ected by the illusions of sense, facts
which are of the same nature as the faculty which reports them, and not liable to
doubt; facts which in their first appearance to us assume a native superiority to
material facts, degrading these into a language by which the first are to be
Emerson on human beings’ relationship to the universe
“I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the
Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God” (from “Nature” c.
“Man is His Own Star”
“To believe your own thought . . . to be true is genius”
“In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts:
they come back
to us with a certain alienated majesty”