The Transcendental Club was given its name by the public and not by its participants. James Elliot Cabot, a biographer of Emerson, wrote of it as "the occasional meetings of a changing body of liberal thinkers, agreeing in nothing but their liberality". Hedge wrote: "There was no club in the strict sense... only occasional meetings of like-minded men and women". It was sometimes referred to by the nickname "the brotherhood of the 'Like-Minded'".
The club was a meeting-place for these young thinkers and an organizing ground for their idealist frustration with the general state of American culture and society at the time, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard and in the Unitarian church.
In 1839, members of the Transcendental Club had the idea of establishing their own periodical as a platform for their ideals. Initially, Brownson suggested utilizing his Boston Quarterly Review, though others thought their own magazine was necessary. Ultimately, they formed The Dial, with Fuller serving as its first editor in 1841.