What Did Transcendentalists Believe?

Transcendentalists believed in Christian Unitarianism, in the efficacy of human nature, the unknowable nature of religious truth and the corrupting influence of society. Transcendentalists were influenced by a variety of diverse sources, including Romanticism, German idealist philosophy and the Hindu religion.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, one of the major beliefs of the New England transcendentalists was their rejection of mainstream Congregationalist Calvinism. They rejected the doctrine of predestination, as well as the idea that human beings are inherently evil. The transcendentalists saw people as being good for the most part. They posited that social institutions like government and organized religion provoked the moral decay of the individual.

The transcendentalists asserted that people can obtain spiritual truth through transcendent experiences that affect the mind. However, they did not believe empirical or logical proofs of religion to be possible. With regard to the nature of deity, transcendentalists adopted the position of the Unitarians. According to this belief, God and Jesus are two separate beings. Although Jesus is God's son and is more than human, he is not coequal with God the Father.

Transcendentalists also devoted themselves to social commentary. They were proponents of equality and human rights. In particular, the transcendentalists criticized the institution of slavery and the unjust treatment of the Native American nations.