Transcendentalism

Transcendentalism is a philosophical set of ideas that originated around the Eastern United States in the early 1800’s. Philosophers at the time formed these ideas as they tried to better understand nature and the society in which they lived in. Led by notable American writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau, transcendentalists formed many ideas focused on the ideas of individualism, the supernatural, nature, and a distrust in society. Transcendentalists believe that all humans are inherently good and pure, but that societies and institutions are corrupt. Nature plays a key role in this movement as these philosophers believe that nature is the only medium in which humans can escape society to find peace and independence.

Transcendentalists strongly believe in the individual and that humans should follow their own desires instead of conforming to society. The early transcendentalists truly embodied this core idea as some of their unique philosophical ideas were greeted with much criticism. Along with a strong belief in the power of nature and the individual, transcendentalists also believed in the spiritual world. While they believed in God, instead of viewing God as a separate figure, these philosophers believed that God exists within every human being and every object in the world. This belief went against many church doctrines, causing much controversy. Though some of their ideas were met with criticism, transcendentalism greatly influenced American society from its beginnings all the way up to the 21st century.

My favorite Disney movie, The Lion King, is a perfect example that embodies these transcendentalist ideas. When Simba runs away from his kingdom after his father’s tragic death, he meets two loners who live in the wild away from society-Timon and Pumba. These two characters show Simba the true beauty of nature and what it has to offer. Originally lost and confused after first running away into the wild, Simba soon grows up to become a strong lion, finding independence, happiness, and a carefree life to do whatever he pleases along the way. One night, Mufasa appears in the starry night to visit Simba. During the father-son encounter, Mufasa tells Simba his true purpose in life is to lead his kingdom. In this scene when Mufasa’s spirit visits Simba amidst a peaceful nature scene, transcendentalist influences clearly show through. Here in nature, Simba is able to realize his true inner character and potential to lead his kingdom.

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