Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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A philosophical orientation stressing spirituality defined in a variety of ways. The philosopher Kant argued that God and religious forces cannot be objects of scientific knowledge and were therefore transcendent, or outside the limits of possible knowledge. For the poet Coleridge, transcendentalism was an emphasis on the spiritual side of human nature. New England transcendentalism refers to doctrines of a philosophical and literary group based in Concord, Massachusetts (c. 1836-1860), which included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller. The orientation was eclectic, having Platonic, Oriental, and Kantian influences. It argued that there were two ways of knowing, through the senses and through intuition, and asserted that intuition was transcendent.

James McClenon


W. T. Mott, Encyclopedia of Transcendentalism (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1996)

A. Versluis, American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

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