My friend Vanesa in Argentina is currently studying transcendentalism and provided me with insight into the subject. I decided to do some research so that she and I could discuss what we’ve read so far. I had heard of Ralph Emerson but my knowledge on Henry Thoreau was lacking to say the least. However, I did know that his essay ‘Civil Disobedience’ had been read by Mahatma Ghandi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other subscribers of the belief of nonviolent resistance. Having now read it myself, I can see why it was and is so important. Thoreau, an outspoken critic of the government of Massachusetts and the United States in general, made no attempt to hide his distaste for the institution of slavery. And his refusal to pay taxes and support the government of Massachusetts could either be seen as a noble act of humanity or the actions of a traitor, it is left up to the reader to decide. But his essay is the blueprint for forcing social change without the use of violent methods.
Emerson, the leader of the transcendentalist movement, gave hundreds of lectures during his career which spanned almost 40 years. Also an outspoken opponent of the institution of slavery, his writings on friendship, religion and injustice would be some of the most critical of the movement. A close friend of Thoreau, whom he met in 1837, the two minds would produce writings that would become pillars of transcendentalism ideals. Years of ahead of their time, their writings might make you question what you know and what you believe.