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THE TRANSCENDENTALIST.

A LECTURE READ AT THE MASONIC TEMPLE, Boston,

JANUARY, 1842.

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THE TRANSCENDENTALIST.

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'HE first thing we have to say respecting what are called

new views here in New England, at the present time, is, that they are not new,

but the

very

oldest of thoughts cast. into the mould of these new times. The light is always identical in its composition, but it falls on a great variety of objects, and by so falling is first revealed to us, not in its own form, for it is formless, but in theirs ; in like manner, thought only appears in the objects it classifies.

What is popularly

A called Transcendentalism among us, is Idealism ; Idealism as it appears in 1842. As thinkers, mankind have ever divided into two sects, Materialists and Idealists; the first class founded on experience, the second on consciousness; the first class beginning to think from the data of the senses, the second class perceive that the senses are not final, and say the senses give us representations of things, but what are the things themselves, they cannot tell. The materialist insists on facts, on history, on the force of circumstances, and the animal wants of man ; the idealist, on the power of Thought and of Will, on inspiration, on miracle, on individual culture. These two modes of thinking are both natural, but the idealist contends that his way of thinking is in higher nature. He concedes all · that the other affirms, admits the impressions of sense, admits their coherency, their use and beauty, and then asks the materialist for his grounds of assurance that things are as his senses represent them. But I, he says, affirm facts not affected by the illusions of sense, facts which are of the same nature as the faculty which reports them, and not liable to doubt ; facts which in their first appearance to us assume a native superiority to material facts, degrading these into a language by which the first are to be spoken ; facts which it only needs a retirement from the senses to discern. Every materialist will be an

idealist;

but an idealist can never go backward to be a materialist.

The idealist, in speaking of events, sees them as spirits. He
does not deny the sensuous fact : by no means ; but he will not
see that alone. He does not deny the presence of this table,
this chair, and the walls of this room, but he looks at these
things as the reverse side of the tapestry, as the other end, each
being a sequel or completion of a spiritual fact which merely
concerns him. This manner of looking at things transfers
every object in nature from an independent and anomalous po-
sition without there, into the consciousness. Even the materi-
alist Condillac, perhaps the most logical expounder of material-
ism, was constrained to say : “ Though we should soar into the
heavens, though we should sink into the abyss, we never go
out of ourselves; it is always our own thought that we per-
ceive.” What more could an idealist say ?

The materialist, secure in the certainty of sensation, mocks
at fine-spun theories, at star-gazers and dreamers, and believes
that his life is solid, that he at least takes nothing for granted,
but knows where he stands, and what he does. Yet how easy
it is to show him that he also is a phantom walking and work-
ing amid phantoms, and that he need only ask a question or
two beyond his daily questions, to find his solid universe grow-
ing dim and impalpable before his sense. The sturdy capitalist,
no matter how deep and square on blocks of Quincy granite he
lays the foundations of his banking-house or Exchange, must
set at last, not on a cube corresponding to the angles of his
structure, but on a mass of unknown materials and solidity,
red-hot or white-hot, perhaps at the core, which rounds off to
an almost perfect sphericity, and lies floating in soft air, and
goes spinning away, dragging bank and banker with it at a rate
of thousands of miles the hour, he knows not whither,
of bullet, now glimmering, now darkling through a small cubic
space on the edge of an unimaginable pit of emptiness. And
this wild balloon, in which his whole venture is embarked, is a
just symbol of his whole state and faculty. One thing, at
least, he says is certain, and does not give me the headache,
that figures do not lie; the multiplication-table has been hith-
erto found unimpeachable truth; and, moreover, if I put a
gold eagle in my safe, I find it again to-morrow; but for these
thoughts, I know not whence they are. They change and pass
away. But ask him why he believes that an uniform expe-
rience will continue uniform, or on what grounds he founds his

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faith in his figures, and he will perceive that his mortal fabric is built up on just as strange and quaking foundations as his proud edifice of stone.

In the order of thought, the materialist takes his departure from the external world, and esteems a man as one product of that. The idealist takes his departure from his consciousness, and reckons the world an appearance.

The materialist respects sensible masses, Society, Government, social art, and luxury, every establishment, every mass, whether majority of numbers, or extent of space, or amount of objects, every social action. The idealist has another measure, which is metaphysical, namely, the rank which things themselves take in his consciousness; not at all, the size or appearance. Mind is the only reality, of which men and all other natures are better or worse reflectors. Nature, literature, history, are only subjective phenomena. Although in his action overpowered by the laws of action, and so, warmly co-operating with men, even preferring them to himself, yet when he speaks scientifically, or after the order of thought, he is constrained to degrado persons into representatives of truths. He does not respect labor, or the products of labor, namely, property, otherwise than as a manifold symbol, illustrating with wonderful fidelity of details the laws of being ; he does not respect government, except as far as it reiterates the law of his mind; nor the church ; nor charities; nor arts, for themselves ; but hears, as at a vast distance, what they say, as if his consciousness would speak to him through a pantomimic scene. (is thought, that is the Universe. His experience inclines him to behold the procession of facts you call the world, as flowing perpetually outward from an invisible, unsounded centre in himse:f, tre alike of him and of them, and necessitating him to,

regard all things as having a subjective or relative existence

relative to that aforesaid Unknown Centre of him.

From this transfer of the world into the conscipusness, this beholding of all things in the mind, follow easily his whole ethics. It is simpler to be self-dependent. The height, the deity of man is, to be self-sustained, to need no sgift

, no foreign force. Society is good when it does not violate me; but best when it is likest to solitude. Everything real is self-existent. Everything divine shares the self-existence of Deifty.

All that you call the world is the shadow of that substawice which you are, the perpetual creation of the powers of thought, of those that are dependent and of those that are independent of your

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