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Transcendentalists

The American Unitarian Association was formed in 1825, but by 1836 the Boston churches were torn again as rebellious young preachers, members of the “Transcendental Club,” abandoned Unitarianism,* feeling it to be complacent and sterile in its rationalism. Among the most prominent were R.W. Emerson,* George Ripley (1802-80), Theodore Parker,* James Freeman Clarke (1810-88), Orestes Brownson (1803- 76), and the layman Henry David Thoreau (1817-62). Much influenced by S.T. Coleridge's Aids to Reflection, they tried to introduce a strong note of mysticism and contemporary Romanticism's view of individual intuition, flashes and insights into truth, as the highest form of knowledge. Their thinking was basically syncretistic, viewed God as immanent in nature, rejected external authority, and saw every created thing as possessing deep religious meaning. For several years much of their writing appeared in the Dial (1840-44), and Emerson's “Divinity School Address” and Parker's sermon on “The Transient and Permanent in Christianity” were expositions of their thought, although they disagreed among themselves often in their intense individualism.