THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR

 

 

THE TRANSCENDENTAL FIRE REKINDLED
 

The original sources of Innermost House lie in the ancient foundations of our modern lives, in the spiritual and ethical systems of Africa and the Middle East, of Greece, Rome and Western Europe, of India, China and Far East Asia. More immediately, they lie in the culture of the American Indian peoples and the westering momentum of the European Enlightenment, particularly as they intersect in the idealism of Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and John Muir.  

In the past twenty years, a generation of scholars has reassessed the historical phenomenon of our defining spirituality, Transcendentalism, marking a scholarly rebirth of interest in the American Renaissance of the 19th century. Their scholarship continues and elaborates the pioneering work of Walter Harding, the 20th century's leading Thoreau scholar and founder of the Thoreau Society. Commencing in 2016 and lasting through 2017, celebrations, publications and symposia marking the 200th anniversary of Henry David Thoreau's birth, the 100th anniversary of Walter Harding's birth, the 75th anniversary of the Thoreau Society, and the 50th anniversary of the publication of Walter Harding's classic, The Days of Henry Thoreau, will bring transcendentalism before the public eye in a way it has not been for a century, and may not be again in our lifetimes. That makes the first two years of the Foundation's operations critical to the long-term success of its mission.

The cultural utopianism of 21st century, high-technological society is in very many ways the heir to historical transcendentalism. Such modern movements as environmentalism, sustainability, simplicity, tiny houses, race and gender equality, one-world cosmopolitanism, freedom of conscience and religion, individual spirituality, universal education and universal suffrage, non-violent resistance and civil disobedience to unjust laws, all have come to characterize the leading thought of modern life, and all have roots in New England Transcendentalism. The time has never been better prepared to revisit the transcendental past of our technological future.

Innermost House has sometimes been referred to as “Walden West,” and many passages in Emerson and Thoreau suggest that an Innermost House in the West would yield the proof required by the experiment commenced by Thoreau on Emerson's land at Walden. It is possible that, between these two poles of East and West, the transcendental strain in American life could be brought into focus in a way that is meaningful and transformative to a generation now largely ignorant of its own past.

In January of 2016, we began our work together. The object we share between us is kindling the fire of a dormant and unrecognized American Transcendentalism. We want to make that flame live again for all who seek its light and inspiration, to renew the fire of our founding fathers and thinkers and pioneers who sought the spirit of American life in the woods.