The constant progress of Culture is to a more interior life, to a deeper Home.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Home”
THE INNERMOST LIFE
A Deeper Home
The Innermost House Foundation is a philanthropic organization dedicated to the transcendental ideal of "plain living and high thinking" at the heart of high civilization. We seek a unity in nature, fine hand craft and the perennial ideals of the mind as a way home to the original wholeness and harmony of the individual human being.
I have one doctrine: the infinitude of the private man.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
1. to go beyond
The Innermost House Foundation is an international legacy project undertaken to realize in practical terms the ideals of the American founders, the Concord philosophers, and the Western environmentalists as one unified whole. "I am ready to die out of nature and be born again," Emerson wrote, "into this new yet unapproachable America I have found in the West." It is that ideal of America we would approach.
The radical idea that distinguishes the American aspiration is that of e pluribus unum: many voices into one. It is that promise of transcendental unity we seek to realize, where the many voices of East and West, ancient and modern, feminine and masculine, native and colonist, city and country, art and science, are resolved into the fundamental oneness of individual life.
To comprehend the nature of such a realization, we are assembling an international conversation of voices to speak for the great cultural and spiritual traditions that converged to conceive the American experiment. To make that conversation material and practical, we are conjoining the landscape of myth with archetypes of craft and ideals of the mind to form a cosmopolitan culture deeply rooted in the particularity of Place.
We are a modern-day "Walden West," seeking to realize the fullness of the vision foreseen by Emerson and Thoreau. We are selecting sites on which to create an "Innermost House" culture of noble simplicity, to illuminate the sacredness of wilderness, and to restore the ideals with which the world invested the American founding. We are putting the world back together again to satisfy a promise, seeking to realize, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, "the last best hope of earth."
The Transcendental is that which transcends the limitations of ordinary life. It is Truth and Beauty, Goodness and Unity. It is the ideal, the immortal, the eternal. The transcendental is the higher law and the deeper experience. It is the Word. It is Wilderness. It is the infinitude of the soul.
Practical Transcendentalism is embodied in the ideal of "plain living and high thinking" at the heart of high culture, an ideal with deep roots among the Native American peoples and the civilizations of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It is the woodland retreat of wisdom in all ages, and the civic ethic of noble souls, by whatsoever name called, all over the world.
In America, that ideal is most often associated with the experiment in self-reliance undertaken by Henry David Thoreau in 1845 on a woodlot owned by his friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. The American Transcendentalism of the 19th century sought to individuate the principles proclaimed as universal and self-evident in the Declaration of 1776. That same ideal went to earth to take its concluding form with the closing of the frontier in 1890 and the wilderness movement in the American West.
In 2004, a group of friends came together to renew that search for the ideal by building a solitary cabin in the redwoods of California as a retreat for serious conversation among leaders from the worlds of the professions, commerce and state. That prototype became known as Innermost House, "The Most Inspiring Small House Ever," and its published results established it among the most widely known woodland cabins of modern times, reaching people in every state and over a hundred nations of the world.