Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that developed in the late 1820s and 1830s in the eastern United States.[1][2][3] A core belief is in the inherent goodness of people and nature,[1] and while society and its institutions have corrupted the purity of the individual, people are at their best when truly "self-reliant" and independent. Transcendentalists saw divine experience inherent in the everyday, rather than believing in a distant heaven. Transcendentalists saw physical and spiritual phenomena as part of dynamic processes rather than discrete entities.

Transcendentalism emphasizes subjective intuition over objective empiricism. Adherents believe that individuals are capable of generating completely original insights with little attention and deference to past masters. It arose as a reaction, to protest against the general state of intellectualism and spirituality at the time.[4] The doctrine of the Unitarian church as taught at Harvard Divinity School was closely related.

Transcendentalism emerged from "English and German Romanticism, the Biblical criticism of Johann Gottfried Herder and Friedrich Schleiermacher, the skepticism of David Hume",[1] and the transcendental philosophy of Immanuel Kant and German Idealism. Miller and Versluis regard Emanuel Swedenborg and Jakob Böhme as pervasive influences on transcendentalism.[5][6] It was also strongly influenced by Hindu texts on philosophy of the mind and spirituality, especially the Upanishads.