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Hi everyone, I am examining the roots of transcendentalism and how the Age of Enlightenment influenced Walden. By opposing traditional religion's views on man and nature, the Deist movement introduced the concept of reason and rationalism, which, over time, directly created Transcendentalism: the philosophy observed by Thoreau in which both reasoning and connection with nature connect one with spiritual truths.
Around the end of the 17th century, a new philosophical movement began among the nobles in Europe. This movement was called the Enlightenment--it was an era when revolutionary ideas about politics, religion and science were introduced. At its core, the effects of the Enlightenment all came from a single source: the idea of rational reasoning. If it could be soundly explained using logic, and without the use of magic or Godly intervention, it was reasonable.
An important religion that branched from the Enlightenment and its values was Deism, heavily popularized by Thomas Paine around the beginning of the 19th century. This religion was a mix of Christianity and Enlightened thoughts--its followers believed there was a God who created the universe, but now just observed it as a third-party; the world in their eyes was a clockwork universe--all of its proceeding could be explained by natural law-that is, scientific laws that can be rationalized.
To many, however, reasoning alone wasn't suffice for truly living life. German philosopher Immanuel Kant was one critic of this philosophy, and he believed that another essential aspect of life was pure and raw emotion; this was reflective of the growing movement called Romanticism. Romanticism held its roots in the idea that knowledge is gained through emotion more than deduction and reasoning; feelings such as horror and amazement were frequently found in Romanticism, often times the source of these feelings being nature, and its mighty power.
Ideas from both Deism and Romanticism found their ways to America, where Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau blended and further shaped them into a new philosophical movement. The third aspect they infused was mysticism. This is the spiritual aspect of Transcendentalism--the idea that the unification between an individual and God, or, as the Transcendentalists called it, the Oversoul, is possible.

Transcendentalist belief was that every individual can transcend their physical reality and spiritually connect with the fundamental truths of the universe.