The three terms, transcendence, transcendent, and transcendental each refer to an object or it's properties as being something beyond that of other objects. These objects transcend the others in some way. Transcendentalism in particular, was a movement in the early to mid 19th century often considered to have been launched into a major cultural movement by Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1836 essay, Nature. Transcendentalism emerged in New England as a protest against the general state of culture and society. The term has also been described as the classical philosophy that God transcends the manifest world.
Among the transcendentalist's core beliefs was their belief in a spiritual state that 'transcends' the physical and observed or experienced state which is realized only through the individual's intuition rather than through the doctrines of established religions. Typically, those who considered themselves Transcendentalists were strong believers in the power of the individual and divine messages. The movement directly influenced the 'Mental Sciences' movement also in the mid- 19th century that eventually became known as the New Thought movement.
In 840 AD, John Scotus Erigena made a statement that describes transcendentalism quite effectively… 'We do not know what God is. God himself doesn't know what He is because He is not anything. Literally, God is not, because He transcends being.
In his speech, 'The American Scholar', Emerson stated 'So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes. It shall answer the endless inquiry of the intellect, — What is truth? and of the affections, — What is good? by yielding itself passive to the educated Will. ... Build, therefore, your own world. As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions. A correspondent revolution in things will attend the influx of the spirit.'
Much of Transcendentalism was an expanded variation of German philosopher Immanuel Kant, whom clarified the difference between the term transcendent, meaning 'that which goes beyond' and transcendental, meaning 'to have knowledge about our cognitive faculty with regard to how objects are possible.' He wrote: 'I call all knowledge transcendental if it is occupied not with objects, but with the way that we can possibly know objects even before we experience them.'
Ralph Waldo Emerson anonymously published his essay, 'Nature' in 1836. Nature was founded on the principals of transcendentalism establishing a belief system encompassing a nontraditional appreciation for nature. Nature, being a phenomena of the physical world encompassing all life in general. Henry David Thoreau's work was essentially influenced by Emerson's essay while attending Harvard College and was largely an influence on such works as Walden.
Other prominent transcendentalists aside from Emerson and Thoreau include Walt Whitman, Margaret Fuller and Amos Bronson Alcott as well as countless others.