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  Transcendentalism was an idea put forward in 1840s New England by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and others, and promoted in Emerson\'s book Nature. Its essential statement was that there was no need for organized religion, for intercessors between humankind and God. Everything humankind achieved was a part of the divine: the creation of great works of art, scientific research, ordered societies, rationality itself. Self-improvement, the attempt to perfect one\'s human abilities, was therefore also an expression of the divine. Although the Utopian communities founded by the transcendentalists were themselves short-lived, the idea rooted itself deeply in the self-awareness of immigrant Americans, and led, some historians say, to the feelings of drive, self-help and organization which have been ever since claimed as unifying virtues of the USA. KMcL  



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