My New Book: Transcendentalism Yesterday and Today

Transcendentalism Yesterday and Today by Barry M. Andrews front cover
Transcendentalism Yesterday and Today
by Barry M. Andrews

Transcendentalism isn’t just a phase in Unitarian Universalist history, it is an ongoing source of inspiration for Unitarian Universalists today. Drawing upon ancient wisdom and modern knowledge, Transcendentalist spirituality is at once timeless and timely. The Transcendentalists sought to cultivate the soul through such practices as walks in nature, solitude, contemplation, reading, religious cosmopolitanism, simple living, and action from principle. Unitarian Universalists today will find these practices congenial to their own spiritual growth. The Transcendentalists show us that by concerted effort we can become receptive to insights that will elevate our spirit and motivate us in our efforts to protect nature and make society more just.

Barry Andrews has given us an inspiring perspective on the nature of spirituality in his engaging account of the New England Transcendentalists and their “bold assertion that faith could only be had at first hand, as a direct result of experience.” In this collection of sermons and addresses, works that speak clearly and directly to the modern search for new forms of belief, Andrews explains the “religious naturalism” that Emerson, Fuller, and Thoreau advocated, a form of devotion well-fitted to the life of today. —David Robinson, University Professor Emeritus, Oregon State University.

Most Americans have read Emerson and Thoreau in high school, yet few of us realize that their words can add spiritual depth to our own lives. Barry Andrews has devoted his life to keeping the legacy of Transcendentalist spirituality alive in the contemporary world, and this book is the fruit of his efforts. Following the example of his mentor Emerson, Andrews offers us “the very oldest of thoughts cast into the mould of these new times.” —Daniel McKanan, Ralph Waldo Emerson Senior Lecturer, Harvard Divinity School.

No one has done a better job of lifting up the relevance of the Transcendentalists for today than Barry Andrews. Barry here brings out the best in them, to challenge each of us to bring their heritage into our personal and interpersonal practice today, attending to those who ask us to become better than we now are, to transcend ourselves, and thus leave a heritage for our children, and our children’s children. John Buehrens, former President, UUA; author of Conflagration: How the Transcendentalists Sparked the Struggle for Racial, Gender, and Social Justice (Beacon, 2020). The book is available at Amazon and other on-line retailers.

Book Reading and Author Party

Bainbridge Island Library

1270 Madison Ave N, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 (map)

Friday, October 27, 7:00 pm

Open to the public, Reception to follow


Transcendentalism and the Cultivation of the Soul

Transcendentalism and the Cultivation of the Soul by Barry M. Andrews

Transcendentalism and the Cultivation of the Soul by Barry M. Andrews

American Transcendentalism is often viewed as a literary movement—a flowering of works written by New England intellectuals who retreated from society and lived in nature. In Transcendentalism and the Cultivation of the Soul, Barry M. Andrews focuses on a neglected aspect of this well-known group, showing how American Transcendentalists developed rich spiritual practices to nurture their souls and discover the divine. The practices are common and simple—among them, keeping journals, contemplation, walking, reading, simple living, and conversation. In approachable and accessible prose, Andrews demonstrates how Transcendentalism’s main thinkers, Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller and others, pursued rich and rewarding spiritual lives that inspired them to fight for abolition, women’s rights, and education reform. In detailing these everyday acts, Andrews uncovers a wealth of spiritual practices that could be particularly valuable today, to spiritual seekers and religious liberals.

Published by the University of Massachusetts Press, Oct. 2017