Naturally, I thought immediately of Transcendentalism, which became popular in the Northeast in the mid-19th Century. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were two of its more famous adherents, as well as Walt Whitman and Louisa May Alcott.
Ralph Waldo Emerson. Source: Wikipedia
Wikipedia tells us “Transcendentalism was rooted in English and German Romanticism, the Biblical criticism of Herder and Schleiermacher, the skepticism of Hume, and the transcendental philosophy of Immanuel Kant and of German Idealism. It was also influenced by Indian religions, especially the Upanishads.” It also tells us “Transcendentalists believed that society and its institutions ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual, and had faith that people are at their best when truly ‘self-reliant’ and independent.” (Emphasis mine.)
One of Emerson’s essays was “Self-Reliance,” in which he says “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Read the whole thing, and think to what extent our institutions (the political parties, government, the news media, academia, etc.) have “corrupted” our “purity” as “individuals”…