There is a piece at Occidental Observer, written by Ricardo Duchesne, which quotes Kevin MacDonald as the expert on Puritanism and Anglo-Saxon Americans. I usually find myself at odds with MacDonald’s pronouncements on those subjects, based on my own life experiences and observations. I make no claim to be an intellectual or an ‘expert’ but I know what I know.
I believe MacDonald is admittedly averse to Anglo-Saxon Americans and our English-born cousins, so he has little good to say of our Puritan forebears or of us and our contemporaries. This is the case generally; few people think favorably of Puritans nor of their living descendants. We are all supposed to be extinct as the Dodo bird, judging by the way we are spoken and written of by most of those outside the Anglo-Saxon fold.
But here we are. By now the immigrant stock may outnumber us numerically (nobody knows for sure) but we are spoken of as anachronisms or as a ‘vanished’ people.
But as to my differences with the opinions expressed at TOO (lots of anti-Anglo, anti-Protestant/anti-Christian feeling there, which is off-putting) there are lots of untenable statements given as fact. For example, someone states that a belief in a fallen, flawed world is ‘New Testament’ and implies it’s aberrant. The belief is at the very core of Biblical Christianity. I can’t imagine how any educated Christian could say otherwise.
Belief in original sin is basic to Christianity of all stripes.
There are certainly some idiosyncratic beliefs amongst the commenters there.
Frequently, when people are criticizing our Puritan forefathers they assert that ‘Transcendentalism’ was merely an extension of Puritan beliefs. Now, I know enough (actually reading books by the original Puritans) to know that the Puritans were called ‘Puritans’, originally in derision, because they sought a purified form of Christianity, free of ‘traditions of men’ (per the very words of Jesus) free of pomp and cant. So why on earth would the ‘Transcendental’ notions be a natural extension of the original teachings of the Puritans? The idea of transcending their very humanity is utterly alien to the original Calvinistic beliefs of the Puritans.
‘Christians’ in New England or anywhere else had already ceased to be really Christian the moment they strayed into the weird man-made doctrines like ‘Transcendentalism’ with its exotic, non-Western origins. People conveniently forget (if they ever knew) that there was a craze for Eastern religions and ‘spiritualism’ in 19th century America and all over Christendom. I wrote about this in a previous post, and as I recall, a commenter scoffed at the connection I made between the two. I stand by what I said, and here is evidence of a similar point of view on the part of scholars.
“A major scholarly study of the importance of oriental thought on the group of Americans known as the Transcendentalists. It is a study that shows wide and deep reading in comparative religion and philosophy, and it greatly enlightens us with regard to how Hindu and Buddhist ideas came to shape the work of many intellectual thinkers.”–Philip F. Gura, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
“Arthur Versluis offers a comprehensive study of the relationship between the American Transcendentalists and Asian religions. He argues that an influx of new information about these religions shook nineteenth-century American religious consciousness to the core. With the publication of ever more material on Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, the Judeo-Christian tradition was inevitably placed as just one among a number of religious traditions. Fundamentalists and conservatives denounced this influx as a threat, but the Transcendentalists embraced it, poring over the sacred books of Asia to extract ethical injunctions, admonitions to self-transcendence, myths taken to support Christian doctrines, and manifestations of a supposed coming universal religion.”
It’s glaringly obvious, to those with open eyes, that Transcendentalism is imbued with various mystical Eastern ideas, and it’s no coincidence that the exotic religions were a craze with self-styled intellectuals back in the 19th century.
And the mysticism intrinsic to those beliefs is alien to Biblical Christianity.
There was also a secular element to Transcendentalism, which was very much influenced by philosophers like Locke and various German philosophers, rather than the original Biblical roots of Puritanism. But it’s convenient for some people to try to connect the two, Puritanism and Transcendentalism, when they are chalk and cheese.
How many people identified as Puritans by the 19th century? Few. Very few. The various churches that developed after the Puritans had declined were of the liberal, universalist type, influenced more by secular culture and obsessed with ‘social justice’, hence the Abolitionist frenzy.
I believe the Quakers were also mentioned in the article; the Quakers were yet another sect said to have promoted the so-called ‘pathological altruism’ that is said somehow to be a peculiar affliction mostly of Anglos. The Quakers originated in England I believe, and their doctrine of the ‘Inner Light’ is yet another example of mysticism appearing anomalously in a Christian sect. I say ‘anomalously’ because that kind of thing, the idea of personal revelations from God taking precedence, is not Biblical Christianity. It comes from some other influence or source.
I’ve known Quakers and they are usually ‘nice’ people but they are not typical of Christians in their belief system. Pantheism, panentheism, Gnosticism, whatever it is, is not mainstream traditional Christianity and in no way can it be traced to Puritanism.
I’ve learned it’s useless to write pieces like this but I can’t endure these tropes that have become so popular and so often repeated despite the lack of proof of their truth. I have to at least present another side. That’s only fair and honest.