The Transcendentalists seem to be understoood in one sense, and that is by their background, in other words what they were rebelling against. What they saw as the current situation is what they were trying to be different from.
I suppose once was to look at the Transcendentalists is to see them as a group of well-eductaed people who lived in the decades well before the Civil War. Also another thing to consider would be the national division that it both reflected and helped to create. These people mainly, New Englanders, were attemptimh to create a uniquely American body of literature. Later after America won independence from England, they thought it was time for literary independence. As a result the creation of literature, essays, novels, philosophy, poetry, and other writings were made. So the writings were unique in a sense of anything written from any other European nation.
Another way to view Transcendentalism is to see it as a generation of people strggling to define spirtuality and religion in a way took into account the new understandings thier age made available.
The new Biblical Criticism had been looking at the Christian and Jewish scriptures through the eyes of literary analysis and hed raised questions for some about the old assumptions of religion. A new set of Transcendentalists look at the previous generation's rebellions of the early 19th century Unitarians and Universalists against Trinitarianism and against the Calivinistic view on predestination. They thought on a side where less rational, more intuitive and in touch with the senses was considered more logical. The latest rational conclusions had raised important questions, but were no longer enough. This new generation had decided that the revolutions had not gone far enough, and had stayed too much in the rationale mode. Emerson called the previous generation of rational religion. (American Transcendentalist Web).
So God gave humankind the gift of intuition, the gift of insight, and the gift of inspiration. Why waste such a gift?
I agree in the sense most do not follow intuition and insight therefore resulting into inspiration. I believe this is another way of stating: "Listen to what your gut tells you." Does a Transcendentalist believe that conclusions could be a message from God?
As Emerson said, "We will walk on our own feet; we will work with our own hands; and we will speak with our own minds... A nation of men will for the first time exist, because each believes himself inspired by the Divine Soul which also inspires all men."
Well let's not forget the women, especially since the Transcendentalists became involved in social reform movement such as anti-slavery and women's rights.
Learning about Transcendentalism, I admit: I couldn't figure out what the term "Transcendentalism" meant. It was hard to figure out what the central idea that authors, poets and philosophers held together were given the deserved name: Transcendentalists. After researching, I have come to one conclusion: To understand a Transcendentalist you have to find out what they are revolting against. Even more so what they are trying to be dissimilar from. I feel this group was ahead of thier time in thinking, but in a way on target with an artistic sense of practicing a religion.