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Thoreau's philosophy of life with specla 

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Dedicated to my dear parents. 

Table of Contents. 

Biographical Slietch i 

CHAPTER I.— Rbligion. 


I. Introductory 7 

II. Acquaintance with Hindoo Literature 9 

III. Conception of God 12 

1. God as First Cause 12 

2. God as Preserver . . . 12 

3. God as Immanent Creator ... . 13 

4. God Identical with Nature ... 14 

5. God without Limitations of Personality .... . . 16 

rv. Conception of Man .... 18 

' I. Relation to Nature i8 

a. One with Nature . 18 

b. Respect for Plants and Animals 19 

\y c. Abstinence from Meat Eating ■ .20 

2. Relation to God 21 

a. One with God 22 

b. Dualism 24 

c. Original Sinlessness . . 25 

d. Sin. ... 26 

v' 3. Purpose of Life 27 

V' 4. Conditions of Fulfilling Life' s Purpose . . . ... 28 

• a. Negation of Self 28 

" b. Renunciation of the World 30 

.-' Avoidance of Disturbing Influences 31 

^ c. Solitude .31 

^ f. Silence 32 

c. Negation of Desire 33 

d. Negation of Works . . ' . . . 34 

a. Faith 36 

Ky b. The Yoga . . 37 

V. Immortality 38 

1. Death — Metamorphosis '38 

2. Transmigration of Souls 39 

3- Form of the Soul Eternal , 

4. Death of the Body its Reunion with Nature 

5. Sleep ... 

a. Dreams .... 

b. Deep Sleep . .... 

6. Wind, the Breath of Spirit 

7. Unconcern Regarding the Future State . . 




CHAPTER II.— Music. 

Significance of Art — Introductory . . . ... .47 

1. Music a Revelation of the Universal . . .... 48 

a. Transcends Reason . . . 49 

b. Speaks with Assurance . . 49 

2. Ethical Value of Music . .50 

a. Reveals Unreality of the Apparent World .... 50 

b. Reveals Possibility of Harmony with Eternal De- 

signs . . . ... 5° 

c. Lifts above the Limits of Personality. . .... 52 

d. Effects Oneness with the Universal 52 

3. Hearing of Music a Religious Act 53 

a. Music only for the Virtuous . . 53 

4. Music Universal and Perpetual 54 

^ a. Nature and Music One . ... 54 

'^ b. Music of the Spheres 55 

5. Best Music Worldless 55 

w a. Silence the most Perfect Music 56 

1/ 6. Music and the Yoga Practice ■ . 56 


I. Thoreau and the English Pantheistic Poets — Introductory ... 59 

'^ I . Love to Nature . . .59 

*• 2. Relationship to Natural Objects . . 59 

3. Nature-love a Passion 60 

4. Manifestation of the Divine in Nature the source of Love 

to Nature .... . 61 

. 5. The Spirit of Nature is the Spirit of Love 62 

^ 6. Love the Atmosphere of Life in Nature . . . ■ . 63 

II. Love to Man : Friendship 64 

1. Platonic Love 64 

2. Love, Community of Ideals 65 

a. Love Detects Faults 65 

b. The Place of Hate 66 



3. Love is Universal not Personal . . 66 

a. Death cannot Interrupt Love's Course ... 67 

4. Ethical Value of Love ■ • 67 

in. Love and Marriage .... .67 

IV. Love to Mankind 68 

1. Not Philanthropy . . 68 

2. Universal in Character . ... 68 

^ V. The Goal of Love Oneness with the Spirit of Love Itself .... 69 

CHAPTER IV.— Politics. 

1. Introductory .... 73 

2. Civilization Corrupt • • 73 

a. Return to Nature . . . 74 

3. Thoreau and Rousseau . . . . . ... 74 

4. Basis of Government the Individual . • ■ 75 

5. Democratic the Best Form of Government 76 

a. Danger of Perversion to Serve Individual Ends . . 76 

b. Against Government by Majorities ... .77 

6. Object of Government 78 

a. Kant and Emerson : Morality the Object of Govern- 
ment . . 78 

7. Character of the Best Government ... 79 

a. The Best Men its Members 79 

b. Representation of the Best Elements of the Nation . 79 

8. Relation of the Citizen to the Government . ... 80 

a. Duty of Obedience to the Laws of His Own Being 

only . . 80 

b. Right of Resistance ... .81 

c. Individual Responsibility 82 

d. Power of One Man 82 

g. Thoreau's Attitude toward Socialism . 83 

10. Ideal Government — No Government 83 


I. Chronological Table 87 

II. Bibliography 91 


Ich, Helena Adell Snyder, bin zu Port Elmsley, Ontario, 
Canada, geboren. Ich bin englische Unterthanin und wurde 
Protestantisch erzogen. Ich besuchte das Gymnasium zu 
Smith's Falls und nachher zu Perth welches ich mit dem Zeug- 
niss der Reife im Zahre 1890 verliess. Ich widmete mich 
hierauf dem Studium der Englischen Litteratur und Philologie, 
Gechichte und Philosophic an der Universitat Queen's zu 
Kingston wo ich im Jahre 1895 den Magister liberalium artium 
erhielt. In demselben Jahre legte ich mein Staatsexamen bei 
der Canadischen (Ontario) Regierung ab. 

Zur Forsetzung meiner Studien begab ich mich an die 
hiesige Universitat woselbst ich im Jahre 1899 als Horerin der 
philosophischen Fakultat inscribiert wurde. Ich horte vorzugs- 
weise die Vorlesungen der Herm Professoren Hoops, Fischer, 
Thode, Braune, von Duhn und Ihne und bin alien diesen 
Herren fiir reiche wissenschaftliche Anregung und Forderung 
zu herzlichem Dank verbunden. 

Biographical Sketch. 

Henry David Thoreau was born at Concord, Massachu- 
setts, on the i2th of July, 1817, and with the exception of 
a few years which the family spent in Chelmsford and Boston, 
he passed there his childhood and youth up to the time of en- 
tering college in 1833. At Harvard he does not seem to have 
distinguished himself in his studies or to have obtained very 
high standing in his classes. So much time did he devote to 
outside, general, classical reading, so little did he work to the 
satisfaction of his professors that he obtained only about half 
of the bursary which would otherwise have been given him 
out of the fund for the assistance of poor students. His es- 
says, however, excited considerable comment and were the 
means of his becoming acquainted with Emerson. Shortly 
after his graduation, he, with his brother, founded a private 
school in Concord, and as Emerson was then residing in that 
village, their friendship became strong and intimate. 

Emerson and Margaret Fuller were joint editors of the 
" Dial," a magazine on much the same plan as the German 
" Horen," and to which almost all the better talent of the 
United States contributed. Thoreau was invited to write for 
it and consented. His first published paper, " Aulus Perseus 
Flaccus," appeared in it in 1840, and he was a regular, though 
unpaid, contributor until it suspended publication in 1844. 

But the private school did not pay expenses, so in 1843 
the brothers abandoned it, and Henry went to Staten Island 
as tutor to the sons of Mr. William Emerson. He seems to 
have done so unwillingly however, and to have felt that he 
could only find his true life in withdrawing from a life of mean 

cares and constant anxiety concerning the merely physical 
and temporal. He expressed his dissatisfaction in a letter to 
his friend EUery Channing, who replied : 

" I see nothing for you on this earth but that field which I once 
christened " Briars ;" go out upon that, build yourself a hut, and then 
begin the process of devouring yourself alive." 

The next year, 1844, Thoreau resigned his position and 
returned to Concord. 

"I have thoroughly tried school-keeping," he writes, "but was 
obliged to dress and train, not to say think and believe accordingly, and 
I lost my time into the bargain." 

In i84\he retired to Walden Woods, where he built him- 
self with his own hands a hut on the shore of the pond. 

Wonderful stories, resembling those told of St. Francis 
of Assissi, are told of his intimacy with the wild animals in 
the wood : ' ' The fishes swam into his hand ; the mice would 
come and playfully eat out of his fingers, and the very mole 
paid him firiendly visits ; sparrows alighted on his shoulder at 
his call . . . snakes coiled round his leg ... he 
pulled the woodchuck out of his hole by the tail and took the 
foxes under his protection from the hunters." 

It was while living at Walden, too, that he was seized 
and put in goal for refusing to pay the taxes imposed by a 
wholly iniquitous government. 

For two years and a half he lived alone in his cabin ; 
then when Mr. Emerson went to England, in 1847, he yielded 
to the claims of friendship and went to stay with Mrs. Emer- 
son and the children. His letters to Emerson during this 
period are very interesting, and permit us to see how he was 
held in esteem by the older members of the family and loved 
by the children. After Emerson's return home towards the 
end of the next year Thoreau felt it his duty to assist in the 
support of his own mother and sisters. He took up his 
father's trade of pencil-making, and continued to reside in the 
town instead of returning to Walden. He lived, however, in 
as absolute retirement and almost as much in Walden Woods 
and at the heart of Nature as he had in his Walden cabin. 

In this year he published his first book — written ten years 
earlier — " A Week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers," 
an account of a week's trip in a row-boat taken by him in 
company with his brother John. The book did not sell very 
well, and the publishers requested him to remove the unsold 
copies from their warehouse, as they had no room to store 
them. He complied with their request, and in his diary of 
October 28, 1853, thus humorously describes his plight : 

" I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, 
over seven hundred of which I wrote myself. Is it not 
well that the author should behold the fruits of his labor ? 
My works are piled up on one side of my chamber half as 
high as my head, my Opera Omnia. This__was_authorship, 
th ese are the works of m y brain !" Ax-<^-v»-ve^t-<ru.< ^ 

But this did not in the least discourage him : " Indeed," 
he continues in the same record in his diary, " I believe 
that the result is more inspiring and better for me than if a 
thousand had bought my wares. It affects my privacy less 
and leaves me freer." 

His second book, "Walden,"* which describes his life 
in the woods, was not published until 1854. It is, perhaps, 
the most widely read of his works, and has been translated^ 
into several European languages. -^ 

In 1856 Thoreau made the acquaintance of Horace 
Greeley at Chappaqua, who offered him the tutorship of his 
sons. He considered the proposition for a time for the sake 
of his family, but at last refused, holding that " the life is 
more than meat and the body more than raiment." 

He continued, however, to write for several magazines, 
for the most part articles descriptive of trips he occasionally 
took during the summer, as, for instance, two walking tours 
about Cape Cod, three visits to the forests of Maine and a 
longer journey into I^ower Canada. These excursions were 
made on foot, alone or with one single friend (with in Maine 
an Indian for a guide), and so were entirely in keeping with 
the still privacy of his whole life. His last trip was taken in 

* Translated into German by Emma Emmerich. (Palm, Miinchen.) 

i86i, when his friends, concerned about his failing health, 
persuaded him to go to Minnesota, hoping that in the dry, 
clear climate of that State he would be able to shake off the 
disease of the lungs which had attacked him. It was not of 
any lasting benefit, however. Not long after his return to 
Concord he wrote to his young friend Benton : 

" You ask particularly about njy health. I suppose I 
have not many months to live, but of course I know nothing 
about it. I may add that I am enjoying existence as much as 
ever and regret nothing. ' ' 

' ' His patience was unfailing, ' ' writes Channing. ' ' He 
knew not aught save resigjnation ; he did mightily cheer and 
console those whose strength was less." 

He died on the 6th of May, 1862, and was buried in the 
peaceful "Sleepy Hollow" cemetery at Concord. The in- 
scription was written by Channing : 

' ' Hail to thee, O man ! who has come from the transi- 
tory place to the imperishable ! ' ' 



I. — Introductory. 

The world has in all ages found it marvellous when a 
man, contrary to the natural desire for life and self-^^lization 
in the wjorld, has withdrawn himself from it ; and that in the 
nineteenth century, in practical, Protestant America, Tho- 
reau, young, physically robust and highly educated, should 
renounce, not only worldly pleasure, but practically the whole 
struggle for existence, could not fail to excite especial wonder 
and much speculation as to his motives. 

"Few lives contain so many renunciations," writes 
Emerson. "He was bred to no profession; he never mar- 
ried ; he lived alone ; he never went to church ; he never 
voted ; he refused to pay a tax to the State ; he ate no flesh f 
he drank no wine ; he never knew the use of tobacco, and, ^ 
though a naturalist, he used neither trap nor gun. He chose, 
wisely, no doubt, for himself, to be the bachelor of thought/ 
and nature."* ^^ 

Naturally, such a life met with little sympathy from 
Thoreau's fellow-countrymen, who, for the most part, attrib- 
uted his course to selfishgess, a lack of energy and the desire 
to shirk all responsibility as a citizen of the State and a man 
among men. His whole life demonstrated, however, that 
these accusations were without foundation and that such mo- 
tives could play no part in influencing his decision. Yet even 
Emerson, his great contemporary and friend, who himself led 
a singularly unworldly and free imaginative life, did not see 
the full significance of Thoreau's negation of life, and could 

* From the address delivered by R. W. Emerson at Thoreau's fu- 
neral and printed in the "Atlantic Monthly," August, 1862. See Preface, 

not but bemoan the loss of his splendid talents to the world : 
" Had his Genius been only contemplative," wrote Emer- 
son in his biographical sketch, "he had been fitted for his 
life, but with his energy and practical ability he seemed born 
for great enterprise and for command ; and I so much regret 
the loss of his rare powers of action that I cannot help count- 
ing it a fault in him that he had no ambition. Wanting 
this, instead of engineering for all America, he was captain 
of a huckleberry party. . . . 

' ' Pounding beans is good to the end of pounding empires 
one of these days ; but if at the end of the years it is Still 
only beans ! "* 

But though withdrawal from the world is induced in per- 
haps the greater number of cases by lack of energy to engage 
in its conflicts, or lack of inner strength to support its ever- 
recurring disappointments and deep sadness, the motive often 
bears a positive character, is of a religious or philosophical 
nature. The realization of the triviality and transitoriness of 
this life leads to the decision to negate the present for the con- 
sideration of the inner life and of an eternal world. This 
ideal has found its fullest expression in the anchorites of the 
Roman Catholic Church and the ascetics of the Orient. Yet, 
though the institution of monasticism in the East and in the 
West alike has its origin in the conception of the significance 
of I,ife, of Time and Eternity, of the Divine and His relation 
to man, there is a marked difierence between the conception 
of the Christian monk and that of the Brahman. To the 
Catholic recluse God is a distinct personality, so concrete, 
indeed, that he can be represented in images which become 
objects of passionate and personal love. For the Brahman, 
- on the contrary, God is the Impersonal, the All-p(tjg(vading, 
the whole world, himself — the All. The next world, for the sake 
of which the Catholic saint renounces this, is almost tangible, 
a world like this world but without sorrow, perfect and end- 
less. For the Brahman the very thought of such a heaven is 
error and sin. For between the ideals themselves a funda- 

* H. A. Page, " Thoreau, His Life and Aims." P. 257. 

mental difference exists. The Christian ascetic mortifies the 
flesh that the soul may win the upper hand and develop itself 
into perfection fit for fellowship with the Divine throughout 
Eternity. He conceives of this purified soul as retaining its 
identity and existing in individual form in the next world, 
possibly even in the same body, after the Resurrection from 
the dead. The Brahman, on the other hand, seeks not to de^ 
velop his personality in any sense, but to lose it ; to free him- 
self from everything pertaining to individual existence, and 
so at last be absorbed into the Principle of Existence itself ;l 
to lose all consciousness of separate personality in perfectj 
oneness with the Universal. 

Thoreau's motive for withdrawal from the world was of 
such a religious — or it may be called philosophical — character, 
as that which led the Brahman to find his highest realization 
in self-negation ; and the study of Hindoo philosophy was an 
important factor in framing Thoreau's whole conception of 

It will be the purpose of this study to present a system- 
atic consideration of his philosophy of life, together with an 
examination into its points of correspondence with Hindoo 

II.— Acquaintance with Hindoo I/iterature. 

In 1837 Thoreau became acquainted with Emerson,* who 
first drew his attention to the literature of the Orient, f 

His first book, " A Week on the Concord and Merrimac 
Rivers," written in 1839, contains many such references to 
Hindoo Philosophy as the following : 

' ' In comparison with the philosophy of the East, we may 
say that modern Europe has yet given birth to none. Beside 
the vast and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagvat Geeta, even 
our Shakespeare seems sometimes youthfully green and com- 
monplace merely. . . . Ex Oriente lux may still be the 

* V. F. B. Sanborn, " Henry D. Thoreau." P. 180. 

t V. J. R. Lowell, "Thoreau," "My Study Windows." P. 144. 


motto of scholars, for the Western world has not yet derived 
from the East all the light which it is destined to receive 
thence." * 

Concerning the lack of understanding in the modem 
world of the profound thought of the East, he writes : 

' ' Tried by a New England eye or the mere practical wis- 
dom of modem times, they (the Hindoo Scriptures) are the 
oracles of a race already in its dotage ; but held up to the sky, 
which is the only impartial and incorruptible appeal, they are 
of a piece with its depth and serenity, and I am assured that 
they will have a place and significance as long as there is a 
sky to test them by." f 

During the years of his life alone in Walden Woods, he 
1 gave much time to the study of the Hindoo Scriptures, as such 
records as the following in " Walden" show : 

' ' In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous 
and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagvat Geeta, since whose 
composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in compari- 
son with which our modern world and its literature seem puny ; 
and I doubt if that philosophy is not to be referred to a pre- 
vious state of existence, so remote is its sublimity from our 
conceptions." | 

So great was his interest in Hindoo literature that his 
friend Cholmondd^ on returning to England, sent him from 
there, as the most acceptable gift, forty-four volumes, " in 
English, French, Latin and Sanskrit," concerning which 
Thoreau wrote to his friend Mr. Daniel Ricketson : § 

" But I wish now above all to inform you that Cholmon- 
dely has gone to the Crimea, but that" before he left he busied 
himself in buying, and has caused to be forwarded to me by 
Chapman, a royal gift in the shape of twenty-one distinct 
works (one in nine volumes —forty-four volumes in all) almost 
exclusively relating to ancient Hindoo literature and scarcely 

* "Week," p. 186. (The "Week" was, however, not published 
till 1849.) Cf., also " Week," p. 184. 
t "Weeks," p. 196. 
t "Walden," p. 459- 
§ Written Dec. 25, 1855 ; v. " Letters," p. 320. 


one of them to be bought in America. I am familiar with 
many of them and know how to prize them. I send you in- 
formation of this as I might of the birth of a child." 

It was inevitable that this constant study of Hindoo 
philosophy, this very living and breathing in its atmosphere, 
should influence Thoreau's manner of thought and be an im- 
portant factor in moulding his philosophy of life. 

He himself acknowledges tha.t the life of the Brahman 
possesses a fascination for him : 

" It is the attitude of this men more than any communi- 
cation which they make that attracts us. The very austerity 
of the Brahmans is tempting to a devotional soul." * 

He found a certain satisfaction in the thought that his 
own mode of life at Walden, in its details, would be4r com- 
parison with theirs : 

' ' It was fit that I should live on rice mainly, who loved 
so well the philosophy of India." f 

He recognizes, too, the tremendous influence of the Hin- 
doo manner of thought on his mind and spirit in such a 
record as the following in " Walden: " 

" To be intoxicated with a single glass of wine ! I have 
experienced that pleasure when I have drunk the liquor of the 
esoteric doctrines." J 

We have, farther, a clue to those works which made the 
greatest impression upon him. In a letter to Mrs. B. B. Wiley, 
of Chicago, dated Dec. 12th, 1856, he specifies : 

"The best, I think, are the Bhagvat Geeta (an episode in 
an ancient heroic poem called the Mahabarat § ) , the Vedas, 
the Vishnu Purana and the Institutes of Menu. 11 

* "Week," p. 198. 

t "Walden," p. 97. 

t Cited by Thoreau from Mir Camar Uddin Mast. Walden, p. 157. 

§ Written by Krishna Dwaipayna, the arranger of the Vedas. 

II Letters, p. 351. 


III.— Conception of God. 


In common with all formulated religions, the Brahmini- 
cal held the conception of a First cause, a Creator of the 
world, "from which the All derives its life."* The God 
Krishna announces concerning himself : 

" I am the creation of the Universe. 

" I am the eternal seed of all nature." f 

In the Vishnu Purana God is designated as : 

" The cause of the cause, the cause of the cause of the 
cause, the cause of them all " J 

Thoreau also conceives of God as Creator of the world, 
man's maker : ^ 

y*\ delight to come to my bearings, not walk with pomp y 
add parade in a conspicuous place, but towalkeyen with^^^-' 
Builder of the Universe if I may." § ' ' Has not he (God) done 
his work and made man^'^f 


The creator of the Universe is, in its existence, its pre- 
server. In the Vishnu Purana praise is offered " To him who 
as Brahma, creates the Universe, who in its existence is its 
preserver. ' ' ^ 

He regards his creation with love. The race of men is 
denominated in the Vedas, "Sons of the Immortal."** The 
All-Knowing First Being is not our enemy, but our relative 
and father, who cares for us. tt "As friends we pray to thee. 
We, mortals, to God." J J In the Bhagvat G^eeta the young 
Arjoon thus addresses the God : 

* Rigveda, lo, 12, p. 90 ; cf. also Yajur v. MahS-Nara Upan, 11, 4, 
p. 241. 

t Bhagvat Geeta, p. 36. 

X Vishnu Purana, p. 73. 

§ Walden, p. 508. 

II Autumn, p. 100. 

\ Vishnu Purana, p. 141. 

** Max Miiller, Sacred Books, vol xv., ii, 5, p. 240. 

tt Deussen, Yajur-Veda, ^vet-Upan, p. 295. 

tJHymnen des Sama-Veda, p. 216 (i, 8). "Als Freunde flehen wir zu 
dir. Zum Gotte Menschen wir. " 


' ' For thou shouldst bear with me even as a father with 
his son, a friend with his friend, a lover with his beloved, O 
Krishna, Jadava, Friend." * 

The idea of the loving care of God for his creation finds 
frequent expression in Thoreau : 

" As a mother loves to see her children take nourishment 
and expand, so God loves to see his children thrive on the nu- 
triment he has provided for them." \ 

The discerning will not fail to recognize his relationship 
to the all-pervading spirit : 

' ' The seer will speak of ' the Earths ' and his father who 
is in them." % 


This First Cause of the Universe is not, however, con- 
ceived of by the Hindoo philosopher as something apart from 
his creation. The world is but a manifestation of him and 
he exists in it. 

" AUes was is't, das Weltganze. Was sichtbar und was 
horbar ist. Dies AUes aussen und innen umfasst, durchdringt 
Narayama." || God is immanent in his creation : 

' ' Thou art the heart of all creatures and all that has been 
or will be emanates from thee, O universal Spirit ! This whole 
world from Brahma to a tree thou art. ' ' § 

Every natural phenomena is but an expression of God, 
the All. 

" The God who is in the fire, the God who is in the water, 
the God who has entered into the whole world, the God who 
is in the plants, the God who is the trees, adoration be to that 
God, adoration !" ** 

* Bhagvat Geeta, p. 58. 

t Winter, p. 228. 

X Week, p. 504. 

II Yajur-ved. MahS.-Naray-Up, 11, 4. Deussen, p. 251. All that exists, 
the entire Universe, all that is visible and audible, Narajama envelopes 
and penetrates. 

§ Vishnu Parana, p. 559. 

** Yajur-ved. ^vet-Upan, ii, 21, 11. Max Miiller, Vol. XV, p. 243. 


The Bhagvat Geeta empliasizes the importance of perception 
of the immanence of the Eternal in all things alike : 

' ' The learned behold him (the Almighty) alike in the 

reverend Brahman perfected in knowledge, in the ox and in 

the elephant, in the dog and in him who eateth of the flesh of 

dogs. Those whose minds are fixed on this equality gain 

eternity even in this world. They put their trust in Brahma, 

Tthe Eternal, because he is everywhere alike y * 

i To Thoreau, also, had insight been g^ven to recognize 

I the Eternal as existing in all things . 

" The common man will speak with reverence of the 
heavens, but the seer will speak of ' the earths ' and his 
father who is in them." f 

The search after fuller perception of this indwelling God 
even becomes his business in life : 

" My profession is to find God in nature. ' ' J 
V On' his walks he communes with the spirit which pervades 
all phenomena of the natural world : 

" It is as if I always met in those places some grand, 
serene, immortal, infinitely encouraging though invisible, 
companion and walked with him." || 


Since in all nature, in each single phenomenon, God 
dwells as its cause, it follows that all things are emanations 
of this indwelling Spirit, manifestations of the Omnipresent 
One, and, therefore, that God and the Universe— or Nature — 
are one and the same. This identity is expressed with great 
frequency in the sacred books of the East, firom which I will 
therefore cite but the following representative passages : 

' ' They who know true wisdom and whose minds are 
pure behold the whole world as one with divine knowledge, as 
one with thee, O God! " § 

* Bhagvat Geeta, p. 27. 
t Week, p. 504. 
,, t Excursions, p. 439. 
" 1 , II Winter, p. 151. 

§ Vishnu Purana, p. 32. 


The Veda further extoUs the Eternal as : 

" Hochster des Alls, ^as All selber, Ew'ger Narayami, 
Hari ; ja, Purusha ist dieses Weltall." * 

To see Nature with true perception is equivalent to seeing 
God — Krishna spake : 

" Behold, O Arjoon, my million forms divine, of various 
species and diverse shapes and colors. Behold in this my 
body the whole world animate and inanimate and all things else. ' ' f 

In Thoreau's direct manner the same thought is ex- 
pressed : 

' ' May we not see God ? Is not Nature rightly read that 
of which she is taken to be the symbol merely ?" % 

As the Hindoo characterizes fire, water, wind — all the 
powers or motions in nature — as God, so Thoreau : 

' ' These motions everywhere in Nature must surely be the 
circulation of God. " 1 1 

Interesting, too, is the following note in Thoreau's diary 
from Dec. 29, 1841 : 

" God did not make the world in jest, no nor indiffer- 
ence." It is God's world § — which might almost be a trans- 
lation of the following passage from the Upanishads of the 
Vedas : 

' ' Viele lassen die Weltschopfung 
Auf Wunsch Gottes allein entstehen — 
Zum Genuss sich, zum Spielzeuge 
Schuf sie Gott, meinen andere — 
Nein, sie ist Gottes selbst IVesen."** 

* Yajur-ved. Mah9,-Naray, 11, 4. Deussen, p. 251 ; cf. also Rig- 
Veda, 10, 2, p. 90. " Highest of the All, the All itself, Eternal Nara- 
yana, Hari. Yes, Purusha is the whole world." 

t Bhagvat Geeta, p. 53. 

t Week, p. 504. 

II Autumn, p. 430. 

§ Winter, p. 52. 

** Atharva-ved. Mand-Kar Up., i, 3. Deussen, p. 579. Many con- 
sider that the creation of the world was the fulfilment of divine desire ; 


The conception of God as immanent in all things, as 
identical with the Universe itself, must necessarily preclude 
restrictions of any nature of the Divine and so present the 
idea of 


It follows, therefore, naturally and necessarily, that the 
ancient Hindoo religion should lack any representation of its 
God in art.* 

Only when God is conceived of as possessing a definite 
form and distinct personality — as, for instance, of a human 
being or of an animal — can He be represented in art. Thus 
the gods of ancient Greece could take form in sculpture only 
when they had been incarnated in Greek poetry and conceived 
of as bearing the forms of perfect men, and Christian art 
could take its rise only after the great revivalists had revealed 
the Redeemer as Son of Man, as well as Son of God. 

It was, however, foreign to the very fundamental idea 
and character of the Hindoo religion to restrict the One who 
is at the same time the All by attributing to him a definite — 
and therefore limited — personality. He is characterized as : 

" Brahma, whose body is ether, whose nature is true, 
rejoicing in the senses, delighted in the mind, perfect in 
peace and immortal." f 

His worshipers strive to divest themselves of any linger- 
ing definiteness of conception . Brahma bears no resemblance 
to any single created thing : 

others think that God created it for His pleasure, as a plaything. No, 
it is God's very essence. 

It is interesting to compare the expression of thought in Whittier's 
" Andrew Rykman's Prayers : " 

" Not through blind caprice of will, 
Not by cunning slight of skill. 
Not through sport of mind or force, 
Hast Thou made Thy Universe ; 
But as atmosphere and zone 
Of thy loving heart alone." 
* See Schroeder ; " Indiens Kultur," p. 80-85. 

t Yajur-veda, Taitt-Upan, Max Miiller, Vol. IV, p. 49 ; cf. Vishnu 
Parana, p. 73. 


' ' That which cannot be seen or seized, which has no family 
and no caste, no eyes nor ears, no hands nor feet, the eternal, 
the omnipresent (all-pervading) infinitesimal, that which is 
imperishable, that it is which the wise regard as the source of 
all beings."* 

Thoreau is so impressed by the idea of the omnipresence 
and illimitability of the Divine Being, that he fears to limit 
the conception by applying to it a name : 

' ' God reigns ! I say God. I am not sure that is the 
name. You will know who I mean." f 

The insistence with which the preachers and teachers 
harp upon the personality of God provokes him to sarcasm : 

' ' The perfect God in his revelations of himself has never- 
got the length of one such proposition as you, his prophets, 
state. Have you learned the alphabet of heaven and can 
you count three ? Do you know the number of God's family ? 
Whose friend are you that you speak of God's personality ?" % 

He who has really attained to perception will realize the 
unknowableness of the Supreme, the boundlessness of the 
Infinite. In illustration a parable, which I cite in full as ex- 
pressing equally well Thoreau's and the Brahminical view of 
the matter : 

' ' A good and pious man reclined his head on the bosom 
of Contemplation and was absorbed in the ocean of a revery. 
At the instant when he awaked from his vision, one of his 
friends, byway of pleasantry, said: "What rare gifts have 
you brought us from that garden where you have been recre- 
ating ?" ;He replied : " I fancied to myself and said : When 
I can reach the rose-bower I will fill my lap with flowers 
and bring them as a present to my friends; but when I got 
there, the fragrance of the roses so intoxicated me that the 
skirt dropped from my hands. O bird of dawn ! . . . . 
these vain pretenders are ignorant of him they seek after. O 
Thou ! who towerest above the flights of conjecture, opinion 

* Atharva-Veda, Mund-upan, I, i, 6. Max Miiller, p. 28, Vol. I. 
t Letter to H. Blake (1849). Letters, p. 214. 
X Week, p. 88-89 ; cf. also Week, p. 98. 


and comprehension, whatever has been reported of thee we 
have heard and read ; the congregation is dismissed and life 
drawn to a close and we still rest at our first enconium of 

IV.— Conception of Man. 

I. man's relation to nature. 
a. Man One with Nature. 

As God is immanent in all things, man and nature are 
alike his manifestations ; therefore man must know the close- 
ness of his relation to nature, amounting to absolute oneness 
in the Universal. Thus the Veda explains : 

' ' The Brahman ... is the same as the ether which 
is around us ; and the ether which is around us is the same 
as the ether which is within us. And that ether which is 
within us, that is the ether within the heart. That ether in 
the heart (as Brahman) is omnipresent and unchanging." f 

The idea is expressed by Thoreau in very similar words : 

' ' Did not he that made that which is within make that 
which is without also ?" J 

He who has attained to perception will not fail to recog- 
nize that the same elements are in all other natural objects 
which are in him ; that he is one with them. 

" Doch wer die Wesen hier alle 
Wiedererkenni im eignen selbst, 
Und sick in allem was lebet. 
Der anstigt sich vor keinen mehr." §' 

To Thoreau oneness — identity — with Nature is oneness 
with the Spirit of Nature : 

* Week, p. 99-100 ; cf. Vishnu Purana, p. 114. 

t Sama-veda, Chand-Upan, 3, 12, 7, 8, 9. Max Miiller, Vol. I, p. 46. 

t Week, p. 504. 

§ Yajurved, Ica-Up., 3. Deussen, p. 525. Yet he who recognizes all 
creatures here in himself and himself in all that lives, is troubled before 


" I cannot come nearer to God and Heaven 
Than I live to Walden even 
I am its stony shore, 
And the breeze that passes o'er ; 
In the hollow of my hand 
Are its water and its sand, 
And its highest resort 
Lies high in my thought." * 

Almost a prayer is the longing for perfect oneness with 
Nature expressed in a letter to Mrs. Brown (July 21st, 1841) : 

'^1 to be Nature, looking into nature with such easy sym- 
pathy as the blue-eyed grass in the meadow looks into the 
face of the sky." f 

b. Respect for plants and animals. 

The perception that all creatures in Nature are manifes- 
tations of, and one with, the Divitie, induces reverence before 
them as interpreters to man of the secrets of the Infinite. 
Thus the steer is represented in the Vedas as teacher of Saly- 
akama, son of Jabala, and is addressed with the respect due a 
learned Brahman : 

"The bull of the herd said to him, ' Salyakama ! ' He 
replied : ' Sir ! ' The bull said : ' . . . I^ead us to the 
home of the teacher and I will declare to you one foot of 
Brahman.' ' Declare it, sir,' he replied." J 

To Thoreau the animals were all companions whose com- 
munications were worthy to be heard : 

" I hear faintly the cawing of a crow, far away echoing 
from the woodside. What a delicious sound ! It is not 
merely crow calling to crow, for it speaks to me, too. I am 
part of one great creature with him.^'% 

The birds were messengers of the Most High : 

" These migratory sparrows all bear messages that concern 
my life." \\ 

* Walden, p. 303. 

t Letters, p. 42. 

t.Samar Chand, 5, i, 2, 7. Max Miiller, Vol. I, p. 61. 

§ Winter, p. 164. 

II Summer, p. 286. 

"The sense of oneness with natural objects and the ani- 
mals is often expressed in the language of human relation- 

Thus Thoreau addresses the ' ' Queen of Night, ' ' the 
moon : 

' ' My dear, my dewy sister, let thy dews descend on me, ' ' * 
and exclaims in his eulogy of the hardy little tree : ' ' What 
cousin of mine is the scrub oak ?" f 

It is interesting to compare with such expressions re- 
marks like the following, in Sakontala's conversation with 
her friends in the garden : 

' ' Ich fiihle wirklich die Neigung einer Schwester zu 
diesen jungen Pflanzen." % 

c. Abstinence from meat-eating. 

Out of the conception that plants and animals are em- 
anations of the Divine and bear the closest relationship to 
man, follows naturally the anxiety not to injure any living 
thing, and its expression in the abstinence of the Hindoos 
from meat-eating. The Heetopades define religion as : 
" Compassion for all things that have life." || The Laws of 
Menu command abstinence from flesh-meat : 

' ' Not a mortal exists more sinful than he who 
desires to enlarge his own flesh with the flesh of another 
creature. . . . He who gives no creature willingly the 
pain of confinement or death, but seeks the good of all sentient 
beings, enjoys bliss without end." § 

The Persian scriptures, too, take the same attitude with 
regard to the preservation of all life. The Zenda Vesta coun- 
sels the devout against the felling of trees, and gives a form 
of sacrifice to be offered when the injury of tree-life is una- 
voidable. ** 

• V. Sanborn, " H. D. Thoreau," p. 259. 
t Autumn, p. 367. 

t Sakontala, p. 9. "I really feel the inclination of a sister toward 
these young plants." 

II Heetopades of Veeshnoo Sama, p. 62. 
§ Laws of Menu, p. 150-151 (46, 48, 52). 
** V. Zenda Vesta, p. 188. Compare also the Buddistic Suttas, p, 191. 


Thoreau's extremely sensitive care not to injure any 
living thing is shown in the following record in his diary : 

" Now is the time for chestnuts. A stone cast against 
the tree shakes them down in showers upon one's head and 
shoulders. But I cannot excuse myself for using the stone. 
I was affected as if I had cast a rock at a sentient being," * etc. 

It is interesting, further, to note that Thoreau uses the 
same phrase, " sentient being," as is used in the passage from 
the Laws of Menu cited above, f 

For Thoreau as naturally as for the Hindoos, abstinence ■ 
from the eating of meat was an article of religion- He thus 
writes concerning it. citing at the same time the Vedas on the 
subject : 

< < Nevertheless I am far from regarding myself as one of 
those privileged to whom the Veda refers when it says that 
" He who has true faith may eat all that exists, /. e., is not 
bound to inquire what is his food or who prepares it." " And 
even in their case it is to be observed that a Hindoo commen- 
tary has remarked that the Vedant limits the privilege to times 
of distress." % 


As nature is one with God and is God, so is man one with 
God and 

a. Identical with God. 

The conception of man as one with the Divine Being — 

* Autumn, p. 144-145 (Oct. 23d, 1855). 

t Line 105, of the poem "Mountains" (v. " Poems of Nature," p. 
loi), read originally, "and seem to milk the sky." Margaret Fuller, to 
whom, as editor of the "Dial" the poem was sent, wrote Thoreau (Oct. 
i8th, 1841) : " Leave out, ' and seem' to milk the sky. ' The image is too 
low. Mr. Emerson thought so, too." No doubt Thoreau got this ex- 
pression from the " Laws of Menu." P. 5 (23), where Brahma is said to 
" milk out" the fire, air and sun. That Thoreau possessed the transla- 
tion by Sir Wm. Jones from which I have quoted, is clear from Week, 
p. 162; cf. also the same expression, "Laws of Menu," p. 32 (76). 
Thoreau uses the expression, " I milk the sky and the earth," in his diary 
of Nov. 3d, 1853. Autumn, p. 203. 

X Walden, p. 217 ; cf. "Laws of Menu," p. 150 (43). 


the individual soul, as no other than the Universal soul — is 
very frequently expressed in the sacred book of the East : 

" He from whom all works, all desires, all sweet odors 
and tastes proceed, who embraces all this, who never speaks 
and who is never surprised, he, myself within the heart, he is 
that Brahman.* 

When the wise man appears before the throne of Brahma 
the God will ask : 

" "Who art thou ?" and he shall answer : "I am a season 
and the child of the seasons, sprung from the womb of endless 
space, from the light (from the luminous Brahman). The 
light, the origin of the year, which is the past, which is the 
present, which is all living things and all elements, is the 
Self. Thou art the self. What thou art that am /. " f 

A youth, Kabala, a descendant of Keishitaki, questioned 
the seer : 

" Yagnavalkya," he said, "tell me the Brahman which 
is visible, not invisible, the Self (atman) who is within 
all." Yagnavalkya replied : " This is thy Self who is within 
all." J 

This unity, orjrather identity, of God and man, finds un- 
mistakable expression in Thoreau : 

" I see, smell, taste, hear, feel that everlasting Something 
to which we are allied, at once our Maker, our Abode, our 
Destiny, our very selves." \\ •— — 

From an ethical point of view, this gives him courage to 

* Sama-Veda, Chand-Upan, 3, 14, 4, Max Miiller, Vol. I, p. 48. 
t Rig- Veda, Kaush-Upan, i, 6. Max Miiller, Vol. I, Part I, p. 278. 
X Yajur-Veda, Brih-Upan, 4, i. Muller, Vol. XV, p. 128. The foot 
note to Max Miiller runs : Deussen translates : "Das inmanente, nicht 
transcendente Brahman," which is right but too modern. 

II Week, p. 226. The same thought is beautifully expressed in Long- 
fellow's translation of the Aphorisms of Johannes SchefHer (Angelus 
Silesius) which Thoreau may have known, as the translation was made 
in 1839 : 

" Pray' St thou how looks my God? 

Go and thyself behold ; 
Who sees himself in God, 
Sees God's own very mould." 


recognize how entirely lie must depend upon himself and, at 
the same time, how certainly his resources are equal to the 
demands made upon them, since he is one with the All-pow- 
erful : 

' ' There is something proudly^thxiUing: in-the-thought that 
t his obedi g nce t o conscience and trust in God which is so sol- 
emnly preached m extremities and arduous circumstances, is 
only a retreat to one' s self and reliance on one' s own strength ^ * 

This inner, metaphysical self revealed itself through the 
eyes, the " windows of the soul." 

" The person that is seen in the eye, that is the Self. 
This is the immortal, the fearless, this is Brahman." \ 

To Thpreau it seemed that if his fellow man were con- 
scious of his oneness with the Infinite soul, and let the whole 
power of that soul reveal itself, he would be as unable to 
support the revelation as were the children of Israel, who 
could not look upon the face of Moses after his communion 
with the Eternal One upon Mount Sinai : ""^ 

j^ <i>Pq jjg awake is to be alive. I have never yet seen a 
/man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in/ 

the face?" J ' — 

^"^^ The lack of understanding on the part of scientific men, 
who pretend to get at the secret of life itself moves him to 
the sharp criticism : 

" Men of science when they pause to contemplate the 
power, wisdom and goodness of God, or as they sometiraes call 
him, "The Almighty Designer," speak of him as a total 
stranger, whom it is necessary to treat with the highest con- 
sideration. They seem suddenly to have lost their wits.' ' § 

The Hindoo regarded even the faintest glimmer of per- 
ception that the Eternal is not a stranger but a man's own 
self, as a great advance in spiritual life : 

"Then he (the Brahman) said to them all : ' You eat your 

* Winter, p. 279. 

t Sama-Veda, Chan-Upan, 4, 15, i. Max Miiller, I, p. 67. 

\ Walden, p. 142 ; cf. also Spring, p. 138. 

§ Spring, p. 91. 


food knowing that Vaisvanara Self as if it were many. 
But he who worships the Vaisvanara Self as a span long as 
identical with himself, he eats the food in all worlds, in all 
beings in all selfs.' " * 

b. Dualism. 

Yet in spite of the frequent expressions of the Brahman's 
absolute oneness with the Universal, a sense of dualism, of 
division yet to be overcome, is ever present. Often we find 
after such an avowal of faith as : 

"He (who is) my self within the heart, is that Brah- 
In the very next line : 

' ' (And) when I shall have departed from hence I shall 
obtain that self, "f 

This oneness is then not complete, but even now in process of 

becoming : 

" Das Wesen in sich selbst schantnd, 

Das Wesen in der Aussenwelt, 
Zu ihm werdend, in ihm ruhend, 
Halt er treu an dem Wesen fest.'' J 

Thoreau, too, enjoys but ecstatic moments when he is fully 
one with Nature and God ; the serenity of complete and as- 
sured oneness is not yet reached : 

' ' I fear we are such Gods or demi-gods merely as fauns 
and satyrs, the divine allied to beasts." § 

Oft despair and hope are mingled in an outburst of long- 
ing for perfect union with the Universal : 

"Why were my ears given to hear those everlasting 
strains which haunt my life and yet to be profaned by these 
perpetual dull sounds ? . . . Why, God, did you include 
me in your great scheme ? Will you not make me a partner at 
last r'W 

* Sama-Veda, Upan-Chand, 5, 18, i. Max Miiller, I, p. 88. 

t Sama-Veda, Upan-Chand, 3, 14, 4. Max Miiller, I, p. 48. 

X Atharva-Veda, Mand-Kar, 2, 38, Deussen, p. 587. "Seeing the 
Essence in himself and in the outer world, becoming one with it, resting 
in it, he holds fast to the Essence." 

§ Walden, p. 342. 

II Spring, p. 112. 


The realization of such a partnership is the mainspring of 

his life. He himself gives it as the reason for his withdrawal 

to Walden Woods : C 

^^ " I wished io ally myself to the powers that rule the Universe, 

C^ live as far away as a man can think." * — — 

What is then the significance of this consciousness of 
Identity with God, which at the same time is a consciousness 
of a lack of perfect Oneness with God ? Thoreau quotes a 
Hindoo story in explanation : 

" I have read in a Hindoo book that there was a 
king's son, who, being expelled in infancy from his native 
city, was brought up a forester, and, growing up to maturity 
in that state, imagined himself to belong to the barbarous 
race with which he lived. One of his father's ministers hav- 
ing discovered him, revealed to him what he was and the mis- 
conception of his character was removed and he knew himself 
to be a prince. 

"So soul," continues the Hindoo philosopher, " from the 
circumstances in which it is placed, mistakes its own charac- 
ter, until the truth is revealed to it by some holy teacher, and 
then it knows itself to be Brahma." f 

c. Original Sinlessness. 

The figure is already interpreted for us. The soul is of 
kingly origin, heaven- born, one with the Divine Father. As 
identical with the 'Perfect One, the soul was originally perfect, 
pure and sinless. 

"The beings . . . created by Brahma were at first 
endowed with righteousness and perfect faith, . . . their 
hearts were free from guile, they were pure, etc' ' J 

The Vedas affirms : 

" Alle seelen sind ursprunglich, 
Frei von Dunkel und Fleckenlos 
Urerweckt schon und urerlost." § 

* Walden, p. 342. 

t Walden, p. 151, 152. 

X Vishnu Purana, p. 45. 

§ Atharva-Veda Mand.-Upan, v. 98. Deussen, p. 604. All souls are 
originally free from darkness and spotless, awakened and redeemed 
from the beginning. Cf. Deussen, Geschichte der, Philosophie I, p. 310. 


Thoreau, too, held the doctrine of original sinlessness : 

' ' How careful we must be to keep the crystal well we are 
made clear / " * 

He holds the true self to be absolutely incapable of sin 
and not responsible for the deeds of the unreal, worldly self : 

" A great soul will not consider its sins as its own, but be 
more absorbed in the prospect of that valor and virtue for the 
future which is more properly itself than in these improper ac- 
tions which, by being sins, discover themselves to be not itself" f 

An interesting passage in the Zenda Vesta forms d par- 
allel to this : 

" All good thoughts, words and works are done know- 
ingly ; all bad thoughts, words and actions are not done know- 

d. Sin. 

This, then, is the meaning and significance of sin. As 
the king's son in the far country forgot his origin and consid- 
ered himself merely a barbarian, man's soul in the world has 
lost sight of its original Oneness with the Divine. This is 
the Vedic conception of sin : 

' ' Ihr kenut ihn nicht der diese Welt gemacht hat ; ein 
andere schob sick zwischen euch und ihm." § 

The Vishnu Purana explains the advent of sin in the 
world thus : 

" ... After awhile . . . that portion ofHari 
which has been described as Kala (Time) infused into created 
beings sin." \\ 

Thoreau's definition of sin is in the same strain : 

' ' Sin, I am sure, is not in overt acts nor indeed in acts of 

* Autumn, p. 153 . 

t Winter, p. 144. 

% Zenda Vesta, Vol. Ill, p. 19. 

§ Rig- Veda, 10, 31. 'Deussen, p. 139. "Ye know not Him who has 
made this world ; another shoved himself between you and Him." 

II Vishnu Purana, p. 45 ; cf. also, p. 47. Thoreau uses the same word 
" Time," the Hari of the Vishnu Purana. 


any kind, but is in proportion to that time which has come 
behind us and displaced eternity, to the degree in which our 
elements are mixed with the elements of earth." * 


It was then the highest purpose — the only meaning — of 
life for the Hindoo devotee, to free himself from the delusion, 
of Time and the world, to realize to the full his Oneness with 
Brahma — that is, otherwise expressed — to refind his true self : 

" The Self which is free from sin, free from old age, from 
death and grief, from hunger and thirst, which desires nothing 
but what it ought to desire and imagines nothing but what it 
ought to imagine, it is which we must search out, that it is 
which we must try to understand." f 

This idea appears in Thoreau clothed in mystical lan- 
guage : 

•' I will only hint at some of the enterprise I have cher-, 
ished. I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse and a turtle dove, 
and am still on their trail." % 

To this '^self" is granted the perception of the One in 
AH — " the pure in heart shall see God." 

"When a man's nature has become purified by the se- 
rene light of knowledge, then he sees him, meditating on him 
as without parts." § 

Thoreau expressed frequently the thought that absolute 
purity of heart and mind is the source of that pure_Vision 
which can even discern the Infinite : 

" Man flows at once to God when the channel of purity 
is open." II "Chastity is perpetual acquaintance with the 
All." ** 

The Hindoo philosophy does not, however, consider this 
perception of God as perception of something outside of, or 

* Winter, p. 25. 

t Samaveda, Chan-Upan, 8, 7, i. Max Miiller, Vol. I, p. 134. 

X Walden, p. 29. 

§ Atharva Veda, Mund-Upan, 3, i, 8. Max Miiller, Vol. XV, p. 39. 

II Walden, p. 353. 

** Walden, p. 342. 


apart from, a man's self. The soul recognizes itself to be 
Brahma ; the dualism vanishes ; the individual is absorbed 
into the Universal spirit : 

"As the flowing rivers disappear in the sea, losing their 
name and their form, thus a wise man, freed from name and 
form, goes to the Divine Person, who is greater than the 
great." * 

Thoreau, too, is possessed by an intense longing to free 
himself from all foreign elements, and lose himself in the 
ocean of the Universal ; 

" Fain would I stretch me by the mountain side, 
To thaw and trickle with the melting snow, 

That, mingled soul and body with the tide, 

I, too, may through the pores of nature flow."t 

j'-- The aim of life in this world is, then, for Thoreau as for 
/the Brahman, to regain that purity of soul which he possessed 
originally as «ne with the Great Spirit, before taking on this 
individual form, to purge the soul of the delusion of a sepa- 
rate existence, that, free from all consciousness of an indi- 
vidual self, which consciousness is sin (as disharmony), he 
may be absorbed into the Universal. 

The whole course of progress to the perception of the 
Real is one of abstraction of the mind from the things which 
are but apparent ; of renunciation of all that pertains to the 
apparent or material life and is the consciousness of individ- 
uality, for the attainment of the purely spiritual. It is the 
resolution of the finite into the Infinite. 


a. Negation of (the apparent) Self. 

The first condition of realization of the true self is there- 
fore the negation of the apparent self. The father of Prat- 
rida taught his son that renunciation is the highest. f 

* Atharva Veda, Mund-Upan, 3, 2, 8. Max Miiller, Vol. XV, p. 41 ; 
cf. Deussen, Gesch d. Phil. II, p. 317. 
fWinter, p. 156. 

jYajur-Veda, Brih-Upan. Deussen Einleitung, 5, 12, p. 495. Max 
Miiller, Vol. XV, p. 194. 


" A mortal who has heard this and embraced it, who has 
separated from it all qualities and has thus reached the subtle 
Being rejoices, because he has obtained what is a cause for 
rejoicing." * 

Thoreau makes the same distinction between the external, 
seeming self and the real self : 

" Do you separate distinctly enough the support of your 
body from that of your essence ?" f 

If we but cease to devote all our energies to caring for 
this individual, we shall be like undisturbed water able to 
reflect eternal reality : 

" When was it that men agreed to respect the appearance 
and not the reality ? Why should the appearance appear ? 
When we are weary with the burden of life, why do we not lay 
down this load of falsehoods which we have volunteered to 
sustain and be refreshed as never mortal was ? . . . Let 
things alone, let them weigh what they will, let them soar or 
fall. To succeed in letting one thing alone — what an achieve- 
ment I Methinks it lightens through the dusky universe. 
If for a moment we made way with our petty selves, 
what shall we not reflect !" % 

*Yajur-Veda, Kath-Upan, i, 2, 13. Max Miiller, Vol. XV, p. 10. 
t Letter to H. Blake (1849). Letters, p. i8. 

X Letter to H. Blake (1849), P- 2i3-i4- This entire renunciation of 
self excludes all anxiety about the well-being of the personal self ; it, 
therefore, negates care and sorrow. Of the Hindoo Yogi it is written : 
' ' Von ihm weicht alle Wehklage, weicht 
In ihm ist keine Sorge mehr, 
Ganz befriedigt, mit Licht eins, ist, 
Festes, furchtloses Sinnes er." 
(Artharva-Veda, Mand-Ka, 3, 37. Deussen, p. 59r.) 

' ' All plaints of sorrow are foreign to him, in him there is no care, en- 
tirely satisfied, one with light, he is firm and fearless in mind." 

There is, therefore, no place in Thoreau' s scheme of life for a Phil- 
osophy of Sorrow. Grief exists only through lack of understanding of, 
or harmony with, the designs of the Universal. " Every man casts a 
shadow, not his body only but his imperfectly mingled spirit. That is 
his grief." (Week, p. 315. ) In the fullest faith and resignation peace is 
to be found : 

" I must receive my life as passively as the willow-leaf that flutters 


That this negation of self demands retirement from the 
world to a life of absolute seclusion will be considered in detail 
in another section ; I will here only cite a record from Thoreau's 
diary from the year 1841, in which year the project of the 
hermitage seems first to have taken form in his mind : 

" I want to go soon and live away by the pond where I 
shall hear only the wind whispering among the reeds. It will 
be success enough if I have left myself behind."^ 

b. Negation of the World. 

The renunciation of the external and apparent carries with 
it as inner necessity the negation of all worldly aspirations. 
The world is a hindrance in the struggle towards perfection as 
it continually distracts from the contemplation of the soul's 
high destiny and presents motives which appeal to egotism, to 
the desire for present" realization of the apparent self. Hence 
the Vedas consider entire withdrawal from the world a 
necessity of spiritual life.f Krishna, too, warns the young 
Arjoon against the infection of worldliness : 

" The busy world is engaged from other motives than the 
worship of the Deity. Abandon, then, O Son of Koontee all 
selfish motives and perform thy duty to me alone. ' '% 

This was one of Thoreau's messages to America : 

"I think, there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed 
to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself than this incessant 
business. "§ 

Over and over he gives expression to the highest principle 
which governs his life : 

over the brook. I must not be for myself, but for God's work and that 
is always good. I will await the breeze patiently and grow as they shall 
determine. . . . I feel as if I could at any time resign my life and 
the responsibility into God's hands and become as innocent and Jree from 
care as a plant or stone." (Spring, p. iii.) 

* Winter, p. 13. 

t V. labala-Upan, p. 460. 

tBhagvat Geeta, p. 15. 

§ Miscellanies, p. 255. 


" I must not be for myself, but for God's work."* 

" I must not live for it (the world) but in it for the Gods, 
they are my correspondent.! 

The serenity of such a life will permit insight into the 
eternal truths : 

" What are three-score years and ten hurriedly lived ; to 
moments of divine leisure when your life is coincident -with the 
life of the Universe."X 

Avoidance of Disturbing Influences. 

The Vedas counsel holding the soul aloof from all external 
influe'nces : 

" As rain-water that has fallen on a mountain ridge runs 
down the rocks on all sides, thus does he who sees a difference 
between qualities run after them on all sides. " As pure water 
poured into pure water, remains the same, thus O Gautama, is 
the self of a thinker who knows. "§ 

Thoreau held the receiving of many impressions from 
without to be but a waste of force : 

' ' Do not seek so anxiously to be developed, to subject 
yourself to so many influences, to be played upon. It is all dis- 
sipation. II 

(a) Solitude. 

To secure this freedom from distraction it is necessary to 
be much alone. The Bhagvat Geeta defines wisdom : 

" Wisdom is a constant and invariable worship paid to 
me alone, worshipping in a private place and a dislike to the 
society of men"** 

It is interesting to note that the teaching of Buddha also 
lays particular stress upon this point : 

* Letters, p. 213 ; cf. Confucius saying : "The wise man busies him- 
self not with worldly matters." v. Analects, III. p. 27. 
t Winter, p. 350. 
% Winter, p. 45. 

§ Yajur-Veda, Kath-Upan, 14, 15, Max Miiller, Vol XV. p. 17 
II Walden, p. 326. 
** Bhagvat Geeta, p. 65. 


" Let him (the wise man) be devoted to that quietude 
which comes from within, let him not drive back the ecstacy of 
contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much 
alone," * 

Thoreau found solitude a necessity of his fullest, most 
perfect life. Thus he writes in his diary : 

/ thrive best on solitude. If I have had a companion only 
one day in a week, I find that the value of the week to me has 
been seriously affected. It dissipates my days, etc."t 

The presence of others hindered the mystic perception of 
the inner soul behind all phenomena : 

' ' I saw through and behind them (the white pines) to a 

distant snow-clad hill, and also to oaks red with their dry leaves 

and maple limbs mingled with the pines. I was on the 

verge of seeing something, but I did not. If I had been alone 

I might have had something to report."X 

(/) Silence. 

The Hindoo sage in his isolation does not interrupt the 
highest communion with the eternal self by any speech or 
sound : 

" Hoher ist, als die Grundsilbe 

Der Punkt, hoher als er der Hall, 

Die Silbe mit dem Laut schwindet, 

Lautlos die hochste Static ist."% 

Thoreau, too^ has his doctrine of silence : 

' ' As the truest society approaches always nearer to soli- 
tude, so tlie m,ost excellent speech falls into silence. . . Silence 
iswhen we hear inwardly, sound when we hear outwardly. 
Who has not heard her infinite din ! She is Truth's speaking- 
trumpet, for through her all revelations have been made."|| 

*Akankhenya Sutta, p. 210 : cf. " Confucius," p. 27. 

t{Dec. 28th, 1856), Winter p. 49 : cf. also p. 354. 

JWinter, p. 150. 

§ Dhyam, 4. Deussen Gesch. der Philos., 1, p. 351. " Higher than 
the ground syllable (Om) is the point, higher than that the sound, the 
syllable vanishes with the tones, the highest is soundlessness." 

II Week, p. 515-6. 


He would hold his life as secluded as that of a Hindoo 
devotee ; 

"What- is fame to a living man. If he live aright the 
sound of no man's voice will resound through the aisles of his 
secluded life. . . . His life will be a hallowed silence, a 

Silence is natural when the mind is fixed in contempla- 
tion ; 

' ' Silence is the communication of a conscious soul with itself. 
If the soul attend for a moment to its own infinity, there is 
silence. "t When deeper thoughts upswell, the jarring dis- 
cord of harsh speech is hushed, and senses seem as little as 
may be to share the ecstasy." J 

c. Negation of Desire. 

Negation of the apparent self includes the mortifying of 
every desire which characterizes that self. The Eternal One, 
than which there is none other, is free from all desire, all 
passion ; on the realization of man's oneness with him, the 
Infinite, follows the death of desire. Poverty of worldly 
goods is, of course, implied. Thoreau ohose it as voluntarily 
as the Indian ascetic. Though his religion only required of the 
Brahman that he withdraw to a solitary life in the forest after 
he had fulfilled his duty as founder of a family, yet the Veda 
relates concerning the sages : 

' ' What shall we do with ofispring, they said, we who 
have this Self and this world (of Brahman)? And they, 
having risen above the desire for sons, wealth and new worlds, 
wander about as mendicants. ' '§ 

This negation of every human passion is essential to per- 
ception : 

" He who hath faith findeth wisdom, and above all he 
who hath gotten the better of his passions.'" || 

* Spring, p. 128-9. 

t Autumn, p. 435. 

. X Summer; p. 348. 

§ Yajur-Veda, Brih-Upan, IV, 4, 22. Max Miiller, Vol. XV, p. 179-80. 
II Bhagvat Geeta, p. 24 ; cf. also, " Laws of Menu," p. 186 (96). 


This is indeed the very definition of wisdom : 

" A man is said to be confirmed in wisdom when he for- 
saketh every desire which entereth his heart, andj)f himself is 
happy and contented in himself." * 

The Vedas declare this mastery of self to be the only 
true knowledge : 

" The mind, it is said, is of two kinds, pure or impure ; 

impure from the contact with lust, pure when free from lust. 

. . . The mind (manas, desire) must be restrained in 

the heart till it comes to an end — that is knowledge, that is 

liberty." t 

The Heetopades of Vishnu Sarma even go so far as to 
characterize self restraint as the distinguishing qualify of soul : 

' ' What hath he to do with a soul who doth not keep his 
passions in subjection ?" J 

Thoreau, too, considered freedom from desire the "flow- 
ering of man :" 

" He is blessed who is assured that the animal is dying out 
in him day by day and the Divine being established." § 

He quotes from the Vedas, with his endorsement : 

" A command over our passions and over the external senses 
of the body and good acts are declared by the Ved to be in- 
dispensable in the mind's approximation of God. Yet the 
spirit can for the time, pervade and control every member of 
the body and transmute what in form is grossest sensuality 
into purity and devotion." || 

d. Negation of Works. 
In the complete giving up of self, not only must the evil 
in man be annihilated, but even good works carry a danger 
with them, in that they are an assertion of individuality, and 
form an obstacle to uninterrupted contemplation of the Uni- 
versal : 

* Bhagvat Geeta, p. 12. 

t Maitr-Upan, 6, 34. Max Miiller, Vol. XV, p. 333-4. 

X Heetopades, p. 22. 

§ Essays, p. 242. 

II Walden, p. 342. 


" Because those who depend on good works are, owing to 
their passions, improvident, they fall and become miserable 
when their life is finished. Considering sacrifice and good 
works as the best, these fools know no higher good and having 
enjoyed their reward on the height of the heaven gained by 
good works, they enter again this world or a lower one." * 

To Thoreau the occupation with good works was inde- 
scribably petty and trivial in comparison with life's true pur- 
pose which must be all-absorbing : 

"What a foul subject is this of doing good I Instead of 
minding one's life which should be his business. ... As 
if the sun should stop when he had kindled his fires up to the 
splendor of a man, or a star of the sixth magnitude and go 
about like a Robin Goodfellow peeping in at every cottage 
window . . . instead of increasing his genial heat and 
beneficence till he is of such brightness that no mortal can look 
him in the face ; and, then, in the meantime, too, going about 
the world in his own orbit doing it good, or, rather, as a truer 
philosophy has discovered, the world going about him getting 
good." t 

X^So much energy spent in doing leaves none for being : 
/ " Even the wisest and best are apt to use their lives as the ^ 
[occasion to do something else than to live greatly. IVhai 
[man does compared with what he is, is a small party J, 

Thoreau quotes, further, from the Bhagvat Geeta con- / 

cerning / 

. . ' ' The forsaking of works taught by Krishna to the 

first of men. In wisdom is to be found every work without 

exception." § 

To him who has attained to wisdom, the uselessness of 

works are appirent. The Veda teaches : 

* Mund-Upan, 1,9, 10. Max Miiller, Vol. XV, p. 32. 
t Walden, p. 117. 
X Spring, p. 248. 
§ Week, p. 118. 


"All works, the good as well as the bad, become as 
nothing when wisdom is attained:" * 

(a) Faith. 

This wisdom is the perfection of insight of which the fruit 
and source alike is faith. 

' ' When one believes, one perceives. One who does not 
believe, does not perceive. Only he who believes, perceives. "f 

For the next world — as for this — works efiFect but little in 
comparison with this supreme faith through which knowledge 
of the eternal is attained ; 

' ' Those who in the forest follow faith and austerities go 
to light and from light to day, . . . This is the path of 
the Devas. But they who, living in a village, practice 
sacrifices, works of public utility, and alms, they go to the 
smoke, from smoke to night. "J 

To Thoreau, also, Faith appeared of infinitely more value 
than works : 

' ' I think we may safely trust a great deal more than we 

"• " Faith indeed is all the reform that is needed, it is in itself 
a reform." 1 1 

" In the serene 'Sky of evening he sees a picture of what 
his life should be ; 

"Just such a piece of art merely, infinitely sweet and 
good, did it appear to me, and Just as little were any active duties 
required of me."** 

Divine moments of perception of the supreme were granted 
to him through perfect faith, which is the full yielding up of 

*Mund-Upan, 2,2, 8. Max Miiller XV., p. 37, also Yajur-Veda, 
Kath-Upan, 6, 12, p. 23. ' ' The fetter of the heart is broken, all doubts 
are solved, all his works (and their effects) perish, when he has been 
beheld who is high and low." 

tSama-Veda Chan-Upan 7, 19, i, p. 122. Max Miiller, Vol.1. 

JSama-Veda, Chand-Upan 5, 12, 3. Max Miiller, Vol I, p. 80. 

§ Walden, p. 19. 

II Miscellanies, p. 63. 

** Autumn, p. 197. 


' ' Sometimes in a summer morning, I sat in my sunny 
doorway till noon, rapt in a reverie, among the pines and 
hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness. 
I grew in those seasons like corn in the night. ... I 
realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the 
forsaking of works. ' '* 

The forsaking of works was indeed a necessity to that 
' ' reclining on the bosom of contemplation " which the Hindoo 
worshipper considered the chief means of attaining to oneness 
with the All — that absolute concentration which is tantamount 
to death of the outer senses that the inner (spiritual) senses 
may be free to perceive the invisible world Thoreau had in 
some degree experienced this, for he records: 

" Drifting on a sultry day on the sluggish waters of the 
pond, I almost cease to live and begin to be.^ 

{b) The Yoga. 

The highest exercise of this power of abstraction is the 
practice of the Yoga.J 

Thoreau writes concerning it :§ 

"The Yogi, absorbed in contemplation, contributes in his 
degree to creation ; he breathes a divine perfume, he hears 
wonderful things. Divine forms traverse him without tearing 
him and, united to the nature which is proper to him, he goes, 
he acts as animating original matter. || To some extent and 
at rare intervals, /, too, am a Yogi. Free in this world as the 
birds of the air, disengaged from every kind of chain those 

*Walden, p. 175. 

t Spring p. 316. 

X Concerning the almost incredible power of abstraction possessed by 
the Hindoo devotees see Warren Hastings letter for the preface of the 
Bhagvat Geeta, Wilkin's Translation. 

§ cf. Yogat, I Dhyamat 3 ; Deussen, Gesch. der Phil., I, p. 354. 

II cf . Creuzer-Guignauts characterization of the Yoga practice. 

" C'est I'oubll de tont Individuality: c'est le renoncement le plus 
complet au moi," (Religions de 1' Antiquity : Vol I, p. 281). 


who have practiced the Yoga find in Brahma the certain fruit of 
their works. Depend upon it that, rude and careless as I am, 
/ would fain practice the Yoga faithfully. ' '* 

The complete giving up of all bodily and even mental 
faculties and permitting self to lose itself in the All, appeared 
to Thoreau as a direct path " making for righteousness." 

" My most essential progress must be to me a state of 
absolute rest."\ Time's stream seems settling in a pool, a still- 
ness not as if Nature's breath were held, but expired. Let me 
know that such hours are the wealthiest in Nature" s gift." % 

We have seen that the Hindoo ideal of life was, by com- 
plete renunciation of self and all that pertains to individual 
existence to regain harmony with the Universal spirit of which 
he is an emanation. Therein he finds the soul-cleansing, 
pristine purity, perfection. 

The consideration in the foregoing sections showing that 
Thoreau possessed the same ideal of life, makes his withdrawal 
out of the world seem as inevitable an outcome of his faith as 
the life of the Brahminical ascetic in the Indian forest. 

v.— Immortality. 


The faith in its Oneness with the Universal mind, pre- 
cluded from the Hindoo mind any thought of real death or dis- 
solution. Death could only mean for man as for all nature, 

" I<ook back how it was with those who came before, look 
forward how it will be with those who come here after. A 
mortal ripens like corn, like corn he springs up again. "§ 

Or as the Bhagvat Geeta expresses the same thought : 

" As a man throweth away old garments and putteth on 
new, even so the soul having quitted its mortal frames entereth 
into others which are new." 1 1 

* Letters to H. Blake, (1849) : Letters, p. 210-11. 

t Autumn, p. 121. 

X Winter, p. 191 . 

§ Yajur Veda, Kath-Upan i, 16, 3. Max Muller.Vol. XV. p. 3. 

II Bhagvat Geeta, p. 98-9. 


To Thoreau, too, no thought of death could come ; 

" That Eternity which I see in Nature I predict for myself 

The fall of the leaves which in their decay give birth to 
new generations of leaves, is for him a symbol of the change 
that we call death. "Likelast year's vegetation our human life 
but dies down to its root and still puts forth its green blade 
into eternity."! 


In considering the Hindoo conception of immortal life, 
that which first suggests itself is the belief in pre- existence 
and in the transmigration of the soul into other bodies after 
the death of the present body : 

"Some enter the womb in order to have a body as 
organic beings, others go into inorganic matter, according to 
their work and according to their knowledge." J 

Thoreau^^often^jipeaks of himself as having existed in 
earlier ages : 

" And Hawthorne, too, I remember as one with whom I 
sauntered in old heroic times along the banks of the Scaman- 
der amid the ruins of chariots and heroes." § || 

The character of the body which the soul assumes in the 
next succeeding birth depends on the character of the present 
life and of the works performed in it : The work remains 
over (after death) as seed of the next birth. 

"For . . . what they praised was Karman, . . . 
namely that a man becomes good by good work, and bad by 
bad work." ** 

The same idea finds expression in Thoreau thus : 

* Excursions, p. 331. 
t Autumn, p. 187. 

t Yajur-Veda, Kath-Upan, 2, 5, 8. Max Miiller, Vol. XV, p. 19. 
§ Letter to Emerson (1843). Letters, p. no. 

II Poems of Nature, p. 52. See also Winter {p. 247 ; Week, p. 28). 
(Poem on the death of his brother John.) 

** Yajur-Veda, Birh-Upan, 3,2, 13. Max Miiller, Vol. XV, p. 227. 


" Methinks the hawk that soars so loftily and circles so 
steadily and apparently without effort, has earned this power 
by faithfully creeping on the ground as a reptile in a former state 
of existence. " * 


Any changes in the bodily shape which the soul assumes 
are, however, merely changes in the matter of the soul, its 
form remains eternal, unchanging : 

"This (body) indeed withers and dies when the living 
Self has left it ; the living Self dies not." f 

Thoreau expresses this conception in platonic language : 

" They^rwi of the soul is eternal, and this we can retain 
and express not by a foreign material and art, but by our own 
lives." X 


Assured of the eternity of the soul as one with the eternal 
himself, death lost all its terrors. The dissolution of the body 
was natural and beautiful as a return to the bosom of the 
divine mother. Nature. This is most beautifully expressed in 
an exquisite funeral hymn of the Rig- Veda : 

" So gehe ein zur mutterlichen Erde 

Sie offnet sich zu gutigem Empfang ! 

Denn frommen, zart und linde wie ein madchen 

Sie schutze fortan dich vor dem Verderben. 

Du, Erde, thue dich auf fiir ihn und sei nicht eng, 

Den Eintritt mach ihm leicht, er schmieg' sich an dich an ; 

Bedeck ihn wie die Mutter die 

Das Kind in ihr Gewand verhiillt." || 

* Autumn, p. 255. 

t Sama-Veda, Chand, 6, 11, 3. MaxMiiller, Vol. I, p. 103 ; cf. Plato, 
Phaedon, chaps. 52-54. 

% Winter, p. 252. 

II Geldner ; Siebenzig Lieder d. Rigveda, p. 151-2. " Then go into 
the bosom of mother earth, it opens in kindly welcome. May she, gentle 
and tender as a maiden, henceforth protect thee, the pious one, from de- 
cay. Thou, earth, open up for him and be not narrow ; make his entrance 
easy that he may nestle close to thee ; shelter him as a mother wraps a 
child in her garments.' ' 


Thoreau looks forward to death as to the attainment of 
that harmony with nature which has been the goal of his 
life's ambition : 

' ' Even death will take place when I have made my peace 
with my body and set my seal to that treaty which divine 
justice has so long required. I shall at length join interest 
with it. I anticipate a more thorough sympathy with Na- 
ture when my thigh-bones shall strew the ground like the 
boughs which the wind has scattered. ' ' * 

5. SLEEP. 

a. Dreams. 

The nearest approach to that absorption into the Uni- 
versal which death brings in fullness is a deep and dreiamless 
sleep. A dream, on the other hand, does not differ from life 
itself, and scenes which pass before the dreamer are not more 
unreal than those which meet his waking eyes. Dreaming or 
awake, he apprehends a multiplicity of phenomena where 
there is only one reality. 

" Des Tr.-iumenszustand und Wachens 
Als derselbe dem Weisen gilt 
Denn gleich ist beiden die Vielheit ; 
Aus diesem wohlerwiesenen Grund." t 

The real life in th e world is as unreal as dream-life and 
perception~of reality is not to^5e~~afrtvea^at. "^TEus the com- 
mentary Cankara explains : 

" Auch das Wachen ist ein Traumenssustand Aa. ein Wachen 
des wirklichen selbstes nicht stattfindet, und man eine un- 
wirkliche Realitat wie im Traume schaut."J 

* Winter, p. 202. 

t Altharva-Veda, Mand-Kar, II, 5, p. 583. "The states of dreaming 
and waking are seen by the wise man to be the same, for multiplicity (of 
phenomena) is common to both." 

J Cankara Commentar, v Deussen, Upanishad's, p. 270. "The con- 
dition of being awake is also a dream, since an awakening of the real self 
does not take place and one views an unreal reality as in a dream." 


Thoreau, without going into details, expresses the same 
idea : 

" I do not know how to distinguish between our waking 
life and a dream. Are we not always leading the life that we 
imagine we are ?" * 

b. Deep Sleep. 

As a dream corresponds to our apparent life, a dreamless 
sleep' in which the delusion of the existence of a multiplicity 
of objects vanishes, and every idea of anything as outside of, 
or apart from the true self is lost, corresponds to our real 
life. It is equivalent to the death of all separate existence, 
return into our own true being. 

Uddalaka Aruni spoke to his son : 

"When a man sleeps here, then, my dear son, he becomes 
united with the True, he is gone to his own (Self). There- 
fore, they say svapiti, he sleeps, because he is gone (apita) to 
his own (sva)." f 

The following passage in Thoreau bears almost the char- 
acter of a translation of the foregoing : 

" At night we recline and nestle and infold ourselves in 
our being.''' J 

Under a figure the Hindoo philosopher expresses the taking 
up of the individual spirit into the Universal in deep sleep ; 

" Now as a man embraced by a beloved wife, knows 
nothing that is without, nothing that is within, thus this per- 
son, when embraced by the intelligent self, knows nothing that 
is without, nothing that is within. This is indeed the (true) 
form in which his wishes are fulfilled, in which the self (only) 
is his wish, in which no wish is left."§ 

Thoreau attaches the same meaning to deep and dreamless 

* Autumn, p. 259. 

t Sama-Veda, Chand-'Upan, 6, 8, 2. Max Miiller, Vol. I, p. 98-9. 

X Autumn, p. 69. 

§ Yajur-Veda, Brih-Upan, 4, 3. 2i- Max Miiller, Vol. XV., p. 168. 


" / am conscious of having in sleep transcended the limits 
of the individual. . . . As if in sleep our individual fell 
into the Universal and infinite mind and at the moment of 
awakening we find ourselves on the confines of the latter. On 
awakening we resume our enterprises, take up our bodies and 
become limited mind again." * *• T 


It was probably not wholly due to the feeling of relation- 
ship to the elements, but also to the custom of burning the 
bodies of the dead, that the Hindoos regarded the wind which 
carried the smoke of the funeral pyre to the sky, as the bearer 
of the soul to heavenly regions. It is written in the Vedas : 

" When the person goes away from this world, he comes 

to the wind. "t 

The funeral service contained the formula : 

' ' Nun werde Hauch, zum, Winde dem Unsterblichen und 
dieser I<eib mag endigen in Asche."I 

Thoreau contemplating the manner of death by shipwreck 
finds almost a fascination in such a giving up of life in the 
arms of the element ; 

' ' The strongest wind cannot stagger a spirit ; it is a spirit 's 
breath r% 


It was a source of dissatisfaction, almost of anxiety to 
Thoreau's Puritan friends, that he concerned himself so little 

♦Spring, p. 157. 

tYajur-Veda, Brih-Upan,s, 10. Max Miiller Vol. XV., p. 193. 

X Yajur-Veda, Ifa-Upan, 12. Deussen p. 528. " Become O breath ! 
Wind for the immortal, and this body may end in ashes." 

An interesting parallel passage to the above occurs in Meister Eckart 
(v. Preger, Geschichte der deut. Mystik p. 346): " Eia! wo ist der Seele 
Wohning? Sie ist auf den Federn der Winde. Die Federn sind die 
Krafte gottlicher Natur." 

( " Eia ! Where is the dwelling of the soul ? It-is on the wings of the 
wind. The wings are the forces of divine nature." ) . 

§ Cape Cod, p. 13. 


about the future life. In truth this could furnish no matter 
for contemplation to one who had resigned self with all its 
interests : 

" Lighthearted, thoughtless, shall I take my way, 
Wh.en I to thee this being have resigned, 
Well knowing at some future day 
With usurer's craft, more than myself to find."* 

The Hindoo sage could exhibit the same indifference to 
the future and for the same reason : 

" O Yanaka, du hast den Frieden erlangt I " [Erkenntnis 
der EinheitJt Fxir den solches Wissenden hat die Frage wohin 
die Seele nach dem Tode gehe, keine Bedeutung mehr."J 

*Autumn, p. 297. 

t Yajur-Veda, Brih-Upan, 4, 2, 4 Deussen, p. 463. 

X V. Deussen's Introduction to 41, p. 457. O Yanaka, thou hast attained 
to peace ! (knowledge of oneness). For him who perceives this, the 
question of where the soul goes after death has no longer any importance. 




Significance of Art. 


Thoreau's conception of the meaning and significance of 
art is a natural and organic outgrowth of his conception of the 
meaning of life itself. Man originates in God, and is one with 

" Not in entire forgetfulness, 
And not in utter nakedness, 
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 
From God who is our home."* 

At the outset of life man is one with the Eternal ; no dual- 
ism exists, no distinction between subject and object. But the 
world with " the dross of sin derived from time "f separates 
him far from his divine source ; 

" We have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven. We 
have built for this world a family mansion, and for the next a 
family tomb." Then follows Thoreau's most general defini- 
tion of the purpose of Art : 

" The best works of Art are an expression of man's 
struggle to free himself from this condition ' 'J 

What is in the nature of Art that it can redeem us from 
earthiness and restore us to oneness with the Divine ? It is 
not easy to express. Thoreau, the poet, does not under- 
take to build up a consequent metaphysics of music and art ; 
in bursts of rhapsody, in light- flashes, he reveals his concep- 
tion of their deepest significance. 

* Wordsworth, Ode ; Intimations of Immortality, p. 157. 
t Vishnu Pinana definition of Sin, p. 47. 
X Walden, p. 61. 



Music is a revelation of the Universal. It is the expression 
of the real world, ' ' the sound of universal laws promulgated. "* 
It expresses the essence of life, the idea of the world. " It is 
God's voice, the divine breath audible."! 

The composer utters no fact within his experience, but an 
inspiration from the universal soul. 

' ' Orpheus does not hear the strains which issue from his 
lyre, but only those which are breathed into it. "J 

It is the objectivation of the Supreme will, an emanation of 
Him who is the origin of the world of whom nature and man 
are other emanations : 

"We hear the kindred vibrations, music I and we put 
forth our dormant feelers into the limits of the universe." || 

It annihilates time and space and reveals that unity which 
exists through all the apparent multiplicity of phenomena. 
It reveals the divine himself. On hearing music in the night. 
Thoreau writes ; 

" Then idle time ran gadding by, and left me with Eter- 
nity alone ; 

I hear beyond the range of sound, 
I see beyond the verge of sight, 

I see, smell, taste, hear, feel that everlasting something to 
which we are allied, at once our maker, our abode, our destiny, 
our very selves. I have seen how the foundations of the 
world are laid." § 

* Week, p. 228. Thoreau makes very few references to color Art • 
he writes almost exclusively of music. This was probably owing to the 
circumstances in which he was placed and his life of isolation in the 
woods, which did not present opportunities for the consideration of paint- 
ing and Architecture. The music of which he writes is also of the 
simplest character. A drum or a flute, the distant playing of a piano or 
music-box ; or — what gave him especial musical pleasure — the wind play- 
ing on the telegraph wires — the "telegraph-harp." 
' t Summer, p. 258. 
■ X Week, p. 549. 
II Winter, p. 172-3. 
§ Week, p. 226. 


As an expression of the eternal will, the very material of 
music lies outside of Time ; hence no history of music, prop- 
erly speaking, is possible : 

" Most lecturers preface their discourses on music with a 
history of music. It has no history more than God. It cir- 
culates and resounds for ever and only flows like sea or air. 
. . . I might as well try to write the history of my as- 
pirations. There is no past in the soul." * 

a. Transcends Thought. 

As music does not treat of phenomena, but of reality not 
of the facts of the world but of its inner character, so its mes- 
sage bears the character of a revelation which transcends all 

" O music 1 thou opeuest my senses to catch the least 
hint and givest me no thought .' " f 

Indeed all perception of the divine must be without 
and beyond the province of reason. The Hindoo philosopher 
wrote concerning the apprehension of the Supreme : 

' ' He (the Self) cannot be reached by speech, by mind or 
by the eye. How can it be apprehended except by him who 
says ■ He is ? ' . . . When he has been apprehended by 
the words ' He is,' then his reality reveals itself." % 

b. Speaks with Assurance. 

Music, then, as the supreme revelation of the Eternal, 
lifts to regions which no thought can penetrate : 

" Aye, there was a logic'va. them (the strains of music) that 
the combined sense of mankind could never make me doubt their 
conclusions." § 

No demonstration of its truth is necessary. This is the 
very meaning of its measured time : 

" In the steadiness and equanimity of music lies its di- 
vinity. It is the only assured tone." || 

* Spring, p. 86. 

t Winter, p. 413. 

t Yajur-Veda, Kath-Upan, 2, 6, 12-13. Max Miiller, vol. XV, p. 23. 

§ Week, p. 225. 

II Winter, p. 172. 



a. Reveals Unreality of the Apparent World. 

Herein, then, lies the power of music to redeem our lives. 
In the revelation of the real world, it makes plain that noth- 
ingness of this present world : 

' ' The telegraph harp again I Always the same unremem- 
berable revelation it is to me. It stings my ear with ever- 
lasting truth. I get down the railroad till / hear that which 
makes all the world a lie."* 

It shows the perfection of the perfect life and so makes 
this mean life impossible : 

' ' Music has caught a higher pace than any virtue that I 
know. It is the arch reformer. It is the sweetest reproach, a 
measured satire. When I hear this, I think of that everlast- 
ing something which is not mere sound, but is to be thrilling 
reality. What, then, can I do to hasten that other time, or 
space where there shall be no time, and where these things 
shall be a more living part of my life, where there will be no 
discords in my life." f 

The whole pettiness of our life in the world, the falseness 
and hoUowness of our organizations is seen in the light of 
music's strains : 

" It is remarkable that our institutions can stand before 
music, it is so revolutionary .^^ % 

b. Reveals the Possibility of Harmo7iy with the Eternal 
The recognition of the meanness of life, the revelation of 
how inexpressibly far we are from harmony with the designs 
of the supreme will and from Oneness with the Universal 
spirit which thus reveals itself, induces the sadness which 
music awakens, and which is akin to repentance. The song 
of the wood-thrush in the still twilight is not sad ; yet heard 
remote from the world, when the sensibilities are most easily 

* Winter, p. 146. 
t Winter, p. 140. 
X Autumn, p. 120. 


reached by the communication which it makes, the eyes are 
filled with tears, the heart with an indefinable longing. Thus 
Thoreau writes : 

" A sad cheer I feel when I hear these lofty strains, be- 
cause there must be something as lofty in me that hears. . . . 
The sadness is the echo which our lives make and which alone we 

This voice out of the eternal Harmonies reveals to man's 
consciousness how far he has wandered from that oneness with 
the All which is his due portion, a loneliness as of one in a 
far country steals over him ; a sense of lost joy, a soul-long- 
ing for the perfection of harmony : 

" We feel a sad cheer when we hear it, perchance because 
we that hear are not one with that which is heard. 

Therefore a torrent of sadness deep, 

Through the strains of the triumph is heard to sweep. 

The sadness is ours. The Indian poet Calidas says, in the 
Sacontala : 

" Perhaps the sadness of men on seeing beautiful forms 
and hearing sweet music arises from some faint remem- 
brance of past joys and the traces of connections in a former 
state of existence. "t 

But in the sadness of music lies not only the desire of future 
perfection but the promise of it : 

' ' There are such strains in music that far surpass any 
man's faith in the loftiness of his destiny.J 

Man is brought by it into touch with the Infinite himself ; 

"This wire of the telegraph-harp is my redeemer; it 
always brings me a special and a general message from the most 

The message is none other than a revelation of our Eternity, 
of our relation to the Universal : 

" Suppose I try to describe faithfully the prospect which a 

* Winter, p. 140. 
t Week, p. 227. 
t Winter, p. 140. 
§ Winter, p. 146. 


strain of music exhibits to me. The field of my life becomes 
a boundless plain glorious to tread, with no death or disap- 
pointment at the end of it. All meanness and trivialness dis- 

c. Lifts Above the Limits of Personality . 

In this vision of the All-pervading Spirit and our essen- 
tial oneness with it, all consciousness of individuality is lost: 

" No particulars survive this expansion. Persons do not 
survive it. In the light of this strain, there is no thou or /. 
We are actually lifted above ourselves. "'\ 

It is momentary release from the confinement of the indi- 
vidual, absorption in the All ; 

" As I hear, I realize and see clearly what at other times 
I only dimly remember. I get the value of the earth's extent 
and the sky's depth. It gives me the freedom of all bodies, of all 
nature. I leave my body in a trance and accompany the 
zephyr and the fragrance. ' 'J 

d. Effects Oiieness with the Universal. 

Indeed, for Thoreau, who gave himself so fully to be per- 
meated by music, who yielded himself so entirely to its sway, 
the vision was indeed a "trance," a condition of ecstasy such 
as was attained by the Myotics of the Middle Ages through 
contemplation of the Divine : 

" The strain of the ^Solian harp and of the wood thrush 
are the truest and loftiest preachers that I now know left upon 
the earth. They lift us up in spite of ourselves. They in- 
toxicate and charm us. When was that strain mixed into 
which the world was dropped ? I would be drunk, drunk, 
dead drunk to this world with it forever. The contact of sound 
with the human ear whose hearing is pure is equivalent to 
ecstasy. "% 

* Winter, p. i8i. 
t Winter, p. i8i. 
i Winter, 78-9. 
§ Winter, p. 78-9. 



Such then being the significance of music, he who has 
ittained to perception should attend to it as to a sacrament, a 
communication from the Most High. 

' ' Listen to music religiously as if it were the last strain you 
might hear."* 

The opera maybe a temple where man can commune with 

' ' Men go to the opera because they hear there a faint 
expression of this news which is never distinctly proclaimed, "f 

This conception of the meaning of music is very similar 
to that of Plato. Thoreau himself recognizes the similiarity 
and cites from Plutarch : 

" Plato thinks the Gods never gave men music, the science 
of melody and harmony for mere delectation or to tickle the 
ear, but that the discordant parts of the circulation and beaute- 
ous fabric of the soul and that of it that roves about the body 
many times for want of time and air breaks forth into many 
extravagances, might be sweetly recalled and artfully wound 
up to their former consent and agreement."! 
a. Music Only for the Virtuous. 

But the communication from the Universal mind and heart 
can only be heard by such as are still near enough the Divine 
to understand the message, in whose memory is still some 

Lingering of : 

"those shadowy recollections, 
Which, be they what they may, 
Are yet the fountain light of all one day 
Are yet a master light of all our seeing." II 
Beauty and music are, therefore only for the virtuous : 
" We never see any beauty but as the garment of some 

* Summer, p. io8 : cf. also p. 119- 

t Letters, p. 260. 

X Week, p. 150. 

II Ode — Intimations of Immortality. Wordw., p. 358. 

§ Autumn, p. 61 . 


To him whose soul is pure the divine voice is ever audible. 
"The profane never hear music, the holy ever hear it." * 


It is not even necessary that music be expressed by means 
of any instrument ; 

Debauched and worn-out senses require the violent vibra- 
tions of an instrument to excite them but sound and still 
youthful senses, not enervated by luxury, hear music in the 
wind and rain and running water. . . . Music is perpetual 
and only hearing is intermittent." \ 

It is interesting to note a similar expression of the univer- 
sality of music in Wordsworth : 

" Many are the notes 
Which in his toneful course the wind draws forth 
From rocks, woods, caverns, heaths and dashing shores : 
, . . . Theirs, too, is the song 
Of stream and headlong flood that never fails ; 
Nor have nature's laws 
Left them imgifted with a power to yield 
MiMic of a finer tone ; a harmony, 
So do I call it, though it be the hand 
Of silence, though there be no voice" etcX 

a. Nature and Music are One. 
But Thoreau's conception of the essential oneness (z e. one- 
ness in essence) of music and nature goes much deeper than a 
recognition of the musical quality of natural sounds. Music 
is an objectivation of the divine mind or will as nature is, || 
and the seeing soul discerns through both alike the inner 
character being of the world ; one suggests the other : 

* Summer, p. 258. cf. Shakespeare expresses the same idea from 

the negative point of view : 

" The man who hath no music in his soul, 

Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils, etc. 

, ,„. M. of Venice, v. sc. i. 

t Wmter, p. 353. 

X Excursions, 11. , p. 438. 

II Cf. Schopenhauer " Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung," Vol. I, 
p. 351. "1st die ganze Welt als Vorstellung nur die Sichtbarkeit des 
Willens, so ist die Kunst die Verdeutlichung dieser Sichtbarkeit." 


' ' There is something creative and primal in the cool 
mist ; it does not fail to suggest music to me, fertility, the 
origin of things." * 

The distinction commonly made between nature and art 
calls forth Thoreau's criticism of a blind and deaf generation : 

' ' It has come to this, that a lover of art is one and a lover 
of nature another. It is monstrous when one cares but little 
about trees and much about Corinthian columns. Any perfect 
work of man's art would also be wild or natural." f 

b. Music of the Spheres. 

Nature is in what it expresses, one with music ; the 
meaning of creation reveals itself in the universe musically. 
The inner life and design of nature, the world and world- 
systems is a melody which resounds through the soul of him 
who has reached out over the confines of limited individual 
perception to apprehend the idea of a universe in eternal har- 
mony with itself. It is so impossible to express an idea of 
such comprehensiveness that Thoreau has made use of the 
Platonic explanation of the Pythagorean doctrine of sphere- 
harmony as the nearest approach to putting it into words : 

" Pythagoras did not procure himself a thing of this kind 
through instruments or the voice, but, employing a certain 
ineflFable divinity he extended his ears and fixed his intellect 
in the sublime symphonies of the world, he alone hearing and 
understanding, as it appears, the universal harmony and con- 
sonance of the spheres and the stars that are moved through 
them, and which produce a fuller and more intense melody 
than anything efiFected by mortal sound." % 

As music is the expression, not of any single fact, but of 
Universal I,aws — of the world's essence — the most perfect 
music will be wordless, since words must necessarily limit the 
application to one particular case, 

* Summer, p. 97. 
t Autumn, p. 89. 
% Week, p. 151. 


Words, even the noblest, are by their very nature only 
fitted to the utterance of a definite, i. e., limited thought 
and inadequate to the expression of the Infinite. 

" There are no words worthy to be set to music — it is eter- 
nal melody independent of any particular sense." * 

a. Silence the most Perfect Music. 
But not only is music zwexpressible in words, at its di- 
vinest it transcends even the limitation of audible sounds. In 
moments of uplifting above ourselves into that boundlessness 
in which we have our being, into unity with 

"That light whose smile kindles the universe, 
That beauty in which all things live and move." t 

A supersensuous sense apprehends the divinest music where 
to the human ear there is no sound. 

" Silence alone is worthy to be heard. The silence sings. 
It is musical. I remember a night when it was audible. I 
heard the unspeakable." % 


Music leads along the same path to redemption which the 
Brahman follows in his highest religious exercise, the Yoga. 
In contemplation of the One, the Supreme, the delusion of the 
dualism of subject and object is overcome, the narrowing con- 
sciousness of personal existence is lost ; the individual is one 
with the Universal, the finite exalted to Infinity. 

* Week, p. 292. 

t Shelley, Alastor, LIV, p. 375. 

t Winter, p. 218. 




Thoreau and the i^nglish Pantheistic Poets. 


i. i.ove to nature. 
We have seen (chap. I) that Thoreau, from his intense 
consciousness of the Oneness of all things in God, was im- 
bued with the sense of his near relationship to the plant and 
animal life in nature. The expression of this sense of rela- 
tionship, and the love of natural objects which grew out of 
it, finds, interesting parallels in the poetry of such English 
pantheistic poets of his own century as Wordsworth, Shelley 
and Byron,* to which we will refer in considering in detail 
Thoreau 's attitude to Nature. 


Thus Thoreau 's heart went out to the striped bream in 
Walden Pond, in affection which bore almost the character of 
a human friendship : 

' ' My contemporary and neighbor ! I can only think of 
precious jewels, of music, poetry and beauty and the mystery 
of life. I have a contemporary in Walden. It has fins where 
I have legs and arms. Acquaintance with it is to make my 
life more rich and eventful." f 

Wordsworth's nature poetry is permeated with this feeling 
of the love and consideration due from man to God's other 
creatures ; thus : 

* That these three poets belong in one group of which Wordsworth 
may be regarded as the head, has been demonstrated by Gillardon, Diss., 

t Autumn, p. 361. 


" Birds and beasts 
And the mute fish that 
Glances in the stream 

he loved them all. 
Their rights acknowledging, 
He felt for all." * 

Shelley, too, undoubtedly influenced by this passage in 
the Excursion, expresses the same idea in Alastor.f 

"If no bright bird, insect or gentle be'ast I consciously 
have injured, but still loved and cherished these my kindred." 
Thoreau is sensible of the closest relationship to all mani- 
festations of the Universal, not only to this earth, but to those 
other worlds so high above him, the stars : 

' ' What a consolation the stars are to men 1 It is surely 
some encouragement to know that the stars are my fellow 
creatures. ''^X 

Byron thus expresses the reaching out of the human soul 
over the confines of its finiteness to claim oneness with the 
Universal : 

" Ye stars — 'tis to be forgixen 
That in our aspirations to be great, 
Our destinies o'er leap their mortal state, 
And claim a kiiidred with you." § 


The sense of affinity with the earth may bear almost the 
character of an appetite. Thus Wordsworth writes of his 
early love for nature : 

" Nature then 
To me was all in all — 
I cannot paint what then I was ; the tall rock 
The mountains and the deep and gloomy rock 
Their colors and their forms were to me an appetite. "|| 

Thoreau uses the simile of human hunger to characterize 
his longing for close contact with nature. 

*'Excursions, II., p. 433. 41-47. 

t Alastor, p. 85. 13-15. v. Ackermann "Shelley." 

{Excursions, p. 178. 

§ Childe Harold, III. LXXXVIII. 

II Tintem Abbey. 


"O dear nature I A remembrance of pine woods I 
come to it as a hungry man to a crust of breadJ''''^ "I love and 
could eat the brown earth. "f 

A passion akin to human passion leads him to seek the 
society of natural objects. The dear wholesome colour of 
scrub-oak leaves so clean and firm ! . . / love and could 
embrace the scrub-oak, with its scanty garment of leaves, 
rising above the snow, lowly whispering to me, akin to winter 
thoughts, and sunsets, and all virtue ; coverts which the hare 
and the partridge seek and I too seek. Rigid as iron, clean as 
the atmosphere, hardy as virtue, innocent and sweet as a 
maiden is the scrub-oak. "J 


But when the full significance of Nature as objectivation 
of the eternal mind and soul is perceived, all phenomena in 
Nature are loved with a reverent and mystic love, as manifes- 
tations of that indwelling spirit. Thoreau always approached 
Nature in this attitude of reverence. Mr. Burroughs says of him: 

" It was supernatural Mx'sX.Qxy xd^hsx than natural hSstory 
that he studied ;"§ and this makes itself felt in his relations to 
all living things. 

"I tread in the steps of the fox with such tip-toe of ex- 
pectation, as if I were on the trail of the Spirit itself which 
resides in the wood and expected soon to catch it in its lair."|| 

I^ife in nature signifies to him communion with this 
spiritual presence : 

"It is as if I have always met in those places some 
grand, serene immortal infinitely encouraging yet invisible 

companion and communed with him I love and 

celebrate nature even in detail, because I love the scenery of 
these interviews and translations. ' '** 

* Autumn, p. 420. 

t Summer, p. 105. 

t Autumn, p. 367. 

§ Century Magazine, April, 1882. 

II Excursions, p. i44- 

** Winter, p. 135. 


Wordsworth, too, stood in just such near and serene com- 
munion with the Spirit of All : 

" And I have felt 
A presence that disturbs me with the joy 
Of elevated thoughts ; a sense sublime 
Of something far more deeply interfused, 
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns. 
And the round ocean, and the living air 
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man ; 
A motion and a Spirit that impels 
All thinking things, all objects of all thought, 
And rolls through all things. Therefore I am still 
A lover of the meadows, and the woods and mountains. ''* 


This all-pervading Spirit is for Thoreau, one with the 
Spirit of I/)ve, which permeates the Universe. I^ove is the 
mainspring and significance of all the manifold life in Nature. 

" I<ove is the burden of all nature's odes, the song of 
birds is an epithalamium, a hymeneal. ... In the deep 
water, in the high air, in woods and pastures and the bowels 
of the earth, this is the condition of things. " f 

Shelley gives expression to the same thought : 
" Hearest thou not the sounds in the air which speak the love 
Of all articulate beings, "t 

The very elements seem to Thoreau but breathings of 
love ; 

" The light of the sun is but the shadow of love. Love 
is in the wind, the tides, the waves, the sunshine. Its power 
is incalculable ; it never ceases ; it never slacks. "§ 

So also Shelley : 

"Where the air we breathe is love 
Which in the winds and on the wave doth move. 
Harmonizing the earth with what we feel above. "|| 

*Tintem Abbey. 

t Spring, p. 35. 

t Prometheus Unbound, Act II., sc. v. 

§ Miscellanies, p. 68. 

II Prometheus Unbound, Act II. sc. v. 


Byron is impressed by this " power incalculable," as he 
contemplates the beauty of the mountain-landscape and finds 

A pervading life and light so shown 
Not on these summits solely, nor alone 

In the still cave and forest ; o'er the flower 
His eye is sparkling and his breath hath blown, 

His soft and summer breath whose tender power 
Passes the strength of storms in their most desolate hours."* 

Love is Omnipresent, omnipotent, the Power and Spirit 
of Nature itself— God. Thus Byron apostrophizes the Spirit: 

" Vast and deep as night and heaven, 
Nature or God or Love."f 


He who recognizes the perfect Oneness of all things in 
nature — that is, in God — rests on the bosom of love. This 
love of God to man, bore for Wordsworth a personal character ; 
it brought with it the idea of protection and watchful 

" The being that is in the clouds and air 
That is in the green leaves among the groves. 
Maintains a deep and reverential care /or 
The unoffending creatures whom he loves. "% 

For Thoreau, on the other hand, it remained ever the all- 
pervading spirit, an atmosphere in which he moved and 
breathed ; 

" I will not doubt for ever more 
Nor falter from a steadfast faith ; 
I will not doubt the love untold 
Which not my worth nor want hath brought, 
Which wooed me young, and woos me old 
And to this evening hath me brought. "§ 

' ' The love wherewith we are loved is already declared and 

*Childe Harold, III. p. loo. 

t Laon and Cyntha, V. 

% Hart-Leap Well, II. p. 125- 

§ Poems of Nature, " Inspiration," p. 8. 


afloat in the atmosphere, and our love is only the inlet to it. 
It grows on every bush, and let not those complain of their 
fates who will not pluck it."* 

II.— I,ove and Friendship. 


The love of man to natural objects has, then, its source 
in the perception of the Universe as an incorporation of 
the Universal Spirit. One with the All, we are related to 
every other manifestation of it. True love of man to man 
exists upon the same ground. It is not so much sympathy of 
the human with the human, as sympathy which holds in itself 
the necessity of a struggle to secure the dominance of spirit, 
and of a striving towards fuller beauty, truth and perfection of 
life. This was already the highest truth of the Platonic con- 
ception of love : 

" And the true order of going. ... to the things of 
love is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upward 
for the sake of that other beauty, using these as steps only, 
and from one going on to two and from two to all fair forms 
and from fair forms to fair practices and from fair practices to 
fair notions until from fair notions we arrive at the notion of 
absolute beauty and at last know what the essence of beauty 
is. . . . Remember how in that communion only . . . 
he will be able to bring forth not images of beauty, but 
realities, and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to 
become the friend of God. "J 

Thoreau's contemporary, Emerson, adopted with some 
modifications, the platonic conception as is clear from the fol- 
lowing passage in his Essay on " Love " ; 

. . . "By conversation with that which is in itself excel- 
lent, magnanimous, lowly and just, the lover comes to a warmer 
love of these nobilities and a quicker apprehension of them. 
Then he passes from loving them in one to loving them in all. 

% Winter, p. 201. 

t Symposium, p. 580-81. 


and so is the one beautiful soul only the door through which 
he enters to the society of all true and pure souls. . . . 
And beholding in many souls the traits of the divine beauty 
. . . the lover ascends to the highest beauty, to the love 
and knowledge of Divinity, by steps on this ladder of created 


Thoreau held to the Emersonian cpnception, though he 
never expressed it with such clear consequence, but only gave 
expression to his passion for the ideal in disjointed and often 
mystic utterances. lyove bears no touch of individualism or 
of superficial attraction ; it can only have to do with the inner 
aspiration : 

" As soon as I see people loving what they see merely and 
not their own high hopes that they form of others, I pity them and 
do not want their Love. Did I ask thee to love me who hate 
myself? No I Love that which I love and / will love thee that 
loves it."t 

Love, is, then community of ideals : 

"I value those who love and praise my aspiration rather 
than my performance. If you would not stop to look at me, 
but look whither I am looking and farther, then my education 
could not afibrd to dispense with your company."! 

Thus love demands the highest and noblest of which the 
lover is capable : 

" Love is a severe critic ; hate can pardon more than love. 
They who aspire to love worthily, subject themselves to an 
ordeal more rigid than any other." § 

a. Love Detects Faults. 
He who loves, lives, as it were, under the searching light 
of an eternal perfection, though but in ideal, which reveals 
the slightest defect : 

* Essay on Love : " Complete note," p. 48. 
t'Spring, p. 133. 
X Week, p. 369. 
§ Letters, p. 240. 


" The infusion of love from a great soul gives color to our 
faults, which will discover them as lunar caustic detects 
impurities in water."* 

From its nature, then, love precludes the association of 
those who love on any other than the plain of upward aspira- 
tion : 

"The luxury of affection — there's the danger I There 
must be some nerve and heroism in our love, as of a winter 
morning. . . . The love which takes us as it finds zts degrades 
us." t 

b. The Place of Hate in Love. 

Thus in perfect love, hate must have a place — hatred and 
absolute cutting off of all that does not tend to that per- 
fection which is the final aim of Love ; 

' ' Let us love by refusing not by accepting one another. Love 
and lust are far asunder. We must love our friend so much 
that she shall be associated with our purest and holiest thoughts 


" Let such pure hate still underprop our love, 
That we may be 
Each other's conscience. 
And have our sympathy mainly from thence. "§ 


It will be seen that this love does not in any degree bear 
a worldly character, but is a going out of soul to soul in the 
hope and faith of aspiration ; 

' ' Friendship as not so kind as is imagined ; it has not much 
human blood in it. It requires immaculate and God- like qualities 
full-grown, and exists at all only by condescension and anticipation 
of the remotest future y^ 

Such love transcends the limits of the individual ; it con- 
fines itself to wo person, but is the high passion for virtue and 
perfection. Thoreau would thus address his friend : 

* Spring, p. 56. 

t Letters, p. 249 : "Love and Friendship." 

X Letters, p. 248 : "Love and Friendship." 

§ Week, p. 379. 

II Week, p. 393. 


" I love you not as something private and personal, which 
IS your own, but as something universal and worthy of love, 
which I have found. . You are purely good. . This is 
what I would like — to be as intimate with you as our spirits are 
intimate — respecting you as I respect my ideal." * 

When this plane of ideal communion is reached even 
association is not necessary. Thus he continues : 

" Between us, if necessary, let there be no acquaintance. 
I have discovered you ; how can you be concealed from me ?' 'f 

a. Death Cannot Interrupt Love''s Intercourse. 
Absence or death cannot interrupt such high intercourse. 
Thoreau writes of the death of his friend Wheeler ; 
" Distance forsooth from my weak grasp hath reft 
The empty husk and clutched the useless tare. 
But in my hands the wheat and kernel left. 

// / but love that virtue which he is, 
Though it be scented in the morning air, 
Still shall we be truest acquaintances, 
Nor mortals know a sympathy more rare."t 


Such love cannot fail to effect the redemption of our 
lives from all sin and imperfection : 

' ' Love tends to purify and sublime itself : it mortifies and 
triumphs over the flesh, and the bond of its union is holiness. § 

III. — I,ove and Marriage. 

Thoreau conceives of the love which finds its expression 
in marriage as existing upon the same ideal ground. In this 
most perfect faith and oneness of aspiration the highest dream 
of perfection should be attainable, and the redemption of the 
human race effected : 

" A true marriage will differ in no wise from an illumina- 

*Week, p. 355. 

tWeek, p, 3SS- 

\ "Sympathy," Poems of nature, p. 24-5. 

§ Winter, p. 232. 


tion. . . . No wonder that out of such a union, not as 
an end but as an accompaniment, comes the undying race of 
man. . . . the offspring of noble men and women . as 
superior to themselves as their aspirations are."* 

IV. — I/Ove to Mankind. 


Thoreau's interpretation of love to mankind bears the 
same ideal character as his conception of friendship. There 
must be no yielding to the weakness of humanity, no dispro- 
portionate care for the material and earthly in life. lyove is 
by no means synonymous with charity in the narrow sense of 
philanthropy. The high value commonly placed upon this 
phase of it is but an evidence of our meanness and egotism : 

" Philanthropy is the only virtue which is sufficiently 
appreciated by mankind. Nay, it is greatly overrated, and it 
is our selfishness which overrates it. 

' ' The kind uncles and aunts of the race are more esteemed 
than its spiritual fathers and mothers." f 

It is possible to give ourselves more greatly, not merely in 
benevolence, which is, "as it were, but stem and leaves," but 
the whole flower and fruit of our lives. Thoreau considered 
the force of his life's example his peculiar gift to the Ameri- 
can people. Even to those whose need demanded material 
relief, its simplicity could bring the surest aid : 

' ' We can render the best assistance by letting meji see how 
rare a thing it is to need any assistance. I am not in haste to 
help men any more than God is." % 


Thoreau had for himself solved the problem of eradi- 
cating the struggle for subsistence from his life, hence his 
sympathy went out to his fellow-men not on account of their 
weakness and need, but in spite of it — above and beyond it — in 

* " Chastity and Sensuality," Letters, p. 250-251. 
t Walden, p. 121-122. 
X Winter, p. 213. 


love which was but the effluence of a life making for that vir- 
tue and perfection which alone could redeem the weakness and 
forever satisfy the needs. 

' ' The great and solitary soul will expend its love as a 
cloud drops rain upon the fields over which it floats." '^ '' 

" The good how we can trust, 

Only the wise are just ; 

. . . No partial sympathy \h&y itfA, 

With private woe or private weal ; 

But with the Universe joy or sigh, 

Whose knowledge is their sympathy." f 

v.— Oneness with the Spirit of I^ove is the Goal 

of l/ove. 

llik all^mbracing sympathy is akin Jto the devotion of 
^&e Bud^ist saint, which passes the bounds of the limited^ 
and individual" into the illimitable and universal : 

' ' He lets his mind pervade one quarter of the universe 
with thoughts of love, and so the second and so the third and 
so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, 
around and everywhere does he continue to pervade with heart of 
Love , far-reaching and beyond measure.'^ J 

This boundless love amounts to knowledge of Divinity, 
sympathy with supreme intelligence. We become one with 
the Universal, with Love itself. 

"The object of love expands and grows before us to 
eternity, until it includes all that is lovely, and we become all 
that can love." % 

* Spring, p. 139- 

tWeek, p. 371- 

t Tevigga Sutta, p. 191. 

§ Essay on Love, Letters, p. 245. 




In his still life of isolation and contemplation, Thoreau 
would fain have concerned himself little about the political 
happenings which had their place in that external world 
which, with its busy, trivial interests, was to him but a puppet 
show. In his earliest work he writes : 

' ' To one who habitually endeavors to contemplate the 
true state of things, the political state can hardly be said to 
have any existence whatever. It is unreal, incredible and in- 
significant to him and for him to endeavor to extract the truth 
from such lean material is like making sugar from linen rags, 
when sugar-cane may be had." * 

Emerson accounted for Thoreau's attitude towards politics 
by citing Aristotle to the effect that : ' ' One who surpasses his 
fellow-citizens in virtue is no longer a part of the city. 
Their law is not for him since he is a law to himself." f* 

But when flagrant abuses of government were manifest, 
such as the unjust war with Mexico — entered upon by the 
American government from motives of greed — and the enact- 
ment of Webster's Fugitive Slave Bill, Thoreau felt himself 
compelled to recall to the minds of his countrymen the 
meaning and purpose of government. 


Civilization seems to Thoreau to be but a doubtful good. 
The manifold business of the world, the over-valuing of the 
merely material and unimportant in life, diverts attention from 
the true source and meaning of life itself : 

* Week, p. i66. 

t R. W. Emerson, Biographical Sketch, Miscellanies (Preface), p. 26. 


" . . It is error upon error and clout upon clout, 

and our best virtue has for its occasion a superfluous and evitable 
wretchedness. Our life is frittered away by detail. ... In 
the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life such are the 
clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items 
to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not 
founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, 
by dead reckoning and he must be a great calculator indeed 
who succeeds. . . . The nation, itself, with all its so- 
called internal improvements, which, by the way, are all ex- 
ternal and superficial, is just such an unwieldy and over- 
grown establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped up 
by its own traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense."* 
a. Remedy: Return to Nature. 
The remedy is simplicity and naturalness of life, f It is 
necessary to cast off the clogging weights with which society 
)& hung about, and to lead once more a natural life. 

" In society you will not find health, but in nature. As 
nature feeds my imagination she will also feed my body. 
There is not necessarily any gross or ugly fact which may 
not be eradicated from the life of a man." \ 


This criticism of civilized life and advocacy of return 
to nature cannot fail to recall Rousseau, who proclaimed 
the same message to society in the preceding century — a mes- 
sage which had been echoed by the American constitution 
itself. That Rousseau exercised any direct influence upon 
Thoreau's political views is impossible to establish as Tho. 
reau does not once mention him in his writings. There is, 
however, almost no possibility that he did not know Rousseau 
as he was well acquainted with French literature. 

Their political ideas bear in many points a resemblance 
to each other which may be interesting to note in connection 
with the statement of Thoreau's political principles. 

* Walden, p. 144-5. 

t V. Letter to H. Blake (1848). Letters, p. 194. 

t Letters, p. 199. 



Since civilization, though evil, is, nevertheless, estab- 
lished, it is necessary to seek the best method of overcoming 
its drawbacks. Thus Thoreau states in general terms his 
reason for devoting any attention to the political situation 
which he had formerly criticized as having no existence for him: 

" No doubt they have designs on us for our benefit in 
making the life of a civilized people an institution in which 
the life of the individual is to a great extent absorbed in 
order to preserve and perfect that of the race. But I wish 
to show at what a sacrifice this advantage is at present obtained 
and to suggest that we may possibly so live as to secure the ad- 
vantages without suffering any of the disadvantages. ' ' * 

Rousseau maintained in opposition to the prevailing 
political doctrines established by Grote and Hobbes, that the 
government was made for man and not man for the govern- 
ment. According to Rousseau, the state originated in the 
voluntary association of free individuals for joint protection 
and aidi in the struggle to maintain life in the face of all the 
dangers which beset them singly, f The object of the social 
contract must be then to find 

" Une forme d'association qui d6fende et protege de toute 
la force commune la nersonne et les biens de chaque associe, 
et par laquelle chacinas'unissaut h, tous, n' obeisse pourtant qu'^ 
lui-mime et reste aussi libre qu' auparavant." % 

The basis of the state is the individual. Thoreau ex- 
presses it more directly and emphatically : 

" Even the Chinese philosopher was wise enough to 
regard the individual as the base of the empire. . . . 
There will never be a really free and enlightened state, 
until the state comes to recognize the individual as a higher 
and independent power, from which all power and authority are 
rfrnzj^^, and treats him accordingly." § 

* Walden, p. 52. 
t Contrat Social, p. 29. 
X Contrat Social, p. 19. 
§ Miscellanies, p. 169. 



The best form of Government is, therefore, that under 
which the rights of the individual receive the most considera- 
tion. Thoreau held the democratic to be the most desirable 
constitution : 

' ' The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, 
from a monarchy to a democracy is a progress towards a true 
regard for the individual. " * ■ ■ \ '' 

It would be natural to conclude that Rousseau's ideal 
government would also be a democracy, but he considered it 
an impossibility. 

" II n'a jamais existe de veritable Democratic et il ne'x- 
istera jamais. Un gouvernment si parfait ne convteni pas d. des 
hommes. f 

The main reason, according to Rousseau, why a true 
democracy cannot exist is that a nation — especially a great 
nation — cannot always remain in congress to decide questions 
of government. Representation he held to be impossible. 
The bond which holds a nation together is the will of all who 
associate themselves to form it and will cannot be represented: 

' ' La volontS ne se reprisente point ; les deputes du peuple 
ne sont done ni peuvent toe ses rdpresentants, ils ne sont que 
ses commissaires."! 

When the so-called representative government can take 
the liberty to act as it will without further consulting the 
people, it is not democratic. Thus Rousseau criticized gov- 
ernment by representation as it exists in England : 

' ' Le peuple Anglais pense toe libre ; il se trompe fort ; 
il ne Test que durant I'election des membres du Parlement ; 
sit6t qu'ils sont ^lus, il est esclave, il n'est rien."§ 

a. Danger of Perversion to Serve Individual Ends. 

Thoreau experienced in America the evil consequence of 

* Miscellanies, p. 169. 
t Contrat Social, p. 90. 
t Contrat Social, p. 128. 
§ Contrat Social, p. 128. 


this absolute delegation of all executive power to the govern- 
ment for a period of time, without means of holding the gov- 
ernment in check during that time : 

The government itself, which is only the mode which 
the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable 
to be abused and perverted before tlie people can act through it. 
Witness the present Mexican war, the work oj comparatively few 
individuals using the standing government as their tool, for in 
the outset the people would never have consented to such a 

b. Principle of Majority-Government False. 

Rousseau thought to get over this danger of the perver- 
sion of government to serve individual ends by excluding from 
his ideal state all exercise of the individual will. It is one of 
the conditions of the framing of the social contract that the 
individual will shall sink itself entirely in the common will 
(volontd general). What this common will is, what consti- 
tutes it and how it is to be arrived at, Rosseau does not explain. 
He does not appear to have meant it to be in any sense 
synonymous with the will of all or the majority (volont^ de 
tous), yet he writes : 

' ' Plus les deliberations sont important et grave, plus I'avis, 
qui I'emporte doit approcher de runanimite."t 

It seems difficult to eliminate the individual element or 
to obtain more than government by majority, and the con- 
stitution of Rousseau's compacted State is after all scarcely less 
framed for perfect beings than the ' ' impossible ' ' democratic 
constitution. In America the principle has always prevailed 
that the majority carries the day. Thoreau does not consider 
this to be based upon any moral law, but upon the purely 
brutal " might is right" — 

" Majority rules — not because most likely to be in the 
right, but because they are physically the strongest. A gov- 
ernment in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be 
based on justice even as men understand it. "t. ? •\), 

* Miscellanies, p. 132. 
t Contrat Social, p. 146. 
X Miscellanies, p. 133. - 


Far from the majority being always in right, it is very 
liable to be in the wrong : 

' ' There is but little virtue in the action of masses of 
men. ' '* 

The standard of an aggregated or associated body of men, 
such as a nation, is invariably much lower than the standard 
of the individual citizen. The individual citizen hesitates to 
rob or murder his neighbor, but the nation does not hesitate 
to enrich itself at the expense of another nation, at whatever 
cost of blood ; and the individual as patriot, will do zealously 
at the command of the government, what he in his capacity of 
private individual would consider criminal. Hence the neces- 
sity for an individual not a national or a majority standard : 

' ' Must the citizen even for a moment or in the least degree 
resign his conscience to the legislator ? Why has every man 
a conscience then ? I think we s/iould be meyi first, citizens 
afterwards. The only obligation which I have a right to 
assume is to do at anytime what I think right, "f 


But what a man wotdd consider right for the government 
depends upon his conception of the end or object of govern- 
ment- Here Thoreau takes higher ground than Rousseau. 
Rousseau's object in considering the establishment of an ideal 
form of government was to preserve the liberty of the people 
and their equality (fraternity was very desirable but not indis- 
pensable t). and by this means to eradicate from the human 
heart those base passions, hatred, envy, cowardice, h3'-pocrisy 
which have crept in as accompaniments of civilization and are 
foreign to a state of nature. § 

a. Kant and Emerson : Morality the Object of Government. 
America was, however, at the time Thoreau wrote, feel- 
ing the influence of Kant's ideal of government — absolute 

* Miscellanies, p. 140. 

t Miscellanies, p. 134. 

} See " Discours sur rinegalit^,*' p. 103, p. 120, p. no. 

§ See " Discours sur I'inegalitd," p. 103, no, 120. 


justice. * The high ideal of the moral character and purpose 
of government as revealed by the German philosopher was 
caught up by Carlyle in England, f and through him trans- 
mitted to America, where Emerson was the first to proclaim 
it, in frequent utterances such as the following : 

' ' The end of all political struggle is to establish morality 
as the basis of all legislation. 'Tis not free institutions, 'tis not 
democracy that is the end, no, but only the means. Morality 
is the object of government. ' ' J 

Thoreau has no patience with the doctrine that the state 
exists to safeguard the rights and further the comforts of its 
members. This seems to him but the ideal of " pigs in a litter 
which lie close together to keep each other warm. "§ Even 
freedom is only of value as it conduces to moral strength : 

" Do we call this the land of the free ? . . . What is 
the value of political freedom but as a means to moral freedom, !" \\ 


a. The Best Men Its Members. 

A government which will make for morality demands the 
choice of the best men for its members. The opposite occurs 
but too often in American politics and calls forth sarcastic 
remarks from Thoreau : 

" So some, it seems to me, elect their rulers for their crooked- 
ness. But I think that a straight stick makes the best cane 
and an upright man the best ruler." ** 

b. Representative of the Best Elements of the Nation. 
If the end of government is morality, the first requisite 
is that its component parts, the deputies of the people, shall 

* V. Idee zu einer allg. Geschichte in weltbiirgerlicher Absicht Bd. 
IV, 297-309. 

t Essays IV, " Com Law Rhymes," etc. 

X " Fortune of the Republic," Complete Works, p. 491. 

§ Autumn, p. 144. 

II Miscellanies, p. 138. 

** Excursions, p. 226. 


represent the highest moral aspirations of the people. Thus 
Thoreau exclaims bitterly against the American government in 
his protest against the Slave Bill of 1851 : 

" We talk about a representative government, but what a 
monster of a government is that where the noblest faculties 
of mind and the whole heart are not represented. ' ' * 

a. Duty of Obedience to tJie law of his own being only. 

Since government is representative of the people, the 
citizens of the state remain always responsible for it and may 
not deposit their responsibility with their votes. Rousseau 
acknowledged the right of the people to change the laws : f 
Thoreau insisted upon the duty of each citizen to resist any 
action of the government which menaces the moral perfection 
of the state. This does not imply by any means an anti-gov- 
ernmental or unpatriotic attitude, but rather unswerving 
loyalty to the highest principles. 

" It is not for a man to put himself in opposition to 
society, but to maintain himself in whatever attitude he finds 
himself through obedience to the laws of his being, which will 
never be in opposition to a just govertiment." % 

The conscience of the individual to whom the divine 
and eternal order of the Universe itself has been revealed, 
judges by a higher standard than that known to other 
men : 

" They who know no purer source of truth, who have 
traced up its stream no higher, stand, and wisely stand, by 
the Bible and the Constitution, and drink at it there with rev- 
erence and humility ; but they who behold where it comes 
trickling into this lake or that pool, gird up their loins once 
more and continue their pilgrimage toward the fountain- 
head." § 

* Miscellanies, p. 223. 

t Contrat Social, p. 71. 

X See Page's "Thoreau," p. 196-7. 

§ Miscellanies, p. 168. 


Again Thoreau expresses the same thought, without the 
metaphor, thus : 

"Serve God by obeying the eternal and only just Con- 
stitution which He, and not any Jefferson or Adams, has 
written in your being." * 

The perception of the highest meaning and source of law, 
frees a man from all bondage to the law ; he is not subject to 
the same conditions as his neighbors, he resembles a soldier 
who "marches to a music unheard by those about him." 

' ' He who lives according to the highest law is in a sense 
lawless." t "Live free child of the mist! The man who 
takes the liberty to live is superior to all laws, by virtue of his 
relation to the law-maker. ' ' J 

That those who thus assert their superiority to the gov- 
ernment should be regarded by it as its enemies, and not as its 
best friends and redeemers, is natural enough : 

" A very few (men), as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers 
in the great sense and men, serve the state with their conscien- 
ces; and so, necessarily, resist it for the most part ; and they 
are commonly treated as enemies by it."§ 

This may not, however, deter the conscientious from 
throwing himself with all the might of his conviction into 
the balance for right. 

b. Right of Resistance. 

Rousseau was of the opinion that when the individual 
is dissatisfied with the government's actions, his only 
resource is to leave the state. || Thoreau holds it for his duty 
to remain, under suffering if need be, and effect a reform of the 
evil : 

" Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the 
only true place for a just man is in prison,"^ he affirmed in 

* Miscellanies, p. i88. 
t Spring, p. 17. 
X Excursions, p. 295. 
§ Miscellanies, p. 136. 
II Contrat Social, p. 138. 
\ Miscellanies, p. 149. 


his impassioned speech in behalf of the emancipation of the 
slaves. Nor were these empty words. He himself suffered 
imprisonment for denjring allegiance to a state which had 
violated the fundamental rights of humanity. He thus records 
the experience : 

" I was seized and put to gaol because I did not recognize 
the authority of a state which buys and sells men, women and 
children at the door of its senate-house. ' '* 

True loyalty implies and necessitates opposition to such a 
government : 

" They are the lovers of law and order who observe the law 
when the government breaks it. ' 'f 

c. Individual Responsibility. 

Legislators are not keepers of the consciences of the 
citizens, nor depositaries of the responsibility resting upon 
every man who has a conscience : 

' ' Look not to legislators for your guidance ; nor to any 
soulless or incorporated bodies ; but to inspirited or inspired 

This was the ground of his plea for Capt. John Brown, 
imprisoned and hanged for championing the cause of the 
slaves against the government : 

" This man was an exception, for he did Tiot set up a 
political graven image between him and his God."% " No man 
in America has ever stood up so persistently and effectively 
for the dignity of human nature, knowing himself for a man 
and the equal of any and all governments.^'' || 

d. Power of One Man. 

But the objection was raised on all sides : " It is useless 
for one man to oppose the majority." Thoreau answers : 

" Alas ! this is the crying sin of the age, this want of 
faith in the prevalence of a man. Nothing can be effected but 
by one man." ** 

* Walden, p. 268. § Miscellanies, p. aio. 

t Miscellanies, p. 181. || Miscellanies, p. 217. 

t Miscellanies, p. 244. ** Miscellanies, p. 6a. 


A man who stands for the right has God on his side, 
supreme might : 

' ' Any man more right than his neighbors is a majority of 
one already. It matters not how small the beginning may be, 
what is once well done, is done for ever. ' ' * 


Thoreau was in no sense a socialist. In his criticism of 
the Fourierite scheme, he expresses his views unmistakably. 

The aims of the socialists are of too purely material a 
character to appeal to him.f The object of national life and of 
government is pure morality ; the only endeavor worthy of men 
is not to better merely the temporal conditions of life, but the 
eternal conditions of the inner life. 


The perfecting of the inner life, the development of the 
individual to perfect virtue would do away with the necessity 
of government. In Rousseau's ideal state, the giving up of the 
individual will to the common will, rendered but very few laws 
necessary. Thoreau dreamed that the merging of the individual 
will in the Universal, the attainment by the individual of sym- 
pathy with the infinite designs of the All, would abolish law 
and government : 

" I heartily endorse the motto: ' That government is best 
which governs least.' . . . Carried out, it finally amounts 
to this, which I also believe, ' That government is best which 
governs not at all. ' " J 

This is, however, an ideal for the future, and he adds in 
consideration of the present : 

' ' I ask not at once for no government but at once for a 
better government. "§ 

* Miscellanies, p. 147-8. 
fv. Miscellanies, p. 113. 
X Miscellanies, p. 137. 
§ Miscellanies, p. 133- 


Chronological Table. 

1817 .... Born, July 12. 

1818 . . . Family moved to Chelmsford (till 1821). 
1821-3 • ■ • Boston. 

1823 . . . Concord. School. Academy. 

1833 . . . Entered Harvard University. 

1834 . . Began the practice of writing ' ' Themes " and " Forensics." 
1835. . . . (a) Taught in Maine during vacation. 

(6) First record of day's observations, April 20. 
(c) Essay on' " Simplicity of Style." 

1836 (a) Peddling trip with father to New York. 
(*) Essay on " Effect of Story Telling." 

1837 . . . (a) Essay on Milton's "II Penseroso" and "L* Allegro." 

(6) Essay on " Commercial Life." 

(c) Graduation from Harvard. 

(d) Met Emerson. 

(e) Began the Red Journal in October. 

(/) Essay " On the Source of our Feeling for the Sublime." 
(g) Essay " On Paley's Common Reasons." 

1838 . . . (a) To Maine to obtain position. 

{b) First lecture, on " Society," in April. 

Second lecture, on " Sound and Silence." 
(c) Refused to pay church tax. 

1839 . . . . (a) Trip on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers. 

{b) Private school in Concord. 

(c) Trip to the White Mountains. 
1840. . (a) " Aulus Perseus Flaccus, " first published paper in the 


(*) Wrote for the " Dial " from July (till 1844). 

(c) Meetings of the Concord Circle at Emerson's house. 

(rf) Closed the Red Journal in June — 596 pages. 
1841 . (a) Began a new journal — 396 pages. 

{b) Wrote against the Brook Farm project. 
184I . (a) Brother John died. 

(b) Hawthorne returned to the "Old Manse " (till 1846). 

(c) Alcott and Lane went to Brook Farm (till 1843). 
{d) Published "A Natural History of Massachusetts " 

in the "Dial." 


i843 ■ • • (a) Published "A Winter Walk " in the " Dial." 
(6) Met Horace Greeley in New York. 
{c) Staten Island : tutor to William Emerson's sons. 

(d) Published" Walk to Wachusett" in "Boston Miscellany." 

(e) Published "Paradise to be Regained," and "The 

Landlord," in New York Democratic Record. 
(/) Translations from Pindar, published in the " Dial." 
{g) Translated " Seven against Thebes " (till 1847 ; never 

(A) Translation of " Prometheus Bound " (1843-4), published 
in the "Dial." 
Note. — After 1843 wrote little poetry and destroyed 
much already written. 
1844. . . . (a) " Dial " suspended publication. 

(d) Translation of Pindar (continued). 
(c) " Herald of Freedom " published in the " Dial." 
184s . . . (a) Withdrew to Walden Woods. 

(b) In gaol for refusing to pay State taxes. 

(c) Essay on Wendell Phillips ; published in the "Liberator." 

1846 ... (a) Essay on Civil Disobedience. 

(6) First trip to the Maine forests. 

1847 (a) At the Emersons ; Emerson in England. 
(6) Wrote essay on " Friendship." 

(c) Made collections for Agassiz. 

((J?) Essay on Carlyle. Published in Graham's Msigazine. 

Note. — From 1847 lectured occasionally but regu- 
larly every year for twenty years. 

1848 . .(a) Essay on "Maine Woods;" published in Union Magazine. 

(5) Lectured in Salem Lyceum, 
(c) Left Emerson's. 

1849 ... (a) At home in Concord. 

(6) Published the "Week." 
(c) Trip to Cape Cod. 

1850 . . . . (a) Journey into Canada. 

{6) Second visit to Cape Cod. 

1851 . . . (a) "Winter" records in Diary until i860 (according to 


1852 . . {a) Manuscript of " A Yankee in Canada," given to Greeley 

for publication. 

1853 . . (a) Second trip to Maine woods. 

(b) Publication of " Canada" begun in Putnam's Magazine. 

(withdrawn after the third chapter). 

1854 . . (a) Met Thomas Cholmondeley. 

(i) Publication of Walden. 

(c) Slavery in Massachusetts, published in the "Liberator." 


1855 . . (a) Received 44 vols. Hindoo literature from Cholmondeley. 

(*) Trip to Truro. 

1856 . . (a) Met Walt Whitman in Brooklyn (with Alcott). 

(b) Visited Horace Greeley at Chappaqua (with Alice Carey 

and Alcott). 

(c) Refused offer of tutorship to Greeley's sons. 
1857. • • . (a) Met John Brown. (Introduced by Sanborn.) 

{6) Third trip to the Maine Woods. 

1858 , . (a) "Chesucook," published in the Atlantic Monthly. 

1859 • ••('') John Brown captured October 18. 

(b) Speech, "Plea for Captain John Brown, " October 30 

and Nov. i . 
Speech, for memorial service, Dec. 2. 
i860. . . .(a) Outbreak of war between North and South. 

(A) Publication of "A Plea for Captain John Brown," in 
" Echoes from Harper's Ferry." 
Publication of "Last Days of John Brown," in the 
(Delivered as a lecture at North Elba, July 4.) 

(c) Publication of "The Succession of Forest Trees," in the 

New York weekly Tribune. 

1861 . . . . (a) Trip to Minnesota (for his health.) 

1862 . ■ . (a) Death. 

(*) Emerson's Biographical Sketch in Atlantic Monthly 

for August. 
(c) Posthumous publication, " Autumnal Tints," in Atlantic 



(Being a list of the works cited in the foregoing Treatise.) 

A. Thoreau Literature. 

Thoreau's Complete Works, ii Vols. Riverside Edition, Houghton, 
Mifflin & Co., New York. 

A. LA Week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers. 

II. Walden, or Life in the Woods. 

III. Cape Cod. 

IV. The Maine Woods. 
V. Summer 

VI. Autumn. 
VII. Winter 

VIII. Early Spring in Massachusetts. 
IX. Excursions. 
X. Miscellanies : Prefatory Biographical Sketch by R. W. 

XL Familiar Letters. 

Poems of Nature, Edited by F. B. Sanborn and H . S. Salt. 
London, John Lane, Bodley Head. 

B. Books and Artici<es on Thoreau . 

B. Burroughs John. H. D. Thoreau. Complete Works. River- 

side Edition, Vol. VIII. Houghton, Mifflin Co. 1895. 
Note. — For a complete list of the books and articles written on 
Thoreau, see Bibliography appended to H. S. Sahs' "Henry David 

Emerson, R. W. Biographical Sketch, written for the Atlantic 

Monthly. October, 1862. See Preface " Miscellanies." 

Lowell, J. R. "My Study Windows." Article "Thoreau." 

London, Walter Scott. 
Page, H. A. " Thoreau, His Life and Aims." London, Chatto & 

Salt, H. S. "The Life of Henry David Thoreau." London, 

Richard Bentley & Son. 1890. 
Sanborn, F. B. " Henry D. Thoreau." London, Sampson, Low, 
Searle & Rivington, 1882. 


C. — Poetical Works. 


C. Longfellow. Poetical Works. 
Whittier. Poetical Works. 


Byron. Poetical Works. Fred Dame & Co., London, 1895. 
Shakespeare. Macbeth. 
Shelley. Poetical Works. 
Wordsworth. Poetical Works. 

D. — Miscellaneous I,iterature. 

D. Emerson. Complete Prose Works. Ward, Locke & Co. London. 
Rousseau, i. Discours sur I'in^galit^. Bibliotheque National, 

Paris, 1875. 
2. Contrat Social. Marc. Michel. Amsterdam, 1762. 

E. — Philosophical Literature. 


E. Kant. Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in Weltbiirgerlicher 

Schopenhauer. Sammtliche Werke (Vol. I. ) Philip Reclami 

Plato. 1. Phsedon. 

2. Symposium. Macmillan & Co. 1892. Vol I. Jow- 

ett's Translation. 
Preger. Geschichte der deutschen Mystik im Mittelalter. 

Leipzig, 1893. 


a. Historical. 

Creuzer-Guigniaut. Religions de 1' antiquity. Paris, 1814. 
Deussen, Paul. Geschichte der Philosophic L and II. 
Schroder. Indiens Literatur and Cultur. Leipzig, 1887. 

b. Chinese 

Confucius. Analecta. Translated by Marschmann. Serampore, 1809. 

c. Persian. 

Zenoa Vesta. Ubersetzung von Fried. Spiegel. Leipzig, 1871-8. 


d. Hindoo. 

Buddhist SuTT AS. Translated by T. Rhys Davids (ii vols.) Oxford^ 

Bhagvat Geeta. Translated by Sir C. Wilkins. New Edition, Bom- 
bay, 1887. 
Prefatory letter by Warren Hastings. 

Heetopades of Veeshnoo Sarma. Translated by Wilkins. Bath, 1897. 

Institutes of Menu. Translated by Sir Wm. Jones. London, 1825. 

Sakontala. iJbersetzung v. Georg Foster. Heidelberg, 1820. 

Upanishad's des Veda. Ubersetzt v. Dr. Paul Deussen. Leipzig, 
Brockhaus, 1897. 

Translated by Max Miiller. Vols L and XV. Sacred Books 
of the East. Clarendon Press, Oxford. 

Rig- Veda. Ubersetzt v. F. Grassmann. Leipzig, Brockhaus, 1876. 

Rig-Veda. Siebenzig Lieder des, Ubersetzt v. Geldner. Tiibingen, 


Sama-Veda; Hymnen des, Ubersetzt v, H. Bensey. Leipzig, Brock- 
haus, 1848. 

Vishnu Purana. Translated by H. H. Wilson. Lpndon, 1840.