Posted June 28, 2006
Book: Letters To A Spiritual Seeker
Author: Henry David Thoreau
W.W. Norton & Co. New York. 2004. Pp. 266
An Excerpt from the Introduction:
Henry David Thoreau is not usually regarded as a spiritual teacher. He is
best known for the literary brilliance of his masterpiece, Walden, and for
the social and political insights of his most famous essay, "Civil
Disobedience." Yet Thoreau himself clearly regarded the spiritual dimension
of his writings - and, indeed, of his life - as vitally important. That
dimension rarely appears in the foreground of his writings, however, and
most often emerges only by implication, whereas matters of the spirit are
emphatically the topic of consideration in the letters collected here.
An Excerpt from the Book:
What the essential difference between man and woman is that they should be
thus attracted to one another, no one has satisfactorily answered. Perhaps
we must acknowledge the justness of the distinction which assigns to man the
sphere of wisdom, and to woman that of love, though neither belongs
exclusively to either. Man is continually saying to woman, Why will you not
be more wise? Woman is continually saying to man, Why will you not be more
loving? It is not in their wills to be wise or to be loving; but, unless
each is both wise and loving, there can be neither wisdom nor love.
All transcendent goodness is one, though appreciated in different ways, or
by different senses. In beauty we see it, in music we hear it in fragrance
we scent it, in the palatable the pure palate tastes it, and in rare health
the whole body feels it. The variety is in the surface or manifestations;
but the radical identity we fail to express. The lovers sees in the glance
of his beloved the same beauty that in the sunset paints the western skies.
It is the same daimon, here lurking under a human eyelid, and there under
the closing eyelids of the day. Here, in small compass, is the ancient and
natural beauty of evening and morning. What loving astronomer has ever
fathomed the ethereal depths of the eye?
The maiden conceals a fairer flower and sweeter fruit than any calyx in the
field, and if she goes with averted face confining in her purity and high
resolves, she will make the heavens retrospective, and all nature humbly
confess its queen.
Under the influence of this sentiment man is a string of an aeolian harp,
which vibrates with the zephyrs of the eternal morning.
There is at first thought something trivial in the commoness of love. So
many Indian youths and maidens along these banks have in ages past yielded
to the influence of this great civilizer. Nevertheless this generation is
not disgusted nor discouraged, for Love is no individual's experience, and
though we are imperfect mediums, it does not partake of our imperfection;
though we are finite, it is infinite and eternal, and the same divine
influence broods over these banks, whatever race may inhabit them, and
perchance still would, even if the human race did not dwell here.
Table of Contents:
Letters one to fifty