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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