Walden and Transcendentalism

1535 words 7 pages

Henry Thoreau’s masterpiece, Walden or a Life in the Woods, shows the impact transcendentalism had on Thoreau’s worldview. Transcendentalism is a philosophy that asserts the primacy of the spiritual over the material. Transcendentalism puts the emphasis on spiritual growth and understanding as opposed to worldly pleasures. Thoreau’s idea of transcendentalism stressed the importance of nature and being close to nature. He believed that nature was a metaphor for spiritual enlightenment. A walk in the woods therefore was a search for spiritual enlightenment. One should look ‘through’ nature, not merely ‘at’ her. In Walden, Thoreau’s idea of transcendentalism is broken into three areas. The
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In fact, nature is not even the most prominent ideal in Thoreau’s writings. The thesis of Walden is clearly stated in the first few pages of the book. Thoreau writes, “With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meager life than the poor…None can be an impartial or wise observer of human life but from the vantage ground of what we should call voluntary poverty.”[5] The entirety of the “Economy” chapter is devoted to material possessions and Thoreau’s idea that the physical pleasures exist only to help the soul endure. Very little time is spent on the goodness of nature. When it is mentioned, it is shown, as was stated above, that nature serves as a sort of looking glass to spiritual ideals. Because this book was quoted often by radical groups in 1960-70, Walden became a sign of disobedience and rebellion to the conservative community. However, there are a few ideas of which Christians can approve. The first is non-materialism. Thoreau quotes Matthew 6:19 saying, “By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool’s life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before.”[6] He takes great pains throughout the entire book to make sure his readers understand that material possessions should not be the only thing in which people place all of their happiness. The second


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