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MonkeyNotes-Walden by Henry David Thoreau
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Notes

In his elaborate discussion of attaining a spiritual state of mind, Thoreau juxtaposes animal instincts and spiritual inclination. He observes that a primitive animal urge is a natural inclination, even for human beings; in fact, he feels it is imperative for every human to possess some animalism in his spirit. An important part of possessing a bit of wildness, however, is recognizing the need to rise above one's base inclinations rather than to be led by them. Still, Thoreau believes that man should be made up of both a wild, natural side and a good, refined side.

Thoreau, a vegetarian himself, next extols the virtues of a meat free diet. He feels that if any man gives up the practice of eating meat, it is a step towards self-improvement. For him, meat eating is a baser form of existence. He uses a butterfly metaphor as a comparison to man; the caterpillar is the primitive, carnivorous stage of human development, and its transformation into a butterfly represents the refined, vegetarian stage of man. Thoreau believes a person reaches a refined state of existence by avoiding vices, communing with Nature, and knowing one's self. Once a person has purified his being, he is more open to reaching towards the divine and knowing God.


Like the butterfly, humans are able to attain perfect physical form, but it takes effort. People need to nurture and guard their bodies, eating only wholesome foods and exercising. They also need to avoid tainting their bodies with vices of the senses, such as overeating and oversleeping. With Biblical reference, Thoreau then calls the body the temple of the human spirit. Only if the temple is in good shape can the spirit flourish. Thoreau, with his oriental knowledge of the "Vedas," believes that man ventures towards perfection in stages. It must all begin with taking care of one's physical being.

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