Henry Thoreau on guidance

9:30 a.m. Sunday March 12, 2006


All right, friends, I am going to be working on the assumption that I am working on a book about guidance – sort of not realizing it – this past 15 years, not to say 40. As Henry sat at Walden accumulating the wisdom and experience that became Walden, he thought he was doing something entirely different, at first, which was writing A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, which wasn’t nearly so important. And perhaps I have been doing the same. So – comments, suggestions? Oh, and what was going on Friday night/ Saturday morning?


You understand me instinctively in the same way you understood Colin Wilson, and the result is that our consciousnesses and yours are linked in ways unsuspected by the outside world. Walden is a finished product, and could never be changed now because too many minds link to it, and share their being with it. But I live, and I am affected, as are we all by each other.


Another part of me, another part of you, closely collaborate, link souls and intent as you and your brother Paul, or your sister Margaret, linked soul and intent. The result may be seen as one larger soul-construction coordinating its activities with each of you consciously following your own dictates but unconsciously dove-tailing your efforts, encouraging each other at crucial times, providing “outside” assistance that proves crucial before long. As a single example, Paul sends you Kingsley’s book knowing somehow that you should have it, and because your intents are aligned, you are functioning in accordance with promptings that coordinate, and so you receive that book precisely at the time for it to make a certain constructive impact. These interactions could be multiplied many times – you give him van der Post, he gives you an understanding of light, you give her ideas, she gives you a different point of view. You understand.


I died before Antietam Creek was fought; I had no assurance that slavery would be defeated, although it did seem clear that it would not be allowed to become national in scope. But I died of that war, for two reasons, as you may not have realized.


Why Henry Thoreau died young


First, my work was finished, only because my world was finished. For me to have lingered would have worked out far less well than for Emerson even. I would in no way have been in sympathy with what to others would have seemed obvious goods – the rise of the corporation, the destruction of the enduring edifice for the sake of the profit to be made – and appropriated – in the selling of it, even and especially the policy of reconstruction that followed Lincoln’s death. I would have been considered an old fogy, behind the time, and my age would have seemed to discredit my youth. There would have been far too great a chance that my work would have been lost to the 20th century, which needed it.


Second, on the human level, I could not survive the suffocating vapor of suffering and hatred that is war, especially civil war. I know that you have sometimes thought I ought to have stuck it out because in your view other abolitionists and I had largely caused the war, but in a wartime atmosphere the most sensitive go first; it is too heard to live. It is the somewhat coarser or insulated souls who are better able to live in that atmosphere, because not actually living there in the way I had to do. It was as simple as a matter of physical constitution which as you know is a determinative and at the same time an indicator of the total being. “I can never get well while this war lasts,” I said, and this was simple fact. It had nothing to do with politics and certainly not with self-indulgence.


Your life was about receiving guidance.



My life was about living in a way that bustling 19th century America had no time for. It was as well that someone remind it. I was a provincial – and New England was played out after the Civil War, you recognize; it poured out its life’s blood and subsided, its prime contribution to the national experiment finished. But even in my lifetime Massachusetts was moving rapidly from the forefront to the sideline. As was Virginia, come to think of it. The frontier absorbed the nation’s imagination, and the new states that formed, not on the frontier but behind it, pulled the center of gravity ever westward. What was more easterly than Massachusetts? And even after we cast off the district of Maine, we were still of the east – the far east, not only New England but half Old England – and some of us pulled it east a good deal farther, to the land of the Hindu.


By the way (or BTW as you begin to think as your email telegraphese takes deeper hold on you) you must not expect me to speak to you here as I would speak to my readers when in a body, able to cast and recast. If you want to write brilliantly, lastingly, do it while you are concentrated in one time, one place! In eternity you revise not your words but yourself.


And so — ?


You know everything you need know. You have the inner resources; they never fail. You have the outer resources, so long as you remain open to them, and you repay as you receive. What else need be said of guidance? Your life is a sacred experiment! How else can it be? Everyone’s life is a sacred experiment – but each experiment is different, and must be tended each by each, carefully, closely.


I am happily extending my range of communication but I need to assure that I not be overwhelmed by cross-currents from others, and that any who follow my example be at least cautioned against mishap.


You see how that statement was half “you” and half “other”? that is a form of education in itself.


I do see that.

One thought on “Henry Thoreau on guidance

  1. Drive on good friend! My Saturday morning – after a good night’s sleep and while listening to “Morning Exercise” – consisted of Bones, Total Self, et al, with the use of a two-by-four, telling me to develop my new consciousnes NOW. So, I have started re-buiding the hardware and re-writing the software; will keep you aware of progress.

    My Best,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.