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Elvis Presley’s The Prophet. Henry David Thoreau’s Manual of Buddhism. WALDEN to GRACELAND 200 Years of the Eastern Wisdom Tradition in Western Thought A Chapter on Henry David Thoreau Kent Bicknell ... the Sant Bani School. S..P..A..C..E.
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Henry David Thoreau’s
Manual of Buddhism
WALDEN to GRACELAND
200 Years of the Eastern Wisdom Tradition
in Western Thought
A Chapter on Henry David Thoreau
Kent Bicknell ... the Sant Bani School
so the narrative picked up in “Hooksett, a week afterward...”
Henry’s 1st book was a commercial flop. James Russell Lowell wrote in a review, “We were bid to a river party – not to be preached at!”
When the publisher made Henry take back the unsold copies, he quipped,“I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself.”
As the volumes sat around in Henry’s garret, he sometimes made textual corrections in pencil
Of particular concern were some missing lines on p. 396
He asked for space here
Three lines were dropped
The text made no sense… so in the occasional volume Henry added the missing lines.
The lines Henry added in pencil convey the essence of his World View:
If we can be still and allow thoughts to withdraw beyond the play of outer senses, we may find “the field of a wholly new life…”
A Week is indeed more than the “river party” James Russell Lowell expected.
J. R. Lowell
Words from the pulpit in mid 19th century New England did not explain the “field of a wholly new life” Henry had tasted.
As an adolescent he had gone through long periods in which “I was daily intoxicated, and yet no man could call me intemperate.”
Neither people nor books helped him understand “an indescribable, infinite, all-absorbing, divine, heavenly pleasure, a sense of elevation and expansion” that he had “nought to do with…”
“I perceive that I am dealt with by superior powers. This is a pleasure, a joy, an existence which I have not procured myself. I speak as a witness on the stand, and tell what I have perceived. The morning and the evening were sweet to me, and I led a life aloof from the society of men.”
Journal, July 16, 1851
And his voracious reading of Eastern texts was reflected in his writing, as here in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.
(to be continued...)
The preceding slides on Henry Thoreau are a chapter from Walden to Graceland: 200 Years of the Eastern Wisdom Tradition in Western Thought. The presentation has been created from rare books and manuscripts in the collection of Kent Bicknell, Principal of the Sant Bani School in Sanbornton, NH. It explores in detail the long and rich engagement with the East of the Alcotts, Emerson, Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, Madame Blavatsky, W. B. Yeats, Aldous Huxley, Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller, Ezra Pound, Elvis Presley, and Jimi Hendrix, among others. For more information (including illustrated lectures) contact Kent at ...
firstname.lastname@example.org The Sant Bani School www.santbani.org
See also Leigh Eric Schmidt’s Restless Souls: the Making of American Spirituality from Emerson to Oprah (2005)
Schmidt offers an in-depth history of the search for the spiritual in American culture -- and the positive social movements that have resulted.
It is about opening doors,
Not closing them…
© Kent Bicknell 2006