Thoreau and Schizoid Personality Disorder: His Life-Long Struggle Between Shunning and Craving Meaningful Social Connection/Relationship
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Admittedly, Henry David Thoreau’s personality can be maddening to understand. E. B. White (2011) stated that “Henry Thoreau has probably been more wildly misconstrued than any other person of comparable literary stature” (195). David Quammen (2000) said that “This man told us more of himself than perhaps any other American writer, and still he remains beyond fathoming” (231). Robert Richardson (1989) wrote that “…Thoreau has been accused since his own time of being contemptuous of ordinary social behavior, of being cold, withdrawn, stoical, and boorish” (296). Horace Hosmer (1977)—who was close friends with Thoreau’s older brother, John—wrote that “He was very little known and understood even by his towns people…” (136). Clearly, Thoreau could be highly discrepant in his thoughts and behaviors, and perplexing to comprehend…even to those to whom he was the closest.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 According to Hough (1956) and others, the man who went to live alone for more than two years at Walden Pond is the very same person who cried (and needed his sister’s considerable consoling comfort and reassurance of a secure place in the family home) when his mother suggested he should begin to think of leaving Concord in order to pursue a career. The man who went to live alone for more than two years at Walden Pond and talked of the “wildness” of nature is the very same person, according to Bridgman (1982), who was deeply shaken by his fearful encounter with wild nature near the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine. The man who spent the vast majority of his adult life living in close quarters with his family of origin—or with the Ralph Waldo Emerson family—is the very same person who wrote in Walden he would prefer for people to live “…one inhabitant to a square mile” (123).
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 The man who wrote passionately in his journal about his deep need for abiding friendships is the very same man who seemed continually frustrated and perplexed by them, did very little to realistically cultivate them, and prided himself in his stubborn refusal to compromise with others. Note what Walter Harding (1982) found in this journal entry: I love my friends very much, but I find that it is of no use to go to see them. I hate them commonly when I am near them. They belie themselves and deny me constantly. (300) (Journal 2, 98)
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Thoreau also journaled the following about friendship: I lose my friends, of course, as much by my own ill treatment and ill valuing of them, prophaning [sic] of them, cheapening of them, as by their cheapening of themselves, till as last, when I am prepared to [do] them justice, I am permitted to deal only with the memories of themselves, their ideals still surviving in me, no longer with their actual selves. (Journal 2, 143)
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Many of those closest to him found him cold and aloof, and demonstrated no qualms in making negative statements concerning his difficult and eccentric personality, including his life-long friend and mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Even in his eulogy to him (“Thoreau”)—at a time when most friends would go out of their way to put the best positive spin upon the deceased person’s life—Emerson felt it appropriate to make mention of some of Thoreau’s more glaring personality deficiencies. He stated that his “dangerous frankness” (1087) caused even admirers to refer to him as “that terrible Thoreau” (1088). Waldo also noted he was personally disappointed that Thoreau, who despite having displayed an impressive array of technical, scientific, and manual skills, along with significant energy, “…had no ambition” (1088).
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Even today, and primarily due to his misunderstood personality, Thoreau remains the target of attack. The New Yorker staff writer Kathryn Schulz’s 2015 diatribe, “Pond Scum”, is the most recent manifestation. Clearly, her vitriolic article’s mission was to destroy Thoreau (as a respected person) and Walden (as a classic)…in much the same way James Russell Lowell did so effectively to him (posthumously) in the 19th century.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Over the years, there have been books written specifically to explain Thoreau’s personality. One was Richard Bridgman’s 1982 Dark Thoreau, where the author focused exclusively on the shadow side of Thoreau’s personality. Clearly, Bridgman set out to challenge the caricaturized version of Thoreau…the one that makes him out to be a happy-go-lucky, flute-playing nature boy. At the very least, he wanted to balance Thoreau’s dark “yang” with his light “yin”. In all reality, he might have wanted to demonstrate there was much darker “yang” than light “yin” in the man.
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 The 1983 book, Thoreau’s Psychology, contained numerous engaging essays that went about the business of dissecting Thoreau’s personality from a variety of psychological perspectives. It included pieces by Thoreau’s famed biographer, Walter Harding; by the Ericksonian, Richard Labeaux; and by the book’s editor and Freudian, Raymond Gozzi. One chapter, “A Personality Profile of Henry David Thoreau: A New Method in Psycho-History” (by Everett and Laraine Fergenson), is especially interesting. In a very unique way, it utilized the well-known MMPI personality measure, in an attempt to get at the essence of Thoreau’s personality. The findings are germane to the main purpose of this paper, in that Thoreau was found to rank highly on the Social Introversion scale, yet he was also discrepantly found (by one psychologist asked to analyze the findings) to demonstrate “superficial gregariousness” and “attention seeking” behaviors (93). It is no wonder the standard deviation score received by the group of experts on the Social Introversion scale was relatively high…meaning there was considerable confusion about this personality trait in Thoreau.
¶ 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 One very interesting 2004 book, Henry David Thoreau: Cycles and Psyche, by psychiatrist Michael Sperber, MD, discusses the author in terms of having “…severe mood, stress, and personality disorders…” (viii). Sperber makes the case that Thoreau may have been bipolar (manic and depressive), and discusses this condition in terms of the Greek archetypes, Icarus and Daedalus. He conjectures, too, that Thoreau may have suffered from the rare Geschwind Syndrome (almost always associated with epilepsy…which Thoreau did not have).
¶ 12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Additionally, and importantly, Sperber included two chapters that are highly relevant to this paper’s main topic. One chapter is titled “A Hallucinated Mountain”, and made note of the many mountain hallucinations (more than 20) reported by Thoreau during his adult life. The second chapter of interest for us is titled “The ‘As If’ Personality”. In it, Sperber made the case that Thoreau unconsciously and rather oddly imitated the two people he was closest to during his life: his older brother, John, and his older friend and mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Numerous contemporaries of the two noted that Thoreau’s imitation of Emerson bordered on the eerie.
¶ 13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 The reality of these two phenomena written about by Sperber lend credence to the main contention presented in this paper: Thoreau’s personality was basically schizoid in nature. It has been noted by several influential psychoanalytically and object relations-oriented professionals that the presence of an active fantasy life and the use of the “as if” personality phenomenon by a person are highly indicative of SPD: Schizoid Personality Disorder.
Thoreau and Schizoid Personality Disorder
¶ 14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 To better understand Thoreau’s difficult personality, Schizoid Personality Disorder will be presented here as a “best fit” to in an attempt to explain it. Hopefully, a discussion of this personality type, with its hallmark penchant toward extreme social aloofness (detachment) and a restricted range of emotional expression in interpersonal settings, will help to provide a logical framework to explain Thoreau’s quirks, eccentricities, and the seemingly highly discrepant behavioral patterns he displayed throughout his life.
- Neither desires nor enjoys close relationships, including being part of a family.
- Almost always chooses solitary activities. (?)
- Has little, if any, interest in having sexual experiences with another person.
- Takes pleasure in few, if any, activities.
- Lacks close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives.
- Appears indifferent to the praise or criticism of others.
- Shows emotional coldness, detachment, or flattened affectivity. (653)
¶ 17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 In order to be diagnosed with this condition, the person being assessed must demonstrate a minimum of four of these behaviors. It seems fairly clear that Thoreau demonstrated C, F, and G…and perhaps B, too. By using current DSM 5 criteria, a case (however weak) can be made that Thoreau appears to be able to be diagnosed with SPD.
¶ 18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 Early on in this discussion, however, it must be noted that while Thoreau may not perfectly or strongly fit the “classic” SPD description, as presented in the DSM 5 (or in the ICD), it is clear that he most certainly fits a less-severe, high-functioning subtype, known among psychoanalysts and object-relation therapists, and coined by Ralph Klein (1995), as a “secret schizoid”. A secret schizoid is a person who belies many of the SPD characteristics detailed in the DSM by displaying “…an engaging, interactive personality style…” (17). Klein goes on to say that the truth, however, is that this external presentation only masks the true internal schizoid beliefs, thoughts, and feelings the person continually contends with and experiences. As previously noted, the Fergensen paper suggested that while Thoreau appeared to be socially introverted, he also seemed capable of gregariousness and attention seeking behavior.
¶ 19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 Mansfield (1992) wrote of a secret schizoid who, while seeming to enjoy giving public speeches, had problems during break periods…when audience members attempted to engage/interact with him one-on-one. We know that Thoreau, too, was involved with Lyceum and many other public speaking engagements (over 60 during his life). Dean (1989) made the case that despite Thoreau’s willingness to speak publically throughout his adulthood, he was often subject to very mixed reviews, and he was also experienced by his audiences as quirky or odd during these talks (with many noting that he appeared to be imitating Emerson). Once Thoreau is seen from the more nuanced perspective of a secret schizoid, which is (unfortunately) not accounted for in the DSM-5, it becomes much easier to understand him as being schizoid in nature.
¶ 20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 By the publication of the DSM-5 in 2013, a significant change occurred in how autism is diagnosed. Asperger’s Disorder (sometimes called HFA: High Functioning Autism) used to have its own diagnostic code; today, it doesn’t. Rather, its symptoms have been subsumed into the new diagnostic category, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). When we think of Thoreau in relationship to Schizoid Personality Disorder, it will be useful to apply this same continuum-type thinking now used when formulating an autism diagnosis.
¶ 21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 In relationship to classic Schizoid Personality Disorder, as described in the DSM 5, Thoreau’s secret schizoid form of the syndrome is a milder version…just like (what used to be called) Asperger’s Disorder is considered a milder form of autism. While the DSM 5 accounts for the diagnosis of a milder form of autism (via the spectrum), it does not do so for SPD.
¶ 22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 Due to this reality, we have to rely heavily on well-known SPD sources outside of the DSM 5 (or the ICD 10) for additional information useful to our discussion of Thoreau’s personality. So, instead of complete reliance on “descriptive psychiatry” (which focuses on exterior, overt, observable behavior), we must turn to “dynamic psychiatry” (which focuses on convert/unconscious/interior considerations) when formulating a diagnosis. Dynamic psychiatry is most often used by therapists who employ psychoanalysis and object relations theory.
¶ 23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 In her enlightening paper, Some Thoughts about Schizoid Dynamics, the psychoanalyst Nancy McWilliams (2006) stated the following: …I note that the highest-functioning schizoid people, of whom there are many, seem much healthier in every meaningful respect (life satisfaction, sense of agency, affect regulation, self and object constancy, personal relationships, creativity) than many people with certifiably neurotic psychologies. (1) McWilliams directly states that she finds herself “…always attracted to schizoid people…” (5). She makes clear that when those with this personality type feel they are not being “pathologized”, they are much more likely to open up to her and share their subjective inner thoughts and moods. She also states “…that people with significant schizoid tendencies are more common that typically thought…” (1).
¶ 24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 The recent pop song, Here, by Allesia Cara, appears to support this truth. Its lyrics (which make crystal clear that the speaker would rather be home alone and is not at all interested in dancing or a “hook up” at a party she doesn’t even want to be at) are highly suggestive of SPD thinking. The song’s immense popularity (after a long, slow climb, it reached the very top of the Billboard Chart in 2016) suggests that Cara, at a time when social relationship/connection is highly prized, has tapped into schizoid sentiments with which millions of music listeners are identifying.
¶ 25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 South African clinical psychologist Loray Daws’ (2013) article, “Is There Anybody Out There?”, provides a plethora of useful information in relationship to our discussion of Thoreau and SPD. His short but impressively succinct summary-synopsis paper provides us with many highly-relevant SPD concepts, as detailed by the psychoanalytic writers Ronald Fairbairn, Harry Guntrip, and Ralph Klein. Their contributions, including the concept of the secret schizoid, shed considerable light on Thoreau as we view him through the SPD lens.
¶ 26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 Daws begins his paper discussing Guntrip’s belief that no child can ever provide his/her own basic sense of security. He states this fundamental need can only come “…in a safe relationship with another” (1). Daws then explains why is this so important: Having a sense of connectedness in relation to a trusted other serves as the psychological grounding that enables the continual unfolding of a healthy and vibrant sense of self. (1) When it comes to schizoids, according to Daws, the fundamental problem is that the very connection itself with the needed other has become “…compromised or is intensely feared” (1).
¶ 27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Lebeaux’s (1977) Young Man Thoreau offers strong insight that Henry Thoreau may have experienced this type of dilemma early in life, largely due to his parents’ completely opposite personalities. From a structural perspective, the dynamics of the Thoreau family put Henry in an extremely difficult psychologically position, causing him tremendous stress and guilt throughout his life. In a nutshell, if he became the successful Harvard-educated “hero” of the family, following the clearly communicated wishes of his dominating and opinionated mother, Cynthia, he then ran the risk of “defeating” both his docile father and his well-liked and personable older brother. Essentially, this became a “no win” dilemma for Thoreau.
¶ 28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 Even while he was attending Harvard, when he was thinking in terms of future careers, it became clear that he already did not want to follow his mother’s wishes…in terms of her view of his future and success. As mentioned earlier, Cynthia Thoreau wanted him to seek a career, and she encouraged his search…even if it meant his leaving Concord. His tearfully emotional reaction to his mother’s urging, along with the comfort he felt from his sister’s loving support, demonstrated early on that Thoreau had already stopped seeking his mother’s complete approval. In many ways, perhaps, his life became one of schizoid refusal, where he stubbornly chose to follow his own drummer’s beat. It seems he may have found the secret schizoid path in order to act in some ways “as if” he was fully engaged in life…when he really wasn’t.
¶ 29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 Guntrip (1969) made clear that people with SPD, like virtually all people, truly want a reliable sense of security and that they, too, seek out connection with others. This runs counter to what is suggested about those with SPD in the DSM, which maintains that SPD’s aren’t really interested in relationships. While this may be true of some, it is certainly not the case with all SPD’s, and certainly not true of secret schizoids, like Thoreau.
¶ 30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 Importantly, Mansfield (1992) added that “It is not people that schizoids avoid, but intimacy, self-disclosure, and emotions both positive and negative” (207). Certainly, Thoreau sought out connection with many others during his life (most notably with his brother, John, and with Emerson, but also with Ellery Channing, Bronson Alcott, H.G.O Blake…and many others).
¶ 31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 The problem for schizoids (known as the “schizoid dilemma”), however, is that due to their extremely hypersensitive natures, they always end up, as stated by Daws, succumbing to the intense fear they have of being “marginalized and appropriated” (2) by the other. In a self-protective response to this omnipresent fear, they almost always end up turning away from others (and from the world), instead finding a more reliable source of security and solace by turning inward. There is no doubt Thoreau did this.
¶ 32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 Daws states that secret schizoids come across, according to Klein, superficially as being “…socially available, interested, and engaged…” (2). In reality, however, he says they are really “…emotionally withdrawn and sequestered within the safety of their internal worlds” (2). Guntrip wrote that the best way to determine if a person is a secret schizoid is to talk to him/her about what is going on internally, rather than focusing on what is being expressed externally. As stated before, McWilliams noted that when a person with high-level SPD is treated with respect and understanding, s/he is far more likely to open up. The best way for us to get a sense of what Thoreau was subjectively experiencing during his life is by turning to his journals. There are myriad entries within his journals to support the idea that he suffered from SPD thoughts/feelings.
¶ 33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 During his life, Thoreau displayed at least one significant behavior that appears to run totally counter to the SPD list found in the DSM 5 . There is absolutely no doubt he manifested the ability to derive pleasure from a wide variety of activities during his life, even including a love of singing and dancing (solo). This trait certainly is not typical of one with classic (severe) SPD. His demonstration of this one life-long behavioral pattern may have blinded us from viewing Thoreau as schizoid. Only by understanding him as a secret schizoid does it become clear why we have missed viewing and discussing him in this light.
¶ 34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 As written about by Sperber in Henry David Thoreau: Cycles and Psyche, Thoreau adopted the “as-if” personality defense mechanism early in his adult life, most notably with his brother, John, and then with Ralph Waldo Emerson. Daws tells us that Fairbairn called this phenomenon “role playing” or “schizoid exhibitionism” (2). In his book, The Empty Core, Jeffery Seinfeld (1991) states the following: The as-if structure serves to defend against the underlying schizoid emptiness and sense of futility. The values and convictions of the as-if personality tend toward identification with whatever individual or group the person finds at the time. (4) This goes a long way in explaining why Thoreau first imitated his brother, John (especially in his love of nature), then Ralph Waldo Emerson, the leader of the Transcendentalist movement he so much associated with. In terms of the Emerson family, when Waldo went to Europe for over a year, Henry even played the role of the “as if” surrogate father/husband to this family.
SPD, Slavery, and Imprisonment
¶ 35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 One major problem for the schizoid is that, according to R. Klein (1995) “…the price of attachment to others is enslavement. A condition of relatedness is imprisonment. To be connected is to be in jail” (62-63). It is important to realize that this is not a free-will choice for the person with SPD. To be in close relationship with another necessarily creates this extreme power imbalance. While Thoreau submitted to what Klein calls the “master-slave” relationship with Emerson for many years (and viewed it as a positive and loving master-pupil relationship), he also eventually fought mightily to free himself from this oppressive “one up-one down” relationship configuration.
¶ 36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 Emerson, 14 years older, was socially and professionally successful, and due to his affability, he was liked in many ways Thoreau could never be, just as Thoreau’s brother John was much more personable and emotionally accessible, and due to his affability, liked in many ways Henry could never be. For a long time (more than 10 years), Emerson lovingly mentored Thoreau, and Thoreau venerated Emerson. As detailed so correctly by Hourihan (1983) in “Crisis in the Thoreau-Emerson Friendship: the Symbolic Function of “Civil Disobedience”, things changed—forever for Thoreau—when Emerson verbally disapproved of his choice of going to jail instead of paying his back poll taxes when confronted by sheriff Sam Staples while he lived at Walden. Emerson called this action of Thoreau, “mean and skulking…and in bad taste” (113).
¶ 37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 Once Thoreau heard of Emerson’s dismissive opinion of his defiant act (from their mutual friend, Ellery Channing), he never got over it. This reaction can be explained by his extreme internal sensitivity, so typical of SPD’s. Waldo’s out-of-hand and haughty dismissal of Thoreau’s sincere and defiant action (which he meant as a serious anti-slavery statement) marked the beginning of the end of Thoreau’s master-slave relationship to him.
¶ 38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 According to Hourihan, at first, Thoreau did nothing in response to Emerson’s statement…for more than a year. Eventually, however, when the time was right, and in response to surprisingly gossipy letters he read that Emerson had sent from England to his wife, Lydian, Thoreau finally “called Emerson out” for being a hypocrite. In his mind, Thoreau could not reconcile the incongruence of Emerson’s totally unexpected gushiness about the materialistic trappings of England, when viewed in contrast to his dismissive criticism of his heart-felt and Transcendentally-inspired act of protest against slavery. It is at this time Thoreau wrote and gave talks about his masterpiece and world-changing essay…now known as “Civil Disobedience”.
¶ 39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 On some level, it was Thoreau’s personal “Declaration of Independence” from the SPD master-slave relationship pattern that plagued his life. While Emerson and Thoreau continued to remain connected after this time, there is no doubt that the nature of the relationship had profoundly changed. Their long, idealistic “honeymoon” was over. So was their master-pupil (really SPD master-slave) relationship. Ultimately, as noted by Hourihan, it lead to the necessary growth Thoreau needed in order to finally and truly be his own man, and it marked the reduction in at least some of his debilitating SPD tendencies.
Thoreau: His Identity with and Relationship to John Brown
¶ 40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 Years later, in the late 1850’s, Thoreau developed a strong identification/affinity with the radical abolitionist, John Brown. He even appeared to imitatively grow a full beard at the same time Brown grew his (in late 1857). Clearly, to Thoreau, John Brown represented the human manifestation of the violent anti-slavery archetype, which needed activation in order to finally end slavery in the United States. Thoreau had no problem at all with Brown’s use of violence in this realm.
¶ 41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 Once Thoreau finally freed himself from his personal need to enslave himself to others (due to his SPD tendencies), he was then free and willing to take on the much larger and much more horrific slavery issue that blacks in our country had been forced to endure for hundreds of years. According to Reynolds (2005), who wrote John Brown: Abolitionist, of all the Transcendentalists, Thoreau became the initial driving force and initial champion of John Brown’s violent actions…the actions Brown used in order to finally bring the issue of slavery in the United States to full boil.
¶ 42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 This total backing by Thoreau eventually sparked the transformation of thousands of other Northerners’ perceptions of Brown…from that of a crazed radical to one of a spiritual martyr. Reynolds makes the case that it was Brown’s actions and Thoreau’s full backing of his actions (along with Emerson and other Transcendentalists) that directly led to the onset of the ghastly, but completely necessary, Civil War.
¶ 43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 While there appears to be some evidence of Thoreau being at least somewhat imitative of Brown, and even psychosomatically reactive to him (due to his SPD) in his final years, it is also clear he did not attempt to “as if” with him in a “master-slave” relationship. Certainly, he wholeheartedly supported Brown and his tactics, but he did not directly engage in violence himself.
¶ 44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 Essentially, Thoreau was able to express himself in a healthier, freer, and more individualistic way than he had been able to do before. There is no doubt that his lifelong inner experience of SPD enslavement with others, now largely overcome on a personal level, helped him in his identification with and support of Brown’s much larger mission concerning finally ending slavery in the United States.
The Schizoid Dilemma and the Schizoid Compromise
¶ 45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 This discussion of Thoreau as an SPD hopefully helps to explain his need to deal with what Guntrip (1969) termed as “the schizoid dilemma”. The schizoid, as noted earlier, wants to be in relationship with others. The problem, however, is that if the person with SPD feels there is too much closeness with the other (which inevitably happens) then a strong urge to withdraw from the other comes into play. This becomes a repetitive pattern…and it caused the heart-wrenching pain Thoreau so clearly expressed in numerous journal entries concerning the difficulty he experienced in his failed attempts at friendship with others. In many ways, his life was defined by withdrawal. It was noted by the psychologist in the Fergensens’ MMPI paper that “The subject withdraws from social interaction because he really feels much safer by himself” (94).
¶ 46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 While not completely successful in dealing with the schizoid dilemma over the totality of his life, it can be said that Thoreau attempted to address this problem. He did this best during his two year, two month stay at Walden Pond (despite this also being the time of the beginning of his rift with Emerson). There, he was able to largely stay on a “middle” relational path with others, thus avoiding veering too closely to either pole associated with the schizoid dilemma. Thus, at Walden, he was able to avoid becoming either too attached to or too distant from others. This, Guntrip tells us, is known as “the schizoid compromise”.
¶ 47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 So while some (Schulz’s “Pond Scum” article most recently) have criticized Thoreau’s retreat to Walden as being less than noble in terms of what it proves—when compared with others’ more complete withdrawal into nature from society—this paper contends that is was his unique and Transcendentally-valid attempt to demonstrate a way to become “at-one” with nature, and a way to demonstrate how to live life simply. Thoreau’s famous experiment helped him to “front the essentials of life”. Additionally, the way he did this honored his sensitive SPD personality’s need to find a psychological sweet spot, or…if you will…a Goldilocks-like “just right” zone.
¶ 48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 While withdrawing from society into nature at Walden, his grand experiment also accomplished the goal of satisfying his SPD personality’s need to stay close enough to society to feel safe. Succinctly: he needed distance…but not too much distance; he also needed closeness…but not too much closeness. Staying ensconced in his womb-like cabin (indicative of Guntrip’s concept of SPD regression) at Walden—just two miles from the village of Concord—was his schizoid compromise way of dealing with the schizoid dilemma. His relatively close-in “orbit” with society in no way negates the powerful meaning associated with his celebrated retreat out of its mainstream and into the isolation (and restorative power) of nature.
Thoreau’s SPD and His Final Days
¶ 49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 At the very end of Thoreau’s life, it appears that his SPD tendencies receded even more. Walter Harding (1982) noted that Thoreau was completely surprised at the kind and positive attention he was getting from friends and family when it became clear he was dying. Harding tells us that during his final months, Thoreau stated he had always assumed people did not really mean what they said (due to his SPD lack of trust of others). During his final months, however, this perception changed, and he became convinced that his lifelong assumption was not really true. He stated that if he had known this assumption wasn’t true, he “…wouldn’t have been so offish” (462).
¶ 50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 I would like to believe he had more of a choice in this matter earlier in his life, but I suspect he didn’t. His end-of-life change in his perception of others most likely was precipitated by the crisis of his upcoming demise…coupled with the reduction of the grip SPD had upon him over the span of his life.
¶ 51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 This new found trust of others seems to have caused quite a remarkably positive end-of-life experience for Thoreau. It was noted by his sister and others that he appeared very much at peace in his final months. Sam Staples, the man who threw him in jail in July of 1846, said that Thoreau appeared to him to be the most contented dying person he had ever seen. Clearly, Thoreau’s schizoid dilemma reduced greatly in his final months.
¶ 52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 Hopefully, this discussion of Thoreau as an SPD sheds new, informative, and positive light on his difficult personality. Hopefully, too, it will lead to further research and investigation in this area of study. I am of the firm belief that in an age of hyper (even frenzied) social media obsession…and at a time of serious environmental challenges…we need Thoreau—and what his unique wisdom, truth, and personality teaches us—more than we ever have.
- ¶ 53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0
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- Hourihan, P. (1983). Crisis in the Thoreau-Emerson friendship: The symbolic function of “Civil Disobedience”. In Gozzi, R.D. (Ed), Thoreau’s Psychology: Eight Essays (pp.109-139). Lanham: University Press of America.
- Hunt, H.T. (2003). Emerson, Thoreau, and Hiram Marble: New England transcendentalism and a brief look at spiritualism. Lives in Spirit: Precursors and Dilemma of a Secular Western Mysticism. New York: State University of NewYork Press.
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Appendix — Henry David Thoreau: Journal Entries Indicative of Schizoid Personality Disorder (Dover Publications, Inc. – 1962)
¶ 55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 3. (115) In the evening went to a party. It is a bad place to go to,–thirty or forty persons, mostly young women, in small room, warm and noisy. Was introduced to two women. The first one was as lively and loquacious as a chickadee; had been accustomed to the society of watering-places, and therefore could get no refreshment out of such a dry fellow as I. The other was said to be pretty-looking, but I rarely look people in their faces, and moreover, I could not hear what she said, there was such a clacking, –could only see the motion of her lips when I looked that way…These parties, I think, are part of the machinery of modern society, that young people may be brought together to form marriage connections.
¶ 56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 3. (270) When I review the list of my acquaintances from the most impartial point of view, and consider each one’s excesses and defects of character,–which are the subject of mutual ridicule, astonishment, and pity, –and I class myself among them, –I cannot help asking myself, “If this is the sane world, what must a madhouse be?”
¶ 58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 9. (200) I thrive best on solitude. If I have had a companion only one day a week, unless it were one or two I could name, I find that the value of the week to me has been seriously affected. It dissipates my days, and often it takes me another week to get over it.
¶ 59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 9. (205) I thus from time to time break off my connection with eternal truths and go with the shallow stream of human affairs, grinding at the mill of the Philistines; but when my task is done, with never-failing confidence I devote myself to the infinite again. It would be sweet to deal with men more, I can imagine, but where they dwell? Not in the fields which I traverse.
¶ 60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 9. (208) In the street and in society I am almost invariably cheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean. No amount of gold or respectability would in the least redeem it, –dining with the Governor or a member of Congress!!
¶ 61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 9. (210) I do not consider the other animals brutes in the common sense. I am attracted toward them undoubtedly because I never heard any nonsense from them. I have not convicted them of folly, or vanity, or pomposity, or stupidity, in dealing with me. Their vices, at any rate, do not interfere with me. My fairies invariably take flight when a man appears upon the scene. In a caucus, a meeting-house, a lyceum, a clubroom, there is nothing like it in my experience. But away out of town, on Brown’s scrub oak lot, which was sold the other day for six dollars an acre, I have company such as England cannot buy, nor afford. This society is what I live, what I survey, for. I subscribe generously to this—all that I have and am.
¶ 62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 9. (214) For some years past I have partially offered myself as a lecturer; have been advertised as such several years. Yet I have had but two or three invitations to lecture in a year, and some years none at all. I congratulate myself on having been permitted to stay at home thus, I am so much richer for it. I do not see what I should have got of much value, but money, by going about, but I do see what I should have lost…As for lecture-goers, it is none of their business what I think…
¶ 63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 9. (246) In the society of many men, or in the midst of what is called success, I find my life of no account, and my spirits rapidly fall. I would rather be the barrenest (sic) pasture lying fallow than cursed with the compliments of kings…
¶ 65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 11. (126) Think what refuge there is for me before August is over, from college commencements and society that isolates me! I can skulk amid the tufts of purple wood grass on the borders of the Great Fields!
¶ 66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 12. (332) I am invited to take some party of ladies or gentlemen on an excursion, –to walk or sail, or the like, –but by all kinds of evasions I omit it, and am thought to be rude and unaccommodating therefore. They do not consider that the wood-path and the boat are my studio, where I maintain a sacred solitude and cannot admit promiscuous company.
¶ 67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 1. (181) Friends will have to be introduced each time they meet. They will be eternally strange to each other, and when they have mutually appropriated their value for the last hour, they will go and gather a new measure of strangeness for the next.
¶ 68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 1. (213-214) We have nothing to fear from our foes; God keeps a standing army for that service; but we have no ally against our friends, those ruthless vandals whose kind intent is subtler poison than the Colchian, a more fatal shaft than the Lydian.
¶ 69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 1. (218) None will reconcile friends but love. They make a fatal mistake when they go about likes foes to explain and treat with one another. It is a mutual mistake. None are so unmanageable.
¶ 70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 1. (220-221) We have to go into retirement religiously, and engage our meeting by rarity and a degree of unfamiliarity. Would you know why I see thee so seldom, my friend? In solitude I have been making up a packet for thee.
¶ 71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 1. (339) My friend is cold and reserved because his love for me is waxing and not waning. These are the early processes; the particles are just beginning to shoot into crystals. If the mountains came to me, I should no longer go to the mountains. So soon as that consummation takes place which I wish, it will be past. Shall I not have a friend in reserve? Heaven is to come. I hope this is not it.
¶ 72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 1. (340) Friends are those twain who feel their interests to be one. Each knows that the other might as well have said what he said…My friend is my real brother…The field where friends meet is consecrated forever. Man seeks friendship out of the desire to realize a home here…He is my creation. I can do what I will with him.
¶ 73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 1. (439) They will be most familiar, they will be most unfamiliar, for they will be so one and single that common themes will not have to be bandied between them, but in silence they will digest them as one mind; but they will at the same time be so two and double that each will be to the other as admirable and inaccessible as a star. They will be most familiar, they will be most unfamiliar
¶ 74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 2. (98) I love my friends very much, but I find that it is of no use to go see them. I hate them commonly when I am near them. They belie themselves and deny me continually.
¶ 75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 2. (109) I have certain friends whom I visit occasionally, but I commonly part from them early with a certain bitter-sweet sentiment. That which we love is so mixed and entangled with that we hate in one another that we are more grieved and disappointed, aye, and estranged from one another, by meeting than by absence…For the most part we are smothered and stifled by one another. I go and see my friend and try his atmosphere. If our atmospheres do not mingle, if we repel each other strongly, it is of no use to stay.
¶ 76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0 2. (143) I lose my friends, of course, as much by my own ill treatment and ill valuing of them, prophaning of them, cheapening of them, as by their cheapening of themselves, till at last, when I am prepared to [do] them justice, I am permitted to deal only with the memories of themselves, their ideals still surviving in me, no longer with their actual selves.
¶ 77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 3. (139) I come from contact with certain acquaintances, whom even I am disposed to look toward as possible friends. If oftenest happens that I come from them wounded. Only they can wound me seriously, and that perhaps without them knowing it.
¶ 78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 3. (146) My difficulties with my friends are such as no frankness will settle. There is no precept in the New Testament that will assist me. My nature, it may [be] is secret. Others can confess and explain; I cannot. It is not that I am too proud, but that is not what is wanted. Friendship is the unspeakable joy and blessing that results to two or more individuals who from constitution sympathize; and natures are liable to no mistakes, but will know each other through thick and thin. Between two by nature alike and fitted to sympathize there is no veil and there can be no obstacle. Who are the estranged? Two friends explaining.
¶ 79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0 I feel sometimes as if I could say to my friends, “My friends, I am aware how I have outraged you, how I have seemingly preferred hate to love, seemingly treated others kindly and you unkindly, sedulously concealed my love, and sooner or later expressed all and more than all my hate.” I can imagine how I might utter something like this in some moment never to be realized. But let me say frankly that at the same time I feel, it may be with too little regret, that I am under an awful necessity to be what I am. If the truth were known, which I do not know, I have no concern with those friends whom I misunderstand or who misunderstand me.
¶ 81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0 My acquaintances sometimes imply that I am too cold; but each thing is warm enough of its kind. Is the stone too cold which absorbs the heat of the summer sun and does not part with it during the night? Crystals, though they be of ice, are not too cold to melt, but it was in melting they were formed. Cold! I am most sensible of warmth in winter days. It is not the warmth of fire that you would have, but everything is warm and cold according to its nature. It is not that I am too cold, but that our warmth and coldness are not of the same nature; hence when I am absolutely warmest, I may be coldest to you. Crystal does not complain of crystal any more than the dove of its mate. You who complain that I am cold find Nature cold. To me she is warm. My heat is latent to you. Fire itself is cold to whatever is not of a nature to be warmed by it. A cool wind is warmer to a feverish man than the air of a furnace. That I am cold means that I am another nature.
¶ 83 Leave a comment on paragraph 83 0 3. (265) My friends! My friends! It does not cheer me to see them. They but express their want of faith in me or in mankind; their coldest, cruelest thought comes clothed in polite and easy-spoken words at last. I am silent to their invitations, because I do not feel invited, and we have no reason to give for what we do not do. One says, “Love me out of this mire;” the other says, “Come out of it and be lovely.” One speaks with scorn of the scorners.
¶ 84 Leave a comment on paragraph 84 0 4. (313-315) How far we can be apart and yet attract each other! There is one who almost wholly misunderstands me and whom I too probably misunderstand, toward whom, nevertheless, I am distinctly drawn. I have the utmost human good-will toward that one, and yet I know not what mistrust keeps us asunder. I am so much and so exclusively the friend of my friend’s virtue that I am compelled to be silent for the most part, because his vice is present. I am made dumb by this third party. I only desire sincere relations with the worthiest of my acquaintance, that they give me an opportunity once in a year to speak the truth. They invite me to see them, and do not show themselves. Who are they, pray? I pine and starve near them. The hospitable man will invite me to an atmosphere where truth can be spoken, where a man can live and breathe. Think what crumbs we offer each other, –and think to make up the deficiency with our roast meats! Let us have a human creature’s heart and let go the beef’s heart. How happens it that I find myself making such an enormous demand on men and so constantly disappointed? Are my friends aware how disappointed I am? It is all my fault? Have I no heart? Am I incapable of expansion and generosity? I shall accuse myself of everything else sooner. I have never met with a friend who furnished me sea-room. I have only tacked a few times and come to anchor, –not sailed, –made no voyage, carried no venture. Do they think me eccentric because I refuse this chicken’s meat, this babe’s food? Would not men have something to communicate if they were sincere? Is not my silent expectation an invitation, an offer, an opportunity offered? My friend has complained to me, cursed me even, but it did not affect me; I did not know the persons he talked about. I have been disappointed from first to last in my friends, but I have never complained of them, nor to them. I would have them know me, guess at me. It is not petty and trivial relations that I seek to establish with them. A world in which there is a demand for ice-creams but not for truth! I leave my friends early; I go away to cherish my idea of friendship. It not friendship a great relation? My friend so treats me that I feel a thousand miles off; like the greatest possible stranger, speaking a different language; as if it would be the fittest thing in the world for us to be introduced. Persists in thinking me the opposite to what [I am], and so shuts my mouth. Intercourse with men! How little it amounts to. How rarely we love them! Do we not meet very much as Yankees meet Arabs? It is remarkable if a man gives us a civil answer about the road. And how far from love still are even pretty intimate friends! How little it is that we can trust each other! It is the bravest thing we do for one moment to put so much confidence in our companion as to treat him for what he aspires to be, a confidence which we retract instantly.
¶ 85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 0 Like cuttlefish, we conceal ourselves, we darken the atmosphere in which we move; we are not transparent. I pine for one to whom I can speak my first thoughts; thoughts which represent me truly, which are no better and no worse than I; thoughts which have the bloom on them, which alone can be sacred and divine. Our sin and shame prevent our expressing even the innocent thoughts we have. I know of no one to whom I can be transparent instinctively. I live the life of the cuttlefish; another appears, and the element in which I move is tinged and I am concealed. My first thoughts are azure; there is a bloom and a dew on them; they are papillaceous feelers which I put out, tender, innocent. To all parties, though they be youth and maiden, if they are transparent to each other, and their thoughts can be expressed, there can be no further nakedness. I cannot be surprised by an intimacy which reveals the outside, when it has shown me the inside. The result of a full communication of our thoughts would be the immediate neglect of those coverings which a false modesty wears.
¶ 86 Leave a comment on paragraph 86 0 4. (397) What men call social virtues, good fellowship, is commonly but the virtue of pigs in a litter, which lie close together to keep each other warm. It brings men together in crowds and mobs in barrooms and elsewhere, but it does not deserve the name of virtue.
¶ 87 Leave a comment on paragraph 87 0 5. (86) Nothing is more saddening than an ineffectual and proud intercourse with those of whom we expect sympathy and encouragement. I repeatedly find myself drawn toward certain persons but to be disappointed. No concessions which are not radical are the least satisfaction. By myself I can live and thrive, but in the society of incompatible friends I starve. To cultivate their society is to cherish a sore which can only be healed by abandoning them. I cannot trust my neighbors whom I know any more than I can trust the law of gravitation and jump off the Cliffs.
¶ 88 Leave a comment on paragraph 88 0 7. (416) What if we feel a yearning to which no breast answers? I walk alone. My heart is full. Feelings impede the current of my thoughts. I knock on the earth for my friend. I expect to meet him at every turn; but no friend appears, and perhaps none is dreaming of me. I am tired of frivolous society, in which silence is forever the most natural and the best manners. I would fain walk on the deep waters, but my companions will only walk on shallows and puddles. I am naturally silent in the midst of twenty from day to day, from year to year. I am rarely reminded of their presence. Two yards of politeness do not make society for me. One complains that I do not take his jokes. I took them before he had done uttering the, and went my way. One talks to me of his apples and pears, and I depart with my secret untold. His are not the apples that tempt me. (Channing and Alcott)
¶ 89 Leave a comment on paragraph 89 0 8. (230-232) I think to say to my friend, There is but one interval between us. You are on one side of it, I on the other. You know as much about it as I, –how wide, how impassable it is. I will endeavor not to blame you. Do not blame me. There is nothing to be said about it. Recognize the truth, and pass over the intervals that are bridged.
¶ 90 Leave a comment on paragraph 90 0 Farewell, my friends, my path inclines to this side the mountain, yours to that. For a long time you have appeared further and further off to me. I see that you will at length disappear altogether. For a season my path seems lonely without you. The meadows are like barren ground. The memory of me is steadily passing away from you. My path grows narrower and steeper, and the night is approaching. Yet I have faith that in the definite future, new suns will rise, and new plains expand before me, and I trust that I shall therein encounter pilgrims who bear that same virtue that was you. I accept the everlasting and salutary law, which was promulgated as much that spring that I first knew you, as this that I seem to lose you.
¶ 91 Leave a comment on paragraph 91 0 My former friends, I visit you as one walks amid the columns of a ruined temple. You belong to an era, a civilization and glory, long past. I recognize still your fair proportions, notwithstanding the convulsions which we have felt, and the weeds and jackals that have sprung up around. I come here to be reminded of the past, to read your inscriptions, the hieroglyphics, the sacred writings. We are no longer the representatives of our former selves.
Leave a comment on paragraph 93 0
8. (348) If my friend would take a quarter part the pains to show me himself that he does to show me a piece of roast beef, I should feel myself irresistibly invited. He says, — “Come and see
Roast beef and me.” I find the beef fat and well done. But him rare.
¶ 94 Leave a comment on paragraph 94 0 11. (281) How long will we follow an illusion? On meeting that one whom I call my friend, I find that I had imagined something that was not there. I am sure to depart sadder than I came. Nothing makes me so dejected as to have met my friends, for they make me doubt if it is possible to have any friends. I feel what a fool I am. I cannot conceive of persons more strange to me than they actually are; not thinking, not believing, not doing as I do; interrupted by me. My only distinction must be that I am the greatest bore they ever had. Not in a single thought agreed; regularly balking one another. But when I get far away, my thoughts return to them. That is the way I can visit them. Perhaps it is unaccountable to me why I care for them. Thus I am taught that my friend is not an actual person. When I have withdrawn and am alone, I forget the actual person and remember only my ideal. Then I have a friend again.
¶ 96 Leave a comment on paragraph 96 0 8. (199) I had two friends. The one offered me friendship on such terms that I could not accept it, without a sense of degradation. He would not meet me on equal terms, but only to be some extent my patron. He would not come to see me, but was hurt if I did not visit him. He would not readily accept a favor, but would gladly confer one. He treated me with ceremony occasionally, though he could be simple and downright sometimes; and from time to time acted a part, treating me as if I were a distinguished stranger; was on stilts, using made words. Our relationship was one long tragedy, yet I did not directly speak of it. I do not believe in complaint, nor in explanation. The whole is but too plain, alas, already. We grieve that we do not love each other, but we cannot confide in each other. I could not bring myself to speak, and so recognize an obstacle to our affection.
¶ 97 Leave a comment on paragraph 97 0 I had another friend, who, through slight obtuseness, perchance, did not recognize a fact which the dignity of friendship would be no means allow me to descend so far as to speak of, and yet the inevitable effect of that ignorance was to hold us apart forever.
¶ 98 Leave a comment on paragraph 98 0 9. (249) And now another friendship is ended. I do not know what has made my friend doubt me, but I know that in love there is no mistake, and that every estrangement is well founded. But my destiny is not narrowed, but if possible the broader for it. The heavens withdraw and arch themselves high. I am sensible not only of a moral, and even a grand physical pain, such as gods may feel, about my head and breast, a certain ache and fullness. This rending of a tie, it is not my work nor thine. It is no accident that we mind; it is only the awards of fate that are affecting. I know of no aeons, or periods, no life and death, but these meetings and separations. My life is like a stream that is suddenly damned and has no outlet; but it rises the higher up the hills that shut it in, and will become a deep and silent lake. Certainly there is no event comparable for grandeur with the eternal separation – if we conceive it so – from a being we have known. I become in a degree sensible of the meaning of finite and infinite. What a grand significance the word “never” acquires! With one with whom we have walked on high ground we cannot deal on any lower ground ever after. We have tried for so many years to put each other to this immortal use, and have failed. Undoubtedly our good genii have mutually found the material unsuitable. We have hitherto paid each other the highest possible compliment; we have recognized each other constantly as divine, have afforded each other that opportunity to live that no other wealth or kindness can afford. And now, for some reason inappreciable by us, it has become necessary for us to withhold this mutual aid. Perchance there is none beside who knows us for a god, and none whom we know for such. Each man and woman is a veritable god or goddess, but to the mass of their fellows disguised. There is only one in each case who sees through the disguise. That one who does not stand so near to any man as to see the divinity in him is truly alone. I am perfectly sad at parting with you. I could better have the earth taken away from under my feet, than the thought of you from my mind. One while I think that some great injury had been done, with which you are implicated, again that you are no party to it. I fear that there may be incessant tragedies, that one may treat his fellow as a god but receive somewhat less regard from him. I now almost for the first time fear this. Yet I believe that in the long run there is no such inequality.
¶ 99 Leave a comment on paragraph 99 0 9. (276) I have not yet known a friendship to cease, I think. I fear I have experienced its decaying. Morning, noon, and night, I suffer a physical pain, an aching of the breast which unfits me for my tasks. It is perhaps most intense at evening. With respect to Friendship I feel like a wreck that is driving before the gale, with a crew suffering from hunger and thirst, not knowing what shore, if any, they may reach, so long have I breasted the conflicting waves of this sentiment, my seams open, my timbers laid bare. I float on Friendship’s sea simply because my specific gravity is less than its, but on longer that stanch and graceful vessel that careered so buoyantly over it. My planks and timbers are scattered. At most I hope to make a sort of raft of Friendship, on which, with a few of our treasures, we may float to some fair land.
¶ 101 Leave a comment on paragraph 101 0 You cheat me, you keep me at a distance with your manners. I know of no other dishonesty, no other devil. Why this doubleness, these compliments? They are the worst of lies. A lie is not worse between traders than a compliment between friends. I would not, I cannot speak. I will let you feel my thought, my feeling.
¶ 102 Leave a comment on paragraph 102 0 Friends! they are united for good and for evil. They can delight each other as none other can. They can distress each other as none other can. Lying on lower levels is but a trivial offense compared with civility and compliments on the level of Friendship.
¶ 103 Leave a comment on paragraph 103 0 I visit my friend for joy, not for disturbance. If my coming hinders him in the least conceivable degree, I will exert myself to the utmost to stay away, I will get the Titans to help me stand aloof. I will labor night and day to construct a rampart between us. If my coming casts but the shadow of a shadow before it, I will retreat swifter than the wind and more untrackable. I will be gone irrevocably, if possible, before he fears that I am coming.
¶ 105 Leave a comment on paragraph 105 0 Must friends then expect the fate of those Oriental twins, –that one shall at last bear about the corpse of the other, but that same ligature that bound him to a living companion? (reference to Siamese twins…Chang and Eng)
¶ 113 Leave a comment on paragraph 113 0 This experience (friendship) makes us unavailable for the ordinary courtesy and intercourse of men. We can only recognize them when they rise to that level and realize our dream.
¶ 114 Leave a comment on paragraph 114 0 5. (188) Talked, or tried to talk, with R.W.E. Lost my time – nay, almost my identity. He, assuming a false opposition where there was no difference of opinion, talked to the wind – told me what I knew – and I lost my time trying to imagine myself somebody else to oppose him.
¶ 115 Leave a comment on paragraph 115 0 2. (186) In regard to purity, I do not know whether I am much worse or better than my acquaintances. If I confine my thought to myself, I appear, whether by constitution or by education, irrevocably impure, as if I should be shunned by my fellow-men if they knew me better, as if I were of two inconsistent natures; but again, when I observe how the mass of men speak of woman and of chastity, –with how little love and reverence, –I feel that so far I am unaccountably better than they. I think that none of my acquaintances has a greater love and admiration for chastity that I have. Perhaps it is necessary that one should actually stand low himself in order to reverence what is high in others.
¶ 116 Leave a comment on paragraph 116 0 3. (335) Each man’s mode of speaking of the sexual relation proves how sacred his own relations of that kind are. We do not respect the mind that can jest on this subject.
¶ 117 Leave a comment on paragraph 117 0 4. (185) I know a man who never speaks of the sexual relation just jestingly, though it is a subject to be approached only with reverence and affection. What can be the character of that man’s love? It is ever the subject of a stale jest, though his health or his dinner can be seriously considered. The glory of the world is seen only through a chaste mind. To whomsoever this fact is not an awful but beautiful mystery, there are no flowers in nature.
Solitude and Aloofness
¶ 120 Leave a comment on paragraph 120 0 2. (267) By our aloofness from men and their affairs we are able to overlook and criticize them. There are but few men who stand on hills by the roadside. I am sane only when I have risen above my common sense, when I do not take the foolish view of things which is commonly taken, when I do not live for the low ends for which men commonly live.
¶ 121 Leave a comment on paragraph 121 0 6. (439) Ah! I need solitude. I have come forth to this hill at sunset to see the forms of the mountains in the horizon, –to behold and commune with something grander than man. Their mere distance and unprofanedness is an infinite encouragement. It is with infinite yearning and aspiration that I seek solitude, more and more resolved and strong; but with a certain genial weakness that I seek society ever.
¶ 122 Leave a comment on paragraph 122 0 7. (492) Wherever a man separates from the multitude and goes his own way, there is a fork in the road, though the travelers along the highway see only a gap in the paling. (fence pickets)
¶ 123 Leave a comment on paragraph 123 0 9. (208-209) But alone in distant woods or fields, in unpretending sprout-lands or pastures tracked by rabbits, even in a bleak and, to most, cheerless day, like this, when a villager would be thinking of his inn, I come to myself, I once more feel myself grandly related, and that cold and solitude are friends of mine. I suppose that this value, in my case, is equivalent to what others get by churchgoing and prayer. I come to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home…I wish to get the Concord, the Massachusetts, the America, out of my head and be sane a part of every day. I wish to know something; I wish to be made better. I wish to forget, a considerable part of every day, all mean, trivial men (and this requires usually to forgo and forget all personal relationships so long), and therefore I come out to these solitudes, where the problem of existence is simplified…I must have a true skylight. My true sky light is on the outside of the village. I am not thus expanded, recreated, enlightened, when I meet a company of men. It chances that the sociable, the town and country, or the farmers’ club does not provide a skylight to me…The man I meet with is not so often so instructive as the silence he breaks…
¶ 124 Leave a comment on paragraph 124 0 10. (204) I do not know if I am singular when I say that I believe there is no man with whom I can associate who will not, comparatively speaking, spoil my afternoon. That society or encounter may at last yield a fruit which I am not aware of, but I cannot help suspecting that I should have spent those hours more profitably alone.
¶ 125 Leave a comment on paragraph 125 0 10. (350-351) The gregariousness of men is their most contemptible and discoursing aspect…They will not further anything good. You must prevail of your own force, as a plant springs and grows by its own vitality.
Attraction to Fantasy…and Aloofness
¶ 126 Leave a comment on paragraph 126 0 3. (5) The poet must keep himself unstained and aloof. Let him perambulate the bounds of Imagination’s provinces, the realms of faery, and not the insignificant boundaries of town. The excursions of the imagination are so boundless, the limits of the town so petty.
¶ 127 Leave a comment on paragraph 127 0 13. (145) Always you have to contend with the stupidity of men. It is like a stiff soil, a hard-pan. It you go deeper than usual, you are sure to meet with a pan made harder even by the superficial cultivation. The stupid you have always with you.
Negative Self Evaluation
¶ 128 Leave a comment on paragraph 128 0 3 (293) Now if there are any who think that I am vainglorious, that I set myself up above others and crow over their low estate, let me tell them that I could tell a pitiful story respecting myself as well as them, if my spirits held out to do it; I could encourage them with a sufficient list of failures, and could flow as humbly as the very gutters themselves; I could enumerate a list of as rank offenses as ever reached the nostrils of heaven; that I think worse of myself than they can possibly think of me, being better acquainted with the man. I put the best face on the matter. I will tell them this secret, if they will not tell it to anybody else.
Tending to Hallucinations
¶ 129 Leave a comment on paragraph 129 0 10. (141-144) There are some things of which I cannot at once tell whether I have dreamed them or they are real; as if they were just, perchance, establishing, or else losing, a real basis in my world. This is especially the case in the early morning hours, when there is a gradual transition from dreams to waking thoughts, from illusions to actualities, as from darkness, or perchance moon and star light, to sunlight. Dreams are real, as is the light of the stars and moon, and theirs is said to be a dreamy light. Such early morning thoughts as I speak of occupy a debatable ground between dreams and waking thoughts. They are a sort of permanent dream in the mind. At least, until we have for some time changed our positon from prostrate to erect, and commenced or faced some of the duties of the day, we cannot tell what we have dreamed from what we have actually experienced.
¶ 130 Leave a comment on paragraph 130 0 This morning, for instance, for the twentieth time at least, I thought of that mountain in the easterly part of our town (where no high hill actually is) which one or twice I had ascended, and often allowed my thoughts alone to climb. I now contemplate it in my mind as a familiar thought which I have surely had for many years from time to time, but whether anything could have reminded me of it in the middle of yesterday, whether I ever before remembered it in broad daylight, I doubt. I can now eke out the vision I had of it this morning with my old and yesterday forgotten dreams.
¶ 131 Leave a comment on paragraph 131 0 My way up used to lie through a dark and unfrequented wood at its base, –I cannot now tell exactly, it was so long ago, under what circumstances I first ascended, only that I shuddered as I went along (I have an indistinct remembrance of having been out overnight alone), –and then I steadily ascended along a rocky ridge clad with stinted trees, where wild beasts haunted, till I lost myself quite in the upper air and clouds, seeming to pass an imaginary line which separates a hill, mere earth heaped up, from a mountain, into a superterranean grandeur and sublimity. What distinguishes that summit above the earthy line, is that it is unhandselled, awful, grand. It can never become familiar; you are lost the moment you set foot there. You know no path, but wander, thrilled, over the bare and pathless rock, as if there were solidified air and cloud. That rocky, misty summit, secreted in the clouds, was far more thrillingly awful and sublime than the crater of a volcano spouting fire.
¶ 132 Leave a comment on paragraph 132 0 This is a business we can partly understand. The perfect mountain height is already thoroughly purified. It is as if you trod with awe the face of a god turned up, unwittingly but helplessly, yielding to the laws of gravity. And are there not such mountains, east or west, from which you look down on Concord in your thoughts, and on all the world? In dreams I am shown this height from time to time, and I seem to have asked my fellow once to climb there with me, and yet I am constrained to believe that I never actually ascended it. It chances, now I think of it, that it rises in my mind where lies the Burying-Hill. You might go through its gate to enter that dark wood, but that hill and its graves are so concealed and obliterated by the awful mountain that I never thought of them as underlying it. Might not the graveyards of the just always be hills, ways by which we ascend and overlook the plain?
¶ 133 Leave a comment on paragraph 133 0 But my old way down was different, and, indeed, this was another way up, though I never so ascended. I came out, as I descended, breathing the thicker air. I came out the belt of wood into a familiar pasture, along down by a wall. Often, as I go along the low side of this pasture, I let my thoughts ascend toward the mount, gradually entering the stinted wood (Nature subdued) and the thinner air, and drape themselves with mists. There are ever two ways up: one is through the dark wood, the other through the sunny pasture. That is, I reach and discover the mountain only through the dark wood, but I see to my surprise, when I look off between the mists from its summit, how it is ever adjacent to my native fields, nay imminent over them, and accessible through a sunny pasture. Why is it than in the lives of men we hear more of the dark wood than of the sunny pasture?
Leave a comment on paragraph 137 0
Forever in my dream and in my morning thought,
Eastward a mount ascends;
But when in the sunbeam it hard outline is sought,
It all dissolves and ends.
The woods that way are gates; the pastures too slope up
To an unearthly ground;
But when I ask my mates to take the staff and cup,
It can be no more be found.
Perhaps I have no shoes fit for the lofty soil
Where my thoughts graze,
No properly spun clues, nor well-strained mid-day oil,
Or must I mend my ways?
It is a promised land which I have not yet earned.
I have not made beginning
With consecrated hand, nor have I ever learned
To lay the underpinning.
The mountain sinks by day, as do my lofty thoughts,
Because I’m not high-minded.
If I could think always above these hills and warts,
I should see it, though blinded.
It is a spiral path within the pilgrim’s soul
Leads to this mountain brow;
Commencing at his hearth he climbs up to this goal
He knows not when nor how.
¶ 138 Leave a comment on paragraph 138 0 1. (362) I wonder men can be so frivolous almost as to attend to the gross form of negro slavery, there are so many keen and subtle masters who subject us both…
¶ 140 Leave a comment on paragraph 140 0 12. (417) I do not complain of any tactics that are effective of good, whether one wields the quill or the sword, but I shall not think him mistaken who quickest succeeds to liberate the slave. I will judge of the tactics by the fruits.
¶ 141 Leave a comment on paragraph 141 0 14. (492) Talk about slavery! It is not the peculiar institution of the South. It exists wherever men are bought and sold, wherever a man allows himself to be made a mere thing or a tool, and surrenders his inalienable rights of reason and conscience. Indeed, this slavery is more complete that that which enslaves the body alone. It exists in the Northern States, and I am reminded by what I find in the newspapers that it exists in Canada. I never met with, or heard of, a judge who was not a slave of this kind, and so the finest and most unfailing weapon of injustice. He fetches a slightly higher price than the black man only because he is a more valuable slave…