Sunday, July 06, 2014

Thoreau the Yogi

The American writer and opponent of slavery, Henry David Thoreau, was influenced by the ancient spiritual texts of India. 
He wrote that the waters of his beloved Walden Pond "mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges". 
He adopted some of the precepts of yoga philosophy, and even considered himself a yogi.
He was particularly drawn to the Bhagavad Gita, the Song of Lord Krishna, deity of the Americas, and the Visshuddhi (throat) Chakra. Thoreau played the flute; also the favourite pastime of Krishna.

In an 1849 letter to his friend H.G.O. Blake, he wrote about yoga and its meaning to him:

Free in this world as the birds in the air, disengaged from every kind of chains, those who practice yoga gather in Brahma the certain fruits of their works. Depend upon it that, rude and careless as I am, I would fain practice the yoga faithfully. The yogi, absorbed in contemplation, contributes in his degree to creation; he breathes a divine perfume, he hears wonderful things. Divine forms traverse him without tearing him, and united to the nature which is proper to him, he goes, he acts as animating original matter. To some extent, and at rare intervals, even I am a yogi.

-Reference: Wikipedia

Thoreau's birthday is coming up on the 12th of July (a sensitive retiring Cancerian). He was born almost 200 years ago.

“The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour. Then there is least somnolence in us; and for an hour, at least, some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night... All memorable events, I should say, transpire in morning time and in a morning atmosphere. The Vedas say, “All intelligences awake with the morning.” 

- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Innocence as Reality

... Innocence is often thought of as a quality projected outward. It means, literally, ‘not harm’. If a person is innocent, they aren’t going to harm you. But another way to consider the idea of harmlessness is that which is unharmed. It is a place within our own self, untouched by harm. Hans Christian Andersen believed in an untouched innocence at the core of every person. “She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has,” says the Finn woman of Gerda in The Snow Queen, “which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart.” 

Children had special access to this innocence – animals and grandmothers did as well – but the innocence was inside everyone. Innocence could be hidden and emerge, or it could be apparent and then corrupted. See, for example, the devil’s mirror in The Snow Queen, which had the peculiar power to make everything good and beautiful seem like nothing. The loveliest landscapes looked like boiled spinach and the very best people became hideous or stood on their heads and had no stomachs.

To be wholly innocent was rare. To be wholly innocent, for Andersen, meant to be wholly yourself. It meant that you were free from the distorted reality of the devil’s mirror. There is a connection in Andersen’s work between innocence and reality, then, because innocence is truth. And just as truth is eternal, so is innocence. Though many of Andersen’s tales are tragedies, ending in death or humiliation, they all affirm the importance of a life lived toward an eternal, personal truth. This is what Andersen meant when he said, “Every man’s life is a fairytale, written by God's fingers.” This doesn’t mean that every man’s life is a fantasy. It means that every man’s life is a quest toward reality.

- Stefany Anne Golberg

Rie Cramer's 1931 illustration for The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen