Nature's Sage: The Influence of Sacred Indian Literature in Henry David Thoreau's Walden

  • Eric Cowan
  • Lennis G. Echterling


Postmodern “Intersubjective” approaches to psychology and psychotherapy observe that a central “myth” that pervades Western culture is the concept of the mind as an isolated entity. Henry David Thoreau’s Walden had a powerful impact on generations of Americans by exploring the intimate relationship between the individual and nature, the embeddedness of self-experience, as well as offering a ringing sermon on living the good life through a vitalized capacity for participation. Unknown to many, Thoreau was deeply influenced by his study of sacred Indian literature, including the Bhagavad Gita and The Upanishads. We explore how Eastern philosophy shaped Thoreau’s thought and his experience of nature, and conclude with observations on bringing such Eastern perspectives to a richer, more mindful, and self-reflective way of being in nature and with others.