...In Thoreau's "Higher Laws" chapter of Walden, a puzzling contradiction is found.
In the first paragraph Thoreau writes, "I found in myself, and still find, an instinct toward a higher, or, as it is named, spiritual life, as do most men, and another toward a primitive rank and a savage one, and I reverence them both." In the footnotes pertaining to this passage, this statement is said to demonstrate Thoreau's departure from traditional Christian teachings, teachings which include the exhortion for its adherents to bridle their own carnal desires.
Yet throughout the rest of this chapter, instead of "reverencing" man's savage instinsts, Thoreau makes a distinct argument against carnal sensualities as they pertain to food, much of which sounds as if it were taken directly from fifth century teachings of the Christian "holy fathers."
Thoreau suggests that man leave off, coarse, sensual desires for the consumption of meat and any "rich cookery." "Is it not a reproach that man is a carnivorous animal?", Thoreau asks. "True" Thoreau adds, "[man] can and does live, in great measure, by preying on other animals; but this is a miserable way." "...-and he will be regarded as a benefactor of his race who shall teach man to confine himself to a more innocent and wholesome diet."
Here, it can be clearly argued that Thoreau in fact, does NOT reverence man's "savage" instincts but instead believes that these instincts are "a reproach" to man and "a miserable way." He quotes from Vedic writings, which again bear a strong resemblance to ancient Christian teachings--"'A command over our passions, and over the external senses of the body, and good acts are ...indispensable in the mind's approximation to God.'" And additionally, Thoreau goes on to declare, "He is Blessed who is assured that the animal is dying out in him day by day, and the divine being established." ...