In the religion of all nations a purity is hinted at, which, I fear, men never attain to.

What did Henry David Thoreau mean by:

In the religion of all nations a purity is hinted at, which, I fear, men never attain to.


This quote reflects on the ideal of purity that is often set as a standard in various religions around the world. The ‘purity’ Thoreau refers to can be interpreted in many ways, depending on one’s individual perspective or religious beliefs. It could mean moral purity, spiritual purity, or even physical purity. The common thread, however, is that this purity is seen as a lofty, ideal state of being, something to strive for.

However, Thoreau expresses a fear that this state of purity is unattainable for most people. This could be due to the inherent flaws and imperfections in human nature, or the challenges and temptations of the world that lead people away from this ideal state. The word ‘hinted’ suggests that this purity is not clearly defined or overtly stated, but subtly suggested or implied, making it even more elusive.

Applying this idea to today’s world, one might consider how modern society often sets high standards for individuals, whether in terms of success, beauty, wealth, or moral character. Like the religious purity Thoreau speaks of, these standards can often feel unattainable. This could lead to feelings of inadequacy, failure, or disillusionment.

In terms of personal development, this quote could serve as a reminder to be realistic about one’s goals and expectations. It’s important to strive for improvement and growth, but also to recognize and accept one’s limitations and imperfections. Rather than striving for an elusive ideal of purity, one might focus on being the best version of themselves, accepting their flaws and working on their strengths. This can lead to a more balanced, fulfilling life.

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