thoreau claims that bathing in the pond each morning was for him a religious experience.

How so?

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He felt that it was something done in the "heroic ages". It was a sense of renewal in the spiritual sense,

"I got up early and bathed in the pond; that was a religious exercise, and one of the best things which I did. They say that characters were engraven on the bathing tub of King Tchingthang to this effect: "Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again." I can understand that. Morning brings back the heroic ages..."