11. VEGETARIANISM IN ITS HIGHER ASPECTS (1)
FOR a mind at once philosophic and philanthropic, and possessed of that love for Existence at large without which it is impossible to analyse the nature and ascertain the meaning of Existence, there is no more interesting and important study than that of the various social movements by which, at any critical period of man's history, the human spirit indicates the direction in which it is seeking to make a fresh manifestation of itself.
That the period in which we are living is not only a critical period, but, probably, the most critical period of the world's history, has long been the conviction of every duly percipient and instructed mind. And the causes which combine to make it such a period are mainly two: one, that in our day the perpetual conflict between the two great elements in humanity – which ought to co-operate in harmonious accord – is raging with a fierceness and on a scale never before witnessed. These are the elements which, according to the sphere of their operation, are respectively head and heart, mind and conscience, force and love, intellect and intuition, body and soul, matter and spirit, centrifugal and centripetal, outer and inner – in short, the elements everywhere, masculine and feminine, of Existence. And the other cause is that now, as never before, between all orders of society and all parts of the civilised world, the relation has become so intimate and the intercourse so constant, that whatever seriously affects one class or one region similarly affects all. It is thus because the issue of this great
struggle, whether for good or for evil, must be widespread and long-lasting, affecting the race at large as well as its individual portions, that it becomes a prime duty with all to be heedful of the part they themselves are taking in it and to be certain how far they are ranging themselves on the side of the good or of the evil.
To put the matter in yet another way: Humanity – or Existence, for they are really one and the same thing – represents always two streams or ladders: an ascending and a descending one – for Evolution implies the possibility of devolution or degradation – of which, while the former tends continually towards perfection and perpetuation, the latter tends continually towards negation and extinction. On one or the other stands, necessarily, every responsible being, whether individual, people, or race. And that which determines on which they stand is their own free choice of their direction, whether upwards or downwards. And this, again, depends on whether they follow or reject that guiding light with which all are, in their degree, endowed – the light, this is, of Common Sense. That is to say, man finds his way to happiness or misery, perfection of being or negation of being – in short, to what, theologically, is called heaven or hell – conditions which we need not quit this life to realise – according as he makes or declines to make Common Sense his guide.
Since this is the case, and since, also, it is upon Common Sense that we rest our argument for abstinence from a diet of flesh, it is necessary to make it perfectly clear in what Common Sense consists. This is not so simple a matter as may generally be supposed. Common Sense is not, as usually believed, the opinion of the great majority of people as founded in their habitual experience. If it were so, then it would be Common Sense to regard, for instance, the Earth as absolutely motionless, and the Sun and Stars as revolving round it every twenty-four hours, simply because we feel no movement of the one and see the revolution of the others. This shows that we have to call in the assistance of something more than Common Sense, as commonly understood, in order to explain so common a phenomenon as the alternations of day and night; and that Common Sense of this kind is apt to be uncommon nonsense.
There is a yet further application of this illustration, which we shall do well to note. For the sense which shows us only
the material world requires in its turn to be corrected by a yet higher sense, namely, one which, being not of the body and mind, but of the soul and spirit, informs us that Matter is but the veil of Spirit, and that behind and within the material and apparent world lies another which is spiritual and real.
The mistake has come of a
defective conception of the meaning of the terms Humanity and
only so can we fulfil the whole duty of man as befits the Whole Man.
Having thus defined Common
Sense as the Consensus
of all the constituent elements of man, we are met by the further question: What
are these elements? Or, in other words: What is Man? For it is to this that by
the very nature of our subject we are committed – a definition of
To come to
our definition of
Now, there are in Man four distinct kingdoms or divisions, making him a fourfold being. In this he resembles both the
universe at large, of which he is the epitome, and the minute physiological unit, called a cell, of which his tissues are composed, and which is the epitome of him. This is a point on which the Bible and Science are agreed; though the professors of the latter have yet to learn the fact – that is, the modern professors of science. The ancients knew it well; as also the existence of a correspondence between all regions of Being – the doctrine of which they expressed in these terms: "As is the outer, so is the inner; as the small is, so is the great; there is one law; and He that worketh is One." (1) And it is this fourfoldness alike of man and the world, the microcosm and the macrocosm, which is at once expressed and concealed under the types of the fourfold River of Eden, and the fourfold "Chariot" of Ezekiel – such being the nature of the "vehicle" in which Deity is represented as descending from Its own supreme condition to become manifested in Creation. The same idea dominated also the number and character of the Gospels, the symbols of which denote, respectively, the four elements, called in the Apocalypse the four "Living Creatures" or "Beasts" (Rev. iv. 6, 9).
The four great divisions of man, then, counting from without inwards, are Body, Mind, Soul, and Spirit, each of which represents a different mode of his substance, and has its own special nature, consciousness, and functions. Of these, the Body and Mind constitute the outer, lower, and "earthly" part of the man; and the Soul and Spirit constitute the inner, higher, and "celestial" or divine part, the Spirit being supreme. And as only when the individual has developed the consciousness of each of these is he a whole man and made, as the Bible puts it, in the image of God, the two halves of his system being as masculine and feminine, the Adam and Eve to each other: so only when all of these are in harmonious accord with each other, under the presidency of the Will of the Spirit, does he attain to the Common Sense of the whole. Prior to this he is, more or less, rudimentary, however largely developed may be his consciousness on any particular plane; and he necessarily takes cognisance only of that region of his system of which he is conscious, to the neglect of all the rest. Conscious of the outer and lower – that is the Material only, and the perishable – he provides for the satisfaction only of this. Conscious of the inner and higher – that is the spiritual
and imperishable, the permanent Ego and true Self of the man – he provides for the satisfaction of all in subordination to the requirements of this. Thus, the man physical merely, such as the sensualist devoted exclusively to the gratification of the bodily appetites, or the athlete devoted exclusively to the development of the bodily faculties, recognises only the material part of himself, and considers that to be the whole man, and its perceptions the only rational guide, the intellectual and other regions having for him no existence. The intellectual man, again, while not oblivious of his material part – since the inner and higher always recognises the outer and lower (it is the outer and lower which cannot discern the inner and higher) – the intellectual man makes the mind his chief care, and, provided he can gratify that, remains altogether heedless of the Soul and Spirit. And for want of the consciousness of these, he limits his conception of Common Sense to the two lower divisions only of his system, and mistakes the common sense of half the man for the common sense of the whole man. Similarly, the man who has attained to the consciousness of his Soul recognises the psychic or affectional element in himself as superior indeed to the material and intellectual; but fails to recognise the Soul as itself but the immediate vehicle and abode of the Spirit – the nucleus to its nucleolus – and as perfected only when indissolubly united to the Spirit. The consequence is that he contents himself with the agreement of three parts only of his system, instead of attaining to that of the whole four, and therein to the Common Sense of the whole man. In doing this, he ignores the supreme element of his system. For the Spirit is the essential life and being of the whole. Wherefore, to fail in respect of the Spirit is to fail altogether, whatever may be his development in respect of the rest. And the cause of the failure is the defect of Common Sense. This, it will be remembered, has been defined as the sense, or perception, common, not to all men, but to all parts of man. So that if there were but one whole man in the world, and all the rest were unanimous in differing from him, his view, though held by him alone, would be the true common-sense view, since it would represent the agreement of every part of man's nature, of which he alone has developed the full consciousness, making him the sole representative man of his race.
Now, to apply what has been said to our immediate subject,
and show that, so far from our renunciation of flesh food in favour of the products of the vegetable kingdom being, as it is generally regarded, a piece of foolish sentimentality, it is founded in a profoundly scientific and philosophic estimate of the nature at once of man and of the world, and represents the common sense of all those who, from the beginning, have shown themselves whole men in respect of their development in themselves of the consciousness of every region of man's nature. But first, in order to dispose of the objection sure to be made in some quarters that the regions which have been described as constituting the superior portion of man's nature are but the product of the imagination, and have no real existence, it is necessary to state, first, that the imagination is not a creative, but a seeing faculty, being, as it were, the telescope of the mind, which discloses only that which already exists, and this, more or less truly, according to the excellence of the instrument. Secondly, that as only that which is can project an image of itself, we could not have an idea of anything beyond the material and inferior world, if there were no spiritual and superior world. Thirdly, that while it is easy to conceive of a person discerning in the universe less than it actually contains, it is impossible to conceive of one discerning more than it actually contains. And, lastly, that if we are not justified in regarding as real the subjects of the inner and spiritual consciousness, we are not justified in regarding as real those of the outer and material consciousness. The man who, on the strength of his own inability to discern the phenomena of Spirit, denies that there is such a thing, is like a man who, being blind, should deny the existence of a Sun in the sky simply because he is unable to see it, or to touch it with his stick.
Now, knowing as we do that the spiritual and superior part of man is as natural to him as the physical and inferior part; and also that it is as natural to him to be able to discern the one as it is to discern the other; and observing as we do that he is, in this age, to an extent never before known, devoid of this perception; and also that for lack of it he has brought the world into utter confusion and himself to despair, we set ourselves to ascertain the causes of so serious a degeneration with a view to their removal. And, doing this, we find – thanks to the correspondences between her different spheres whereby Nature indicates her unity – an admirable guide in
analogy. For, recurring to the illustration already used, that of the telescope, the nature and solution of the problem at once suggest themselves. If the telescope fail to reveal an object which ought to be visible, there must be a fault in at least one of three things. Either the instrument itself is defective through foulness or some other cause, or the gazer's vision is weak or misdirected, or else the object itself is too dim and small to be so discerned.
To apply this to the representative man of our day, who is striving so mightily to make the mankind of the future in his own defective image, we find that he fulfils all the conditions just described. For he is himself the gazer, the instrument, and the object. It is his own spiritual and higher nature which he ought to recognise, but which is imperceptible to him, first, because he has suffered it to become so dim and dwarfed as to be well-nigh extinct; secondly, because his instrument of observation, the mind, is so clogged and dulled with materiality as to be unable to transmit or reflect to him the necessary rays; and, lastly, because he himself is, through his engrossment by the things of sense, incapable of appreciating, and too indifferent to seek for, the object at all. Finding the whole system thus degenerated, and this without any lesion or positive disease, it is natural that we seek for the cause in some general and gradually deteriorating influence, such as an unhealthy manner of living, or insufficient or unsuitable nourishment.
Examining this last first, the mystery is cleared up. As a man eats and drinks, so he is, physically, intellectually, morally, and even spiritually. For the consciousnesses of all parts of his system are sustained by the consciousnesses of the material particles ingested into it as food. For, as must be understood, Matter is but a mode of Spirit, which is Consciousness; and while every kind of matter possesses the potentiality of each of the four modes of consciousness – namely, the mechanical, the chemical, the electric or mental, and the spiritual – there are some kinds which the more readily yield the lower, and some the higher, of the consciousnesses which combine to make the man. (1) Those which have affinity for the lower part
of him, – stimulating the body at the expense of both body and soul, until the latter can no longer duly animate and direct the former, – are those which, being derived from the flesh of animals, involve, by their use, violence, bloodshed, and slaughter; and this in respect of creatures which, being harmless, defenceless, and highly organised and sentient, are entitled to exemption from such treatment, and which, after all, do but yield at second hand, and in inferior quantity and condition, at great cost, and frequently vitiated by positive disease, the nourishment contained in the herbs on which they have been sustained. Those substances, on the other hand, which best promote the higher side of man's nature are those which, being produced directly by the elements and ripened by the sun, are – especially when allowed to retain their magnetism unimpaired by the action of fire – permeated by vitality in the highest degree, and, so far from being obtained by means involving degradation, minister by their very culture to man's welfare. Such food as this it is which, according to the unanimous testimony of those who have qualified themselves by experience to judge, best ministers to the health, strength, activity, and endurance, at once of the body and mind, the lucidity and serenity of the soul, and the plenitude and satisfaction of the Spirit, and thus to the perfectionment of the whole man. In the man who thus nourishes himself, and this from the highest motive – the love of perfection for its own sake, and the desire to promote at once the glory of God and the good of man – harmonious accord reigns between all the spheres of his system and in all their constituent particles, enabling these so to polarise towards their proper centre as to minister freely of their higher consciousnesses towards the substantialisation and perfection of the man. Thus sustained, and unimpeded by exhalations arising from below, the central Ego or Spiritual Sun of his system distributes of its energy, vitalising and illumining him throughout, and so "atoning" or making at one in subjection to itself all the elements of his individuality, that, as in soul so in body, "as in heaven so on
earth," one will prevails, and that the will of the highest. For this central Ego it is which is the true and permanent self of the man; the radiant point of all the higher consciousnesses of his system being formed by the polarisation of their substantial essences. This it is in him to which that is objective and real, which to the outer man is subjective only and imaginary, and whereby alone he becomes capable of absolute cognition and certitude of truth. For it is his own regenerate Self, born of a pure Soul and divine Spirit, in a purely nourished body, – the Christ within him, – who, when wholly lifted up above earthly things, draws up the whole man to him, bestowing on him "the gift of God, even eternal life." (1)
It is, of course, not to be supposed that results such as these follow as a matter of course the use of any dietary, however perfect. Something more than the possession of a perfect musical instrument is necessary to the production of perfect music. We do, by such a diet, but secure, and make ourselves into, a perfect instrument whereby, if so disposed, we can reach the supreme point of human evolution, and be the best we have it in us to be. The mount, as the ancients called it, of regeneration, whether in the individual or in the general, must be climbed, and this with all the energies of our nature, if the summit is to be reached. And it depends on the, point aimed at, and the effort made, how high we rise. Seeking only the physical, we attain only the physical. Seeking only the intellectual, we attain only the intellectual. Seeking only the moral, we attain only the moral. Only by seeking the highest do we attain the highest. But, whatever the altitude gained or desired, the operative force must always be one and the same, the centripetal force of Love. According
to the purity and intensity of this force in us, are we lifted inwards and upwards towards the supreme goal. Now Love, which is one with Sympathy, is the recognition of the omnipresent Self, which is the "Father" of all. (1) And therefore the precept, "Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect," is complemented and interpreted by the precept which forms the basis of the Vegetarian's creed, "Be ye merciful, as your Father in heaven is merciful." For "Love is the fulfilling of the law."
As history shows, the first step insisted on by all those benefactors of their kind who sought to reform, not institutions merely, but men themselves, was the adoption of a manner of sustaining life which involved no shock to the moral sentiments, which are of the Soul. With the Intuition restored and completed – as it can be only upon such a diet, since the Soul neither can nor will impart of her knowledges to those who, nourishing themselves upon blood, follow a mode repugnant to her, – with the Intuition completed and crowning the Intellect, all other reforms necessarily follow in due course; for then man attains to a full knowledge of his nature and its needs. It is for this reason that, while cordially welcoming and encouraging all other schemes which seek by legitimate means the improvement of man and his conditions, we regard as the chief and most important, because the most radical and thorough, and as that, indeed, without which the others will be in vain, the movement on behalf of the substitution of a vegetable for an animal diet; because by this the very material itself of our humanity will be purified and invigorated. And to this conclusion we are compelled by the common sense at once of every sphere of man's nature, and of every age of his history in which a full intuition of that nature has been attained.
(159:1) This article was written by Edward Maitland. It is copied from the latter of two MSS. thereof left by him, the former of such MSS. being headed Vegetarianism: its Advantages and its Significance. The latter MS. contains a few revisions and some additions. Some of the passages in this latter MS. were, in an amplified or revised form, incorporated by Edward Maitland in his article Vegetarianism: the Common Sense of It (see p. 195 post). I have included in the present article some of such amplifications or revisions.
(163:1) See C.W.S., Part II., No. iv. 1, 2.
(166:1) On another occasion, when writing on the same subject, Edward Maitland said: "This is a truth recovered from the past, and one which the science of the present is, after long and persistent denial, only now just beginning to recognise – Consciousness is Being, and nothing is or can be which is not, in some sense, Conscious. And, like the universe, it is fourfold, namely, mechanical, chemical, electric or mental, and spiritual. And, while every kind of matter possesses the potentiality of each of these four modes of consciousness, and 'even of stones God can raise up children unto Abraham,' some kinds are better adapted for the purpose than others; some minister equally to the perfectionment of all parts of the man, and some are either inferior or positively injurious, if not to one part, yet to another" (Vegetarianism: the Common Sense of It).
(168:1) Speaking of the four spheres of man's system, Edward Maitland says: ''In order for man to be at his best in regard to any one of these he must so live as to be at his best in regard to all the others. The various regions of his system are, thus, not rivals, but fellows to each other. But whether the criterion adopted be that of body, mind, soul, or spirit, the verdict is the same. One and all thrive best on substances derived from the vegetable kingdom. Using these, the body is not stimulated or made gross as by the flesh of animals; the mind is not narrowed or vitiated; the soul is not darkened or revolted; and the spirit is not quenched or grieved. In the regions ordinarily accessible to perception, the man comes to see as he has never before seen; and other regions, before undiscerned, become open to his gaze. This, of course, provided he turn his faculties, thus enhanced, in the requisite direction. For the mere change to a pure diet will not of itself accomplish all this. He is thereby but rendered a better instrument for such achievement, in case he desires and strives to effect it."
(169:1) See C.W.S.,