13. THE HIGHER ASPECTS OF VEGETARIANISM (1)
I PROPOSE to give a concise account of a certain aspect of our movement which is at once highly interesting and important, and but very little known, as it belongs to the class of knowledges styled esoteric and occult. I mean the School to which it belongs, and the Philosophy which it represents. To do this will be to show, among other things, that so far from our practice of rejecting the flesh of animals as an article of food being, as some allege, a senseless and mischievous innovation, it has the sanction of the profoundest wisdom of all ages from the remotest antiquity. For the School to which it belongs is that of a Hermes Trismegistus, a Buddha, a Pythagoras, an Apollonius, a Porphyry, a Plotinus, and all those really radical reformers whose aim it has been to reform, not institutions merely, but men themselves. It is the School of all those earnest Seekers after Perfection whose devotion to the loftiest ideals has made them redeemers of their kind, by showing men how to rise above and dominate the lower elements of their nature, and become truly human.
While so lofty in its aims, the philosophy of this great School was founded on experience and common sense, these of a kind far transcending the ordinary. Thus, in its ordinary acceptation, Common Sense means the consensus or agreement of the generality of people, and represents, therefore, the opinions of those who, although they are the great majority, are, for want of development possible as yet to only a few in any one age, cognisant only of the outer and lower, or superficial, planes of man's nature, the physical and animal; and who cannot, therefore, be regarded as constituting an adequate measure of humanity.
The Common Sense of the School I am describing is altogether independent of popular majorities. For the agreement it represents is that, not of all men, but of all parts of man: of body, mind, soul, and spirit, and therein of the whole man. And it can, by its very nature, belong only to those who have developed in themselves the consciousness of all these constituents of man, and become mature, complete, or whole men; being which, and only so, they can of themselves represent humanity as no majority, however large, of undeveloped or rudimentary men can do.
Being thus whole men themselves, our teachers and exemplars were beyond the danger of committing the stupendous and disastrous blunder which marks the immaturity of those who have dictated the philosophy of the present age, and who form the chief obstacle to our movement. This is the blunder which consists in confounding form with substance, and mistaking the exterior and phenomenal part of man for man himself, and fancying that to gratify this is necessarily to benefit the man. No: for those whom we follow, the human form, in order to be valid, required, like any other form, to be filled up. It must have the man inside it. It was not the form, but the qualities, or character, that makes, and that is, the man. And hence their prime care was to perfect this inside and real man, knowing that the rest would duly follow.
Intelligent and reverent students of Nature, they were able to discern the spirit through the form, and to recognise her perfection. And, finding that her method consists in working from within outwards, they did the same, but always in sympathy and justice, recognising all Existence as but a larger Self, and remembering that righteous ends can be attained only by righteous means, and that to seek any end by unrighteous means – such as in the seeking of one's own at the cost of another – is to renounce the human for the sub-human, and to descend instead of ascending the ladder of evolution. Their method was at once simple, uniform, and capable of universal application. It was, moreover, comprised in a single word, to pronounce which is to sound the keynote of all genuine reforms, dietetic and other. It is the word PURITY. For every plane of man's fourfold nature they insisted, as the condition of perfection, on purity. On purity of blood, as meaning health, strength, activity, and endurance of body. On purity of mind, as meaning clearness of perception,
intellectual and intuitional. On purity of soul, as meaning largeness of sympathy and loftiness of aspiration. And on purity of spirit, as meaning righteousness of intention and fearlessness of will. It was their endeavour, by cultivating purity on every plane, to raise each plane to its highest perfection; to bring all planes into harmony with each other; and to subordinate the whole to the will of the innermost and highest, the Spirit, which they called the God of the man, and which would thus, as his central and radiant point – the Sun, in fact, of his system – vivify and illumine the whole man, binding him together, and drawing him inwards and upwards, and making him one with itself. In this way they sought to accomplish within the individual that which all true religion and sound science agree in regarding as the consummation of perfection – namely, the reconciliation, unification, or at-one-ment of the whole man, and his complete suffusion by a perfect will and spirit.
To come to the point to which all I have said leads. The very first step on which these profoundest of all professors of the Science of Man insisted with their disciples was the total renunciation of flesh as food. This was in order, first, that their systems might be cleansed, and built up anew of the purest materials, – materials which, being derived at first-hand from nature, would be uncontaminated, and in every way undeteriorated by passage through other organisms, and capable also, at least to a great extent, of being used with their vitality unimpaired by the action of fire. And next, that they might live, as it is indicated by man's physical and moral constitution that he is intended to live, and as, to be fully human and realise all that is implied in the term man, he must live.
Their object was always quality, not quantity. It was not to multiply, but to improve the race. It was not of men and women that the earth had need, but of humanity. And men and women did not, for them, constitute humanity. These were but humanity in the making. And, when made, man was not only a particular arrangement of organs and limbs and other characteristics merely physical and wholly perishable. They had a higher standard of definition than Physiology can supply. They had a definition of man which, for all who really accept it, makes of existence a new heaven and new earth. Man, for them, was nothing less than the manifestation, –
in the individual and finite, of all those principles, attributes, and qualities, at once divine and human, which appertain to the universal and infinite, and in their original, undifferentiated perfection constitute the nature of God.
They of whom I speak did not merely suppose or surmise these things. They knew them. For, by living purely and seeking earnestly, they developed powers and faculties surpassing the ability of man, flesh-fed, even to believe in, foremost among which is that supreme mode of the mind which, added to the intellectual, converts man into an instrument of perception capable of surely discerning the highest truths. This is the faculty called the Intuition. Representing the centripetal force of the mind, it enables man to obtain access to his innermost and substantial Self, his permanent and true Ego, and to learn that which his Soul has learnt of the nature of the universe in the long ages of her past. For there is no knowledge but by experience, and Intuition is the memory of the Soul. (1) And, being of the Soul, it and its knowledges are accessible only to those who live as the Soul approves, and eschew violence and bloodshed as a means of sustenance or gratification, whether committed in person or by proxy.
Such is the system – at once Hermetic, Cabbalistic, and Oriental – from which Buddhism and Christianity alike sprang, and of which they were intended to be expressions – the latter being the highest, because the more interior, revelation. And if silence of the Christian Scriptures respecting our rule be adduced as an argument against it, the reply is, first, that it was already so fully recognised as an essential in the same system as to require no further enactment; and, next, that it is involved in the spirit itself of religion.
Those of us who have qualified ourselves by experience to pronounce upon its virtues are confident that its general adoption would be a sovereign remedy for all our defects and difficulties, personal, domestic, social, and national, and would lead to such enhancement of our intelligence and moral conscience as a people, as would lift our country to an elevation hitherto unimagined, making her in the highest sense the enlightener and exemplar of the nations.
address given by Edward Maitland on the 12th January 1885, at Exeter Hall,
(178:1) See A.K.'s
Illumination Concerning Inspiration and