19. VEGETARIANISM AND THE BIBLE
THERE are very many persons for whom the arguments scientific, social, economical, and even moral, in favour of a vegetable diet, do not suffice, but who require in addition the sanction of the Bible. As we are prepared to meet inquirers at this point also, I have drawn up a short paper in solution of what may be called the religious difficulty in the way of vegetarianism, which I will now read to you. You will perceive as I proceed that I make no question of the authority of the Bible. The only question, if there be one, will be of the interpretation of the Bible, or at least of certain parts of it. And the more effectually to obtain a patient and tolerant hearing for anything I may say at variance with your accustomed beliefs, I will remind you in advance that while belief in the infallibility of the Bible is one thing, and is compatible with that spirit of humility with which alone things sacred should be a approached, belief in the infallibility of one’s own interpretation of the Bible is another thing, and is incompatible with such spirit of humility. Of course, this exordium may be altogether uncalled for, as it may turn out that the views expressed by me are already your own. But however this may be, it is necessary for the proper advocacy of our Cause that they be stated.
First of all, then, as to the character and purpose of the Bible. It is before all other things a religious book; not a scientific, or historical, but a religious book. And, further, as religion is not a thing of the outer sense and reason, but relates to the Soul, the appeal of the Bible is not to the outer sense and reason, but to the Soul.
Agreeing on these premises, we ought to have no difficulty in agreeing on these other premises also. As the Soul is not perishable like the body, but is immortal, and many become eternal, the teachings necessary for it must refer, not to persons, things, or events, which are of time and transitory, but
must consist in verities, which are eternal, and capable of perpetual application.
And again, as the Bible, in being a religious book and addressed to the Soul, or spiritual part of man, deals with things inward and spiritual, and not with things outward and material, it is in the spiritual signification, and not in the outward form, that its true value consists and must be sought.
On this last point the Bible itself speaks decidedly, saying that the Letter is dead and Killeth, but the Spirit alone hath and giveth life. And not this alone, but the Bible insists also on the necessity, to the reader or hearer, of an inner sense of his own by means of which alone he can discern its inner meaning. Constantly it is said, in reference to some utterance of which the principal meaning is so deeply concealed as to constitute it a mystery – “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” And constantly does it speak reproachfully of persons who have eyes that see not and ears that hear not the mystic meaning hidden beneath its symbolical phrases. And so far from approving of blind, unintelligent assent, it repeatedly exalts a Spirit of Understanding as the chief of divine gifts. And in doing this, it may be observed, the Bible is not inconsistent with itself when, enumerating the divine graces Faith, Hope, and Charity, it declares the first of these to be Charity. For Charity is one with Love, and Love is one with Sympathy, and Sympathy is the first and last step to Understanding. Now, it is to your Understanding that I appeal for recognition of that which I shall say on this occasion.
From the premises thus laid down, there follows this important conclusion, which is a master-key to the interpretation of Scripture. All that is true in it is spiritual, and no dogma or doctrine is true that seems to bear a physical meaning, or that is not spiritual. If it be true, and yet seem to us to have a material signification, we have yet to seek the interpretation. That which is true, is for Spirit alone. (1)
Now, not only does the Bible address itself to the Soul, but it contains, and is, the history of the Soul. And it is written, as would be expected from its Egyptian origin, in hieroglyphics, or sacred symbols, the method usual to the Egyptians, and adopted from them by the Hebrews, or, it may be, the
method of the Hebrews, or
sacred people, from the first, and by them introduced into
For “Idolatry is Materialism, the common and original sin of men, which replaces Spirit by Appearance, Substance by Illusion, and leads both the moral and intellectual Being into
error, so that they substitute the nether for the upper, and the depth for the height. It is that false fruit which attracts the outer senses, the bait of the serpent in the beginning of the world;” (1) and this alike for the race and for each individual who has ever lived, for all are liable to its attraction.
We ought then to know, for the right understanding of
the mystical scriptures, that in their esoteric, or interior and real, sense,
they deal, not with material things, but with spiritual realities; and that
neither is Adam an actual man, but denotes rather the lower personality or
intellectual force in every human being; nor is Eve an actual woman. But denotes
the feminine element in every human being, namely, the Soul or moral conscience;
and she is therefore called the “Mother of the Living” or spiritually alive, namely, those in whom the Soul
has attained self-consciousness. Nor is
by whose spirit, working within him, he has been created. And thus created has been and will be every man who ever lived or will live.
But the process includes a point called the Fall. Yielding to the outward impulses of the lower nature ere she is sufficiently strong to resist them, Eve puts forth her hand and plucks the fruit which, as she is spiritual, and it is material – is Matter – is forbidden to her. In other words, and divested of allegory, the Soul, or higher self, falls beneath the power of the lower self and loses the intuition of Spirit and the man, no longer sustained by her, follows her in her fall. The lower self, with the bodily appetites and reason, becomes sole ruler, and its offspring is Cain, the murderer and even the torturer of his brethren, human and animal. And when Abel, who, as minister of the Soul and her intuitions, represents the prophet, offers to God the “firstlings of his flock,” [Genesis 4:4], namely, the “Lamb” of a pure and gentle heart, makes his appearance, he is forthwith slain by Cain, who, as the slave of sense, offering of the “fruits of the ground,” [Genesis 4:3], or lower nature, represents the priest. (1)
In this view, then Abel was no initiator of blood and death to innocent creatures either for sacrifice or for food. His “Lamb” signified simply the holiest and highest of spiritual gifts which, rejected and slain from the foundation of the world, is represented in the Apocalypse as finally occupying the throne of God, surrounded by all those who, redeemed through following it, have the Father’s name written on their foreheads. For it is still the Soul that, under the appellation of the woman, when purified from Matter, becomes the Bride of the Spirit, and Mother of the eternally living; while it is the Soul persisting in evil who is styled “Mother of Abominations,” and who shares the doom of “Babylon,” or “that great city” the world or system of civilisation in which Matter is exalted to the holy place of God in the Soul, and the body is made all and in all.
The same spiritual truth recurs again and again in the sacred books, under various allegorical forms. Always are tenderness of heart and purity of habit the accompaniments of the higher life; always are bloodshed and flesh-eating the results of a fall to a lower level. The story of the Deluge illustrates the same truth, and to the slaughter of animals adds
drunkenness. In this parable, man is represented, after a period of declension into utter materialism, as once more, under a flood of intuition, regaining that height of perfection, the full consciousness of his spiritual nature. But no sooner does he come down from the mount of purification and regeneration, than he betakes him again to grossness and bloodshed, such that the Deity is represented as giving him up as hopeless, saying it was of no use to punish him, and giving him reluctant permission, to use flesh for his food. For such is the obvious and true meaning of the passage so confusedly translated in the ninth chapter of Genesis. And yet we constantly find a permission, which was the result of a fall, pleaded as an excuse for declining to make any effort at recovery! That such recovery is not regarded in the Bible as impossible, is shown by the appointment of a symbol of hope in the rainbow with its seven rays. For this is again the type of the Woman or Soul, who, when restored to purity, and divinely illumined, manifests the Seven Spirits of God of which the Soul always bears the potentiality in her bosom, and in virtue thereof will some day again be the producer of men “made in the image of God”.
The feud, already referred to, between prophet and priest, as the ministers respectively of the Soul and of sense, of the pure life and of bloodshed, is carried on throughout the whole of the Bible, until it culminates in the murder by priests of the greatest of prophets. For the prophets were not shedders of blood; and all the narratives which represent Moses, Samuel, Elijah, and other prophets as engaged in slaughtering either their own people or the neighbouring tribes – narratives which for their apparent horror are at once a stumbling-block to the faithful and an occasion of scoffing to the unbelievers – represent simply the conflicts of the Soul with the evil tendencies of the man it animates. And had, moreover, the translators of the Bible been duly fitted for their task, first, by their possession of the requisite knowledge of Hebrew; secondly, by their possession of the requisite insight into divine things; and, thirdly, by their freedom from prepossession in favour of a sanguinary conception of divine character, they would have rendered into English the names of the victims of these massacres, instead of retaining them in the original; and thus we should have seen in these narratives but an anticipation of the method pursued in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Holy War.
And as to the writers themselves of the Bible, we may well believe that, could they have foreseen to what depths of dulness a regimen of flesh and stimulants can reduce an otherwise not unintelligent people, living two thousand years after them – the dulness shown by our taking their parables as literal truths – they would have renounced forthwith their favourite method, and spoken plainly.
No other than the method described was that of Moses. Learned in all the Mysteries of the religion of the Egyptians, he delivered like mysteries to his own people, teaching his initiates the spirit of the heavenly hieroglyphs, and bidding them, when they made festival before God, to carry with them in procession, with music and with dancing, such of the sacred animals as were, by their interior significance, related to the occasion. And of these animals, he chiefly selected males of the first year, without spot or blemish, to signify that it is beyond all things needful that man should dedicate to the Lord his intellect and his reason, and this from the beginning and without the least reserve. The priests, then, were idolaters, who, coming after Moses, and committing to writing those things which he by word of mouth had delivered unto Israel, replaced the true things signified by their material symbols, and shed innocent blood on the pure altars of the Lord. (1)
The prophets, then, as already said, were not shedders of blood. They dealt not with things material, but with spiritual significations. Their lambs without spot, their white doves, their goats, their rams, and other sacred creatures, are so many signs and symbols of the various graces and gifts which a mystic people should offer to heaven. Without such sacrifices is no remission of sin. But when the mystic sense was lost, then carnage followed. The prophets ceased out of the land, and the priests bore rule over the people. Then, when again the voice of the prophets arose, they were constrained to speak plainly, and declared openly that the sacrifices of God are not the flesh of bulls or the blood of goats, but holy vows and sacred thanksgivings, their mystical counterparts. For, as God is Spirit, so also are His sacrifices spiritual. It is but folly and ignorance to offer material flesh and drink to pure Power and essential Being. In vain, even for us, have the
prophets spoken, and in vain has Christ been manifested. (1) For the whole burden of Christ’s teaching and moral of Christ’s life by which He vindicated at once the Law and the Prophets, is that a man cannot be saved by any act of another, or by any process occurring outside himself; that “none can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him” [Psalm 49:8]; that, therefore, not burnt-offering, nor any physical or material sacrifice whatever, could save man from his sins and their consequences, but only a lowly and contrite heart, and a pure spirit within the man himself, and a life in accordance therewith. Only let us once read the Bible with vision, unobscured by a veil of blood, and undistorted by prejudice, and its whole mystery – the mystery of our fall and of our redemption – becomes clear as the cloudless sky. For then we can trace as occurring in our own souls the whole process from beginning to end which the Bible from Genesis to the Revelation sets forth under types and parables precisely after the manner of our Lord Himself. And, doing this, we come to Know absolutely by the personal experience of our own souls that the secret and method of the Christ is no other than that process of inward purification and regeneration whereby alone the spirit in man returns to its original condition of purity, making him a new man, at one with God, who is pure Spirit. It is this process of transmutation, or redemption of Spirit from Matter, alike in the individual and in the universal, which constitutes the theme of all sacred scriptures, the object of all true religions, the task of all true churches. And they are the several stages of this process which constitute respectively the Fall of Adam through the yielding of the Eve in him to the serpent of Matter; the going down of Israel or the Soul into Egypt or the world and the body; and the Exodus or flight from the world across the water of separation and consecration into the wilderness of beneficial experience; and the crossing of the Jordan or river of purification to take possession of the promised land of perfection. They are still the several stages of this process which are represented in the Gospel-history of the typical man regenerate. Whether they be termed water and the spirit, a pure soul and the divine operation therein, or the Virgin Mary and Holy Ghost, it is of these two in each man himself who finally is redeemed that
the new man, or man regenerate, the Christ Jesus – who always is the “only begotten son of God” [John 3:16, 18] – is produced. And it is always by the crucifixion and death on the cross of renunciation of that old Adam, the lower self, and the resurrection and ascension to a condition of final perfection that salvation is finally attained. And the reason why all these eternal verities in the soul’s history are made to centre in the prophet of Nazareth is simply because, recognising in him the tokens of his attainment of perfection in a degree never reached before, and in his history the fitting symbolical correspondences, the Divine Spirit, under whose inspiration the Gospels were composed, selected him as the type of the possibilities of humanity at large.
But even while thus rejecting as idolatrous, blasphemous, and pernicious in the highest degree the doctrine as ordinarily understood of Vicarious Atonement, we still see in “Christ Jesus” “the only begotten Son of God,” [John 3:16, 18] and still cling fast to His blood and cross as the sole means of salvation. But it is the Christ Jesus, or man reborn of a pure soul and spirit, as Jesus Himself declared that all must be born – even precisely as He is dramatically described as having been born – within ourselves, to whom we look for salvation. And the means are His cross of self-sacrifice, renunciation, and purity of life; and the reception into ourselves of that “Blood of God” which is no mere physical blood – between which and moral imperfection is no congruous relation – but which is the life of God, even pure Spirit, which is God, and which God is ever freely shedding for His creatures, giving them of His own life and substance.
How pernicious is the doctrine of vicarious atonement as ordinarily accepted may be seen in the world’s present condition, intellectually, morally, and spiritually, no less than physically. Man ever makes himself after the image of his God, that is, after his idea of God. And believing in a God who is unjust, selfish, and cruel, man cannot be other than unjust, selfish, and cruel also. It is precisely this misrepresentation of the divine character, and this perversion of the true and only possible doctrine of the atonement into one that makes man’s salvation a process external to himself and dependent on the action of another than himself, which, by falsifying Christianity, have ensured its failure, and, instead of a world ordered on the principles of justice, sympathy, and
purity, have given us a
world of wrong-doing, selfishness, and sensuality. According to the true gospel,
as declared by the prophets, the substance of humanity is not material and
created, but spiritual and divine. And man rises out of his lower into his
higher nature by subordinating the former to the latter, and so rising wholly
into that higher, becoming thereby divine – for between Spirit and Matter there
is no boundary line. The knowledge of this was the priceless treasure of which
In conclusion: that at which we aim is no reform of institutions merely, or promotion of benefits merely material, but a radical renovation of the very Substance of men themselves on every plane of their nature, with a view to the realisation of the long-promised “new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth Righteousness,” [2 Peter 3:13] and the advent of that perfected state, the New Jerusalem, or City which hath God for its light, and which cometh down from the heaven of man’s own celestial region, even that kingdom of heaven which is within him, but which can never be realised by those who persist in so ordering their lives as to make bloodshed and injustice necessities.
“He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” [Micah 6:8] “They
shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.” [Isaiah 65:25]
And if it be asked what is the source of, and what the authority for, these interpretations, the reply is that there is but one source and authority for truth, and that is the Soul of man himself, and that to obtain access there, and to know of the doctrine, it is necessary to do the Father’s Will, and to live the pure life required. For the Soul sees divinely, and never forgets what she has once learnt. And all that she knows is at the service of him who duly tends and cultivates her. From her comes, directly and without admixture of human alloy, that which has just been said. And no other source or method is there of divine revelation. It is true, as is commonly supposed, that divine revelation is uttered by a voice from heaven. But the heaven is the innermost sanctuary of the temple of man himself, and the voice is that of God speaking therein. Only where the soil, which is the body, is pure and purely nourished, so that no noxious exhalations arise to obscure the atmosphere, can the man and his Soul thus hold converse together. Living as does the world to-day, it cannot know the potentialities of humanity. Hence it regards one foremost example as divine, at the expense of the rest of the race, whereas all are divine, if they will but let themselves be so. And revelation is, no less than reason, the natural rightful possession of man. Only let him live purely, and he will reverse the Fall.
(215:1) See A.K.’s Illumination Concerning the Prophecy of the Immaculate Conception, in Clothed with the Sun, Part I, Nº. iii.
(217:1) See A.K.’s Illumination Concerning the Interpretation of the Mystical Scriptures, in Clothed with the Sun, Part I, Nº. v.
(218:1) See Biographical Preface, p. 28.
A.K.’s Illumination Concerning the Interpretation of the Mystical Scriptures, in Clothed with the Sun,
A.K.’s Illumination Concerning the Interpretation of the Mystical Scriptures, in Clothed with the Sun,