6. HISTORICAL ASPECT OF FOOD REFORM (1)
IT has been allotted to me to speak of the historical development of this form of diet, and I think a reference to evolution quite necessary in this connection, for one can hardly take up the history of man at any given period without referring it back to the sources from which he sprang. For we must look upon the human race, not as a thing apart from the rest of creation, but as being in brotherhood and solidarity with the whole of those living forms with which we are surrounded. From the scientific point of view we all arise out of differentiation from one common stock; but the one point I wish to dwell upon is that there has been throughout that evolution a steady heading towards the best, a steady "stream of tendency which makes for righteousness"; and we see that evolution has been accomplished by the gathering up into the complex nervous structure, and especially into the large ganglion of the brain, of all the best that nature can give. That is to say, that it is by the elaboration of the nervous structure, and especially of the brain, that man has become man. I wish in connection with this subject to point out to you that man sprang immediately from the frugivorous group. It is a fact of great significance, that man became man as a fruit-eater, and not as a carnivorous animal, for it shows that the carnivora were incapable of producing man, and that the frugivorous group alone were capable of the necessary elaboration and perfection of the intellectual nature. The recognition of this fact must be an enormous gain to food reform. It is sometimes said to me, when I dwell on the anatomy and physiology of man in connection with this question, that he could just as well have sprung out of the races of the tiger or
the lion or the jackal. But I say no; the very fact that he did not, proves those races incapable of such evolution. When you know that all the great anatomists have agreed to place the primates – the great anthropoid apes – at the head of the whole family of natural evolution, and have classed them according to the structural evolution of the nervous system, you see that we may claim for this frugivorous group the ascendancy and priority over all the rest. And not only is it true in connection with the ape; it is also true in connection with all the first races of man.
I do not care whether you take up your Ovid or your Hesiod or your Bible, you will find always the same tale. You will find that in the Golden Age (if you turn to your Ovid) men lived upon the fruits of the earth and upon such natural gifts as kind nature bestowed on them, "nor stained their lips with blood." So, if you turn to the first chapter of Genesis you will find the command was to "eat the fruits of the earth."
Whether you take the popular religious point of view, the scientific point of view, or the poetic point of view, you always come to the same thing; all have their starting-point in the frugivorous dispensation; and from it have sprung all the great nations which gave us the laws, the sciences, and arts which the world has since elaborated. In Sharpe's History of Egypt it is stated that the law-givers of primitive Egypt prohibited the use of flesh; and I hardly need remind you that it is from Egypt that the Western world has received all the best that it now has of science and of knowledge. When we think of the builders of the pyramids, the mighty givers of the philosophy of the past – when we dwell upon the profound thoughts of those great men – when we remember the arts and sciences they have left behind, we perceive what we owe to that past – that past which lives so finely, so subtilly, and so splendidly in the pages of history.
Turn again to the East. They say Pythagoras, the Sage of Samos, learned all his knowledge in the East – but this point, of course, we are not discussing – however, this fact remains, that all the great tribes of India are frugivorous in their habits, and when we study the laws of the Brahmins, we find them divided into several sects or classes – castes, as they are called. The three first castes, the highest of course, are precluded from the use of animal meat – in fact the use of animal meat is associated in the minds of these Eastern people with the idea of pollution, and they allow it only therefore to the lowest
class, an idea exactly opposite to that to which we are accustomed in the West. I conversed with a Brahmin some years ago, a Brahmin who had broken his caste by crossing the sea. On learning what the custom of this country was he resolved before leaving his native country to accustom himself, in silence and darkness, to the degrading habit of eating flesh-meat. He was forced to eat it at night with the door shut for fear of his people coming upon him and discovering his apostasy. There was, however, one man in the house where he resided who was obliged to know of his habits. This one man was his servant, a member of the lowest class, who used to supply his master with the meat, so that he might habituate himself to a diet which he understood to be common in the country which he was about to visit. After a time the Brahmin noticed that various things about his house were stolen, valuables disappeared; he suspected this man who waited upon him, and he charged him with theft, and said to him: "I will bring you before the magistrate and accuse you of robbing me." Then the servant turned upon him at once, and said: "You dare not; for if you do I will bring against you a charge of the horrible crime of which you are guilty in the silence of the night, and the revelation of which would degrade you from your caste." And so the Brahmin was forced to hold his peace. You may gather from this something of the ingrained idea prevalent in the East of the pollution which a man undergoes by breaking his caste and eating flesh. I merely narrate this little story to show you how strongly this idea in the matter of caste is held among the Brahmins and Buddhists. Gautama Buddha (than whom I believe there never lived in the world more gentle, more admirable, or more holy being) taught this doctrine to his disciples as the most precious and integral part of his teaching. He laid it down as a rule that no man should take the life of any living creature, and the whole tendency of the teachings of Buddha and of the Buddhist religion lies in this direction. I agree entirely with the Archbishop of Canterbury when he said, some time ago, that we ought to blend the teachings of the Gospel with the almost divine evangel of Gautama Buddha, and that we ought to take all that it has of good and incorporate it with ours. If you want to understand something of the religious life of the East you should read the beautiful poem of Edwin Arnold, The Light of Asia, and learn what nobleness, what grandeur there is in the heart of
man when he lives aright, as men should live, and becomes that which he is intended to be by nature. Then you will learn how splendid, how sublime, how beautiful, is the philosophy to which he can reach. I think that here, in the West, we shall do well to study the doctrines of Gautama Buddha and of the Buddhist religion. I am always struck with the idea that all the highest, the purest, the subtlest, the most deep-reaching philosophy which the world holds has come to us from the vegetarian races. Not merely is that the case in regard to the Buddhists, but in regard also to the great Egyptian teacher, Hermes Trismegistos, who held the same doctrines. And the whole of the greatest and purest thoughts that have come to us along the channel of time have been filtered down to us, it appears, through these great races.
That is the case, it seems to me, with thought. The question that
we now have to face is, "Is it the case with physical force?" It has been said:
it is all very well for philosophers to live on a vegetarian diet, but when you
come to fighting, you must eat flesh as do the warriors of the West, who
distinguish themselves by conquest, while the East is distinguished by thought.
All the races which – I have been vegetarian, it is said, have been
contemplative, philosophic, and meditative races. Those which have been fighting
races have been eaters of animal food. Well, that is an intricate question, and
I am not quite sure that even if we so decide it we should be wholly in the
right, for I remember that the most splendid heroes that the world has ever
seen, the Spartans, under Leonidas, who held the Pass
of Thermopylae, were livers on barley bread, oatcake, and oil. The heroes of
I think that as long as men live upon the food of the tiger they will have the tiger's nature; but if they adopt the
food of the Golden Age, – the food
[Here the lecturer recited the passage from The Revolt of Islam which is to be found at the conclusion of her Lecture on Food. (1)]
(119:1) Reprinted from a Report, published in The Food Reform Magazine (No. I. vol v., July-September 1885, p. 16), of an Address given by Anna Kingsford on Tuesday, 26th May 1855, at Exeter Hall, under the auspices of the National Food Reform Society.
(123:1) See p. 100 ante.