VEGETARIANISM -- ANIMALS AS FOOD
Mar 31, 2006 08:26 AM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck
Inquiries recently about food for mankind indicate that THEOSOPHY views
vegetarianism as a more suitable source.
Here are some statements made:
Re: VEGETARIANISM WHY
Q.: What is the opinion of the leaders of the T. S. in regard to
W.Q.J.—Physicians and those who have tried vegetarianism are those who
should speak on this. The opinions of “leaders,” as such, are of no
consequence. I tried it for nine years, and found it injurious. This is
because the western man has no heredity of vegetarianism behind him, and
also because his dishes as a vegetarian are poor. They should be confined to
rice, barley, wheat, oats, some nuts and a little fruit; but westerners
don’t like such a meager variety. The stomach does not digest vegetables, it
is for meat; the teeth are for tearing and grinding meat. Most of those
vegetarians I know eat a whole lot of things injurious to them and are not
Had we an ancestry going back thousands of years, vegetarians always, the
case might be different. I know that most of the experienced physicians we
have in the Society— and I know a great many— agree with my view, and some
of them insist that vegetarianism is wrong under any conditions. With the
latter view I do not agree. There ought to come a time in our evolution when
new methods of food production will be known, and when the necessity for
killing any highly organized creature will have disappeared.
The other branch of the subject is that regarding spiritual development and
vegetarianism. It has been so often dealt with it is sufficient to say that
such development has nothing to do with either meat-eating or the diet of
vegetables. He who gives up meat- eating but does not alter his nature and
thoughts, thinking to gain in spirituality, may flatter himself and perhaps
make a fetish of his denial, but will certainly thereby make no spiritual
FORUM ANSWERS – Judge 129-30
ENQUIRER. I understand now your general idea; but let us see how you
apply it in practice. How about vegetarianism, for instance?
THEOSOPHIST. One of the great German scientists has shown that every kind
of animal tissue, however you may cook it, still retains certain marked
characteristics of the animal which it belonged to, which characteristics
can be recognised. And apart from that, every one knows by the taste what
meat he is eating. We go a step farther, and prove that when the flesh of
animals is assimilated by man as food, it imparts to him, physiologically,
some of the characteristics of the animal it came from. Moreover, occult
science teaches and proves this to its students by ocular demonstration,
showing also that this "coarsening" or "animalizing" effect on man is
greatest from the flesh of the larger animals, less for birds, still less
for fish and other cold-blooded animals, and least of all when he eats only
ENQUIRER. Then he had better not eat at all?
THEOSOPHIST. If he could live without eating, of course it would. But as
the matter stands, he must eat to live, and so we advise really earnest
students to eat such food as will least clog and weight their brains and
bodies, and will have the smallest effect in hampering and retarding the
development of their intuition, their inner faculties and powers.
ENQUIRER. Then you do not adopt all the arguments which vegetarians in
general are in the habit of using?
THEOSOPHIST. Certainly not. Some of their arguments are very weak, and
often based on assumptions which are quite false. But, on the other hand,
many of the things they say are quite true. For instance, we believe that
much disease, and especially the great predisposition to disease which is
becoming so marked a feature in our time, is very largely due to the eating
of meat, and especially of tinned meats. But it would take too long to go
thoroughly into this question of vegetarianism on its merits; so please pass
on to something else.
ENQUIRER. One question more. What are your members of the Inner Section
to do with regard to their food when they are ill?
THEOSOPHIST. Follow the best practical advice they can get, of course.
Don't you grasp yet that we never impose any hard-and-fast obligations in
this respect? Remember once for all that in all such questions we take a
rational, and never a fanatical, view of things. If from illness or long
habit a man cannot go without meat, why, by all means let him eat it. It is
no crime; it will only retard his progress a little; for after all is said
and done, the purely bodily actions and functions are of far less importance
than what a man thinks and feels, what desires he encourages in his mind,
and allows to take root and grow there.
ENQUIRER. Then with regard to the use of wine and spirits, I suppose you
do not advise people to drink them?
THEOSOPHIST. They are worse for his moral and spiritual growth than meat,
for alcohol in all its forms has a direct, marked, and very deleterious
influence on man's psychic condition. Wine and spirit drinking is only less
destructive to the development of the inner powers, than the habitual use of
hashish, opium, and similar drugs.” H P B -- The KEY TO THEOSOPHY p.
”One of the Teachers wrote,
“Chelaship does not Consist in any kind of eating or drinking, in any
practices, observances, forms, or rituals; it is an attitude of mind.”
Another Teacher said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all the rest
shall be added unto you.” The reason for this is that it is the mind which
is involved. If we resort to practices, then the mind is bent upon them,
becomes more and more implicated in them, and as they are concrete things,
the mind becomes of that complexion. Jesus said, “Be ye not as the Pharisees
who make clean the outside of the platter.”
The inner nature has a diet out of our thoughts and motives. If those are
low or gross or selfish, it is equivalent to feeding that nature upon gross
food. True Theosophic diet is therefore of unselfish thoughts and deeds,
untiring devotion to the welfare of Humanity, absolute negation of self,
unutterable aspiration to the Supreme Soul. This only is what “we can grow
upon, and vain are the hopes of those who pin their faith on any other
As to bodily food. It is that which best agrees with you, taken in
moderation, neither too much nor too little. If your Constitution and
temperament will permit vegetarianism, then that will give less heat to the
blood. “If from illness or long habit a man cannot go without meat, why, by
all means let him eat it. It is no crime; it will only retard his progress a
little; for after all is said and done, the purely bodily functions are of
far less importance than what a man thinks and feels, what desires he
encourages in his mind and allows to take root and grow there.” (H. P. B.)
I am saying so much on this subject because experience has shown that it is
so easy for students to slip into bodily observances and stay there; this is
the wrong end to begin on. It is best not to make any particular selection
as to diet; take what best agrees with you and sustains your body best.
There is nothing in vegetarian diet to create spirituality.
The Hindus who have been vegetarians for centuries are, for the most part,
degraded, and the better portion have as much difficulty as the western man
in the acquirement of spiritual knowledge.
Also, cows and sheep would be spiritual if such food had that kind of
effect. It is the motive that counts, too, in anything. If a person stops
eating meat in order that he may, by complying with that condition, attain
to a development he has set before him, he misses the mark and has acquired
a selfish motive for the line thus adopted. Also, of course, you should know
that it has proved to be a real danger for western peoples, whose digestive
organs have become habituated to a meat diet, to change to a vegetarian one.
The trouble does not arise from weakness following lack of meat, but from
imperfect digestion causing disease—due to the retention in the stomach of
vegetable matter for so long a time that yeasts and other growths, including
alcoholic fermentations, arc thrown into the circulation, sufficiently to
bring on nervous diseases, tuberculosis, and manifold other derangements. It
is well known that a man who has melancholia due to systemia cannot expect
to reach a high development in occultism.
The first thing, then, is to have the right kind of thoughts; the other, and
by far the least important, is diet, in which the main thing to be observed
is, eat whatever will keep the body in the best working condition, so that
it may be as effective an instrument for work in the world as possible. It
is quite true that the foods of the present time are not ideal. In the
future better products will be had, but they will come from right thinking;
our present work is to think from a right basis and become established in
that basis, and assist others to do likewise. From this will flow what is in
accord with it, from within, outward—a natural growth.”
FRIENDLY PHILOSOPHER p 145
” It is never so much a question of what a person does as ‘Why does he do
it?” If for self-benefit, it is just as reprehensible as any other selfish
procedure. It is motive and motive alone that makes an action good or bad,
black or white. After all is said and done, “the purely bodily functions are
of far less importance than what a man thinks and feels, what desires he
encourages in his mind, and allows to. take root, and grow there.” “True
chelaship is not a matter of diet, postures or practices of any kind; it is
an attitude of mind.” F P 196
REINCARNATION OF ANIMALS
VERY little has been said on the question whether or not the theory of
Reincarnation applies to animals in the same way as to man. Doubtless, if
Brahman members well acquainted with Sanscrit works on the general subject
were to publish their views, we should at least have a large mass of
material for thought and find many clues to the matter in the Hindu theories
and allegories. Even Hindu folk-lore would suggest much. Under all popular
"superstitions" a large element of truth can be found hidden away when the
vulgar notion is examined in the light of the Wisdom-Religion. A good
instance of this on the material plane is to be found in the new treatment
proposed for small-pox.
The old superstition was that all patients with that disease must be treated
and kept in darkness. But the practise was given up by modern doctors.
Recently, however, some one had the usual "flash" and decided that perhaps
the chemical rays of the sun had something to do with the matter, and began
to try red glass for all windows where small-pox patients were. Success was
reported, the theory being that the disease was one where the chemical rays
injured the skin and health just as they do in ordinary sunburn. Here we
see, if the new plan be found right, that an old superstition was based on a
law of nature. In the same way the folk-lore of such an ancient people as
the Hindu deserves scrutiny with the object of discovering the buried truth.
If they are possessed of such notions regarding the fate of animals, careful
analysis might give valuable suggestion.
Looking at the question in the light of Theosophical theories, we see that a
wide distinction exists between man and animals. Man reincarnates as man
because he has got to the top of the present scale of evolution. He cannot
go back, for Manas is too much developed. He has a Devachan because he is a
conscious thinker. Animals cannot have Manas so much developed, and so
cannot be self-conscious in the sense that man is. Besides all this, the
animal kingdom, being lower, has the impulse still to rise to higher forms.
But here we have the distinct statement by the Adepts through H.P.B. that
while possibly animals may rise higher in their own kingdom they cannot in
this evolution rise to the human stage, as we have reached the middle or
turning-point in the fourth round. On this point H.P.B. has, in the second
volume of the Secret Doctrine (first ed.) at p. 196, a foot note as follows:
In calling the animals "Soulless," it is not depriving the beast, from the
humblest to the highest species, of a "soul," but only of a conscious
surviving Ego-soul, i.e., that principle which survives after a man and
reincarnates in a like man.
The animal has an astral body that survives the physic al form for a short
period; but its (animal) Monad does not reincarnate in the same, but in a
higher species, and has no "Devachan" of course. It has the seeds of all the
human principles in itself, but they are latent.
Here the distinction above adverted to is made. It is due to the Ego-Soul,
that is, to Manas with Buddhi and Atma. Those principles being latent in the
animal, and the door to the human kingdom being closed, they may rise to
higher species but not to the man stage. Of course also it is not meant that
no dog or other animal ever reincarnates as dog, but that the monad has
tendency to rise to a higher species, whatever that be, whenever it has
passed beyond the necessity for further experience as "dog." Under the
position the author assumes it would be natural to suppose that the astral
form of the animal did not last long, as she says, and hence that astral
appearances or apparitions of animals were not common. Such is the fact.
I have heard of a few, but very few, cases where a favorite animal made an
apparitional appearance after death, but even the prolific field of
spiritualism has not many instances of the kind. And those who have learned
about the astral world know that human beings assume in that world the form
of animal or other things which they in character most resemble, and that
this sort of apparition is not confined to the dead but is more common among
the living. It is by such signs that clairvoyants know the very life and
thought of the person before them. It was under the operation of this law
that Swedenborg saw so many curious things in his time.
The objection based on the immense number of animals both alive and dead as
calling for a supply of monads in that stage can be met in this way. While
it is stated that no more animal monads can enter on the man-stage, it is
not said nor inferred that the incoming supply of monads for the animal
kingdom has stopped. They may still be coming in from other worlds for
evolution among the animals of this globe. There is nothing impossible in
it, and it will supply the answer to the question,
Where do the new animal monads come from, supposing that all the present
ones have exhausted the whole number of higher species possible here? It is
quite possible also that the animal monads may be carried on to other
members of the earth-chain in advance of man for the purpose of necessary
development, and this would lessen the number of their appearances here. For
what keeps man here so long is that the power of his thought is so great as
to make a Devachan for all lasting some fifteen centuries--with exceptions--
and for a number who desire "heaven" a Devachan of enormous length. The
animals, however, being devoid of developed Manas, have no Devachan and must
be forced onwards to the next planet in the chain. This would be consistent
and useful, as it gives them a chance for development in readiness for the
time when the monads of that kingdom shall begin to rise to a new human
kingdom. They will have lost nothing, but, on the contrary, will be the
WILLIAM BREHON, Path, April, 1894
ABOUT KILLING ANIMALS
A correspondent asks:
"Will you kindly explain why, if you think it wrong to kill a water bug,
that you should consider it right to slay larger animals for food?
I do not remember having said it was wrong to kill a water bug: hence there
is no conclusion to be made from that to the question of feeding on animals,
so far as I am concerned.
The questions of right and wrong are somewhat mixed on this subject. If one
says it is morally wrong to kill a water bug, then it follows that it is
wrong to live at all, inasmuch as in the air we breathe and the water
imbibed there are many millions of animals in structure more complicated
Though these are called infusoria and animalculae, yet they are living,
moving beings as much as are bugs. We draw them in and at once they are
destroyed, slain to the last one.
Shall we therefore stop living? The whole of life is a battle, a destruction
and a compromise as long as we are on the material plane. As human beings we
have to keep on living, while in our destructive path millions of beings are
hourly put to death. Even by living and earning a living each one of us is
preventing some one else from doing the same, who, if we were dead, might
step into our shoes. But if we abandoned the fight - were we, indeed, able
to so do - then the ends of evolution could not be attained. Hence we have
to stay and endure what Karma falls from the necessary deaths we occasion.
So the true position seems to me to be this, that in certain environments,
at certain stages of evolution, we have to do an amount of injury to others
that we cannot avoid.
So while we thus live we must eat, some of flesh and others of the
vegetable. Neither class is wholly right or wrong.
It becomes a wrong when we deliberately without actual need destroy the
lives of animals or insects. So the man who was born in a family and
generation of meat-eaters and eats the meat of slaughtered animals does less
wrong than the woman who, though a vegetarian, wears the feathers of
slaughtered birds in her hats, since it was not necessary to her life that
such decoration should be indulged in. So the epicure who tickles his palate
with many dishes of meats not necessary for sustentation is in the same case
as the woman who wears bird's feathers.
Again as to shoes, saddles, bridles, pocketbooks, and what not, of leather.
These are all procured from the skins of slain animals. Shall they be
abolished? Are the users of them in the wrong? Any one can answer. Or did we
live near the north pole we would be compelled to live on bears' and wolves'
meat and fat. Man, like all material beings, lives at the expense
of some others. Even our death is brought about by the defeat of one party
of microbes who are devoured by the others, who then themselves turn round
and devour each other.
But the real man is a spirit-mind, not destructible nor destroying; and the
kingdom of heaven is not of meat nor of drink: it cometh not from eating nor
refraining- it cometh of itself.
- ED Path, March, 1892
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