Vegetarianism and Occultism by C. W. Leadbeater was published by the Theosophical Society in 1913. Although things are much better a little over a century later, still there is far to go to realize the ideals set forth in the full article. The author’s words may seem intense–but so is the subject. And they merit serious consideration.
Leadbeater begins the article with six reasons for the superiority of a vegetarian diet from a purely physical/health standpoint, which include the following:
- More Nutriment
- Less Disease
- More Natural to Man
- Greater Strength
- Less Animal Passion
He then follows with ethical, mental, and spiritual reasons. As an introduction to the article, we list the first of his health reasons. You can read the full article here.
The nutritional value of a vegetarian diet
First: Because vegetables contain more nutriment than an equal amount of flesh.
This will sound a surprising and incredible statement to many people. It must be clearly understood that this is not a question of habit, or of sentiment, or of prejudice; it is simply a question of plain fact. There are four elements necessary in food, all of them essential to the repair and the upbuilding of the body:
- Proteids or nitrogenous foods;
- hydro-carbons or fats;
This is the classification usually accepted among physiologists, although some recent investigations are tending to modify it to a certain extent.
Now there is no question that all of these elements exist to a greater extent in vegetables than they do in flesh. For instance, milk, cream, cheese, nuts, peas and beans contain a large percentage of proteids or nitrogenous matter. Wheat, oats, rice and other grains, fruits and most of the vegetables (except perhaps peas, beans, and lentils) consist mainly of the carbohydrates–that is, of starches and sugars. The hydro-carbons, or fats, are found in nearly all the proteid foods, and can also be taken in the form of butter or of oils. The salts are found practically in all food to a greater or less extent. They are of the utmost importance in the maintenance of the body tissues, and what is called saline starvation is the cause of many diseases.
Mistaken carnivore assumptions
It is sometimes claimed that flesh-meat contains some of these things to a larger degree than vegetables, and some tables are drawn up in such a way as to suggest this; but once more, this is a question of facts, and must be faced from that point of view. The only sources of energy in flesh are the proteid matter contained therein, and the fat; and as the fat in it has certainly no more value than other fat, the only point to be considered is the proteids.
Now, it must be remembered that proteids have only one origin; they are organized in plants and nowhere else. Nuts, peas, beans, and lentils are far richer than any kind of flesh in these elements, and they have this enormous advantage, that the proteids are pure, and therefore contain all the energy originally stored up in them during their organization. In the animal body these proteids, which the animal has absorbed from the vegetable kingdom during its life, are constantly passing down to disorganization, during which descent the energy originally stored in them is released.
Consequently what has been used already by one animal cannot be utilized by another. The proteids are estimated in some of these tables by the amount of nitrogen contained therein, but in flesh-meat there are many products of tissue-change such as urea, uric acid, and creatine, all of which contain nitrogen and are therefore estimated as proteids, though they have no food value whatever.
Poisons in a meat-based diet
Nor is this all; for this tissue-change is necessarily accompanied by the formation of various poisons, which are always to be found in flesh of any kind; and in many cases the virulence of these poisons is very great.
So you will observe that if you gain any nourishment from the eating of dead flesh, you obtain it because during its life the animal consumed vegetable matter. You get less of this nourishment than you ought to have, because the animal has already used up half of it, and you have along with it various undesirable substances, and even some active poisons, which are of course distinctly deleterious.
Dr. Milner Fothergill writes: “All the bloodshed caused by the warlike disposition of Napoleon is as nothing compared to the loss of life among the myriads of persons who have sunk into their graves through a misplaced confidence in the supposed value of beef-tea.”
Strength from a vegetarian diet
At any rate, the strengthening results can be obtained more easily from the vegetable kingdom when the science of diet is properly understood. Let me show you that I am not in all this making any unfounded assertions; let me quote to you the opinions of physicians, of men whose names are well-known in the medical world, so that you may see that I have abundant authority for all that I have said.
We find Sir Henry Thompson, F.K.C.S., saying:
“It is a vulgar error to regard meat in any form as necessary to life. All that is necessary to the human body can be. supplied by the vegetable kingdom… The vegetarian can extract from his food all the principles necessary for the growth and support of the body, as well as for the production of heat and force. It must be admitted as a fact beyond all question that some persons are stronger and more healthy who live on that food. I know how much of the prevailing meat diet is not merely a wasteful extravagance, but a source of serious evil to the consumer.”
There is a definite statement by a well-known medical man.
Then we may turn to the words of a Fellow of the Royal Society, Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson, M.D.; he says:
“It must be honestly admitted that weight by weight, vegetable substance, when carefully selected, possesses the most striking advantages over animal food in nutritious value. I should like to see a vegetarian and fruit-living plan put into general use, and I believe it will be.”
The well-known physician, Dr. William S. Playfair, C. B., has said quite clearly: “Animal diet is not essential to man;” and we find Dr. F.J. Sykes, B.Sc., the medical official for St. Pancras [hospital], writing:
“Chemistry is not antagonistic to vegetarianism, any more than biology is. Flesh food is certainly not necessary to supply the nitrogenous products required for the repair of tissues; therefore a well-selected diet from the vegetable kingdom is perfectly right, from the chemical point of view, for the nutrition of men.”
Dr. Francis Vacher, F.R.C.S., F.C.S., remarks:
“I have no belief that a man is better physically or mentally for taking flesh-food.”
Dr. Alexander Haig, F.E.C.P., the leading physician of one of the great London hospitals, has written:
“That it is easily possible to sustain life on the products of the vegetable kingdom needs no demonstration for physiologists, even if the majority of the human race were not constantly engaged in demonstrating it; and my researches show, not only that it is possible, but that it is infinitely preferable in every way, and produces superior powers, both of mind and body.”
Dr. M. F. Coomes, in The American Practitioner and News of July, 1902, concluded a scientific article as follows:
“Let me state first that the flesh of warm blooded animals is not essential as a diet for the purpose of maintaining the human body in perfect health.”
He goes on to make some further remarks which we shall quote under our next head.
The Dean of the Faculty of Jefferson Medical College (of Philadelphia) said:
“It is a well-known fact that cereals as articles of daily food hold a high place in the human economy; they contain constituents amply sufficient to sustain life in its highest form. If the value of cereal food products were better known it would be a good thing for the race. Nations live and thrive upon them alone, and it has been fully demonstrated that meat is not a necessity.”
There you have a number of plain statements, and all of them are taken from the writings of well-known men who have made a considerable study of the chemistry of foods.
It is impossible to deny that man can exist without flesh-diet, and furthermore that there is more nutriment in an equal amount of vegetable than of flesh. I could give you many other quotations, but those above mentioned are sufficient, and they are fair samples of the rest.