Body, Health and Diet
The first great error to be thrown away is a common one–acceptance of the physical body as the real self when it is only an expression and channel, instrument and vehicle of the self.
So many human sufferings are the consequences of human errors, and so many of these errors arise from human ignorance. The supreme ignorance of all which leads to the greatest sins and sufferings is that he does not know he is an individualized part of a greater consciousness. Although this consciousness shines through his ego it is apart from the ego, for it stands in its own right and exists as an entity by itself. It is this consciousness which enables a man to act and think in the physical body and it is his diviner part. Blinded by the error of materialism, he identifies it with the body itself.
The man who takes his body for himself, misunderstands himself. Only a course of severe discipline will correct it and reveal to him by intense experience the power subtler than flesh, subtler even than intellect, which is at the vital centre deep within consciousness.
In the human body there is at one and the same time a projection of the Overself and a channel for it. The wisdom and intelligence which have gone into and are hidden behind the whole universe have gone into the human body too…
The body is in reality an object for the mind, which is its subject; and not only the body, but also whatever the ego thinks or feels becomes an object, too. It is less easy to see and even more necessary to understand that this ego, this subject, is itself an object to a higher part of the mind.
We murmur against the world’s obstructiveness to our aspirations: the body is our stumbling-block. Yet if we had to live always as disembodied spirits, our spiritual development would need an immeasurably longer time to accomplish itself. The sharper focus of physical consciousness quickens our pace.
… What happens when he is embraced by deep dreamless sleep? The answer is that he has been taken to the source of his being for renewal of his forces physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. That which took him there is Grace.
Deep dreamless sleep removes anxieties from the mind because it removes the ego which suffers them. It removes exhaustion from the physical body because the complete relaxation of tension consequent upon the ego’s absence allows the universal life-force to permeate every cell.
The wonderful effect of profound sleep is not only the recovery of the physical body’s energy but much more the man’s return to himself, his spiritual self, the pure universal consciousness. Note that all this happens without any effort on his part, without any use of the personal will. It is all done to him. Grace acts in the same way.
All that is needful to a man’s happiness must come from both these sources–the spiritual and the physical–from the ability to rest in the still centre, in the developed intellectual and aesthetic natures, in the good health and vigour of the body.
Life in the flesh is a gift if we are using it rightly but it becomes a curse if we are not. Every incarnation should be used to help one get somewhat farther in doing this job of achieving an Overself-inspired existence.
The body is not to be despised with the ascetic nor neglected with the mystic. It is to be understood and rightly used. It is to be cared for as one of the instruments whose total contribution will enable us to fulfil the spiritual purpose of life on earth.
All negative states of mind and emotions are destructive. They work harm to some one of the body’s organs or interfere with its functions. If those states are continuous, they sink into the subconscious and the results appear as disease. This is possible because the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the automatic functions of the body, is open to influence by the subconscious mind.
In a broad general division, philosophy finds three causes of sickness. They are wrong thinking, wrong living, and bad karma. But because karma merely brings back to us the results of the other two, we may even limit the causes of disease to them. And again because conduct is ultimately the expression of thought, we may limit the cause of disease finally to a single one of wrong thinking… But the thinking which produced the sickness may belong to the far past, to some earlier reincarnation, and not necessarily to the present one…
Old infirm people who become weary of the body and hence weary of themselves have no way out except the larger identification with something larger than the body self.
Those who really aspire towards a higher kind of life will have no alternative than to bring about a higher quality of the body in which they have to dwell and whose nerves and brain condition their very thinking. Such aspirants will have to stop being careless about the material that is fed to the body.
Our definition of sin needs widening. It is also sinful to break the laws of hygiene, to indulge in habits that are either poisonous or devitalizing, to eat foods obtained by slaughter.
A meatless diet has practical advantages to offer nearly everyone. But to idealists who are concerned with higher purposes it has even more to offer. On the moral issue alone it tends to lessen callousness to the sufferings of others, men or animals, and to increase what Schweitzer called ”reverence for life.”
Just before an animal meets its death in a slaughterhouse, it finds itself surrounded by the frightening cries and fear-raising scenes of past, present, and impending murder. Its own dread then mentally permeates the body with harmful influences while the subsequent shock of its own slaying causes an involuntary passage of some urine into the body itself. This uric acid is spread by the blood and then physically permeates the body with poisonous material.
If their compassion for helpless animals is so small that they will not give up eating flesh, by what right do they call upon God to show compassion toward them and stop war?
They beseech the Lord with whining prayers for compassionate help or gracious mercy, yet never for a moment ever think of themselves granting mercy to the innocent creatures which are bred and slaughtered for their benefit.
… It is less destructive to uproot a vegetable or pluck a fruit than to slay an animal–and there is less suffering too. This is the answer to the argument that we still destroy life when we become vegetarians.
James, the brother of Jesus and an Apostle, was a vegetarian. But the theologians and historians ignore this fact which was testified to by the Judeo-Christian Hegesippus, who lived in the century following and had contact with the Palestinian circles of the Apostolic time. Moreover, Hegesippus asserts that James had been brought up in this way since childhood. Does this imply that the family circle was vegetarian?
… It is a fact worth speculating upon that many groups of early Christians were both mystical and vegetarian. Had they not been ousted by the Emperor Constantine–whose imperialistic political purpose they did not serve–from the official Christianity which he (and not Jesus) established, we might today have seen half the Christian world holding a faith in mystical beliefs and eating fleshless foods…
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