The Cycle of Necessity

We have been absorbed heretofore in considerations which, realizable as they are, have an aspect of dream-splendor; it is requisite now that we should descend into the lower sphere of detail, and consider how in the things of daily life we can assist towards the development of the perfect man. To produce a perfect body, it is certain, for example, that we must have a suitable regimen. This is as essential as environment. The life of aspiration and desire, the life towards the ideal goodness, beauty, and perfection, requires a daily diet regulated in accordance with the ethical high-water mark at which we propose to aim. A fanatical adherence to any fixed form of diet is evil, because, before all things, and in all things, we are to be regulated by free reason and enlightened tolerance, and it is clear from the immense variety of educated opinion which exists upon the subject of food and its laws, that we are not as yet in possession of a perfect way in diet. Normally, we are guided by custom and appetite, checked by the occasional control of an imperfect medical science, which is in no branch of its practice more imperfect and limited than in those problems that are connected with the ministry of food. From the empirical standpoint, it is not, therefore, reasonable to dogmatize; but if we approach the question of diet from the ethical and ideal standpoint, we shall obtain, a priori, certain rules to guide us. And first and foremost, it is ethically and spiritually certain that the veritably ideal life is closed in all its superior pathways to those who partake of flesh. Here there is no question of a wholesome or strengthening food. On that point opinions may differ, as they differ upon the subject of cereals. At the same time, it may not unreasonably be considered that a food which is ethically detrimental cannot be physically serviceable. Concerning the ethical standpoint, there can, however, be no doubt. Viewed therefrom, the slaughter of beats for our sustenance and a repast on the carcass, however transcendental be the triumph of the culinary art, is only removed in degree, and is not all removed in kind, from the dietary delights dogma founded the existence of an immutable law in the region of ideal excellence. It supports the fundamental contention of the so-called vegetarian, while discountenancing his aberration and mania. At the same time philosophy revolts with equal good reason from that supplementary contention which seems to bind up irrevocably what is termed total abstinence with the abstinence from refection upon flesh. There is no law in the ideal world which prohibits the use of wine; it has, in fact, an ideal excellence and a symbolic value; it is rich, free, and generous. There is, of course, a law in ideality which absolutely prohibits the misuse of any food or drink, and to be gorged with vegetarian stews is no less depraving than to get unreasonably drunk on Tokay. But wheresoever there is no fixed principle involved, the supreme liberty of idealism will mark out no hard and fast lines in food, but will make the laws of nourishment a subject of systematic investigation with a view to elaborating an absolute science in the ministry of diet to health. In the meantime, and while such a science is developing, we shall look as before to the poets for assistance, and form them we shall gain our lights. We shall devote ourselves also to the question of the ministry of cleanliness in the preparation of the Vas Philosophorum, and therein whatsoever may assist us towards the perfect life in physics will for us be a religious practice efficacious in the sanctification of the body, which is the visible house of life. Finally, we shall have regard to the recuperative ministry of sleep, knowing that the waking life of aspiration gives entrance to a higher sphere of activities in the repose of the outer man, knowing that there is hygienic science of sleep as there is a hygiene for the waking world, and knowing that we have brushed but the fringe of such science. Our devices extend little further than the sanitation of an open window, or an elevated room. But there is an open window by which the soul goes forth, and leaves the physical vessel to the simplicity of a perfect rest. And the waking elevation of the interior man will conduct that travelling soul into things elevated of the unseen world. There is also the un-attempted problem of environment in sleep; we must sanctify the hush of night; we must rectify the encompassing elements with sweet and invigorating aromas, and once more, in all this ministry, as in other things great and small, the poets will be at hand to help us.

We are indicating in this section a work which has yet to be achieved, but the method of its fulfilment we by no means pretend to teach. In this single department of our subject there is matter in abundance for large volumes; at another time, and in another place, should our zeal be received by our brethren in the spirit which prompts it now, we may perhaps attempt something, and possibly others may appear who on these points will be better equipped for speaking.