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The Ethics of Diet - A Catena
by Howard Williams M.A., 1883

Porphire Sophiste, in a French 16th-c. engraving

Porphyry - extracts

Porphyry - Porphyrius. 233-306 (?) A.D.
(text from the 1st edition, 1883)

One of the most erudite as well as one of the most spiritual, of the literati of any age or people, and certainly the most estimable of all the extant Greek philosophers after the days of Plutarch, was born either at Tyre or at some neighbouring town. His original name, Malchus, the Greek form of the Syrian Melech (king), and the name by which he is known to us, Porphyrius (purple-robed), we may well take deservedly to mark his philosophic superiority. He was exceptionally fortunate in his preceptors - Longinius, the most eloquent and elegant of the later Greek critics, under whom he studied at Athens; Origen, the most independent and learned of the Christian Fathers, from whom, probably, he derived his vast knowledge of theological literature; and, finally, Plotinus, the famous founder of the New-Platonism, who had established his school at Rome in the year 244.

Upon first joining the school of Plotinus, he had ventured to contest some of the characteristic doctrines of his new teacher, and he even wrote a book to refute them. Amerius, his fellow-disciple, was chosen to reply to this attack. After a second trial of strength by each antagonist, Amerius by weight of argument induced Porphyry to confess his errors, and to read his recantation before the assembled Platonists. Porphyry ever after remained an attached and enthusiastic follower of his beloved master, with the final revision and edition of whose voluminous works he was entrusted. He had lived with him six years when, becoming so far unsettled in his mind as even to contemplate suicide in order to free himself from the shackles of the flesh, by the persuasion of his preceptor he made a voyage to Sicily for the restoration of his health and serenity of mind. This was in 270, in the thirty-seventh year of his age. Returning to the capital upon the death of his master, he continued the amiable but vain work of attempting the reform of the established religion, which had then sunk to its lowest degradation, and to this labour of love he may be said to have devoted his whole life. At an advanced age he married Marcella, the widow of one of his friends, who was Christian and the mother of a rather numerous progeny, with a view, as he tells us, of superintending the education of her children.

About sixty separate works of Porphyry are enumerated by Fabricus, published, unpublished, or lost; the last numbering some forty-three distinct productions. The most important of his writings are -

(1) On Abstinence from the Flesh of Living Beings, (1) in four books, addressed to a certain Firmus Castricius, a Pythagorean, who for some reason or other had become a renegade to the principles, or at least to the practice, of his old faith. Next to the inculcation of abstinence as a spiritual or moral obligation, Porphyry's "chief object seems to have been to recommend a more spiritual worship in the place of the sacrificial system of the pagan world, with all its false notions and practical abuses. This work," adds Dr. Donaldson, "is valuable on many accounts, and full of information."

(2) His criticism on Christianity, which he entitled a Treatise against the Christians - his most celebrated production. It was divided into fifteen books. All our knowledge of it is derived from Eusebius, Jerome, and other ecclesiastical writers. Several years after its appearance the courtly Bishop of Cæsarea, the well-known historian of the first ages of Christianity, replied to it in a work extending to twenty-five books. More than a century later, Theodosius II. caused the obnoxious volume to be publicly burned, and Porphyry's criticism shared the fate of those "many elaborate treatises which have since been committed to the flames" by the theological or political zeal of orthodox emperors and princes. (2)

(3) The Life of Pythagoras - a fragment, but, as far as it goes, the most interesting of the Pythagorean biographies.

(4) On the Life of Plotinus and the Arrangement of his Works.

It is to this biography we are indebted for our knowledge of the estimable elaborator of New-Platonism. We learn that he was the pupil of Ammonius, who disputes with Mumenius the fame of having originated the principles of the new school of thought of which Plotinus, however, was the St. Paul - the actual founder. Of a naturally feeble constitution, he had early betaken himself to the consolations of divine philosophy. After vainly seeking rest for his truth-loving and aspiring spirit in other systems, he at last found in Ammonius the teacher and teaching which his intellectual and spiritual sympathies demanded. His great ambition was to visit the country of Buddha and of Zerdhusht or Zoiroaster, and, for that purpose, he joined the expedition of the Emperor Gordian against the Persians. The defeat and death of that prince frustrated his plans. He then settled at Rome, where he established his school, and he remained in Italy until his death in 270. By the earnest solicitations of his disciples, Porphyry and Amerius, he was induced with much reluctance to publish his oral discourses, and eventually they appeared in fifty four books, edited by Porphyry, who gave them the name of the Enneads, as being arranged in six groups of nine treatises. Perhaps no teacher ever engaged to so unbounded an extent the admiration and affection if his followers.

"During the long period of his residence at Rome, Plotinus enjoyed an estimation almost approaching to a belief in his superhuman wisdom and sanctity. His ascetic virtue, and the mysterious transcendentalism of his conversation, which made him the Coleridge of the day, seems to have carried away the minds of his associates, and raised them to a state of imaginative exaltation. He was regarded as a sort of prophet, divine himself, and capable of elevating his disciples to a participation in his divinity . . . These coincidences or collusions [his alleged miracles] show how sacred a character had attached to Plotinus. And we see the same evidenced in his social influence. Men and women of the highest rank crowded round him, and his house was filled with young persons of both sexes whom their parents when dying had committed to his care. Rogation, a senator and prætor-elect, gave up his wealth and dignities, and lived as the humble bedesman of his friends, devoting himself to ascetic and contemporary philosophy. His self-denial obtained for him the approbation of Plotinus, who held him up as a pattern of philosophy; and he gained the more solid advantage of a perfect cure from the worst kind of rheumatic gout. The influence of Plotinus extended to the imperial throne itself. The weak-minded Gallienus, and his Empress Salonia, were so completely guided by the philosopher, that he had actually obtained permission to convert a ruined City of Campania into a Platonopolis, in which the laws of Plato's Republic were to be tested by a practical experiment; and the philosopher had promised to retire thither accompanied by the chief friends."

The "practical common sense" (which naturally may be interpreted to mean cynical indifference), of the statesmen and politicians of the day interposed to prevent this attempt at a realisation of Plato's great ideal; and, considering the prematurity of such ideas in the then condition of the world - and, it must be added, the extravagance of some of them - we can, perhaps, hardly regret that his "Republic" was never instituted. As to the essence and spirit of the teaching of Plotinus,

"He cannot be termed, strictly or exclusively, a Neo-Platonist : he is equally a Neo-Aristotellain and a Neo-Philosopher in general. He has himself one pervading idea, to which he is always recurring, and to which he accommodates, as far as he can, the reasonings of all his predecessors. It is his object to proclaim and exalt the immanent divinity of man, and to raise the soul to a contemplation of the good and the true, and to vindicate its independence of all that is sensuous, transitory, and special. With an enthusiasm bordering on fanaticism, he proclaims his philosophical faith, in an unseen world : and, rejecting with indignation the humiliating attempt to make out that the spiritual world is no better than an essence or elixir drained off from the material. - that thoughts are 'merely the shadows and ghosts of sensations,' he tells his disciples that the inward eyes of consciousness and conscience were to be purged and unsealed at the fountain of heavenly radiance, before they can discern the true form and colours and value of spiritual objects."

The personal humility of this sublime teacher, we may add, seems to have equalled the loftiness of his inspiration.

Of the other writings of Porphyry, space allows us to refer only to his Epistle to Anebo - a critical refutation of some of the popular prejudices of Pagan theology, such as the grosser dæmonism, necromancy, and incantation, (3) and, above all, animal sacrifice, to which his keen spiritual sense was essentially antagonistic. It is known only by fragments preserved in Eusebius. As to the theological or metaphysical opinions of Porphyry, "it is clear," remarks Dr. Donaldson, "that he had but little faith in the old polytheism of the Greeks. He expressly tells his wife (Letter to Marcella) that outward worship does neither good nor harm." In truth, as regards the better parts of Christianity, he was nearer to the religion of Jesus than of Jupiter, although he found himself in opposition to what he considered the evils of the principal expounders of Neo-Platonism, (4) his sympathies were with much that was contained in the Christian Scriptures, and, in particular, with the fourth Gospel, the sublime beginning of which, we are assured, the disciples of Plato regarded as "an exact transcript of their own opinions," and, which, as St. Augustine informs us (De Civ. Dei x., 29), they declared to be worthy to be written in letters of gold, and inscribed in the most conspicuous place in every Christian Church.

As for the learning, as well as lofty ideas, of the author of the treatise On Abstinence, there has been a general consensus of opinion even from his theological opponents. Augustin, himself among the most learned of the Latin Fathers, styles him doctissimus philosophorum ("the most learned of the philosophers"), and, again, philosophus nobilis ("a noble philosopher"), "a man of no common mind" (De Civit. Dei); and elsewhere he calls him "the great philosopher of the heathen." Even Eusebius, his immediate antagonist, concedes to him the titles of "the noble philosopher," "the wonderful theologian," "the great prophet of indefinable doctrines" (Greek). Donaldson, endorsing the common admiration of the moderns, describes his learning and erudition as "stupendous."

Amongst modern testimonies to the merits of Porphyry's treatise, On Abstinence, the sympathising remarks of Voltaire are worth transcribing :-

"It is well known that Pythagoras embraced this humane doctrine [of abstinence from flesh-eating], and carried it into Italy. His disciples followed it through a very long period of time. The celebrated philosophers, Plotinus, Iamblicus, and Porphyry, recommended and practised it, although it is sufficiently rare to practice what one preaches. The work of Porphyry, written in the middle of our third century, and very well translated into our language by M. de Burigni, is very much esteemed by the learned - but he has made no more converts amongst us than the book of the physician Hequet.(5) It is in vain that Porphyry proposes, as models, the Buddhists and Persian Magi of the first class, who held in abhorrence the practice of engulfing the entrails of other beings in their own - he is followed at present only by the Fathers of La Trappe (6). The treatise of Porphyry is addressed to one of his old disciples, named Firmus, who became a Christian it is said, to recover his liberty to eat flesh and drink wine.

"He remonstrates with Firmus, that in abstaining from flesh and from strong liquors, the health of the soul and of the body is preserved; that one lives longer and with more innocence. All his reflections are those of a scrupulous theologian, of a rigid philosopher, and of a gentle and sensitive spirit. One might believe, in reading him, that this great enemy of the Church is a Father of the Church. He does not speak of Metempsychosis, but he regards animals as our brothers - because they are endowed with life as we, because they have the same principles of life; the same feelings, ideas, memory, industry, as we. Speech alone is wanting to them. If they had it, should we dare to kill and eat them? Should we dare to commit those fratricides? What barbarian is there who would cause a lamb to be slaughtered and roasted, if that lamb conjured him by an affecting appeal, not to become at once an assassin, and cannibal?

"This book, at least, proves that there were, among the 'Gentiles,' philosophers of the strictest and purest virtue. Yet they could not prevail against the butchers and the gourmands. It is to be remarked that Porphyry makes a very beautiful eulogy on the Essenians. At that time the rivalship was who could be the most virtuous - Essenians, Pythagorenas, Stoics, Christians. When churches form but a small flock their manners are pure; they degenerate as they get powerful." (7)

Of this famous treatise there is, it appears, only one English translation, that of Taylor (1851), long out of print; and there is a German version by Herr Ed. Baltzer, President of the Vegetarian Society of Germany; thus we have to lament for Porphyry, no less than for Plutarch, the indifferentism of the publishers, or rather of the public, which allows a production, of an inspiration far above that of the common herd of writers, to continue to be a sealed book for the community in general.

It has been already stated that it consists of four Divisions. The first treats the Abstinence from the point of view of Temperance and Reason. In the second is considered the lawfulness or otherwise of animal sacrifice. In the third Porphyry treats the subject from the side of Justice. In the fourth he reviews the practice of some of the nations of antiquity and of the East - of the Egyptians, Hindus and others. This last book, by its abrupt termination, is evidently unfinished.

Porphyry begins with an expression of surprise and regret at the apostasy of the Pythagorean renegade :-

"For when I reflect with myself upon the cause of your change of mind [ he addresses his former associate], I cannot believe, as the vulgar herd would suppose, that it has anything to do with reasons of health or strength, inasmuch as you yourself, were used to assert that the fleshless diet is more consonant to healthfulness and to an even and proportionate endurance of philosophic toils (Greek), and experience fully proved the truth of your conviction. Whether then it was through some other fallacy or delusion, or through a later notion that this or that diet makes no difference to the intellectual powers, or whether it was from the fear of incurring odium by opposition to orthodox customs, or what the reason may have been, I am unable to conjecture.

He expresses his hope, or rather his belief, that the lapse was not due in this case to natural intemperance, or regret for the gluttonous habits (Greek) of flesh-eating.

He then proceeds to quote and refute the fallacies of the ordinary systems and sects, and, in particular, the objections of one Clodius, a Neapolitan, who had published a treatise against Pythagoreanism. He professes that he does not hope to influence those who are engaged in sordid and selfish, or in sanguinary, pursuits. Rather he addresses himself to the man

"Who considers what he is, whence he came, and whither he ought to tend; and who, in what pertains to nourishment of the body and other necessary concerns, is of really thoughtful and earnest mind - who resolves that he shall not be led astray and governed by his passions. And let such a man tell me whether a rich flesh diet is more easily procured, or incites less to the indulgence of irregular passions and appetites, than a light vegetables dietary. But if neither he, nor a physician, nor, indeed, any reasonable man whosoever, dares to affirm this, why do we persist in oppressing ourselves with gross feeding? And why do we not, together with that luxurious indulgence, throw off the encumbrances and snares which attend it?

It is not from those who have lived on innocent foods that murderers, tyrants, robbers, and sycophants have come, but from eaters of flesh. The necessaries of life are few and easily procured, without violation of justice, liberty, or peace of mind; whereas luxury obliges those ordinary souls who take delight in it to covet riches, to give up their liberty, to sell justice, to misspend their time, to ruin their health, and to renounce the satisfaction of an upright conscience."

In condemning animal sacrifice, he declares that 'it is by means of an exalted and purified intellect alone that we can approximate to the Supreme Being, to whom nothing material should be offered." He distinguishes four degrees of virtue, the lowest being that of the man who attempts to moderate his passions; the highest, the life of pure reason, by which man becomes one with the Supreme Existence.

In the third book, maintaining that other animals are endowed with high degrees of reasoning and of mental faculties, and, in some measure, even with moral perception, Porphyry proceeds logically to insist that they are, therefore, the proper objects of Justice :-

"By these arguments, and others which I shall afterwards adduce in recording the opinions of the old peoples, it is demonstrated that [many species of] the lower animals are rational. In very many, reason is imperfect indeed - of which, nevertheless, they are by no means destitute. Since then justice is due to rational beings, as our opponents allow, how is it possible to evade the admission also that we are bound to act justly towards the races of beings below us? We do not extend the obligations of justice to plants, because there appears in them no indication of reason ; although even in the case of these, while we eat the fruits, we do not, with the fruits to cut away the trunks. We use corn and leguminous vegetables when they have fallen on the earth and are dead. But no one uses for food the flesh of dead animals, unless they have been killed by violence. So that there is in these things a radical injustice. As Plutarch says, it does not follow, because we are in need of many things, that we should therefore act unjustly towards all beings. Inanimate things we are allowed to injure to a certain extent, in order to procure the necessary means of existence - if to take anything from plants while they are growing can be said to be an injury to them - but to destroy living and conscious beings merely for luxury and pleasure, is truly barbarous and unjust. And to refrain from killing them neither diminishes our sustenance nor hinders our living happily. If, indeed, the destruction of other animals and the eating of flesh were as requisite as air and water, plants and fruits, then there could be no injustice, as they would be necessary to our nature."

Porphyry, it is scarcely necessary to remark, by these arguments proves himself to have been, in moral as well as mental perception, as far ahead of the average thinkers of the present day as he was of his own times. He justly maintains that

"Sensation and perception are the principle of the kinship of all living beings. And [he reminds his opponents] Zeno and his followers [the Stoics] admit that alliance or kinship (Greek) (8) is the foundation of justice. Now, to the lower animals, certain perception and the sensations of pain and fear and injury. Is it not absurd, then whereas we see that many of our own species by brute sense alone, and exhibit neither reason nor intellect, and that very many of them surpass the most terrible wild beasts in cruelty, rage, rapine; that they murder even their own relatives; that they are tyrants and the tools of tyrants - seeing all this, is it not absurd, I say, to hold that we are obliged by nature to act leniently towards them, while no kindness is due from us to the Ox that ploughs, the Dog that is brought up with us, and those who that nourish us with their milk, and cover our bodies with their wool ? Is not such a prejudice most irrational and absurd ?"

To the objection of Chrysippus (the second founder of the school of the Porch) that the gods made us for themselves and for the sake of each other, and that they made the non-human species for us - a convenient subterfuge by no means unknown to writers and talkers of our own times - Porphyry unanswerably replies :-

"Let him to whom this sophism may appear to have weight or probability, consider how he would meet the dictum of Karneades (9) that 'everything is benefited when it obtain the ends to which it is adapted and for which it was generated.' Now benefit is to be understood in a more general way as meaning what the Stoics call useful. 'The hog, however,' says Chrysippus, 'was produced by nature for the purpose of being slaughtered and used for food, and when it undergoes this, it obtains the end for which it is adapted, and it is therefore benefited!' But if God brought other animals into existence for the use of men, what use do we make of flies, beetles, lice, vipers, and scorpions? Some of these are hateful to the sight, defile the touch, are intolerable to the smell, while others are actually destructive to human beings who fall in their way (10). With respect to the cetacea, in particular which Homer tells us live by myriads in the seas, does not the Demiurgus (11) teach us that they have come into being for the good of things in general? And unless they affirm that all things were indeed made for us and on our sole account, how can they escape the imputation of wrong-doing in treating injuriously beings that came into existence according to the general arrangement of Nature?

"I omit to insist on the fact that if we depend on the argument of necessity or utility, we cannot avoid admitting by implication that we ourselves were created only for the sake of certain destructive animals, such as crocodiles and snakes and other monsters, for we are not in the least benefited by them. On the contrary they seize and destroy and devour men whom they meet - in so doing acting not at all more cruelly than we. Nay, they act thus savagely through want and hunger; we from insolent wantonness and luxurious pleasure (12), amusing ourselves as we do also in the Circus and in the murderous sports of the chase. By thus acting, a barbarous and brutal nature becomes strengthened in us, and renders men insensible to the feeling of pity and compassion. Those who first perpetuated these iniquities fatally blunted the most important part of the civilised mind. Therefore it is that the Pythagoreans consider kindness and gentleness to the lower animals to be an exercise of philanthropy and gentleness."

Porphyry unanswerably and eloquently concludes this division of his subject with the à fortiori argument :-

"By admitting that [selfish] pleasure is the legitimate end of our actions, justice is evidently destroyed. For to whom must it not be clear that the feeling of justice is fostered by abstinence? He who abstains from injuring other species will be so much the more careful not to injure his own kind. For he who loves all animated Nature will not hate any one tribe of innocent beings, and by how much the greater his love for the whole, by so much the more will he cultivate justice towards a part of them, and that to that part to which he is most allied."

In fine, according to Porphyry, he who extends his sympathies to all innocent life is nearest to the Divine nature. Well would it have been for all the after-ages had this, the only sure foundation of any code of ethics worthy of the name, found favour with the constituted instructors and rulers of the western world. The fourth and final Book reviews the dietetic habits of some of the leading peoples of antiquity, and of certain of the philosophic societies which practised abstinence more or less rigidly. As for the Essenes, Porphyry describes their code of morals and manner of living in terms of high praise. We can here give only an abstract of his eloquent eulogism :-

"They are despisers of mere riches, and the communistic principle with them is admirably carried out. Nor is it possible to find amongst them a single person distinguished by the possession of wealth, for all who enter the society are obliged by their laws to divide property for the common good. There is neither humiliation of poverty nor the arrogance of wealth. Their managers or guardians are elected by vote, and each of them is chosen with a view to the welfare and needs of all. They have no city or town, but dwell together in separate communities. . . . They do not discard their dress for a new one, before the first is really worn out by length of time. There is no buying or selling amongst them. Each gives to each according to his or her wants, and there is a free interchange between them. . . . They come to their dining-hall as to some pure and undefiled temple, and when they have taken their seats quietly, the baker sets their loaves before them in order, and the cook gives them one dish each of one sort, while their priest first recites a form of thanks-giving for their pure and refined food (Greek).

The testimony of the national historian of the Jews, it is interesting to observe, is equally favourable to those pioneers of the modern communisms. "The Essenes, as we call a sect of ours," writes Josephus, "pursue the same kind of life as those whom the Greeks call Pythagoreans. They are long-lived also, insomuch that many of them exist above a hundred years by means of their simplicity of diet and the regular course of their lives" (Antiquities of the Jews.). Upon entering the society and partaking of the common meal (which, with baptism, was the outward and visible sign of initiation) three solemn oaths were administered to each aspirant :-

"First, that he would reverence the divine ideal (Greek); second, that he would carefully practise justice towards his fellow-beings and refrain from injury, whether by his own or another's will; that he would always hate the Unjust and fight earnestly on the side of (Greek) the Just and lovers of justice; keep faith with all men; if in power, never use authority insolently or violently; nor surpass his subordinates in dress and ornaments; above all things always to love Truth."

As for their food, while they seem not to have been bound to total abstinence from every kind of flesh, they may be considered to have been almost Vegetarian in practice. To kill any innocent individual of the non-human species that had sought refuge or an asylum amongst them was a breach of the most sacred laws : to spare the domesticated races, or fellow-workers with man, even in an enemy's country, was a solemn duty. For, says Porphyry, their founder had no groundless fear that there could be any overabundance of life productive of famine to ourselves, inasmuch as he knew, first, that those animals who bring forth many young at a time are short lived, and, secondly, that their too rapid increase is kept down by other hostile animals. "A proof of which is," he continues, "that though we abstain from eating very many, such as dogs, wild beats, rats, lizards, and others, there is yet no fear that we should ever suffer from famine in consequence of their excessive multiplication; and, again, it is one thing to have to kill, and another to eat, since we have to kill many ferocious animals whom we do not also eat."

He quotes the historians of Syria who allege that, in the earlier period, the inhabitants of that part of the world abstained from all flesh, and, therefore, from sacrifice; and that when, afterwards, to avert some impending misfortune they were induced to offer up propitiatory victims, the practice of flesh-eating was by no means general. And Asklepiades says, in his History of Cyprus and Phoenicia, that "no living being was sacrificed to heaven, nor was there even any express law on the subject, since it was forbidden by the law of Nature (Greek) :" that in course of time, they took to occasional propitiatory sacrifice: and that, at one of these times, the sacrificing priest happened to place his blood-smeared finger on his mouth, was tempted to repeat the action, and thus introduced the habit of flesh-eating, whence the general practice. As for the Persian Magi (the successors of Zerdusht), we are informed that the principal and most esteemed of their order neither eat nor kill any living being, while those of the second class eat the flesh of some, but not of domesticated , animals; nor do even the third order eat indiscriminately. Instances are adduced of certain peoples who, being compelled by necessity to live upon flesh, have evidently deteriorated and been rendered savage and ferocious, "from which examples it is clearly unbecoming men of good disposition to belie their human nature (Greek)."

Amongst individuals he instances the example of the traditionary Athenian legislator Triptolemus -

"Of whom Hermippus, in his second book on the legislators writes : Of his laws, according to Xenocrates the philosopher, the three following remain in force at Eleusis - 'to gratify Heaven with the offering of fruits,' 'to harass or harm no [innocent] living being.' . . . As to the third, he is in doubt for what particular reason Triptolemus charged them to abstain - whether from believing it to be criminal to kill those that have an identical origin with ourselves (Greek), or from a consciousness that the slaughter of all the most useful animals would be the inevitable consequence to it, and wishing to render human life mild and innocent, and to preserve those species that are tame and gentle and domesticated with man. (13)



  1. [footnote in Greek]
  2. "The first book discussed alleged contradictions and other marks of human fallibility in the Scriptures; the third treated of Scriptural interpretation, and, strangely enough, repudiated the allegories of Origen; the fourth examined the ancient history of the Jews; and , the twelfth and thirteenth maintained the point now generally admitted by scholars - that Daniel is not a prophecy, but a retrospective history of the age of Antiochus Epiphanes." - Donaldson (Hist. of Gr. Lit.)
  3. In justice to the old Greek Theology which, as it really was, has enough to answer for, it must be remarked that its Demonology, or belief in the powers of subordinate divinities - in the first instance merely the internunciaries, or mediators, or angels between Heaven and Earth - was a very different thing from the Diabolism of Christian theology, a fact which, perhaps, can be adequately recognised by those only who happen to be acquainted with the history of that most widely-spread and most fearful of all superstitions. Necessarily, from the vague and, for the most part, merely secular character of the earlier theologies, the infernal horrors, with the frightful creed, tortures, burnings, &c., which characterised the faith of Christendom, were wholly unknown to the religion of Apollo and Jupiter.
  4. Neo or New Platonism may be briefly defined as a spiritual development of the Socratic or Platonic teaching. In the hands of some of its less judicious and rational advocates it tended to degenerate into puerile, though harmless, superstition. With the superior intellects of a Plotinus, Porphyry, Longinus, Hypatia, or Proclus, on the other hand, it was in the main at least, a sublime attempt at the purification and spiritualisation of the established orthodox creed. It occupied a position midway between the old and the new religion, which was soon to celebrate its triumph over its effete rival. That Christianity, on its spiritual side (whatever the ingratitude of its later authorities), owes far more than is generally acknowledged to both the old and newer Platonism, is sufficiently apparent to the attentive student of theological history.
  5. Author of a Treatise on the Abandonment of the Flesh Diet, 1709. He died in the year 1737.
  6. Voltaire might have added the examples of the Greek Coenobites. There is at least one celebrated and long-established religious community, in the Sinaitic peninsula, which has always rigidly excluded all flesh from their diet. Like the community of La Trappe, these religious Vegetarians are notoriously the most free from disease and most long-lived of their countrymen.
  7. Article Viande (Diet Phil.) (PDF 16mb) In other passages in his writings the philosopher Ferney, we may here remark, expresses his sympathy with the humane diet. See especially his Essai sur les Moeurs at l'Esprit des Nations (introduction), and his Romance of La Pricesse de Babylone.
  8. (Greek) strictly means adoption, admission to intimacy and family life, or "domestication."
  9. The founder of the new Academy at Athens, and the vigorous opponent of the Stoics.
  10. That unreasoning arrogance of human selfishness, which pretends that all other living beings have come into existence for the sole benefit of man, has often been exposed by the wiser, and therefore more humble, thinkers of our race. Pope has well rebuked this sort of monstrous arrogance :-

    "Has God, thou fool, worked solely for thy good,
    Thy joy, thy pastime, thy attire, thy food?
    . . . . . . . . .
    Know, Nature's children all divide her own,
    The fur that warms a monarch, warmed a bear.
    While man exclaims: 'See, al things for my use!'
    'See, man for mine,' replies a pampered goose.
    And just as short of reason he must fall,
    Who thinks all made for one, not one for all."
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Essay on Man, III.

    And, as a commentary upon these truly philosophic verses, we may quote the words of a recent able writer, answering the objection, "Why were sheep and oxen created, if not for the use of man?" He replies to the same effect as Porphyry 1600 years ago: "It is only pride and imbecility in man to imagine all things made for his sole use. There exist millions of suns and their revolving orbs which the eye of man has never perceived. Myriads of animals enjoy their pastime unheeded and unseen by him - many are injurious and destructive to him, All exist for purposes but partially known. Yet we must believe, in general, that all were created for their own enjoyment, for mutual advantage, and for the preservation of universal harmony in Nature. If, merely because we can eat sheep pleasantly, we are to believe that they exist only to supply us with food, we may as well say that man was created solely for the various parasitical animals to feed on, because they do feed on him." - (Fruits and Farinecea : the Proper Food of Man [PDF 9mb]. by J. Smith. Edited by Professor Newman. Heywood, Manchester; Pitman, London.) See, also, amongst other philosophic writers, the remarks of Joseph Ritson in his "Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food a Moral Duty" - (Phillips, London, 1802). As to Oxen and Sheep, it must be further remarked that they have been made what they are by the intervention of man alone. The original and wild stocks (especially that of sheep) are very different from the metamorphosed and almost helpless domesticated varieties. Naturam violant, pacem appellant.
  11. The Artificer or Creator, par excellence. In the Platonic language, the usual distinguishing name of the subordinate creator of our imperfect world.
  12. Cf. Ovid's Metam, xv.; Plutarch's Essay on Flesh-Eating; Thomson's Seasons.
  13. [Greek] In the number of the traditionary reformers and civilisers of the earlier nations, the name of Orpheus has always held a foremost place. In early Christian times Orpheus and the literature with which his mane is connected occupy a very prominent and important position, and some celebrated forged prophecies passed current as the utterances of that haf-legendary hero. Horace adopts the popular belief as to his radical dietetic reform in the following verses :-

    Silvestres homines sacer, interpresque Deorum,
    Cœdibus et fœdo victu deterruit Orpheus
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . - ars Poetica

    Virgil assigns him a place in the first rank of the Just in the Elysian paradise. - Æn. vi.

Howard Williams, The Ethics of Diet - index