In Section XIII of her book “The Key to Theosophy,” H. P. Blavatsky deals with the issue of meat eating and vegetarianism and also that of drinking alcohol and using drugs.
Although the vast majority of spiritually inclined people steer well clear from the use of such things as recreational drugs, it is the case that many continue to eat meat and drink alcohol, just as they did before becoming involved with spiritual things.
For those who give credence to the words and teachings of Madame Blavatsky and the Masters she represented, we will summarise here the essence of what she had to say about the matter…
* Eating meat has the effect of “clogging” and “weighing” our “brains and bodies” and “hampering and retarding the development of [our] intuition, inner faculties and powers.” It “retards our progress.”
* “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.”
* “Every kind of animal tissue, however you may cook it, still retains certain marked characteristics of the animal which it belonged to.”
* “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.”
* “Occult science teaches and proves to its students … that this “coarsening” or “animalizing” effect on man is greatest from the flesh of larger animals, less for birds, still less for fish and other cold-blooded animals and least of all when he eats only vegetables.”
* Just as the eating of meat has a negative and undesirable effect on our inner nature, so does the drinking of alcohol and the use of drugs.
* Any type of alcohol is bad for our “moral and spiritual growth” and has a “very deleterious influence on man’s psychic condition.” Drinking wine and spirits to any degree at all is “destructive to the development of the inner powers.”
* Drinking alcohol is more detrimental than eating meat, and using drugs is more detrimental than drinking alcohol.
So we can see that the “order of detriment” (for want of a better phrase) for these things is (1) Drugs (2) Alcohol (3) Meat.
In her article “Practical Occultism” – which bears the subtitle of “Important to Students” – HPB quotes 12 of the 73 “private rules” which apply to all serious aspirants for chelaship (discipleship) in the esoteric Tibetan Brotherhood. In other words, these rules relate to certain practices and modes of thought and living which must be strictly followed by anyone, man or woman, who would pass through the portals of initiation and become a Master, an Adept, a true and effective Helper of Humanity, in their own right.
One of these is as follows: “No animal food of whatever kind, nothing that has life in it should be taken by the disciple. No wine, no spirits, or opium should be used; for these are like the Lhamayin (evil spirits), who fasten upon the unwary, they devour the understanding.”
In her note on this rule, HPB explains that “Wine and spirits are supposed to contain and preserve the bad magnetism of all the men who helped in their fabrication; the meat of each animal, to preserve the psychic characteristics of its kind.”
A few of the other rules quoted which are especially worthy of our contemplation are –
“7. None can feel the difference between himself and his fellow-students, such as “I am the wisest,” “I am more holy and pleasing to the teacher, or in my community, than my brother,” etc., – and remain an upasaka. His thoughts must be predominantly fixed upon his heart, chasing therefrom every hostile thought to any living being. It (the heart) must be full of the feeling of its non-separateness from the rest of beings as from all in Nature; otherwise no success can follow.”
“11. Meditation, abstinence in all, the observation of moral duties, gentle thoughts, good deeds and kind words, as good will to all and entire oblivion of Self, are the most efficacious means of obtaining knowledge and preparing for the reception of higher wisdom.”
“12. It is only by virtue of a strict observance of the foregoing rules that a Lanoo can hope to acquire in good time the Siddhis of the Arhats, the growth which makes him become gradually One with the UNIVERSAL ALL.”
As for the eating of meat, Theosophy teaches that all life is sacred, all life is precious, all life is divine. All life is the ONE Life.
Yet in spite of all the above, Theosophy rightly maintains that we should never judge people for their personal eating habits, nor for anything else. We should also remember that there is a very small proportion of people who do have to eat some meat due to medical reasons and who would literally not survive on a purely vegetarian diet, although this is estimated to be less than 5% of the population.
In that same section of “The Key to Theosophy” H.P. Blavatsky says, “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.”
And William Q. Judge, HPB’s closest colleague and co-founder of the modern Theosophical Movement, writes:
“What, then, is the true theosophic diet? 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; and, if it is practiced from the sincere conviction that it is not true brotherhood to destroy living creatures so highly organized as animals, then so much the better. But if you refrain from meat in order to develop your psychic powers and senses, and continue the same sort of thoughts you have always had, neither cultivating nor practicing the highest altruism, the vegetarianism is in vain. . . . True theosophic diet is therefore not of either meat or wine; it is unselfish thoughts and deeds, . . .” (“Theosophic Diet” article)
“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. . . . the kingdom of heaven is not of meat nor of drink: it cometh not from eating nor refraining – it cometh of itself.” (“About Killing Animals” article)
In a letter to the English Theosophist A.P. Sinnett, HPB passed on the message from her Guru, the Master M., that “Mr Sinnett is advised by M. to make a special duty to prevent his little son being made to eat meat – not even fowls, and to write so to Mrs Sinnett. Once the Mother has placed the child under K.H.’s [i.e. the Master Koot Hoomi] protection let her see nothing pollutes his nature.”
The Masters of Wisdom behind the Theosophical Movement have stated that the pursuit of Occult Science is “fatal” to the practices of “wine drinking and flesh eating.” Animals are just as divine in their inner essence as we are ourselves. The majority of them are helpless and defenceless against, and easily overpowered by, the violent or murderous intent of a human being. Can we not love them, care for them, and show them the same compassion that we would show for an innocent, helpless, defenceless human being?
What we do and how we live our lives is entirely up to us. No Theosophist is thought of as being any the worse if he or she chooses to eat meat or drink alcohol. At the end of the day it is solely a matter of our own conscience.
It may perhaps seem that this article is not clear enough in definitively stating whether or not one ought to be vegetarian, seeing as on the one hand HPB and the Masters strongly advocate it and that then on the other hand we find both her and WQJ saying that it isn’t the most important thing and that eating meat is in fact permissible, even if not ideal. This is because it is up to us to decide for ourselves what is the best course of action for us to take at this point in our lives.
~ BlavatskyTheosophy.com ~
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