Porphyry, On abstinence from animal food (1823) Book 1. pp.11-44
[Translated by Thomas Taylor]
1. Hearing from some of our acquaintance, O Firmus 1, that you, having rejected a fleshless diet, have again returned to animal food, at first I did not credit the report, when I considered your temperance, and the reverence which you have been taught to pay to those ancient and pious men from whom we have received the precepts of philosophy. But when others who came after these confirmed this report, it appeared to me that it would be too rustic and remote from the rational method of persuasion to reprehend you, who neither, according to the proverb, flying from evil have found something better, nor according to Empedocles, having lamented your former life, have converted yourself to one that is more excellent. I have therefore thought it worthy of the friendship which subsists between us, and also adapted to those who have arranged their life conformably to truth, to disclose your errors through a confutation derived from an argumentative discussion.
2. For when I considered with myself what could be the cause of this alteration in your diet, I could by no means suppose that it was for the sake of health and strength, as the vulgar and idiots would say; since, on the contrary, you yourself, when you were with us, confessed that a fleshless diet contributed both to health and to the proper endurance of philosophic labours; and experience testifies, that in saying this you spoke the truth. It appears, therefore, that you have returned to your former illegitimate 2 conduct, either through deception,3 because you |12 think it makes no difference with respect to the acquisition of wisdom whether you use this or that diet; or perhaps through some other cause of which I am ignorant, which excited in you a greater fear than that which could be produced by the impiety of transgression. For I should not say that you have despised the philosophic laws which we derived from our ancestors, and which you have so much admired, through intemperance, or for the sake of voracious gluttony; or that you are naturally inferior to some of the vulgar, who, when they have assented to laws, though contrary to those under which they formerly lived, will suffer amputation [rather than violate them], and will abstain from certain animals on which they before fed, more than they would from human flesh.
3. But when I was also informed by certain persons that you even employed arguments against those who abstained from animal food, I not only pitied, but was indignant with you, that, being persuaded by certain frigid and very corrupt sophisms, you have deceived yourself, and have endeavoured to subvert a dogma which is both ancient and dear to the Gods. Hence it appeared to me to be requisite not only to show what our own opinion is on this subject, but also to collect and dissolve the arguments of our opponents, which are much stronger than those adduced by you in multitude and power, and every other apparatus; and thus to demonstrate, that truth is not vanquished even by those arguments which seem to be weighty, and much less by superficial sophisms. For you are perhaps ignorant, that not a few philosophers are adverse to abstinence from animal food, but that this is the case with those of the Peripatetic and Stoic sects, and with most of the Epicureans; the last of whom have written in opposition to the philosophy of Pythagoras and Empedocles, of which you once were studiously emulous. To this abstinence, likewise, many philologists are adverse, among whom Clodius the Neapolitan wrote a treatise against those who abstain from flesh. Of these men I shall adduce the disquisitions and common arguments against this dogma, at the same time omitting those reasons which are peculiarly employed by them against the demonstrations of Empedocles.
The Arguments of the Peripatetics and Stoics from Heraclides Ponticus 4 |13
4. Our opponents therefore say, in the first place, that justice will be confounded, and things immoveable be moved, if we extend what is just, not only to the rational, but also to the irrational nature; conceiving that not only Gods and men pertain to us, but that there is likewise an alliance between us and brutes, who [in reality] have no conjunction with us. Nor shall we employ some of them in laborious works, and use others for food, from a conviction that the association which is between us and them, in the same manner as that of some foreign polity, pertains to a tribe different from ours, and is dishonourable. For he who uses these as if they were men, sparing and not injuring them, thus endeavouring to adapt to justice that which it cannot bear, both destroys its power, and corrupts that which is appropriate, by the introduction of what is foreign. For it necessarily follows, either that we act unjustly by sparing them, or if we spare, and do not employ them, that it will be impossible for us to live. We shall also, after a manner, live the life of brutes, if we reject the use of which they are capable of affording.
5. For I shall omit to mention the innumerable multitude of Nomades and Troglodyte, who know of no other nutriment than that of flesh; but to us who appear to live mildly and philanthropically, what work would be left for us on the earth or in the sea, what illustrious art, what ornament of our food would remain, if we conducted ourselves innoxiously and reverentially towards brutes, as if they were of a kindred nature with us? For it would be impossible to assign any work, any medicine, or any remedy for the want which is destructive of life, or that we can act justly, unless we preserve the ancient boundary and law.
To fishes, savage beasts, and birds, devoid
Of justice, Jove to devour each other
Granted; but justice to mankind he gave.5
i.e. towards each other.
6. But it is not possible for us to act unjustly towards those to whom we are not obliged to act justly. Hence, for those who reject this reasoning, no other road of justice is left, either broad or narrow, into which they can enter. For, as we have already observed, our nature, not being |14 sufficient to itself, but indigent of many things, would be entirely destroyed, and enclosed in a life involved in difficulties, unorganic, and deprived of necessaries, if excluded from the assistance derived from animals. It is likewise said, that those first men did not live prosperously; for this superstition did not stop at animals, but compelled its votaries even to spare plants. For, indeed, what greater injury does he do, who cuts the throat of an ox or a sheep, than he who cuts down a fir tree or an oak? Since, from the doctrine of transmigration, a soul is also implanted in these. These therefore are the principal arguments of the Stoics and Peripatetics.
The Arguments of the Epicureans, from Hermachus 6
7. The Epicureans, however, narrating, as it were, a long genealogy, say, that the ancient legislators, looking to the association of life, and the mutual actions of men, proclaimed that manslaughter was unholy, and punished it with no casual disgrace. Perhaps, indeed, a certain natural alliance which exists in men towards each other, though the similitude of form and soul, is the reason why they do not so readily destroy an animal of this kind, as some of the other animals which are conceded to our use. Nevertheless, the greatest cause why manslaughter was considered as a thing grievous to be borne, and impious, was the opinion that it did not contribute to the whole nature and condition of human life. For, from a principle of this kind, those who are capable of perceiving the advantage arising from this decree, require no other cause of being restrained from a deed so dire. But those who are not able to have a sufficient perception of this, being terrified by the magnitude of the punishment, will abstain from readily destroying each other. For those, indeed, who survey the utility of the before-mentioned ordinance, will promptly observe it; but those who are not able to perceive the benefit with which it is attended, will obey the mandate, in consequence of fearing the threatenings of the laws; which threatenings certain persons ordained for the sake of those who could not, by a reasoning process, infer the beneficial tendency of the decree, at the same time that most would admit this to be evident.
8. For none of those legal institutes which were established from the |15 first, whether written or unwritten, and which still remain, and are adapted to be transmitted, [from one generation to another] became lawful through violence, but through the consent of those that used them. For those who introduced things of this kind to the multitude, excelled in wisdom, and not in strength of body, and the power which subjugates the rabble. Hence, through this, some were led to a rational consideration of utility, of which they had only an irrational sensation, and which they had frequently forgotten; but others were terrified by the magnitude of the punishments. For it was not possible to use any other remedy for the ignorance of what is beneficial than the dread of the punishment ordained by law. For this alone even now keeps the vulgar in awe, and prevents them from doing any thing, either publicly or privately, which is not beneficial [to the community]. But if all men were similarly capable of surveying and recollecting what is advantageous, there would be no need of laws, but men would spontaneously avoid such things as are prohibited, and perform such as they were ordered to do. For a survey of what is useful and detrimental, is a sufficient incentive to the avoidance of the one and the choice of the other. But the infliction of punishment has a reference to those who do not foresee what is beneficial. For impendent punishment forcibly compels such as these to subdue those impulses which lead them to useless actions, and to do that which is right.
9. Hence also, legislators ordained, that even involuntary manslaughter should not be entirely void of punishment; in order that they might not only afford no pretext for the voluntary imitation of those deeds which were involuntarily performed, but also that they might prevent many things of this kind from taking place, which happen, in reality, involuntarily. For neither is this advantageous through the same causes, by which men were forbidden voluntarily to destroy each other. Since, therefore, of involuntary deeds, some proceed from a cause which is unstable, and which cannot be guarded against by human nature; but others are produced by our negligence and inattention to different circumstances; hence legislators, wishing to restrain that indolence which is injurious to our neighbours, did not even leave an involuntary noxious deed without punishment, but, through the fear of penalties, prevented the commission of numerous offences of this kind. I also am of opinion, that the slaughters which are allowed by law, and which receive their accustomed expiations through certain purifications, were introduced by those ancient legislators, who first very properly instituted these things for no other reason than that they wished to prevent men as much as possible from voluntary slaughter. For the |16 vulgar everywhere require something which may impede them from promptly performing what is not advantageous [to the community]. Hence those who first perceived this to be the case, not only ordained the punishment of fines, but also excited a certain other irrational dread, though proclaiming those not to be pure who in any way whatever had slain a man, unless they used purifications after the commission of the deed. For that part of the soul which is void of intellect, being variously disciplined, acquired a becoming mildness, certain taming arts having been from the first invented for the purpose of subduing the irrational impulses of desire, by those who governed the people. And one of the precepts promulgated on this occasion was, that men should not destroy each other without discrimination.
10. Those, however, who first defined what we ought to do, and what we ought not, very properly did not forbid us to kill other animals. For the advantage arising from these is effected by a contrary practice, since it is not possible that men could be preserved, unless they endeavoured to defend those who are nurtured with themselves from the attacks of other animals. At that time, therefore, some of those, of the most elegant manners, recollecting that they abstained from slaughter because it was useful to the public safety, they also reminded the rest of the people in their mutual associations of what was the consequence of this abstinence; in order that, by refraining from the slaughter of their kindred, they might preserve that communion which greatly contributes to the peculiar safety of each individual. But it was not only found to be useful for men not to separate from each other, and not to do any thing injurious to those who were collected together in the same place, for the purpose of repelling the attacks of animals of another species; but also for defence against men whose design was to act nefariously. To a certain extent, therefore, they abstained from the slaughter of men, for these reasons, viz. in order that there might be a communion among them in things that are necessary, and that a certain utility might be afforded in each of the above-mentioned incommodities. In the course of time, however, when the offspring of mankind, through their intercourse with each other, became more widely extended, and animals of a different species were expelled, certain persons directed their attention in a rational way to what was useful to men in their mutual nutriment, and did not alone recall this to their memory in an irrational manner.
11. Hence they endeavoured still more firmly to restrain those who readily destroyed each other, and who, through an oblivion of past |17 transactions, prepared a more imbecile defence. But in attempting to effect this, they introduced those legal institutes which still remain in cities and nations; the multitude spontaneously assenting to them, in consequence of now perceiving, in a greater degree, the advantage arising from an association with each other. For the destruction of every thing noxious, and the preservation of that which is subservient to its extermination, similarly contribute to a fearless life. And hence it is reasonable to suppose, that one of the above-mentioned particulars was forbidden, but that the other was not prohibited. Nor must it be said, that the law allows us to destroy some animals which are not corruptive of human nature, and which are not in any other way injurious to our life. For as I may say, no animal among those which the law permits us to kill is of this kind; since, if we suffered them to increase excessively, they would become injurious to us. But through the number of them which is now preserved, certain advantages are imparted to human life. For sheep and oxen, and every such like animal, when the number of them is moderate, are beneficial to our necessary wants; but if they become redundant in the extreme, and far exceed the number which is sufficient, they then become detrimental to our life; the latter by employing their strength, in consequence of participating of this through an innate power of nature, and the former, by consuming the nutriment which springs up from the earth for our benefit alone. Hence, through this cause, the slaughter of animals of this kind is not prohibited, in order that as many of them as are sufficient for our use, and which we may be able easily to subdue, may be left. For it is not with horses, oxen, and sheep, and with all tame animals, as it is with lions and wolves, and, in short, with all such as are called savage animals, that, whether the number of them is small or great, no multitude of them can be assumed, which, if left, would alleviate the necessity of our life. And on this account, indeed, we utterly destroy some of them; but of others, we take away as many as are found to be more than commensurate to our use.
12. On this account, from the above-mentioned causes, it is similarly requisite to think, that what pertains to the eating of animals, was ordained by those who from the first established the laws; and that the advantageous and the disadvantageous were the causes why some animals were permitted to be eaten and others not. So that those who assert, that every thing beautiful and just subsists conformably to the peculiar opinions of men respecting those who establish the laws, are full of a certain most profound stupidity. For it is not possible that this thing can take place in any other way than that in which the other utilities of |18 life subsist, such as those that are salubrious, and an innumerable multitude of others. Erroneous opinions, however, are entertained in many particulars, both of a public and private nature. For certain persons do not perceive those legal institutes, which are similarly adapted to all men; but some, conceiving them to rank among things of an indifferent nature, omit them; while others, who are of a contrary opinion, think that such things as are not universally profitable, are every where advantageous. Hence, through this cause, they adhere to things which are unappropriate; though in certain particulars they discover what is advantageous to themselves, and what contributes to general utility. And among these are to be enumerated the eating of animals, and the legally ordained destructions which are instituted by most nations on account of the peculiarity of the region. It is not necessary, however, that these institutes should be preserved by us, because we do not dwell in the same place as those did by whom they were made. If, therefore, it was possible to make a certain compact with other animals in the same manner as with men, that we should not kill them, nor they us, and that they should not be indiscriminately destroyed by us, it would be well to extend justice as far as to this; for this extent of it would be attended with security. But since it is among things impossible, that animals which are not recipients of reason should participate with us of law, on this account, utility cannot be in a greater degree procured by security from other animals, than from inanimate natures. But we can alone obtain security from the liberty which we now possess of putting them to death. And such are the arguments of the Epicureans.
The Arguments of Claudius the Neapolitan who published a Treatise against Abstinence from Animal Food.
13. It now remains, that we should adduce what plebeians and the vulgar are accustomed to say on this subject. For they say, that the ancients abstained from animals, not through piety, but because they did not yet know the use of fire; but that as soon as they became acquainted with its utility, they then conceived it to be most honourable and sacred. They likewise called it Vesta, and from this the appellation of convestals or companions was derived; and afterwards they began to use animals. For it is natural to man to eat flesh, but contrary to his nature to eat it raw. Fire, therefore, being discovered, they embraced what is natural, and admitted the eating of boiled and masted flesh. Hence |19 lynxes are [said by Homer 7 to be] crudivorous, or eaters of raw flesh; and of Priam, also, he says, as a disgraceful circumstance,
Raw flesh by you, O Priam, is devoured 8.
Raw flesh, dilacerating, he devoured 9.
And this is said, as if the eating of raw flesh pertained to the impious. Telemachus, also, when Minerva was his guest, placed before her not raw, but roasted flesh. At first, therefore, men did not eat animals, for man is not [naturally] a devourer of raw flesh. But when the use of fire was discovered, fire was employed not only for the cooking of flesh, but also for most other eatables. For that man is not [naturally] adapted to eat raw flesh, is evident from certain nations that feed on fishes. For these they roast, some upon stones that are very much heated by the sun; but others roast them in the sand. That man, however, is adapted to feed on flesh, is evident from this, that no nation abstains from animal food. Nor is this adopted by the Greeks through depravity, since the same custom is admitted by the barbarians.
14. But he who forbids men to feed on animals, and thinks it is unjust, will also say that it is not just to kill them, and deprive them of life. Nevertheless, an innate and just war is implanted in us against brutes. For some of them voluntarily attack men, as, for instance, wolves and lions; others not voluntarily, as serpents, since they bite not, except they are trampled on. And some, indeed, attack men; but others destroy the fruits of the earth. From all these causes, therefore, we do not spare the life of brutes; but we destroy those who commence hostilities against us, as also those who do not, lest we should suffer any evil from them. For there is no one who, if he sees a serpent, will not, if he is able, destroy it, in order that neither it, nor any other serpent, may bite a man. And this arises, not only from our hatred of those that are the destroyers of our race, but likewise from that kindness which subsists between one |20 man and another. But though the war against brutes is just, yet we abstain from many which associate with men. Hence, the Greeks do not feed either on dogs, or horses, or asses, because of these, those that are tame are of the same species as the wild. Nevertheless, they eat swine and birds. For a hog is not useful for anything but food. The Phoenicians, however, and Jews, abstain from it, because, in short, it is not produced in those places. For it is said, that this animal is not seen in Ethiopia even at present. As, therefore, no Greek sacrifices a camel or an elephant to the Gods, because Greece does not produce these animals, so neither is a hog sacrificed to the Gods in Cyprus or Phoenicia, because it is not indigenous in those places. And, for the same reason, neither do the Egyptians sacrifice this animal to the Gods. In short, that some nations abstain from a hog, is similar to our being unwilling to eat the flesh of camels.
15. But why should any one abstain from animals? Is it because feeding on them makes the soul or the body worse? It is, however, evident, that neither of these is deteriorated by it. For those animals that feed on flesh are more sagacious than others, as they are venatic, and possess an art by which they supply themselves with food, and acquire power and strength; as is evident in lions and wolves. So that the eating of flesh neither injures the soul nor the body. This likewise is manifest, both from the athletae, whose bodies become stronger by feeding on flesh, and from physicians, who restore bodies to health by the use of animal food. For this is no small indication that Pythagoras did not think sanely, that none of the wise men embraced his opinion; since neither any one of the seven wise men, nor any of the physiologists who lived after them, nor even the most wise Socrates, or his followers, adopted it.
16. Let it, however, be admitted that all men are persuaded of the truth of this dogma, respecting abstinence from animals. But what will be the boundary of the propagation of animals? For no one is ignorant how numerous the progeny is of the swine and the hare. And to these add all other animals. Whence, therefore, will they be supplied with pasture? And what will husbandmen do? For they will not destroy those who destroy the fruits of the earth. And the earth will not be able to bear the multitude of animals. Corruption also will be produced from the putridity of those that will die. And thus, from pestilence taking place, no refuge will be left. For the sea, and rivers, and marshes, will be filled with fishes, and the air with birds, but the earth will be full of reptiles of every kind. |21
17. How many likewise will be prevented from having their diseases cured, if animals are abstained from? For we see that those who are blind recover their sight by eating a viper. A servant of Craterus, the physician, happening to be seized with a new kind of disease, in which the flesh fell away from the bones, derived no benefit from medicines; but by eating a viper prepared after the manner of a fish, the flesh became conglutinated to the bones, and he was restored to health. Many other animals also, and their several parts, cure diseases when they are properly used for that purpose; of all which remedies he will be frustrated who rejects animal food.
18. But, if as they say, plants also have a soul, what will become of our life if we neither destroy animals nor plants? If, however, he is not impious who cuts off plants, neither will he be who kills animals.
19. But some one may, perhaps, say it is not proper to destroy that which belongs to the same tribe with ourselves; if the souls of animals are of the same essence with ourselves. If, however, it should be granted that souls are inserted in bodies voluntarily, it must be said that it is through a love of juvenility: for in the season of youth there is an enjoyment of all things. Why, therefore, do they not again enter into the nature of man? But if they enter voluntarily, and for the sake of juvenility, and pass through every species of animals, they will be much gratified by being destroyed. For thus their return to the human form will be more rapid. The bodies also which are eaten will not produce any pain in the souls of those bodies, in consequence of the souls being liberated from them; and they will love to be implanted in the nature of man. Hence, as much as they are pained on leaving the human form, so much will they rejoice when they leave other bodies. For thus they will more swiftly become man again, who predominates over all irrational animals, in the same manner as God does over men. There is, therefore, a sufficient cause for destroying other animals, viz. their acting unjustly in destroying men. But if the souls of men are immortal, but those of irrational animals mortal, men will not act unjustly by destroying irrational animals. And if the souls of brutes are immortal, we shall benefit them by liberating them from their bodies. For, by killing them, we shall cause them to return to the human nature.
20. If, however, we [only] defend ourselves [in putting animals to death], we do not act unjustly, but we take vengeance on those that injure us. Hence, if the souls of brutes are indeed immortal, we benefit them by destroying them. But if their souls are mortal, we do nothing impious |22 in putting them to death. And if we defend ourselves against them, how is it possible that in so doing we should not act justly. For we destroy, indeed, a serpent and a scorpion, though they do not attack us, in order that some other person may not be injured by them; and in so doing we defend the human race in general. But shall we not act justly in putting those animals to death, which either attack men, or those that associate with men, or injure the fruits of the earth?
21. If, however, some one should, nevertheless, think it is unjust to destroy brutes, such a one should neither use milk, nor wool, nor sheep, nor honey. For, as you injure a man by taking from him his garments, thus, also, you injure a sheep by shearing it. For the wool which you take from it is its vestment. Milk, likewise, was not produced for you, but for the young of the animal that has it. The bee also collects honey as food for itself; which you, by taking away, administer to your own pleasure. I pass over in silence the opinion of the Egyptians, that we act unjustly by meddling with plants. But if these things were produced for our sake, then the bee, being ministrant to us, elaborates honey, and the wool grows on the back of sheep, that it may be an ornament to us, and afford us a bland heat.
22. Co-operating also with the Gods themselves in what contributes to piety, we sacrifice animals: for, of the Gods, Apollo, indeed, is called the λυκοκτονος, slayer of wolves; and Diana, θηροκτονος, the destroyer of wild beasts. Demi-gods likewise, and all the heroes who excel us both in origin and virtue, have so much approved of the slaughter of animals, that they have sacrificed to the Gods Dodeceides 10 and Hecatombs. But Hercules, among other things, is celebrated for being an ox-devourer.
23. It is, however, stupid to say that Pythagoras exhorted men to abstain from animals, in order that he might, in the greatest possible degree, prevent them from eating each other. For, if all men at the time of Pythagoras were anthropophagites, he must be delirious who drew men away from other animals, in order that they might abstain from devouring each other. For, on this account, he ought rather to have extorted them to become anthropophagites, by showing them that it was an equal crime to devour each other, and to eat the flesh of oxen and swine. But if men at that time did not eat each other, what occasion was there for this dogma? And if he established this law for himself and |23 his associates, the supposition that he did so is disgraceful. For it demonstrates that those who lived with Pythagoras were anthropophagites.
24. For we say that the very contrary of what he conjectured would happen. For, if we abstained from animals, we should not only be deprived of pleasure and riches of this kind, but we should also lose our fields, which would be destroyed by wild beasts; since the whole earth would be occupied by serpents and birds, so that it would be difficult to plough the land; the scattered seeds would immediately he gathered by the birds; and all such fruits as had arrived at perfection, would be consumed by quadrupeds. But men being oppressed by such a want of food, would be compelled, by bitter necessity, to attack each other.
25. Moreover, the Gods themselves, for the sake of a remedy, have delivered mandates to many persons about sacrificing animals. For history is full of instances of the Gods having ordered certain persons to sacrifice animals, and, when sacrificed, to eat them. For, in the return of the Heraclidae, those who engaged in war against Lacedsemon, in conjunction with Eurysthenes and Proscles, through a want of necessaries, were compelled to eat serpents, which the land at that time afforded for the nutriment of the army. In Libya, also, a cloud of locusts fell for the relief of another army that was oppressed by hunger. The same thing likewise happened at Gades. Bogus was a king of the Mauritanians, who was slain by Agrippa in Mothone. He in that place attacked the temple of Hercules, which was most rich. But it was the custom of the priests daily to sprinkle the altar with blood. That this, however, was not effected by the decision of men, but by that of divinity, the occasion at that time demonstrated. For, the seige being continued for a long time, victims were wanting. But the priest being dubious how he should act, had the following vision in a dream. He seemed to himself to be standing in the middle of the pillars of the temple of Hercules, and afterwards to see a bird sitting opposite to the altar, and endeavouring to fly to it, but which at length flew into his hands. He also saw that the altar was sprinkled with its blood. Seeing this, he rose as soon as it was day, and went to the altar, and standing on the turret, as he thought he did in his dream, he looked round, and saw the very bird which he had seen in his sleep. Hoping, therefore, that his dream would be fulfilled, he stood still, saw the bird fly to the altar and sit upon it, and deliver itself into the hands of the high priest. Thus the bird was sacrificed, and the altar sprinkled with blood. That, however, which happened at Cyzicus, is still more celebrated than this |24 event. For Mithridates having besieged this city, the festival of Proserpine was then celebrated, in which it was requisite to sacrifice an ox. But the sacred herds, from which it was necessary the victim should be taken, fed opposite to the city, on the continent 11: and one of them was already marked for this purpose. When, therefore, the hour demanded the sacrifice, the ox lowed, and swam over the sea, and the guards of the city opened the gates to it. Then the ox directly ran into the city, and stood at the altar, and was sacrificed to the Goddess. Not unreasonably, therefore, was it thought to be most pious to sacrifice many animals, since it appeared that the sacrifice of them was pleasing to the Gods.
26. But what would be the condition of a city, if all the citizens were of this opinion, [viz. that they should abstain from destroying animals?] For how would they repel their enemies, when they were attacked by them, if they were careful in the extreme not to kill any one of them? In this case, indeed, they must be immediately destroyed. And it would be too prolix to narrate other difficulties and inconveniences, which would necessarily take place. That it is not, however, impious to slay and feed on animals, is evident from this, that Pythagoras himself, though those prior to him permitted the athletae to drink milk, and to eat cheese, irrigated with water; but others, posterior to him, rejecting this diet, fed them with dry figs; yet he, abrogating the ancient custom, allowed them to feed on flesh, and found that such a diet greatly increased their strength. Some also relate, that the Pythagoreans themselves did not spare animals when they sacrificed to the gods. Such, therefore, are the arguments of Clodius, Heraclides Ponticus, Hermachus the Epicurean, and the Stoics and Peripatetics [against abstinence from animal food]: among which also are comprehended the arguments which were sent to us by you, O Castricius. As, however, I intend to oppose these opinions, and those of the multitude, I may reasonably premise what follows.
27. In the first place, therefore, it must be known that my discourse does not bring with it an exhortation to every description of men. For it is not directed to those who are occupied in sordid mechanical arts, nor to those who are engaged in athletic exercises; neither to soldiers, nor sailors, nor rhetoricians, nor to those who lead an active life. But I write to the man who considers what he is, whence he came, and |25 whither he ought to tend, and who, in what pertains to nutriment, and other necessary concerns, is different from those who propose to themselves other kinds of life; for to none but such as these do I direct my discourse. For, neither in this common life can there be one and the same exhortation to the sleeper, who endeavours to obtain sleep through the whole of life, and who, for this purpose, procures from all places things of a soporiferous nature, as there is to him who is anxious to repel sleep, and to dispose everything about him to a vigilant condition. But to the former it is necessary to recommend intoxication, surfeiting, and satiety, and to exhort him to choose a dark house, and
A bed, luxuriant, broad, and soft,---
as the poets say; and that he should procure for himself all such things as are of a soporiferous nature, and which are effective of sluggishness and oblivion, whether they are odours, or ointments, or are liquid or solid medicines. And to the latter it is requisite to advise the use of a drink sober and without wine, food of an attenuated nature, and almost approaching to fasting; a house lucid, and participating of a subtle air and wind, and to urge him to be strenuously excited by solicitude and thought, and to prepare for himself a small and hard bed. But, whether we are naturally adapted to this, I mean to a vigilant life, so as to grant as little as possible to sleep, since we do not dwell among those who are perpetually vigilant, or whether we are designed to be in a soporiferous state of existence, is the business of another discussion, and is a subject which requires very extended demonstrations.
28. To the man, however, who once suspects the enchantments attending our journey through the present life, and belonging to the place in which we dwell; who also perceives himself to be naturally vigilant, and considers the somniferous nature of the region which he inhabits;--- to this man addressing ourselves, we prescribe food consentaneous to his suspicion and knowledge of this terrene abode, and exhort him to suffer the somnolent to be stretched on their beds, dissolved in sleep. For it is requisite to be cautious, lest as those who look on the blear-eyed contract on ophthalmy, and as we gape when present with those who are gaping, so we should be filled with drowsiness and sleep, when the region which we inhabit is cold, and adapted to fill the eyes with rheum, as being of a marshy nature, and drawing down all those that dwell in it to a somniferous and oblivious condition. If, therefore, legislators had ordained laws for cities, with a view to a contemplative and intellectual life, it would certainly be requisite to be |26 obedient to those laws, and to comply with what they instituted concerning food. But if they established their laws, looking to a life according to nature, and which is said to rank as a medium, [between the irrational and the intellectual life,] and to what the vulgar admit, who conceive externals, and things which pertain to the body to be good or evil, why should anyone, adducing their laws, endeavour to subvert a life, which is more excellent than every law which is written and ordained for the multitude, and which is especially conformable to an unwritten and divine law? For such is the truth of the case.
29. The contemplation which procures for us felicity, does not consist, as some one may think it does, in a multitude of discussions and disciplines; nor does it receive any increase by a quantity of words. For if this were the case, nothing would prevent those from being happy by whom all disciplines are collected together [and comprehended]. Now, however, every discipline by no means gives completion to this contemplation, nor even the disciplines which pertain to truly existing beings, unless there is a conformity to them of our nature 12 and life. For since there are, as it is said, in every purpose three 13 ends, the end with us is to obtain the contemplation of real being, the attainment of it procuring, as much as it is possible for us, a conjunction of the contemplator with the object of contemplation. For the reascent of the soul is not to anything else than true being itself, nor is its conjunction with any other thing. But intellect is truly-existing being; so that the end is to live according to intellect. Hence such discussions and exoteric disciplines as impede our purification, do not give completion to our felicity. If, therefore, felicity consisted in literary attainments, this end might be obtained by those who pay no attention to their food and their actions. But since for this purpose it is requisite to exchange the life which the multitude lead for another, and to become purified both in words and deeds, let us consider what reasonings and what works will enable us to obtain this end.
30. Shall we say, therefore, that they will be such as separate us from sensibles, and the passions which pertain to them, and which elevate us |27 as much as possible to an intellectual, unimaginative, and impassive life; but that the contraries to these are foreign, and deserve to be rejected? And this by so much the more, as they separate us from a life according to intellect. But, I think, it must be admitted, that we should follow the object to which intellect attracts us. For we resemble those who enter into, or depart from a foreign region, not only because we are banished from our intimate associates, but in consequence of dwelling in a foreign land, we are filled with barbaric passions, and manners, and legal institutes, and to all these have a great propensity. Hence, he who wishes to return to his proper kindred and associates, should not only with alacrity begin the journey, but, in order that he may be properly-received, should meditate how he may divest himself of everything of a foreign nature which he has assumed, and should recall to his memory such things as he has forgotten, and without which he cannot be admitted by his kindred and friends. After the same manner, also, it is necessary, if we intend to return to things which are truly our own, that we should divest ourselves of every thing of a mortal nature which we have assumed, together with an adhering affection towards it, and which is the cause of our descent [into this terrestrial region;] and that we should excite our recollection of that blessed and eternal essence, and should hasten our return to the nature which is without colour and without quality, earnestly endeavouring to accomplish two things; one, that we may cast aside every thing material and mortal; but the other, that we may properly return, and be again conversant with our true kindred, ascending to them in a way contrary to that in which we descended hither. For we were intellectual natures, and we still are essences purified from all sense and irrationality; but we are complicated with sensibles, through our incapability of eternally associating with the intelligible, and through the power of being conversant with terrestrial concerns. For all the powers which energize in conjunction with sense and body, are injured, in consequence of the soul not abiding in the intelligible; (just as the earth, when in a bad condition, though it frequently receives the seed of wheat, yet produces nothing but tares), and this is through a certain depravity of the soul, which does not indeed destroy its essence from the generation of irrationality, but through this is conjoined with a mortal nature, and is drawn down from its own proper to a foreign condition of being.
31. So that, if we are desirous of returning to those natures with which we formerly associated, we must endeavour to the utmost of our power to withdraw ourselves from sense and imagination, and the irrationality with which they are attended, and also from the passions which subsist |28 about them, as far as the necessity of our condition in this life will permit. But such things as pertain to intellect should be distinctly arranged, procuring for it peace and quiet from the war with the irrational part; that we may not only be auditors of intellect and intelligibles, but may as much as possible enjoy the contemplation of them, and, being established in an incorporeal nature, may truly live through intellect; and not falsely in conjunction with things allied to bodies. We must therefore divest ourselves of our manifold garments, both of this visible and fleshly vestment, and of those with which we are internally clothed, and which are proximate to our cutaneous habiliments; and we must enter the stadium naked and unclothed, striving for [the most glorious of all prizes] the Olympia of the soul. The first thing, however, and without which we cannot contend, is to divest ourselves of our garments. But since of these some are external and others internal, thus also with respect to the denudation, one kind is through things which are apparent, but another through such as are more unapparent. Thus, for instance, not to eat, or not to receive what is offered to us, belongs to things which are immediately obvious; but not to desire is a thing more obscure; so that, together with deeds, we must also withdraw ourselves from an adhering affection and passion towards them. For what benefit shall we derive by abstaining from deeds, when at the same time we tenaciously adhere to the causes from which the deeds proceed?
32. But this departure [from sense, imagination, and irrationality,] may be effected by violence, and also by persuasion and by reason, through the wasting away, and, as it may be said, oblivion and death of the passions; which, indeed, is the best kind of departure, since it is accomplished without oppressing that from which we are divulsed. For, in sensibles, a divulsion by force is not effected without either a laceration of a part, or a vestige of avulsion. But this separation is introduced by a continual negligence of the passions. And this negligence is produced by an abstinence from those sensible perceptions which excite the passions, and by a persevering attention to intelligibles. And among these passions or perturbations, those which arise from food are to be enumerated.
33. We should therefore abstain, no less than from other things, from certain food, viz., such as is naturally adapted to excite the passive part of our soul, concerning which it will be requisite to consider as follows: There are two fountains whose streams irrigate the bond by which the soul is bound to the body; and from which the soul being filled as with |29 deadly potions, becomes oblivious of the proper objects of her contemplation. These fountains are pleasure and pain; of which sense indeed is preparative, and the perception which is according to sense, together with the imaginations, opinions, and recollections which accompany the senses. But from these, the passions being excited, and the whole of the irrational nature becoming fattened, the soul is drawn downward, and abandons its proper love of true being. As much as possible, therefore, we must separate ourselves from these. But the separation must be effected by an avoidance of the passions which subsist through the senses and the irrational part. But the senses are employed either on objects of the sight, or of the hearing, or of the taste, or the smell, or the touch; for sense is as it were the metropolis of that foreign colony of passions which we contain. Let us, therefore, consider how much fuel of the passions enters into us through each of the senses. For this is effected partly by the view of the contests of horses and the athletae, or those whose bodies are contorted in dancing; and partly from the survey of beautiful women. For these, ensnaring the irrational nature, attack and subjugate it by all-various deceptions.
34. For the soul, being agitated with Bacchic fury through all these by the irrational part, is made to leap, to exclaim and vociferate, the external tumult being inflamed by the internal, and which was first enkindled by sense. But the excitations through the ears, and which are of a passive nature, are produced by certain noises and sounds, by indecent language and defamation, so that many through these being exiled from reason, are furiously agitated, and some, becoming effeminate, exhibit all-various convolutions of the body. And who is ignorant how much the use of fumigations, and the exhalations of sweet odours, with which lovers supply the objects of their love, fatten the irrational part of the soul? But what occasion is there to speak of the passions produced through the taste? For here, especially, there is a complication of a twofold bond; one which is fattened by the passions excited by the taste; and the other, which we render heavy and powerful, by the introduction of foreign bodies [i.e. of bodies different from our own]. For, as a certain physician said, those are not the only poisons which are prepared by the medical art; but those likewise which we daily assume for food, both in what we eat, and what we drink, and a thing of a much more deadly nature is imparted to the soul through these, than from the poisons which are compounded for the purpose of destroying the body. And as to the touch, it does all but transmute the soul into the body, and produces in it certain inarticulate sounds, such as frequently take place in inanimate bodies. And from all these, |30 recollections, imaginations, and opinions being collected together, excite a swarm of passions, viz. of fear, desire, anger, love, voluptuousness,14 pain, emolation, solicitude, and disease, and cause the soul to be full of similar perturbations.
35. Hence, to be purified from all these is most difficult, and requires a great contest, and we must bestow much labour both by night and by day to be liberated from an attention to them, and this, because we are necessarily complicated with sense. Whence, also, as much as possible, we should withdraw ourselves from those places in which we may, though unwillingly, meet with this hostile crowd. From experience, also, we should avoid a contest with it, and even a victory over it, and the want of exercise from inexperience.
36. For we learn, that this conduct was adopted by some of the celebrated ancient Pythagoreans and wise men; some of whom dwelt in the most solitary places; but others in temples and sacred groves, from which, though they were in cities, all tumult and the multitude were expelled. But Plato chose to reside in the Academy, a place not only solitary and remote from the city, but which was also said to be insalubrious. Others have not spared even their eyes, through a desire of not being divulsed from the inward contemplation [of reality]. If some one, however, at the same time that he is conversant with men, and while he is filling his senses with the passions pertaining to them, should fancy that he can remain impassive, he is ignorant that he both deceives himself and those who are persuaded by him, nor does he see that we are enslaved to many passions, through not alienating ourselves from the multitude. For he did not speak vainly, and in such a way as to falsify the nature of [the Coryphaean] philosophers, who said of them, "These, therefore, from their youth, neither know the way to the forum, nor where the court of justice or senate-house is situated, or any common place of assembly belonging to the city. They likewise neither hear nor see laws, or decrees, whether orally promulgated or written. And as to the ardent endeavours of their companions to obtain magistracies, the associations of these, their banquets and wanton feastings, accompanied by pipers, these they do not even dream of accomplishing. But whether any thing in the city has happened well or ill, or what evil has befallen any one from his progenitors, whether male or female, these are more concealed from such a one, than, as it is said, how many |31 measures called choes the sea contains. And besides this, he is even ignorant that he is ignorant 15 of all these particulars. For he does not abstain from them for the sake of renown, but, in reality, his body only dwells, and is conversant in the city; but his reasoning power considering all these as trifling and of no value, "he is borne away", according to Pindar, "on all sides, and does not apply himself to anything which is near."
37. In what is here said, Plato asserts, that the Coryphaean philosopher, by not at all mingling himself with the above-mentioned particulars, remains impassive to them. Hence, he neither knows the way to the court of justice nor the senate-house, nor any thing else which has been before enumerated. He does not say, indeed, that he knows and is conversant with these particulars, and that, being conversant, and filling his senses with them, yet does not know anything about them; but, on the contrary, he says, that abstaining from them, he is ignorant that he is ignorant of them. He also adds, that this philosopher does not even dream of betaking himself to banquets. Much less, therefore, would he be indignant, if deprived of broth, or pieces of flesh; nor, in short, will he admit things of this kind. And will he not rather consider the abstinence from all these as trifling, and a thing of no consequence, but the assumption of them to be a thing of great importance and noxious? For since there are two paradigms in the order of things, one of a divine nature, which is most happy, the other of that which is destitute of divinity, and which is most miserable 16; the Coryphaean philosopher will assimilate himself to the one, but will render himself dissimilar to the other, and will lead a life conformable to the paradigm to which he is assimilated, viz. a life satisfied with slender food, and sufficient to itself, and in the smallest degree replete with mortal natures.
38. Hence, as long as any one is discordant about food, and contends that this or that thing should be eaten, but does not conceive that, if it |32 were possible, we should abstain from all food, assenting by this contention to his passions, such a one forms a vain opinion, as if the subjects of his dissension were things of no consequence. He, therefore, who philosophizes, will not separate himself [from his terrestrial bonds] by violence; for he who is compelled to do this, nevertheless remains there from whence he was forced to depart. Nor must it be thought, that he who strengthens these bonds, effects a thing of small importance. So that only granting to nature what is necessary, and this of a light quality, and through more slender food, he will reject whatever exceeds this, as only contributing to pleasure. For he will be persuaded of the truth of what Plato says, that sense is a nail by which the soul is fastened to bodies 17, through the agglutination of the passions, and the enjoyment of corporeal delight. For if sensible perceptions were no impediment to the pure energy of the soul, why would it be a thing of a dire nature to be in body, while at the same time the soul remained impassive to the motions of the body?
39. How is it, also, that you have decided and said, that you are not passive to things which you suffer, and that you are not present with things by which you are passively affected? For intellect, indeed, is present with itself, though we are not present with it. But he who departs from intellect, is in that place to which he departs; and when, by discursive energies, he applies himself upwards and downwards by his apprehension of things, he is there where his apprehension is. But it is one thing not to attend to sensibles, in consequence of being present with other things, and another for a man to think, that though he attends to sensibles yet he is not present with them. Nor can any one show that Plato admits this, without at the same time demonstrating himself to be deceived. He, therefore, who submits to the assumption of [every kind of] food, and voluntarily betakes himself to [alluring] spectacles, to conversation with the multitude, and laughter; such a one, by thus acting, is there where the passion is which he sustains. But he who abstains from these in consequence of being present with other things, he it is who, through his unskilfulness, not only excites laughter in Thracian maid-servants, but in the rest of the vulgar, and when he sits at a banquet, falls into the greatest perplexity, not from any defect of sensation, or from a superior accuracy of sensible perception, and energizing with the irrational part of the soul alone; for Plato does not venture to assert this; but because, in slanderous conversation, he has |33 nothing reproachful to say of anyone, as not knowing any evil of anyone, because he has not made individuals the subject of his meditation. Being in such perplexity, therefore, he appears, says Plato, to be ridiculous; and in the praises and boastings of others, as he is manifestly seen to laugh, not dissembling, but, in reality, he appears to be delirious.
40. So that, through ignorance of, and abstaining from sensible concerns, he is unacquainted with them. But it is by no means to be admitted, that though he should be familiar with sensibles, and should energize through the irrational part, yet it is possible for him [at the same time] genuinely to survey the objects of intellect. For neither do they who assert that we have two souls, admit that we can attend at one and the same time to two different things. For thus they would make a conjunction of two animals, which being employed in different energies, the one would not be able to perceive the operations of the other.
41. But why should it be requisite that the passions should waste away, that we should die with respect to them, and that this should be daily the subject of our meditation, if it was possible for us, as some assert, to energize according to intellect, though we are at the same time intimately connected with mortal concerns, and this without the intuition of intellect? For intellect sees, and intellect hears [as Epicharmus says]. But if while eating luxuriously, and drinking the sweetest wine, it were possible to be present with immaterial natures, why may not this be frequently effected while you are present with, and are performing things which it is not becoming even to mention? For these passions every where proceed from the boy 18 which is in us. And you certainly will admit that the baser these passions are, the more we are drawn down towards them. For what will be the distinction which ought here to be made, if you admit that to some things it is not possible to be passive, without being present with them, but that you may accomplish other things, at the same time that you are surveying intelligibles? For it is not because some things are apprehended to be base by the multitude, but others not. For all the above mentioned passions are base. So that to the attainment of a life according to intellect, it is requisite to abstain from all these, in the same manner as from venereal concerns. To nature, therefore, but little food must be |34 granted, through the necessity of generation [or of our connexion with a flowing condition of being.] For, where sense and sensible apprehension are, there a departure and separation from the intelligible take place; and by how much stronger the excitation is of the irrational part, by so much the greater is the departure from intellection. For it is not possible for us to he borne along to this place and to that, while we are here, and yet be there, [i.e. be present with an intelligible essence.] For our attentions to things are not effected with a part, but with the whole of ourselves.
42. But to fancy that he who is passively affected according to sense, may, nevertheless, energize about intelligibles, has precipitated many of the Barbarians to destruction; who arrogantly assert, that though they indulge in every kind of pleasure, yet they are able to convert themselves to things of a different nature from sensibles, at the same time that they are energizing with the irrational part. For I have heard some persons patronizing their infelicity after the following manner. "We are not," say they, "defiled by food, as neither is the sea by the filth of rivers. For we have dominion over all eatables, in the same manner as the sea over all humidity. But if the sea should shut up its mouth, so as not to receive the streams that now flow into it, it would be indeed, with respect to itself, great; but, with respect to the world, small, as not being able to receive dirt and corruption. If, however, it was afraid of being defiled, it would not receive these streams; but knowing its own magnitude, it receives all things, and is not averse to anything which proceeds into it. In like manner, say they, we also, if we were afraid of food, should be enslaved by the conception of fear. But it is requisite that all things should be obedient to us. For, if we collect a little water, indeed, which has received any filth, it becomes immediately defiled and oppressed by the filth; but this is not the case with the profound sea. Thus, also, aliments vanquish the pusillanimous; but where there is an immense liberty with respect to food, all things are received for nutriment, and no defilement is produced." These men, therefore, deceiving themselves by arguments of this kind, act in a manner conformable to their deception. But, instead of obtaining liberty, being precipitated into an abyss of infelicity, they are suffocated. This, also, induced some of the Cynics to be desirous of eating every kind of food, in consequence of their pertinaciously adhering to the cause of errors, which we are accustomed to call a thing of an indifferent nature.
43. The man, however, who is cautious, and is suspicious of the enchantments of nature, who has surveyed the essential properties of |35 body, and knows that it was adapted as an instrument to the powers of the soul, will also know how readily passion is prepared to accord with the body, whether we are willing or not, when anything external strikes it, and the pulsation at length arrives at perception. For perception is, as it were, an answer to [that which causes the perception.] But the soul cannot answer unless she wholly converts herself to the sound, and transfers her animadversive eye to the pulsation. In short, the irrational part not being able to judge to what extent, how, whence, and what thing ought to be the object of attention, but of itself being inconsiderate, like horses without a charioteer 19; whither it verges downward, thither it is borne along, without any power of governing itself in things external. Nor does it know the fit time or the measure of the food which should be taken, unless the eye of the charioteer is attentive to it, which regulates and governs the motions of irrationality, this part of the soul being essentially blind. But he who takes away from reason its dominion over the irrational part, and permits it to be borne along, conformably to its proper nature: such a one, yielding to desire and anger, will suffer them to proceed to whatever extent they please. On the contrary, the worthy man will so act that his deeds may be conformable to presiding reason, even in the energies of the irrational part.
44. And in this the worthy appears to differ from the depraved man, that the former has every where reason present, governing and guiding, like a charioteer, the irrational part; but the latter performs many things without reason for his guide. Hence the latter is said to be most irrational, and is borne along in a disorderly manner by irrationality; but the former is obedient to reason, and superior to every irrational desire. This, therefore, is the cause why the multitude err in words and deeds, in desire and anger, and why, on the contrary, good men act with rectitude, viz. that the former suffer the boy within them to do whatever it pleases; but the latter give themselves up to the guidance of the tutor of the boy, [i.e. to reason] and govern what pertains to themselves in conjunction with it. Hence in food, and in other corporeal energies and enjoyments, the charioteer being present, defines what is commensurate and opportune. But when the charioteer is absent, and, as some say, is occupied in his own concerns, then, if he also has with him our |36 attention, he does not permit it to be disturbed, or at all to energize with the irrational power. If, however, he should permit our attention to be directed to the boy, unaccompanied by himself, he would destroy the man, who would be precipitately borne along by the folly of the irrational part.
45. Hence, to worthy men, abstinence in food, and in corporeal enjoyments and actions, is more appropriate than abstinence in what pertains to the touch; because though, while we touch bodies, it is necessary we should descend from our proper manners to the instruction of that which is most irrational in us; yet this is still more necessary in the assumption of food. For the irrational nature is incapable of considering what will be the effect of it, because this part of the soul is essentially ignorant of that which is absent. But, with respect to food, if it were possible to be liberated from it, in the same manner as from visible objects, when they are removed from the view; for we can attend to other things when the imagination is withdrawn from them; --- if this were possible, it would be no great undertaking to be immediately emancipated from the necessity of the mortal nature, by yielding, in a small degree, to it. Since, however, a prolongation of time in cooking and digesting food, and together with this the co-operation of sleep and rest, are requisite, and, after these, a certain temperament from digestion, and a separation of excrements, it is necessary that the tutor of the boy within us should be present, who, selecting things of a light nature, and which will be no impediment to him, may concede these to nature, in consequence of foreseeing the future, and the impediment which will be produced by his permitting the desires to introduce to us a burden not easily to be borne, through the trifling pleasure arising from the deglutition of food.
46. Reason, therefore, very properly rejecting the much and the superfluous, will circumscribe what is necessary in narrow boundaries, in order that it may not be molested in procuring what the wants of the body demand, through many things being requisite; nor being attentive to elegance, will it need a multitude of servants; nor endeavour to receive much pleasure in eating, nor, through satiety, to be filled with much indolence; nor by rendering its burden [the body] more gross, to become somnolent; nor through the body being replete with things of a fattening nature, to render the bond more strong, but himself more sluggish and imbecile in the performance of his proper works. For, let any man show us who endeavours as much as possible to live according to intellect, and not to be attracted by the passions of the body, that |37 animal food is more easily procured than the food from fruits and herbs; or that the preparation of the former is more simple than that of the latter, and, in short, that it does not require cooks, but, when compared with inanimate nutriment, is unattended by pleasure, is lighter in concoction, and is more rapidly digested, excites in a less degree the desires, and contributes less to the strength of the body than a vegetable diet.
47. If, however, neither any physician, nor philosopher, nor wrestler, nor any one of the vulgar has dared to assert this, why should we not willingly abstain from this corporeal burden? Why should we not, at the same time, liberate ourselves from many inconveniences by abandoning a fleshly diet? For we should not be liberated from one only, but from myriads of evils, by accustoming ourselves to be satisfied with things of the smallest nature; viz. we should be freed from a superabundance of riches, from numerous servants, a multitude of utensils, a somnolent condition, from many and vehement diseases, from medical assistance, incentives to venery, more gross exhalations, an abundance of excrements, the crassitude of the corporeal bond, from the strength which excites to [base] actions, and, in short, from an Iliad of evils. But from all these, inanimate and slender food, and which is easily obtained, will liberate us, and will procure for us peace, by imparting salvation to our reasoning power. For, as Diogenes says, thieves and enemies are not found among those that feed on maize 20, but sycophants and tyrants are produced from those who feed on flesh. The cause, however, of our being in want of many things being taken away, together with the multitude of nutriment introduced into the body, and also the weight of digestibles being lightened, the eye of the soul will become free, and will be established as in a port beyond the smoke and the waves of the corporeal nature.
48. And this neither requires monition, nor demonstration, on account of the evidence with which it is immediately attended. Hence, not only those who endeavour to live according to intellect, and who establish for themselves an intellectual life, as the end of their pursuits, have perceived that this abstinence was necessary to the attainment of this end; but, as it appears to me, nearly every philosopher, preferring frugality to luxury, has rather embraced a life which is satisfied with a |38 little, than one that requires a multitude of things. And, what will seem paradoxical to many, we shall find that this is asserted and praised by men who thought that pleasure is the end of those that philosophize. For most of the Epicureans, beginning from the Corypheus and their sect, appear to have been satisfied with maize and fruits, and have filled their writings with showing how little nature requires, and that its necessities may be sufficiently remedied by slender and easily procured food.
49. For the wealth, say they, of nature is definite, and easily obtained; but that which proceeds from vain opinions, is indefinite, and procured with difficulty. For things which may be readily obtained, remove in a beautiful and abundantly sufficient manner that which, through indigence, is the cause of molestation to the flesh; and these are such as have the simple nature of moist and dry aliments. But every thing else, say they, which terminates in luxury, is not attended with a necessary appetition, nor is it necessarily produced from a certain something which is in pain; but partly arises from the molestation and pungency solely proceeding from something not being present; partly from joy; and partly from vain and false dogmas, which neither pertain to any natural defect, nor to the dissolution of the human frame, those not being present. For things which may every where be obtained, are sufficient for those purposes which nature necessarily requires. But these, through their simplicity and paucity, may be easily procured. And he, indeed, who feeds on flesh, requires also inanimate natures; but he who is satisfied with things inanimate, is easily supplied from the half of what the other wants, and needs but a small expense for the preparation of his food.
50. They likewise say, it is requisite that he who prepares the necessaries of life, should not afterwards make use of philosophy as an accession; but, having obtained it, should, with a confident mind, thus genuinely endure 21 the events of the day. For we shall commit what pertains to ourselves to a bad counsellor, if we measure and procure what is necessary to nature, without philosophy. Hence it is necessary that |39 those who philosophize should provide things of this kind, and strenuously attend to them as much as possible. But, so far as there is a dereliction from thence, [i.e. from philosophizing], which is not capable of effecting a perfect purification,22 so far we should not endeavour to procure either riches or nutriment. In conjunction, therefore, with philosophy, we should engage in things of this kind, and be immediately persuaded that it is much better to pursue what is the least, the most simple, and light in nutriment. For that which is least, and is unattended with molestation, is derived from that which is least.23
51. The preparation also of these things, draws along with it many impediments, either from the weight of the body, [which they are adapted to increase,] or from the difficulty of procuring them, or from their preventing the continuity of the energy of our most principal reasonings 24, or from some other cause. For this energy then becomes immediately useless, and does not remain unchanged by the concomitant perturbations. It is necessary, however, that a philosopher should hope that he may not be in want of anything through the whole of life. But this hope will be sufficiently preserved by things which are easily procured; while, on the other hand, this hope is frustrated by things of a sumptuous nature. The multitude, therefore, on this account, though their possessions are abundant, incessantly labour to obtain more, as if they were in want. But the recollection that the greatest possible wealth has no power worth mentioning of dissolving the perturbations of the soul, will cause us to be satisfied with things easily obtained, and of the most simple nature. Things also, which are very moderate and obvious, and which may be procured with the greatest facility, remove the tumult occasioned by the flesh. But the deficiency of things of a luxurious nature will not disturb him who meditates on death. Farther still, the pain arising from indigence is much milder than that which is produced by repletion, and will be considered to be so by him who does not deceive himself with vain opinions. Variety also of food not only does |40 not dissolve the perturbations of the soul, but does not even increase the pleasure which is felt by the flesh. For this is terminated as soon as pain is removed 25. So that the feeding on flesh does not remove any thing which is troublesome to nature, nor effect any thing which, unless it is accomplished, will end in pain. But the pleasantness with which it is attended is violent, and, perhaps, mingled with the contrary. For it does not contribute to the duration of life, but to the variety of pleasure; and in this respect resembles venereal enjoyments, and the drinking of foreign wines, without which nature is able to remain. For those things, without which nature cannot last, are very few, and may be procured easily, and in conjunction with justice, liberty, quiet, and abundant leisure.
52. Again, neither does animal food contribute, but is rather an impediment to health. For health is preserved through those things by which it is recovered. But it is recovered through a most slender and fleshless diet; so that by this also it is preserved. If, however, vegetable food does not contribute to the strength of Milo, nor, in short, to an increase of strength, neither does a philosopher require strength, or an increase of it, if he intends to give himself up to contemplation, and not to an active and intemperate life. But it is not at all wonderful, that the vulgar should fancy that animal food contributes to health; for they also think that sensual enjoyments and venery are preservative of health, none of which benefit anyone; and those that engage in them must be thankful if they are not injured by them. And if many are not of this opinion, it is nothing to us. For neither is any fidelity and constancy in friendship and benevolence to be found among the vulgar; nor are they capable of receiving these, nor of participating of wisdom, or any portion of it which deserves to be mentioned. Neither do they understand what is privately or publicly advantageous; nor are they capable of forming a judgment of depraved and elegant manners, so as to distinguish the one from the other. And, in addition to these things, they are full of insolence and intemperance. On this account, there is no occasion to fear that there will not be those who will feed on animals. |41
53. For if all men conceived rightly, there would be no need of fowlers, or hunters, or fishermen, or swineherds. But animals governing themselves, and having no guardian and ruler, would quickly perish, and be destroyed by others, who would attack them and diminish their multitude, as is found to be the case with myriads of animals on which men do not feed. But all-various folly incessantly dwelling with mankind, there will be an innumerable multitude of those who will voraciously feed on flesh. It is necessary however to preserve health; not by the fear of death, but for the sake of not being impeded in the attainment of the good which is derived from contemplation. But that which is especially preservative of health, is an undisturbed state of the soul, and a tendency of the reasoning power towards truly existing being. For much benefit is from hence derived to the body, as our associates have demonstrated from experience. Hence some who have been afflicted with the gout in the feet and hands, to such a degree as to be infested with it for eight entire years, have expelled it through abandoning wealth, and betaking themselves to the contemplation of divinity 26. At the same time, therefore, that they have abandoned riches, and a solicitude about human concerns, they have also been liberated from bodily disease. So that a certain state of the soul greatly contributes both to health and to the good of the whole body. And to this also, for the most part, a diminution of nutriment contributes. In short, as Epicurus likewise has rightly said, that food is to be avoided, the enjoyment of which we desire and pursue, but which, after we have enjoyed, we rank among things of an unacceptable nature. But of this kind is every thing luxuriant and gross. And in this manner those are affected, who are vehemently desirous of such nutriment, and through it are involved either in great expense, or in disease, or repletion, or the privation of leisure 27.
54. Hence also, in simple and slender food, repletion is to be avoided, and every where we should consider what will be the consequence of the possession or enjoyment of it, what the magnitude of it is, and what molestation of the flesh or of the soul it is capable of dissolving. For we ought never to act indefinitely, but in things of this kind we should |42 employ a boundary and measure; and infer by a reasoning process, that he who fears to abstain from animal food, if he suffers himself to feed on flesh through pleasure, is afraid of death. For immediately, together with a privation of such food, he conceives that something indefinitely dreadful will be present, the consequence of which will be death. But from these and similar causes, an insatiable desire is produced of riches, possessions, and renown, together with an opinion that every good is increased with these in a greater extent of time, and the dread of death as of an infinite evil. The pleasure however which is produced through luxury, does not even approach to that which is experienced by him who lives with frugality. For such a one has great pleasure in thinking how little he requires. For luxury, astonishment about venereal occupations, and ambition about external concerns, being taken away, what remaining use can there be of idle wealth, which will be of no advantage to us whatever, but will only become a burden, no otherwise than repletion? - while, on the other hand, the pleasure arising from frugality is genuine and pure. It is also necessary to accustom the body to become alienated, as much as possible, from the pleasure of the satiety arising from luxurious food, but not from the fullness produced by a slender diet, in order that moderation may proceed through all things, and that what is necessary, or what is most excellent, may fix a boundary to our diet. For he who thus mortifies his body will receive every possible good, through being sufficient to himself, and an assimilation to divinity. And thus also, he will not desire a greater extent of time, as if it would bring with it an augmentation of good. He will likewise thus be truly rich, measuring wealth by a natural bound, and not by vain opinions. Thus too, he will not depend on the hope of the greatest pleasure, the existence of which is incredible, since this would be most troublesome. But he will remain satisfied with his present condition, and will not be anxious to live for a longer period of time.
55. Besides this also, is it not absurd, that he who is in great affliction, or, is in some grievous external calamity, or is bound with chains, does not even think of food, nor concern himself about the means of obtaining it; but when it is placed before him, refuses what is necessary to his subsistence; and that the man who is truly in bonds, and is tormented by inward calamities, should endeavour to procure a variety of eatables, paying attention to things through which he will strengthen his bonds? And how is it possible that this should be the conduct of men who know what they suffer, and not rather of those who are delighted with their calamities, and who are ignorant of the evils which |43 they endure? For these are affected in a way contrary to those who are in chains, and who are conscious of their miserable condition; since these, experiencing no gratification in the present life, and being full of immense perturbation, insatiably aspire after another life. For no one who can easily liberate himself from all perturbations, will desire to possess silver tables and couches, and to have ointments and cooks, splendid vessels and garments, and suppers remarkable for their sumptuousness and variety; but such a desire arises from a perfect uselessness to every purpose of the present life, from an indefinite generation of good, and from immense perturbation. Hence some do not remember the past, the recollection of it being expelled by the present; but others do not inquire about the present, because they are not gratified with existing circumstances.
56. The contemplative philosopher, however will invariably adopt a slender diet. For he knows the particulars in which his bond consists, so that he is not capable of desiring luxuries. Hence, being delighted with simple food, he will not seek for animal nutriment, as if he was not satisfied with a vegetable diet. But if the nature of the body in a philosopher was not such as we have supposed it to be, and was not so tractable, and so adapted to have its wants satisfied through things easily procured, and it was requisite to endure some pains and molestations for the sake of true salvation, ought we not [willingly] to endure them? For when it is requisite that we should be liberated from disease, do we not voluntarily sustain many pains, viz., while we are cut, covered with blood, burnt, drink bitter medicines, and are purged through the belly, through emetics, and through the nostrils, and do we not also reward those who cause us to suffer in this manner? And this being the case, ought we not to sustain every thing, though of the most afflictive nature, with equanimity, for the sake of being purified from internal disease, since our contest is for immortality, and an association with divinity, from which we are prevented through an association with the body? By no means, therefore, ought we to follow the laws of the body, which are violent and adverse to the laws of intellect, and to the paths which lead to salvation. Since, however, we do not now philosophize about the endurance of pain, but about the rejection of pleasures which are not necessary, what apology can remain for those, who impudently endeavour to defend their own intemperance?
57. For if it is requisite not to dissemble any thing through fear, but to speak freely, it is not otherwise possible to obtain the end [of a contemplative life], than by adhering to God, as if fastened by a nail, |44 being divulsed from body, and those pleasures of the soul which subsist through it; since our salvation is effected by deeds, and not by a mere attention to words. But as it is not possible with any kind of diet, and, in short, by feeding on flesh, to become adapted to an union with even some partial deity, much less is this possible with that God who is beyond all things, and is above a nature simply incorporeal; but after all-various purifications, both of soul and body, he who is naturally of an excellent disposition, and lives with piety and purity, will scarcely be thought worthy to perceive him. So that, by how much more the Father of all things excels in simplicity, purity, and sufficiency to himself, as being established far beyond all material representation, by so much the more is it requisite, that he who approaches to him should be in every respect pure and holy, beginning from his body, and ending internally, and distributing to each of the parts, and in short to every thing which is present with him a purity adapted to the nature of each. Perhaps, however, these things will not be contradicted by any one. But it may be doubted, why we admit abstinence from animal food to pertain to purity, though in sacrifices we slay sheep and oxen, and conceive that these immolations are pure and acceptable to the Gods. Hence, since the solution of this requires a long discussion, the consideration of sacrifices must be assumed from another principle.
[Footnotes moved to the end and numbered]
1. * Porphyry elsewhere calls this Firmus Castricius his friend and fellow disciple. See more concerning him in Porphyry's Life of Plotinus.
2. + παρανομηματα. Porphyry calls the conduct of Firmus illegitimate, because the feeding on flesh is for the most part contrary to the laws of genuine philosophy.
3. ยง The original in this place is ἤ δι απατην ουν, ἤ το μηδεν διαφερειν ηγεισθαι προς φρονησιν, κ.τ.λ.; but, for ἤ το μηδεν διαφερειν, I read δια το μηδεν διαφερειν. And this appears to be the reading which Felicianus found in his MS.; for his version of the passage is, "Vel igitur deceptione inductus, quod sive hoc sive ιλλο modo vescaris, &c."
4. * The philosopher was an auditor of Plato and Speusippus.
5. * Hesiod. Op. et Di. lib. I. v. 275, &c.
6. * This philosopher was a Mitylenaean, and is said to have been an auditor of, and also the successor of, Epicurus.
7. * Iliad, XI. v. 479.
8. + Iliad, IV. v 35.
9. ยง Iliad, XXII. v. 347.
10. * i.e Sacrifices from twelve animals.
11. * For Cyzicus was situated in an island.
12. * In the original εαν μη προση και̕ η κατ̕ αυτα φυσιωσις και ζων; but it is obviously necessary for φυσιωσις to read φησις.
13. + viz. As it appears to me, a pleasurable, a profitable, and a virtuous end, which last is a truly beautiful and good end.
14. * For φιλτρων here, I read φιληδονιων.
15. * The multitude are ignorant that they are ignorant with respect to objects of all others the most splendid and real: but the Coryphaean philosopher is ignorant that he is ignorant with respect to objects most unsubstantial and obscure. The former ignorance is the consequence of a defect, but the latter of a transcendency of gnostic energy. What Porphyry here says of the Coryphaean philosopher, is derived from the Theaetus of Plato.
16. + See p. 52 of my translation of the Theaetetus of Plato, from which Dialogue, what Porphyry here says, as well as what he a little before said, is derived.
17. * See the Phaedo of Plato, where this is asserted.
18. * Sense, and that which is beautiful in the energies of sense, are thus denominated by Plato.
19. * The rational part of the soul is assimilated by Plato, in the Phaedrus, to a charioteer, and the two irrational parts, desire and anger, to two horses. See my translation of that Dialogue.
20. * A kind of bread made of milk and flour.
21. * In the original αλλα παρασκευασαμενον το θαρρειν τῃ φυχῃ γνησιως ουτως αντεχεσθαι των καθ̕ ημεραν. But the editor of the quarto edition of this work, who appears to have been nothing more than a mere verbal critic, says, on a note on this passage, that the word αντεχεσθαι, signifies pertinacissime illis inhaerere, nihil ultra studere; whereas it must be obvious to any man who understands what is here said, that in this place it signifies to endure.
22. * In the original, ο μη κυριευσι της τελειας εκθαρρησεως; but for εκθαρρησεως I read with Felicianus εκκαθαρσεως.
23. + In the original, ελαχιστον γαρ και το οχληρον εκ του αλαχιστου. But it is obviously necessary for οχληρον to read ανοχληρον, and yet this was not perceived by the German editor of this work, Jacob Rhoer.
24. ยง i.e. Of our reasonings about intelligible objects.
25. * Conformable to this, it is beautifully observed by Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, that corporeal pleasures are the remedies of pain, and that they fill up the indigence of nature, but do not perfect any energy of the [rational] soul.
26. * This is said by Porphyry, in his Life of Plotinus, to have been the case with the senator Rogatianus.
27. + And leisure, to those who know how rightly to employ it, is, as Socrates said, καλλιστον κτηματων, "the most beautiful of possessions."
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2007. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using unicode.
|Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts|