A Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
This young chicken, Gladys, was the sole survivor of a brood of chicks on a farm who were killed by a fox. Taken into the farmers’ house, she was befriended by plump cat-in-residence Snowy. The pair formed a permanent friendship. See Buddies for the story and more photos.
Editor’s Corner Essay: “Eternal Consequences,
That’s What!” Part II
In the April issue, I took up again the theme of the Pollomorphic God, meaning God imaged as a mother chicken, taken from an earlier PT essay by Carol J. Adams. In a memorable Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin is alarmed at the possibility that after death we may find that God is a great Chicken; he anticipates “Eternal Consequences.” What further meaning might be found in this apparently light-hearted cartoon strip? Isn’t the issue of animals, and their protection, a matter only of the here and now?
Life After Death?
Partly because of the wide influence of Marxism, much ridicule has been cast on the idea of life after death, especially of happiness in such life. The contemptuous expression “pie in the sky by and by when you die” not only assumes the projection Feuerbach and Marx described, it also assumes that consciousness is extinguished by death, an idea many educated people absorb from their ambient Western culture, and believe is a conclusion of scientific study. Some scientific studies of the relationship between mind and body do suggest it--mind is certainly strongly influenced by body--but there are survivalist alternative explanations that fit the data as well, and in some cases better.
Extinction is not a solid scientific conclusion; it is a metaphysical idea that developed out of the new matter-and-spirit dualistic worldview that underlay the rise of science in the seventeenth century. Although originally intended by some to support the idea of the mind’s survival of death, it backfired because a strict dualism of mind and matter made it impossible to see how there could be any connection at all; and because body is more easily accessible to study than mind or spirit, mind came to be seen as secondary, completely dependent for its existence on the body (or even equivalent to the brain), and therefore passing out of existence when the body dies. Thus the dualist theory became a form of materialism. (This brief analysis needs a lot of support, but here I will only direct interested readers to David Griffin’s Parapsychology, Philosophy, and Spirituality as a representative source.)
Belief in extinction of consciousness at death functions as a kind of secular orthodoxy today, especially in academic settings; scholars who investigate the evidence for survival may be penalized by refusal of publication, loss of grants, or even, if they gain popular attention, loss of jobs. Along with the “orthodox dogma” of extinction often go assumptions that those who affirm continuing consciousness are (a) operating out of some kind of religious faith, and/or (b) motivated by wishful thinking. Many highly-educated and influential persons in our culture are just as certain about these opinions, as they are ignorant of the strength of the accumulated evidence pointing in the other direction. (For a quick sketch of the kinds and standards of evidence, see “The Animals and the Angels,” PT 21 ). But children tend to be unafraid of being heretical; Calvin not only is open to the idea of survival, he even considers that animals might figure in the picture--and ponders the implications.
Symbol and Referent
It is obvious that part of the humor of the strip lies in the fact that Calvin is taking the symbol literally. But this six-year-old is onto something. A symbol is weightier than a metaphor or simile. God is not just like a mother hen, and a hen therefore like God; the hen represents an all-mothering Presence of infinite value present in all conscious beings. The hen and God are one; each participates in the innermost nature of the other. A hen is a person of Consequence, in the old sense of that term; she matters greatly in herself as an individual; and she matters infinitely because what we do to the hen we do to God, in whom all we chickens and humans and others live and move and have our being. HeroHens.jpg
Most people, like Calvin’s parents, neither sense this
nor believe it; to them a
Paul Checkley and chicken friends: mutual healers chicken is not even an individual but part of a mass called Livestock. Always an “it” even when alive, her anguished death is not even a blip on their inner screens, but simply the “it” becoming plural: chicken legs and breasts and wings surrounded with styrofoam and cellophane, or lying on dinner plates to be consumed. They see nothing more, so how can there be anything more there? In so commonplace a scene, how can there be anything eternal?
But perhaps the very ordinary scenes in our lives are in fact extraordinary: there may indeed be Eternal Consequences. Calvin is thinking about consequences after death, which does apply, but the situation is more complex that that; the eternal isn’t just in an afterlife; it is going on here and now. We’ve heard the expression “the eternal now,” but when we try to explain it discursively, we’re stuck. It seems even harder to explain how an event can be occurring in my life right now and simultaneously after my death. (Of course, to speak in this way is to be brave enough to entertain the heretical idea that there is still an “I” beyond my death.
But the concept of life after death--or rather beyond death--is not merely a matter of religious dogma or wish-fulfilling illusion. There is a mountain range of evidence (not proof) of several kinds for it, mostly in the form of historical narratives; it can be called a meta-theory (as is, e.g., the theory of evolution). And one such category of evidence, Near-Death Experiences (NDEs), illuminates the concept of eternal consequences. A minority of NDE accounts include an element in which the nearly-dying person experiences her/his whole past life as though it were going on now, with an expanded consciousness in which the experiencer undergoes all the consequences of her or his feelings, words, and actions. S/he participates in the consciousness of every one whom her life has affected.
Here are two examples:
A woman named Laurelynn Martin tells how she came close to death during a surgery that should have been fairly routine. She felt herself to be floating above a body (she didn’t recognize it as hers) from which a lot of blood was flowing. The medical people around it were frantic, but she was calm. She entered a peaceful, velvety darkness, then a wonderful golden light that enveloped her in infinite Love. Past, present, and future were united in an eternal Now. Then she perceived, non-visually, a presence who came near her, and recognized her deceased brother-in-law Wills. He was “like the Spirit of Christmas Past”: he showed her many events of her life all at once. In one of them, at age five, she had teased to the point of tears another little girl, named Tammy. Now she herself felt Tammy’s pain and feelings of being alone and unloved; she became Tammy. Laurelynn now felt tremendous compassion for her, and gave love both to the other child and to herself. “I realized that by hurting another, I was . . . hurting myself.” She forgave herself for this harmful act, and received abundant love.GreenFlatline.jpg
In the second example, which involved animals, a young man named Berkley Carter Mills had a brush with death in a work accident when a tremendously heavy load he was maneuvering into place slipped out of control and slammed him into a steel pole. He too entered blackness, then found himself floating above his body, which he recognized and tried to re-enter. He was stopped by a firm hand on his “right arm” from one of two traditional-looking angels with robes and wings, who came to “take [him] to God.” They first brought him to a being he perceived to be Jesus, who said he would be judged, then showed him every detail of his life chronologically, including conception and birth. Carter relived these and every other event in his life, including having killed a mother bird with a stone when he was eight. He had been proud of that shot, but now he re-lived the suffering of the bird’s three babies when they starved to death. He realized that all beings have souls: humans, animals of all sorts including insects, and even plants. [Unfortunately, he deduced from this insight that because all beings have to eat other creatures, it’s all right for him to eat dead animals as long as he blesses the flesh.]
Are these particular incidents the only ones of these persons’ lives that they experienced empathically in their life reviews? The answer isn’t clear from their accounts, but other NDE experiencers have reported that they not only re-lived their entire lives, but, like experiencer and author P.M.H. “Phyllis” Atwater, felt the “effects of each thought, word, and deed on everyone . . . who had ever come within my . . . sphere of influence . . .”, including plants and animals. Another experiencer even speaks of having felt the “ripple effect” on still others, whom she affected indirectly--as in the old scenario in which the boss berates the employee, the employee scolds his/her child, the child kicks the dog, and so on.ripples.1.jpg
What Kind of Eternal Consequences?
There are a good many similar Near-Death narratives, three of which appear in “Whatever One Sows” ( PT 47 ); more can be found online (See Life Review and scroll down half-way). Because apparently no other researcher had given this NDE element a name, in my 2001 book The Uttermost Deep I called them “empathic life reviews.” It is unknown what percentage of near-death experiencers have them.
But what is their significance? Do we all have an empathic life review at some point beyond our (actual) deaths--is our every utterance, every action nested in an Eternal Now, in Eternal Consequences? Are we really one, now, with every being we encounter, or even with all those in a “ripple effect” that spreads outward from our every word and action? I think it likely that the fact that one finds some idea of a post-mortem Judgment in several major religions implies a “yes.” There are some points in its favor; it seems to provide a very exact sort of hell for the powerful persons who turned themselves into monsters of cruelty, and who seemed to have gotten away with it: the Herods and the Genghis Khans and the Pinochets, the inventors of battery cages and “veal” crates and mechanized slaughterhells. Similarly, it presents an appropriate paradise for the Arthur Broomes, the Gandhis, and the Dalai Lamas who started cascades of compassion, love, and healing. (There are other, messier implications too, which I won’t explore here.)
But what about the implications for me, for the ordinary person who is somewhere in between the great saints and the great sinners? I have found that when I describe this concept and ask the question of other ordinary people, most of them seem to respond by glazing over and, in effect, changing the subject. Frustrating as this response is, it is understandable. I suspect the idea of symbolically--but consciously--encountering the suffering of the Great Chicken in the death-pain of every chicken they ever ate is too scary. But that’s not the whole story: perhaps every kind word and action, every little smile of encouragement we offered to a friend or stranger aren’t small at all, but start unending tides of hope and love?
We may need to embrace the pain of God-in-us-all in order for her to lovingly gather us, together with all her other chicks, under her wings.
--Gracia Fay Ellwood
Atwater, P.M.H. Beyond the Light: What Isn’t Being Said About Near-Death Experiences
Atwater, P.M.H. Coming Back to Life.
Ellwood, Gracia Fay. The Uttermost Deep: The Challenge of Near-Death Experiences
Griffin, David Ray. Parapsychology, Philosophy, and Spirituality: A Postmodern Exploration
Lorimer, David. Whole in One.
Martin, Laurelynn. Searching for Home.
The photo of Paul Checkley, who found healing from PTSD through adopting and caring for rescue chickens, is from the files of Mercy for Animals. See Care
Battery Farm Proposal Defeated
A proposal to build a rabbit battery-cage “farm” in the town of Gnosall, Staffordshire, England, has been legally denied, thanks to pressure from more than 76,000 petition signers. See No Cages .
--Contributed by Marian Hussenbux
Steer Escapees from Slaughterhell Ransomed
Six steers escaped from a St. Louis (MO) slaughterhell April 4, and ran through the streets for five hours before being arrested by the police and (despite obvious innocence) returned to Death Row. An activist named Adam Brewster raised $16,500 on Crowdfunding to ransom the slaves and pay the expenses of their care in a sanctuary. Last news was that they were on their way to the Gentle Barn. See One Green Planet . --Contributed by Judith Carman
Lambs Freeze to Death
In Britain every year, about a million baby lambs, twenty per cent of the total, die of hypothermia in freezing weather because the ewes are bred too early in the year: people want to eat lamb flesh for Easter. See Lambs
--Contributed by Will Tuttle
Easter is the festival when Christians celebrate the divine victory of compassion, abundance, and life for all, especially the underdogs of society, over imperial exploitation, torture, and death. So we mark the occasion by killing and eating enslaved innocents! When will we humans awaken and return to our true selves?
“I see old ‘Mr. Conspiracy Theory’ is
at it again.”
--Cartoon by L. Taha © 2015
--Contributed by Angie Cordeiro
Dear Friends of the Peaceable Table,
We just enjoyed the cutlets and gravy [from the April issue] for dinner -- delicious! Thank you so much for sharing them. I am especially happy to have the gravy recipe. I have several, but all are filled with nutritional yeast, which is good but packs plenty of calories.
Pioneer: George Herbert, 1593-1633
George Herbert needs no introduction to readers of English poetry, especially of the “metaphysical poets” of the seventeenth century; he excelled particularly in lyric devotional verse. (The “metaphysicals” are loose grouping of poets whose metaphors and similes tend to be unusual and surprising, chosen because the entities compared have a similar function rather than a similar appearance or emotional associations.) But most of Herbert’s readers are not aware that he was a also a vegetarian.
Herbert was born into a wealthy and titled family in Montgomery, Wales, the seventh of ten children of Richard and Magdalen Herbert. His father was, among other things, a Member of george-herbert-at-bemerton-william-dyce.jpg
Parliament; his mother was a patron and friend of John Donne and other artists and poets. After
his father died when George was only three, the poet John Donne, his godfather, took on some of the responsibility of fathering him. Magdalen Herbert was a strong, capable, and devout person, determined that her children should have a good education. George was devoted to her. Thanks to her influence, he came to think of God as a mother as well as a father.
After being taught at home in childhood, George entered Westminster (a “public” prep school) at about age eleven. His first year there he was tutored by Lancelot Andrewes, a prominent scholar and clergyman, and one of the primary translators of the King James Bible. George was admitted on scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1609, and by the time he was graduated with a Bachelor’s and then a Master’s degree in 1616, at age twenty-three, he had an impressive mastery of Latin and Greek as well as enviable skills in his own language, all of which he drew upon in his public speaking and his poetry. He also excelled in music. In 1619 he was appointed to Cambridge University’s sought-after post of Public Orator. In this post Herbert represented Cambridge at public occasions, writing and addressing formal official speeches in Latin to king and court and to visiting dignitaries and ambassadors. He described the post as “the finest place in the university,” and continued to hold it until 1628. His orations drew the approving notice of King James. While still holding this position, he was a Member of Parliament representing his county for a little over a year.
All was not splendor and success, however. Already as an undergraduate he suffered from poor health, spiritual conflicts, and, in spite of his family’s riches, lack of money. The death of his mother Magdalen in 1627 affected him deeply, and he expressed his grief and his praise of her in poignant verse.
He had seemed on course for a brilliant career at court, but the deaths of his main patron (the earl of Pembroke), two other patrons, and King James were followed by the increasing pull of God at his heart, drawing him in the other direction. The decision was not easily taken; for a long time he struggled spiritually between wanting to devote his life completely to Christ, and wanting to shine as a poet and orator at court. Christ won. George withdrew from public life with its prestige, married (happily, it turned out) Jane Danvers, a relative of his stepfather, and in 1630 was ordained as a priest in Salisbury Cathedral. He then became rector of the small parish church of Bemerton in Wiltshire, southwest of London; he and Jane took in three little nieces. From this point on he dedicated his life to writing spiritual poetry, singing and playing the lute, and serving his parishioners. He was very faithful in his duties, especially ministering to the sick and the poor; he was thought of by many in the countryside as a saint.George Herbert,in prayer.jpg
He had one other deep interest all his adult life that is much less known, a passion for botany. Writing in the British periodical Church Times, Ronald Blythe reports that Herbert loved flowers, herbs, and vegetable plants, regarding them in a sacramental way as divine gifts through which both our physical and spiritual life are sustained. It is appropriate that the stained-glass window in Salisbury Cathedral (left) that commemorates Herbert shows him kneeling in prayer on a carpet of greenery and flowers, amid a burgeoning vine hung with great clusters of grapes.
His suffering from poor health was also a factor in this interest. He read and translated one of the books of Alvise “Luigi” Cornaro, a contemporary of Da Vinci, and whom we featured earlier as a Pioneer ( PT 91 ). Like Herbert, Cornaro has experienced the misery of chronic illness as a young adult, and turned to a simple vegetarian diet; Herbert took his advice and also cut out flesh, instead emphasizing fruits and vegetables. Cornaro’s woes had been a direct result of heavy indulgence in meat and alcohol, and sane eating soon gave him bounding health and a very long life. Unfortunately, Herbert’s chief ailment was “consumption,” pulmonary tuberculosis. His improved diet very likely supported him in this affliction, and may have lengthened his life somewhat, but it was not enough to bring about a cure. He died three years after being ordained, and just short of his fortieth birthday. His first biographer, Izaak Walton, described Herbert on his deathbed as “composing such hymns and anthems as he and the angels now sing in heaven.”
It seems likely that compassion for animals formed part of George Herbert’s dietary motivation, judging from an incident in Izaak Walton’s biography of Herbert. Herbert regularly walked to Salisbury to participate in a musical group. On one of these walks he came upon “a poor man, with a poorer horse, that was fall’n under his Load; they were both in distress, and needed [immediate] help.” George took off his coat, helped the man unload his horse and raise him/her up, then replace the load. (Wouldn’t the load have to have been lightened?) Like the good Samaritan, George “gave him money to refresh both himself and his horse; and told him, That if he lov’d himself, he should be merciful to his Beast”--(echoing one of Judaism’s and Christianity’s two Great Commandments, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”) When he arrived in Salisbury and joined his group, some criticized him--usually very neat--for coming in “so soyl’d and discompos’d,” but George defended his action, saying that it would be Musick to him at Midnight, and that no day should pass without our offering comfort to souls who are sad or mercy to those in distress. “And now let’s tune our Instruments.”
The May poetry selection is Herbert’s long-cherished poem “Love,” in which Love as a gracious host welcomes to a dinner the narrator, who feels unworthy and inadequate, and courteously talks him out of his hesitations. Here the feast is a symbol, and not a new and surprising “metaphysical” metaphor; it is a well-seasoned image of ultimate fulfillment often found in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures; it also suggests the Eucharist. But it presents a mental picture not of church members tasting a wafer, but of a dinner party, a festal social event. And it is particularly sweet for us to think that the poet was almost surely imagining Love’s feast to be vegetarian.
--Gracia Fay Ellwood, with special thanks to Friend Thom Bonneville
The lead photo shows Herbert in his garden retreat at Bemerton. Notice the lute by the bench.
Film Review: Life According to Ohad
This remarkable documentary follows the struggles of Ohad, an Israeli man in his early 30s whose dedication to animal rights results in conflicts with family, social isolation, and psychological distress when he witnesses animal neglect and abuse. Ohad is torn between his dedication to animal protectionism and his insistence that his family members become vegan, and his desire to connect with his family. His family, meanwhile, wants to re-establish close relations with Ohad while continuing to eat and live as they please. Consequently, family meals frequently include heated exchanges, as well as some very touching attempts to reconnect.
Ohad sees a direct connection between animal abuse on factory farms and at slaughterhouses and what befell the victims of the Holocaust. His analogies between both tragedies are provocative, particularly for his Jewish family and fellow Israelis, yet he does not refrain from speaking truth as he sees it. Determined to save animals by any means, including illegal activities, Ohad’s story forces us to consider what strategies are most effective. In particular, the film provides a good springboard for discussions about how to communicate the need for vegan living to people who do not share our compassion for nonhumans.
The documentary can be viewed for $5 at http://www.ohad-doc.com/, and 25% of film receipts are being donated to assist in the development of cultured (also known as “clean”) meat.
--Stephen R. Kaufman, MD. Reprinted from CVA Newsletter with permission.
Fruit and Spice Smoothie
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup frozen pineapple or mango chunks
1 fresh banana
1 tablespoon coconut oil-melt in microwave first
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chia seeds
Blend and enjoy.
All the spices in this smoothie have wonderful health benefits. The pepper greatly heightens the availability of turmeric’s life-saving nutrients.
--Contributed by Maria and Karen BorchVegan-parmesan-cheese-minimaleats.com-.jpg
Easy Vegan “Parm”
1 cup walnuts
1 cup nutritional yeast
2 T garlic powder
1 T salt, or to taste
Blend, store, serve!
--from Mercy for Animals and ChooseVeg
Poetry: George Herbert, 1593-1633
Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back
Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here.’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I the unkinde, ungratefull? Ah my deare,
I cannot look on thee.’
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth Lord; but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ sayes Love, ‘who bore the blame?’
‘My deare, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ sayes Love, ‘and taste my meat:’
So I did sit and eat.
Note: “Meat” or “mete” originally referred simply to food or a meal.
The painting, Supper at Emmaus, was executed by Rembrandt during the late 1620s, the same period as Herbert’s focal decision to give his life to the service of Jesus and his neighbors. If you look closely, you can see another diner kneeling before Jesus--no doubt the one who “cannot look on [him]”.
This issue is gratefully dedicated to the memory of Stanley Wiersma.