Editor’s Corner Essay: Return to Eden
“Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Think. Love. Speak.”
So says the great Lion Aslan, the creator of Narnia, at a critical point in the plot of The Magician’s Nephew. In telling this tale of the origin of his magical land, C. S. Lewis draws upon aspects of the story of Creation and Fall in the first three chapters of Genesis as well as Milton’s Paradise Lost and other sources. The story is magnetically captivating and sometimes funny as it portrays the wonderful goodness of the natural world, highlighting the relations of animals to one another and to humans. It also treats of the nature of evil and suffering, and climaxes in a joyous eucatastrophe, i.e. a sudden and well-earned turn to a happy ending. Two important themes in the story are the disruption of oppressive social class barriers, and the concept that the Divine power does not work alone, but welcomes the cooperation of humans and animals in accomplishing its purposes.
Digory, Polly, and the Magician
This is a story for children, and thus its treatment of evil and suffering must be restrained, but its initial scene presents the central child character as being in great pain. As the tale begins, the two youngsters Polly and Digory, who live in adjacent row houses in Victorian London, meet in Polly’s back yard. Digory’s face is grimy, and Polly sees at once that he has been crying, and evidently rubbing his eyes with very dirty hands. He tells her that he is miserable because he has been pulled out of his
beloved home in the country, and is now trapped in London staying with his Aunt Letty and his Uncle Andrew (siblings); the latter looks sinister and behaves oddly. The reason he is here is that his father is working abroad, and his aunt is caring for Digory’s mother, who is very sick and close to death.
The two children become friends. As a result of a miscalculation during an exploration of the joined attics of their row of houses, Polly and Digory find themselves in Uncle Andrew’s forbidden study, lined with books on (ceremonial) magic. Andrew offers Polly a beautiful golden ring he has crafted. When she touches it she vanishes, transported to what he believes is another world, but turns out to be a kind of inter-world Grand Central Station, the Wood Between the Worlds. There Polly emerges from a small pond, of which the Wood contains many. Meanwhile, Uncle Andrew--a coward who won’t go himself--pressures Digory to take a similar ring and follow her, carrying in his pocket two green rings which will bring them back.
The First Temptation
Before returning to Earth wearing their green rings, at Digory’s urging Polly agrees to venture first into a different world. They arrive in what is apparently the courtyard to a long-ruined and crumbling palace; exploring the ruins, they come to a hall full of what appear to be statues of splendidly dressed royalty. The last figure is the most impressive of all, a woman of great size, beauty, and fierceness. In the center of the room is a short pillar, atop which sit a small golden bell and hammer. Below it an inscription reads:
Make your choice, adventurous Stranger;
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.
This first Temptation occurs in a world very different from the Biblical Eden, but is akin to that of the Eden story in that it deals with action that will give knowledge of good and evil. Digory, who has a great thirst for knowledge, is vulnerable to it as the more easy-going Polly is not. The action is not explicitly forbidden as eating the fruit in the Genesis story was, but Digory has good reason to know it is wrong for him, because in order to do it he has to grab and shove and thereby injure Polly, who has objected and is about to don her ring and leave. Here we have the seed of Narnia’s Fall, (sparked by a male, not a female character as in the Bible story). The bell he rings awakens the last seated figure, Jadis, the final queen of the country of Charn. Jadis turns out to be an archetypal image of evil; she has magical powers enabling her to destroy things and people in Charn with a word.
The children manage to put on their rings to return to London. They soon find that the rings operate like a magnet, because the queen, who is holding on to them, is drawn along. As a result, she is set loose in our world, which she means to conquer. Digory and Polly forestall her plans, however. During an accident of Andrew’s and Jadis’ hansom-cab in front of Aunt Letty’s house, Digory catches hold of her foot, and Polly, holding his other hand, puts on her gold ring. Not only do they succeed in returning the Witch to the Wood Between the Worlds, they find that the Cabby, his horse Strawberry, and Uncle Andrew have all been pulled along. But the children’s plan to return Jadis to her own world goes astray, and instead the whole party ends up in an empty, dark, silent world.
Shortly after the six unwilling visitors arrive, the Creation of Narnia begins. This appears to be pure coincidence, usually considered a sign of a weak plot. But examined more closely, the
text strongly suggests that three of the six unknowingly invited the process, thus co-operating with the Creator. The Cabby had taken the lead; generously concerned for everyone’s well-being, he asked if anyone was injured, and was thankful no one was. Amusingly, he proposed that they pass the time by singing a “ymn.” His seemingly incongruous choice was “a harvest thanksgiving hymn, all about crops being ‘safely gathered in.’” The children joined their voices to his.
The text of the hymn is not given, but clearly the one meant is “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come,” by Henry Alford. It is true that the bare world in which they stand is obviously not a scene of harvest; however, the hymn is more relevant than it first seems. I will quote the first and last stanzas, assuming that the Cabby sang them both, since this is the hymn “he could remember best”:
Come, ye thankful people, come,
raise the song of harvest-home;
all is safely gathered in,
e’re the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide
for our wants to be supplied;
come to God's own temple, come,
raise the song of harvest-home. . . . .
Even so, Lord, quickly come,
bring thy final harvest home;
gather thou thy people in,
free from sorrow, free from sin,
there, forever purified,
in thy presence to abide;
come, with all thine angels, come,
raise the glorious harvest-home.
The word “come” is repeated no fewer than seven times in these stanzas. In the first verse, the hymn’s narrator uses it to invite other persons to join in the song of thanksgiving, and expresses confidence that the Creator will supply all their needs. In the last stanza, the word twice invites God to come, with all his (probably not her) angels, be present with his people, and celebrate with them a feast of the abundance he has provided. These sentiments are clearly relevant to the characters’ situation in the frightening world in which they all suddenly find themselves. Singing the hymn, the Cabby and the children affirm the hymn-writer’s faith that they are not abandoned; the Divine Being is aware of them and will care for them in their present straits. They call upon him to manifest and bring them what they need to live and flourish.
Thus Aslan’s appearance to begin creation shortly after they finish the song may well be a divine answer to their appeal. Furthermore, Aslan creates by means of an answering song that does much more than fulfill their needs; he brings into existence a paradisal Narnia, one element after another. First come the stars, who join Aslan in song. (They are actually conscious beings akin to angels, as we learn later, which calls to mind the text in Job about creation, when “the morning stars sang together, and all the
sons of God shouted for joy.”) Then comes the sun, rising and dispelling the darkness. The different features of Eden--the grass and other plants, the trees (including a number of nut- and fruit-bearing kinds), the animals who, like Milton’s newly-created beasts, push up out of the ground--all appear in response to particular elements in Aslan’s song. The climax of creation, now enacted via the spoken word, is the Lion’s gift of rationality and speech to some of the animals, including the London cab horse, Strawberry.
To Speak or Not to Speak
As I mentioned in the essay on The Horse and His Boy, the ability of selected animal characters to speak a human language satisfies the deep longing, which Lewis had and many of his readers share, to communicate freely with animals. It is unfortunate that he made the distinction between speaking and nonspeaking animals, however, and it doesn’t work at all well in the later books, in which talking animals show little or no sign of distress or anxiety at humans’ hunting or killing their own non-speaking kind for food. Furthermore, most humans who hunt show no concern about the danger of unintentionally killing a speaking animal.
Lewis puts far too much weight on the capacity for human speech. In fact, some of the capacities that Aslan tells the talking animals are theirs because they can talk--”Jokes as well as justice come in with speech”--have in fact been reported in recent years among the “dumb” animals in our own world. One example of a joke, occurring among animal companions in the same household, can be seen in the true story of a rooster who loved to sneak up behind a sleeping cat, suddenly crow loudly to jolt him awake, then run off. Ethologist Marc Bekoff reports observing insistence on justice among wolves: members of a family (“pack”) engage in play that has agreed-on rules, with sanctions such as exclusion from the group for individuals who repeatedly break them. There is certainly a gradation of intelligence and fellow-feeling among Earth’s animals, but they are not, as Aslan describes them, “witless” beings.
Lewis thought that rationality, especially as expressed in speech, was the crucial capacity making humans morally valuable, and which set them apart from other beings, whom speaking beings could legitimately kill for food. Variants of this notion were very common in Lewis’ day, and in fact the root idea goes back to the ancient Greeks. Lewis seems to have set up the nonspeaking/speaking distinction for several reasons. He believed the convenient fiction that killing could easily be humane; he approved of hunting (although he himself didn’t hunt); he seems to have been largely unaware of animal bonding; he didn’t want to give up meat. In other of the Narnian books, humans, speaking animals, and Dwarves eat flesh with the narrator’s approval; in Prince Caspian, he even calls a meal of bear meat “glorious.”
But The Magician’s Nephew is different: the Narnian Eden, like the Biblical one, is vegan and innately nonviolent. Not only are there no meat-eating scenes in this new world, vegetarianism is unmistakably implied in Aslan’s charge to the talking animals: “‘Creatures, I give you yourselves. . . . I give you forever the land of Narnia . . . and I give you myself. The Dumb Beasts whom I have not chosen are yours also. Treat them gently and cherish them . . . . ‘“ Thus there is no doubt that speaking animals, and by
implication humans as well, are not to kill other animals for food.
Good and Evil
The Cabby, the children, and the horse find this whole creation scene one of wonder and joy. “‘Glory be!’” said the Cabby. ‘I’d been a better man all my life if I’d ha’ known there were things like this.’” Uncle Andrew and the Queen/Witch, however, respond very differently. Uncle Andrew sees Narnia chiefly as a place where he could get rich, not a place to find kinship; therefore, he resists the wonderful evidence of his ears that Aslan and some of the animals can speak, and he talks himself out of being able to understand them. As a result, instead of joy he reacts to what they do and say with fear, and would like to shoot Aslan. The Queen resents Aslan and all he is doing because his magic is different from her own, and stronger. She actually does try to kill him by flinging at him an iron bar she wrenched off a lamp-post in London, but he shows no sign of even noticing that he was struck. She shrieks and runs.
With the arrival of the Witch, embodied evil which Digory has awakened and brought into this new Paradise, come Narnia’s Fall and its potential consequences in power-hunger, violence, and suffering. But Aslan gives Digory a second chance: “‘as Adam’s race has done the harm, Adam’s race shall help to heal it.’” The Lion instructs Digory to travel to a garden far to the west of Narnia, pick an apple from the central tree there, and bring it back. Strawberry, who is given wings and becomes Fledge, “the father of all winged horses,” will carry him (and Polly) to the garden. Aslan tells them he will use the apple as seed for a tree that will protect Narnia from the Witch for hundreds of years.
The Second Temptation
The scene is set for Digory’s second Temptation. Following their flight on the back of Fledge across the beautiful new world of Narnia and the Western Wild, the children arrive at the Garden, finding it walled and obviously private. A sign reads:
Come in by the gold gate or not at all,
Take of my fruit for others or forbear.
For those who steal or those who climb my wall
Shall find their heart’s desire and find despair.
This Eden-within-an-Eden has no tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but it does have an extraordinary tree in its center, one bearing fragrant silver apples that cast light rather than shade. Without doubt it is the Tree of Life, and Digory’s target. After picking an apple, he is tempted to eat it, but knowing that it must only be taken for others, he manages to
resist the desire. But the Witch is in the garden too, having already leaped over the wall to enter, and has eaten an apple. Digory runs out of the garden, she pursuing; she then tempts Digory to decamp to his own world with the apple, and use it to heal his mother. Compared to his desire to eat the apple himself, this one is agonizingly hard to resist. But the witch makes the mistake of suggesting he leave Polly behind so that his theft will never be recognized. Knowing Polly can easily return with her own magic ring, and disgusted at the meanness of her suggestion, Digory’s mind suddenly clears: the witch can’t really care about his mother, and must have some ulterior motive. He succeeds in resisting the temptation, holding to his mission. The two children mount Fledge and fly back; Digory is silent throughout the return journey.
Under Aslan’s guidance Digory plants the apple, having now sadly given up all hope of saving his mother. But the new Tree of Life which will protect Narnia for centuries grows up to full size and bears fruit within the hour; and from it Aslan freely gives him an apple that will heal. The later scenes in which, returned to London, we see him feeding the apple to his mother and feel his joy at her ensuing recovery are deeply moving, particularly to readers who are aware of how desperately the eight-year-old Lewis had longed to heal his own mother dying of cancer. The death-dealing fruit of the Eden story has become the fruit of life.
In my opinion, The Magician’s Nephew is the finest thing C.S. Lewis ever wrote. The plot is well-crafted and absorbing, and has a climax that can bring tears of joy. The beauty and splendor of an unfallen earth is conveyed in several scenes, especially in the flight to and from the Garden; C.S. Lewis was a sensitive observer of nature, fond of taking long walking tours in his adopted England. The conversations of the talking animals show a delightful mixture of good-will and naivete, leading to a kind of humor particularly appealing to children. The underlying Fantasy concept that there are many worlds, some old while others are new, expands the reader’s consciousness. (Regarding gender, especially among adults, the story is anything but mind-expanding. Compare the two queens in the story: Jadis the reigning queen is a monster (as is her sister who challenged her right to the throne), whereas Helen the consort queen, who is modestly silent while males make the important decisions, is kind and considerate.)
But the book has profound and refreshing implications about human social class and about the value of animals. Humans, none of them native to Narnia, fall into the traditional old-world categories of aristocrat, gentry, and working class. Most of the humans are gentry, and are good, bad, and some-of-each. Aunt Letty is a responsible, caring, somewhat unimaginative person who has put up with her ne’er-do-well brother Andrew for a long time at considerable financial loss, and is devotedly nursing her slowly-dying sister Mabel. The portrayal of Mabel after her miraculous recovery shows glimpses of an exuberant, beauty-loving, youthful spirit, who plays “such games with Digory and Polly that Aunt Letty would say ‘I declare, Mabel, you’re the biggest baby of the three.’” The two children are genuine human beings, appealing but flawed, whose words and actions have huge potential for wonderful good or horrifying evil.
The most powerful figures, who can work magic, are on a different level. Uncle Andrew is of course a member of the gentry too, but likes to present himself as upper-class: “‘Not exactly royal. The Ketterleys are, however, a very. . . old Dorsetshire family, Ma’am.’” Furthermore, as an Adept in magic, he sees himself as unfettered by moral rules; he has “a high and lonely destiny.” But the consequences of what he does show him to be a selfish, self-deceiving fool. (However, we are told that he learns a lesson and improves somewhat in old age.) Jadis, the much more powerful magician who also claims a High and Lonely Destiny, is not only an aristocrat, but at the zenith of aristocracy, a queen; physically strong and extraordinarily beautiful, but a monster of evil. Unlike Uncle Andrew, she is unredeemable.
But perhaps the most impressive character is the Cabby, Frank, “obviously the bravest as well as the kindest person present,” and he is a member of the working class. (I suspect he was inspired in some small part by C.S. Lewis’ remarkable Cockney friend Charles Williams, a self-taught and highly original novelist, critic, and theologian.) One of the Cabby’s appealing traits is his affection and respect for Strawberry.
- --Dawn Davidson
He is delighted when the horse becomes one of the talking animals: “‘Strike me pink! I always did say as that ‘oss ‘ad a lot of sense, though.’” He had viewed Strawberry essentially as a partner rather than a slave even during their London days: “‘We ‘ad our living to earn, see,’ said the Cabby. ‘Yours as well as mine. And if there ‘adn’t been no work and no whip there’d ‘ave been no stable, no hay, no mash, and no oats. For you did get a taste of oats when I could afford ‘em, which no one can deny.’” He had sympathized with the discomforts and pains Strawberry now recalls: ‘“It was a hard, cruel country,’ said Strawberry. ‘There was no grass. All hard stones.’ ‘Too true, mate, too true!’ said the Cabby. ‘A ‘ard world it was. I always did say those paving-stones weren’t fair on any ‘oss. That’s Lunn’on, that is. I didn’t like it no more than what you did. You were a country ‘oss, and I was a country man. Used to sing in the choir, I did, down at ‘ome. But there wasn’t a living for me there.’” The Cabby’s respect for Strawberry is increased now that the horse can speak. When Digory urges that they go quickly over to where Aslan is in counsel with some of the talking beasts, so he can ask for a healing fruit, the Cabby asks Strawberry’s permission before lifting Digory onto his back.
When the Cabby (and Polly) join the group, Aslan asks him if he is pleased by Narnia and would like to stay permanently; the answer is an enthusiastic yes, except that his wife isn’t there. Aslan deals with this minor problem by bringing his wife Nellie into the scene with a single call. Readers’ hearts are so warmed to the Cabby by this time that when Aslan informs the two spouses that they are to be King Frank and Queen Helen of Narnia, the overthrow of social class ranking delights us: we feel it couldn’t have happened to a better man.
The change in Strawberry’s status, from the enslaved London cab-horse to a participant in the journey to the Garden to get the saving apple is, if anything, even more drastic than that of the Cockney cabdriver to King Frank. We in the twenty-first century who work toward liberating animals are used to the language of slavery and abolition, but C.S. Lewis anticipated us (in a restricted way): several times he has Aslan refer to the animals of our world as slaves. As we saw, the Cabby was the most considerate and reluctant of slave-owners, but a slave Strawberry was, if much better off than most; England prior to the twentieth century has often been referred to as “a hell for horses.” In Narnia Strawberry is not only liberated, but is changed to a “talking animal and free subject,” and is even one of the animals Aslan invites to join the council to develop a plan to safeguard the country from the Witch for hundreds of years. Finally, he is given wings, the ultimate symbol of freedom, and invited to become the one who makes possible the journey to the Garden to get the life-giving apple. Conscious cooperation with the Divine is for animals as well as humans.
The highest status an animal in this story holds is of course seen in Aslan. As I said of him in the essay on The Horse and His
Boy ( PT 81 ), Lewis claimed that he did not intend Aslan to be a literal Christ-figure; rather, he is an instance of what the incarnation of God might be in a world peopled by animals: namely, the God-Animal: "Touch me. Smell me. Here are my paws, here is my tail, these are my whiskers. I am a true Beast." Aslan’s powers are called magical in the story: like Uncle Andrew and Jadis, he can make changes in the physical world directly by the power of his mind and speech. But the differences outweigh the resemblances. He can create, can bring the things he imagines into physical existence, whereas the other two can only change what is already there. Even more important, unlike the blight their magic causes, his Magic is generous, life-giving, and life-affirming.
How to Return to Eden?
Eden is remote from us; often it seems hopelessly out of reach. We who cherish this vision of a world in which perfect beauty, love, and peace reign, and want to make our own soiled and anguished world a little more like it, are often called sentimental, unrealistic, impractical. In fact, the truth is usually the other way around: those who work to save and empower the despised, especially animals, are the ones who are realistic about these beings. It is the exploiters, who think of animals only as things, as experimental tools or walking meat, who are pretending, are trying to erase from their minds and hearts the obvious facts that animals are not things but individuals with their own agendas and feelings. They are potential friends.
There is one means to raise consciousness and encourage regular celebrations of a nonviolent Eden among mainstream religious people, a means which may be coming more within our reach now as awareness of the animal concern is rapidly increasing, and vegetarian lifestyles are less thought to be weird and austere. That is in Judaism’s and Christianity’s weekly holy days, the Sabbath and Sunday. Both have traditional obstacles to making the day meatless, but more importantly, both have links to Eden, Judaism more explicitly. And both anticipate the return (or increased realization) of Eden, when God’s Peace reigns on earth. About this topic more in a later issue.
The lead picture of Aslan in a still-bare Narnia is from a website dealing with the proposed film of The Magician’s Nephew, Screenrant . The drawings by the late Pauline Baynes are from the original edition of the book. My thanks to Dawn Davidson for permission to reproduce her paintings from Elfwood . The paintings by Paula Novak are from Wordworx ; my attempt to contact Ms. Novak for permission was unsuccessful.
“Violence anywhere hurts everyone, everywhere.”-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
"Not to hurt our humble brethren, the animals, is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission: to be of service to them whenever they require it."--Attributed to Francis of Assisi
--Contributed by Steve Kaufman
Glimpses of the Peaceable Kingdom
Human and Freed Gorilla Meet Again
Damian Aspinall of the Aspinall Foundation, who raised an orphaned gorilla and introduced him into the wild at maturity, meets him five years later, to find that his former protege remembers him very well and still loves him. See Old Friends
--Contributed by Marjorie Emerson
Human Heals Wolf
A wolf named Apricot allows a healer she doesn’t know to give her laying-on-of-hands for a neurological disorder. Several sessions have resulted in major improvement See Apricot
--Contributed by Marjorie Emerson
Alpine Marmots Befriend Human Boy
Four years ago, Matteo Walch, then age four, made friends with a family of marmots in an area in Switzerland where his family vacations every year. The ordinarily shy creatures have become somewhat habituated to human vacationers in their territory, but the Edenic friendship with little Matteo is extraordinary.
--Contributed by Benjamin Urrutia
“Take it On Down to Veganville”
Major music and film star Justin Timberlake, costumed as a giant block of tofu, took the spotlight in a humorous pro-vegan skit on Saturday Night Live in mid-March, parodying several popular songs in the process. It is encouraging to see the message presented in a form people will welcome, and going mainstream. See and enjoy Veganville
--Contributed by Fay Elanor Ellwood
Slaughterhell Workers Tend Toward Human-on-Human Violence
According to a new study published in the Society and Animals journal, slaughterhouse workers are more prone to violence than the average, with women being the worst. The continuing stress and desensitization from witnessing and participating in the abuse and killing of animals has promoted higher rates of domestic violence and violent crimes, including murder and rape, in towns with abattoirs. See Violent
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
14,000 Dead Pigs in Chinese River
Approximately 14,000 dead pigs have been seen floating down the river in Shanghai, China. Residents have been told nothing else except not to worry. The government has not explained where those dead pigs came from, who or what killed them, or why they were dumped in a river that supplies drinking water to 23 million people. See Pigs
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
California Ag-Gag Bill is Dead
The Ag-Gag bill introduced into the California Assembly by Republican Jim Patterson and sponsored by the California Cattlemen’s Association, which would have required any evidence of abuses to be turned over to authorities in forty-eight hours (thus quashing any adequate investigations), has fortunately been withdrawn by Patterson. See California Bill .
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
“You take from a recipe, but you give to a dish.” Alan Roettinger
The first recipe below is from Speed Vegan by Alan Roettinger. Shortening the time to under thirty minutes spent in the kitchen while still creating amazing vegan dishes is what his recipes are all about. Recipes used with the author’s and the publisher’s permission; our thanks to both.
Makes 4 servings
Fennel is an appetite enhancer, a digestive aid, and a palate cleanser, yet most importantly, it is freaking delicious! This salad is good at the beginning of a meal, at the end of a meal, or by itself as a snack. To keep the fennel from discoloring, make the dressing first, and then cut the fennel.
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup flax oil
4 medium-size fennel bulbs
1 red onion
1/4 cup lightly chopped fennel fronds
To make the dressing, whisk the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Continue whisking while slowly adding the oil in a thin stream. Once dressing has emulsified, set it aside.
If the fennel is very fresh, the surface will be smooth and appetizing; if not, use a peeler to strip off the discolored outer layer. Slice the fennel bulbs in half lengthwise and cut out the tough core. Then slice it thinly across the grain.
Cut the onion into quarters lengthwise; then slice it thinly across the grain. Combine the fennel, onion, and fennel fronds in a medium bowl. Whisk the dressing once more to emulsify it again, if necessary. Pour the dressing over the vegetables. Toss well. Serve at once.
[Wisdom tells us that learning new things no matter what our age or experience will keep our minds alert, eager, and young. White Balsamic Vinegar is new to me, but is now in my kitchen pantry ready for those summer fruits and salads!--Angie Cordeiro]
Green Curry with Tofu and Baby Bok Choy
8 baby bok choy
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
1 bunch (about 4 cups) broccoli (separated into small florets)
1/4 cup Thai green curry paste
2 14-ounce cans coconut milk
14 ounces extra-firm tofu (drained and cut into ½-inch cubes)
16 scallions (thinly sliced on a diagonal)
1/2 cup packed cilantro (coarsely chopped)
3 cups cooked brown or basmati rice
Lime wedges (for garnish)
Wash bok choy thoroughly, spreading leaves to remove any grit. Cut stem portions into ¼-inch slices. Cut leaves at roughly 1-inch intervals and then chop a few times to shorten resulting strips.
Place coconut oil in a large saucepan over high heat, swirling to coat the bottom. Add bok choy and broccoli florets; cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute. Add curry paste and stir well to combine. Add coconut milk and bring to a boil. Cook a few minutes longer, until coconut milk has reduced and thickened slightly, and vegetables are tender-crisp. Add tofu cubes and warm through. Taste and add salt, if needed.
Remove from heat and stir in half the scallions and cilantro. Serve at once over rice in bowls, garnished with remaining scallions, cilantro, and lime.
Book Review: Animals and World Religions
Lisa Kemmerer, Animals and World Religions. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. xiii + 346 pages. $35.00 softcover
Lisa Kemmerer's book is an exceptional collection, the finest to date to the best of my knowledge, of pro-animal and pro-vegetarian teachings together with exemplary figures from all the major world faiths. Activists will find Animals and World Religions an invaluable resource as they endeavor to communicate with members of those traditions, or with others who may have partial misconceptions of them in this respect. It is highly recommended for this purpose.
That said, it must be clear what this book is and what it is not. The author, borrowing a line from Richard C. Foltz's Animals in Islamic Tradition and Muslim Culture, points out that humans "have been slow to pick up on the logic-basic arguments provided by philosophy" against animal exploitation. "Perhaps many people," she goes on, "have not responded because they are motivated more by faith, spirituality and/or religious convictions than by logic or moral philosophy." For them, an argument based on their spiritual tradition will be more effective than one which is not. (pp. 3-4) To provide armaments for those arguments is the purpose--one might even say the sole purpose -- of this book.
Thus, Kemmerer continues by saying that "This book focuses on religious teachings that are relevant to animal advocacy," and that "This book presents religious ideals; this volume does not attempt to explain how people within each religious tradition actually behave, or what they actually believe," with respect to animals (pp. 7, 8; italics in original). Fair enough. This openly-stated selectivity must be kept in mind; this work is not a balanced study of everything about animals in religion, but a well-researched choice of material relevant to the purpose.
We find little reference here to the horrific animal sacrifices which characterized regular worship in most past and some present religion; little about ritual slaughter or clean and unclean animals, little about the mighty hunters of religious myth like Hercules and Orion, or about how some pages of the lawbooks, and most ordinary believers in most religions down to today, justify carnivorism and animal exploitation. What we have instead are the inspired words of those prophets and sages who have gone beyond the norm to proclaim that God takes no delight in such sacrifices, that the ideal of the beginning was as it will be at the end, a loving fellowship of all life living without violence and consuming only the bounty of plants.
To emphasize that inter-species equality, Kemmerer has made the stylistic innovation throughout of using the term "anymal" (“any” + ”-mal”) instead of "animal." The latter word, she argues, instills human/animal dualism, whereas "anymal" refers to fauna of any species, including that of the speaker; if a chimp signed the expression, we humans would also be anymals in her or his usage.
Each chapter begins by citing at some length material favorable to anymals from the religion's classic texts, with reference to compassion, diet, "anymal powers," negativity toward hunting, and the faith's potential for supporting anymal liberation. The section then typically concludes with brief sketches of outstanding figures in animal concerns from that lineage. Some of them are persons who should be familiar to readers of The Peaceable Table. Here are a few examples among many. For Hinduism, there is of course Mohandas K. Gandhi ( PT 8 ); for Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hanh and Norm Phelps, a western Buddhist who wrote a Foreword to this book; for Judaism, Richard Schwartz ( see PT 10 ) and Roberta Kalechofsky; for Christianity, Humphrey Primatt ( PT 4 ), the 18th century Anglican priest who wrote what was probably the first Christian theological argument for justice toward animals; the independent Christian Leo Tolstoy ( PT 22 ); the Roman Catholic Bruce Friedrich, formerly of PETA, now of Farm Sanctuary; and the Lutherans Pelle Strindlund and Annika Spalde, residents of a Tolstoyan community in Sweden (See Book Review, PT 45 ) ; for Islam, Al-Hafiz Masri.
It is worth mentioning that while some literature from Eastern religions may sound more positive regarding animals than the Christian tradition, Kemmerer grants it was Christianity and Judaism -- particularly in England and North America--which created the social atmosphere, and the concrete organizational foundations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (1824), out of which the modern pro-animal movement emerged. One can debate exactly why this was: perhaps a combination of changing social and economic conditions due to the industrial revolution, the biblical prophetic tradition, and the example of parallel anti-slavery and feminist movements. The moral is that it took not only compassionate concepts and feelings, but also prophetic zeal and organizational ability, to get even to where we are now. [It might be noted that the pro-animal movement in the West provided cross-fertilization that contributed to the spiritual development of Gandhi, as well as formation of a considerable number of animal advocacy organizations in Eastern countries today, such as India and China.]
For those who want to take that zeal and (in the Buddhist term) skill-in-means and go with them on behalf of anymals, Animals and World Religions will be an indispensable reference. Here are the words and examples alike, and enough quantity to meet any need.
--Robert S. Ellwood
Did You Miss This One? Until We Meet Again
Asevimoru, Until We Meet Again: God's Eternal Plan For His Animals. New York: Montford Regis, Inc., 1996. 125 pages. $5.95.
This unusual little book is appealing for several reasons. First, it includes several heart-warming stories of the author's relations with her animals, largely rescued, in which she demonstrates not only humane compassion and fellow-feeling for animals, but also that she is one of those rarer members of our species possessing a deep, almost mystical, sense of the eternal meaning of animals and their lives in the great plan. Second, it offers an interpretation of that plan in Christian terms, yet in a richly innovative way that presents fresh animal-friendly insights into many familiar Bible verses. Thirdly, even more strikingly, "Asevimoru" gives us to understand that these openings have come to her in the context of an exceptional spiritual life replete with transcendental experiences and visions; that claim is made unpretentiously but honestly.
As for the first, the author early states, "I've often heard people say that the reason they don't adopt a pet is that it will make them too sad when it dies. Unfortunately this point of view discounts all of the pleasurable time shared along the way to that inevitable day, and also disregards the urgent need that many animals have right now for adoption into households where they can bestow their unconditioned love." For death is inevitable for all living creatures, "the great equalizer for man and beast alike." Then, moving toward the second point, biblical interpretation, Asevimoru turns to Ecclesiastes 3:19-21, often considered a puzzlingly skeptical passage in a seemingly cynical book that made it into the Bible: "For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beast is the same. . . All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. . ." In this author's rendering, what we are really told here is "that animals do live forever" -- for elsewhere we learn that while all die, the physical frame returning to dust, the human soul lives on, and the scriptural author here tells us it is no different with our animal companions on the long pilgrimage of life.
Other lines no less include the animals. When Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15), surely he included, as Francis of Assisi well understood, the animals, for they are undeniably no less a part of creation than we sons of Adam and daughters of Eve are. St. Paul must have included them when he said, "the whole creation groans and travails together until now" (Rom. 8:22), and as Asevimoru states, that travail is partly of our making, for "Nature is harsh enough on the animals; they do not need the added burden of what we put them through."
The ideal instead is Eden and Isaiah's vision of the wolf lying down with the lamb, the holy mountain where none shall hurt nor destroy. Instead, a fallen world has predation: of this the writer says, "The predatory system is a humbling one that maintains order in a fallen world, and it also keeps animals more dependent upon God who must rely on Him to meet their daily needs. Because of their circumstances, animals need to pray a lot for foods, shelter, and deliverance from evil much the way we do. This forced dependency keeps the creatures in a closer communion with their Creator and Savior who guides them through rivers, fields, mountains, and woods where the blessings and curses of life are waiting."
Toward the close of the book we come to the visions. Asevimoru tells us that "On ten separate occasions, in both dreams and visions, during a seven-year period from 1990 to 1996, I have seen Jesus Christ face-to-face." On two of those occasions, she saw the majestic form of the Lord's white horse, presumably the magnificent mount of Rev. 19:11. In the first instance, a dream, she "saw Jesus walk across a lush green meadow to a lone wooden stable where His exquisite-beyond-words, pure, brilliantly-luminous white horse with opalescent eyes, was waiting for Him in perfect peace," and before riding out, the Lord stroked and greeted him "with great love and respect." In the second, more visionary seeing, Jesus, riding the splendid stallion, paused to look at her "and told me that He loved me and that He knew me completely." He then "rode off with gusto through a series of dewy geysers and an arched rainbow."
Readings like the foregoing should give the flavor of this charming volume; there is much more. It is not a work of sophisticated philosophy or exegesis; it is rather a simple and sincere account of the personal revelations and showings (in the sense of those of Dame Julian of Norwich) regarding animals, received by a remarkably spirited mind. One can make of them what one will; I find them convincing because they fit in well with, and sometimes illumine in new ways, my own way of cognizing the place of animals in this wonderful and terrible world. The author, who goes only by the name of Asevimoru, is said to be an actress and filmmaker of Christian-themed movies, as well as a writer and mystic. She has written several other inspirational books based on her insights and visions. One can only wish her and her message well. This book, Until We Meet Again, can be obtained from Good Green Shepherd, c/o James Wilson, 98 Bay Ave., Halesite, NY 11743 for $5.95 + $3.00 postage = $8.95, check to "Good Green Shepherd."
--Robert S. Ellwood
Poetry: Christopher Smart, 1722-1771
On his cat Jeoffry
I will consider my cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the living God, duly and daily serving Him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself. . . .
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For having consider'd God and himself he will consider his neighbor. . . .
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it (a) chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps The Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incompleat without him & a blessing is lacking in the spirit . . . .
For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion....
For he is docile and can learn certain things....
For he can jump from an eminence into his master's bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again....
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly....
For by stroaking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire. . .
Christopher Smart was a professional writer, particularly of humorous verse, often beset by financial problems. In mid-life he suddenly became very religious, and was thought to be mentally ill. He wrote this poem while confined in a “Lunatic Asylum” for seven years.