Posts Tagged ‘Alternative Mental Health’

Buy Vegan Paradise at Lulu.com

June 20, 2010

Glad you are interested in the deeper reasons for choosing veganism and my book, Vegan Paradise! The updated, referenced, first edition of my book is on Lulu.com now! Just go to Lulu.com and search for “Vegan Paradise” in products page. It’s available as a download or a 6 x9 paperback!

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“Thou Shalt Not Kill”, excerpts from Ch. 2 and 4

July 3, 2009

Chapter Two.

The Place of Veganism in Human History:

Some Cultural and Anthropological Evidence

 

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. –M.K. Gandhi

 

Deep ecology and radical ecopsychology (and deep psychology) show us that we have an innate desire to live in harmony with nature, our “biophilia” .  This desire for paradise on earth is driving us continuously to become more in tune with our own human nature and emotions, closer to Mother Nature and more vegan. As we turn away from (or repress/suppress) these feelings, we experience not only difficult mental and physical consequences (which we will examine in Chapter 4), but we help cause world hunger, destruction of the environment and extreme suffering  for animals (all of which ethical reasons we will examine in Chapter 3). Aside from the perhaps more popular ethical and health reasons for becoming vegan, one can see arguments for becoming vegan through studying philosophy, anthropology, and world religion. We also can learn about ancient man’s expression of their biophilia through studying ancient history as handed down by ancient religious texts. (We will briefly look at biological anthropological evidence in Chapter 4.)

 

MUTUAL INTERDEPENDENCE OF HUMANS AND ANIMALS

Our Judeo-Christian religions teach that we are all on a spiritual journey to learn more about God (in the most personal sense), and that life is all about happiness‑‑not just having it, but giving it to others.  And although we may not believe in God, we will still find such morals by learning the golden rule as children (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.) and/or by studying ethics.

 

This relatively new Western ideology is equivalent to what is known as utilitarian philosophy‑‑i.e., the arguments for a natural inclination to create the most happiness around one as possible for  as many humans as possible. Perhaps J. F. Kennedy put it best: “When one among us suffers, we all suffer.” In other words, we learn ways to maximize the happiness that God meant us all to have, whether we believe in a higher reality or not. 

 

Many philosophers, scientists and thinkers of the past half century, such as Peter Singer (Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and author of Animal Liberation), Dr. Richard Ryder (senior clinical psychologist at Warneford Hospital in Oxford) , world-famous anthropologist Jane Goodall, and Jeffrey Masson (author of When Elephants Weep) have shown us that animals have social lives, thoughts, and feelings much like our own. Moreover, according to Ryder, the typical humans belief that animals are a “lower form of life” is a form of bigotry which he calls “speciesism”. Hence, we can see that our lives are actually no more important than animals’ lives–so should we not apply our utilitarianism to animals as well? That is, couldn’t it be true that when one animal among us suffers and dies unnecessarily, we all suffer and die (perhaps spiritually and/or unconsciously)?

 

Dozens of other modern animals’ rights thinkers, philosophers and leaders see a respect for animals’ lives and well‑being as being the ethically correct path for modern peoples to take towards the animal kingdom. They cite animals’ rights, environmental-, utilitarian-, and health-related ethics (these ethical arguments are discussed in more detail in the next two chapters).

 

Other movements, such as the Deep Ecology and the humanist Unitarian Universalist movements believe in a perhaps more holistic, spiritual or mystical kind of connection to the animal kingdom—that we are all part of the “web of life” and so hurting any part of it, hurts us all. Quantum physicists such as Dr. David Bohm (in his book The Implicate Order)  and physicist Barbara Brennan (in The Hands of Light) wrote about that fact that physics has led quantum physicists to conclude that everything is inter-connected, rather than wholly being able to be broken up and analyzed as separate parts. As Brennan states: “We are not separated parts of a whole, but rather we are the whole.” The connections among living beings go deep.

 

Whether or not one uses such Western ethics, mysticism/spirituality or religion as a model for understanding one’s connection to others, one can see a strong basis for veganism in these models as well as a strong argument for the existence of a “higher plan” that intended a happy world. We can also use religious stories and myths to obtain evidence for the Paradise Principle.

 

That is, if people were truly meant to be vegan, then the first humans theoretically should have been vegan. From a study of age-old religious teachings on the beginnings of human history we can get an idea of ancient culture with regard to animals and meat-eating. (Anthropologists often look to such stories to study ancient culture; many of these stories were passed down orally from generation to generation from ancient times–before the beginning of written language.) 

  

 

ANCIENT ANIMAL-WORSHIPPING TRADITIONS AND INDIGENOUS RELIGIONS

Ancient man is known by anthropologists to have had a nature‑ and animal- worshipping religion which was passed on from generation to generation through shamanic/religious rituals. The European pagan Celtic religion of early history, early cave drawings and the Sphinx‑worshipping Egyptian religion are also examples of remnants of animal‑worshipping, and therefore perhaps partially or wholly vegan, ancient cultures. We can all certainly agree that they were in tune with their biophilia.

 

Also, studies of the religions and traditions of indigenous peoples of today‑‑e.g., the American Indians, and West African tribes‑‑which generally hold nature, including animals, in relatively high regard, could be indicative of earlier vegan cultures. American Indian religion teaches us to respect animals, and to only kill them after asking Mother Earth for mercy on the soul of the Hunter; bears, eagles, and wolves are carved into their totem poles, which indicates a conscious knowledge of the value of animals’ lives. An ancient Indian legend speaks of a time when animals were hung up until they could be given a burial when they died—certainly not eaten!! These facts could be indicative of the fact that some American Indians in the Southwest were vegans at one time.

 

Furthermore, we can still see this tradition in the rituals of the Pagans of today, worshipping plants and animals. Also, like many indigenous religions, eastern European ancient man celebrated people (people who connected the community to the Higher Power) who experienced altered state of consciousness experiences and hence were expected to be the tribe’s shamans. They “kept the light alive”—and connected humans with the divine, with nature, and with animals. Like many Eastern (and some Christian) religions of today, they probably also encouraged the individuals within their small bands to meditate on animals and their purpose in relationship to humans.

 

JUDEO-CHRISTIAN RELIGIOUS EVIDENCE OF ANCIENT VEGANISM: GENESIS

 

We know that the book of Genesis (the first book of the Bible, the foundation of the Judeo‑Christian religions) was passed on orally from one generation to another until it was finally written down. If that writing can be respected as an historical source as anthropology tells us (or even simply taken literally), then humans during the most ancient times (or at least up until their “Fall”), did not kill animals for food or clothing (and certainly did not use them for such animal products as soap, leather, or cosmetics); their spiritual and religious beliefs would not allow them to. (They lived in what we would call “paradise”; hence, I term my theory the “Paradise Principle” or “Paradise Paradigm shift”)

 

The Ten Commandments, given to Moses (who could be called an early Jewish shaman) on the Mount, were the foundation for these beliefs. The commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” is one we strive to live by today.  Most Christians are taught that this word “kill” refers to the killing of people only—we call it “murder”. However, if one refers to Hebrew scholars about this word, they will tell you that the Hebrews at the time of the writing of the Old Testament had two words for killing—one that meant the killing of people (like our word “murder”), and one that meant the killing of either animals or people.  Moses did not use the first word in recording the commandments—he used the Hebrew word for “kill”.

 

 In short, we have strong evidence here that ancient man did not believe in the killing of animals and that the first humans were vegan.  We can easily see that the story of ancient man told in Genesis (a story shared by Jewish, Christian and Islamic peoples alike) reflects the existence of an ancient world vegan culture–as does that of  several other world religions.

 

 

GREEK MYTHOLOGY

Again, we can look to other ancient religious traditions and writings as well as ancient philosophy for further proof of cultural facts about ancient man and for proof of our “Paradise Principle”.  Ancient Greek mythology shows that ancient Greeks  believed in a prior vegetarian society they called the “Golden Age”  (see  Dombrowski’s The Philosophy of Vegetarianism).

 

In the Golden Age, according to such philosophers as Pythagorus, a peace‑loving, vegan race existed who were thought to be the very children of Cronus, the father of all gods. (This is, of course, similar to the Judeo-Christian story in which Adam and Eve had a close relationship to God.)  These vegan children of Cronus were said, in the Greek story, to have been wise, strong, and beautiful, and to have lived long, happy lives.

 

Furthermore, Greek philosophers such as Empedodes,  Pythagorus, Plutarch and Plotinus all defended the belief that it is wrong to eat animals.

 

EASTERN RELIGIONS

Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism‑‑perhaps more clearly than any other religions‑‑clearly indicate an ancient religious respect for animals’ lives. Hindu teachings continue to advise people to be vegetarian to this day, as does ancient/classical Aryuvedic medicine. Even today, Buddhism teaches us that we may reincarnate as an animal; and furthermore, that a karmic law exists whereby we are to have respect for animals’ needs–or face a similar fate as that of animals! Surprisingly perhaps, Taoism includes the study of ancient documents which detail a story of early man very similar to that told by Genesis and by the myth of…

Chapter Four. Vegan “Karma”: Your Mental Well-being and Your Health

 

“When we kill animals to eat them, they end up killing us because their flesh, which contains cholesterol and saturated fat, was never intended for human beings, who are natural herbivores.”

–Dr. William C. Roberts, M.D.

 

No matter how one views ethical considerations–one cannot ignore the effects of consuming animal products on one’s mental/spiritual and physical health—and, second perhaps to ethics, this is the primary reason many people are choosing a vegan diet today. Mental and physical health statistics may be the best proof that the Paradise Principle is true, that we were created to be vegan.

 

The China Study is a well-known, comprehensive long-term health study conducted in Asia by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of biochemistry at Cornell, which shows the many physical health benefits of veganism; it shows how many common Western diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease, are statistically much lower in vegetarians and vegans than in meat-eaters. Undoubtedly, many studies have been done in the past forty years showing conclusively that becoming a vegan will be helpful in avoiding heart disease, cancer, and death from diabetes, among other health problems. Some research is also beginning to show the linkage between mental dysfunction–such as aggression, depression and even schizophrenia and autism—and animal product consumption; perhaps our brief study of this subject here will shed light on this complicated subject.

 

OUR HEALTH AND NUTRITIONAL POLITICS

 

Increasing amounts of people are becoming aware that all of the U.S. recommended daily allowances (U.S.R.D.A.) for healthful vitamins and minerals can be found in food items other than animal‑product‑containing ones. Along these lines, it should be noted that the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine recommended in the eighties that the United States government change the U.S.R.D.A. to exclude all animal products (i.e. to recommend strict vegetarianism). The American Dietetic Association has also endorsed the vegan diet for health. However, the government–being possibly concerned about political/economic considerations, rather than health facts—has merely changed its U.S.R.D.A. to include far less animal products, but not cut them out completely. Moreover also due to political/economic considerations, or simply ignorance, diet was not, until relatively recently, considered a primary factor in health.

 

Despite this, aware people in recent years have taken the PCRM’s recommendation to heart and taken up veganism for their health. They have also become aware of the political reasons that their doctors may not know much about or promote veganism. For example, although the numbers may be growing, only about half of American medical schools require courses in nutrition, and hence most doctors may not feel competent to recommend dietary changes.

 

VEGANISM, ECOPSYCHOLOGY, AND MASS NEUROSIS

We have discussed in the second chapter how the field of ecopsychology has shown that we all have a desire to live in harmony with nature and with animals (biophilia), and that this desire is the reason we feel badly when we hear of the tragic way farm animals are treated.  However, studies on the psychological benefits of vegetarianism or veganism have rarely been done, although a few may exist. I have informally interviewed dozens of vegan over the past 20 years , and Dr. Nandita Shah is also conducting  interviews. However, it seems logical that if we are doing things which have a positive effect on our environment and on animals that we will  have better mental health.

 

And, in fact, many new vegans over the past 20 years have reported in various publications and in my interviews with them that they feel more at peace than they had before becoming vegan, and it has been noticed by many that vegans seem less uncontrollably aggressive than others. (I have noticed that I have felt happier in general, and more guilt-free about eating in general, since becoming vegan.)

 

Also, that being around animals calms many people with psychiatric diagnosis (pet therapy is common in integrative psychiatric care settings) is evidence that being vegan may help resolve mental crises. One might theorize that becoming a strict vegetarian could even help one avoid much mental distress (or even mental “disorder”, which some prefer to call “disturbance” or “crisis”) by allowing one to experience the positive emotions (conscious or unconscious) and chemistry associated with not participating in the killing, and eating of, animals (more on this later).

 

Unfortunately for our mental health, this desire to live in harmony with animals (biophilia or the animal-caretaker archetype discussed in chapter one) can easily become repressed in the modern world we live in—where many economic and cultural factors are oppressive. Yet this desire lays deep in people’s collective unconscious, and the conflicts surrounding it and what oppresses it may cause depressive/aggressive or even neurotic behavior in ways we cannot easily imagine. Eckhart Tolle discusses common people as having become insane en masse due to the repression of their true natures—i.e. people are suffering from mass neuroses due to our destruction of nature, which we could assume would include the factory-farming of animals.

 

 

MENTAL DISORDER AND VEGANISM

 

The unconscious biophilia archetype is so strong and the suppression of it so intense by traditional Western lifestyles that even much serious mental disorder and violence in the West could be explained by the numbers of animals people kill therein. We have mentioned how eating animals may affect the common person’s general mental health on a day-to-day basis, but could it be that serious mental crises also are related to the biophilia and animal-caretaker archetypes?

 

As radical psychiatrists and psychologists such as psychiatrists Carl Jung, Eric Fromm, J.W. Perry, Peter Breggin, Thomas Szasz, Dr. and Dr. Stanislov Grof,  and William Glasser and psychologists Bhargavi Davar and Andy Fisher, among many others (see the International Center for the study of Psychiatry and Psychology website, www.iscpp.org ) have stated, we may need to drop the medical conceptualization of mental crises and look at psychospiritual, social and environmental reasons instead. Moreover, radical psychology/psychiatry (see for example, Andy Fisher’s book) has proposed specifically that we need to move in the direction of recognizing that our modern disconnection with nature—including environmental destruction around us and societal disconnection with our own physical, psychospiritual and social needs and desires—is a cause for much mental crisis. This would certainly include the disconnection we have with animals through the process of killing and eating them for food.

 

Serious mental crises such as schizophrenia and other psychoses have been a mystery for eons, but the light has begun to shine on them over the past 50 years. The biochemical conceptualization of psychoses has not been supported by the evidence (with the possible exception of a familial genetic factor). Radical psychiatrists and psychologists, like Jung, Perry, the Grofs, and Davar, among others, recognize that a psychosis is a combination of a psychospiritual crises (relatedly to dramatic spiritual/altered state experiences) and our disconnection with nature (the two factors intertwine).  As we discussed in chapter one,  many psychologists and psychiatrists—from the first American psychologist William James to Carl Jung, to such recent psychologists as Jauregui and Miller et al—recognize that people can actually “get in touch with” the higher reality which connects us all (God, Brahma, the Great Spirit etc). As Carl Jung noted, you may not have ever had a religious-mystical experience, but you cannot deny that others may have had one.

 

It is well-known that the existence of epiphanies, or religious-mystical experiences (also known, among other terms, as altered state of consciousness experiences etc.) among common people, can lead to identity crises. In fact, the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, the diagnostic tool of psychiatry, will list religious and spiritual problems as a new category of abnormal behavior.

 

For the psychotic, in simple terms, the experience causes an identity crisis which cannot be resolved, or can only be resolved after a period of time of confused behavior (what society sees as madness). Basically, when one suddenly is propelled into a connection with one’s soul and unconscious, as in a dramatic spiritual experience, one is flooded with emotions, unusual perceptions (hallucinations) and knowledge which causes one to be aware (on an emotional level only, at first, but on an on-going basis) that something is “rotten in Denmark”. That is, one looks at the modern world around one—the “explosion” of cars, technology, concrete, pollution, death and destruction all around us and in the media—and feels at once overwhelmed, helping lead to much confused (what we term insane) behavior, while at the same time a deep connection to life and the natural world. As Larson et al put it, the person whose personality has fallen apart after one of these experiences needs time to understand the experience and learn how to act given a completely new perspective on, and perception of , life.

 

Hence, in more technical terms, we see that the most difficult-to-understand of mental crises (disorders), schizophrenia and other psychoses, are related to what we could term spiritual crises, where one experiences a sudden flooding of communication from the subconscious or soul (that becomes on-going). This communication from the unconscious would, in our conceptualization of archetypes and unconscious patterns of thought and behavior (which we discussed earlier), include as primary the biophilia and the animal-caretaker archetypes. Some people, perhaps with the proper background education (either religious or moral or spiritual education), can handle these experiences; others cannot or have much trouble learning how to cope with them…