The Peaceable Table

A Vegetarian Journal for Quakers and Other People of Faith

The Peaceable Table is intended for the mutual support, education, and inspiration of people of faith in the practice of love for our fellow animals and observance of a nonviolent diet

The Great Wall



Most human communities are encircled by a culturally-built wall that marks off those who have value in themselves from the outsiders who don’t. According to historian of religion Mircea Eliade, at early levels of human development, the tribe or ethnic group is likely to be seen as the whole moral community, the center of the world. Outside of it is the realm of threatening chaos, to be either shunned, or fought and overcome. At later stages, the wall encloses the privileged race or nation. There are also usually various inner walls, maintaining degrees of value inside the circle. These cultural walls are created by human beings. Some of the inner ones, when understood to be human-made, provide necessary structure to society. But when a wall, especially the Great Wall, is thought to be beyond question, it makes for a cosy prison surrounded by a no-man's-land. Walls have great power and influence, shaping their human shapers.

But, as sociologist of religion Peter Berger points out, they require regular maintenance (like the stone wall in Robert Frost's well-known poem). Individuals sometimes forget them, or seem unable to comprehend them in the first place. Children question them, and have "got to be taught / To be afraid / Of people whose eyes / Are oddly made, /And people whose skin / Is a different shade. . . . " Philosophers question them. Prophets challenge them, arousing anxiety among their hearers.

Because of the Quaker affirmation of the reality of the Inner Light in all, and thus our testimony of Equality, Friends have consistently been committed to including all human beings within the Great Circle of those who have value. Of course, many other individuals and communities with strong spiritual and moral convictions share this commitment. Though we seldom fully live up to our testimonies, we hold that no one should be exploited, or subject to the violence that enforces exploitative systems. But most people of religious and moral convictions, including Friends, have assumed that animals are on the other side of the Wall, the realm of chaos and darkness, of creatures that, uncontrolled, are red in tooth and claw. Kindness to these four-legged outsiders is laudable, but justice is limited to the two-legged and many-worded, those who look like us. Keeping animals against their will as property is not slavery; killing them for food or other reasons of human convenience is not considered to be violence despite the obvious fact that it is bloodshed. Because of the wall, otherwise compassionate people can look at this violence and simply not see it.

The Challenge to the Wall
The focal issue of the Animal Rights/ animal defense movement is to present the challenge to this wall that prophetic thinkers and activists have been making, especially in the last thirty years. Their message is that as a moral boundary, the wall is as imaginary as those previously believed to separate tribes, classes, genders, nations, or races. The reality is not a neat, clear situation of who may own or eat whom--humans vs. animals--but an untidy scene of gradation. We humans are much closer to cows in consciousness and behavior than cows are to clams.

What, after all, is it that makes human beings thought to be the sole bearers of intrinsic value, distinguishing us as the only proper inhabitants of the charmed circle? One traditional answer is rationality; "we" think and talk, whereas "they" can't; we know, and we know that we know. Another answer is that humans are made in the image of God, or possess a soul: "God formed man from the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (nepesh)." Our aliveness is derived from the Divine Breath/Spirit; thus we have the capacity to be united with God our Source. The language of Friends regarding this central issue of identity is derived from the Biblical terms: the "Inner Light" borne by all persons is often used interchangeably with "Spirit."

These terms are variously defined, or left vague, but an element common to most conceptions of the terms is consciousness, awareness, that which differentiates a living body from a dead one. God is the living God; we are alive with life from God. The words certainly refer to something real. But unfortunately for those who depend on the biblical "soul" to differentiate humans from animals, the same Hebrew word, nepesh, is also applied to animals in the text. (Uncomfortable translators usually choose a different term, such as "creature," to mask this identity.) There is no question but that animals have consciousness, and some of them show definite signs of being self-conscious, of "knowing that they know." (See Reflecting Elephants, PT Issue 26 (Nov. 2006) They too are alive with That of the divine Life.

In, under, and with the traditional theological answer to the identity question is another, the conviction that "we" have a capacity for love and empathy, whereas "they" operate out of instinct. But the term "instinct" is so vague that often it is little more than a handle to denigrate animal consciousness with its urges, feelings, and skills. All too often, the exaltation of human beings at the expense of animals arises out of ignorance of many of "them."

However the identifying characteristic of the "insiders" is understood, probably the main reason why animal defenders have challenged the wall, claiming it to be full of holes, is what philosophers call "borderline cases." The boundary is not as clear-cut as is usually assumed. Some human beings are born so defective mentally that they will never speak. Some are so defective spiritually that they show no sign of love, and even commit appalling crimes without any detectable twinge of conscience. Yet we are right to affirm that they still derive from the divine Breath, bear the Inner Light. On the other hand, close attention, both informal and scientific, to animals has shown that many bond together in deep attachments, sometimes for life; some are capable of altruistic actions toward other animals and humans. In humans this would be called love; it is only the human-built wall that authorizes us to demean these actions as "instinctive." Well-known studies of chimpanzees and gorillas show that they can acquire vocabularies in the hundreds or thousands of words in sign language. Animals have central nervous systems; they dream; they communicate by sounds and gestures; they suffer; they enjoy. When we perceive that the wall was not created by God or Natural Law, but by human beings, there is a sudden perception that to harm or destroy the bodies of creatures of these capacities, especially for the sake of our pleasure or convenience, is real violence. It is not on the same level as killing germs.

One Response to the Challenge

In many cases, people (including people of faith) who resist the challenge presented by animal defenders insist that whether or not one eats "meat" is a personal decision, and insist that their liberties ought not to be infringed by the tyranny of vegetarians. (This is hardly a new point; John Calvin made it 400-plus years ago.) This argument, which seems convincing to many who have given the issue little thought, still takes the wall for granted rather than defending it.

But once the challenge has been made, it cannot responsibly be ignored. Those who intend to continue eating the flesh of animals cannot be allowed to take the wall for granted. They must show that human animals are morally different from our furry and feathered cousins, not merely different in body shape or degree of mental capacity. Demonstrating this is not so easily done.

Of course the issue is much more than a matter of logical argument; strong feelings on both sides are involved. Suppose a congregation should suddenly learn that the "meat" they had been eating in their monthly potluck came not from animals but from severely mentally defective human beings, namely, borderline cases. Although the victims may in fact have had a more restricted consciousness than normal cows or pigs, the diners would all feel sick and horrified. No one would think that whether or not they ate it should be a matter of individual choice.

Such a scenario might help meat-eaters to understand the feelings of Friends and other vegetarians of faith who have long come to regard the wall as imaginary. To be present when our friends are eating animals capable of love, animals who lived in misery and were killed in fear and pain, does not cause mere discomfort; it causes a grief so deep as to eclipse the joys of fellowship with fellow-worshippers, though they remain bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.
It is important that in dealing with the painful divisions that this issue opens within our spiritual communities that we keep turning to the Divine Spirit, and make strong efforts when we speak to be both accurate and loving. It is possible, though not easy, to condemn cultural constructs without condemning persons, and this we must continually strive to do. Those who disagree must be encouraged to labor in the same way.

--Gracia Fay Ellwood

News Notes

Quaker Animal Group Invited to Join European Union (EU) Trade Debate

British Quakers concerned about the treatment of animals in world trade have been invited to take part in regular discussions with the European Commissioner for External Trade, Peter Mandelson, and his staff. The aim of the meetings is to develop a good working relationship between all groups with an interest in the trade policy field. Two Quakers from Wymondham Meeting, where the Kinship initiative originated, went to Brussels at the invitation of the EU External Trade Directorate.

The invitation to join the group follows a nationwide petition organised by the Norwich and Lynn Kinship Group last year. It called upon the EU to bring pressure to bear on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to ensure proper consideration is given to the welfare of animals reared for food. At present, European attempts to raise standards are being thwarted by their WTO obligation to accept imports from less enlightened member countries.

Following the meeting, Mike Purton said: “This is the best outcome we could have hoped for. It offers British Quakers who care about the treatment of animals a real voice on the international stage.”

--Contributed by Marian Hussenbux


Trying Out the Cage


Nine volunteers agreed to be locked in an English zoo for 12 days, eating the same food as the apes: water, honey, and a variety of raw fruits, vegetables and nuts. They set up home in a tented enclosure at Paignton Zoo, Devon, next to the ape house, in an experiment filmed for TV. The idea, says Jill Fullerton-Smith, who helped organise the trial, was that modern diets, often dominated by processed foods and saturated fats, cause costly health problems.


The regime was devised by nutritionist and registered dietician Lynne Garton and King's College Hospital. It was based on research suggesting that these are the types of foods our bodies evolved to eat over thousands of years. In the second week, fish was added (though fish-eating apes are, to say the least, rare).


Expected frustrations and grumpiness in the group did not materialize; the volunteers were highly motivated. Energy levels rose; weight loss was rapid--an average of nine pounds overall, 3/4 pound a day; cholesterol levels and blood pressure also dipped sharply. After the test, several of the participants made a decision to continue eating a plant-based diet.


--From a BBC broadcast Jan. 11, 2007

contributed by Ruanne Peters and Kate Carpenter


Note: Illustration not from original report. . . .


Great Britain Might Consider Food Rationing


The environment minister of Great Britain, Ben Bradshaw, has warned that Britain may need to go back to Second World War-style rationing if climate change runs out of control, given that food production has done as much damage as private transport and housing. A new government website ( states clearly that eating beef, lamb, chicken and dairy products contributes to global warming because of the energy and land needed to rear animals, and also says that sheep and cows emit harmful methane gas. To read the full article please visit


--Contributed by Lorena Mucke


Abused Chickens, Trappist Monks


PETA undercover investigation of an egg factory owned and operated by a Trappist Monastery, Mepkin Abbey outside Charleston, S. C., has revealed appalling conditions in which hens are kept. Mepkin Abbey Egg Farm has 38,000 hens that produce 9 million eggs per year. As is typical with such chicken concentration camps, these hens are packed so tightly that their bodies are pressed firmly against each other without even being able to spread a wing or turn around. They are painfully debeaked and kept in filthy cages for up to two years, during which the abbey will starve them in order to shock their bodies into an additional laying cycle.


The irony of it all is that the printing on the outside of the egg cartons claims "a deep respect for the environment... through the caring cultivation of the earth and its creatures" and are marked "Animal Care Certified"! Another irony is that Trappists are vegetarian.


To read the full article and to watch the undercover video please visit You can also write an e-letter to the abbey.


--Contributed by Lorena Mucke



“In order to satisfy one human stomach, so many lives are taken away. We must promote vegetarianism. It is extremely important.”


-- The XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet (1935 -)

Quotation from Live in a Better Way, 2001

Contributed by Lorena Mucke

Book Review: A Bird Shall Carry the Voice


Leigh Farris, A Bird Shall Carry the Voice. Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford Publishing, 2005. 314 pp. $29.95.

In this book the author describes the experiences she had living with a cockatoo (Kakatoe moluccensis) who was at first believed to be a male, and named Maximilian. Two veterinarians examined her without realizing that she was really female; her sex was only discovered when she started laying (unfertilized) eggs. Then her name was changed to Beaka.

The first vet claimed that some swellings in the bird were due to malnutrition, and that the only solution was euthanasia. Both the diagnosis and the prognosis were horribly wrong. (After all, if a human being is diagnosed with malnutrition the solution is never a lethal injection, but always an improved diet, which should also apply to all birds and beasts.) Beaka, alas, in the end suffered the same fate as George Washington, who died not from his last illness but from his physicians' misguided cures. After two centuries things are somewhat better for humans, but, alas, not so much better for the rest of creation. Always seek a second opinion!

But, as Jesus said, not a sparrow falls without God's knowing (and feeling) it. When Leigh and her husband Douglas buried Beaka's remains under a tree in an isolated place, another bird provided music for the funeral: a beautiful Shama thrush, a species originally from India, now living in Hawaii. To the great astonishment of the humans, the song was not one the Shama usually sings--it was "exactly the same as Beaka's own" (emphasis in the original). It is very hard to see this as some kind of coincidence; it is clear, at least to me, that that thrush was a messenger from another world, ultimately from God.

From living with Beaka, Leigh and Douglas learned that she was a spirit, with emotions, intellect, and language, and therefore just as entitled to life and to respect as humans are. As a result they became vegans and animal rights advocates.

We can hope and pray that others who read this story will move in the same direction.

--Benjamin Urrutia

Book Review: Vegetarian Christian Saints


Holly Roberts, Vegetarian Christian Saints: Mystics, Ascetics and Monks. Angeli Press, 2004. xiv+255 pages. $20.00.


Christian vegetarian saints? Many contemporary vegetarians in the Christian west, associating the peaceable diet with Eastern religion and all too familiar with the hunting and eating habits of their Christian neighbors, might almost wonder if such a thing is possible. They have perhaps heard of St. Francis of Assisi and his legendary love of animals (though even he, out of charity to donors, may not have always been strictly vegetarian). But beyond that, Christendom may seem more a world of dominion and of the dominated/eaten.
Yet Holly Roberts has here collected no fewer than 150 traditional saints reputably vegetarian, ranging from the obscure to such well-known names as Benedict and Dominic, founders of major religious orders; and these names only scratch the surface. Up to around the seventh century her list is entirely from the early church East and West, and thereafter from the western Roman Catholic tradition. This is not because she is biased, for her fine introductory writing shows great appreciation of spiritual vegetarianism in other religions, but because this is what she knows and wants to give the world.
The bulk of her accounts seem to derive directly or indirectly from Alban Butler's classic Lives of the Saints (originally published 1756-59), or similar conventional Catholic sources. Thus Eastern Orthodox vegetarian saints from Isaac the Syrian to Seraphim of Sarov are not included, nor are Protestant vegetarian figures like John Wesley, founder of Methodism, or John Chapman, “Johnny Appleseed.”
While contemporary scholars may quibble about anecdotal or legendary material in Butler's immensely influential work, his narratives of saints' lives undoubtedly reveal the major enduring qualities of a genuine Catholic spiritual tradition. In this tradition, vegetarianism keeps cropping up again and again.
In some cases it is just a mark of the extreme (by the standards of our consumerist society) asceticism of many early, and some later, monks, nuns, and hermits, who often lived long and contented lives on nothing but grains, herbs, and water. Others, though not as many as one would like to see, were definitely moved by compassion. There is St. Giles, who protected a deer he had befriended from the arrows of a hunter with his own body, and of course there is Francis as well as other Franciscans.

In any case, Christian vegetarianism is part of a longstanding and noble heritage, which once more needs to be shouted till “the walls come tumblin’ down.” Learn about the heritage from this fine book.


--Robert Ellwood



Saffron Rice (Riso allo Zafferano)
Serves 4

2 cups white basmati rice
¼ c. dry white wine
1 tsp. saffron threads
4 T. (or 1/2 stick) Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (butter substitute)
4 – 5 cups water
1 tsp. sea salt

Warm wine in small saucepan; add saffron. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. Stir in Earth Balance to melt.

Cook basmati rice in salted water 15 minutes. Drain the rice.
Place rice in large baking dish and toss to mix with the saffron wine to coat evenly.
Cover with aluminum foil. Bake 350° F for 25 - 30 minutes.

Saffron rice is the base of Paella. It is also a delicious side dish; and is so beautiful when accompanied by green peas and sautéed red peppers.

--- Angela Suarez

Note: Good health requires that our diet almost always be made up of whole, unrefined plant foods. This dish may be made with brown rice if desired (increase cooking time), but the saffron flavor is more accessible with the white. Made as directed above, it should be a rare treat only.

Sautéed Peas, Artichoke Hearts and Roasted Red Peppers
Serves 2- 4

2 red peppers, cut in half
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup artichoke hearts, in water - drained
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven 400°F. Roast peppers in oven 30 -40 minutes until tender. Remove and store in glass container in refrigerator until ready to use. May be made a day or two ahead of serving. If refrigerated, warm in oven 350° F for 10 minutes. Cut peppers into pieces or strips before adding to peas and artichokes.

Sauté peas and artichoke hearts in olive oil until flavors blend. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Toss together with roasted red pepper strips. Add to saffron rice - in a circle around the outer edge of the serving bowl or platter.

--Angela Suarez

Lemon Poppy Seed Scones
Makes 12 scones

2 cups organic unbleached flour
¾ cup organic sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. sea salt
¾ cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks butter substitute, cold, cut into pieces
juice of one organic lemon (about ¼ cup)
zest of one organic lemon, grated
2 T. poppy seeds
½ cup vanilla soy milk
1 tsp. raspberry vinegar

Preheat oven 375° F.

In the bowl of a food processor, place flour, sugar, baking powder and sea salt; pulse a couple of times to mix. Add Earth Balance with motor running to form a crumbly mixture, then add lemon juice and zest, raspberry vinegar and poppy seeds. Slowly add soymilk until a stiff dough forms. Shape dough into two disc shapes.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the discs of dough on the paper and score into wedges. Bake until golden brown—about 20 -25 minutes. Remove from oven. Delicious served warm with fresh brewed organic fair trade French roast coffee.

-- Angela Suarez

Canine Friend Recipe: Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies
2 ½ - 3 dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie cutters

These can be rolled out into interesting shapes. The peanut butter smell while baking is irresistible.

2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ cup organic natural peanut butter, no added salt (smooth)
1 cup soy milk

Preheat oven to 350° F degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, mix peanut butter and soy milk. Stir peanut butter mixture into dry ingredients, and mix well using a wooden spoon. Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and knead. Roll out to ¼ inch thick and cut out shapes. Place on a nonstick or well oiled baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, until golden. Cool on a rack, then store in an airtight container.

--Angela Suarez

Nutrition Tidbits: or Food for Thought

A whole grain contains three parts (and must contain all of the parts to be considered "whole grain") - bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grains contain phytochemicals and antioxidants which can help keep the body healthy by preventing the growth of some cancer cells, decreasing risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some other illnesses. The germ and the bran of the grain contain antioxidants.

Whole grains are a good source of B vitamins, Vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber.

Amaranth, millet, oats/oatmeal, buckwheat, and quinoa are some types of whole grains.

-- Angela Suarez

My Pilgrimage

John Woolman led me into Quakerism with his Journal account of thoughtlessly – in his childhood - killing a mother bird. Soon realizing that he had sentenced her nestlings to starvation, he forced himself to kill them all. He told at some length of how this experience haunted him.

My only knowledge of Woolman before reading this was a vague memory that he was one of the early American religious writers. His work had been in a literature text along with Cotton Mather’s and Jonathan Edwards’. I had no memory of reading him at that time, but here he was again for me, in a yard sale purchase, and reading him was life-changing.

"At last!" I thought, "a religion that includes animals!" I began searching at once for more of Woolman’s writings and was lucky enough to find a beautiful version of his journals and letters. Printed in England in 1871, its generous introduction was by Woolman’s fellow Quaker, the poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Whittier dwelt on Woolman’s many references to animals as fellow creatures, to whom we owe gratitude and for whom we have great responsibility. Whittier compared him to St. Francis, characterizing him as "a loving husband, a tender father and very humane to every part of creation under his care."

I hastened to get acquainted with the Quaker group nearest me, but it didn’t take long to see that Quakers were, in general, little different from most other Christians in regard to animals. I met a few who were vegetarians, but almost always on grounds of health or equitable sharing of earth’s resources. Fewer still seemed to be concerned about the sufferings of food animals – or any animals, for that matter.

But I didn’t give up on that account. I kept seeking and reading Quaker materials and found that Faith and Practice (the basic Quaker handbook) usually had a scant one or two passages that urged justice and kindness to animals. I finally found The Friendly Vegetarian (FV, see Credits below), a most congenial and inspiring newsletter published by Friends whose convictions were obviously like my own. It greatly bolstered me, though all its producers were afar, and I was honored to write some articles for it. These led me to research Joshua Evans and Andre Benezet, two committed vegetarian Quakers who regarded Woolman with respect. (See Jan. 05 PT for a substantial excerpt from this essay.)

I continued to feel that Woolman's message on the subject of animals was unmistakable. A person who didn’t want to accept it could argue that his referring to our relationships with other "creatures" simply meant other people less fortunate than ourselves. It’s true that the word creatures was often used pityingly in those days, for Indians, slaves and the poor. Sometimes Woolman obviously was doing that too, but more often he was clearly referring to non-humans or to all life together.

Often Woolman shared very specific experiences. He said that once when he was traveling, and the way led through swampy land, he and his companion dismissed their guide though they still needed his services, because he was a large man and he and his horse were suffering from the heat. When Woolman went to England he remarked with pity about the low spirits of chickens who were kept on board ship for their eggs and meat.

He relayed how pathetically they called out in response to roosters they could hear crowing on land when the boat was docking. He told his family not to write to him in England because he didn’t want to have any part in the abuse of the coach horses and the postboys who rode or drove them. He described how horses were routinely driven to death or blindness in speed contests between coach lines, and said that the boys sometimes froze to death. Woolman refused to use the stagecoach system while he was in England, instead walking everywhere in all weathers.

Having absorbed all this, I was surprised and disappointed that Quakers could revere Woolman so much, yet disregard this aspect of his character. I could not understand how they could so often and so reverently quote him, on everything but his pronouncements concerning animals. Not long ago I saw, in a Quaker publication, an editorial letter in which someone questioned Woolman’s being a vegetarian. I had always taken for granted that he was, given the pleasures and necessities of life he rejected because they involved slave labor. My assumption was confirmed by some of the writings of Donald Brooks Kelley, who even said he hoped someday to do a book about vegetarianism among early American Quakers.

But searching Woolman’s writings for comments rejecting meat-eating, I cannot quote any, or declare at what point in his life he became a vegetarian, or whether he made exceptions for the sake of hosts’ or guests’ feelings. But I don’t see how anyone can go on eating meat after reading Woolman’s passages about oppression and how it is our duty to remove as much of it as possible from all that lives.

A few months ago Friends Journal had a thought-provoking article about ways in which Quakers might consider changing, the first being in our treatment of animals. My initial delight was smashed when the author said he wasn’t sure that vegetarianism or avoiding leather were necessary. Has no Quaker publication ever repeated what numberless sources tell us about what slaughterhouses are really like, or how it feels to be hauled to slaughter and stand around, maybe over a weekend without food or water in order to make one's body less messy when eviscerated? Or of the terror of being driven along in an inescapable slaughter line, hearing the screams of those already being "processed?" Have Quakers never read of the wretched lives of baby calves who are taken from their mothers a day or two after birth and kept in tiny stalls to prevent their developing muscle, fed deficient diets to make their flesh pale, more salable, more pleasing to the eye? Are most Quakers now so far removed from these scenes as to truly believe that animals cannot feel pain or fear?

It surprised and disappointed me greatly to see that a long Friends Journal article in April 2005 by Gracia Fay Ellwood about Quakers and vegetarianism drew reader responses like "my family has always raised beef animals and none ever suffered on our farm," with no acknowledgement of what happens once the owner receives money for an animal’s living flesh. And "But meat’s a big industry! What would happen to all the people who live from it?" (One of the prominent animal protectionists has said, "What happened to all the slavers when abolition came?")

Animal defenders tell us, with impressive stats, that the single greatest source of animal suffering, world wide, is meat-eating. And even the government now admits that the less flesh one eats, the better for one's health. It has surprised and disappointed me greatly that most Quakers seem unwilling to really look at this issue.

How much stronger would our system of ethics be if we –as a group – were trying consistently to live harmlessly? John Woolman could lead the way on that, just as he has surely confirmed some of the deepest convictions of many who feel that animals have to be part of any true religion. How many kindred spirits might we then attract to Quakerism, whose commitment to the Inner Light and to nonviolence makes it the belief system most likely to embrace animals? If more of us tried to emulate and apply to this issue Woolman’s passionate work for abolition, perhaps through Quakers a new era for animals could be realized.

--Joan Gilbert

Pioneer: Seraphim of Sarov

This beloved Russian Orthodox saint, originally named Prochor Moshnin, was born to a middle-class couple in the small city of Kursk in 1759. He seems to have experienced visions and paranormal events from his childhood; for example, a serious illness at age 10 was ended quickly when the boy saw a vision of the Virgin, and shortly thereafter came into contact with a much-venerated icon. When his father died at about the same time, his devout and capable mother carried on the family construction business.

At age eighteen Prochor joined the monastery of Sarov, where he followed an austere regime, meatless, but involving too much fasting and too little sleep for his needs. He became seriously ill again and was bedridden much of the time for three years. He was again healed after having a vision of the Virgin. When he took his final vows at age 27, he was given the name Seraphim, which means, roughly,"angels of flame." The name was to prove appropriate, for he was given to long periods of ardent prayer and experiences of divine Light.

In his thirties he received permission from his staretz (spiritual counselor) to become a hermit in the forest, living in a rough hut about three miles from the monastery. He cut his own firewood and lived on bread and vegetables. During the following years he had demonic as well as radiant visions, continued to spend long hours in prayer, and became intimate with forest animals: bears, rabbits, wolves, and foxes. This closeness to animals is not a matter of legend; a staretza of Diveiev, a nearby nunnery, reported seeing him feeding a bear, his face intensely joyous. There is no question that his vegetarian diet was a matter of compassion and not merely the following of an ascetic tradition.


During this period Seraphim was viciously attacked, not by animals but by human bandits, who beat him with the handle of his own axe despite his complete nonresistance, and left him for dead. He survived, and managed to drag himself back to the monastery. The attack left him permanently hunched over. It is reported that when the bandits were caught and brought to justice, Seraphim begged the judge to show them mercy.


About 1820 Seraphim had another vision of the Virgin in which he was instructed to end his solitary lifestyle and become available to spiritual seekers as a staretz. He opened his door to all, and by then his reputation for holiness was so great that a constant stream of seekers, from Czar Alexander I to humble peasants, came from near and far for blessing, healing, and prayers. He loved to play with children. He was remarkably free of gender prejudice, and counseled women either singly or accompanied; as spiritual father to the nuns of Diveiev, he would sometimes take walks with them in the fields. These practices outraged straitlaced persons, who made it into a scandal which caused Seraphim much grief. Eventually, however, his unmistakable holiness, especially his humility and deep love for all beings, carried the day.


In a later dramatic touch, a notebook containing detailed accounts of Seraphim's conversations with his friend and counselee Nicholas Motovilov were discovered in a dirty attic almost seventy years after Seraphim's death in 1833. One of the conversations may be of particular interest to Quakers, as it deals with experiencing the Spirit and the divine Light. One dark afternoon about 1831, as the two friends were walking over a field amid falling snow, Motovilov repeatedly asked how he could come to know the presence of the Spirit. Seraphim's answers, about peace and about prayer, did not seem to help. Finally Seraphim took his friend by the shoulders and said "We are already both in the Holy Spirit, my dear fellow; we have only to realize it." As Motovilov tried to look at his friend, he became dazzled by a brilliant light from Seraphim's face that eclipsed his features and his body, and seemed to ignite the falling snow around them. Motovilov perceived a wonderful fragrance, felt a summer-like warmth and a deep joy. At the same time, he was frightened by the extraordinary turn of events. "Do not fear, dear fellow," said the saint, "you would not even be able to see this if you yourself were not in the fullness of the Holy Spirit."


Many persons who know nothing of Seraphim have been influenced by him via Dostoevsky, who modeled the character of Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov on the saint. See PT June 2006 for a quotation from Father Zossima about the importance of respect for the God-given joys of animals.

--Gracia Fay Ellwood

Based on The Oxford Dictionary of Saints by David Farmer,

Finding Deep Joy by Robert Ellwood, and online sources




Kyria Sophia

She is more radiant than the sun . . . . she spans the world in power from end to end . . . . she orders all things well.

--Wisdom of Solomon 7:29, 8:1

That is how Our Lady took me, absolutely by storm.

--Nancy-Lou Patterson

Long years I kept behind my castle wall,
My ramparts guarded warily and well.
My neighbors, they who plotted toward my fall
Would find my moat was deep, my towers tall.
My walls were stout and arrowloops were small.
The air was dim and stifling in my hall,
No step, no voice, no song or cup at all
And only echoes echoing to my call,
But I was my own lord, no thrall.

And then She came!

Fair as the moon, ablaze like the noonday sun,
Terrifying, a many-bannered host.
By tender violence I was unmade.
My longbow clattered down from nerveless hands;
Rafts swarmed my moat; my tall portcullis split.
With roars and billowing dust my walls were breached. . .
A mightier than I became my Liege.

She ground my fort to dust and digged anew.
My fetid moat, back in its ancient bed,
Streams sparkling life; spring flowers of every hue
Begem its soft-grassed banks; and in the stead
Of my stout keep, a Tree, whose windy breadth
Of worldspread branches shelters bird and beast;
Whose fragrant blossoms promise death to death;
And in whose light we neighbors lay a feast.

--Faith Bowman, 1979

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some are so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!" . . . .
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

--Robert Frost

The Cardinal in Winter Sunlight

No painting and no photo
Does justice to this Bird--
A flash of living Sunrise,
A Rose that soars and sings--

The Snows of Cotopaxi,
Volcano in the South,
They shine with radiant Whiteness
As they rise above the Clouds--
Such Whiteness we imagine
In God's own Robe and Hair--

Colors from High Heaven
Brought down to this blue Earth
To hint at what awaits us
Beyond the darkling Tunnel,
Beyond the living Light--

No picture and no poem
Does Justice to this Bird--
A flame of living Fire,
A drop of God's own Blood--

--Benjamin Urrutia
(in the style of Emily Dickinson)


The Peaceable Table is intended to resume the witness of that excellent vehicle of the Friends Vegetarian Society of North America, The Friendly Vegetarian, which appeared quarterly between 1982 and 1995. Following its example, and sometimes borrowing from its treasures, we publish articles for toe-in-the-water vegetarians as well as long-term ones, poetry, letters, book and film reviews, and recipes.

The journal is intended to be interactive; contributions, including illustrations, are invited for the next issue. Deadline for the April issue will be March 26, 2007. Send to or 10 Krotona Hill, Ojai, CA 93023. We operate primarily online in order to conserve trees and labor, but hard copy is available for interested persons who are not online. The latter are asked to donate $12 (USD) per year if their means allow. Other donations to offset the cost of the domain name, server and advertising notices are welcome.

Editor: Gracia Fay Ellwood
Book and Film Reviewers: Benjamin Urrutia & Robert Ellwood
Recipe Editor: Angela Suarez
NewsNotes Contributors: Marian Hussenbux & Lorena Mucke
Technical Architect: Richard Scott Lancelot Ellwood