Editorial: Strength to Love
"I Have a Dream," August 28, 1963
When I was a child attending a (protestant) parochial school, every morning we sang from a brick-colored, illustrated book of inspirational songs for young people. I remember one particular song meant to fortify youth against taking the downward path into a life of sin. The music was good, but the lyrics were not deathless. It began by urging us young folk to "Yield not to temptation, / For yielding is sin . . . .Dark passions subdue . . ." " Temptation to do what? What are the dark passions?
We weren't told until the second stanza, which urged us to "shun evil companions" (so some people are evil, meaning children of the devil?) and "Bad language disdain, God's name hold in reverence . . ." "Fight manfully onward . . ." I would never be a man, but apparently I was supposed to try my best to be like one, which never appealed to me. "Be thoughtful and earnest," it exhorted us, reinforcing the suggestions of the first line that if it looks like fun, it's probably bad for your soul. "Kind-hearted and true,"--yes, I could see that was good advice, but it left the question unanswered.
Why should I take up space in PT dealing with third-rate hymn lyrics of yesteryear? This 1868 song was addressed to a rather different world, when the middle class had considerable (overt) suspicion of sex. Many evangelicals of the time extended this suspicion to play-going, dancing, liquor consumption, and other recreational activities, partly because they might lower resistance to erotic feelings. But in the 1920s, reaction against things Victorian started gathering force, and since then we have been hearing from every side about the unbalanced worldview and the harm to the psyche done by these inhibitions and anti-worldly attitudes. Is there any point in joining this crowd of voices by calling attention to "Yield Not to Temptation"?
In fact there is. In the midst of the text's less-than-helpful exhortations were two passages that I've been pondering more and more in recent years, which I will present below. Both of them help us to realize, in Martin Luther King's fine words, the "strength to love."
Temptation to Do What?
The question still needs answering. The references to evil companions, bad language, and dark passions suggest that by "sin" the hymnwriter, musician Horatio Palmer (1834-1907), may have had in mind youths joining the crowd going to the saloon, talking tough, getting drunk, perhaps falling into the wrong bed. This idea of sin may strike some as the typical anti-worldly-pleasures view, but there is more going on here than meets the eye. As Barbara Booth's letter in the May PT mentioned incidentally in its description of nineteenth-century American diets, the male subculture then was awash in alcohol. This Niagara of drink was a link in a complex social-economic situation that blighted many lives: exploitation of working-class people, lack of education, alcoholism, wife and child neglect and abuse, the oppression of women, the exploitative and violent underworld of prostitution and crime--all were multiply connected. These actions and situations certainly involve dark passions that should be subdued, not given free rein. But we must acknowledge that individual will power is not an adequate answer to any of them, any more than it will resolve the plight of animals today; broad social and legal changes were and are also necessary.
My focus here, however, is on the decisions and actions of the individual, and the individual's will does matter. When do cultural evils become personal sins? The heart of it is that yielding to temptation is sin when the act in question harms a living being. "Bad language" may do harm to the hearer, or it may not. One drink in the saloon may be pretty harmless; when an exhausted worker drinks down his meager salary to forget his sense of defeat, leaving a dependent family hungry, it is far from harmless to either party.
Readers of PT will have little difficulty applying to diet this idea of temptation and sin-as-harm. We all too often find that those who oppose our message like to portray us as anti-pleasure ascetics. We are rightly eager to refute this view by showing how many tasty vegan dishes there are; but we should not allow the central issue of harm to sentient beings to be eclipsed. As Howard Lyman has pithily put it, when we buy and eat animal flesh we are saying to the factory farm and slaughterhell moguls (or organic farmers), "I approve. Do it again." Likewise with dairy, and commercial eggs from hens caged or free-range: all are laced with blood, drenched in misery. The issue surfaces as well in some other products, like non-fair-trade chocolate, which in part is made from cocoa beans picked by human slaves (see We Were Slaves). These are situations when one should, emphatically, Yield Not to Temptation.
Salt March, 1930
This important clarification bring us to one of the insightful lines that made the hymn worth remembering. A major result of taking a firm stand against an indulgence that harms a sentient being is that one's personality becomes stronger in this area. In Palmer's words, "Each victory will help you / Some other to win." By saying a firm no to yourself, he was in effect telling us, you build up your spiritual muscle tone; next time you are inclined to do that wrong thing, you will face the challenge a stronger person. It doesn't mean you aren't going to stumble sometimes, especially if you have little support, but it sets you on a trend. (Major addictions require additional, expert help; I refer here to common dependencies.) Many of us who dropped animal products years ago find that what once seemed so overwhelmingly tempting has long been dead for us, and we may have to jog our memories in order to sympathize with the novice's struggles. It's good for beginners to know about the empowering effect of decisive actions.
Toughened moral fibre in one area of life is a boon, which may help us in other ways, but it doesn't mean one has reached Beulah Land. In other areas a vegan may still tend to be spiritually flabby--perhaps living amid distraction and chaos, or falling apart in crises, or cherishing resentments, or giving way to rages. More is needed; we must have a high capacity overall to tolerate discomforts and frustrations, or rather to cope with them.
Some people's lives are so arduous and painful that that such challenges face them all the time. But for others, who are used to a certain level of comfort, a good way to develop this coping capacity is spiritual disciplines. Like our obligation to free our diet from violence as far as possible, a spiritual discipline must be clearly distinguished from pleasure-despising asceticism. But the discipline is likely to be more difficult in one way: there is seldom a clear-cut moral issue to motivate one. In some cases we may find help for our motivation in environmental or health concerns, which do have moral dimensions, though they aren't always hard and fast.
Disciplines may be put into two categories. One is choosing to say no to certain enjoyable things that are essentially harmless or even good in themselves-- e.g., a favorite food, an unneeded purchase, a comfortable habit. Fasts, of course, come under this first category. The other side is adopting helpful practices that one may find unappealing, such as physical exercise, daily contemplative prayer or meditation, eating more whole plant foods. The practice may be either temporary or permanent. It is important to choose disciplines wisely, neither being too easy on oneself nor launching all at once into multiple, demanding regimens, such that failure is predictable. Specific dividends may vary, but the benefit of a life that is disciplined overall is a strong personality.
César Chávez breaks his fast, accepting bread from Robert Kennedy.
Spiritual/political leaders like Mohandas Gandhi and César Chávez, both vegetarians (Chavez was a vegan) for compassionate reasons, can inspire us. Both of them were in a position to take the discipline of fasting to the point of risking their life or health in order to bring moral pressure to bear on those who resisted their calls for justice. Chávez called his fasts "a prayer for purification and strengthening." Seeing this degree of strength to love broadens our horizons, but most of us should not attempt anything this risky.
Strength to Do What?
But it doesn't follow, unfortunately, that becoming stronger necessarily means having more strength to love. It is well known that a disciplined person living among the chronically self-indulgent will be tempted to a holier-than-thou outlook, which causes others to take offense. (Of course the others may become defensive and imagine contempt when none is expressed, a painful complication presenting one with further challenges.) The temptation to self-righteousness, which is likely to take gross forms in early stages, may become very subtle in later years, and calls for regular and unsparing self-examination.
A potentially worse problem is that those who are severe with themselves may also be hard toward others. Workaholics are firmly disciplined at their jobs, but do so to evade personal responsibilities. Some individuals labor diligently for causes they once thought good; but long after others see that the cause is badly corrupted, they hang on, lying to themselves and others, becoming more and more like the evil thing they serve. Some--from the family tyrant to the political dictator--exercise their strength to clutch, manipulate, and suffocate others.
(Of course, not all tyrants are self-disciplined. In the 1930s and 1940s, Joseph Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda depicted Hitler as the ascetic kind of leader, one who abstained from all meat, tobacco, alcohol, and sex in order to pursue his utter devotion to the Fatherland. In fact, however, except for a sporadic meatless regimen to deal with health problems, der Führer was very self-indulgent at the table, relishing sausage, liver dumplings and stuffed pigeon, as well as quantities of sweet desserts. So the familiar refrain, "Hitler was a vegetarian," was part of the Big Lie, but it convinced so many partly because it was built on the truth that sustained self-discipline builds strength.) (See Book Review, Issue 8)
"Look Ever to Jesus"
Like Gandhi, King, and Chávez, we must gain the strength to love both friends and foes (especially friends who are acting like foes!) if we are to win hearts and minds to the cause of the animals. Returning verbal or literal violence for violence simply does not work. Disciplines over and beyond veganism definitely help, but as we have seen, disciplines do not guarantee strength to love. Without help from beyond ourselves, we simply cannot do it.
Each stanza of Palmer's hymn says "Look ever to Jesus; / He will carry you through." Jesus as God-With-Us worked for King and Chávez and their followers, as it still does for many (including myself). Gandhi was inspired by Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, but felt called to remain in his own Hindu tradition, which provided ample transforming and in-couraging energy. In the last few generations, with the appearance of Engaged Buddhism, still other language for the empowering Ultimate has been used.
This is not to say that any conception of the Divine will do. God is real, more real than any of us; yet we must keep aware that every human conception of Him/Her is limited. A God or Goddess who actively demands animal sacrifice, or who blesses bullfights or slaughterhells, is to that extent crippled by projected human fears, cravings, and violence. And there may be other, more subtle projections. We must live in tension: asking critical questions about God, yet giving ourselves totally to God so that the strength to love can flow in and through us.
Only the Love that knows no limit can empower us to love beyond our small human boundaries.
--Gracia Fay Ellwood
"As a coward, which I was for many years, I harboured violence. I began to prize nonviolence only when I began to shed cowardice . . . . fear and love are contradictory terms."--Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi
"There is no fear in love; perfect love casts out fear."--I John 4:18
"I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never before . . . . I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying 'Stand up for righteousness, stand up for truth. God will be at your side forever.' "--Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love
"I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things through Christ who empowers me."--Paul of Tarsus (Phil. 4:12-13)
Anti-Bullfight Protest in Nîmes
An estimated 3,000 people gathered in Nîmes, France, on Sept. 11 in a demonstration sponsored by the group Alliance Anticorrida. After a moment of silence, they formed a human chain around the ring, chanting, and broke balloons. In contrast, the opposition mustered only about 500 supporters. See Bullfight Protest .
--Contributed by Marian Hussenbux
Bill Clinton a Vegan?
Ex-President Bill Clinton says that thanks to his daughter Chelsea's influence, since last May he has been experimenting with an (almost) vegan diet for health reasons. He's been reading Colin Campbell, Dean Ornish, et. al. and knows quite a bit about the medical issues. This is something to hold in the Light and in prayer; it has great potential for the cause. See Clinton .
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
If Fish Could Scream
An article with this title by Peter Singer cites the mind-wringing number of fish killed by prolonged violence each year, and the disturbing evidence that they feel pain much as land animals do. See Singer Article
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Everything Is Connected
The seventh annual Interfaith Celebration of the Animals was held on September 5 at Golders Green Unitarians, London. Speakers from Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Paganism, Spiritualism, and Unitarian Universalism gave readings. Our own Marian Hussenbux, NewsNote contributor and a member of Birkenhead Meeting, gave the address, entitled "Everything is Connected." She illustrated her thesis with an overview of the work of Quaker Concern for Animals, the 100-plus-year- old organization of which she is clerk. She cited, from Quaker Faith and Practice, "All species and the Earth itself have interdependent roles within Creation. Humankind is not the species to whom all others are subservient, but one among many. . . . the web of creation could be described as of three-ply thread: wherever we touch it we affect justice and peace and the health of all everywhere. . . ."
Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
A party of fishermen were distracted from their fell purpose by this curious and affectionate fawn, who brought out a corresponding impulse to connection and affection in them. See this page.
--Contributed by Steve Walker
Dear Peaceable Friends,
I love Robert's editorial, as I keep meaning to read Helen Waddell's book Beasts and Saints. Nice you picked a saint local to me --as
it happens, my daughter was christened in a Saint Werburgh's church in
Manchester. I didn't know about the geese.
Many thanks also for giving Quaker Concern for Animals the link via the Pakistani Vets' Care story--they have just refurbished their web site, by the way. The link is http://www.vetscare.org .
I shall definitely try the chickpea pancake - I don't make pancakes often
enough, and do like them. I also like them sweet with lemon and sugar (or
Wonderful hare poem! It was new to me.
Marian Hussenbux, QCA
Checking the website of St. Werburgh's church in Manchester, one finds that it has as its logo a goose with wings upraised; nothing else about the story is mentioned. It seems the association of the saint and the bird is a very old one, which suggests that there is something behind it. Taken literally, the tale of the already-consumed bird being restored to life taxes belief, but its spiritual implications are worth pondering. It tells us that the other geese grieved for their slaughtered brother--the sort of thing that ethologists are now finding to be true. The tale also tells us that God, by empowering St. Werburga to perform the miracle, cares as well. This truth we have reason to know from another source: "The Lord is good to all, and his [her] tender mercies are over all his works." --Editor
Dear Peaceable Friends,
I was a bit surprised to read the suggestion that Swedenborg may have been an influence on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because Swedenborg and Swedenborgianism are never quoted, or even mentioned, in LDS literature. Sure, there are similarities, but I always put those down to direct contact with Divine Intelligence and with the Spirit World. If the latter has a real and objective existence, as I believe it has, those who experience it and describe it will certainly report the same truths and facts, without necessarily quoting or influencing each other.
Both Swedenborg and the Latter-Day Saints believe that Heaven intends to heal and to teach people, not to judge and punish. If this is the Truth, as I believe it is, eventually everyone will learn it, without necessarily being influenced by others towards it.
Craig W. Miller's essay "Did Swedenborg Influence (LDS) Mormon Doctrine?" (see Miller Essay) discusses this issue, giving a balanced assessment of similarities and differences, and of the historical context.
Upstate New York in the 1820s, '30s, and '40s was sometimes called the "burnt-over country" in the wake of the earlier great revivals; sparks among the stubble produced remarkable new spiritual and social movements, such as Spiritualism, Mormonism, the Oneida community, and many others. Swedenborgian teaching was also widespread in the form of papers, pamphlets, and lectures; consider John "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman (see Chapman Pioneer) who planted Swedenborgian writings as well as apple saplings throughout the frontier. Most of the new movements show striking similarities to the Swedish sage's outlook in their concepts of spirits, the afterlife, therapeutic rather than forensic judgment, and new revelation, as well as significant individual differences. But Swedenborg's ideas were in the air, undoubtedly the topic of many a debate and dinner-table conversation.
It is not possible now to establish a "paper trail" proving that Swedenborg directly influenced Joseph Smith or any of the early LDS people. Outsider historians may look at the similarities and the prevalence of Swedenborgian notions, and assume some conscious or unconscious connection. Insiders to one of the traditions, like Benjamin, may prefer to credit parallel revelations of an underlying reality, and that is equally valid.
Film Review: The Horse Boy: The Movie
The Horse Boy: The Movie. Directed by Michel Orion Scott. Narrated by Rupert Isaacson. Zeitgeist Films, 2010.
Recently in these pages we reviewed the book version of The Horse Boy, that remarkable account of Rowan Isaacson, a seriously autistic child who had a strange and wonderful affinity with animals, particularly horses. His parents, travel writer Rupert and psychology professor Kristin, took him to Mongolia, that homeland of horses and extraordinary shamans. There, amid spiritual practices that no doubt would seem strange indeed to most modern Westerners, the boy found healing.
Now we have the feature-length documentary movie, largely filmed in location, first at home in Texas, and then in Mongolia as the journey was in process. There is much to commend this cinematic version of the story. The visual contrast between the earlier Rowan, with his tantrums and lack of communication, and the smiling high-spirited boy at the end, is dramatic. In a number of scenes, his deep and healing empathy with animals is made more than evident.
As Temple Grandin, herself an autist though now a well-known professor and writer, has pointed out, autists and animals can well have a particularly profound ability to understand each other since both think visually rather than in words, and communicate through touch and signs rather than language. The shamans' spiritualistic worldview, centering in this case on their discovery that Rowan was plagued by the attached spirit of Kristin's grandmother (who in fact was mentally ill), is likewise made clear. On another level, the vistas of Mongolia's endless grassy steppes under wide cobalt skies are breath-taking. I also appreciated the many insights into the present way of life of these descendants of Genghis Khan and his horsemen.
At the same time, viewers who hoped to see the climactic healing shamanistic performance will be disappointed; no doubt it would have been impossible to film it without obtrusiveness and seeming irreverence. The movie frequently flips back and forth between Mongolian episodes and flashbacks of related earlier Texas events, on issues ranging from toilet-training to horse-riding. Sometimes the connection and the change is effectively reinforced, but for me personally it became a bit jerky; I would have preferred a continuous narrative.
Psychological talking heads discussing some point about autism also break through recurrently, although since autism is such an engrossing yet mysterious phenomenon, which these authorities admitted they themselves were only beginning to comprehend, I did not resent them as much as I usually do. I found disturbing the idea voiced by one commentator that the incidence of autism may be increasing due to pollution from heavy metals that get into the nervous system, as well as genetic factors. At the same time, these pundits were quite willing to acknowledge how much we owe to autists who managed to become at least marginally functional, utilizing their ability to focus narrowly and intensely on a single problem and look at it in their own new way; among them are some of the most brilliant of mathematicians, linguists, physicists, and composers.
The Horse Boy movie can be highly recommended for its profound look at three mysteries: autism, the healing power of shamanism, and the healing power of the autist's almost superhuman rapport with animals. You will not watch it unchanged.
Film Review: Alpha and Omega
Alpha and Omega. An animated film directed by Anthony Bell and Ben Gluck. Screenplay by Chris Denk and Steve Moore. Starring Hayden Panettiere as Kate, Justin Long as Humphrey, Danny Glover as Winston, and Dennis Hopper as Tony.
The plot of this wolf story is set in motion by a political-economic crisis: Two wolf packs are competing over insufficient resources, namely, caribou to meet their dietary needs. As a result,the packs the are on the brink of war. To prevent this catastrophe, a marriage is arranged between Kate, the daughter of one pack's leader, Winston, and Garth, the son of Tony, the other pack's leader. This is not a union to satisfy the desires of the heart--especially the heart of Humphrey, a lowly Omega wolf who played with Kate as when they were cubs, and still pines for her at the proper (social) distance.
The arranged royal marriage is thwarted by Fate in the form of human meddling. The princess and the peon are again brought close when humans shoot them with tranquilizers and fly them far away to Idaho, in order to re-populate a wolf-thin area. (Realistically, the humans should have removed more wolves than two, since the nearby Canadian area is clearly overpopulated with canine predators.)
A golf-playing gander named Marcel (being so anthropomorphic, he is well-informed about humans) informs the abducted pair of their intended fate, and agrees to help them return. The trek homeward is a major odyssey. Kate and Humphrey each save the other's life twice, and they have lots of fun together. We can see where this is going.
Meanwhile, back home, Lilly, Kate's sister, falls in love with the prince Garth as she teaches him how to howl properly and he teaches her how to hunt. The tenderhearted need not worry--we do not see any animals being killed; the only eating visible consists of Humphrey eating a cupcake, and a few wolves eating blueberries! In fact, a couple of wolves are both vegetarians and pacifists. (This makes good sense logically, even though unfortunately not all human vegetarians are pacifists, and not all claimed pacifists are vegetarians.) These kind-hearted wolves interrupt and delay the start of the war with a peace protest. The other wolves make fun of them, but most viewers will identify with the pair.
One could choose to do some factual nit-picking about the zoological social structures in this film. Although the wolves' division between high-ranking Alphas and low-ranking Omegas corresponds to reality, here the Alphas outnumber the Omegas, which is unlikely. In animal and human societies, the low-ranking hoi-polloi are many, far outnumbering the few aristocrats. In any given pack, there is one high-ranking alpha male and alpha female, the only ones allowed to reproduce. They are the patriarch and matriarch of the pack, which is really more like an extended family. The rest are their children, poor relatives, and strangers taken in out of kindness. If any of the many want to reproduce they have to elope and strike out on their own.
Another factual objection might be the fact that besides the inaccurate vertical division, the movie's wolves are divided horizontally between two competing packs. In fact, wolves, unlike chimpanzees and humans, are too sensible to go to war over territory and resources. They wisely keep out of each other's way.
These inaccuracies, however, did not spoil my enjoyment of this film-- which is after all, a comic fantasy, not an educational nature documentary. I enjoyed it very much, and I whole-heartedly recommend it for all ages.
Film Review: Legend of the Guardians
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. A Warner Brothers animated film directed by Zack Snyder. Jim Sturgess as Soren, Emily Barclay as Gylfie the elf owl, Hugo Weaving as Noctus, Anthony LaPaglia as Twilight, Helen Mirren as Queen Nyra. Rated PG.
For over one hundred years, artists have been creating and producing animated cartoons. Many of them feature mice, who have always escaped their predators - until now. Legend of the Guardians opens with a breathtaking scene of a beautiful owl in flight. He is not flying for the sheer joy of it, but looking for food for his baby owlet. Artistically and silently, he swoops down and catches a mouse. Mercifully, we do not see the moment when the rodent is killed and eaten; but we do see, alas, the owl pellet made from the undigested and regurgitated remains--the mouse's fur and bones. I had to close my eyes or I could have lost my own lunch. (Later, we see more such pellets, being used for necromantic black magic by the evil owls).
The baby who ate the mouse is a nestling named Eglantine with two older brothers, Soren and Kludd. These two fall to the forest floor while they are trying, without adult supervision, to teach themselves to fly. They are attacked by a fierce predator, a Tasmanian Devil, here depicted very realistically, not the cartoonish version one sees in other Warner Brother cartoons. (Later in the film, we meet another Tasmanian creature - an echidna.)
Two mysterious adult male owls of another variety (there are several kinds in the film) save the two fledglings from the predator, but abduct them for their own purposes. This turns out to be only one crime in a massive plot. Infant owls are being kidnapped by the Pure Ones, as they call themselves, but who in fact are as foul as fowl can get. The owlets they bird-nap are either brainwashed and turned into slaves, or, if they show signs of being strong and ruthless enough, are trained to be stormtroopers as part of a plan to conquer all the Owl Kingdoms.
Kludd sides with his captors, who appeal to his pride; Soren escapes in company with Gylfie, a fellow captive. They are helped by a subversive Pure One who is really on the side of the angels. Soren and Gylfie, with other owls of other varieties and even some non-owls, fly far and high to find the legendary and mysterious Guardians, brave Jedi-type owls who are sworn to strengthen the weak, mend the broken, and combat evil. In short, they are the polar opposite of the "Pure Ones." Matters fly inevitably towards a bloody conflict.
I am more ambivalent about this film than I have been in a long time. The mouse-pellet scenes are a bit too much for me, and the battle scenes are graphic, violent and vivid. Owls die, both good ones and evil ones. Bats are also killed; the mortal remains of many mice are strewn around. For many people, these elements would be deal-breakers, while for others they would add to the appeal of the film. As the Jedi say, search your feelings . . .
For myself, the gross-outs and the violence are, on the balance, outweighed by the film's many good qualities. These include the beauty of the owls (even the evil ones look splendid), of the other Tasmanian creatures, the landscapes, the gorgeous, sometimes even numinous flight scenes - and, most of all, the central point of the story: The strong should protect and empower the weak, not enslave them. A second message is also a positive one: Friendships should cross the lines between species. The good owls befriend non-owls, but the evil ones only use them for their own purposes.
On the whole, I recommend the film, but not for the very young nor for those with tender hearts or weak stomachs.
Pioneer: Edwin Arnold, 1832-1904
The Victorian poet Edwin Arnold undoubtedly did more than anyone else of his time to introduce Buddhism into western popular culture through his bestselling epic poem on the life of the Buddha, The Light of Asia (1879). Moreover, he put his admiration for the great Eastern religion into practice to the extent of becoming a vegetarian and serving as vice-president of the Vegetarian Society in London at the request of a young law student from India, Mohandas K. Gandhi, apparently in 1891. (Later, when Gandhi was presented with the Bhagavad-Gita, the Hindu classic which was later so to influence him, it was in the form of Arnold's 1885 poetic version, The Song Celestial, a companion to The Light of Asia.)
Edwin Arnold was born in Kent to a family of country gentry. After graduating from Oxford, he went out to India in 1856 to serve as a school principal; there, displaying a remarkable linguistic ability, he learned Sanskrit and other Eastern languages. He returned to London in 1861 to work on the staff of the Daily Telegraph, and began his poetic labors.
Arnold's family was staunchly Anglican, but his own religious views and loyalties became increasingly pluralistic as he matured. He was a close friend from childhood of Frederic William Farrar, later Dean of Canterbury and a celebrated broad-churchman. After the death of his first wife, Katherine, who had shared his India years with him, in 1868 Arnold married the American Fanny Channing, grand-niece of William Ellery Channing, founder of modern Unitarianism. From then on he was nominally a Unitarian.
The Light of Asia was an immense success in 1879 and after. Through many avenues--imperialism, scholarship, the romantic mood with its yearnings toward the distant and the past, liberal/critical trends in western religion, movements like Theosophy--interest in Asia and openness to its traditions was in the air, and vegetarianism tended to accompany it. Detractors of course there were, but many late Victorians were spiritually restless, and something in the great epic resonated in them. In 1888 Edwin Arnold was knighted.
It remains to add that in the later years of his life, after about 1890, Arnold became increasingly attracted to Japan, and wrote a wonderful traveler's book, Japonica (1891). Three years after the death of his beloved Fanny in 1889, he married a young Japanese woman, Tama Kurokawa, in a traditional Shinto ceremony, and again five years later in London.
In later years Arnold became interested in psychical research and the life after death, and also in Christianity as he understood it. His last major poem, The Light of the World (1891), was an attempt to re-create the life of Jesus in epic verse, as he once had that of the Buddha. Arnold's Jesus, founded on a life of the Nazarene by his friend Farrar, was human, infused with the highest ideals. This work was, however, much less successful than Arnold's earlier works.
Returning to the matter of Arnold's vegetarianism, we are told by his biographer Brooks Wright that Arnold became a vegetarian and gave up "blood sports" (as a young man in India, he had, like many Anglo-Indians, been fond of hunting) under the influence of Buddhism. Exactly when this change took place, and how consistently the dietary practice was followed, is not entirely clear. Nonetheless, its echoes are clear in The Light of Asia, wherein the Enlightened One's compassion for all sentient beings is a continuing theme, as in this scene from his early life in his father's court:
No bolder horseman in the youthful band
E'er rode in gay chase of the shy gazelles. . .
Yet in mid-play the boy would ofttimes pause,
Letting the deer pass free; would ofttimes yield
His half-won race because the labouring steeds
Fetched painful breath. . .
And, at the very end of the poem, as the now-mature teacher of gods and men recites the Five Precepts:
Kill not --for Pity's sake . . . lest ye slay
The meanest thing upon its upward way.
Arnold's work, even if largely forgotten today, played an important role in shaping a liberal nineteenth century vision of the world that birthed similar movements toward tolerance, progressivism, and humanitarianism in the twentieth and twenty-first. By the 1890s he had developed what amounted to a full-scale synthesis of Buddhism, Christianity, and Victorian science, including psychical research. Like many another of his time, he was confidently optimistic, sure that the great advances of his own lifetime in science, democracy, religious tolerance, and ethical vision could only lead to a well-nigh perfect world in the foreseeable future.
The twentieth century dealt very harsh blows indeed to such optimism. Yet it is important to remember that many causes dear to that progressive era live on. Among them is one that became very close to Edwin Arnold's heart, compassion for our animal kin in word and deed.
Poetry: Yunus Emre, ca. 1240 - 1320
You fall in love with Truth and begin to cry,
You become holy Light both inside and out,
singing, Allah, Allah.
Whatever you desire, ask it of Truth.
Be a guide on the straight path.
The nightingale has fallen in love with the Rose,
Yunus Emre, a mystic and contemporary of Rumi, lived in the same area. He broke with custom by writing his verse in his native Turkish, the language of the common folk, rather than Persian, the language of the educated.