To veg or not to veg?
‘You are what you eat’, a saying that is more prevalent today than it has ever been. We live in an age obsessed with exactly what we fuel our bodies with; and this is especially evident in women’s magazines that hype the latest diet fads. Food fashions that promise instant weight loss, increased health, glowing skin, youthful radiance and much, much more. But there is one diet option that has been gaining in favour within New Age circles as it offers something more than health benefits – it promises increased psychic abilities and higher spiritual vibrations.
Vegetarianism is not a new fad, and has its roots in many ancient religions and beliefs; from philosophers of ancient antiquity to followers of Jainism and Hinduism (to name but a few). In Europe it almost vanished from existence with the rise of Christianity, only to re-emerge during the Renaissance with Leonardo da Vinci being one of vegetarianisms supporters; and it has since grown from then in the Western world.
Today’s vegetarians cite many reasons for their diet choice, from the ethical dilemma of eating sentient beings such as animals, to the more recent concerns over the environmental impact of cattle farming. Some chose a vegetarian diet for health reasons, and if managed correctly, it can offer many health benefits. However, in New Age circles there is a growing trend that a spiritual leader must be a vegetarian, or else they can not truly be as spiritual as they appear to be.
As the New Age is heavily influenced by the spiritual practices of the East, with belief in chakras, auras and meditation as evidence of this, it is no wonder that the vegetarian lifestyle has been added to the mix. Many New Agers who do follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle believe that everything has an energy vibration, and that vibration can be influenced by memories and emotions. By consuming the meat of an animal, you are introducing all the negative feelings that animal felt at slaughter into your body, lowering your spiritual vibration; when the very core of spiritual development is about raising your spiritual vibration. Another ‘side-effect’ of meat consumption being the dampening of psychic abilities; which can not be a good thing as the development of them appears to form a cornerstone of the New Age movement.
But this is just one reason of many in support of a plant-based diet by New Age believers. Another reason commonly given is that obeying your cravings is a sign of our animalistic tendencies, and reaching enlightenment is about rising above our animalistic nature and no longer being a slave to our desires. Thus following a restrictive diet is a lifelong lesson in self-mastery. A meat-free lifestyle also teaches its followers to have compassion for animals, and leads them to see the Divine that is present in every living creature in this world.
Then there is the dilemma of karma, another Eastern concept favoured by New Agers. Karma is basically the concept of ‘you reap what you sow’. And if the slaughter of an animal for food is viewed in the same light as murder, and you eat of that animal’s flesh, well that would make you a murderer. And I think it’s a general view that murderers don’t stack up too much ‘good karma’, whether that karma is returned to them in this life or the next.
Meat and animal products are also often cited to be as a poison to the body, a toxin that hinders spiritual development and the rediscovery of psychic abilities. But, how can meat be a toxin to the body when it contains nutrients essential to the human body?
Granted vegetarians are able to get complete protein by combining certain sources of vegetable protein, and there are supplements for vitamin B12 and other nutrients that are more easily found (and absorbed by the body) in meat and animal products. But we are omnivores by our physiological design. We have canines for tearing, our digestive system has evolved to digest meat and our body is meant to derive a portion of its required nutrients from the flesh of animals. So why are New Age vegans and vegetarians giving evolution the middle finger in favour of spiritual development?
It is understandable that a vegetarian or vegan diet is a personal choice, and it should be exactly that – personal. The instant you start shooting down another’s spiritual teacher, you are stomping on their spiritual path. What should be a personal lifestyle choice becomes a crusade to stuff as much of your tofu quiche beliefs down the throats of ‘nasty, unspiritual meat eaters’, whether they want it or not. And to those who hold to the belief that a true spiritual leader follows a meat-free diet: then is the Dali Lama, a meat eater, not a ‘real’ spiritual leader by your definition?