Impeachment of Man, 4

by Savitri Devi


 
Excerpted from Chapter IV: Action precedes theory

A man who has always felt an insurmountable, physical disgust for animal slaughter, and to whom the very sight of meat is nauseating, is hardly likely to force himself to become a flesh eater just because the books he was taught to consider as sacred or infallible (be they religious scriptures or “scientific” works) seem to encourage such a diet rather than forbid it, or because the founder of his faith, or the geniuses he reveres the most, obviously ate meat. He may not always have the courage to denounce the man-centered religion or philosophy in which he was educated, on the sole ground that its ethics are not high enough for him (in fact, shockingly below his own natural ethics).

From the point of view of practical behaviour, there are, properly speaking, only two kinds of people: those who really love animals (and plants) and those who do not.

We are, for instance, all acquainted with the belief, shared by many, that animals (and, a fortiori, plants) have “no soul,” or that if they have, their soul is of a nature entirely different from ours, in particular that it is not immortal. We all know that Christianity enjoins us to “love our neighbours,” including our enemies, “as ourselves,” but is completely silent about our duties towards subhuman creatures.

If one is to “love” a man who has murdered one’s parents, committed atrocities upon one’s countrymen, or robbed one of one’s livelihood, then it appears obvious that one should, a fortiori, love the lamb, the kid, the cow, and all innocent irresponsible creatures enough, at least, not to encourage the butcher’s hideous industry; and that one should love harmless frogs and guinea pigs enough to protest against the use of them in scientific experimentation.

Up till today, no creed obviously implying consistent active kindness towards all sentient beings has ever succeeded in imposing itself upon the practical life of any human society.

A great many of the town-bred meat-eaters we know, in Europe at least, are animal- lovers at heart.… although they generally express a sincere horror after reading or hearing a vivid description of a slaughterhouse, yet they do not spontaneously connect all the ghastliness of animal killing with that particular chunk of meat they see before them in a dish with roast potatoes and onions all around it.

They do not automatically picture to themselves, at the sight of it, the agony of a sheep, of a bullock, of a young calf, once enjoying the taste of fresh grass and the light of heaven, then suddenly drawing its last breath in a pool of blood . . . and for what?—for them to have some mutton, beef or veal on their menu. If they did actually imagine that, half of them would shrink in horror, and not only eat no more meat themselves, but also despise all those who refuse to give up that habit as one despises the accomplices in some hideous murder case.

But they do not. The custom of feeding on flesh and the knowledge that “men have always done so from the beginning of the world”—the reaction of daily repeated misdeeds upon one’s true sense of values—have blunted, if not completely obliterated, their power of visualizing at once that which they wish to forget. They are not obsessed by the unavoidable connection between an appetizing roast with potatoes around it and the sickening reality of the death struggle of a slaughtered beast, as we would be. A whole series of associations of ideas has been suppressed in them by an obnoxious “education,” and they have not enough imagination to revive it of their own accord.

The same could be said about all those inconsistent animal lovers who would not refuse the present of a fur coat, nay, who would not hesitate to buy one if they could afford it; who take medicine (preventive and curative) prepared at the cost of the suffering of many guinea pigs and white rats; and who hire a carnage when they are in a hurry (in places where taxis are not available) without making sure that the horse is not tired, sometimes even without paying attention whether the driver beats it or not.

A natural, spontaneous feeling of sympathy for any individual living creature, allied to a sufficiently vivid imagination, is a rare quality. And consequently real animal lovers—not merely those who keep pets, or those who burst into indignation at the thought of one form of cruelty and tolerate or even encourage another—are very few. Real plant lovers who feel for the trees themselves, and not merely for the shade, fruit or flowers they give, are equally rare.

One may also wonder whether any substantial progress has ever been made in that line, from the beginning of historical times. One may even wonder whether organized society has not deliberately worked to destroy such spontaneous brotherly feelings towards beasts as might have existed in some of the better human beings living outside its pale.

The enemy of the hunter (as well as of the butcher, of the scientist who experiments on living creatures, etc.) is an enemy of mankind.

We scorn all men who condemn “wars of aggression,” and who, at the same time, eat meat; nay, we scorn all pacifists who do not, in their everyday dealings, live up to the ideal of universal nonviolence preached by the Jains. We scorn all those, whoever they be, who have never raised their voice against scientific experimentation upon innocent animals (which can be neither for nor against any cause) and who dare condemn experimentation upon one’s dangerous—or potentially dangerous—human enemies.

We scorn all those who never were moved to indignation at the idea of man’s lasting crime against the living Realm;—at the thought of the enormous daily round of avoidable pain inflicted by man upon beasts (and even plants)—and who, yet, dare speak of “war crimes” and of “war criminals.”

We flatly refuse to condemn war,—be it a thousand times a war “of aggression”—as long as mankind at large persists in its callous attitude towards animal (and tree) life. And as long as torture is inflicted by men upon a single living creature, in the name of scientific research, of sport, of luxury or of gluttony, we systematically refuse our support to any campaign exploiting public sympathy for tortured human beings—unless the latter be, of course, such ones as we look upon as our brothers in race and faith, or people near and dear to these.

The world that exalts Pasteur and Pavlov, and countless other tormentors of innocent creatures, in the name of the so-called “interest of mankind,” while branding as “war criminals” men who have not shrunk from acts of violence upon hostile human elements, when such was their duty in the service of higher mankind and in the interest of all life, does not deserve to live.

Published in: on May 11, 2017 at 11:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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Impeachment of Man, 3

by Savitri Devi


 
Excerpted from Chapter III: Joyous Wisdom

Western Free Thought, in all its different forms, has, as we pointed out, retained Christian ethics while doing away with Christian metaphysics. It is not other-worldly at all, but it has never preached or even conceived a love more comprehensive than that of humanity. And every one of its aspects, from Descartes to Karl Marx, is as man-centered as any philosophy can be.

In other words, there have been, and there still are philosophies “faithful to this earth.” But we know of no historic civilization based upon a joyous earthly wisdom, implying active love towards all living creatures; upon a religion of this world and of this life in flesh and blood, which would be neither man-centered nor pessimistic, nor lacking truly universal kindness in the Buddhistic sense of the word. We only know of a very few individuals who have put forward such a philosophy, professed such a religion—consciously or unconsciously—from time to time.

With regard to animals—and plants—the believers in man-centered creeds seem to be governed by the mere consideration of gain and loss. They seem to be people for whom living things have a price in connection with some purpose for which they can be used, not a value in themselves. And the highest purpose they can dream of is the “service of humanity.”

Why? Goodness knows. Probably because they themselves happen to be human beings. To admit the existence of something higher and more precious than “man”—and having more “rights” than he to health and enjoyment—would be to concede that man (i.e., themselves) can be justly used in the interest of that thing.

And they do not want to reach such a conclusion—surely not. They are willing to exploit living nature; but they shrink from the possibility of being themselves exploited in their turn, even in the interest of such superior beings as, for instance, inhuman Gods, or for the greater welfare of the less exalted but more tangible master races that might appear on the international stage. The result is that the only God they can think of, if any, is a man-loving God who created no master race save mankind itself, to which he gave as a birthright domination over the whole scheme of life.

Our votaries of man-centered faiths are the last people to understand the believers in the right of the superior or more efficient races to exploit the inferior or less efficient ones. Our philanthropists, burning with partial, fanatical love, who would willingly destroy the whole of the animal world in order to save one human idiot, are the last people to understand the ardent nationalist who would, with a smile, sacrifice mankind to his own country’s pride. They have an altogether illogical yet undeniable fondness for human beings, but none at all or very little for other animal species, even for other mammals.

If, on the other hand, a man feels for humanity in general and for every one of his human neighbors in particular, why should he stop there? If he feels it is “wrong” not to treat other men as he would himself like to be treated, why does he not feel the same with regard to all sentient creatures?

The followers of man-centered creeds never think of that. They speak of human “rationality” and of the usefulness of human beings; yet they never ask whether the person whom they are about to help has actually made use of his capacity to better his surroundings or to work for others. They just help him—even if he be the most consummate imbecile, suffering the result of his own foolishness; even if he be the most useless, self-centered old bachelor, having never cared for anybody.

Hospitals and asylums are open to all. And in bad times food is distributed indiscriminately to all the distressed, without any enquiry into the life history of each one. It is just the fact that they are beings, outwardly at least, more like himself than others—specimens of the human race. The humanitarian is a fellow who has rejected the logic of racialism, but has kept all the sentimental partiality attached to every form of group loyalty. He has done away with the “white man’s burden,” and discarded the pride of the master races as too unchristian-like or too “unscientific” for him.

But he still clings—or tries to cling—to that elemental blood solidarity which is the essence of all racialism. He clings to it, after having distorted it and broadened it to such an extent that it loses all that was vital and stimulating in it, in its earlier stages, without it generously merging into the higher solidarity of all life.

Un raciste manque: that is what the humanitarian is, and nothing more, so long as he fails to transcend his man-centered ideology.

Impeachment of Man, 2


 
Excerpted from Chapter II: Pessimistic Pantheism

Unlike the previous entry in which I quote magnificent passages from the book of Savitri Devi, here I will not quote passages from the second chapter, “Pessimistic Pantheism.” I just want to say that in this chapter my disagreements begin with Devi, whose real name was Maximiani Portas (for example, Portas speaks of the Hindu religion as the most beautiful of living religions).

To be fair with Portas I must say that in Impeachment of Man this brilliant woman saw some of the great contradictions of Eastern thought. For example, she pointed to the “deep-rooted belief” among the people of India “that the creatures’ suffering in this world is nothing but the unavoidable result of their own bad deeds” in past lives, hence the title of pessimistic pantheism of the chapter. Despite her admiration for a religion that does not kill wandering cows, in this second chapter she also wrote of this “indifference to suffering, which amazes any foreigner lover of animals who happens to have read something of the Hindu Scriptures.”

Having said that, the criticism Portas makes of the Indians’ indifference to suffering animals falls short compared to my radical way of seeing the world. So radical in fact that with my ten books it seems that I wish to found a new religion. Although it is out of place in this entry to convey why I abhor old religions, I can say that whoever assumes the priesthood of the four words (and its corollary, the 14 words) must abandon all faith in otherworldly lives.

In a mere blog entry I won’t expand on this point: it is the subject of my tenth and last book that, if I am allowed to live, I’ll translate into English.

If I find myself writing about Impeachment of Man it is precisely because in the book I started to write recently I could not miss the only pamphlet of an admirer of Hitler who had, as a very high commandment, the welfare of animals.

Published in: on April 27, 2017 at 12:22 pm  Comments (3)  
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Impeachment of Man, 1

by Savitri Devi


 
Excerpted from Chapter I: Man-centered creeds

Of all moral ideas, that of our positive duties towards creatures of other species (animals, and even plants) is perhaps the slowest to impress itself upon the human mind. It seems as though it were alien to the spirit no less than to the letter of all successful international religions, save Buddhism. And one who is fully conscious of its importance—one who recognizes in it the expression of a fundamental moral truth—may as well wonder in amazement how creeds that omit to mention it altogether (let alone to stress it) have yet been able to secure themselves such numerous followings, and, what is more, how their narrow conception of love is still claiming to be “the highest,” and how that claim rouses no protest on behalf of the better men. This is, no doubt, enough to lead him to gloomy conclusions concerning the inherent coarseness, selfishness and ugliness of human nature in general.

Theoretically, the man-centered creeds and philosophies sway the whole world minus the greater part of India, Burma, Ceylon, and the countries of the Far East to the extent that these have actually come under the influence of Buddhism. That does not mean that there are no individuals in England and America, in Germany and Russia, who look upon all life as sacred, and to whom the infliction of pain upon animals is even more odious that that upon human beings. That does not mean, either, that all people who, in India and elsewhere, are catalogued in the census reports Hindus, Buddhists or Jains are, in fact, paragons of active kindness towards all living creatures. Far from it!

But we notice that, from those very civilizations in which cannibalism was generally admitted, sprang, now and then, a few individuals—an infinitesimal, powerless minority—whom the custom disgusted. And from amidst a world in which slavery was considered as a necessary evil by respectable people, sprang a few individuals who condemned it, either openly or secretly, in the name of human dignity.

And we see that it is the opinion of those better individuals that finally triumphed. One of the best among the ancient Mexicans, King Nezahualcóyotl, tried in vain, in the fifteenth century A.D. to put a stop to human sacrifices within his realm. But today, the murder of a man, be it even as an offering to a deity, is considered a criminal offence and would be punished by law nearly all over the world. The minority, in Mexico, became a majority—and would have become so, apparently, anyhow, even if no Christian adventurers had ever landed there. Minorities often do, with time, become majorities.

To those to whom the age-old exploitation of animals seems normal just because it is practically universal and as old as man, we shall say that there are today people who strongly disapprove of it—never mind if they be but a handful scattered among millions of human beings still at a more barbaric stage of evolution.

There are men and women—and the author of this book is one of them—who, at the sight of one of their contemporaries eating a beefsteak in a restaurant or a chicken sandwich in a railway carriage, feel no less a disgust than some rare Mexicans of old possibly did when they saw the cooked limbs of a prisoner of war served up on gold and silver plates at State banquets. There are men and women today, few indeed as they may be, who are as much saddened when they see a tired horse drawing a cart as certain other “queer” people might have been once, when they met a slave cutting wood or grinding corn for his owner under the supervision of a merciless taskmaster.

Those few are now “dreamers,” “eccentric folk,” “cranks”—like all pioneers. But who can tell whether their opinion will never become that of average man, and their principles the law of the world? If not… then we believe that the human race is not worth bothering one’s head about at all.

All the splendour of the material world; all the grace, strength and loveliness of millions of beasts, birds, fishes, trees and creepers; the majesty of the snow-clad mountains, the beauty of the unfurling waves—all that and much more—is not worth, in God’s eyes, the immortal soul of a human imbecile—so they say, at least.

That is why the hunting of tigers and deer, the butchering of innocent woolly lambs, so glad to live, the dissecting of pretty white guinea pigs or of intelligent dogs, are not “sins” according to the man-centered faiths—not even if they imply the most appalling suffering. But the painless chloroforming of worthless human idiots is a “crime.” How could it be otherwise? They have two legs, no tail, and an immortal soul. However degenerate they be, they are men.

I cannot help here recalling the answer of a French medical student, a member of the “Christian Federation of Students,” whom I has asked, twenty- five years ago, how he could reconcile his religious aspirations with his support of vivisection. “What conflict can there be between the two?” said he; “Christ did not die for guinea pigs and dogs.” I do not know what Christ would actually have said to that. The fact remains that, from the point of view of historical Christianity, the boy was right. And his answer is enough to disgust one forever with all man-centered creeds.

The God of the Christians, the God of Islam, and the God of most of those later Free Thinkers who are not out and out atheists, never succeeded in shaking off completely the habits he once had when he was but the patron deity of a few tribes of desert wanderers, slaves in the land of the Pharaohs. He was able to raise himself from the rank of a national god to that of a God of all humanity.

But that is all. His love seems to have been spent out in its extension from the “chosen People” of Israel to the Chosen Species of mankind. He had not in him the urge to broaden his fatherly feelings still beyond those narrow limits. It never occurred to him how narrow they were in fact and how irrational, how mean, how all-too-human that childish preference for man was, in a God that is supposed to have made the Milky Way.

The great creeds of the world west of India remained man-centered, it would seem, because they never could free themselves entirely from the marks of their particular tribal origin among the sons of Abraham. The Jews never were a race that one could accuse of giving animals too great a place in its everyday life and thoughts.

Christ, who came “to fulfil” the Jewish law and prophecies (not to introduce into the world a different, more rational, and truly kindlier trend of thought) appears never to have bothered his head about the dumb creatures.

We speak, of course, of Christ as the Christian Gospels present him to us. That Christ—we have no means whatsoever of finding out whether a “truer” one ever lived—never performed a miracle, never even intervened in a natural manner, in favour of any beast, as his contemporary, Apollonius of Tyana, not to speak of any more ancient and illustrious Master such as the blessed Buddha, is supposed to have done. He never spoke of God’s love for animals save to assert that He loved human beings a fortiori, much more. He never mentioned nor implied man’s duties towards them, though he did not omit to mention, and to stress, other duties.

If the Gospels are to be taken as they are written, then his dealings with nonhuman sentient creatures consisted, on one occasion, of sending some evil spirits into a herd of swine, that they might no longer torment a man, and, another time, of making his disciples, who were mostly fishermen by profession, as every one knows, catch an incredible quantity of fish in their nets.

In both cases his intention was obviously to benefit human beings at the expense of the creatures, swine or fish. As for plants, it is true that he admired the lilies of the fields; but it is no less true that he cursed a fig tree for not producing figs out of season and caused it to wither, so that his disciples might understand the power of faith and prayer.

Fervent English or German Christians, who love animals and trees, may retort that nobody knows exactly all that Jesus actually said, and that the gospels contain the story of only a few of his numberless miracles. That may be. But as there are no records of his life save the Gospels, we have to be content with what is revealed therein. Moreover, Christianity as an historical growth is centered around the person of Christ as the Gospels describe him.

To say, as some do, that every word of the Christian Gospels has an esoteric meaning, and that “swine” and “fishes” and the “barren fig tree” are intended there to designate anything but real live creatures, would hardly make things better. It would still be true that kindness to animals is not spoken of in the teaching of Jesus as it has come down to us, while other virtues, in particular kindness to people, are highly recommended. And the development of historical Christianity would remain, in all its details, what we know it to be.

There has been, it is true, in the West, in recent years—nay, there is, for nothing which is in harmony with the Laws of Life can ever be completely suppressed—a non-Christian (one should even say an anti-Christian) and definitely more than political school of thought which courageously denounced this age-old yet erroneous tradition, and set up a different scale of values and different standards of behaviour. It accepted the principle of the rights of animals, and set a beautiful dog above a degenerate man.

It replaced the false ideal of “human brotherhood,” by the true one of a naturally hierarchised mankind harmoniously integrated into the naturally hierarchised Realm of life, and, as a logical corollary of this, it boldly preached the return to the mystic of genuine nationalism rooted in healthy race-consciousness, and the resurrection of the old national gods of fertility and of battle (or the exaltation of their philosophical equivalents) which many a Greek “thinker” and some of the Jewish prophets themselves had already discarded—politely speaking: “transcended”—in decadent Antiquity.

And its racialist values, solidly founded upon the rock of divine reality, and intelligently defended as they were, in comparison with the traditional man-centered ones inherited, in Europe, from Christianity, are, and cannot but remain, whatever may be the material fate of their great Exponent and of the regime he created, the only unassailable values of the contemporary and future world. But it is, for the time being, a “crime” to mention them, let alone to uphold them—and their whole recent setting—in broad daylight.

The opposite ideologies, more in keeping with the general tendencies of modern Free Thought from the Renaissance onwards, have only broken off apparently with the man-centered faiths. In fact, our international Socialists and our Communists, while pushing God and the supernatural out of their field of vision, are more Christian-like than the Christian Churches ever were.

He who said, “Love they neighbour as thyself has to-day no sincerer and more thorough disciples than those zealots whose foremost concern is to give every human being a comfortable life and all possibilities of development, through the intensive and systematic exploitation by all of the resources of the material world, animate an inanimate, for man’s betterment. Communism, that new religion—for it is a sort of religion—exalting the common man; that philosophy of the rights of humanity as the privileged species, is the natural logical outcome of real Christianity.

It is the Christian doctrine of the labour of love for one’s neighbours, freed from the overburdening weight of Christian theology. It is real Christianity, minus priesthood—which Christ thoroughly disliked—and minus all the beliefs of the Church concerning the human soul and all the mythology of the Bible.

In other words, the rejection of the belief in the supernatural, and the advent of a scientific outlook upon the material world, has not in the least broadened the Westerners’ moral outlook. And, unless they be consistent Racialists, worshippers of hierarchised Life, those who today openly proclaim that civilization can well stand without its traditional Christian (or Muslim) background, stick to a scale of values that proceeds, either from a yet narrower love than that preached in the name of Christ or of Islam, (from the love of one’s mere individual self and family) or, at most, from the same love—not from a broader one; not from a true universal love.

The generous “morality” derived from modern Free Thought is no better than that based upon the time-honoured man-centered creeds that have their origin in Jewish tradition.

It is a morality centered—like the old Chinese morality, wherever true Buddhism and Taoism have not modified it—around “the dignity of all men” and human society as the supreme fact, the one reality that the individual has to respect and to live for; a morality which ignores everything of man’s affiliation with the rest of living nature, and looks upon sentient creatures as having no value except inasmuch as they are exploitable by man for the “higher” purpose of his health, comfort, clothing, amusement, etc. The moral creed of the Free Thinker today is a man-centered creed—no less than that of Descartes and Malebranche and, later on, of the idealists of the French Revolution, and finally of Auguste Comte.

We believe that there is a different way of looking at things—a different way, in comparison with which this man-centered outlook appears as childish, mean and barbaric as the philosophy of any man-eating tribe might seem, when compared with that of the Christian saints, or even of the sincerest ideologists of modern international Socialism or Communism.

Impeachment of Man

 

Preface excerpts

This book—only now printed for the first time—was written in 1945-46, i.e., fourteen years ago. It expresses the views which I have had all my life concerning animals in particular and living nature in general, and my no less life-long protest against their ruthless exploitation by man: an attitude rooted, in both cases, in a pre-eminently aesthetic and life-centered outlook on the world, in complete opposition to that utilitarian and man-centered one, which is accepted nearly everywhere.

It was inspired by the events and general atmosphere of the atrocious months during which it was written, namely, of the months immediately following the Second World War; of the time during which, even if one deliberately refused—as I did—to open any newspaper or magazine, or to listen to any propaganda on the wireless, one could not but hear, wherever one turned, more or less cleverly presented tales of “crimes against humanity” alleged to have been committed, sometimes, admittedly, by or at the orders of the Japanese so-called “war-criminals,” but mostly—practically always—by the German so-called such ones.

The one thing the propaganda did—instead of stirring in me the slightest indignation against the supposed-to-be “war criminals”—was to rouse my hatred against the hypocrisy and cowardice underlying every man-centered attitude, to harden me in my bitter contempt for “man” in general; and . . . to prompt me to write this book: the answer to it, the spirit of which could be summed up in a few lines:

A “civilization” that makes such a ridiculous fuss about alleged “war crimes”—acts of violence against the actual or potential enemies of one’s cause—and tolerates slaughterhouses and vivisection laboratories… does not deserve to live.

Out with it! Blessed the day it will destroy itself, so that a healthy élite of supermen… might again rise, and rule upon its ruins, for ever!

Savitri Devi Mukherji
Calcutta, June 22, 1959