Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/424

This page has been validated.


To the Editors of the Popular Science Monthly.

Dear Sirs: Allow me to give expression to some thoughts suggested by reading the interesting article of Dr. Felix Oswald, in the April number of your publication. The author commits an error when he ascribes the forbidding, by Pythagoras, of using beans as an article of food to a deprecating view of it; it was just the opposite view that caused him to do so. I have before me an essay, "Pythagoras, the Sage of Samos," according to the latest researches, written by Eduard Baltzer (in German), who draws mainly on the "History of Philosophy," by Professor Roeth, of Heidelberg. Baltzer's work is the most successful of the different endeavors made to furnish, from the few fragments that have remained of his works, a biography of the greatest of ancient thinkers, the father of philosophy, as he has been truly called. Beans were forbidden for the common use of his followers, as they were considered a specially sacred article, and were only eaten at certain meals that formed a part of the Pythagorean cultus, the so-called Orphic mysteries.

The fundamental truth of preparing the body by a pure diet and pure physical habits for the growth of spiritual life, that formed the basis for all the doctrines of the ancient philosophers, and that has found the most distinct expression in the words of St. Paul, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you?" etc., has become utterly darkened to the modern perception in its clumsy materialistic tendency—the very rudiments of instinct, the organic perception of the laws of nature underlying its structure, have been lost or utterly distorted by the wrong habits of a carnivorous race; and the modern man, with all his vaunted scientific acquirements, will yet have to go begging to antiquity to gather some crumbs of wisdom and truth. As the earth receives the effects of solar radiation, the source of all its organized physical life, only after it has been modified and polarized by its atmospheric medium—whereby the solar energy assumes, as it were, a geomorphous condition—just so all spiritual perception in the human mind becomes anthropomorphized, individually as well as generically, by the physical condition of the body; and the clear-eyed observer recognizes the cause of mental and moral anomalies in the condition of the physical postulates. Pessimism, as it seems to spread like a frightening nightmare through the race, is nothing but a spiritual perception, polarized to distortion by a bodily medium poisoned by tobacco and alcohol; and every one suffering from it can cure himself and become an optimist by adopting a pure Pythagorean diet, and thus armored draw truth from the wells of divine revelation. I feel free to say so, because, for the sake of experiment, I have changed myself backward and forward severally out of one state of mind into the other.

Returning to our beans, I find that there is no article of food equal to them for gaining the physical postulate for a higher spiritual soul-life. Wheat may be rightly called the best brain-food—next to wheat probably barley, but receiving a greater share of direct sunlight than the beans, which are surrounded by a thicker husk or hull than the grain; whereas the latter, receiving a greater share of indirect radiation through their larger leaves, the grain possesses a more positive vital polarity in its nutritive influence, and the bean a more negative one, whereby the former favors subjective, active, intellectual effort, and the latter predisposes to objective intellectual receptivity, the requirement for spiritual perception.

The New-Englanders, who may be called, I suppose, the salt of the American nation, in establishing baked beans as a national dish, have furnished a proof of the absolute wisdom manifested in the mysterious operations of the unconscious in human nature, as a modern pessimistic philosopher chooses to call the result of divine guidance in the inner life of man.

Respectfully, Julius Ashman.
New York, April 4, 1879.



THERE is a certain class of minds whose efforts to explain things generally leave them more obscure than they were before. In undertaking to represent a question they complicate rather than simplify it, and instead of helping the learner to understand a subject they hinder him. This failure to make things lucid and comprehensible is due to various causes. Oftenest, it comes from a total neglect of the art of luminous writing, and it is unfortunate that many scientific men are not a little perverse about cultivating this art. They do not, as a matter of conscience,