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  Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949)

Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard, Count Maeterlinck (August 29, 1862 - May 6, 1949) was a Belgian poet, playwright, and essayist writing in French. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911. The main themes in his work are death and the meaning of life.

Nobel prize winner Maurice Materlinck wrote about vegetarianism in his book “Le temple Enseveli”, Paris, 1903, III, Le Règne de la Matière, V,  p. 187-191.

This is an English translation:

But how much there is to be done, and learned, before this great flame can arise in serene, secure brightness! We have said that man, in his relation to matter, is still in the experimental, groping stage of his earliest days.  He lacks even definite knowledge as to the kind of food best adapted for him, or the quantity of nourishment he requires; he is still uncertain as to whether he be carnivorous or frugivorous. His intellect misleads his instinct. It was only yesterday that he learned that he had probably erred hitherto in the choice of his nourishment; that he must reduce by two-thirds the quantity of nitrogen he absorbs, and largely increase the volume of hydrocarbons; that a little fruit, or milk, a few vegetables, farinaceous substances--now the mere accessory of the too plentiful repasts which he works so hard to provide, which are his chief object in life, the goal of his efforts, of his strenuous, incessant labour--are amply sufficient to maintain the ardour of the finest and mightiest life. 

It is not my purpose here to discuss the question of vegetarianism, or to meet the objections that may be urged against it; though it must be admitted that of these objections not one can withstand a loyal and scrupulous inquiry.  I, for my part, can affirm that those whom I have known to submit themselves to this regimen have found its result to be improved or restored health, marked addition of strength, and the acquisition by the mind of a clearness, brightness, well-being, such as might follow the release from some secular, loathsome, detestable dungeon.  But we must not conclude these pages with an essay on alimentation, reasonable as such a proceeding might be.  For in truth all our justice, morality, all our thoughts and feelings, derive from three or four primordial necessities, whereof the principal one is food. The least modification of one of these necessities would entail a marked change in our moral existence. 

Were the belief one day to become general that man could dispense with animal food, there would ensue not only a great economic revolution--for a bullock, to produce one pound of meat, consumes more than a hundred of provender--but a moral improvement as well, not less important and certainly more sincere and more lasting than might follow a second appearance on the earth of the Envoy of the Father, come to remedy the errors and omissions of his former pilgrimage.  For we find that the man who abandons the regimen of meat abandons alcohol also; and to do this is to renounce most of the coarser and more degraded pleasures of life.  And it is in the passionate craving for these pleasures, in their glamour, and the prejudice they create, that the most formidable obstacle is found to the harmonious development of the race. 

Detachment therefrom creates noble leisure, a new order of desires, a wish for enjoyment that must of necessity be loftier than the gross satisfactions which have their origin in alcohol.  But are days such as these in store for us--these happier, purer hours?  The crime of alcohol is not alone that it destroys its faithful and poisons one half of the race, but also that it exercises a profound, though indirect, influence upon those who recoil from it in dread.  The idea of pleasure which it maintains in the crowd forces its way, by means of the crowd's irresistible action, into the life even of the elect, and lessens, perverts, all that concerns man's peace and repose, his expansiveness, gladness and joy; retarding, too, it may safely be said, the birth of the truer, profounder ideal of happiness: one that shall be simpler, more peaceful and grave, more spiritual and human. 

This ideal is evidently still very imaginary, and may seem of but little importance; and infinite time must elapse, as in all other cases, before the certitude of those who are convinced that the race so far has erred in the choice of its aliment (assuming the truth of this statement to be borne out by experience) shall reach the confused masses, and bring them enlightenment and comfort.  But may this not be the expedient Nature holds in reserve for the time when the struggle for life shall have become too hopelessly unbearable--the struggle forlife that to-day means the fight for meat and for alcohol, double source of injustice and waste whence all the others are fed, double symbol of a happiness and necessity whereof neither is human?»The Buried Temple, III THE KINGDOM OF MATTER, 5(English version from: The Buried Temple By Maurice Maeterlinck, Translated by Alfred Sutro,