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The Ethics of Diet - A Catena
by Howard Williams M.A., 1883

Georg Friedrich Daumer 1800-1875
(text from the 1st edition, 1883 )

One of the earliest pioneers of the New Reformation in Germany, chiefly from what may be termed the religious-philosophical standpoint, and one whose useful learning was equalled only by his true conception of the significance of the religious sentiment, was born at Nürnberg, in the last year of the eighteenth century.

Of a naturally feeble constitution, unable to mix in the ordinary amusements of school-life, he found ample leisure for literature and for music, to which especially he was devoted. Much of his time, also, was given to theological, and, in particular, biblical reading, so that his mother unhesitatingly fixed upon the clerical profession as his future career. He attended the Gymnasium of his native town, at that time under the direction of Hegel, who exercised a permanent influence upon his mental development. In the eighteenth year of his age he proceeded to the University of Erlangen for the study of theology. Doubts, however, began to disturb his contentment with orthodoxy; and, more and more dissatisfied with its systems, the young student relinquished the course of life for which he had believed himself destined; and, after attending the lectures of Schelling, he went to Leipsic to apply himself wholly to philology. Having completed the usual course of study, he was appointed teacher, and afterwards Professor of Latin in the Nürnberg Gymnasium (1827). Unpleasant relations with the Rector of the schools (whose orthodoxy seems to have been less questionable than his amiability), and also, in part, his feeble health, obliged him to resign from this post,and from that time he gave himself up exclusively to literary occupations, which were, for the most part, in the domain of philosophic theology.

During his professoriate Daumer had written his Urgeschichte des Menschengeistes ("Primitive History of the Human Mind"), which was succeeded, at an interval of some years, by his Andeutungen eines Systems Speculativer Philosophie ("Imitations of a System of Speculative Philosophy"), in which he attempted to found and formulate a philosophic Theism. The unreality of the professions and trifling of those who had most reputation in the "religious" world, estranged him more and more from the prevalent interpretations of Christianity.

His Philosophie, Religion, und Alterhum appeared in 1833. Two years later his Zuge zu einer neuen Philosophie der Religion und Religins-geschichte ("Indications for a New Philosophy of Religion and History of Religion"). In 1842 was published Der Feuer-und-Moloch-Dienst der Hebräer ("The Fire and Moloch-Worship of the Hebrews"), and (1847) Die Geheimnisse des Christlichen Alterhums ("The Mysteries of Christian Antiquity"), in which he pointed out that human sacrifice, and even cannibalism, were connected with the old Baal-worship, and maintained the newer religion to be, in one important respect, not so much a purification of Judaism, as an apparently retrograde movement to the still older religionism. Besides these and other philosophic writings, Daumer published a free translation of the Persian poet Hafiz. Hafiz was followed by Mahomed und seine Werke : eine Sammlung Orientalischer Geschichte ("Mahommed and his Actions : a résumé of Oriental History") 1848; and in 1855 by Polydora : ein Weltpoetisches Liedebuch ("Polydora : A Book of Lays from the World's Poetry").

In his Anthropologismus und Kriticismus ("Anthropology and Criticism"), 1844 are many assaults upon the orthodox dietetic practices; and in Enthullungen über Kaspar Hauser ("Revelations in regard to Kaspar Hauser") he displays the noxious influences of flesh-eating upon a "wild boy of the woods," who had lived an entirely natural life in the forests, eating only wild fruits. When he had been reclaimed from the savage state, his guardians, it seems, thought that the most effectual method of "civilising" their charge was to force him to discard fruits for flesh. The result, as shown by Professor Daumer, who watched the case with the greatest interest, was not reassuring for the orthodox believers. The inveteracy of the practice of kreophagy, which blinds men to its essential barbarism, as well as its anti-ethical, anti-humanising influences, is eloquently insisted upon :-

"Among the reforms necessary for the triumph of true refinement and true morality, which ought to be our earnest aim, is the Dietetic one, which, if not the weightiest of all (allerwichtigste), yet, undoubtedly, is one of the weightiest. Still is the 'civilised' world stained and defiled by the remains of a horrible barbarity; while the old-world revolting practice of slaughter of animals and feeding on their corpses still is in so universal vogue, that men have not the faculty even of recognising it as such, as otherwise they would recognise it; and aversion from this horror provokes censure of such eccentricity, and amazement at any manifestation of tendency to reform, as at something absurd and ridiculous - nay, arouses even bitterness and hate. To extirpate this barbarism is a task, the accomplishment of which lies in the closest relationship with the most important principles of humaneness, morality, æsthetics, and physiology. A foundation for real culture - a thorough civilising and refining of humanity - is clearly impossible so long as an organised system of murder and of corpse-eating (organiserten Mord-und-Leichenfratz System) prevails by recognised custom.

"That through a manner of living, of a character so fostering of corrupting and putrefying principles, is generated and nourished a whole host of diseases which, otherwise, would not exist, is so easy to see, that only an extremely obstinate love of flesh-meat can blind one to the fact. Before I renounced flesh-eating, which unhappily, I had not the courage to do before I had lived half a century, I suffered from time to time from a frightful neuralgia, which tortured me many long days and nights. Since I abstained from that diet I have rid myself of this evil entirely. Observations of other individuals, in respect of the same and other maladies, have led me to the same conclusion. Worms, for instance, from which it formerly suffered, have entirely disappeared in a child, when it was no longer fed upon flesh.

"That through the cadaverous diet, also, very great disadvantages are derived to the spiritual and moral nature of men, appears to me to be proved by my experience in the case of my former foster-son, the celebrated Kaspar Hauser. This young man, maintained during his close confinement upon bread and water, for a long time after his introduction to the world are nothing else, and wished for nothing else, as food. While he was accustomed, without ill-effect, to take bread-sops, oatmeal, and plain chocolate, from flesh, which had for him an intolerable odour, he had conceived a violent aversion. Living in this way he always looked sufficiently well-nourished, he developed a remarkable intelligence, and exhibited an extraordinarily refined and tender feeling. He was induced at last, but only by the most extraordinary caution and gradually, to take the usual flesh-dishes, by being given at first only a few drops of flesh-soup in his bread-sops, and, when he had grown in some measure accustomed to it, by infusing stronger ingredients, and so on.

"There was now manifested the most disastrous change in his mind and disposition : learning became for him strangely difficult - the nobility of his nature disappeared into the background, and he turned out to be nothing more than a very ordinary individual. They ascribed this, of course, to every other cause than to his habituation to the flesh-diet. I myself was at that time very remote from the opinion of which I now am. From my present standpoint, however, I certainly cannot doubt that dietetic barbarism is for man of the most essential harm, not alone in a physical, but also in an intellectual and moral, point of view, however much it may, at present, be taken under the patronage of physiologists and physicians - upon no other ground, apparently, than because they themselves, to a melancholy degree, are devotedly attached to this inhuman diet. For, alas! man is wont to make use of his reason to justify by specious show of reasoning what he likes and delights in upon quite other grounds." (1)



    1. Quoted in Die Naturgemässe Diät : die Diät der Zukunft, von Theodor Hahn, Cöthen, 1859. For the substance of biographical notice prefixed to this article we are again indebted to the kindness of Herr Emil Weilshäuser, of Oppeln.


Howard Williams, The Ethics of Diet - index