Tag Archive | monasticism

VegHist Ep 14: Diet Reform. On consumerism, lebensreform, and Gandhi; with Ramachandra Guha; at Sabarmati Ashram, India

In the nineteenth century, in America and Germany, new forms of vegetarianism emerge – from the individualistic consumer vegetarianism of America, to the back-to-nature European “life reform” movement.

Episode 14: Diet Reform

As animal agriculture industrialises and meat consumption rises, the ways that food reformers respond are familiar to people today – the plant-based meat, the celebrity athletes, and the reformers who worship nature, sunshine, and fresh air.

Ian goes to the shops to discover just how many vegetarian staples he owes to pioneers like John Harvey Kellogg. In Sabarmati, northwest India, he visits the Ashram of Mahatma Mohandas K Gandhi.

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VegHist Ep 12: Radicals & Romantics. Bible Christians, Grahamites, and Transcendentalists; with Adam Shprintzen and Derek Antrobus; at Deerfields, Fruitlands, and Salford

Sheaf of wheat with fruit

In the 1800s, overlapping circles of utopians, mystics, and romantics in both Europe and America develop arguments against meat until “vegetarianism” finally becomes a real movement. 

 

Episode 12: Radicals & Romantics

In the aftermath of the American and French revolutions, the sects and philosophies that embrace a “vegetable diet” multiply – from ecstatic cult to puritan crusades, to utopian community to public-spirited congregation. No longer are they isolated groups – they connect with each other in books, magazines, and letters. Until a single word catches on – “vegetarianism”.

In the United States of America, Ian discovers the the vegetarian sword and shoes of a 1790s “free love” vegetarian sect in a local Massachusetts museum, and visits the failed vegan commune where Louisa May “Little Women” Alcott lived as a child.

And in Salford, NW England, he walks in the footsteps of a nineteenth century vegetarian church, with local historian Derek Antrobus and the vegetarian history specialist Dr Samantha Calvert.

It’s a story that also takes in the French bohemian “cult of the bearded men”, the man who invented the modern idea of Robin Hood, the woman who invented Frankenstein and his creature, Sylvester Graham, and, finally, the creation of modern vegetarianism.

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VegHist Ep 8: Contacts. Indian Sufism, Bhakti, Akbar, Portuguese Christianity, and Gaudiya Vaishnavism; with Sanjukta Gupta; in Agra, Delhi, and London

An east Indian Jagannath image of Krishna and the words "Go veggie!" and "Krishna" are painted on the side of a cart.

When conquerors who profess Islam or Christianity rule over Indian vegetarians, the conversations about food ethics go both ways.

Episode 8: Contacts

Ian discovers the ecstatic dancing and singing shared by Sufis and Hindus – including westerners singing Hare Krishna in London’s main shopping street.  In Delhi, he finds out about the inquisition that started with European antisemitism and ended with Indians being forced to eat beef.

And in the royal city of Agra, he visits a shrine built to commemorate a conversation about religion and vegetarianism between a Jain saint and the Mughal emperor Akbar. He uncovers the fascinating story of this heretic emperor who advocated vegetarianism.

At the halfway point of this 15-part history of vegetarianism, the traditions of East and West come together. From hereon, it’s all one story.

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VegHist Ep 5: Flesh and Spirit. On Egyptian monasticism, Early Christianity, Plutarch, Neoplatonism, and Manicheansim; with David Grummet, Nicholas Baker-Brian, Michael Beer, and Fr. Abouna Yostas St. Athanasius

Icon of hirsuite naked man with halo

In the eastern Roman Empire, several faiths and philosophies agree on one thing; that you need to eschew flesh to live a life of the spirit.

Episode 5: Flesh & Spirit

Not all Romans celebrated pagan sacrifices or the bloodthirsty arena. Some Romans followed the semi-mythical vegetarian Pythagoras, or neoplatonist philosophers who preached a vegetarian contemplative life.

In the melting pot of Jewish mythology, Greek philosophy, and the worship of Jesus many forms of Christianity emerge. Some of them advocate vegetarianism. The lost world religion of Manichaeanism took ideas from India and was led by a plant based priesthood that would last a thousand years.

Alexandria in Egypt is the epicentre of many of these contemplative movements. Ian visits a valley in Yorkshire that still echoes with the traditions of the ancient Egyptian desert – the Coptic Christian monastery of St. Athanasius. He discovers why the monks pursue that life, what it means to them, and how they maintain some of the original vegetarian traditions of the Egyptian desert fathers.

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