Historical evidence shows us that the majority of the original Hermeticists were vegetarian. Although it was preferable, it wasn’t seen as necessary for spiritual attainment. This seems to have been something that evolved in the group rather than being part of the original Egyptian traditions. The ancient Egyptian priest would abstain from meat for certain periods or for a specific reason, but it seems that this discipline of withholding fully was adopted from the Pythagorean influence in the group.
We don’t have any complete works about Hermetic vegetarianism, but the fragments we have hint at the following:
- They believed in reincarnation (their term was metempsychosis) between species and thus felt they could be eating the spirit of a human.
- They felt energy from the departed animal would cloud their spiritual awareness. Some thought that there would be foreign thoughts, emotions and forces in the energy of the animal which would cause inner confusion and block clear perception.
- They felt it cultivated the wrong intentions. The Pythagorean texts were focused on non violence and good intentions. They felt these were incomparable with the killing and eating of animals. This is gently hinted at in some Hermetic writings.
A Celebration of Good Food
The Hermetic approach to vegetarianism, and indeed to diet, was to focus on the goodness in healthy foods and to let that enjoyment and celebration move you in the correct direction. In a sense this habit allows you to make you diet an ongoing journey of gentle improvement.