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Humanity and Animality: taboos and proscriptions


Every religion has its own perception of the animality, usually linked to the idea of dirtiness and impurity. It is precisely from this idea that food proscriptions come, as the ones we can see in the three big monotheisms; judaism, islam and christianity. With this article, starting from the Treatise of Samaelite Doctrine [1] we are willing to analyze this subject related to Samaelism, in order to understand if it is correct to have some sort of food proscription or if, quite the opposite, this view would be absurd in the XXI century.


Observing the world in which we live, it is natural to notice how living creatures are characterized not only by a different biology, but -probably- also by a different ontological substance. That is to say, as ontology is the discipline that studies the Being, it is plausible that living and non-living creatures are arranged on a scale of “Beings" in which everyone has a different status. Throughout history, religious views all over the world have questioned the relationship between humanity and animality, i.e. between us and the other, the equal and the different, trying to establish metaphysical criteria by which it is possible to distinguish the human being from every other living being on earth.

Philosophy has also pro-actively contributed to the debate on the differences between animals and humans and how these two specific categories should be interpreted. In particular, there is a whole field of philosophical literature, called ecocriticism, which deals precisely with analyzing environmental issues through fictional works of human history.

Books, films, paintings and all other fictional works are used in the ecocritical debate to give shape to a thought that, free of any conditioning, can unite the big issues of ethics with the big environmental issues.

However, although the narrative of the following chapter focuses on the problem of the human soul, one question might arise: what about animals? That is to say, when looking at the world, Samaelism can no longer adopt the anthropocentric view typical of ancient-medieval philosophical treatment and must instead be confronted with the evidence that animals too, perhaps, possess a certain degree of conscience. On the other hand, and this is quite clear from our entire discussion, the non-humans are also directly related to the Farmacon, as the original principle of all things, is the “Father” of all the Universe and therefore also of what is not merely human.

There is not, in Samaelism, a conception of “privileged creature” in relation to man, nor the idea that the human soul is particularly unique compared to that of other beings (if they have one). What makes the human being unique, as we have already seen in other publications, is precisely self-consciousness, a form of Being that is clearly distinct from the Being typical of animals and other living creatures.

In less Heideggerian and simpler words, animals might might exist, while humans can also say «I am.» It is precisely that «I», through which one’s recognize himself as a individuality, that makes humans different from any other known creature. This does not mean that animals are not potentially able to recognize themselves: after all, according to experiments in the field of ethology, it does appear that at least some forms of primates are perfectly capable of recognizing themselves as individualities with specific needs and requirements.

The problem lies in the qualitative difference between human and animal consciousness, about which there is little to discuss. Human self-consciousness, which has always been perceived as being in the image and likeness of the biblical God described in the Genesis, is substantially different from animal self-consciousness and, according to philosophical and scientific theories, could be the cause, or at least a decisive factor, in the emergence of typical the human consciousness’ faculties such as language, technique, artistic creations and so on. But then, if animal consciousness (assuming it exists, and there is no particular, universal evidence of it) is substantially different from human consciousness, is it fair to assume that animals are ontologically inferior to humans? Samaelism is, in this respect, rather skeptical. The main problem, which is also proposed by the ecocritical current that we will now analyze, is that man always naturally tends towards anthropocentrism, forgetting that he himself is basically an animal. There are no biological, physiological or specific differences that allow us to clearly distinguish man from all other animals on earth. Once again, the only substantial difference lies in the self-awareness of which we have evidence in the human species and no evidence at all in the other species. We assume that animals have some sort of consciousness, albeit in a primitive form, but we have no evidence of it precisely because of that barrier of incommunicability that separates us from their realm. These facts alone are by no means sufficient to argue that man can be superior to animals, or to support any anthropocentric thesis in which the human being is the only creature in the cosmos that is unequivocally dependent on the Farmacon.

In Samaelism, as we have already seen several times, all things are children of the Farmacon and therefore all things are part of that great cosmic mechanism that is Πόλεμος.


When analyzing the ecocritical point of view, we immediately realize one thing: the animal has always been an instrument of man. In the specific field of religion, the animal is in fact used as a control mechanism for the faithful, as a means of conveying certain social taboos, that of dirtiness above all, within the community of practitioners of a given religion. All religions have their food and animal related taboos. This view emerges very well in J.M. Coetzee's ecocritical masterpiece The Lives of Animals in which a fictitious vegetarian writer gives a series of speeches on this subject at a university. While a strong criticism of omnivorous eating habits emerges from the writer's words, this view of the religious control instrument also emerges. In the text, in fact, we read:

«[…] "I mean, it is interesting that the form of the definition should be, for instance, "We are the peo- ple who don't eat snakes" rather than "We are the people who eat lizards". What we don't do rather than what we do do." [...]

"It all has to do with cleanness and uncleanness' […].

"Clean and unclean animals, clean and unclean ha- bits. Uncleanness can be a ver handy device for de- ciding who belongs and who doesn't, who is in and who is out .» [2]

From this dialogue in Coetzee's short story, the issue of cleanliness and dirtiness immediately emerges in relation to the religious idea that certain cults have of certain animals. The dietary precepts of certain cults thus depend closely on a taboo of dirtiness that has to do with people's perception of certain species. Not only that: the text points out that precepts are often in the form of negation and not affirmation. That is, on a religious and social level, human beings are more likely to identify themselves as those who do not eat snakes than as those who eat lizards. This form of denial also depends on the taboo of the filth.

Continuing our reading, we find ourselves confronted with a question that immediately follows on from the statements made earlier: are all animals linked to an idea of dirtiness?

«It’s too abstract, too much of a bloodless idea. Animals are creatures we don't have sex with -that's how we distinguish them from ourselves. The very thought of sex with them makes us shudder. That is the level at which they are unclean - all of them. We don’t mix with them. We keep the clean apart from the unclean.

"But we eat them" The voice is Norma's. "We do mix with them. We ingest them. We turn their flesh into ours. So it can't be how the mechanism works. There are specific kinds of animal that we don't eat. Surely those are the unclean ones, not animals in general.» [3]

Norma, who is often the voice of skepticism and reason in the story, contrasts a partial view of animal filth with the total view put forward by her interlocutor. If the former in fact believes that sex is the main taboo with which we naturally tend to separate ourselves from other animal species, Norma states that the very act of ingesting animal flesh is instead equivalent to blend with them. Filth, therefore, cannot be a universal taboo, but must instead concern only specific animals. The Hindu vegetarian precepts; the Muslim ban on eating pig, donkey, boar, horse, dog and mule; the Jewish ban on eating ruminants that do not have a split hoof (rabbit, pig, camel, horse) and many others, are typical examples of how socio-religious groups tend to associate the idea of impurity and filthiness only with particular animal species.

Note, how the prohibition is negative and not affirmative. That is to say, in the specific case of the Jews for example, that the prohibition negatively affects those ruminant animals that do not have a split hoof and not, affirmatively, those that have a split hoof. Negation is in fact, on a linguistic level, a powerful unconscious deterrent, doubly linked to this idea of impurity. But what is the logic behind the choice of these impure animals?

A rather good answer always comes, a few lines further on in the above dialogue, from Coetzee's book:

«The ban of certain animals -pigs and so forth- is quite arbitrary. It is simply a signal that we are in a danger area. A minefield, in fact. The minefield of dietary proscriptions. There is no logic to a taboo, nor is there any logic to a minefield -there is not meant to be. You can never guess what you may eat or where you may step unless you are in possession of a map, a divine map.» [4]

There is no logic in a taboo. Simply, because the taboo responds to typically human fears and atavistic instincts. The taboo is a social mechanism of an unconscious nature, which copes with human nature. There is no logic, no reason, no particular reasons (with the exception, we believe, of the incest taboo, which is known to be a mechanism of genetic preservation of the species) to forbid eating one animal species over another. But then, why do we do it?

«The whole notion of cleanness versus uncleanness has a completely different function, namely, to enable certain groups to self-define themselves, negatively, as elite, as elected. We are the people who abstain from a or b or c, and by that power of abstinence we mark ourselves off superior: as a superior caste within society, for instance. Like the Brahmins.» [5]

It would seem, at least from these lines, that food proscription can take on a function of social distinction between those who follow it and those who do not.

Indeed, this view would seem to be supported by historical and anthropological evidence in many human societies, in which a certain group of elected ones abstains from certain foods considered to be impure. Such impurity would therefore be a mechanism of social distinction, nothing more. The typically religious belief that certain animals are unclean rather than impure therefore has an elective function for the social group that respects this prescription, and indeed, we note how a religious idea of the chosen people is associated with those cults that, more than others, have this kind of food prescription in their cultural substratum.

On the other hand, however, Samaelism cannot condone this kind of prohibition. Firstly, because there is no evidence that there are animals that are less pure than others, and secondly because such a prescriptive imposition would go against our way of looking at the world. It is not possible, in a cult like ours, to forbid the meat of ungulates rather than insects: everyone must remain free to eat what he or she wishes. The former view is based on taboo and therefore irrationality, the latter is based on reasoning and the spiritual feeling of an entire community like ours.

This does not mean that the vegetarian or vegan alimentation regime choice is frowned upon in Samaelism, quite the contrary. If this choice is made for non-religious reasons, it falls within the realm of the free choices available to every human being. So whether it is for ethical issues, for issues of the environmental impact of intensive livestock farming, or «to save my soul» as the vegetarian writer in Coetzee's story states, every Samaelite is free to choose his or her diet.


In general, for the whole environmental issue and not only for the problem of intensive livestock farming, Samaelism is the cult of acquiring a consciousness.

We are in fact a cult that prides itself on its rationality and rigor, and it would be rather hypocritical of us to pretend that there is no connection between our habits and the deterioration of the environment in which we live. Responsibility, in this case, is the key word.

Animality is therefore not a problem in our cult, but rather a strength of it. Free of all hypocritical and irrational dietary prescriptions, Samaelites know that animals are not so different from us, because man himself is an animal. What makes us unique is our self-awareness, of which we are not, however, certain to be the sole possessors.

At the animic level, however, we believe that there is a variation of substance between animal, plant and man. Whether this variation is due to different degrees of consciousness or simply to a different co-dependent relationship to the Farmacon, Samaelism believes that it is impossible for a human to reincarnate into an animal or inanimate object.

This does not mean that the animal is inferior, but rather that it is simply different. Diversity does not necessarily imply a scale of value in which one entity holds a higher rung and another a lower rung. We are far from the clear-cut Aristotelian distinction between humans, animals and plants as elements of an ontological hierarchical scale.

There is a difference, certainly, but not such as to make one entity better than another. Aware of this, the Samaelite has a profound awareness of his position in the world and his relationship to the different, but just as the intra-specific diversity of humans is not a determining factor in discrimination, neither is interspecific diversity a factor in the hierarchization of living and non-living beings. Everything comes from the Farmacon, everything goes back to the Farmacon: it simply comes and goes differently.

[1] cf. Ordo Adamantis Atri, Treatise of Samaelite Doctrine, Amazon 2023

[2]J. M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals, Princeton 2016, pp. 39ff.

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid.

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