The Beans of Pythagoras
H. L. Sumner
The Path, February 1888
In a recent number of the Theosophist is a paragraph in reply to an enquirer as to “why Pythagoras banned the bean,” which seems to me as far from correct as the explanations given by an Athenian skeptic who derisively said that “beans are the substance which contains the largest portion of that animated matter of which our souls are particles,” and that the flowers of the bean put in a vessel and buried ninety days would deposit in the bottom of the vessel the head of a child; concluding, amid bursts of laughter, that Pythagoras himself has made the experiment.
Beans were anciently used in casting votes by balloting, the white beans for affirmative and the black ones negative. When Pythagoras said to his disciples, “Abstain from beans,” he had no reference to them as an article of diet, for he ate them himself. What he did mean, and what his immediate followers already understood, was that they should abstain from the intrigues of politics as being antagonistic to a philosopher’s pursuits.
It also couched a warning of the danger of criticising the popular government.
All the divine teachers have taught in symbols and inverted language, and time has proven the wisdom of this method.
He that had “eyes to see,” or “ears to hear,” saw and heard then, as now; and the poor little cursed bean is a symbol of the “letter that killeth.”
If I have restored the bean to its deserved place of honor on our tables, I have done a good work for the oncoming rule of vegetarianism under which all true theosophists must come soon or late.
Perhaps it may be in place to say that all the supposed gastric difficulties the bean is reported to cause may be entirely overcome by boiling, both the green and the dry, in a weak solution of soda, for ten or fifteen minutes, before reboiling them in the usual manner.
The foregoing considerations arose in my mind because of the question frequently raised by vegetarian occultists — in embryo — that beans, having some unknown and peculiar property of retarding spiritual development, should be eschewed by those who are cultivating psychic powers. Nothing was certain in the matter, however, and the great fear of beans has seemed to have its foundation in a mystery that I hope I have solved.
I am quite sure too that, even if the bean has any retarding influence, it cannot act upon real spiritual progress, for that rests primarily upon right thought, speech, and action.