Fasting & Sobriety According to The Essene Gospel of Peace | Part 2

The Essene Science of Fasting and the Art of Sobriety:

Guide to Regeneration in Health and Disease

by Edmond Bordeaux Szekely


Part 2: Sobriety

So eat always from the table of God: the fruits of the trees, the grain and grasses of the field, the milk of beasts, and the honey of bees. For everything beyond these is of Satan, and leads by the way of sins and of diseases unto death. But the foods which you eat from the abundant table of God give strength and youth to your body, and you will never see disease. For the table of God fed Methuselah of old, and I tell you truly, if you live even as he lived, then will the God of the living give you also long life upon the earth as was his.

For I tell you truly, the God of the living is richer than all the rich of the earth, and his abundant table is richer than the richest table of feasting of all the rich upon the earth. Eat, therefore, all your life at the table of our Earthly Mother, and you will never see want. And when you eat at her table, eat all things even as they are found on the table of the Earthly Mother.

Take heed, therefore, and defile not with all kinds of abominations the temple of your bodies. Be content with two or three sorts of food, which you will find always upon the table of our Earthly Mother. And desire not to devour all things which you see round about you. For I tell you truly, if you mix together all sorts of food in your body, then the peace of your body will cease, and endless war will rage in you.

And when you eat, never eat unto fullness. Flee the temptations of Satan, and listen to the voice of God's angels. For Satan and his power tempt you always to eat more and more. But live by the spirit, and resist the desires of the body. And your fasting is always pleasing in the eyes of the angels of God. So give heed to how much you have eaten when you are sated, and eat always less by a third.

Let the weight of your daily food be not less than a mina, but mark that it go not beyond two. Then will the angels of God serve you always, and you will never fall into the bondage of Satan and of his diseases. Trouble not the work of the angels in your body by eating often. For I tell you truly, he who eats more than twice in the day does in him the work of Satan. And the angels of God leave his body, and soon Satan will take possession of it. Eat only when the sun is highest in the heavens, and again when it is set. And you will never see disease, for such finds favor in the eyes of the Lord.

From the coming of the month of Ijar, eat barley; from the month of Sivan, eat wheat, the most perfect among all seed-bearing herbs. And let your daily bread be made of wheat, that the Lord may take care of your bodies. From Tammuz, eat the sour grape, that your body may diminish, and that Satan may depart from it. In the month of Elul, gather the grape that the juice may serve you as drink. In the month of Marchesvan, gather the sweet grape, sweetened and dried by the angel of sunshine, that it may increase your bodies, for the angels of the Lord dwell in them. You should eat figs rich in juice in the months of Ab and Shebat, and what remain, let the angel of sunshine keep them for you. Eat them with the meat of almonds in all the months when the trees bear no fruits. And the herbs which come after rain, these eat in the month of Thebet, that your blood may be cleansed of all your sins. And in the same month begin to eat also the milk of your beasts, because for this did the Lord give the herbs of the fields to all the beasts which render milk, that they might with their milk feed man. For I tell you truly, happy are they that eat only at the table of God, and eschew all the abominations of Satan. Eat not unclean foods brought from far countries, but eat always that which your trees bear. For your God knows well what is needful for you, and where and when. And he gives to all peoples of all kingdoms for food that which is best for each. Eat not as the heathen do, who stuff themselves in haste, defiling their bodies with all manner of abominations.

For the power of God's angels enters into you with the living food which the Lord gives you from his 'royal table.

And chew well your food with your teeth, that it become water, and that the angel of water turn it into blood in your body. And eat slowly, as it were a prayer you make to the Lord. For I tell you truly, the power of God enters into you, if you eat after this manner at his table. For the table of the Lord is as an altar, and he who eats at the table of God, is in a temple. For I tell you truly, the body of the Sons of Man is turned into a temple, and their inwards into an altar, if they do the commandments of God. Wherefore, put naught upon the altar of the Lord when your spirit is vexed, neither think upon any one with anger in the temple of God. And enter only into the Lord's sanctuary when you feel in yourselves the call of his angels, for all that you eat in sorrow, or in anger, or without desire, becomes a poison in your body. For the breath of Satan defiles all these. Place with joy your offerings upon the altar of your body, and let all evil thoughts depart from you when you receive into your body the power of God from his table.

Rejoice, therefore, always with God's angels at their royal table, for this is pleasing to the heart of the Lord; and your life will be long upon the earth, for the most precious of the servants of God will serve you all your days: the Angel of joy.

(These are excerpts from The Essene Gospel of Peace, Book One)


There have been very few people in history so misunderstood and consequently misinterpreted by their contemporaries, as well as by posterity, as Luigi Cornaro.

His contemporaries looked with great astonishment on this vigorous, creative centenarian with his permanently benevolent, smiling face and countenance, so radically unlike themselves, at least those who were still alive when Cornaro celebrated his one-hundredth birthday, for the average life-span in the latter part of the 16th century was only forty to fifty years. The few who remained to wonder at Cornaro's well-being were vegetating in agonizing pains, chained to their beds, waiting only for death to release them from their sufferings. And this generally one-sided (though accurate) image survived all the centuries (he lived from 1464 to 1566). To many of his contemporaries, he was the respectable and highly esteemed administrator of the Bishopric of Padua and the intimate friend of the highly revered Cardinal Pisani. Several of his friends regarded him with even greater awe, knowing that two other long-lived celebrities, Pope Paul Farnese and Cardinal Bembo, both had become followers of Cornaro's way of living and eating. To the less knowledgeable citizens and neighbors of Cornaro, he was simply the wealthy and eccentric nobleman who lived in a pleasant house in the most beautiful quarter of the city of Venice, the grounds of which were enhanced by several beautiful gardens, intersected by running streams, "in which he always found pleasure of exercising, surrounded by pure air, water, sunshine, and beautiful trees and vegetation."

His niche of fame in the annals of posterity is also limited and not less one-sided. He was considered by many as a 16th century author of several classic treatises, most of which are still gathering dust in the ancient archives and libraries of Italy, holding no special interest for modern times. Regarding his literary form, the most fastidious critics extolled his beautiful style in both Latin and Italian. But concerning the rather "eccentric content" of his letters and treatises, very few comments were written.

Then, in the 19th and 20th centuries, something much worse happened to his image: he was suddenly acclaimed as the forerunner of Naturopathy and diet therapy, hailed as a fanatical, one-sided opponent of "orthodox medical science" of his age as well as the present one. "Selected" texts of his were atrociously translated in several languages and used as vulgar arguments for many one-sided medical sects and their representatives.

But the historical figure, the mind and personality of the great Luigi Cornaro cannot be evaluated from such one-sided interpretations. In the words of Lucretius, "cognoscere est cognoscere causes". To know, we must know the origins. Therefore, let us analyze not only the character, the mind and the extraordinary erudition of Luigi Cornaro, but also the origin and sources of his remarkable philosophy of life.

The influences on the formation of his philosophy and way of living and eating were several. When I did my research in the archives of the Vatican and in the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, I found very interesting material by and referring to Cornaro, as well as numerous letters and marginal notes on books and manuscripts in his own hand.

He was well acquainted with the writings of Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, who said, "let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food." After reading his marginal notes on the Treatises of Hippocrates on the airs, waters and nature, he does not seem so eccentric for spending so much time in his gardens. He also seemed to follow the advice of his favorite poet, Horatius, who said "bene vixit qui bene latuit". He who hides well, lives well.

In one of his letters to Cardinal Bembo, he quotes Hippocrates several times, especially in these immortal words: "Life is short, and Art is long; opportunity fleeting, experiment dangerous, and judgment difficult." And again: "I will impart the Art of Healing by precept, by lecture and by every mode of teaching to all my disciples."

In another letter, criticizing the deviations of contemporary physicians from the basic principles of Hippocrates, he quotes the following words of the Father of Medicine, in order to keep his illustrious follower on the narrow path: "The regimen I adopt shall be for the benefit of my patients, according to my ability and judgment, and not for any wrong. I will give no drug to any, though it be asked of me, nor will I counsel such. Whatsoever house I enter, there will I go for the benefit of the sick, refraining from all wrongdoing. Whatsoever things I see or hear, concerning the life of men, in my attendance on the sick or even apart therefrom which ought not to be noised abroad, I will keep in silence thereon, counting such things to be as sacred secrets."

He also made very interesting annotations on the texts of Galenus, the greatest follower of Hippocrates. Among them: "So long as we follow these two rules: not to take of more than our stomach can easily digest, and to use only those things which agree with us, we shall not suffer from disease".

He also quotes Socrates in one of his letters to Pope Paul Farnese: "Whenever we follow the path of reason, everything will be satisfactory; but, as soon as we deviate from the path of reason, everything in our lives will go wrong". In another letter, this time to Cardinal Bembol he quotes extensively from Zeno, the classic Greek founder of the Stoic school of philosophy: "See that you live in harmony with your own reasonable nature, instead of acting unreasonably according to your own caprice. There lies your part and your happiness, for in that way you can avoid every collision with Nature and with the order of the Universe. Thus you can be assured of a pleasant and quiet life. We shall strive to achieve ataraxia, the undisturbed peace of mind before the turmoil of this world".

He also underlined in a manuscript this beautiful statement of Epicuros: "We shall seek temperance and a simple life.

Real wealth and freedom consists in a minimum of needs". But his favorite statement of Epicuros, which he quotes in a letter to Cardinal Pisani is this: "We shall avoid pain, always, and seek for pleasure. But of pleasures there are two kinds: for the first, and false, pleasures, we must pay too high a price: the sacrifice of our physical health and peace of mind. And without our health and peace of mind we are unable to enjoy any pleasures. The second kind of pleasures are our eternal companions, the right kind of pleasures. These noble pleasures are the enjoyment of all beautiful things in Nature: the mountains, the forests, the oceans, the colors of the sunrise and sunset. . . all that is beautiful in man's creation: great books, great music, great works of art, friendship and love. . . The wise man shall have as his program of living, the gradual replacement of the false pleasures with our eternal companions, the noble pleasures of life".

He also knew very well the two disciples of Zeno, founder of the Stoic philosophy: Epictetus, the slave, and Marcus Aurelius, the emperor. One of his notes from Epictetus: "Do not be concerned by anything independent of our will, but strive to improve all things which depend on your mind". A beautiful quotation of his from Marcus Aurelius may explain his serenity in the face of all his acquaintances and relatives, who lived their lives in violation of every rule of wisdom: "You cannot make people happy in your way; you must let them be happy, or unhappy, in their own way".

Now we arrive to the analysis of that crucial moment in Cornaro's life, his crossroads of decision, when he became deathly ill in the fifth decade of his "life of ignorance and dissipation". All of Cornaro's biographers, without exception, mention simply that it was "a physician" who led him to a new way of living, and thus to restored health, and never mention him again, leaving this most important influence on his life entirely in darkness. His notes and manuscripts published by his great-grandson, Antonio Cornaro, shed light on this most important person, who completely and radically changed the way of thinking, living and eating of Luigi Cornaro. The anonymous "physician" of Cornaro's biographers was the most respected member of the surviving brotherhood of the Salerno Medical School, and a renowned physician: Father Benedict, professor of natural regime and Cornaro's savior. He was sent to Cornaro's sick-bed by his superior, Cardinal Bembo, to save the life of the most efficient administrator of his Bishopric. It was Father Benedict, from the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, who visited Cornaro at the height of his misery and converted him "from Saulus to Paulus". What happened then is common knowledge from the well-known treatises of Cornaro. The disciple outshone the master, who, according to the Benedictine ethic, intended to remain anonymous.

Let us now mention the greatest scholar of the famed medical school of Salerno: Constantin the African, who, after years of wandering in the eastern deserts, sought refuge in Salerno and then retired to Monte Cassino, the monastery founded by St. Benedict in the sixth century, there to translate many of St. Jerome's still surviving texts about the Therapeutae, an Essene Brotherhood from Lake Mareotis, of enormous renown in their use of simple, natural nutrition in the greatest moderation. His best known work, a condensation of the regime and methods of fasting and eating in moderation of the ancient Essenes (the "Desert Way") was the Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum, a handbook of domestic medicine, the most quoted couplet of which is the following: "Use three physicians still: first, Doctor Quiet, next Doctor Merryman, and Doctor Diet".

The medical school of Salerno, mentioned several times, was the earliest and most famous in Europe, and to it flocked students from Europe, Asia and Africa, to study and qualify as doctors of medicine. Father Benedict, the anonymous physician of Cornaro, was one of the most illustrious lights of this famous school, in the 16th century.

The most fascinating discovery I made concerning the life and teachings of Cornaro is this chain of transmission of knowledge: the ancient Essene Brotherhoods and the Essene Gospel of Peace, St. Jerome's translation of the Essene Gospel of Peace, the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, Constantin the African, the remnants of the texts of St. Jerome, the Salerno School of Medicine, Doctor Father Benedict, and Luigi Cornaro, the prophet of moderation in all things and of Sobriety, the last echo of the ancient Essene teachings and traditions.

I think it will be appropriate to end this revaluation with a quotation of a great intellectual giant, Francis Bacon, confirming the ideas of Cornaro: "To preserve long life, the body of Man must be considered. Age is nothing of itself, being only the measure of time. A sober diet according to strict rules and always exactly equal [as that of Cornaro] seemeth to be very effectual for long life. Certainly this is without all question: diet, well-ordered, bears the greatest part in the prolongation of life".

"Hope is the most beneficial of all the affections, as it doth much for the prolongation of life, if it be not too often frustrated, but entertaineth the fancy with an expectation of good; therefore, they who will fix and propound to themselves some end - as the mark and scope of the inner life - and continually and by degrees go forward in the same, are, for the most part, long-lived".

In conclusion, I want to emphasize my irresistible urge to overcome the prevalent one-sided image of Luigi Cornaro, who had one of the most all-sided, classic, eclectic minds of all time, with an encyclopedic erudition in all the available knowledge of his era. Most of all, he was a civilized human being, in the truest and finest sense of the word. Perhaps the feature which distinguishes him most markedly from 20th century man is his devotion to reason as the guiding force behind man's decisions, as opposed to our modern indulgence of feelings and emotions. Present-day man finds it extremely difficult to give up even the least of his bad habits, no matter how impressive the scientific arguments against it. Yet Cornaro wholeheartedly adopted a regime so strict that even today no physician would hope to keep a patient on it for more than a few weeks, adhering to it with a serenity and cheerfulness more akin to the ancient Greek ideal than to modern western man. ". . . when I had once resolved to live soberly, and according to the dictates of reason, feeling it was my duty as a man to do so, I entered with so much resolution upon this new course of life, that nothing since has been able to divert me from it." This may be what I admire most about Luigi Cornaro: he may have been the "man" whom Diogenes was looking for with a lamp in the marketplace of Athens in broad daylight, and was unable to find.



It is universally agreed, that custom, in time, becomes a second nature, forcing men to use that, whether good or bad, to which they have been habituated; in fact, we see habit, in many instances, gain the ascendancy over reason. This is so undeniably true, that virtuous men, by keeping company with wicked, often fall into the same vicious course of life. Seeing and considering all this, I have decided to write on the vice of intemperance in eating and drinking.

Now, though all are agreed that intemperance is the parent of gluttony, and sober living the offspring of abstemiousness; yet, owing to the power of custom, the former is considered a virtue, and the latter as mean and avaricious; and so many men are blinded and besotted to such a degree, that they come to the age of forty or fifty, burdened with strange and painful infirmities, which render them decrepit and useless; whereas, had they lived temperately and soberly, they would in all probability have been sound and hearty, to the age of eighty and upward. To remedy this state of things, it is requisite that men should live up to the simplicity dictated by nature, which teaches us to be content with little, and accustom ourselves to cat no more than is absolutely necessary to support life, remembering that all excess causes disease and leads to death. Many young men of the best understanding have recognized the necessity of following this way of life, because many of their parents have died in middle life, while I remain so sound and hearty at the age of one hundred and one.

The heavy train of infirmities which had made great inroads on my constitution, were my motives for renouncing intemperance, in the matter of too freely eating and drinking, to which I had been addicted, so that, in consequence of it, my stomach became disordered, and I suffered much pain from colic and gout, attended by that which was still worse, an almost continual slow fever, a stomach generally out of order, and a perpetual thirst. From these disorders, the best delivery I had to hope was death. Finding myself, therefore, between my thirty-fifth and fortieth year in such unhappy circumstances, and having tried everything that could be thought of to relieve me, but to no purpose, my physician gave me to understand that there was one method left to get the better of my complaints, provided I would resolve to use it, and patiently persevere. This was to live a strictly sober and regular life, which would be of the greatest efficacy. He further added that, if I did not at once adopt this method of strict living, I should in a few months receive no benefit from it, and that in a few more I must resign myself to death.

These arguments made such an impression on me, that, mortified as I was, besides, by the thought of dying in the prime of life, though at the same time perpetually tormented by various diseases, I immediately resolved, in order to avoid at once both disease and death, to betake myself to a regular course of life. Having upon this inquired of him what rules I should follow, he told me that I must only use food, solid or liquid, such as is generally prescribed to sick persons; and both sparingly. These directions, to say the truth, I had been given before, but I had been impatient of such restraint, and had eaten and drunk freely of those things I had desired. But, when I had once resolved to live soberly, and according to the dictates of reason, feeling it was my duty as a man so to do, I entered with so much resolution upon this new course of life, that nothing since has been able to divert me from it. The consequence was, that in a few days I began to perceive that such a course agreed well with me; and, by pursuing it, I found myself in less than a year (some people, perhaps, will not believe it), entirely freed from all my complaints.


Having thus recovered my health, I began to seriously consider the power of temperance: if it had efficacy enough to subdue such grievous disorders as mine, it must also have power to preserve me in health and strengthen my bad constitution. I gave over the use of such meats and wines as did not suit me, and chose those which by experience I found agreed well with me, taking only as much as I could easily digest, having strict regard to quantity as well as quality; and contrived matters so as never to cloy my stomach with eating or drinking, and always rose from the table with a disposition to eat and drink more. In consequence, therefore, of my taking such methods, I have always enjoyed, and, God be praised, still enjoy, the best of health. It is true that, besides the two most important rules relative to eating and drinking, which I have ever been very scrupulous to observe (that is, not to take of either, more than my stomach could easily digest, and to use only those things which agree with me), I have carefully avoided, as far as possible, all extreme heat, cold, extraordinary fatigue, interruption of my usual hours of rest, or staying long in bad air. I likewise did all that lay in my power, to avoid those evils, which we do not find it so easy to remove: melancholy, hatred, and other violent passions, which appear to have the most -profound influence on our bodies. I am a living witness, and so are many others who know me, and have seen me, how often I have been exposed to heats and colds, and disagreeable changes of weather, without taking harm. He who leads a sober and regular life, and commits no excess in his diet, can suffer but little from mental disorders or external accidents.

I conclude, especially from the late trial I have had, that excesses in eating and drinking are often fatal. Four years ago, I consented to increase the quantity of my food by two ounces, my friends and relations having, for some time past, urged upon me the necessity of such increase, that the quantity I took was too little for one so advanced in years; against this, I urged that nature was content with little, and that with this small quantity I had preserved myself for many years in health and activity, that I believed as a man advanced in years, his stomach grew weaker, and therefore the tendency should be to lessen the amount of food rather than to increase. I further reminded them of the two proverbs, which say: He who has a mind to eat a great deal, must eat but little; eating little makes life long, and, living long, he must eat much; and the other proverb was: That which we leave after making a hearty meal does us more good than what we have eaten. But my arguments and proverbs were not able to prevent them teasing me upon the subject; therefore, not to appear obstinate, or affecting to know more than the physicians themselves, but above all, to please my family, I consented to the increase before mentioned; so that, whereas previous, what with bread, the yolk of an egg, and soup I ate as much as twelve ounces, neither more nor less, I now increased it to fourteen; and whereas before I drank but fourteen ounces of liquid, I now increased it to sixteen. This increase had, in eight day's time, such an effect upon me that, from being cheerful and brisk, I began to be peevish and melancholy, so that nothing could please me. On the twelfth day, I was attacked with a violent pain in my side, which lasted twenty-two hours and was followed by a fever, which continued thirty-five days without any respite, insomuch that all looked upon me as a dead man; but, God be praised, I recovered, and I am positive that it was the great regularity I had observed for so many years, and that only, which rescued me from the jaws of death.


Orderly living is doubtless a most certain cause and foundation of health and long life; nay, I say it is the only true medicine, and whoever weighs the matter well, will come to this conclusion. Hence it is, that when the physician comes to visit a patient, the first thing he prescribes is regular living, and certainly to avoid excess. Now, if the patient after recovery should continue so to live, he could not be sick again, and if a very small quantity of food is sufficient to restore his health, then but a slight addition is necessary for the continuance of the same; and so, for the future, he would want neither physician nor physic; he would become his own physician, and indeed, the best he could have, since, in fact, no man should be a perfect physician to any but himself. The reason is, that any man, by repeated trials, may acquire a perfect knowledge of his own constitution, the kinds of food and drink which agree with him best. A man cannot have a better guide than himself, nor any physic better than a regular life. We should consider this regular life as our physician, since it preserves men, even those of a weak constitution, in health; makes them live sound and hearty, to the age of one hundred and upward, and prevents their dying of sickness. These things, however, are discovered but by few, for men, for the most part, are sensual and intemperate, and love to satisfy their appetites, and to commit every excess; and, by way of apology, say that they prefer a short and self-indulgent life, to a long and self-denying one, not knowing that those men are most truly happy who keep their appetites in subjection. Thus have I found it, and I prefer to live temperately, so that I may live long and be useful. He who thus lives cannot be sick, or but seldom, and for a short time, because, by regular living, he destroys every seed of sickness, and thus, by removing the cause, prevents the effect; so that he who pursues a regular and strictly moderate life, need not fear illness, for his blood having become pure, and free from all bad humors, it is not possible that he can fall sick. A regular life is so profitable and virtuous, it ought to be universally followed. If men have a mind to live long and in health, and die without sickness of body or mind, but by mere dissolution, they must submit to a regular and abstemious life, for such a life keeps the blood clean and pure.


Some sensual unthinking persons affirm, that a long life is no great blessing, and that the state of a man, who has passed his seventy-fifth year, cannot really be called life; but this is wrong, as I shall fully prove; and it is my sincere wish, that all men would endeavor to attain my age, that they might enjoy that period of life which of all others is most desirable.

I will therefore give an account of my recreations, and the relish which I find at this stage of life. There are many who can give testimony as to the happiness of my life. In the first place, they see with astonishment the good state of my health and spirits; how I mount my horse without assistance, how I not only ascend a flight of stairs, but can climb a hill with greatest ease. Then, how gay and good-humored I am; my mind ever undisturbed, in fact, joy and peace having fixed their abode in my breast. Moreover, they know in what manner I spend my time, so as never to find life weary: I pass my hours in great delight and pleasure, in converse with men of good sense and intellectual culture; then, when I cannot enjoy their company, I betake myself to the reading of some good book. When I have read as much as I like, I write, endeavoring in this, as in other things, to be of service to others; and these things I do with the greatest ease to myself. Nor are my recreations rendered less agreeable by the failing of any of my senses, for they are all, thank God, perfect, particularly my palate, which now relishes better the simple fare I have, than it formerly did the most delicate dishes, when I led an irregular life. I can sleep everywhere soundly and quietly, and my dreams are pleasant and delightful. Strict sobriety, in eating and drinking, renders the senses and understanding clear, the memory tenacious, the body lively and strong, the movements regular and easy; and the soul, feeling so little of her earthly burden, experiences much of her natural liberty. The man thus enjoys a pleasing and agreeable harmony, there being nothing in his system to disturb; for his blood is pure, and runs freely through his veins, and the heat of his body is mild and temperate.


Sobriety is reduced to two things: quality and quantity. The first consists in avoiding food or drinks, which are found to disagree with the stomach. The second, to avoid taking more than the stomach can easily digest.

Regarding young men, I am in no way surprised at their refusal to live such a life, for their passions are strong and usually their guide. Neither have they much experience; but, when a man has arrived at the age of forty or fifty, surely he should in all things be governed by reason. And this would teach men that gratifying the appetite and palate, is not, as many affirm, natural and right, but is the cause of disease and premature death. Were this pleasure of the palate lasting, it would be some excuse; but it is momentary, compared with the duration of the disease which its excess engenders. But it is a great comfort to a man of sober life to reflect, that what he eats will keep him in good health, and be productive of no disease or infirmity.

Now, if this sober and moderate manner of living brings so much happiness; if the blessings that attend it are so stable and permanent, then I beseech every man of sound judgment to embrace this valuable treasure, that of a long and healthful life, a treasure which exceeds all other worldly blessings, and, therefore, should be sought after; for what is wealth and abundance to a man who is possessed with a feeble and sickly body? This is that divine sobriety, agreeable to God, the friend of nature, the daughter of reason, the sister of all the virtues, the companion of temperate living, modest, courteous, content with little, regular, and perfect mistress of all her operations. From her, as from their proper root, spring life, health, cheerfulness, industry, learning and all those actions and employments worthy of noble and generous minds. The laws of God are all in her favor. Repletion, excess, intemperance, superfluous humors, diseases, fevers, pains, and dangers of death, vanish in her presence, as mists before the sun. Her comeliness ravishes every well-disposed mind. Her influence is so sure, as to promise to all a long and agreeable life. And, lastly, she promises to be a mild and pleasant guardian of life, teaching how to ward off the attacks of death. O thrice holy sobriety, so useful to man, by reason of the service thou dost render him! Thou prolongest his days, by which means he greatly improves his understanding and, by such knowledge, he can avoid the bitter fruits of sensuality, which is an enemy to man's reason. Thou, moreover, freest him from dreadful thoughts of death. How greatly ought we to be indebted to thee, since by thee, we enjoy this beautiful world, which is really beautiful to all whose sensibilities have not been deadened by repletion, and whose minds have not been blighted by sensuality! I really never knew till I grew old, that the world was so beautiful; for, in my younger years I was debauched by irregularities, and therefore could not perceive and enjoy, as I do now, its beauties. O truly happy life, which, over and above all these favors conferred on me, hast so improved and perfected my body, that now I have a better relish for plain bread, than formerly I had for the most exquisite dainties! Pure bread is, above all things, man's best food, and while he leads a sober life, he may be sure of never wanting that natural sauce - a good appetite.

I am not so simple as not to know that, as I was born, so I must die. But the natural death that I speak of does not overtake one until after a long course of years; and even then, I do not expect the pain and agony which most men suffer when they die. But I, by God's blessing, reckon that I have still a long time to live in health and spirits, and enjoy this beautiful world, which is, indeed, beautiful to those who know how to make it so; but its beauty can only be realized by those who, by reason of temperance and virtue, enjoy sound health of body and mind.


At the age of ninety-one, I am more sound and hearty than ever, much to the amazement of those who know me. I, who can account for it, am bound to show that a man can enjoy a terrestrial paradise after eighty; but it is not to be obtained, except by strict temperance in food and drink, virtues acceptable to God and friends to reason. During the past few days I have been visited by many learned doctors of this university, as well as physicians and philosophers who were well acquainted with my age, life and manners, also, that I was stout, hearty and lively, my senses perfect, also my voice and teeth, likewise my memory and judgment. They knew, besides, that I constantly employed eight hours every day in writing treatises, with my own hand, on subjects useful to mankind, and spent many more in walking and singing.

These doctors and philosophers told me that it was next to a miracle, that at my age, I should be able to write upon subjects which required both judgment and spirit, and added that I ought not to be looked upon as a person advanced in years, since all my occupations were those of a young man, and that I was altogether unlike aged people of seventy and eighty, who are subject to various ailments and diseases, which render life a weariness; or, if even by chance any escape these things, yet their senses are impaired, sight, or hearing, or memory is defective, and all their faculties much decayed; they are not strong, nor cheerful, as I am. And they moreover said, that they looked upon me as having special grace conferred upon me, and said a great many eloquent and fine things, in endeavoring to prove this, which, however, they could not do; for their arguments were not based on good and sufficient reasons, but merely on their opinions. I therefore endeavored to undeceive and set them right, and convince them that the happiness I enjoyed was not confined to me, but might be common to all mankind, since I was but a mere mortal, and different in no respect from other men, save in this, that I was born more weakly than some, and had not what is called a strong constitution. Man, however, in his youthful days, is more prone to be led by sensuality than reason; yet, when he arrives at the age of forty, or earlier, he should remember that he has about reached the summit of the hill, and must now think of going down, carrying the weight of years with him; and that old age is the reverse of youth, as much as order is the reverse of disorder; hence, it is requisite that he should alter his mode of life, in regard to the quality and quantity of his food and drink. For it is impossible in the nature of things, that the man who is bent on indulging his appetite, should be healthy and free from ailments. Hence it was to avoid this vice and its evil effects, that I embraced a regular and sober life. I endeavored gradually to relinquish a disorderly life, and to suit myself to strict temperate rules, and thus it came to pass, that a sober and moderate life no longer became disagreeable, though, on account of the weakness of my constitution, I tied myself down to very strict rules in regard to the quantity and quality of what I ate and drank. I had found it no easy task, but it did not become a man to shrink from a glorious and practical task, on account of its difficulties; the greater the obstacles to overcome, the greater the honor and benefit. Our beneficent Creator is desirous, that, as He originally favored human nature with longevity, we should all enjoy the full advantage of His intentions, knowing that when a man has passed the age of seventy, he may be exempt from the sensual strivings, and govern himself entirely by the dictates of reason. Vice and immorality then leave him, and God is willing that he should live to the full maturity of his years, and has ordained that all who reach their natural term should end their days without sickness, but by mere dissolution, the natural way; the wheels of life quietly stopping, and man peacefully leaving this world, to enter upon immortality, as will be my case; for I am sure to die thus, perhaps while chanting my prayers. Nor do the thoughts of death give me the least concern; nor does any other thought connected with death.

Thus, how beautiful my life! How happy my end! But none can be sure of these blessings except such as adhere to the rules of temperance. This security of life is built on good and truly natural reasons, which can never fail; it being impossible that he who leads a perfectly sober and temperate life, should breed any sickness, or die before his time. Sooner, he cannot through ill-health die, as his sober life has the virtue to remove the cause of sickness, and sickness cannot happen without a cause; which cause being removed, sickness is also removed, and untimely and painful death is prevented.

And there is no doubt, that temperance in food and drink, taking only as much as nature really requires, and thus being guided by reason, instead of appetite, has efficacy to remove all cause of disease; for since health and sickness, life and death, depend on the good or bad condition of a man's blood, and the quality of his humors, such a life as I speak of purifies the blood, and corrects all vicious humors, rendering all perfect and harmonious. It is true, and cannot be denied, that man must at last die, however careful with himself he may have been, but yet, I maintain, without sickness and great pain; for in my case I expect to pass away quietly and peacefully, and my present condition ensures this to me, for, though I have attained this great age, I am hearty and content, eating with a good appetite, and sleeping soundly. Moreover, all my senses are as good as ever, and in the highest perfection; my understanding clear and bright, my judgment sound, my memory tenacious, my spirits good, and my voice (one of the first things which is apt to fail us) has grown so strong and sonorous, that I cannot help chanting aloud my prayers, morning and night, instead of whispering and muttering them to myself as was formerly my custom.

[Reference to the morning and evening Essene Communions which he learned of from the translations of St. Jerome.]

Oh, how glorious is this life of mine, replete with all the felicities which man can enjoy on this side of the grave! It is entirely exempt from that sensual brutality, which age has enabled my reason to banish; thus I am not troubled with passions, and my mind is calm, and free from all perturbations and doubtful apprehensions. Nor can the thought of death find room in my mind, at least, not in any way to disturb me. And all this has been brought about, by God's mercy, through my careful habit of living. How different from the life of most old men, full of aches and pains and forebodings, whilst mine is a life of real pleasure, and I seem to spend my days in a perpetual round of happiness, as I shall presently show.

And first, I am of service to my country, and what a joy is this. Another great comfort to me is to think that my treatise on temperance is really useful, as many assure me by word of mouth, and others by letter, where they say, that, under God they are indebted to me for their life. I have also much joy in being able to write, and am thus of service to myself and others; and the satisfaction I have in conversing with men of ability and superior understanding is very great, from whom I always learn something fresh. Now, what a comfort is this, that old as I am, I am able, without fatigue of mind or body thus to be fully engaged, and to study the most important, difficult, and sublime subjects. [Here is a visible influence of St. Jerome's texts in the monastery of Mone Cassino, concerning the Sevenfold Peace of the ancient Essenes.] I must further add, that at this age, I appear to enjoy two lives: one terrestrial, which in fact I possess, the other celestial, which I possess in thought; [here is a strong influence of St. Jerome's translation of the Essene Gospel of Peace, referring to the Kingdoms of the Earthly Mother and Heavenly Father] and this thought is actual enjoyment, when founded upon things we are sure to attain, and I, through the infinite goodness of the Heavenly Father, am sure of eternal life. Thus, I enjoy the terrestrial life in consequence of my sobriety and temperance [here again the influence of the writings of Jerome on the Essenes of the desert], and I enjoy the celestial, which He makes me anticipate in thought; a thought so lively, as to fix me entirely on this subject, the fruition of which I hold to be of the utmost certainty. And I further maintain, that, dying in the manner I expect, is not really death, but a passage of the soul from this earthly life to a celestial, immortal, and infinitely perfect existence. Whence it is that I enjoy two lives; and the thought of terminating this earthly life gives me no concern, for I know that I have a glorious and immortal life before me.


"Health is so necessary to all the duties, as well as to all the pleasures of life,
that the crime of squandering it is greater than the folly."

Dr. Johnson Luigi Cornaro was a Venetian nobleman who was born in 1464. He died in 1566, having attained the venerable age of 102. This achievement was all the more remarkable considering that at the age of forty he was told by his doctors that he had not long to live. But he outlived his physicians and maintained himself in a state of excellent health and vigor for more than sixty additional years.

Up to his fortieth year, Cornaro lived a careless and dissipated life, like the majority of the young men of his day. The fact that he completely broke down as a result, and was given up by his physicians to die, is not surprising. What is surprising, and indeed, what makes the name of Cornaro synonymous with the virtues of moderation, sobriety and perseverance, is that he cured himself, and having done so, continued to practice his theories of sobriety and moderation for the rest of his life, never deviating from the path he had chosen for himself.

"A word to the wise is sufficient," and once he had heard the wise word of his physician, Cornaro reformed his life. He simplified his diet and cut down on the quantity of food to the very minimum. He limited himself to twelve ounces of solid food daily, and fourteen ounces of liquid. Soon he began to see the difference, and at the end of a year found himself completely restored to health. He continued this simple and austere way of living for the rest of his life, which was a very long one, indeed.

To quote Cornaro: ". . . and there is no doubt that if the one so advised were to act accordingly, he would avoid all sickness in the future; because a well-regulated life removes the causes of disease. Thus, for the remainder of his days, he would have no further need either of doctors or of medicines".

"Should a man, when ill, continue to eat the same amount as when in health, he would surely die; while, were he to eat more, he would die all the sooner. For his natural powers, already oppressed with sickness, would thereby be burdened beyond endurance, having had forced upon them a quantity of food greater than they could support under the circumstances. A reduced quantity is, in my opinion, all that is required to sustain the individual. Therefore, I accustomed myself to the habit of never fully satisfying my appetite, either with eating or drinking, and always leaving the table when able to take more. In this I acted according to the proverb: Not to satiate one's self with food is the science of health".

According to Cornaro, mere prolongation of life is in itself useless unless that life is healthy and happy. A long life full of disease and misery is worse than no life at all. The object of health should be, rather, to enable us to forget the body, and to carry on our interests and lifeactivities without impediment or interference, because of sickness or debility, thus permitting the free and full use of our faculties and talents. Through his sober diet, Cornaro regained and maintained his health, which shows us how important is the restriction of quantity of foods, as the most important single factor in the preservation of health and longevity.

Now, there are some men who embrace a spiritual and contemplative life, and this is holy and commendable, their chief employment being to celebrate the praises of God, and to teach men how to serve Him. Now, if while these men set themselves apart for this life, they would also betake themselves to sober and temperate living, how much more agreeable would they render themselves in the sight of God and men. What a much greater honor and ornament would they be to the world! They would likewise enjoy constant health and happiness, would attain a great age, and thus become eminently wise and useful; whereas, now, they are mostly infirm, irritable, and dissatisfied, and think that their various trials and ailments are sent them by Almighty God, with a view of promoting their salvation; that they may do penance in this life for their past errors. In my opinion, they are greatly mistaken; for I cannot believe that God desires that man, his favorite creature, should be infirm and melancholy, but rather, that he should enjoy good health and be happy. Man, however, brings sickness and disease upon himself, by reason, either of his ignorance or wilful self-indulgence. Now, if those who profess to be our teachers in divine matters would also set the example, and thus teach men how to preserve their bodies in health, they would do much to make the road to heaven easier; men need to be taught that a well-ordered life and strict temperance is the path to health of the body and health of the mind, and that only when the body and mind are healthy, can God's purpose in our lives be fulfilled. [In this last beautiful paragraph, Cornaro professes his knowledge of the Essene Way, learned from the writings of St. Jerome, a way of life completely contrary to the life-style of 15th century Italy, yet embraced by Cornaro with unprecedented courage, perseverance, and joy.