The Temple of Life

written by Sky Weil

This is a story of how one hour changed my destiny. 

At 18 years old, I read a pocket-sized book called Arnold Ehret’s Mucusless Diet Healing System. The book explained what animal foods do to the human body, and it convinced me to make the change to vegetarian. This was so inspiring that it infused me with energy that sent me off jogging for a thirty-mile run: something I had never done in my life. 

A year later, in 1973, I was visiting my cousin in Miami, which I didn’t do very often. While I was there, her roommate’s best friend drove up with her new husband, on their way to Guatemala. I took a short walk with her husband Herb, a tall, strong, deep-voiced man with a big beard. We had a great connection and he gave me his phone number, inviting me to contact him if I was ever in California. I took that piece of paper and put it in my pocket. 

After leaving that day, I met someone in a bookstore who eventually brought me to New Mexico to be part of an interesting project. When the project ended that summer, I got a ride to Los Angeles. After being there for two weeks, I knew that environment wasn’t for me. I found out that I had an uncle and aunt not far away, so I decided to hitch-hike to them. 

When I reached into the pocket of the overalls I was wearing, I found the piece of paper with Herb’s name and phone number, from a year ago. I called him from my aunt and uncle’s, letting him know that I was there in California, and he invited me to his place. 

When I arrived, I noticed a sign on his gate that read, “The Temple of Life.” Approaching the small house, there was a 4×6 index card on the sliding glass door that said, “No leather allowed on these premises. If you’re not going to put it in you, then don’t put it on you.” 

My years in college had included a period of working with leather artistically, and I was standing there with knee-high leather moccasins I had worn to protect me from the cactus and rough terrain in New Mexico. When Herb came to the door, he looked at me, looked down at my feet, and said in the same deep voice I remembered from our first meeting, “I’ll be right back.”

When he returned, he handed me a very nice pair of LL Bean sneakers, saying, “I think these will fit.” 

I took off my moccasins, and tried on the shoes. They fit perfectly. Herb then said, “Come with me, and bring your other shoes.” We walked into his back yard, dug a hole, and buried my leather moccasins. Herb explained his belief that laying the material to rest would allow the spirit contained in the skin to reunite with the rest of the animal. 

I believe this was my first introduction to veganism, although the word was never mentioned. 

For the next two weeks, we shared good food, good music, and good vibes. Herb also shared with me a small, mimeographed booklet, called The Cook Brook. The introduction to that booklet described people who had chosen not to eat flesh or drink blood, or kill animals, and it described clearly the difference in this way of thinking. For me, it really hit home in my heart. Once again, the word vegan was never mentioned. 

When the time came for me to head back to Florida where my family lived, Herb said to me, “You need to go and meet Light.” Herb explained that Light (and his wife Sun) lived with a group of people in the middle of the state. They had written The Cook Brook together, and it was Sun who had written the introduction that was so inspiring to me. 

I was headed in that direction, so I bought a car for $300, and drove for three days. When I pulled into their driveway, it happened to be breakfast time. I had been practicing being a raw foodist, but when I sat down at the table filled with freshly-baked cinnamon raisin muffins, oatmeal, sunflower seed milk, and fresh fruit, I departed from my raw food diet and enjoyed the experience of sharing food with everyone. 

Little did I know that was the beginning of what has become 49 years of my veganism and my service as a volunteer. It was the idea of freeing the animals that was at the foundation of their veganism, and I was thrilled to have found such a purposeful goal and effort to be a part of.

After meeting the group that would eventually become known as Gentle World, I returned to my parents’ home in Miami, and filled a knapsack with all my leather items, which included a pair of leather pants from my brother, my father’s leather suit jacket, my baseball glove, and other sentimental items. When my neighbor asked why I was digging a hole in my parents’ backyard, I explained what Herb had said about allowing the spirit of these items to be reunited with the rest of the animal they came from. 

In my close to 50 years of service with Gentle World, I have tried to honor Herb’s influence in my life, and carry on his legacy by providing vegan shoes to replace the leather that visitors to Gentle World frequently arrive with. My background with the material gives me the ability to recognize it in shoes, belts, and other garments, even with no label present.

I will always be indebted to Herb as the angel messenger that changed my life. If my visit with my cousin hadn’t coincided with him, or if I had lost the piece of paper in my pocket, I would never have found this destiny. Looking back, I can see how magic was at play, and how it was meant to be for me to find the incredible leadership of Light and Sun, and friendship in the group of people who decided to join together and serve this incredible purpose of freeing the animals. 

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© Gentle World 2024. Gentle World is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) educational organization, helping to build a more peaceful society by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making the transition. EIN: 59-1999433