I just finished presenting at the 9th Annual AVISTA Medieval Graduate Student Symposium at the University of North Texas, Denton. My presentation, “Pure Food, Pure Body: Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, Food, Sex, and the Saints,” was well received. But in the course of questions that followed my presentation, the keynote speaker, Dr. Nicola Coldstream, asked me something I did not quite know how to answer. She asked if Kellogg had direct contact with the saints (i.e. reading their hagiography, or exposure to Catholic doctrine), or was it merely a coincidence that his writings mirrored those of medieval saints.
While it may be uncomfortable for some to admit that they do not know the answer to a question on their own research, I found this very intriguing. While this topic may not form a part of my overall dissertation, I intend to see if I can answer Dr. Coldstream’s question fully by the end of my studies. As I said in my last post From Cornflakes to Obscurity , Kellogg spent quite a good deal of time in Austria and other European countries. The question is, what if any religious practices was he exposed to, and if so what were there effect on his personal beliefs and teachings?
In my presentation I demonstrated how remarkably similar Kellogg’s writings and sentiments are to the medieval saints such as St. Augustine and St. Benedict. Their thoughts on food, sex, and controlling the body and spirit follow the same lines of continuity. Indeed, it is difficult for one not to postulate that Kellogg had an intimate knowledge of the writings of the saints. However, that is all I have for now: theory and conjecture. This is not to say that it is not a possibility. Kellogg spent a great deal of time in Austria where, in the nineteenth-century, there was not a Seventh-day Adventist church for him to attend. Nor were protestants in the majority. It stands to reason that he at one point attended, or at least was invited to attend, a Catholic service. Barring this, it is also possible he was exposed to Catholic literature or even hagiographical texts. Either way I will not know until I search for the sources that will tell me the root of Kellogg’s sentiments and theories. Until then…the work continues.