Raw, Vegan & Vegetarian — 29 June 2002
Rudolf Steiner Speaks on Nutrition

Ask Kytka Archives: June 29, 2002

Steiner Speaks on Nutrition

The following passage is excerpted from Community Life… Lectures and Documents by Rudolf Steiner, pages 21-23.

If any of you need to be convinced of the implications of what I am saying, you are welcome to make the following experiment: Choose some topic – vegetarianism, for example – and observe how certain adherents of spiritual science talk about this topic in the outside world. Make a chart, and each time you hear spiritual scientists telling other people that they are vegetarians, jot down the reasons they give. It will soon become clear that on the subject of vegetarianism, adherents of spiritual science often say absolutely scandalous things to people in the outside world. When the outside world then comes to the conclusion that we are a society of fools, it should come as no great surprise.

Ehrenfried Pfeiffer’s asked Rudolf Steiner why people today appear unable
to develop and act according to all they learn and seem to know.
Steiner replied: “This is a problem of nutrition.”

In Anthroposophical circles, I have frequently mentioned a very simple way of responding to the question of why

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you are a vegetarian without antagonizing people around you. If someone asks why you are a vegetarian, and you know that person would never eat horsemeat, you simply respond with the question, “Well, why don’t you eat horsemeat?” Now the two of you are on the same footing, and the person who has to give a reason for not eating horsemeat will probably not come up with any highly theoretical reasons, but will say something like “The thought of it makes me sick.” Then you can say, “That’s just how any meat makes me feel.” And as long as you say this in an appropriately conciliatory way, people will understand your point of view.

fresh fruit

The main thing is not to let the other person get the impression that you feel superior because of not eating meat. You might still want to add, although only if you can honestly admit it to yourself, that you are too weak to eat meat; you’re handicapped when it comes to eating meat. When this question has come up, I myself have often said that a lot of things are simply easier to get through if you don’t eat meat. Meat weighs people down, and if you need to use your brain in a precise way, it is simply easier to do if you don’t eat meat. In the end, it all comes down to the question of what is easier and more convenient.

I have often emphasized that it is impossible to eat your way into the higher worlds, either through what you eat or through what you abstain from eating. Achieving access to spiritual worlds is a spiritual matter, and both eating and abstaining from food are physical matters. If this were not the case, people might get grotesque ideas about what would happen if they did or did not eat certain foods. It might occur to them to eat salt one week and no salt at all the next week in order to descend to the depths of the elemental world during the week when they were eating salt and come back up again in the course of the week when they were doing without. It’s quite possible for people to get stupid ideas like that. In our Society, of course, people will not get ideas that are as stupid as that, but similar things might still occur to them.

But to get back to the subject of vegetarianism, if we are as modest as possible in how we discuss it in the presence of outsiders, we will find that eventually no one will hold the fact that we are vegetarians against us. On the other hand, if we consider vegetarianism to be something to our credit, the outside world will never forgive us for it. And in fact, being vegetarian is not a credit to anyone; it is simply an easy way out. ~Rudolf Steiner

The following have been excerpted from Spiritual Science and Medicine, a lecture given on March 30, 1920

It must always be emphasised that man must evolve greater forces to cope with the greater forces he encounters. And the forces inherent in mineral substances, which are to be assimilated and overcome, are incontestably greater than those in vegetable matter. (May I interpolate here the emphatic statement that I am not making propaganda for anything whatsoever, I am only stating facts.) The difference between animal and vegetable diets is based on the principle just stated. If we live on exclusively vegetable food, our own human being has to take over all that portion of the process which the animal performs for us, after it has eaten and assimilated plants, and brought the substance a stage further. We may put it thus: the process brought to a certain stage by the plant itself, is then carried further by the animal. The formative process of the animal organism stops at this point, whereas in the plant it stops here.

The meat-eater dispenses with the particular digestive process performed within the animal; he leaves it to the animal to do it for him. Therefore the meat-eater does not develop those particular energies that must be and are developed by vegetable substance, which he must lead himself to the necessary point. So the organism has to mobilise quite other forces in order to deal with plant food than is the case with meat food. These forces, these potential forces for overcoming, whether used or not, are there: they exist within us and if not used they recoil, as it were, into the organism, and are active — with the general effect of causing great exhaustion and irritation to the individual. Thus it becomes necessary to emphasise strongly that there is considerable relief from fatigue, if a vegetarian diet is adopted. Man becomes more able to work because he gets used to drawing on inherent sources of energy which he fails to do but makes sources of disturbance by a meat diet. As already made plain, I am not “agitating” for anything. I know that even homeopathic physicians have repeatedly assured me that persons induced to abandon meat food are thereby exposed to consumption. Yes, that may be possible. Nevertheless the stark facts just stated, remain unaffected it is so, beyond all dispute. I will, however, quite freely admit that there are human organism’s among us today that cannot tolerate purely vegetable food, that require meat in their diet. This depends on the individual case.

When we admit the need for creating a relation to the mineral realm and the mineral forces in the curative process, we are led to consider a further therapeutic requirement. We are led to consider a subject which has been much discussed, but which in my opinion can only be solved — or even really understood — if approached from the viewpoint of spiritual science.

In order to grasp the nature of the curative process it is most important, as it seems to me, to deal with the question of the comparative value of prepared, i.e., cooked food and food in its raw state. Again I must ask you — and on this theme most especially — not to take me for an agitator, either for or against either method! But we must examine, in a perfectly unbiased manner, the actual facts of the case. If people eat cooked and prepared food, and assimilate the forces left within it, they are externally performing an office which must be performed by the organism itself in the case of raw food.

Man throws upon the process of cooking, in all its forms, something which his organism should do. Moreover man is so constructed, that in our periphery we are interrelated with the whole of outer nature, but in our “centre” — to which our digestion essentially belongs — we separate ourselves from nature and cut ourselves off as individuals. Let us try to represent this difference, in the form of a rough sketch. Through our periphery (green in Diagram), we are closely interwoven with the cosmos, and we individualise ourselves in the digestive process up to the formation of the blood (red in Diagram); so that this digestive tract is the scene of several processes independent of the external processes of nature, in which man maintains his individual entity as distinct from the external processes — at least more so than in the polaric region where man is wholly inserted into the external processes. Perhaps I may make this more comprehensible if I add the following: I have already described how man is included in the whole cosmos through the operation of the formative forces of lead, tin and iron within the regions here colored green.

In the regions marked red, the formative forces of copper, quicksilver and silver are active. The equipoise is held by gold, those forces mainly localised in the heart. To refer to man in this way means to look on him somewhat as a finger which is an organ of the whole cosmos. It implies an interaction and integration with the whole cosmos. But in the tract marked here lies the contradiction contained in the fact that man, in digestion and in the allied functions, separates himself from the general world process — and the same is true for the complementary process of thinking and vision, where he once more individualises himself. This is why man tends to display, as it were, obstinate individual requirements in all things appertaining to digestion; and this instinctive self-assertion shows itself in the habit of cooking [i.e., changing] the raw materials of our food.

This instinct demands that what is estranged from nature shall be used for human consumption. For were it consumed in the raw state, the average human being would be too feeble to work it up. To use an apparent paradox to eat would be a perpetual process of remedial treatment, if we did not cook our foodstuffs. And so to eat raw foodstuffs is far more of a remedial process than to eat cooked foodstuffs — the latter being much more merely nutritive. In my opinion there is extraordinary significance in the fact that the consumption of raw food is much more a remedial process than the consumption of food that has been cooked.

Raw food diet is much more in the nature of specific curative treatment, than cooked food. I may add moreover that all cooked food is somewhat held up in its efficacy and remains within the region marked red in the diagram whereas the substance introduced into the body, in its natural uncooked state, such as fruit, acts beyond the alimentary tract, and comes to manifest itself on the periphery, e.g., causing the blood to bear its nutritive power into the peripheral region.

The further we advance, the more insistently we realise the inadequacy of contemporary methods — that ignore all the interrelations we mentioned — as guides to the understanding of the human organisation.

I will take this opportunity of repeating what has already been stated: namely that the contents of these lectures have not been derived from any study of ancient lore. What is here stated, is gained from the facts themselves: occasionally I have alluded to the coincidence with the primary wisdom; but my statements are never gained from it. If you study the processes in question with care, you will be led to those conceptions which remind us of some elements of ancient wisdom. I should never myself consider it admissible to investigate any subject by studying the works of Paracelsus. But I am often strongly inclined to “look up” in his books how a discovery which I have made may sound in his language. This is the sense in which I should like you to receive what I attempt to give. But it is a fact that as soon as we look deeper into human nature from the standpoint of spiritual science, we come to a great reverence for primary wisdom. But that is a question which naturally must be considered in other fields of knowledge than the medical. ~Rudolf Steiner

“The essential and most significant nutritional component found in the mixture which is best suited for our daily diet is invisible and it is directly responsible for the regenerative and vitalizing benefits available from our food choices. The plant enzymes in our live foods are the physical manifestation of the invisible cosmic life forces that have been shown to replenish our body systems and reverse the process of cellular degeneration. Only live, fresh, unrefined, biogenic and bioactive foods (in eat only to fullness quantities) re-energize us and prevent the depletion of our body’s own life promoting supply of enzymes.” ~James Levin, MD

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(2) Readers Comments

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