Ask Kytka Archives: June 29, 2002
I heard that Steiner was a Vegetarian. Do you know anything about that? Also, Can you tell me anything about how vegetarianism relates to the kingdoms of nature?
Rudolf Steiner saw man primarily as a fourfold being. To understand this concept we need to consider Steiner’s views on the human being in relation to the kingdoms of nature:
Firstly consider the mineral kingdom. It is dead, inanimate – a stone does not move unless an external force is applied to it. It is physical structure only, without life of its own. Steiner called this the “physical body”. In the human body the skeleton is the most mineralized, “stone-like” part and can be likened to the mineral kingdom.
Then there is the plant kingdom. Clearly the plant has a physical body, but equally unlike a stone it possesses a life force which enables it to grow, to have shape, to live. Steiner named this the “etheric body”.
Next the animal kingdom. An animal has a physical body and an etheric body, like the plant. Animals differ from plants, however, in that they achieve a certain level of conscious awareness. They have feelings which express themselves through drives, desires, pain and pleasure. We can say, then, that animals are not only living beings, but “ensouled beings” with feelings. Steiner called this the “astral body”.
Human beings share with all three kingdoms of nature with the “physical body”, the “etheric body” and the “astral body “- but the human being is unique. Humans differ from animals in that they have self awareness. Humans, unlike other living beings, possess an “ego”. The power of this individual ego enables humans to walk erect, to speak and think, to be creative, to develop (and also to destroy) civilizations. It also enables them to enter into the spirit of things in a way that is unique among living beings. We see evidence of this in the artistic and social achievements of humanity. The human being has certain capacities which animals lack. Animals do not have a creative culture. Wasps build their nests the way they have always done, and nothing new has been consciously developed by them over the centuries. Foxes use the same technique as their ancestors did for catching chickens. They do not look back upon their history and apply what they have learned to developing new and more effective techniques. They do not participate consciously in the process of their own development and evolution.
Knowledge of man in the true sense must be sought in the way we have indicated. Starting from the processes of nutrition, it must be followed through the processes of healing to the processes of human and world education in …
the widest sense. Or we can put it thus: from nutrition, through healing, to civilization and culture.”
This line of thinking leads to the logical conclusion that it is not possible to understand the human being by means of the scientific methodology employed today. Anytime we open up the human being by means of tissue samples, doing blood analysis, etc., we simply do not have any reality before us; what we have is an artifact abstracted from the context in which it naturally exists, and so whatever we find out about the artifact has no reality with regard to the living tissue itself in the context of its functioning within the human organism. This has necessarily lead to tremendous confusion and chaos in the world because it is based on ignorance about what we are as human beings. The following is a greatly simplified description of the constitution of the human being; for a more detailed description of the complexities of the human being I refer you to the book “Theosophy” by Rudolf Steiner, (Anthroposophic Press).
Therefore, the human being is a microcosm of the macrocosm. If we take this statement as our starting point, we can build up a picture of the human being by observing nature, and in nature we find there are three major kingdoms:
- The Mineral Kingdom.
- The Plant Kingdom.
- The Animal Kingdom.
The human being’s relationship to the mineral kingdom is that the substances which are used by the human organism for the maintenance of its physical body are mineral/chemical substances. From the perspective of the human observer, the mineral kingdom is inanimate, it is dead. Therefore, if we were constituted of nothing but mineral/chemical substances we would be dead, we could not exist as human beings. So:
Mineral Kingdom / Physical Body / Unconscious.
Plants are alive; they germinate in the soil, grow, develop, mature, produce flowers, fruits and seeds and die. They thus have a ‘body’ which is invisible to physical sight which takes up the mineral substances of the soil, along with water and light, which gives form to the plant and is responsible for its growth, development etc. This is called the etheric, life or formative body in the Western Tradition and I think the concept of ‘chi’ , ‘ki’ and ‘prana’ in the Eastern Tradition is the Eastern equivalent of etheric. The consciousness of the plant is more of a dream-like consciousness. The plant is therefore constituted of both mineral body and etheric body. So:
Plant Kingdom / Etheric Body / Dream-like consciousness.
Animals are distinguished from plants by being able to move around, they show patterns of behavior which indicate they respond to whatever is going on around them; they fight, run away from danger, look for food and water, mate, take care of their young, mark out territory and guard it etc., etc. They thus have an additional ‘body’ to the physical and etheric body, and this is called the astral body or soul, which, like the etheric body, is also invisible to physical sight. So:
Animal Kingdom /Astral Body / Instinctive consciousness.
The major difference between animals and human beings is that in the case of animals, if we know the behavioral patterns of a single individual of a species, we know the behavioral patterns of all the individuals of the same species. This is because each species of animal has a ‘group soul’. This is not the case with the human being, because no two human individuals behave in an identical manner in the same set of circumstances. The major distinction between human beings and animals is the ability of the human being to think as an individual. This ability is due to an additional spiritual constituent of the human being, called the Ego, which can simply be stated as that aspect of the human being which gives each one of us our identity. When we say, I , we can only be referring to ourselves as individuals, not to anyone else.
Steiner himself chose Vegetarian diet in 1900 – Called it “human progression”
In looking over the foundations of a nutritional hygiene emanating from Rudolf Steiner´s Spiritual Science, Gerhard Schmidt discusses vegetarian nutrition from an anthroposophical perspective. (And I find this remarkable interesting as a Waldorf parent!)
He says that “for human beings to be able to draw all their necessary nutrients exclusively from plant foods, we require certain inner forces that may need to be awakened within us. When these forces are awakened, however, they make us more capable of work and thought, and allow man to regulate his life and existence from a freer and higher point if view, and achieve this rapid thinking, this rapid comprehension, by virtue of his nourishment from the plant world.”
So in looking at it from this view (in the light of Anthroposophy) Vegetarianism IS connected to a higher level on consciousness or awareness….. which would make a Vegan diet even better and a 100% raw diet the ULTIMATE for heightened awareness and consciousness.
Rudolf Steiner chose to follow a vegetarian diet in 1900, and later recognized that he would not have been able “to go through with the strenuous activities of the last 24 years [of his life] without vegetarian nutrition.” He apparently made it clear, however, that he “was not agitating for vegetarianism,” but he also said that it is a necessary step in humanity’s progression, such that it will happen of its own accord and requires no agitation.
Vegetarianism has found an important place within many Eastern religions, including Jainism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Generally it has arisen out of the Eastern principle of “ahimsa,” meaning “non-harm,” which holds all animal life as sacred. Do you know that eighty-three percent of India’s 680 million population are Hindu and practice vegetarianism in varying degrees. Jains are strict vegetarians, and are very careful to avoid harming other living beings.
You may argue: “But meat eating is “natural”…
What does it mean for something to be natural? When we say that something is `natural,´ what we often actually mean is that it is widely accepted or practiced, whereas something that is `unnatural´ is foreign or strange to us. Michael Allen Fox notes that “many things are justified merely on the grounds of being `natural´ (greed, war, heterosexuality), and many are condemned on the equally flimsy pretext of being `unnatural´ (altruism, pacifism, homosexuality).” Clearly, the fact that something is supposedly `natural´ is not a valid justification for anything, and thus cannot in itself be used to justify meat-eating.
The bottom line…
Many people are sympathetic to the cause of vegetarianism, veganism and the raw foods diet, and may even wish to become vegetarian, vegan or raw, but complain that they lack the willpower or motivation to make the shift. Often this is because they feel, or claim to feel, that the choices they make will not make a significant impact on the suffering of the animals or on the environment. This belief, however, need not be true.
The choices that a single person makes about the way he or she wishes to live life can have an incredible impact on the world, on many levels. Most importantly on the person adapting the diet and his or her family. When one individual makes a clear choice and lives according to that choice, other people will notice and begin to examine the way in which they lead their own lives. In the end, it will always be individual choice that brings about important changes in the world.
Our journey as human beings on this earth, is to gain a deeper understanding of our relationship with our environment, our health, our selves, and our community.
We share this earth with soil, plants and animals. When we are awake to this thought, we gain a broader view of our relationship with and place in the world… we gain insight into how we can contribute to both our own well-being and that of our environment.
All life on this earth is interconnected, in a physical and well as a spiritual & cosmic sense….
I have been on all ends of the food spectrum. Currently we are eating a 100% raw foods diet and we have never felt better. My children are strong and growing, full of energy.
I have met fruitarians, only meat eaters and even a breatharian – who lives on air and water alone… People have varied levels of belief and go to varying extremes. The point is it’s their business, their choice and we cannot expect to begin to understand their layers of deeper consciousness, spirituality or Karmic forces which all have a part in driving them to make the food choices they make.
We chose this diet for ourselves because it feels good to our bodies, it tastes good and it fits in with our lifestyle. We feel good and that is what is best for OUR family. I have never “forced” it on my children – they ask for raw foods and are happier with a fruit than with a large Thanksgiving dinner… They like that they can eat “ice cream” and “pudding” all day and are tickled pink that while other kids eat their salads, we drink ours (I am a big fan of juicing, too!) (Ice cream: this is just fresh or frozen fruit placed through the champion juicer and it is SO good! We love banana carob chip the best, sometimes with a mint leaf tossed in!)
The wonderful thing about being a human being is that we have the opportunity and the sense to choose, and that we do all make different choices.
Some of us spend much time researching or experimenting, others seem more to choose from habit or ease… But no matter how and what we choose, the fact is that it is our choice to make, and as fellow human beings, we should not pass judgment for those who make different choices. On the contrary, we should hope to gain a broader understanding of our fellow man by striving to educate ourselves about the choices they make and why.
In light of a spiritual or religious view: It has been my experience that the people who are striving towards a “higher level of consciousness” do all share the similar trait that they do tend to lean towards a vegan or vegetarian diet, and I think this is because many religions do practice compassion, and the allowing the animal to live is the more “compassionate” choice. My personal view is that man, animal and plant all have a reason and deserve their space and time on this planet. All have a life cycle and all eventually die.
Our job/journey is to decide which part we will play in that cycle.
My part, personally – is not to play an active part in anyone’s suffering or death. I teach my family to walk lightly on this earth, and we try to live in the most natural state we can. We are raw because it makes complete sense to us – on many levels. Did you know that as human beings, our bodies have evolved over a four million year period? For 3,950,000 of those years we humans ate only raw, living foods! So if you look at it in this timeline, it is only very recently that we came up with the idea of eating cooked food.
During the sixth epoch, even the outward physiognomy of our environment will have a very changed aspect. Particularly those animals which now supply meat for human consumption, shall then have died out. In future, a great hymn of praise will be sung to vegetarianism, and people will tell one another, as if they were speaking of some ancient memory, that their ancestors used to eat meat. Not all the animals shall then have died out, but only certain species; particularly those animals shall have disappeared from the earth that have taken on the most rigid forms. ~Rudolf Steiner – from the lecture, Outlooks for the Future