Raw, Vegan & Vegetarian — 29 July 2002
Rudolf Steiner Was a Vegetarian

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.

Steiner Said…

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

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(5) Readers Comments

  1. Thank you for this interesting article and for sharing from your life. Because our civilization has descended so deeply into a humiliating way of eating (tormented factory animals, metabolism-destroying white sugar and white flour, super-dead deep-fat frying), it was healing for me to go as “high” in rarification as I went “low” into deadened denseness. Over the span of several years I became a vegetarian, and then vegan, and then raw vegan. The raw vegan (mostly fruitarian) way of eating really put a sheen back into my physical form. I became interested in the varieties of fruits in a way that I’d never experienced before. Furthermore, it’s the first time I really enjoyed preparing recipes. And yet…after six months I was feeling loopy and ungrounded.

    Because of the intense concepts (or “ideology” to use a negative word) conveyed by the Raw Food authors (whose livelihood and reputation are staked on this way), I found it hard to “back down” or “retreat” from this rarifaction. Concepts such as “any negative experiences are just your body detoxing prior to the next level of enfreshment” and “it is simply a fact that any substantive changes in food which are due to cooking are entirely destructive and deadening changes.” These concepts are very intense.

    And yet I reached my limit. Though my physical body was refreshed by the experience (for which I am grateful), it didn’t solve emotional difficulties such as despair. I went as far as food-practices could take me. Soon after that, I entered into personal recovery in regard to food and other afflictions, and through these actions, I experienced an actual change in my emotional/soul body which raw food could not do.

    Other bodies and biographies are different than my own, so I admit it may very well be possible for some people to flourish in such a rarified way. I would heartily recommend the experience of rarifying and freshening the body over the course of months, and I feel that the Raw Food way of preparing foods is a beautiful and fresh complement to any feast. Yet for me the Raw Food Idea ended in a kind of “orthorexia.”

    This comment from Rudolf Steiner helped me surmount and break out of the intense Raw Food concepts:

    “You are certainly acquainted with all the new kinds of foolishness in connection with nutrition — for instance, the raw food faddists, who are not going to cook anything anymore, they’re going to eat everything raw. How does this come about? It’s because people no longer know what’s what from a materialistic science, and they shy away from a spiritual science, so they think a few things out on their own. The whole raw food fad is a fantasy. For a time someone living on raw food can whip the body along — in this situation the body has to be using very strong forces, so it has to be whipped — but then it will collapse all the more completely.”

    “Nutrition and Health, Lecture 1”: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA354/English/AP1987/19240731p01.html

  2. Part 2:

    …And yet, Raw Food is still sometimes appealing to me, because of its simplicity and beauty. When I visited Toronto a couple years ago, I stumbled onto a Raw Food restaurant and really enjoyed a meal. A few months ago, a couple young people I work with started eating Raw Food, and I was simultaneously concerned and envious. But to eat Raw Food throughout the long Upstate winter?! Maybe some warmed up raw soups would help, but still!

    If we could all live like fairies in the sunshine of San Diego, Hawaii, and Costa Rica, without having to wrestle with the dreary, cold, everyday, work-a-day world, it might just be feasible. And now that I have access to raw BD milk, that animal substance might provide a grounding. Yet the Raw Food products can be so expensive. Not that that is ultimately a good reason for not following one’s path. Cost didn’t stop me from devoting myself to making the switch to Organic. Yet cost is one of several red flags that pops up when I entertain the idea again.

    Steiner’s statement is an example of how it’s wonderful to have a wise perspective even on this, for which I am grateful, because it helped me move on when I was stuck. Yet his four sentences also show how, in the absence of a more thorough and nuanced treatise, Steiner’s brief statements can also have a narrowing effect which interferes with legitimate experimentation and exploration. So what if RS said that Raw Food will collapse the body? How does he have the right to dismiss an entire culture in four sentences? It’s simply a fact that Raw/Living Food was a beneficial stage of my own physical recovery. If Steiner was an infinitely boundless soul, he could’ve said:

    “I need to warn of the limitations of raw foodism, because it will be such a compelling idea in the near future. It will whip the body into a fresh shape, yet subsisting on only uncooked raw plants more than a few months at a time will be too rarified for many human organisms. However, for some individuals, it could be a valid therapeutic method for lifting out of the terribly denatured Americanist way of eating which is approaching in this century. If you as an individual are inspired to live off raw food, like a modern-day John the Baptist, I suggest these modifications: that raw biodynamic milk and honey be included, that such-and-such remedies be taken, and so on, and so forth…” (whatever actually helpful suggestions, rather than outright criticism, which RS could’ve said if he really were an entirely timeless soul.)

  3. Unfortunately this article is greatly misleading in its following paragraph:

    “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 only speaks of vegetarianism, and usually in contrast to meat diets. He has never suggested a vegan or raw diet – and in fact says:

    “It might be of interest to cite as a last example a food that plays an important part in life, that is, milk. Milk is completely different from meat in that it expresses in the weakest possible form the animalistic process brought forth by the astral body of the animal. Milk is only partly an animal product and the animal or human astral forces do not participate in its production. For this reason milk is one of the most perfect foods. It is suitable for people who want to abstain completely from meat but who do not yet possess sufficient strength to work entirely out of the inner forces of the astral body. Even from a purely external standpoint it can be seen that milk contains everything a man requires for his organism. Although this applies only in a restricted sense, it has little to do with the individual characteristics of a man.

    Weak as well as strong organisms can gain support from milk. If a person were to live exclusively on milk for a time, then not only would his regular forces be awakened but it would also go beyond this. He would receive from it an influx of forces giving him additional strength. A surplus of forces would be acquired that could be developed into healing forces. In order to possess a force, it must first be acquired, and in milk we see one means of developing certain forces in ourselves. Those who are moved by the earnestness of life to develop certain psychic healing forces, can train themselves to attain them. Naturally, we must remember that what is suitable for one, is not suitable for all. This is a matter for the individual. One person is able to do it, another not. A man can if he wishes build up his organism in a wise manner. He can contribute toward the unfolding of free, independent inner forces.” [Problems of Nutrition: A Lecture By Rudolf Steiner: Munich, January 8, 1909].

  4. I stand corrected on a raw diet.

    In another posting Kytka quotes Rudolf Steiner as clearly stating that should a person be able to bear and handle the processes involved, raw food (as against cooked food) would indeed be remedial and healing. [Spiritual Science and Medicine: Lecture X: Lecture By Rudolf Steiner: Donarch, March 30, 1920].

    Thanks for that posting Kytka; it enabled me to find the lecture and learn something quite revealing.

  5. Hello! It’s important to say: Steiner never told a vegan-raw diet is healthier or would make us freer. It would take to much effort to digest (I’ve interviewed one of the most important antroposophic doctors in Brazil, he explained it clearly). Plus: diet should be something individual. Some individuals need meat in order to

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