“Diet, through spiritual development, becomes the personal problem of the thinking individual. In conscious awareness he comes to measure his nutritional requirements against the background of his inner spiritual activity. In response, he satisfies his nutritional needs with a conscious surety as positive in its way as the instinctive ability of laboratory rats to choose in their way the right food.” - Gilbert Church, Ph.D., New York City, June 2, 1968
Problems of Nutrition
“ When we as spiritual scientists consider our organism, we can ask ourselves if we do not make our bodies unfit for the execution of the intentions, aspirations and impulses of our lives if we become bound by and dependent upon our bodies through an unsuitable diet. Is it not possible to mold the body in such fashion that it turns into a progressively more suitable instrument for the impulses of our spiritual life? Will we lose our freedom and become dependent upon our bodies if we ignore what is the right nourishment for us? What must we eat so that we are not merely the product of what we eat?” Rudolf Steiner, Munich, January 8, 1909
In the past I have spoken here on a variety of subjects concerning spiritual life. It may be permissible today, therefore, for me to touch upon a more prosaic theme from the standpoint of spiritual science. Problems of nutrition undoubtedly offer a more mundane subject than many we have heard here. It will be seen, however, that particularly in our age spiritual science has something to say even concerning questions that directly affect everyday life.
On the one hand, spiritual science stands accused, by those who know it only from the outside, of aspiring too loftily to spiritual realms, thus losing the firm round under its feet. On the other hand, the opposite can perhaps also be heard again from those who have become acquainted with spiritual science or anthroposophy through only a single lecture or brochure. This consists in the statement that anthroposophists are entirely too concerned with, and talk too much about, questions of what they should eat and drink. In some respects these critics might well be called idealists in that they believe they view the common aspects of life from a certain exalted level. They raise this objection particularly by taking a stand that can be expressed in the following way.
“What man eats and drinks is unimportant. It does not matter what food one takes, rather must one rise above the material dimension by the strength of ones spirit.”
Even a well-intentioned idealist might level this objection against anthroposophists. Well, at a time when these questions are being widely discussed from other angles, it might be interesting to hear what spiritual science has to say about them. It was a German philosopher, Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, to whom the phrase, “A man is what he eats,” is attributed. Many thinkers of consequence have agreed with Feuerbach that what man produces is basically the result of foods ingested by him and his actions are influenced by the food absorbed in a purely materialistic way through his digestion. With so much discussion of eating going on, somebody might get it into his head to believe that man is indeed physically nothing more than what he eats. Now, we shall have several things to say on this point. We must understand each other precisely as to the purpose of todays lecture and the intention behind it. We are not agitating in favor of particular tendencies, nor are we trying to be reformative. The spiritual scientist is obliged to state the truth of things. His attitude must never be agitatorial, and he must be confident that when a person has perceived the truth of what he says, he will then proceed to do the right thing. What I have to say, therefore, does not recommend one course as opposed to another, and he who assumes that it does will misunderstand it completely. Merely the facts will be stated, and you will have understood me correctly if you realize that I am not speaking for or against anything. Bearing this in mind, we can raise the question from the standpoint of spiritual science as to whether the statement, “A man is what he eats,” does not have a certain justification after all.
We must continually bear in mind that the body of man is the tool of the spirit. In discussing the various functions the body has to perform, we see that man utilizes it as a physical instrument. An instrument is useless if it is not adjusted correctly so that it functions in an orderly manner, however, and similarly our bodies are of no use to our higher organism if they do not function properly. Our freedom can be handicapped and intentions impeded. When we as spiritual scientists consider our organism, we can ask ourselves if we do not make our bodies unfit for the execution of the intentions, aspirations and impulses of our lives if we become bound by and dependent upon our bodies through an unsuitable diet. Is it not possible to mold the body in such fashion that it turns into a progressively more suitable instrument for the impulses of our spiritual life? Will we lose our freedom and become dependent upon our bodies if we ignore what is the right nourishment for us? What must we eat so that we are not merely the product of what we eat? By asking such questions, we come to look at the problem of nutrition from another perspective. You all know, and I only need allude to this generally familiar fact, that speaking purely materialistically, people continuously use up the substances that their organisms store and they therefore must take care to replenish them with further nourishment. Men must concern themselves with replenishment. What, then, could be more obvious than to examine those substances that are necessary for the human organism, that is, to find out what substances build up the animalistic organism, and then simply see to it that the organism is given them. This approach, however, remains an extremely materialistic one. We must rather ask ourselves what the essential task of a man food is and in what way it is actually utilized in his organism.