Spiritual Or Spectator Eating?
Are human beings “supposed” to be carnivores, omnivores, vegetarians, or vegans?
Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was deliberately non-prescriptive.
He remained intentionally neutral about WHAT human beings are “supposed” to eat, asking the question …
“What must we eat so that we are not merely the product of what we eat?”
According to Herr Steiner (quoted in Nutrition: Food, Health and Spiritual Development, compiled and edited by Christian von Arnim, 2008) …
“When a person eats vegetarian food, it demands a great deal of his organism. Plant food does not contain much fat. The human organism, which is able to produce fats, is thus required to produce fat from something that in itself contains no fat. In other words, when a person eats vegetarian food, he must generate an activity within himself and make an inner effort to bring about the production of fats. He is spared this task when he eats ready-made animal fats. The materialists would probably say that it is advantageous for a person to store up as much fat as possible without having to make too much of an effort. Yet, speaking from the spiritual viewpoint, the unfolding of this inner activity signifies the unfolding of the actual inner life. When a person is forced to generate the forces that make it possible for him to produce fat on his own, then, through his inner flexibility, the ego and the astral body become master of the physical and etheric bodies. When a person eats fat, the result is that he is spared the task of producing fat himself. Yet, if he takes the opportunity to unfold his own inner activity through producing his own fat, he is made free and thus becomes lord over his body. Otherwise, as a spiritual being he remains a mere spectator.”
Indeed, eating is a mere spectator activity for 99 percent or more of humanity.
John Bell (“On Regimen and Longevity: Comprising Materia Alimentaria, National Dietetic Usages, and the Influence of Civilization on Health and the Duration of Life,” The Medico-Chirurgical Review, No. 41, 1844) wrote …
“The Arabs chiefly subsist on the milk and butter obtained from their flocks and herds, together with a scanty supply of grain converted into flour. Camel’s flesh is rarely eaten; a kid or lamb is often prepared out of compliment to a distinguished guest, but a person of less note is treated with coffee, or bread and melted butter.
“In India and the greater part of China, rice is the staff of life; the Chinese, however, allow themselves a wide range of animal food, not so much perhaps on account of their natural propensities, as on account of the scanty supply of ordinary flesh meat and still more of food of any kind in so redundant a population as that of China. This will serve to explain their eating dogs, rats, and almost any kind of animal flesh. A favourite luxury with the rich consists of soups made with the gelatinous substances, sea-slug, birds’ nests, &c. imported from the islands in the China and Java seas.
“In strong contrast with the almost exclusively vegetable diet of the Southern Asiatics, of whom we have hitherto spoken, is the large, if not exclusive, use of animal food by the inhabitants of Northern Asia — Tartary and Siberia. The favourite food of the Tartars is horse-flesh; the horses being carefully fattened up for the tables of the rich. As, however, the number of horses is limited, and the flesh is consequently expensive, the poorer classes, and the wandering tribes in general, must put up with mutton in its stead.
“In Siberia, especially the northern parts, the employment of the people is hunting and fishing, chiefly for the sake of food, partly to procure furs for the purpose of clothing and trade. They live chiefly on soured cow’s milk, mare’s milk, and horse flesh. Bread is unknown among them. Fat is the greatest delicacy; and they eat it in every possible shape, raw and melted, fresh and spoiled. The inner bark of the larch, and sometimes of the fir, is grated and mixed with fish, a little meat, and milk, or fat in preference, and made into soup. They are also excessively fond of tobacco, which is used both by men and women, who swallow the smoke and so bring on a species of stupefaction.
“In northern and central continental Europe, the mass of the population, that is the poorer classes, subsist in great measure on vegetable food, and that of the second or inferior of the cereal grains, viz. — rye, seasoned with the products of the dairy, and a small portion of meat or fish. In southern Europe, maize, to a certain extent, takes the place of rye, and wheat is more freely used than it is in the North.
“England boasts of the large proportion, comparatively to other countries, of animal food consumed by her inhabitants. It is estimated that wheat is supplied at the rate of a quarter, or eight bushels, for every individual in the kingdom. The proportionate quantity of flesh meat has not been ascertained; but, according to McCulloch, it is said to be for the people of London 107 pounds per individual throughout the year. This statement, however, we fear does not give a very correct view of the state of the operatives in large towns, or of the labourers in many agricultural districts, as in Essex or Sussex. In Ireland, it is well known that the potato forms the chief subsistence of the abounding population. It is the hard fate of the Irish people, or the great majority of them, to be tantalized with an abundance on their own fields, of live stock, which they cannot themselves convert into food, but must sell to meet other requirements. Even the fatted pig, so often the companion of the children in the poor man’s cabin, is in due time taken to market and sold, to be killed and salted for exportation. ‘It has been estimated, that the entire amount of imports of alimentary substances, vegetable and animal, into Great Britain from Ireland, in one year has been as high as ten millions of pounds sterling.”