2015 Fundraiser

Help us beat last year's record of $7100!

Awesome! We are half way to our goal!
Goal: $7,200 Donations so far: $6687.20
Free speech isn't free. Fighting pseudoscience isn't free.
We are 100% user-supported! Help and donate today!

Bronze-level articleBreatharianism

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Dolphins and money

New Age

Icon new age.svg
Key cosmic concepts
Spiritual selections

Breatharianism is the old/new age idea that one can live without food and drink, and subsist only off of "pranic light." According to practitioners, pranic light is accurate, channelled information from a huge invisible spaceship hovering over North America.[1]


[edit] Relationship to sungazing

Breatharianism frequently involves sungazing in the dubious belief that nourishment can be gained directly from the sun's energy through the eye, even though it is not a photosynthesising organ. This is likely to be just a woo-based explanation of "energy", which has little or nothing to do with real definitions of energy as a state-function of what can perform work. As with most supposed techniques of its type, proponents claim that the arts of breatharianism take years to master - usually this sort of excuse allows proponents to ignore evidence based on people trying and failing at the technique. It clearly requires a great deal of courage and self-discipline to be able to keep a straight face while talking about staring at the sun as a viable solution of the world's starvation problems.

Don't try that! Staring at the sun is extremely dangerous and can cause blindness.[2]

[edit] How do they survive?

There are people who practice breatharianism or sungazing who to seem to live quite normal lives. So how do they survive?

In the first instance, anyone claiming to live on light and/or air alone is most certainly lying. In 1983, most of the leadership of the movement in California resigned when Wiley Brooks, a notable proponent of breatharianism, was caught sneaking into a hotel and ordering a chicken pie.[3] Under controlled conditions where people are actually watched to see if they can do it without sneaking some real food, they fail.

The second possible answer to "how do they survive" is that "they don't". Most of the time whenever breatharianism hits the news, it isn't because one of the leaders and proponents have been caught cheating, but because one of the followers has died of extreme malnutrition[4][5] — stories sufficient to be nominated for a Darwin Award.[6]

[edit] Notable Breatharians

The name most commonly associated with breatharianism is Australia's Jasmuheen (born Ellen Greve), who claims to live only on a cup of tea and a biscuit every few days. However, the only supervised test of this claim (by the Australian edition of 60 Minutes in 1999) left her suffering from severe dehydration[7] and the trial was halted after four days, despite Greve's insistence she was happy to continue. She claimed the failure was due to being near a city road, leading to her being forced to breathe "bad air". She continued this excuse even after she was moved to the middle of nowhere. Jasmuheen won the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize in Literature for her book Living on Light.[8]

Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory promoted and followed the dubious fruitarian diet, and promoted but did not follow the even more dubious breatharian diet in his still-popular 1974 book Dick Gregory's Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat: Cookin' With Mother Nature.

[edit] Pro-ana

Breatharianism of late has been crossing over with pro-ana, or anorexia advocacy.[9]

[edit] Caveat

Practitioners of Jainism, in advanced age, sometimes renounce food and offer justifications for doing so that sound like Breatharians' at a superficial level. There the similarity ends, and the two practices should not be confused. This is a religious practice considered appropriate to the end of life. Jains usually do not believe that complete renunciation of food will bring long or eternal life in the flesh.[10]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Breatharians on Livejournal
  2. Staring at the sun will make you go blind
  3. Neohumanism on Breatharianism
  4. Woman 'starved herself to death', BBC (Scotland section), September 21, 1999
  5. Swiss woman starves to death on daylight diet, Herald Sun, April 26, 2012. The original article in German (Von Licht ernährt – bis in den Tod; Living on light - until death) from the Swizz newspaper Tages-Anzeiger listed two additional breatharianism-related deaths: 31-year old Munich resident Timo Degen who died in March 1997 and the 53-year old New Zealander Lani Morris who died in June 1998.
  6. Breatharianism, 1999 Darwin Award nominee (this was based on the Scottish case reported by the BBC).
  7. Fresh-air dietician fails TV show's challenge
  8. Winners of the Ig® Nobel Prize
  9. At least according to the raw-foodies
  10. Jain Philosophy
Personal tools