Eating is definitely one of the best things in life. There is nothing more gratifying than after an arduous physical, work or intellectual activity, eating a very good meal. But incredible as it may seem, throughout the ages of mankind, there has been a group of people who try to survive by eating very little or even nothing. But is it possible to live without eating? Let’s see the answer below:
Living off the sun?
It tends to be believed that the human body cannot resist without eating and, above all, without drinking for a long time. In fact, it only seems possible to survive in these conditions for a few weeks. However, there are many known cases of anchorites and saints who remained alive for decades without eating or drinking. This amazing mystical phenomenon has been called “inedia”, a term that comes from Latin and means more or less prolonged abstinence from food.
The prowess of some anchorites of the first centuries of Christianity pales before some Christian mystics who lived for many years in total inedia. Curiously, most of the most impressive cases have been observed in women. Undoubtedly, as noted by the philosopher Aimé Michel, who has rigorously examined this phenomenon:
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“in all cases(…) it always seems that the sick woman – if there was illness – was subjected to a severe moral ordeal or has some reason to be obsessed by a painful idea (…). If we remember that mysticism consists in facing pain deliberately, it is to be expected that in the lives of the saints such fasts are frequently observed”.
A further example is the anorexic saint Catherine of Genoa. The text Vita e Dottrina di Santa Caterina da Genova (1551) speaks of her “great fasts,” which lasted from 1476 to 1499. It details that for three Lents and the same number of Advent fasts she did not eat any solid food. He only occasionally drank a glass of water mixed with salt and vinegar.
Along with the aforementioned saints of past eras, in more recent times we must place the German mystic Therese Neumann, whose spectacular stigmata, gifts of clairvoyance and healing also pale compared to her degree of survival in absolute inedia. She apparently had a vision in 1927 in which she was told that she would never again need earthly food. From then on he stopped eating and drinking. The amazing thing is that, despite this, he not only did not lose weight, but continued to live relatively normally.
Like the other physical phenomena he experienced, his inedia was studied by doctors and church fathers. The bishop of Regensburg asked Therese’s father to accept a commission into his home to verify the nature of her prolonged fasting. Mr. Neuman agreed and for two weeks four nuns stayed in his house, constantly observing her. They never left her alone and even measured the water she used to brush her teeth to make sure she did not swallow it. Therese not only passed the test with flying colors, but survived without eating or drinking for 35 years.
This is how Johannes Steiner put it in 1967 in a biography of Neumann: except for the consecrated communion wafer and wine, no other food or drink touched her lips. Many experiments by different physicians confirmed this. Apparently, he stopped bowel movements after 1930 and his intestinal tract literally dried up. Nevertheless, he continued to lead a relatively active life, at least from a psychic point of view, as he had visions until his death in 1962.
Natural or supernatural prodigy?
Some scientists have tried to explain Neumann’s case by advancing the theory that she was kept alive by assimilating solar radiation. However, as Scott Rogo points out in The Enigma of Miracles, “given their propensity for hysteria, people like Therese Neumann probably suffered from anorexia nervosa which, through some paranormal phenomenon, was transformed into a truly miraculous and supernatural event”.
About inedia as a supernatural phenomenon, that is, when a prolonged survival is observed in a person after an absolute abstinence of many years, there are still a number of unresolved questions: Is it really a prodigy? The phenomenon has also been observed in mystics of other religions, but this does not mean that it is supernatural.
In Hinduism in particular, it seems more like a natural phenomenon than a divine one. A notable example that far surpasses that of Therese Neumann is the Hindu mystic Giri Bala. As described by Paramahansa Yogananda in his Autobiography of a Yogi, after a visit he made to her when she was 68 years old, Bala had not tasted any solid or liquid food for 56 years, i.e., she had not eaten any food.
In India, throughout history, some people have demonstrated amazing faculties such as this and psychic powers that seem to be part of a science fiction movie, but totally real.