Rudolf Steiner: Today I would like to add a
little more in answer to Herr Burle's question last Thursday. You
remember that I spoke of the four substances necessary to human
nutrition: minerals, carbohydrates, which are to be found in
potatoes, but especially in our field grains and legumes, then fats,
and protein. I pointed out how different our nutrition is with regard
to protein as compared, for instance, to salt. A man takes salt into
his body and it travels all the way to his head, in such a way that
the salt remains salt. It is really not changed except that it is
dissolved. It keeps its forces as salt all the way to the human head.
In contrast to this, protein — the protein in ordinary hens'
eggs, for instance, but also the protein from plants — this
protein is at once broken down in the human body, while it is still
in the stomach and intestines; it does not remain protein. The human
being possesses forces by which he is able to break down this
protein. He also has the forces to build something up again, to make
his own protein. He would not be able to do this if he had not
already broken down other protein.
Now think how it is, gentlemen, with this protein.
Imagine that you have become an exceptionally clever person, so
clever that you are confident you can make a watch. But you've never
seen a watch except from the outside, so you cannot right off make a
watch. But if you take a chance and you take some watch to pieces,
take it all apart and lay out the single pieces in such a way that
you observe just how the parts relate to one another, then you know
how you are going to put them all together again. That's what the
human body does with protein. It must take in protein and take it all
Protein consists of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen
and sulphur. Those are its most important components. And now the
protein is completely separated into its parts, so that when it all
reaches the intestines, man does not have protein in him, but he has
carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and sulphur. You see how it is? —
now the man has the protein all laid out in its parts as you had the
watch all laid out on the table. So now you will say, Sure! when I
took that watch apart, I observed it very carefully, and now I can
make watches. Likewise I only need to eat protein once; after that, I
can make it myself. But it doesn't happen that way, gentlemen. A
human being has his memory as a complete human entity; his body by
itself does not have the kind of memory that can take note of
something, it uses its “memory” forces just for building
itself up. So one must always be eating new protein in order to be
able to make a protein.
The fact is, the human being is involved in a very, very
complicated activity when he manufactures his own protein. First he
divides the protein he has eaten into its separate parts and puts the
carbon from it into his body everywhere. Now you already know that we
inhale oxygen from the air and that this oxygen combines with the
carbon we have in us from proteins and other food elements. And we
exhale carbon in carbon dioxide, keeping a part of it back. So now we
have that carbon and oxygen together in our body. We do not retain
and use the oxygen that was in the protein; we use the oxygen we have
inhaled to combine with the carbon. Thus we do not make our own
protein as the materialists describe it: namely, that we eat a great
many eggs which then are deposited throughout our body so that eggs
we have eaten are spread over our whole body. That is not true.
Actually, we are saved by the organization of our body
so that when we eat eggs, we don't all turn into crazy hens! It's a
fact. We don't become crazy hens because we break the protein down in
our intestines and instead of using the oxygen that was in the
protein, we use oxygen coming out of the air. Also, as we breathe
oxygen in we breathe nitrogen in too; nitrogen is always in the air.
Again, we don't use the nitrogen that comes to us in the hens' eggs;
we use the nitrogen we breathe in from the air. And the hydrogen
we've eaten in eggs, we don't use that either, not at all. We use the
hydrogen we take in through our nose and our ears, through all our
senses; that's the hydrogen we use to make our protein. Sulphur too —
we receive that continually from the air. Hydrogen and sulphur we get
from the air. From the protein we eat, we keep and use only the
carbon. The other substances, we take from the air. So you see how it
is with protein.
There is a similar situation with fat. We make our own
protein, using only the carbon from the external protein. And we also
make our own fat. For the fats too, we use very little nitrogen from
our food. So you see, we produce our own protein and fat. Only what
we consume in potatoes, legumes, and grains goes over into our body.
In fact, even these things do not go fully into our body, but only to
the lower part of our head. The minerals we consume go up into the
entire head; from them we have what we need to build up our bones.
Therefore you see, gentlemen, we must take care to bring
healthy plant protein into our body. Healthy plant protein! That is
what our body needs in large quantity. When we take in protein from
eggs, our body can be rather lazy; it can easily break the protein
down, because that protein is easily broken down. But plant protein,
which we get from fruit — it is chiefly in that part of the
plant, as I told you on Thursday — that is especially valuable
to us. If a person wants to keep himself healthy, it is really
necessary to include fruit in his diet. Cooked or raw, but fruit he
must have. If he neglects to eat fruit, he will gradually condemn his
body to a very sluggish digestion.
You can see that it is also a question of giving proper
nourishment to the plants themselves. And that means, we must realize
that plants are living things; they are not minerals, they are
something alive. A plant comes to us out of the seed we put in the
ground. The plant cannot flourish unless the soil itself is to some
degree alive. And how do we make the soil alive? By manuring it
properly. Yes, proper manuring is what will give us really good plant
We must remember that for long, long ages men have known
that the right manure is what comes out of the horses' stalls, out of
the cow barn and so on; the right manure is what comes off the farm
itself. In recent times when everything has become materialistic,
people have been saying: Look here! we can do it much more easily by
finding out what substances are in the manure and then taking them
out of the mineral kingdom: mineral fertilizer!
And you can see, gentlemen, when one uses mineral
fertilizer, it is as if one just put minerals into the ground; then
only the root becomes strong. Then we get from the plants the
substance that helps to build up our bones. But we don't get a proper
protein from the plants. And the plants, our field grains have
suffered from the lack of protein for a long time. And the lack will
become greater and greater unless people return to proper manuring.
There have already been agricultural conferences in
which the farmers have said: Yes, the fruit gets worse and worse! And
it is true. But naturally the farmers haven't known the reason. Every
older person knows that when he was a young fellow, everything that
came out of the fields was really better. It's no use thinking that
one can make fertilizer simply by combining substances that are
present in cow manure. One must see clearly that cow manure does not
come out of a chemist's laboratory but out of a laboratory that is
far more scientific — it comes from the far, far more
scientific laboratory inside the cow. And for this reason cow manure
is the stuff that not only makes the roots of plants strong, but that
works up powerfully into the fruits and produces good, proper protein
in the plants which makes man vigorous.
If there is to be nothing but the mineral fertilizer
that has now become so popular, or just nitrogen from the air —
well, gentlemen, your children, more particularly, your grandchildren
will have very pale faces. You will no longer see a difference
between their faces and their white hands. Human beings have a
lively, healthy color when the farmlands are properly manured.
So you see, when one speaks of nutrition one has to
consider how the foodstuffs are being obtained. It is tremendously
important. You can see from various circumstances that the human body
itself craves what it needs. Here's just one example: people who are
in jail for years at a stretch, usually get food that contains very
little fat, so they develop an enormous craving for fat; and when
sometimes a drop of wax falls on the floor from the candle that the
guard carries into a cell, the prisoner jumps down at once to lick up
the fat. The human body feels the lack so strongly if it is missing
some necessary substance. We don't notice this if we eat properly and
regularly from day to day; then it never happens that our body is
missing some essential element. But if something is lacking in the
diet steadily for weeks, then the body becomes exceedingly hungry.
That is also something that must be carefully noticed.
I have already pointed out that many other things are
connected with fertilizing. For instance, our European forefathers in
the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, or still earlier, were
different from ourselves in many ways. One doesn't usually pay any
attention to that fact. Among other things, they had no potatoes!
Potatoes were not introduced until later. The potato diet has
exercised a strong influence. When grains are eaten, the heart and
lungs become particularly strong. Grains strengthen heart and lungs.
A man then develops a healthy chest and he is in fine health. He is
not so keen on thinking as on breathing, perhaps; but he can endure
very much when he has good breathing. And let me say right here:
don't think that someone has strong lungs if he's always opening the
window and crying, “Let's get some fresh air in here!”
No! a person has strong lungs if he is so conditioned that he can
endure any kind of air. The toughened-up person is not the one who
can't bear anything but the one who can!
In these days there is much talk about being hardy.
Think how the children are “hardened”! Nowadays (in
wealthy homes, of course, but then other people quickly follow suit)
the children are dressed — well, when we were children, we wore
long breeches and were well covered — at the most, we went
barefoot-now, the clothes only go down to the knee or are still
shorter. If parents knew that this is the best preparation for later
attacks of appendicitis, they would be more thoughtful. But fashion
is a tyrant! — no thought is given to the matter, and the
children are dressed so that their little dresses only reach to the
knee, or less. Someday they will only reach to the stomach —
that will be the fashion! Fashion has a strong influence.
But what is really at stake? People pay no attention to
it. It is this: A human being is constituted throughout his organism
so that he is truly capable of doing inner work on all the food he
consumes. And in this connection it is especially important to know
that a man becomes strong when he works properly on the foods he
eats. Children are not made stronger by the treatment I have just
mentioned. They are so “hardened” that later in their
life — just watch them! — when they have to cross an
empty square with the hot sun beating down on them, they drip with
perspiration and they can't make it. Someone has not become toughened
up when he is not able to stand anything; the person who can endure
all possible hardships is the one who has been toughened up. So, in
earlier days people were not toughened up; yet they had healthy
lungs, healthy hearts, and so on.
And then came the potato diet! The potato takes little
care of lung and heart. It reaches the head, but only, as I said, the
lower head, not the upper head. It does go into the lower head, where
one thinks and exercises critical faculties. Therefore, you can see,
in earlier times there were fewer journalists. There was no printing
industry yet. Think of the amount of thought expended daily in this
world in our time, just to bring the newspapers out! All that
thinking, it is much too much, it is not at all necessary-and we have
to thank the potato diet for that! Because a person who eats potatoes
is constantly stimulated to think. He can't do anything but think.
That's why his lungs and his heart become weak. Tuberculosis, lung
tuberculosis, did not become widespread until the potato diet was
introduced. And the weakest human beings are those living in regions
where almost nothing else is grown but potatoes, where the people
live on potatoes.
It is spiritual science that is able to know these
material facts. (I have said this often.) Materialistic science knows
nothing about nutrition; it has no idea what is healthy food for
humanity. That is precisely the characteristic of materialism, that
it thinks and thinks and thinks — and knows nothing. The truth
is finally this: that if one really wants to participate in life,
above all one has to know something! Those are the things I wanted to
say about nutrition.
And now perhaps you may still like to ask some
Question: Dr. Steiner, in your last talk you
mentioned arteriosclerosis. It is generally thought that this illness
comes from eating a great deal of meat and eggs and the like. I know
someone in whom the illness began when he was fifty; he had become
quite stiff by the time he was seventy. But now he is eighty-five or
eighty-six, and he is much more active than he was in his fifties and
sixties. Has the arteriosclerosis receded? Is that possible? Or is
there some other reason? Perhaps I should mention that this person
has never smoked and has drunk very little alcohol; he has lived a
really decent life. But in his earlier years he did eat rather a lot
of meat. At seventy he could do very little work, but now at
eighty-five he is continually active.
Dr. Steiner: So — I understand you to say
that this person became afflicted with arteriosclerosis when he was
fifty, that he became stiff and could do very little work. You did
not say whether his memory deteriorated; perhaps you did not notice.
His condition continued into his seventies; then he became active
again, and he is still living. Does he still have any symptom of his
earlier arteriosclerosis or is he completely mobile and active?
Questioner: Today he is completely active and
more mobile than when he was sixty-five or seventy. He is my father.
Dr. Steiner: Well, first of all we should
establish the exact nature of his earlier arteriosclerosis. Usually
arteriosclerosis takes hold of a person in such a way that his
arteries in general become sclerotic. Now if a man's arteries in
general are sclerotic, he naturally becomes unable to control his
body with his soul and spirit, and the body becomes rigid. Now it can
also happen that someone has arteriosclerosis but not in his whole
body; the disease, for instance, could have spared his brain. Then
the following is the case. You see, I am somewhat acquainted with
your own condition of health. I don't know your father, but perhaps
we can discover something about your father's health from your own.
For instance, you suffer somewhat, or have suffered (I hope it will
be completely cured), from hay fever. That means that you carry in
you something that the body can develop only if there is no tendency
to arteriosclerosis in the head, but only outside the head. No one
who is predisposed to arteriosclerosis in his entire body can
possibly suffer an attack of hay fever. For hay fever is the exact
opposite of arteriosclerosis. Now you suffer from hay fever. That
shows that your hay fever — of course it is not pleasant to
have hay fever, it's much better to have it cured: but we are talking
of the tendency to have it — your hay fever is a kind of safety
valve against arteriosclerosis.
But everyone gets arteriosclerosis to a small degree.
One can't grow old without having it. If one gets it in the entire
body, that's different: then one can't help oneself, one becomes
rigid through one's whole body. But if one gets arteriosclerosis in
the head and not in the rest of the body, then — well, if one
is growing old properly, the etheric body is growing stronger and
stronger (I've spoken of this before), and it no longer has such
great need of the brain, and so the brain can now become old and
stiff. The etheric body can control this slight sclerotic condition —
which in earlier years made one old and stiff altogether; now the
etheric body can control it very cleverly so that it is no longer so
Your father, for example, does not need to have had hay
fever himself, he can just have had the tendency to it. And you see,
just this tendency to it has been of benefit to him. One can even say
— it may seem a little farfetched, but a person who has a
tendency to hay fever can even say, Thank God I have this tendency!
The hay fever isn't bothering me now, and it gives me permanently the
predisposition to a softening of the vessels. Even if the hay fever
doesn't come out, it is protecting him from arteriosclerosis. And if
he has a son, the son can have the hay fever externally. A son can
suffer externally from some disease that in the father was pushed
Indeed, that is one of the secrets of heredity: that
many things become diseases in the descendants which in the
forefathers were aspects of health. Diseases are classified as
arteriosclerosis, tuberculosis, cirrhosis, dyspepsia, and so forth.
This can be written up very attractively in a book; one can describe
just how these illnesses progress. But one hasn't obtained much from
it, for the simple reason that arteriosclerosis, for instance, is
different in every single person. No two persons have
arteriosclerosis alike; everyone becomes afflicted in a different
way. That is really so, gentlemen. And it shouldn't surprise anyone.
There were two professors
(see Note 11 )
at Berlin University. One
was seventy years old, the other ninety-two. The younger one was
quite well-known; he had written many books. But he was a man who
lived with his philosophy entirely within materialism; he only had
thoughts that were stuck deep in materialism. Now such thoughts also
contribute to arteriosclerosis. And he got arteriosclerosis. When he
reached seventy, he was obliged to retire. The colleague who was over
ninety was not a materialist; he had stayed a child through most of
his life, and was still teaching with tremendous liveliness. He said,
“Yes, that colleague of mine, that young boy! I don't
understand him. I don't want to retire yet, I still feel so young.”
The other one, the “boy,” was disrobed, could no longer
teach. Of course the ninety-two-year-old had also become sclerotic
with his years, his arteries were completely sclerotic, but because
of his mobility of soul he could still do something with those
arteries. The other man had no such possibility.
And now something more in answer to Herr Burle's
question about carrots. Herr Burle said, “The human body craves
instinctively what it needs. Children often take a carrot up in their
hands. Children, grownups too, are sometimes forced to eat food that
is not good for them. I think this is a mistake when someone has a
loathing for some food. I have a boy who won't eat potatoes.”
Gentlemen, you need only think of this one thing: if
animals did not have an instinct for what was good for them, and what
was bad for them, they would all long since have perished. For
animals in a pasture come upon poisonous plants too — all of
them — and if they did not know instinctively that they could
not eat poisonous plants, they would certainly eat them. But they
always pass them by.
But there is something more. Animals choose with care
what is good for them. Have you sometimes fattened geese, crammed
them with food? Do you think the geese would ever do that themselves?
It is only humans who force the geese to eat so much. With pigs it is
different; but how thin do you think our pigs might be if we did not
encourage them to eat so much? In any case, with pigs it is a little
different. They have acquired their characteristics through
inheritance; their ancestors had to become accustomed to all the
foods that produce fat. These things were taken up in their food in
earlier times. But the primeval pigs had to be forced to eat it! No
animal ever eats of its own accord what is not right for it.
But now, gentlemen, what has materialism brought about?
It no longer believes in such an instinct.
I had a friend in my youth with whom I ate meals very
often. We were fairly sensible about our food and would order what we
were in the habit of thinking was good for us. Later, as it happens
in life, we lost track of each other, and after some years I came to
the city where he was living, and was invited to have dinner with
him. And what did I see? Scales beside his plate! I said, “What
are you doing with those scales?” I knew, of course, but I
wanted to hear what he would say. He said, “I weigh the meat
they bring me, to eat the right amount — the salad too.”
There he was, weighing everything he should put on his plate, because
science told him to. And what had happened to him? He had weaned
himself completely from a healthy instinct for what he should eat and
finally no longer knew! And you remember? — it used to be in
the book: “a person needs from one hundred and twenty to one
hundred and fifty grams of protein”; that, he had
conscientiously weighed out. Today the proper amount is estimated to
be fifty grams, so his amount was incorrect.
Of course, gentlemen, when a person has diabetes, that
is obviously a different situation. The sugar illness, diabetes,
shows that a person has lost his instinct for nutrition.
There you have the gist of the matter. If a child has a
tendency to worms, even the slightest tendency, he will do everything
possible to prevent them. You'll be astonished sometimes to see such
a child hunting for a garden where there are carrots growing, and
then you'll find him there eating carrots. And if the garden is far
off, that doesn't matter, the child trudges off to it anyway and
finds the carrots-because a child who has a tendency to worms longs
And so, gentlemen, the most useful thing you can
possibly do is this: observe a child when he is weaned, when he no
longer has milk, observe what he begins to like to eat and not like
to eat. The moment a child begins to take external nourishment, one
can learn from him what one should give him. The moment one begins to
urge him to eat what one thinks he should eat, at that moment his
instinct is spoilt. One should give him the things for which he shows
an instinctive liking. Naturally, if a fondness for something
threatens to go too far, one has to dam it up — but then one
must carefully observe what it is that one is damming up.
For instance, perhaps in your own opinion you are giving
a child every nice thing, and yet the moment that child comes to the
table he cannot help jumping up on his chair and leaning over the
table to sneak a lump of sugar! That's something that must be
regarded in the right way. For a child who jumps up on his chair to
sneak a lump of sugar obviously has something the matter with his
liver. Just the simple fact that he must sneak a bit of sugar, is a
sign that his liver is not in order. Only those children sneak sugar
who have something wrong with their livers — it is then
actually cured by the sugar. The others are not interested in sugar;
they ignore it. Naturally, such a performance can't be allowed to
become a habit; but one must have understanding for it. And one can
understand it in two directions.
You see, if a child is watching all the time and
thinking, when will Father or Mother not be looking, so that I can
take that sugar: then later he will sneak other things. If you
satisfy the child, if you give him what he needs, then he doesn't
become a thief. It is of great importance from a moral point of view
whether one observes such things or not. It is very important,
And so the question that was asked just now must be
answered in this way: One should observe carefully what a child likes
and what he loathes, and not force him to eat what he does not like.
If it happens, for instance, as it does with very many children, that
he doesn't want to eat meat, then the fact is that the child gets
intestinal toxins from meat and wants to avoid them. His instinct is
right. Any child who can sit at a table where everyone else is eating
meat and can refuse it has certainly the tendency to develop
intestinal toxins from meat. These things must be considered.
You can see that science must become more refined.
Science must become much more refined! Today it is far too crude.
With those scales, with everything that is carried on in the
laboratories, one can't really pursue pure science.
With nutrition, which is the thing particularly
interesting us at this moment, it is really so, that one must acquire
a proper understanding for the way it relates to the spirit. When
people inquire in that direction, I often offer two examples. Think,
gentlemen, of a journalist: how he has to think so much —
and so much of it isn't even necessary. The man must think a great
deal, he must think so many logical thoughts; it is almost impossible
for any human being to have so many logical thoughts. And so you find
that the journalist — or any other person who writes for a
profession — loves coffee, quite instinctively. He sits in the
coffee shop and drinks one cup after another, and gnaws at his pen so
that something will come out that he can write down. Gnawing at his
pen doesn't help him, but the coffee does, so that one thought comes
out of another, one thought joins on to another.
And then look at the diplomats. If one thought joins on
to another, if one thought comes out of another, that's bad for them!
When diplomats are logical, they're boring. They must be
entertaining. In society people don't like to be wearied by logical
reasoning — “in the first place – secondly —
thirdly” — and if the first and second were not there,
the third and fourth would, of course, not have to be thought of! A
Journalist can't deal with anything but finance in a finance article.
But if you're a diplomat you can be talking about night clubs at the
same time that you're talking about the economy of country X, then
you can comment on the cream-puffs of Lady So-and-So, then you can
jump to the rich soil of the colonies, after that, where the best
horses are being bred, and so on. With a diplomat one thought must
leap over into another. So anyone who is obliged to be a charming
conversationalist follows his instinct and drinks lots of tea.
Tea scatters thoughts; it lets one jump into them.
Coffee brings one thought next to another. If you must leap from one
thought to another, then you must drink tea. And one even calls them
“diplomat teas”! — while there sits the journalist
in the coffee shop, drinking one cup of coffee after another. You can
see what an influence a particular food or drink can have on our
whole thinking process. It is so, of course, not just with those two
beverages, coffee and tea; one might say, those are extreme examples.
But precisely from those examples I think you can see that one must
consider these things seriously. It is very important, gentlemen.
So, we'll meet again next Wednesday at nine o'clock.