This section is from the book "The Hygienic System: Fasting And Sun Bathing", by Herbert M. Shelton. Also available from Amazon: The Hygienic System Vol III Fasting and Sun Bathing.
Dr. Henry Lindlahr conjured into being a condition to which he applied the term "abnormal psychism," which he said often resulted in certain types of individuals when these fasted for prolonged periods. I have found no reference to any such mental aberrations in the writings of any other man who has had great experience with the fast, and I have seen nothing resembling it in my own practice. Nonetheless, as conclusions based on Lindlahr's statements about this condition have recently been revived by the authors of Basic Naturopathy (a text-book for students of naturopathy), I think it wise to consider his statements. Before going into it more in detail, let me say that I once heard a student ask Dr. Lindlahr if he had ever thought of these examples of "abnormal psychism" as crises. Instead of giving the student a direct and candid answer, he delivered a lengthy talk on the difference between theory and experience. Yet, he did not dissociate his experience from his theory; or, since it all stems from the darkened seance room, where magic, slight-o-hand, and many mechanical devises are employed to play upon the credulity of the people, had we not better call it superstition, rather than theory?
I am of the opinion that such developments, if they do occur, are due to other causes. They do develop in people who are not fasting. Many fasting patients have lost their abnormal mental conditions while fasting. All who have had extended experience with fasting have seen cases of insanity recover health while on the fast and many others make great improvement while fasting. Knowing that Dr. Hazzard had had many years of experience with fasting I wrote her for her experience with "abnormal psychism" in the fast. She replied in a letter to me dated December 8, 1931, that the notion that fasting produces such conditions is "absolutely wrong" and that, "Fasting seems to clarify mentality, not to cloud it. Nor will it develop any abnormal mental symptoms."
The nearest approach to such a condition that I have found recorded in fasting literature, is one related by Carrington. He says: "The patient became practically insane from the second to the fifth day of the fast--normal conditions being restored on the fifth day. When once the crisis was passed, no indications of such a condition ever recurred; the mentality became, on the other hand, far clearer than in years--indicating that the condition was transitory and merely a curative crisis; one aspect of the vital upheaval, affecting, by chance, the mentality. In this case, the condition was undoubtedly brought about by the excessive, morbid action of the liver, which was greatly deranged, causing an excessive flow of bile; and to a disordered circulation. This was undoubtedly the cause, since the patient also turned almost green during these days--her complexion becoming normal as the fast progressed."--Vitality, Fasting and Nutrition, p. 535.
Lindlahr says: "Next to the hypnotic or mediumistic process, there is nothing that induces 'abnormal psychism' as quickly as fasting. During a prolonged fast, the purely animal functions of digestion, assimilation and elimination are almost completely at a standstill. This depression of the physical functions arouses and increases the psychic functions and may produce in these emotionalism and abnormal activity of the senses of the spiritual-body, the individual thus becoming abnormally clairvoyant, clairaudient, and otherwise, sensitive to conditions on the spiritual planes of life." He adds: "This explains the spiritual exaltation and the visions of "heavenly' scenes and beings or the fights with demons which are frequently, indeed, uniformly, reported by hermits, ascetics, saints, yogi, fakirs, and dervishes."
Unhesitatingly, I pronounce this mere twaddle. In more than thirty years of experience in fasting patients, in all conditions and at all ages of life, I have never seen a single development such as he here describes. I have conducted well over twenty-five thousand fasts, ranging from a few days to sixty-eight days in duration. Men, women, and children, the stolid and the high-strung, the atheist and the religious, the nervous and the mental sufferer and others have been among those who have fasted under my care and none of them has ever become clairvoyant or clairaudient. None of them has become "sensitive" to conditions on any hypothetical "spiritual planes of existence." None of them has had a "heavenly vision," none of them has had any fights with any devils, nor has any of them ever become hypnotically controlled "by 'positive' intelligences either on the physical or on the spiritual plane of being"--hypnotism or mediumism. Lindlahr frankly believed in demonic obsession or possession or, as he also phrased it "spirit control." He says "spirit 'controls' often force their subjects to abstain from food, thus rendering them still more negative and submissive." He thought it "little short of criminal" to "place persons of the negative, sensitive type on prolonged fasts and thus to expose them to the dangers just described."
Theoretically a vegetarian, although reported frequently to indulge in flesh, Lindlahr says that these "negative" and "sensitive" people need "an abundance of the most positive animal and vegetable foods in order to build up and strengthen their physical bodies and their magnetic envelopes, which form the dividing protecting wall between the terrestrial plane and the magnetic field." This mixing of spiritualism and occultism with physiology could but lead him to many false conclusions and many erroneous practices.
Up to the present writing I have had seven cases of mental confusion in my own practice and, as I review these cases, one thing stands out very prominently in all of them; namely, each and every one of the patients were marked neurotics. Three of them presented histories of previous periods of mental aberration. One of these patients had been thoroughly examined at one of the most famous clinics in America and her husband had been told by the physicians at the clinic, that, due to hardening of the arteries in the brain, she would ultimately become insane. None of these patients have resembled anything described by Dr. Lindlahr and there were no signs that they were being controlled by "spirit beings."
While engaged in revising this chapter a woman was brought in from a distant city who was troubled by what she called "elementals." For several years she had dabbled in occultism, and spiritualism and had studied with the swamies and she was convinced that every night these "elementals" were annoying her. She is still fasting at this writing, but she lost her "elementals" and the symptoms that they were supposed to be inducing in the first two weeks of her fast. Meat eating had not saved her from her "negative" and "sensitive" state; fasting soon brought her out of it.
I am convinced that the developments in the aforementioned seven cases were in the nature of crises and that they were in no wise due to fasting and shall set forth my reasons for thinking so. They are:
1. The condition develops extremely rarely, whereas, if the fast were responsible for its development, it would be common.
2. It has not developed in those patients who have had the longest fasts, but in all save two cases, after relatively short fasts. If the fast produces the trouble, the longer fasts should be the ones after which the trouble develops. In one patient the mental symptoms developed after only nine days of fasting. It is well to note that after a subsequent fast of over thirty days, this patient had no such developments.
3. The symptoms never manifest while the fast is in progress, but only after it has been broken, the first symptoms so appearing three days to two weeks after the fast has ended. If the condition results from the fast, it should develop at least part of the time while the patient is fasting.
4. The condition develops only in certain types of individuals, and in these types of cases, such developments are quite common while eating three square meals a day in people who never fast. While I have emphasized the fact that these developments occur, so far as my experience extends, only in pronounced neurotics, they are rare, even in these patients. I have had many neurotics to fast for prolonged periods and receive nothing but benefit. No mental and nervous symptoms have developed during or after the fast in all save the seven we are here considering.
5. In two of my cases the trouble has developed after periods of great physical stress growing out of their diseases and would seem to have been due to the drain placed upon them by their diseases. One of these, a man who developed a severe diarrhea late in the fast that lasted for several days, had slight confusion for three days after his fast was broken, but he never grew irrational. The dysentery constituted a serious drain upon his powers and resources. A second case was unable to take food after the return of hunger. For three days she vomited all food given her. Thereafter she was able to retain food, and after she had begun to eat, she developed mental symptoms that lasted for about three weeks.
6. Certain of these patients who had had such disturbances before fasting have had none since. This is to say, the trouble that followed breaking the fast was the end of their mental troubles. One woman who had had such periods of confusion before going on the fast, had such a period after the fast was broken, and has had no more such troubles for twelve years.
7. In one case, at least, the clearing up of the mental symptoms has been accompanied with the disappearance of other symptoms that were of long standing. This woman, a neurotic, psychotic and drug-poisoned patient, became confused three days after her fast was broken (she had had such periods before fasting) and remained so for a period of about seven days. When she became normal, certain subjective head symptoms of which she had complained for over a year were gone and did not recur.
8. Most of these patients are now holding responsible positions and are enjoying good mental health.
There is no means of proving that these people would have had these developments at the times they did had they not fasted, but I think the inference is plain that they would have. In at least four of these cases previous such periods while eating point in this direction. In two other cases in which I have no positive proof of previous such periods, I have some evidence that such periods of mental disturbance had been previously experienced. If we add to this the frequent and great beneficial results that accompany and follow fasting in severe neurotic conditions and in cases of actual insanity, the evidence seems to be complete that the fast is not responsible for these conditions. It may well be said that the chief result of the fast is to retard their development, or even, in many cases, to prevent them altogether.
In considering these developments, it is well for us to keep in mind the ability of the body to nourish and sustain the brain and nervous system and to maintain their functional and structural integrity throughout the most prolonged fast by drawing upon its nutritive reserves, and the actual benefit that is seen to accrue to the nervous system in many cases of paralysis, neuritis, neuralgia, various neuroses and even in insanity, while fasting, even prolonged fasting, all of which should strongly indicate that the brain and nerves are not injured.