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.
In the preceding chapter it was shown that animals may go without food for prolonged periods without damage to their bodies or to individual organs. The objection is often raised that, while some animals may do this, man cannot. For, there are still those who would place man outside of the uniformities of Nature and make him an exception. Nevertheless, the facts prove that man may go for long periods without food, not alone without injury to himself, but with positive benefit.
Old mistakes are repeated year after year in reference works, so that the public is at all times misinformed. The New Standard Encyclopedia (1931) says: "Generally death occurs after eight days of deprivation of food." This encyclopedia mentions the fifteen men survivors of the frigate Medusa (1876), who were thirteen days on an open raft without food, and also a case instanced by Bernard which was "sustained on water alone for 63 days." Succi's forty days fast is also mentioned. No mention is made of fasting as a hygienic or remedial measure, and not a single scientific and up-to-date book on fasting is included in the bibliography.
Until the 1921 revisions of that work were made, the Encyclopedia Britannica and similar works, carried articles on inanition and fasting, stating, over the signatures of eminent medical authorities, that from ten to fourteen days marked the extreme limit to which the human body could endure without food.
Thousands of fasts of much longer duration, even up to 70 and 90 days, had been recorded; but the medical profession and scientists gave no attention to them. The "authorities" gave up their false notions only after the McSwiney hunger strike forced them to do so.
That "common sense" may still be arrayed against the demonstrated facts of experiment and experience, and that men who pose as scientists, may deny what may be known about the body because it does not seem to them to harmonize with what they think they now know about the body is amazing proof that there have been ignorant bigots and that they are not all dead.
Sinclair says he talked with a well-known and successful physician, "who refused point-blank to believe that a human being could live for more than five days without any sort of nutriment." "There was no use talking to him about it--it was a physiological impossibility." He refused to investigate the evidence offered that it could be done. Bigotry we have with us always. Men who form their opinions in advance of investigation and, who, then refuse to investigate, lest they have their opinions swept away, are all too common.
The American People's Encyclopedia says that the survival time of acute "starvation" (complete abstinence from all food save water) is forty days in man. It says that in individual men the survival time (as determined in laboratory "starvation" experiments) ranges from 17 to 76 days. It is not likely that any such laboratory experiments have ever been made. One thing we may be certain of; namely, the survival times given are not accurate. A baby may survive more than seventeen days of fasting. Numerous fasters have not only survived but benefitted by fasts lasting longer than 76 days.
While man is, apparently, not capable of fasting for such long periods as are many of the lower animals, many long fasts have been recorded in man. "Modern science" is said to be very skeptical of these reported long fasts; but "modern science," despite its proud boasting of its experimental methods and its readiness to investigate, is not willing to investigate fasting. If any of the nit-wits who are called scientists really desire to observe and study long fasts at firsthand, it may be easily arranged. There is no excuse for either doubt or incredulity when knowledge may be had.
In this connection, it should be noted that the so-called authorities look well upon the reported fast of 65 days underwent by Marion Crabtree, of Savanna, Ill., in 1911 at the age of 101, because, they say, old people need much less energy than younger ones; accordingly, they say, old people would be the best of all people to take long fasts.
Long fasts have been reported that were never undergone and that, on their very faces, were frauds. There is the famous case of Mary J. Fancher, of Brooklyn, N. Y. She undertook a fast in 1866. Her fast is reported to have lasted for thirteen years. Under test conditions all such fasts have failed. In 1807 Ann Moore, the "Staffordshire Wonder," was reported to have gone without food for more than two years. Under test conditions Ann gave up her fast after nine days of real fasting. Then she confessed that during her long fast, she had been supplied all the time with smuggled food.
Miss Maria de Conceicas, a young girl of about seventeen years of age, of Mendes, Brazil, fasted some years ago for the "cure" of epilepsy. At the time her fast was reported in the New York Journal, she was said to have fasted for six months, greatly puzzling her physicians. Her fast continued for some time thereafter. After six months without food a medical examination showed: "Pulse, temperature and respiration, normal, complete vacuity of the bowels; all organs perfect; repugnance to all kinds of food." At one time previous to this she fasted two months. I personally have some doubts about this case.
The above picture of a girl, was taken on the 28th day of a fast she underwent in Dr. Shelton's Health School in January and February, 1933. She was 11 years and 4 months of age at the start of the fast.
The fact that fakers have pretended to fast for such incredibly long times, and have been revealed as frauds, however, is not evidence that real fasting for prolonged periods has not been done. A brief mention of a few fasts in men and women will help to dispel the lingering doubts about the ability of man to go without food for long periods of time. Muni Shri Misrilji, a member of the Jan religious sect, underwent a fast which lasted 132 days, to impress upon his co-religionists the need for unity. Although this fast was not carefully watched, there seems to be no doubt that the man actually fasted this long. In 1828 the Parisian medical journals reported the case of a young girl who had typhoid fever and who took no food for 110 days.
Robert de Malone, founder of the Cistercian brotherhood, being overcome with grief upon hearing of the death of a female friend, decided to follow her into the henceforth. His religion forbade direct suicide, so he retired to a mountain-lodge of a relative, and abstained from food, hoping that one of his frequent fainting fits would result in death. After seventy days without food, he began to suspect the miraculous interposition of Providence, reconsidered his resolution and resumed eating. He began taking his food in half ounce installments and soon recovered from his great emaciation. He led an active life for the next fourteen years, supervising an ever-increasing number of scattered monasteries.