Is Breatharianism one of the most dangerous cults of modern times?
Humans, as many learn in biology class, are not plants. As a species, human beings need both food and water in order to survive. If you’re in a situation where you are suddenly cut off from a food/water supply, then you have three days until you die of dehydration. If you have found water, then it’s going to be about three weeks without food before you die. Breatharianism, however, believes that it’s possible for a human to be a plant.
By a human being a plant, modern-day Breatharianism followers believe that they just need air and sunlight. Basically, Breatharianism is asking you to starve yourself. Largely today, it’s marketed as a “diet”, but it just sounds like a cult. It’s a dangerous one as well with a very high chance of death. Again, you need food and water for life.
How long has this been going on?
Surprisingly, that’s a pretty loaded question. The sort of living off the universe’s energy is something thrown around in most religions. There are stories of saints or monks or Buddha fasting for a very long time and surviving. So the idea has definitely made its way into other faiths, though none of them are telling you to go and starve yourself. The idea of it has been around for a very long time.
Breatharians, however, believe that this is something anyone can learn and put into practice as a substitute for the basic necessities of life. Many scientists, however, believe that the way of life for the Breatharians, who are mainly described as a type of radical diet, is dangerous. As the British Dietetic Association so astutely points out, “the basic fact is we all need food and liquid in our diet to live.”
There is actual science behind the movement. Yoshinori Ohsumi, who won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Medicine, researched fasting and how it can kickstart healing in the body. On the other hand, this is a controlled fast and not a major lifestyle change that makes you eliminate the basic necessities of life.
The modern-day Breatharian movement has been going since around the 1970s. It basically boils down when you move past your body’s supposed need for food or water, then you can develop your own peace and inner harmony.
The faces of the movement today are a life-coaching duo, Akahi Ricardo and Camila Castillo. The pair are, unsurprisingly, controversial figures due to their claims that they go with only the occasional bit of juice, but otherwise live on air, sunlight, and universal vibes. They even have their own Snopes page, which debunks the couple’s claims.
Ricardo and Castillo host small Breatharian retreats around the world. According to a GQ article, where the writer went to one of these. They begin with the 8 Day Process, which is an initiation fast. They start the retreat by fasting on juice for one day. For three days, participants go without food or water. The other four days, it’s just juice. There are no doctors present there.
The 8 Day Process is the gentle version of the more famous and dangerous 21 days Breatharian fasts. You have one week without food or water. Two weeks are just juice or water fasting. The 8 Day Process, when the article was written in 2017, cost a little over $1k USD per person.
Ricardo and Castillo are just the latest faces for the movement, blending new age attitudes together. But there are some disastrous consequences with Breatharianism. Most notably, we’re talking about Verity Linn.
Out of all the deaths linked to Breatharianism, Verity Linn is definitely the most famous. The 49-year-old Australian woman read about the movement online and was eager to try it out. She went on a camping trip to a remote part of Scotland where she put the Breatharian teachings into practice.
Linn died of starvation. Her body was discovered two weeks later. Her story is just one of many that come out over the years about those who practiced Breatharianism.
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