Food Effects on the Mind & Spirit

“Particular energies exist within each food that affect our physical functioning, the nature of our thoughts, and even the expansion of our consciousness”

For thousands of years different cultures have been aware that the types of food we eat have subtle effects on the mind. Herodotus, the Greek historian, reported that grain-eating vegetarian cultures surpassed meat-eat-ing cultures in art, science, and spiritual development. It was his view that meat-eating nations tended to be more warlike and more focused on expression of anger and sensual passions. It is said that the ancient Egyptian priesthood ate specific foods to increase their spiritual sensitivity and awareness.In India today, the Brahmin priests still prepare their own food and eat separately from people of other social classes. They also keep themselves on a vegetarian diet that is aimed at enhancing the subtle spiritual qualities of the mind. The implication of this practice is that the dietary patterns of a social group affect the spiritual consciousness of that group. The logical extension of this is that the type of diet a whole nation follows may affect the mental state of that nation. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of biogenic gardening, the Waldorf School, and Anthroposophical medicine, felt that the spiritual progress of humanity as a whole would be enhanced by a progressive increase in a vegetarian eating pattern. Conversely, he felt that overemphasis on a flesh-eating diet would exert a negative influence regard-ing an interest in spiritual life.
Ayurvedic physicians and yogis have been aware for thousands of years that a dietary pattern specifically affects the state of a person’s mind. They divided the types of foods and the states of mind into three categories (gunas): sattvic, rajasic,and tamasic. A sattvic state of mind is clear, peaceful, harmonious, and interested in spiritual life. Sattvic foods help to create this state.This is typified by the mental states of monks and nuns of many religious traditions. A rajasic state of mind is active, restless, worldly, and aggressive. Rajasic food creates this mental state. It is the diet for warriors and the stereotypical corporate executive. A tamasic mental state is lethargic, impulsive, cruel, violent, and morally and physically degenerate. It is the state of the stereotypical drug addict or criminal. Tamasic foods help to create this state of mind.Consciously or unconsciously, people tend to choose the diet that rein-forces and reflects their own mental and spiritual state of awareness. Spiritual aspirants have a tendency to gravitate to sattvic-centered diets. A sattvic dietis made of pure foods that keep the body-mind complex clear, balanced,harmonious, peaceful, and strong. Sattvic foods are easy to digest and resul tin a minimal accumulation of toxins in the system. In the Ayurvedic system of medicine these sattvic foods include all fruits, vegetables, edible greens, grasses, beans, raw milk, honey, and small quantities of rice or bread preparations. It is basically a vegetarian diet. From the Western Essene tra-dition and the spiritual nutrition perspective, a sattvic diet would be essentially a vegetarian diet with approximately 80% raw and 20% cooked foods. It is a diet with an abundance of different sprouts of legumes, grains, seeds,baby greens, and grasses; fresh fruits and vegetables; soaked nuts and seeds;grains, legumes, and honey.
Rajasic foods are more stimulating to the nervous system. They include coffee, green or black teas, tobacco, fresh meats, and large amounts of stimulating spices, such as garlic and peppers. These foods are sought as stimulants by people who consciously or unconsciously use them to help carryout worldly activities. The unbalanced stimulating effects on activity level may propel the eater of primarily rajasic foods into a state of agitation, restlessness, and eventual burnout as these foods push the mind and body beyond their natural limits. Coffee addiction and hypoglycemia are typical imbalances that may result from a rajasic diet. Rajasic foods include flesh foods and spicy cooked foods with rich oily sauces. It is a diet that includes butter, cheese, eggs, sugar, and oily, fried foods. The taste-stimulating effects of these foods tend to distract one from inner, somatic messages and propel one outward into stimulating physical, emotional, and mental activities, but often in an unbalanced way.
Tamasic foods are stale, decayed, decomposed, spoiled, overcooked, left-over, heavily processed, and fast foods. They basically include what one might call synthetic foods. These foods are chemically treated with preservatives, pesticides, fungicides, artificial and processed sweeteners, artificial colors, sulfites, and nitrites, etc. Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs of today’s addicted society fall into the category of tamasic foods.Cocaine and amphetamines are initially rajasic in their stimulating effect,but the end result of long-term use is often an exhausted tamasic mental and physical state. The addicted mindset that accompanies cocaine oramphetamine abuse, even during the stimulation phase, falls more into the degenerate tamasic category. Any flesh foods that have not been freshly killed are tamasic foods because within a short time they begin putrefying.This includes almost all meats found in the supermarket. These foods have almost no positive energetic life force left in them. These foods do, how-ever, supply us with the toxic chemical breakdown products that adversely affect the functioning of our mind and irritate our nervous system. These foods accelerate premature aging and chronic degenerative disease. They tend to bring out the worst psychological characteristics because of the irritable, negative, lethargic state they create in us. The tamasic state that I am referring to can be described as that “raunchy, yuck” state that some people experience when they overeat, particularly of tamasic foods. While in this unbalanced energy condition it is difficult to meditate or be in harmony with one’s self or the environment.
If subtle channels of the body are not blocked due to undisciplined habits of eating and an immoderate lifestyle, the spiritualizing energy is able to act with its full force. This is a key connection between nutrition and spiritual life. With an appropriate diet, the transforming and purifying action of the spiritual energy takes place faster and more easily than if oneis not on a supportive diet. It is just that a primarily live-food, vegetarian diet enhances the awakening of, sensitivity to, and flow of the spiritualizing process of God’s grace and light.