Living without eating and drinking: breatharianism, the worrying practice that is rising

Booming, breatharianism, halfway between meditation, fasting and yoga, is today one of the most powerful conduits leading to sectarian aberrations. A label that does not discourage its followers.

Between existential fatigue, anxiety about the future and decline of traditional religionsthe era signs the New Age comeback, shamanism and alternative medicine. Among the anthology of decried practices, breatharianism displays increasingly alarming signs of sectarian aberrations.

What is breatharianism?

the breatharianism, also called inedia or pranism (from the term prana which means “breath” in Sanskrit), characterizes the absence of absorption of food and drink. The practice is based on the belief that it is possible to live without ingesting food, sometimes for years. This belief is based on mythical and mystical writings and legends, often born in religious contexts. The figures regularly highlighted are Schiedam Lidwinea Dutch Catholic saint who died in 1433, known to have supposedly fed only on the Eucharist for long periods, Therese NeumannGerman Catholic mystic who died in 1962, famous for his stigmata, or even Prahlad Jania sadhu (holy man) Indian Jain who died in 2020 who claimed not to have eaten or drunk anything for 80 years. Remember that medicine estimates at 60 days, 85 in rare cases, the possible survival time without solid food.

To date, very few cases have been followed up clinically, only to be quickly suspected of fraud. This is particularly the case of Prahlad Janisuspected of having benefited from lax observations on the part of the medical community, due to his religious affiliation.

According Le Figaro, there were 40,000 followers of the practice in the world, including 400 in France, in 2017. Breatharians would be much more numerous today, but associations are struggling to quantify the trend. In France, it’s the Australian Ellen GreveJasmuheen of his name of guru, who contributes massively to the diffusion of the movement via its international network, the MAPS (in French, the “Movement for an awakened and positive society”). She claims to have swallowed nothing since 1993, feeding exclusively on the “force of divine love”, but was forced to interrupt the experiment filmed for an Australian TV show of prolonged fasting on the advice of a doctor who noted his extreme dehydration after four days. For the followers, pranism, a “sacred process”, differs from fasting, since the practice would make it possible to “feed” on air and light. To date, breatharianism has officially caused the death of 7 people in Australia, Germany and Scotland according to Miviludes.

A phenomenon that continues to fascinate and feeds the imagination of many works of fiction. On Netflix, the Irish film will be released on November 16 The Wonder, adapted from the novel of the same name published in 2016 by Emma Donoghue. The film tells the story of English nurse Lib Wright called by a community of devotees to the Irish Midlands in 1862, 13 years after the Great Famine, to observe the case of Anna O’Donnell, a girl who would ate nothing for 4 months.

A practice denounced by Miviludes

In its report of more than 200 pages delivered in early November 2022the Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and the Fight against Sectarian Aberrations (Miviludes) notes the “unprecedented increase in acts of a sectarian nature” in France. According to the organization, the referrals observed in 2021 (4,020) would have increased by 50% compared to 2015.

In the crosshairs of Miviludes, breatharianism and the multiplication of fasts for spiritual or therapeutic purposes. The organization specifies in its report: “The groups or individuals at the origin of sectarian aberrations are numerous to resort to it. They organize particularly expensive fasting courses, generally lasting a week and taking place in rural areas. (…) Fasts for therapeutic purposes are first conducted in a search for well-being. They generally take place during one-week stays, in rural areas around the practice of fasting and walking, associated with various services, including yoga, shiatsu, kinesiology, neurolinguistic programming (NLP) , hypnosis, sophrology, floral elixirs, rebirth, shamanism, bio-breathing, biomagnetism, etc. The organizers report training in naturopathy. »

Other so-called therapeutic practices are often associated with it, such as the use of food supplements or raw food consumption, practices that are all the more likely to lead to “dramatic situations” as the supervisors are generally sorely lacking in qualifications. Miviludes recalls that by “depriving the individual of food, he may find himself particularly vulnerable due to the weakening of his body and therefore of his mind. »

In France, the activity of Jasmuheen is closely monitored when conferences and courses are scheduled on our territory. On TikTok, the #prana already has over 85 million views.

Living without eating and drinking: breatharianism, the worrying practice that is rising