It’s the simple concept that a particularly enlightened being could exist on nourishment from air and sunlight. Another term for it is Inedia. The idea is not new, having been the forte of Eastern Mystics and Catholic Saints, but the concept held a new sway in the latter half of the twentieth century. All science and nutrition aside, this is one of the accounts of Peter Leslie’s brush with Breatharianism.
Before the interview begins, I think it best to let you know that Pete has the capacity to tell stories that get told by other people. That can sound very simple but it’s complex in that Pete unknowingly perpetuates a sort of folk lore of his own stories. True, half-true, or completely false, it never seems to matter. As the stories unfold, I always get the feeling that whether they’re true or not, I don’t care. I’m far more fascinated with what’s happening in the story and usually tears of laughter have gathered.
I met with Pete over a few drinks where we discussed his encounters with Breatharianism. The interview follows.
How did this all start for you?
I moved to the US from Australia when I was around 20, in the early 70’s or so. I was surfing and someone gave me this book, Arnold Ehret’s Mucusless Diet Healing System. It’s a mucusless diet, and that seemed like a good idea.
Someone gave you the book and you started the diet?
How long were you on it?
What’s the Professors’ diet about?
Professor Arnold Ehret, yes, that’s his name. It always got to me, he wrote it in the 1920’s or something and it was scientific. He talked about fasting. That was what most of the book was about. It was a cleansing diet to remove all the mucus that builds up in the body from certain foods. That’s what got me interested I guess. It was the fasting.
When I began fasting I would feel these incredible surges of energy and I could go four or five days without eating in a regular week. When we began fasting in the desert, it was easier to go up to a week or so.
I have noticed that as well, in small times of not eating, that there is some sort of energy surge after the hunger subsides. We should ask a doctor why that happens.
Anyway, you felt a surge of energy?
Yeah it was strange and it felt really good. So going off of good ol’ Arnold Ehret, I became a fruitarian.
You only ate fruit?
Yeah. But, more specifically, it was a diet that meant that we could only eat things that came off of trees or bushes. We couldn’t eat things from the ground.
So tomatoes were ok? You weren’t worried about the, “Is is it a fruit or a vegetable debate?”
No, we didn’t care about that. We could eat tomatoes and any other fruit that grew in a bush or on a tree.
And how long were you a fruitarian?
Five years as well. It was a long time and that’s when I began working on becoming a Breatharian.
Did you ever achieve living on air?
No, not at all. It was a place to get to of sorts. But the fasting was the main point. Looking back, it was a god complex. It was being a perfectionist, becoming perfect like a god. It was being in my 20’s I think.
How do you feel about it now?
It was something I did as a kid. Some sort of trying to become some completely other kind of being, I guess everything else was boring. The fasting was great and I still think it’s good every now and then to clean everything out. Being a Breatharian was about something different, but then one day, it just ended.
Can you tell me about when you stopped attempting to become a Breatharian?
Sure. We would go into Mexico to fast in the desert and I was out there for a week with a friend and for five years I hadn’t eaten anything except what hangs on trees and bushes. We went into a small town after the fast and the friend I was with had to use the bathroom. In Mexico then, they had those three story dingy shopping complexes full of stalls and the bathrooms were on the top. The first two floors were clothes and whatever and the third floor were the bathrooms and the food. We went to the third floor and my friend trotted off down this long aisle to go to the bathroom and I waited for him. I looked around and the aisles wouldn’t stop. They went forever and every stall was a little mamacita with amazing food. Food went on forever. He was in the bathroom for awhile and something snapped in me. I couldn’t take it.
I ate. I ate everything I could and that was really not a good idea. I just couldn’t stop. The food was so good and it was like I was in some kind of fucking trance and I just ate and ate.
Was it good?
It was beautiful.
I don’t know, I just stood there really hungry and the last five years kind of just faded away. I don’t remember but I think I said, “Fuck it.” Without thinking I sat at the bar at one of these stalls and I ordered one of everything. By the time my friend came back I had plates and bowls piled in front of me and I was eating everything. My friend flipped, “Pete! What the fuck are you doing?” I’d been eating fruit for five years and hadn’t eaten anything at all in over a week.
The last thing you needed to be eating was a border town burrito from 1972.
I didn’t even think about that. I had no answer for him, I was just eating. He sat down as well and he was hungry so he ate. I remember we each ate a massive burrito, the kind from the street. Then we got up and went outside.
What happened after that?
We got sick, somewhere beyond sick. We went to the van we drove and hopped in. We got so sick we had to go back to LA to go to the hospital. But we couldn’t drive. We spent three days vomiting and shitting in this van until we were able to drive. Three days of lying in our shit and vomit. There was shit all over the van. We couldn’t stop it coming and it was horrible. I couldn’t move.
But you made it back to LA?
Yeah, I don’t know how. We drove eventually and had to get back to a proper hospital. We pulled into LA a few days after we had just shit enough for the rest of our lives.
What did they say at the hospital?
The doctor came in after they took my tests to the lab. He was a very stodgy 1950’s looking doctor and he said to me with a smile, “The boys in the lab are having a field day with you. They’re finding bacteria they’ve never seen before.” Then with a completely straight face he said, “You can name the new bacteria if you want.”
Did you name them? Is there a peterlesliosis out there?
No I didn’t name them. I should have though. That would have been hilarious.
Why didn’t you name them, it would have been like naming a star.
Yeah, I guess so. Maybe I didn’t want to remember that.
Do you still fast?
End of interview.
When Eating a Wolf would like to thank Pete both for his interview and for the good times.