All they need is the air ...

BBC News, September 22, 1999

Members of a little-known cult claim that all they need is the air that they breathe.

Breatharians claim to be nourished by prana, a Hindu term for the universal life force.

Their leader Jasmuheen, a 42-year-old New Age guru from Brisbane formerly known as Ellen Greve, says she has eaten little more than herbal tea, juice and an occasional biscuit since 1993. She instead draws energy from prana and meditation.

Yet the cult has been implicated in at least two deaths.

The most recent, Australian-born Verity Linn, 49, was found dead in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands on 16 September.

Police believe she was following the Breatharians' 21-day fast.

A diary belonging to Ms Linn recorded her last days as she refused to eat or drink, believing it would "spiritually cleanse" her body and "recharge her both physically and mentally".

Another woman died in an Australian hospital after following the Breatharian 21-day fast.

Pure energy

Breatharianism relies on light and taking in only tiny amounts of food and liquid.

Followers believe that the energy they save on metabolising food and fluid can be redirected into physical, emotional and spiritual energy.

"We are neither a religion nor a cult, just concerned citizens who have experienced from our association with the Ascended Masters, and many other great Ones and teachers," Jasmuheen says on her website.

"Our work is to share some cosmic, yet intelligent alternatives that offer pragmatic solutions to many of the challenges that face the world today."

She claims to have hit upon a solution to world hunger - that in time, we can all learn to live on air alone.

The Breatharians' findings - based on surveys of those who have completed the 21-day fast and interviews with alternative health practitioners - will be published in late 1999.

Jasmuheen plans to send the finished report to agencies such as the United Nations and UNICEF, "to provide a step-by-step programme to eliminate world hunger, improve global health and well being, [and] decrease pollution".

She hopes to overturn the "outdated" view of the majority of the world's population that 'if you don't eat, you must die'.

Spread the word

Many of the Breatharians' ideas are based on the teachings of St Germain, a 16th century European monk and alchemist, through his writings and "more recent channelled material".

His profile on the website is quite a read: "Many would know of St Germain as the writer of William Shakespeare's plays. Previous embodiments are said to include Merlin and Christopher Columbus".

The learned saint himself encouraged Jasmuheen to promote Breatharianism, using modern-day technology and media contacts to spread the word world-wide.

'Not strictly a cult'

Michelle Shirley, spokeswoman for the Cult Information Centre, says that although Breatharianism is not strictly a cult, the centre has been monitoring its activities.

"A cult uses coercive teaching. We don't have any evidence that that is being used here, or that it isn't being used.

"Jasmuheen is a spiritual teacher who spreads her words through the Internet and her books. So it is not an organisation that you join, it is more fluid than that."

Friends and families of Breatharians have contacted the centre five times in the past year.

They are encouraged to be as non-confrontational as possible, as Jasmuheen's followers are told that they should not be swayed by negative comments.

"We are particularly concerned about any implication that if it doesn't work, it is the person's fault," Ms Shirley says.

"That implies there is nothing wrong with the Breatharians' teachings."

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