Starvation Diet

by Frank Thadeusz

Translated by Tom Mellett.

Starting with Easter 2004, Judith von Halle had to stop using tooth paste. Dental hygiene had unexpectedly led "to a delirium, where I hovered between life and death for four to five hours." A tiny quantity of alcohol contained in the tooth paste lubricant had provoked "the most violent symptoms of poisoning" in the organism of the Berlin resident.

But the fear of cavities and gum disease was moot. Suddenly it transpired, as the then 31-year old reports, that she had to abstain from eating anything anymore. Even a light leaf salad brought her to
the brink of collapse.

But even with her rejection of food, the strange transformation of her body was not at all complete. In the course of her remarkable metamorphosis, she also felt her sense perceptions become sharpened like those of a predatory animal.

All of a sudden, under favorable wind conditions, she "could hear exactly what was spoken hundreds of meters away." Also she could now "sniff out" in some miraculous way, whatever would occur in the digestive process of another organism --- what was eaten many hours before, where the food came from, what condition it was in, how it was processed."

Then spontaneously, some sort of bruising appeared on her hands and feet, yet these were just harbingers of a far grander spectacle: while elsewhere the republic's families were happily eating their Good Friday fish, she, in her own body, was empathizing with Jesus' suffering on the road to Golgatha --- including "the hours long abuse, the torturing, and finally, the death throes of the Crucifixion."

Ever since this time the "stricken one," according to her own testimony, hasn't eaten one bite of food. Her body will only tolerate water, and then only in modest amounts.

Is all of this just the wacko ravings of an attention-seeking egocentric?

Von Halle hardly goes out in public. Apart from a few rather heavy-to-digest lectures ("The Human Significance of the Phantom, the Resurrection Body") for an initiated public, this afflicted woman
shrinks from every encounter with strangers. She is carved out of completely different wood than the Italian priest Padre Pio --- her most well-known predecessor.

The farmer's wife, Theresa Neumann, from the Upper-Palatine region of Konnersreuth (NE Bavaria, close to the Czech border), was elevated to stardom by her believers in the 1920's because, on the annual day of the Lord's crucifixion, she was said to bleed consistently from her eyes, palms and breasts. As many as a thousand people a day would make pilgrimages to the house of Father Ferdinand, where the woman with the stigmata lived in a single room and would greet visitors in the yard outside. For many years, die-hard "Tessie" devotees have lobbied for the canonization of Neumann --- so far without success.

That pious woman obviously had virtues, which at that time encouraged a cult-like veneration: her whole life long, she resisted all earthly temptations and prayed only to the "Blessed Savior." Otherwise, the rosy-cheeked country girl was hard-working and slaved away with the scythe in the field.

The Bible-loving Theresa with her simple grade-school education is worlds apart from her successor. The polyglot academic von Halle lived for a time in Tel Aviv and in Houston, Texas, and she works as an architect. The tormented farm girl was given the admiring nickname of
"Passion Flower," so now the most recent one laden with the agonies of Christ might be personified as: "Passion-Lady 2.0."

She hardly fits the image of a Christian zealot: She was born into a Jewish family and feels obligated to the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. It is actually with his ideas that she explains the disturbing events to herself. Therefore the stigmatized body must "be that body which
human beings will carry beyond earth evolution into the Jupiter existence."

In the anthroposophical community of Germany, at the Berlin Center where Judith von Halle was employed as a secretary when the stigmata started, the affair soon set off a vast upheaval.

Bewildered by her own transformation, von Halle first went to work with bandaged hands --- but she feared the ridicule of her colleagues: "People would naturally think, after a few months, that this woman is eccentric because she always wears gloves." Within her circles of family and friends, people were surprised to see that she who had always loved to cook and eat, now doesn't even touch a plateful of bread rolls or even the cakes she used to bake herself.

The continuing cover-up gradually wore down the architect. She recognized that "this game of hide-and-seek was an absolute lie for me and for other people." So she revealed herself to a handful of trusted friends. They really found the phenomena so outlandish that they could hardly contain their enthusiasm to tell others about it. And so the word of the miracle spread like wildfire in anthroposophical circles.

he reactions ran the gamut from ostensible concern ("Might she be anorexic?") to brusque dismissal ("That has nothing to do with anthroposophy"). The supposed thoroughly punctured hands of von Halle must have indeed reminded Steiner-rookies of her relationship to the church and to Christianity --- something she did not fully explain.

The master [Steiner] rejected the liturgies of both Catholics and Protestants and totally believed in the need to do without an intermediary between the faithful and God. Nevertheless, in 1922, he
inspired the founding of the "Christian Community" --- a Christian church, which is associated with anthroposophy and operates without an obligatory canon of dogma.

On earth, anthroposophists certainly deem the writings of Steiner (over 350 volumes) as sacred, above everything else ---- even if the "augurs" occasionally strain the meaning of their interpretation.

However, the fact that von Halle dared to interpret her mystical torments through the teachings of the mastermind put the top leadership of the anthroposophists in a dither. Observers despairingly
reported: "The members of the Anthroposophical Society who are concerned with the destiny of Judith von Halle, whether closely or not, are helpless in face of the facts."

Furthermore a sudden anxiety cropped up: the mysterious affair could severely damage the image of eurythmy enthusiasts who at times eyed her suspiciously anyway. Unceremoniously, the weird lady and a few of her supporters were expelled from the Anthroposophical Center in Berlin-Dahlem.

The cleansing quickly came home to roost: several dozen followers of the bleeding lady simultaneously resigned their membership and with von Halle they created their own counter-society. Moreover one of the members of the commission recently appointed by the anthroposophical board (Vorstand in Germany) came to the to the conclusion that von Halle should be awarded funding so that she could work through her blood and hunger hardship in a working group.

As of now, however, she still remains in exile. Now the faithful are drumming up support to fund the ailing one: "It is well-known that, for health reasons, she can only give a few lectures."

The fact that the story of her alleged four year starvation diet is not really credible does not worry her followers at all. According to the present state of research, the end result of going without food is invariably death. So why is Judith von Halle still alive?

Her faithful hit back with this answer. "A proof of her living without food is not possible at all," asserted one of them and made reference to Therese Neumann, who had been dragged to a hospital for observation under orders from a bishop. --- something the resolute farmer's wife resisted with all her might. Rumors were never proved --- according to one story, a pot with stew was located not far from her room.

Judith von Halle's suspicious starvation story is not bolstered by a dramatic weight loss. Supposedly she only lost two pounds at the outset. With Therese Neumann, at first the pounds just rolled off her.
Later though, her figure suspiciously filled out again --- despite her abstinence.

The worshiper of Christ had a compelling explanation for it: "God doesn't do things halfway."

This article originally appeared in the leading German news magazine, Der Spiegel, in July 2008. does not guarentee the accuracy of its contents.