Nourishment is a core theme for anyone incarnating as a mammal. Part of the definition of being a mammal is that we begin life being nourished by the body of another mammal. We are part of a vast food chain, many parts of it invisible to our ordinary perception, and nourishment, in many senses, is crucial to our incarnation.
The first and most obvious aspect of nourishment is the food we eat. Food is a part of the external universe that we take into our bodies, and out of which we fuel and form our bodies. Depending on your version of physics, matter is congealed energy, information and consciousness. All food is a stepping down or transduction of solar energy. Plants use solar energy and convert it, step it down into carbohydrates, protein and fat. Food that is closer to the original sunlight, such as an orange we just pulled from a tree, has a bioenergetic vitality not to be found in some factory-fresh snack wrapped in cellophane at the gas station. Rudolph Steiner said that most people couldn’t become conscious past a certain point because they ate a diet too inferior to support a higher state of consciousness. The food we choose to nourish ourselves with affects us on every level from the cellular to the spiritual.
What is sold as “real” food is often a food-like substance, a laboratory concoction deceptively packaged and marketed.
“Real food for Real People.”
— Ad slogan for Nutrisystem, a company that sends pre-packaged diet foods to subscribers through the mail.
(What Real Food looks like.)
Food is not the only thing we nourish ourselves with. As social mammals we need to be nourished by relationships, and we also nourish ourselves by places, things, culture — movies, music, books, events, journeys, and so forth; all of these are foods or medicines entering our inner cauldron and each of them exists somewhere in the spectrum of nourishing to toxic. But this is still only the passive aspect of nourishment. The active inflection of nourishment concerns the question: What and whom do we nourish? We cannot just be eaters and consumers of various forms of nourishment; we must also be nourishers. On what and on whom do you bestow your nourishment? If you have trouble answering that question, you are not being honest with yourself. What you nourish is what you spend time on, what you spend your money on, your sexual chi, your bodily energy, your life energy, your emotional/cognitive/spiritual energy. What you choose to nourish, like what you nourish yourself with, exists on a spectrum of nourishing to toxic. We can spend our time and money supporting internet porn sites, or we can spend our time helping those who have the potential and will to become conscious. In the spectrum of people we could choose to nourish there are some who are greedy black holes who will take you for whatever you are worth and use the energy they are given for their insatiable appetites, possibly generating collateral damage in the process. The most force-multiplying, synergistic, and symbiotic choice for bestowing nourishment is on those who are themselves capable of being illumined, because through them you help to illumine the whole world.
As is pointed out in hexagram 27, “Providing Nourishment,” you can tell whether a person is inferior or superior based on what they choose to nourish themselves with, and on what or on whom they choose to bestow their nourishment.