I. What Is Fasting?
Fasting has been looked upon throughout the ages as a means of spiritual growth in the practices of many religions; as a protest against civil injustices or as a means of protesting against the alleged or real injustices of the law of the land; as a means of binding an oath to seek revenge; in defending one's honor; and as a means of preparation for surgical procedures in more recent years. Fasting involves complete abstinence from food or more lenient diets partially excluding certain food substances.
Fasting as it is seen in the readings, however, is perhaps different from any of the usual concepts with which we have become familiar. It is a setting aside of our own concepts of how something should be done. It is casting out of our inner selves any thought of what we would have done, rather allowing ourselves to become channels through which God may work. It is a supplying of energy to the body which would allow coordination of organs and systems, which would bring about adequate assimilation and elimination. In purifying a mind which is in a state of mental confusion, fasting is a mechanism of the mind and not of the body or the diet. For prayer and fasting is not what man usually thinks of it-doing without food-but rather it is man bringing himself to low estate, abasing himself in order that the Creative Force of God might be made manifest.
The following four extracts may give us a more rounded commentary on this from the readings:
...fasting... is as the Master gave: Laying aside our own concepts of how or what should be done at this period and let the Spirit guide. Get the truth of fasting! ... to be sure, overdone brings shame to self, as overindulgence in anything - but the true fasting is casting out of self that as "I would have done [replacing with] but as Thou, 0 Lord, seest fit. . ." (295-6)
Hence, as the entity may ask, what about the spiritualizing of these? This is well, but this comes through direct reactions. As has been indicated, such are healed with fasting and prayer. But what does fasting and prayer mean here?
The supplying of those coordinations of the activities of the physical organs with the elements sufficient not only for producing the necessary forces, but for the carrying away and eliminating of the drosses that have already been created - and that find their reaction or manifestation in the depleted feeling that arises in the body forces. (3062-1)
... purifying of mind is of the mind, not of the body. For, as the Master gave, it is not that which entereth in the body, but that which cometh out that causes sin. It is what one does with the purpose, for all things are pure in themselves, and are for the sustenance of man, body, mind, and soul, and remember - these must work together ... (5401-1)
... yet this must be approached with prayer and fasting ... Not as man counts fasting - doing without food, but one that would abase himself that the Creative Force might be made manifest. This will be presented even as such is made known to those studying such phenomena, as physically called, in the process of operation.
Q-10. Should we take this up with the Scientific Society of America?
A-10. No! Take it up rather with God! (254-46)
II. Arguments Against Fasting
There certainly are those conditions wherein fasting should not be attempted, because a variety of disturbances within the body might be produced. In 2684-1, for instance, a physical condition in addition to a disturbed mental condition was approached by a 43-year-old woman with a fast. In her case, it produced an unbalanced chemical condition within the body that prevented proper assimilation of foods and created gas in the duodenum, which in turn caused pain and irritation. An excess of acid was formed and the subsequent disturbances to the superficial and deep circulation brought about lesions in the sympathetic ganglia. These in turn reflected throughout the nervous system and produced a variety of different symptoms.
In another case, , there was fear of cancer. The question was asked if there was any malignant growth in the man's body. The answer was that conditions of "plethora" existed in pockets of the lymphatic circulation throughout portions of the body which Cayce indicated were not yet malignant but which could be if there was not persistence in following the suggestions he had given. He stated that there should be no serious diets or activities because such create a strain on the body - and would occur in fasting or in following certain diets for a long period of time. He suggested that this person be well-balanced in his diets. Thus, fasting should be abstained from in cases where there are definite abnormalities of the body suggesting lack of proper substances.
In a different condition - uterine myoma - the woman had already fasted two weeks with nothing but orange and tomato juice and she complained of a coated tongue and indigestion. The rather obvious indication was that the fasting caused excessive amounts of poisons and wastes in the system which were detrimental rather than beneficial in this specific instance. Cayce's suggestion was to:
Remove those conditions by the application of those properties as have been outlined, and by the manipulation necessary to cause the proper absorption of condition in system. We will find the growth (as is called) reducing, rather than that as is caused by poison in the system, and the amount as is seen that exists after fasting, as indicated, is that the condition is of the nature that may be removed by the absorption method, if there is the proper administration of conditions to cause, or produce, or bring about, those conditions in system where - through these may be accomplished. Hence, do as has been given for this, rather than that of the diet that weakens the vitality of the system ... (283-3)
There were still those who came rather consistently to Cayce for readings, almost insisting on fasting in the conventional manner.  was like that and in his fifth reading he was put off in his attempt at a purifying fast until his body was more in proper balance and lesions had been removed from the ganglia.
There are many, then, who should not fast in the manner of abstaining from food. Cayce's concept of fasting mentioned earlier becomes more understandable and attractive here and emphasizes that mental conditions and disturbances cannot be made right through the mechanism of bodily fasting.
III. When Should We Fast, and How?
Certainly fasting in the traditional sense does have its place. In some situations and when the body is disturbed from certain causes, a fast can be beneficial. A 32-year-old woman, , had a bad case of bronchitis with loss of voice and what Cayce described as a "superacid" condition throughout her body. She was given adjunctive therapy in the way of stimulating the eliminations to remove congestion in the trachea and the bronchi, but interestingly was told to fast following an otherwise extreme regimen:
Keep away from foods! Keep rather only water, milk and bread, for at least five to six days. This will be necessary if we are to eliminate the conditions from the body. (1850-3)
Then the young lady was instructed to go on a three-day apple diet with half a teacup of olive oil afterward, and then begin to eat a normal diet - not too rich nor too highly seasoned - after the cleansing was completed. Thus it can be seen that in this particular case cleansing of the physical body was the objective.
Obesity seems to be the most logical condition in which one should practice fasting. The readings substantiate this in one case of a woman, overweight and having trouble with vomiting, who was given some sharp advice:
When there is regurgitation, when there is the overloading in the system no matter whether it's just plain water - the body wouldn't starve if it fasted for forty days! It would really be good for it! but be severe the body! but overloading the system overtaxes the body. (5583-2)
It must be noted, however, that not many of those individuals consulting Cayce for obesity ended up with advice to fast. They were instead directed to take Welch's grape juice, two ounces in one ounce of water 20 minutes before each meal. This is one condition, however, for which fasting was suggested and consequently might be considered.
Some other aspects of fasting from the readings indicate the subtlety of the fasting concept. For instance in homosexuality, a reading recommended physical hardships. Denying spending money on one's indulgences, sleeping on a hard bed, eating very little, taking no sweets, not going to movies or entertainment, and going "for days only on bread and water, but do it of thyself if ye would succeed, and ye may become even a greater pianist than Hofmann." (5056- 1) This again becomes a fast for a specific purpose of denying the body when there has been an obvious history of lack of self-denial.
Fasting then is well in its place and perhaps its place is not nearly as common as practices throughout the world have led us to believe. We must keep in mind that it is also important to supply our bodies with the energies to build body forces so that life may continue normally as expressions of the Spirit within. (See 5326-1.)
For the body is indeed the temple of the living God. Therein ye may meet Him in prayer, in meditation, in psalm singing, yea in the activities of fasting, in not only the foods but in opening the mind, the consciousness, consciously to that which may flow in from music, from prayer, those influences which may flow in from deep meditation, which may be gained in having regular periods for this shutting out from self of the voices or the sounds of nature and listening to the still small voice within. (3620-2)
Could we not say, then, that fasting physically may be needed for physical conditions and is the withholding of physical food; fasting mentally is that condition already described where we abase self-the ego-so that Creative Forces might be made manifest; and spiritual fasting is shutting out even the sounds of nature in listening to the still small voice within.
[Note: The preceding commentary was written by William A. McGarey, M.D. and is excerpted from the Physician's Reference Notebook, Copyright © 1968 by the Edgar Cayce Foundation, Virginia Beach, VA.]