Navigation bar--use text links at bottom of page.

We Want to Live

Volume One--Out of the Grips of Disease and Death (the story)
& Volume Two--Healthfully (the facts)

by Aajonus Vonderplanitz
(1997) Carnelian Bay Castle Press.

Review by Kirt Nieft
Copyright © 1998 by Kirt Nieft. All rights reserved.
Contact author for permission to republish.

As indicated in the subtitle, the book is divided into two parts. The first is the mother of all conversion/testimonial stories (125 pages worth). The second starts with a 5-page intro by Ron Strauss and is followed by an encyclopedic listing of foods and preparations (23 pages), then on to 90 pages of "food remedies," and then 10 pages of "health methodologies." (The "We Want to Live" web page contains the table of contents in more detail.) Finally, there are 33 pages of appendices (A-X) which are not labeled by topic but serve largely as extended footnotes of material from the "testimonial" section.

Volume One's "the story" is told as first-person narrative. The present-tense story starts with a phone call notifying Aajonus (pronounced like "homogenous" without the "hum") that his long-estranged son has been in a severe auto accident and because of extensive head injuries is not expected to survive the next 24 hours. After stocking up on Californian raw honey, butter, papayas, etc., Aajonus flies out to stay with his son. By stealthfully replacing his son's medications with raw-food recipes (initially a mixture of raw honey and butter placed under his tongue while he is in a coma) eventually the brain damage is miraculously repaired to a large degree. Along the way he battles with the hospital administration and policies.

We learn through extensive (and somewhat confusing) flashbacks of his own recovery from cancer and of the recovery of others due to his (mostly) successful nutritional counseling, and even hear about an out-of-body near-death experience (also part of his "conversion") where the tennis shoes he is wearing melt onto the room's radiator. We are further privy to his conversion to raw animal foods (he had previously been fruitarian/vegan). After being unsuccessfully coached on the benefits of raw meat by Elk-of-the-Black-Moon (the spirit of Black Elk himself?) at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation vision quest (this bit is confined to an appendix for no apparent reason), it takes a pack of wild coyotes to convert him: He has decided to fast to death in the desert instead of returning to a diseased civilization (fruitarians love stuff like this, no? ;-) ) but the coyotes have other plans for him, eventually killing and offering him a rabbit which he eats, and after which, of course, he is reborn.

This is just the tip of the story's iceberg, though. We learn not only about his troubled past and the "mandatory" health problems, but also about his teenage parenthood and "divorce," and in general of his path from angry youth to health-seeker to "raw is law." And he usually has some sort of detox going on: a poison mushroom took him many years to completely cure from, and an Electro Dermal Screening Device (whatever that might be) provided him ill-effects, including a most dramatic detox of bone epoxy used on his skull during previous surgery for an injury. The bonding with his estranged son, and his interaction with the hospital staff, family, and friends (including half a "pick-up" story about a woman in a health-food store which he never gets back to and finishes!) make the narrative surprisingly readable. In a Reader's Digest "Drama in Real Life" sort of way. ;-)

As I've said, this is the mother of all testimonial/conversion stories ever put to print. Vonderplanitz's new-age sensibilities lead to a high-pitched "Awww, come on!" reaction from a fellow like me, but it is a whale of a tale, and one suspects mostly true, or at least believed so by the author, who indeed makes an endearing and humble-humble narrator on such a journey. (Highlight: getting the yogis all revved up for the "pleasures of the flesh" by feeding them a diet of avos and citrus. "Awww, come on!" ;-) )

The section surveying foods, remedies, and therapies is much more troubling, and perhaps ironically much more intriguing to me. I am reminded of Dr. Henry G. Bieler's Food is Your Best Medicine, Herbert Shelton's Fasting Can Save Your Life, and most every new-age remedy book I've ever seen--all rolled into one, and with a RAF (raw-animal-food) slant to boot! Mr. Vonderplanitz does indeed seem to have a cure/recipe for every affliction from cancer to athlete's foot, but at the same time he is big on following your intuition/craving/instinct--and that what works for one will not for another. His "theoretical explanations" are at once intriguing and head-slapping. Can you figure out which parts of the examples below are which to this reviewer?

The thought of delicious, heavily buttered garlic bread came to mind. I knew it was instinct, my body telling me what is needed to raise my blood pressure. I went back into my apartment and ate a raw clove of garlic with French bread and lots of unsalted butter. Within moments I felt better, satisfied. I decided from that moment on that at least 70% of my diet would consist of raw foods. (p. 48)

Fat resins and residues from cooked or processed green foods first collect in the intestines, becoming impacted. Secondly, they collect as gummy resins in the glands (as in prostatitis, leading to prostate cancer), and thirdly, they collect as gummy resins in the brain (as in Alzheimer's disease).
XXXThe resins and residues from cooked or processed red fruits and vegetables most often collect in the lymph and skin, causing acne, sickly-looking tongues, hard and brittle bones, and deep lesions in the skin when the weather turns cold....
XXXPeople who lack the enzyme-mutations for digesting, assimilating, and utilizing cooked or processed yellow foods most often look pasty around the nose and eyes, and have very slow digestion, especially after eating a cooked or processed yellow or orange food.
XXXPeople who lack enzyme-mutations for eating all three food groups--cooked or processed green, red (including orange) and yellow (including orange)--have a predisposition toward HIV positive." (pp. 136-137)

It is believed that whole raw eggs should not be eaten because albumin in egg white binds with biotin (part of the B-complex) in the body, causing side-effects. Egg yolk contains plenty of biotin to be utilized with albumin in egg white. The albumin/biotin combination is helpful because it helps to dissolve biocarbons and helps muscles retain carbohydrates. Whole raw eggs contain a wonderful, natural balance when eaten in a normal diet (whether the diet is raw or not).
XXXIn my experience with animals including human, who ate only the yolk and not the white (along with other foods on a raw diet), metabolism was considerably increased, usually withOUT increasing energy. The side-effects were that often hunger increased to a frenzy and dispositions tended to be irritable. It has been my experience in every case and condition that eating the whole raw egg was more nourishing, and better for metabolic and emotional balance. (p. 146)

And so on. His theoretical explanations (a la Bieler's, and beyond!) seem like wholesale additions to modern nutritional myth and folklore. The lack of references (or intellectual humility, for that matter) severely limits his explanations, to my mind. Yet, given the paucity of info/experience of folks eating RAF over the long term, I am bound by curiosity to his experiences consuming large amounts of RAF, and his "clients" doing the same.

For anyone with the slightest interest in RAF, We Want To Live is almost must reading, but I would hope that any reader would be skeptical of the claims and explanations (and further hope that you don't become a "raw butter mixed with raw honey" junkie!, though there are worse addictions in this world to be sure ;-) ). A non-instincto take on RAF is always interesting to someone like me who is steeped in instincto lore. Ronald Schmid's Native Nutrition is far more informative and well-written, but lacks any of the first-person stuff in We Want To Live. But in such a paltry arena as RAF, beggars can't be choosers as far as the books they might read. And there are many who prefer the testimonial approach much more than I do.

Mr. Vonderplanitz is reportedly a very polished speaker, and with his impressive physique (never works out, of course ;-) ) and commanding presence is very persuasive in the few public appearances he has given so far. But, if he expects to be taken at all seriously, he will need to document his claims, be much more specific in his methodology (if there exist any specifics to his methodology), and back way off with his naive "theoretical explanations."

Smooth talk and a likeable presence are probably enough for the uncritical minds of most folks into fringe diets--and Mr. Vonderplanitz is almost assured a small fringe following. But if he hopes to impress the mainstream (or get any attention from serious researchers) with the importance of his approach, he will have to provide documentation along with anecdote. He will have to provide a verifiable methodology as well as a winning smile.

For more on Aajonus Vonderplanitz and his approach to eating and health, see the "We Want to Live" website.

--Kirt Nieft

Before writing to Beyond Veg contributors, please be aware of our
email policy about what types of email we can and cannot respond to.

Back to Instincto and RAF Book Reviews
Back to Re-Examining Instinctive Eating

   Beyond Veg home   |   Feedback   |   Links