Still Ehret After All These Years by Gordon Kennedy
Still Ehret After All These Yearsby Gordon Kennedy
Originally published in Just Eat An Apple, Issue 8, October 1999.
It has been 22 summers since my last visit to the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Mortuary, final resting place of Professor Arnold Ehret (pronounced “air-it”), health teacher and author of the all-time classic, Mucusless Diet Healing System. Now, once again, I’m passing through the gates and driving up the green hills to one of the nicest places in Los Angeles. Famous names such as W.C. Fields and Louis L’Amour are displayed on some of the monuments here. This is a fitting location for Ehret’s memorial.
When I contacted Forest Lawn they told me only family members were permitted in the older buildings. I told them that “I’m one of Ehret’s boys. And, in fact, the professor has thousands of children all over the world.” It subsequently took phone calls, a letter, a special appointment and an escort, but they let me in.
Back in the spring of 1977 I paid visit to Mr. Fred Hirsch, faithful publisher of Arnold Ehret’s books, and the man with Ehret when he died. I had a lot of questions. I even wrote some of the questions down so I would not forget what I wanted to ask.
I arrived early in the morning at Ehret Literature Publishing Co. in Beaumont, California without an appointment or prior contact. I was changing a headlight on my van when Lucille Hirsch, Fred’s wife, appeared on the sidewalk at the entrance and asked what I needed. I told her I had come to see Fred Hirsch, and I had some questions. She said that “Mr. Hirsch is a very busy man.” And that since I didn’t have an appointment … But, wait, out of the door stepped 90-year-old Fred himself who asked “You’ve come to talk about the system?” “Yes, of course,” “I replied. “Come right this way.”
So into the inner sanctum of Ehretism I stepped. On the wall was an artistically scripted diploma Ehret had illustrated and presented to Hirsch as a graduate of one of his courses. To the right of Fred’s desk was a chest featuring a picture of Paul Bragg dressed in white and standing in a jungle. “Bragg is a good name for him,” Fred quipped. “But he can really get the people out there though.” Hirsch told me that, during lectures, Bragg would strip down to his speedos, flex his muscles like his mentor, MacFadden, and sometimes even smash a loaf of white bread. In his 80′s at the time, Paul Bragg had no competition in the health field. Hirsch told me that he gave Bragg permission to rewrite Ehret’s Mucusless Diet Healing System under the title “The Bragg Toxicless Diet Body Purification and Healing System.”
Mr. Hirsch then gave me some historical background of how he came to meet professor Ehret.
In 1915 Fred was 27-years-old and selling fire trucks in San Francisco. He made good money, but had severe health problems. The doctors told him he had a necrosis of the achilles, caused by a serious bone infection affecting both heels. Three different bone specialists claimed his condition was terminal, and they recommended amputation of both feet to prolong his life for a few years.
A local woman within the German community in San Francisco gave Fred an article from a German newspaper which told about a professor Ehret and his success as a “natural healer.” He knew immediately that this was the man he needed to see. He bought a ticket for Europe, but then someone told him Ehret was living and lecturing in Los Angeles. So off Fred went to L.A.
When Hirsch reached L.A. he learned through the health grapevine that professor Ehret would be speaking at the “Fay Building” the next night.
Fred’s brother helped him get to Ehret’s lecture, crutches and all, and they ended up with a front row seat. Not surprisingly, the subject of the lecture was “The Mucusless Diet Healing System.” And Fred was all ears.
Professor Ehret’s message was pretty straightforward. He believed nature alone is the primary healer, and that “the sugar of fruits was the essential material of human food.” He believed it gave the body the highest efficiency and endurance, and at the same time was the best eliminator of debris and the most efficient healing agent known for the human body.”
“The baby’s craving is sweet, and proves that fruit sugar is the essence of all dietetics,” wrote Ehret.
Ehret felt that “What medical science calls normal health is in fact a pathological condition.”
Ehret’s method of diagnosis, other than observation and smell, was simple: put a person on a two or three days fast and this would help to indicate what and where the trouble is.
One of Ehret’s most keen observations was that any medicine or drugs a person had ever ingested were never eliminated, but, instead, were stored within the body’s cells for decades. He noted: “I saw patients eliminate drugs they had taken 40 years before.”
Ehret spoke out against chemical fertilizers and synthetic food preparations (and vitamins). He also believed it was worthless to figure food values if the body was full of obstruction.
Ehret’s simple formula of life: “Vitality equals power, minus obstruction,” was also the formula for death – once obstructions become too great from a lifetime of wrong food choices.
As for diet, Ehret taught that “raw fruits and, if desired, raw green-leafy vegetables, form the ideal food of man . That is the mucusless diet.”
Professor Ehret treated thousands of patients at his sanitarium in Switzerland, and was recognized as the world’s authority on fasting and pure diet.
Born near the Black Forest in Germany in 1856, Ehret overcame neurasthenic heart trouble and Bright’s disease (inflammation of the kidneys) with a self application of fruit and fasting regime. His healing methods brought him international fame, while his contemporaries were divided into two camps: “Ehretists” and “non-Ehretists.”
In his books Ehret was not afraid to name names of other health teachers who, he felt, just did not have it right: MacFadden, William Harvey, Mrs. Eddy, Dr. Kellog, Dr. Haigh, Dr. Catani, Dr. Graham, Fletcher, Schroth. Medical doctors and naturopaths were also on Ehret’s list of misinformed practitioners.
In lesson 21 of his book, Ehret, named the destructive foods of civilization: meat, eggs, milk, fats, cereals, legumes, potatoes and rice. This section of the book was the most powerful, and has since caused tens of thousands of arguments and family disputes with those who have read it.
Ehret also felt that raw nuts were good if used sparingly, or for muscle building.
So Arnold Ehret was a most unique blend of scientist, bohemian, flower child, punk, artist, gardener, prophet, writer, speaker, explorer, and philosopher. He definitely leaned toward the messianic.
Hirsch Throws Away His Crutches
Ehret was finishing up his lecture, and had trouble with a few words, while Fred Hirsch, who knew some German helped him by speaking them out loud.
When the lecture concluded, Hirsch hopped over to Ehret on his crutches and immediately described his troubles. Ehret looked straight into Fred’s eyes and vowed to help him.
Fred’s mother and family tried to assist. They would never have let Ehret in the door if the fasting treatment had been disclosed. Each day Fred’s mother prepared three hot cooked meals, which the nurse carried up to Fred. And three times a day every morsel of these meals went into the toilet.
Thusly went Hirsch a 30 day fast, supervised by Ehret. Naturally, 30 days later, Fred Hirsch was healed, had no more pain, and no more crutches.
Thus began Fred’s new life. He became Ehret’s business manager, and their office at 6th and Ceres St. was the headquarters for Ehret’s classes.
For the next seven years things went very well for Ehret as he spent time lecturing and teaching health courses.
In old Los Angeles there were fruit trees everywhere, including oranges, figs, avocados, and also grapes. This was particularly due to a massive horticultural renaissance in progress – thanks to Luther Burbank and the Popenoe brothers at West India gardens in Altadena. What also helped was that, at that time, the university of California at Los Angeles had the largest collection of rare fruits in the world (later to be torn out for medical buildings).
At this time, John and Vera Richter operated two raw food cafeterias; one on Olive St. and another on Hill. These two restaurants were likely a rarity in the world at this time. Needless to say, Fred and Lucille Hirsch were regular customers at these restaurants.
Dr. Carl Schultz, the father of naturopathy in California, operated his two sanitariums and teaching institutes at Grand Ave. and Fifth St.
Ehret lived on Mt. Washington, where he cultivated beautiful eating gardens. He was a philosophical being and found great pleasure in artistically scripting and illustrating his manuscripts and the diplomas he presented to the graduates of his courses. Much of his time was spent alone thinking and writing.
October 10, 1922
On a peasoup-foggy Los Angeles night, so heavy that you couldn’t see past your arm, professor Ehret had just finished a series of four lectures on “Health thru Fasting” at the Assembly Room of the Angeles Hotel on 5th and Spring St. A woman approached Ehret and asked him if he would have a glass of orange juice with her at a nearby restaurant, with her intention being to reduce the cost of a forthcoming course if she brought in two or three others.
Ehret was sympathetic enough to hear her out and perhaps grant her wish. Hirsch however felt it was unfair to some of the others who had paid the $100 fee – a lot of money for 1922. The free lectures filled up the assembly room every evening and the response was excellent.
Hirsch was saying no to the woman, but Ehret agreed and they walked down Olive St. to search for an open café. The woman ran ahead checking the shops to see if one was open, then she called out “This way professor, hurry, he’ll stay open for us.”
In those days cars leaked a lot of oil and the paved area in front of the “White Garage” on Olive St. was both oil soaked and wet from the heavy fog. Hirsch was slightly ahead when he turned to take the elbow of the man who had saved his life seven years before…but Professor Ehret was lying on his back by the curb. Ehret was wearing new shoes and his foot slipped on some spilled car oil. He had fallen without a sound. In this fall, the base of Ehret’s head struck the point where the curb met the driveway.
Fred Hirsch dropped to Ehret’s side to give first aid while the woman called for help. The ambulance came quickly from the nearby Police Department Emergency Hospital located at 3rd and Hill. The doctor who received them took one quick look at professor Arnold Ehret and said “This man is dead.”
Ehret left no money or family in America. Hirsch ordered a medical report; then Ehret was cremated the next day, something Hirsch knew the professor desired to have done. Hirsch and the local group of Ehretists, who felt Ehret was some kind of a prophet, together picked wildflowers for his grave.
For the next 65 years Fred Hirsch and his wife, Lucille, worked hard publishing Ehret’s literature, eventually relocating to smog free Cherry Valley near Beaumont, California. For many years Hirsch took a 10 to 15 cent loss on every book just to keep Ehret’s message before the public. After all, this was a cause, not a profit venture.
During the early years Hirsch was under regular harassment by the medical authorities, who very strongly resented his using the word “mucus” in Ehret’s books. He was tied up in court for years and told me that he had also done time in jail, something to do with malpractice.
Hirsch said “I can’t tell you to drink a glass of water without getting in trouble.” Hirsch also explained that the authorities were also upset by Ehret’s essays on sex and motherhood, something they felt prudish post-Victorian America was not prepared to hear, much less accept.
One very exciting moment came when I mentioned a recent article in “Readers Digest” about fasting. Hirsch said he had seen the article and was absolutely ecstatic that a positive article about fasting finally reached a mainstream audience.
Hirsch said he had a huge collection of letters and testimonials from people all over the world who had read Ehret’s books.
In his personal archives Fred also had the manuscript for a book Ehret wrote about Christ, which was never released due to its controversial subject matter.
Fred also talked Ehret into cutting his long hair and trimming his beard. The American audience of the 1920′s, it seems, was not ready for the radical looking “naturmensch” (natural man) style popular in Germany and Switzerland at the turn of the century.
A few weeks before I spoke with Hirsch, South African health author Morris Krok had been sitting in the same chair as I discussing many of these details with Hirsch. In fact there had been a huge flow of new seekers from the mid-1960′s on, all with questions about Professor Ehret.
A large portion of Ehret’s lectures in LA were attended by “health groupies,” women who had read all of Professor Ehret’s books and followed him around to talks and classes. Ehret and his contemporary, Bernarr Macfadden, were undoubtedly America’s first “health gurus”…MacFadden the body, and Ehret the mind.
During the Reagan administration in the 1980′s a vegetarian magazine asked the presidents attractive daughter, Patty, who her inspirations were in matters of health. Without hesitation she responded: “For diet, Arnold Ehret.”
Dave “the juice man” Otto, proprietor of the “Beverly Hills Juice Club” has a 17-year-old son he named “Ehret.”
During 2 1/2 years in the mid-1970′s when I traveled as far as Ecuador, Florida, Canada, and the Hawaiian Islands, it was not uncommon to meet people whose personal lives were changed more by Ehret’s writings than by anything else, including such influences as family, education, peers, church, media. Some had read his books over 25 times.
Hirsch also mentioned that the manuscript for Mucusless Diet Healing System was completed just two weeks before the professors untimely death.
With a flower and a camera I entered the Great Mausoleum. We strode past a dozen nude marble statues, then unlocked the big iron gate, down several flights of stairs, then my escort said, “It’s somewhere down here.” I am still amazed that, among the thousands of crypts and monuments present, including some as high as the ceiling, it took me only four seconds to locate Professor Arnold Ehret’s urn.
In the center of a huge wall behind a glass case was a football-sized bronze acorn mounted on the side of a granite boulder. On the surface of the acorn was an embossment of a very nice image of Ehret along with dates of birth and death. These are the only physical remains left of the German philosopher who destroyed western civilization with 25 chapters and spawned a new subculture in California, and continuing to all stretches of the planet.
Over 77 years ago Dr. Benedict Lust, the father of naturopathy in America, said that Ehret would get the largest following a diet expert could have, and he had given the world more than all the experts combined.
Perhaps through his descendants, including Richter, Bragg, Shelton, Blackmer, Lovewisdom, Krok, Aterhov, Wigmore, Kulvinskas, and Wolfe, Arnold Ehret has succeeded in passing on his teachings. With health books at the top of the bestseller lists, only time will tell if Dr. Lust’s prediction comes true.
California was the perfect place in America for Ehret to introduce his philosophy, easily 100 years ahead of its time. Even Ehret’s worst critics would have to concede that the number of people seriously interested in the strict fruit and vegetable diet has grown a million fold since 1922. And a little bit of Arnold Ehret lives in all of them.
Of his best friend, Fred Hirsch had this to say: “Ehret’s teachings of his philosophy are basically the love of NATURE itself: love of all outdoors. The love of flowers and trees, the love of all of the birds and animals. Ehret loved both the sunshine and the rain, – the cold and the warmth, the bright days and the cloudy days. And he sincerely taught that we must feel justly proud of our own physical bodies, CLEAN both internally and externally.”
Fred Hirsch deserves most of the credit for promoting Ehret’s message.
Some friends and I searched on the Internet for webpages about Arnold Ehret the other night. It didn’t take long for the professor’s penetrating eyes to be staring back at us from the computer screen. Thanks to Nature’s First Law and a few other groups, there’s a new generation of health seekers discovering Arnold Ehret’s archives.
All of us are accountable to natural laws, immutable laws that never change. Professor Ehret understood these laws and expressed his ideas about them in books that were completely different from anything before him. I’ve looked hard, but have been unable to locate anything comparable to Ehret’s teaching in that same era.
As the 20th Century comes to a close, a perusal of 100 years worth of health literature reveals hundreds of thousands of mediocre manuals, a few dozen classics, but only a handful of masterpieces.
In his 56 years on this earth, professor Arnold Ehret penned several health masterpieces and advanced the science of nutrition and health more than any of his contemporaries, and most of his descendants.
Someday, in the decades to come, history will remember Arnold Ehret – not as the hairy German professor with an eccentric diet philosophy… but as the visionary genius and architect for a future civilization without sickness and disease, the man who had it right when the scientific community stagnated in their doctrines and drug profits.
77 years after his death, through wars, overpopulation, medicine and mucus, the original sunfood doctor is resurrecting himself once again… still Ehret after all these years.
Gordon Kennedy is the author of the book Children of the Sun.
With special thanks to Fred Hirsch, Timothy Fitzgerald, Sylvia Saltman and Joshua Rainbow.