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  RUDOLF STEINER  &  Bio-Dynamic Agriculture                               

SteinerAnthroposophy
Rudolf Steiner (1860-1925), an Austrian born philosopher, educator and mystic, gave various lectures between the years 1919-1924 that focused on his philosophy, known as Anthroposophy. These beliefs held by Steiner proposed to revitalize society by integrating rationalism and mysticism. He suggested this could reconcile the increasingly divergent trends of technological progress and spiritual enlightenment. His interest in literature led to an interest in people. His thought was influenced to a great extent by oriental philosophy, specifically, Buddhism, Hinduism and the Vedic Scriptures. His spiritual knowledge influenced his thoughts on medicine (Eurythmy), education (Waldorf Schools), art and agriculture (Bio-dynamic). His lectures on agriculture were towards the end of his life and epitomize much of his philosophy. Steiner defined Anthroposophy as "a path of knowledge whose objective is to guide the spiritual in man to the spiritual in the universe."

Anthro= man    sophy= knowledge
Anthro + posophy = the Wisdom about Man
which recognizes the Spiritual Being (Purusha)
in Man (Manushya)
based on scientific thought(Gyan)

The Agriculture Lectures
Steiner built up his agricultural knowledge from keen observation of plant and animal forms and traditional peasant practice, scientific study and deep spiritual research. By the time he gave his teaching on agriculture in the Agriculture Lectures, he had developed a high level of spiritual awareness. His gift to the world is knowledge from the spiritual world that enables people to recreate and work with natural forces in the fields of education, medicine, religion, art and agriculture. Steiner taught that 'Matter is never without Spirit, and Spirit never without Matter.'

To understand bio-dynamic agriculture and its relevance for modern agriculture, it is a good idea to look at the background circumstances of Steiner's Agriculture Lectures, which he gave to a small group of farmers on a farm estate in Koberwitz, East Germany (now in the west of Poland,near the border with Austria).

In those days the conventional way of farming was what we would now call organic. Farmers did not use artificial fertilisers. They put all the dung from their overwintering barns back on the field, and along with growing soil-sustaining green crops and the sound use of crop rotation,they maintained a high soil fertility. However, even with good soil and animal husbandry, farmers found their crops were not doing as well as they should, seeds were not as viable, there was an increase in animal ill-health and food did not taste as good. Something needed to be done.

Koberwitz
The castle Koberwitz.
Here Rudolf Steiner held his agricultural course at Pentecost 1924.
Photo A.Granstedt 11 December 2003.

Farmers who knew of Rudolf Steiner's philosophy of spiritual science asked him if he could address their problems. Steiner pointed out that plants grew not only through the fertility of the soil, but also with support from the cosmos - the rhythms of the sun, moon, planets and the wider constellations of the zodiac. This cosmic support, he said, streams into the earth through the living nature of the soil and is important for the healthy growth and quality of the plants.

According to Steiner, as the earth becomes older the soil naturally becomes weaker and is less able to receive these cosmic rhythms than in previous times. He felt that a renewal in agriculture was necessary in order to find a way to enliven the earth so the cosmic energies could again stream strongly into the soil. He introduced the practice of making preparations based on cow manure, silica, and various herbal plants, to be used in order to open up the soil to these influences again. He also made plain the intimate connection between all living things and the cosmos, and the importance of learning the workings of the planets and the heavenly bodies.

Modern agriculture has tried to come to terms with this ageing of the earth with a chemical approach. To maintain the level of crop production needed, and to control the accompanying diseases, farmers use massive applications of a whole arsenal of sophisticated chemicals. But this, as we can already see, is leading to an environmental disaster with the poisoning of the soil, water and air.

At the same time a huge amount of money is being spent on research into the use of chemicals and into genetically engineering plants and animals to solve problems that are in large part man-made. But some modern agricultural scientists appear to be unaware of the importance of the living quality of the soil for healthy growth.

Blackboard Drawing
A Blackboard Drawing done during Agriculture Lecture Six

Steiner advocated discontinuing the use of chemical fertilisers altogether. Because of their inherent lack of life, he felt, chemicals could not maintain life or increase fertility in the soil.

The answer to problems of human and animal health and degradation of our environment lies in maintaining a truly fertile soil, by practices such as crop rotations, incorporating plenty of organic matter and the bio-dynamic preparations.

Farmers carry an enormous responsibility, not only in caring for the land but also in growing food which will be eaten by human beings, and which will give them life and vitality. The quality of the food we grow and eat is directly dependent on the cosmic energy that can come into a living soil, and this is what supports our dialy life. According to Steiner, the life forces in our food influence the qualty of our thinking and our interaction with other people.

Conscious thinking about and working with these cosmic formative forces, and applying this knowledge in making and using the bio-dynamic preparations, is what distinguishes bio-dynamic farming from organic farming and permaculture.

A Verse for Farmers

Anthroposophical Initiatives in India


 



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