Steiner’s Agriculture Course

Steiner begins the second lecture by giving an overview of the whole agriculture course. We will spend the first lectures gathering knowledge so as to recognize the conditions on which the prosperity of agriculture depends and observing hoe agriculture lives in the totality of the Universe. In the later lectures we will draw the practical conclusions, but for now we must gather, recognize and observe.

Notice the Goethenistic approach. We are not starting with a problem and hypothesis, as in Newtonian Science. Instead, we are looking for information, conditions, and how something (agriculture) lives. There are no boundaries to where we will look. Because of their diversity, I will number the various items of knowledge.

  1. The first condition is clear. “A farm is true to its essential nature if it is conceived as a kind of individuality entity in itself- a self-contained entity… whatever you need for agricultural production, you should try to posses it within the farm itself (including in the farm the due amount of cattle).”

Steiner insists from the start that a farm needs livestock, and then explains why. “It is not a matter of indifference whether we get our cow-dung from the neighbor or from our own farm.” What makes our farm’s cow-dung different? The humus content of a soil, with specific microbes, is formed in a large part by the animals on it. They eat the plants growing on the farm, digesting and transforming the microbiology in their stomachs. A cycle of rejunevation happens as it’s returned back to the soil and new plants grow there.

He justifies this need for a farm’s own livestock by considering the Earth and the influences from the Universe beyond. That means calcium forces in the manure and silica forces communicating intelligence from afar. This will be considered from various standpoints, and now we will begin with the soil.

  1. The soil is more than its mineral content and humus. Soil contains not only life but an effective astral principle. Astral refers to the stars, the influences from beyond the realm of earthly life. This inner life of the earthly soil, the fine and intimate astral effects, is different in summer and in winter, which has significance in practical life. We’ll learn how to use this difference when we bury cow horns.
  2. After this second item we have gathered, a third one is added. “The surface of the Earth is a kind of organ in that organism which reveals itself throughout the growth of Nature.” It is like a human diaphram. In the agricultural individuality, all the plants, animals and humus live in the belly of an organism whose head and nervous system are underground. “There is a constant and living mutual interplay of the above-the-Earth and below-the-Earth.”
  3. We are next begged to observe where these influences are localized. Activities above the Earth are immediately dependant on the inner plants supplementing and modifying the influences of the sun. The distant planets work upon all that is beneath the Earth’s surface, assisting those influences which the sun exercises from below the Earth.

In chapter one we were introduced to calcium and silica, and their relationship to the inner and distant planets, respectively. Now we have their locales. Again, we are still just gathering various items of knowledge. Notice that both sets of planets work with the sun. inner planets supplement and modify, while the outer planets simply assist.

  1. It is through what are commonly called sand, rocks, and stone that we have influences that depend on the farthest distances of the Universe. They are the most important for the unfolding of the growth-processes. This is where life comes into the soil, through the communication and intelligence of silica.
  2. You may wonder how what is poured down, so to speak, gets carried back up into the plant. Everything in the nature of clay is a means of transport. Adding clay to a sandy soil and adding sand to a clayey soil are old-time farming recommendations. The greater surface area of clay particles facilitates transportation.

What is drawn in from the Universe by the way of silicon and the root-nature, “head” beneath the soil, is able to be led upward through the plant by the clayey substances in the soil. Clay is the carrier of the upward stream of silica’s activity beneath the soil.

  1. Plant-growth in the air above the soil is a kind of digestion. The cycles of animals and crops on a farm create continual compost possibilities. A true mutual interaction arises when microbes and fine homeopathis substances are engendered by the water and air above the earth through the lives of plants and animals.

All that is above the soil in this kind of digestive process must be drawn downward into the soil. Limestone in the soil and in homeopathic doses in the air is there to carry into the soil the earthly process of digestion. Farmers spread lime on top of their fields, knowing it will work its way downward.

  1. There are two kinds of warmth for plants, a leaf-and-flower warmth that is dead, and a root warmth which is living. The moment warmth is drawn into the earth by the limestone it is changed into a certain condition of vitality. Air, too, is alive in the soil and dead above. Soil is full of aerobic, live beings, much more so than air.

Earth and water, on the other hand, become more dead in the earth than outside it. By losing life they become receptive to distant forces, especially in mid-winter.

  1. The minerals in the earth become under the influence of the most distant forces between January 15 and February 15. These are the crystal-forming forces. Before and after this period, minerals ray out forces particularly important for plant growth. We make practical use of this knowledge when we buy manure-filled horns during winter.
  2. For tilling the soil, we must know the conditions which enable distant forces access to the earth. We can learn this from the seed-forming process. It is when a seed matures, when its protein is the most complex, that it disintegrates into chaos and the entire universe is able to stamp itself upon the seed. That which we see as a plant is always the image of some constellation. Steiner is telling us that pollination is an incomplete process. Afterwards, something happens in the seed, this turning into chaos, that opens it up to receive forces from the universe, making it become the particular species its parents were.
  3. The only way to help bring the new plant back to earthly forces is to place it in a humus-rich soil. When plant life has not reached the chaos of seed-formation, we plow it in to improve the humus content of the soil. The flowering stage is the time to cut and incorporate cover crops.
  4. 12. Steiner encourages us to heighten our observational powers. “We can trace the process quite exactly. We can see this directly.” Earthly forces work in the horizontal leaf and flower formation. The seed at the end of the vertical stem irradiates the leaf and flower with distant forces.
  5. Plant-leaves would not be green with just the earth forces in them. The sun forces living in the leaves makes them green. Colored flowers not only have the sun forces, but also the supplementary forces which the sun receives from the distant planets. In red flowers we see forces of Mars, in yellow or white flowers we see Jupiter, and in blue ones, Saturn. These forces, as we have seen, work most strongly underground in the roots, but does shine out in the color of the flowers.
  6. In a plant we have the cosmic nature in the root, with just a little present in the coloring above. But in a much divided root, like those of grass plants, the earthly nature is working downward from its normal place above the soil level. The sun lives in the green leaves between root and blossom. The cosmic, distant forces work upward from inside the Earth with the help of silica, and the earthly forces work downward with the help of calcium.
  7. These plants with much-divided roots are the fodder plants which really build good soil. The best soils in the world are the great plains and savannahs where grass grows and gets grazed periodically for centuries. We mimic this by rotational, intensive grazing or the growing of grass and grain cover crops. These are silica plants with sharp, pointy leaves. When the cosmic is help up in the stalk, not shooting into the flowers, silica is working as in the plant, horsetail. We will use this practical information later to make an antifungal preparation.
  8. On the other hand, if we want the cosmic forces to not shoot upwards but to remain below, we would put the plant in a sandy soil. Remember, clay helps transport silica forces upward. Potatoes do not need to shoot up into seed production, so they like a sandy soil to enhance stem foundation near the root. We must always be able to distinguish between cosmic and earthly forces.
  9. Steiner then proceeds to explain that humanity was able to create the different kinds of fruits from primitive varieties by this kind of knowledge and instinctive wisdom. We must re-discover it, and again new knowledge in order to enter again into the whole Nature-relationship of these things.
  10. The silica receives light into the earth and makes it effective there. Humus, which stands nearer to the earthly-living nature does not receive light, it gives rise to a light-less working.
  11. Regarding animals, this is the peculiar relation. If on any farm you have the right amount of animals, these will give the farm the right amount of manure. The farm is healthy in as much as it provides its own manure. The farm is healthy in as much as it provides its own manure from its own stock.
  12. From the nose towards the heart of the animal, the distant forces are at work. In the heart itself the sun is at work, and from the tail back towards the heart the inner planets have influence. Besides direct sunlight, we have light reflected by the moon. Its effects are only from behind the animal.

Steiner asks us to learn to read the form, and suggests studying skeletons at a museum. You have the true contrast of the sun and the moon in the form and figure of the animals head and the attachment of the thighs, and you will be able to discover a definite relationship between the manure and the needs of the earth where the animal is grazing.

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  1. What I’m gathering is that, overall, Steiner presents some rather revolutionary scientific methods for working in harmony with the earth, correct?

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