A Profound Historical Figure
Dr. Rudolf Steiner has become an obscure, and yet, profound historical figure. He has been credited with many great achievements in his lifetime. Much of his life’s work remains relevant and practical in present times. The most notable of his achievements became known as biodynamic agriculture. The idea of a more responsible and sustainable way of farming became a reality through the impressive works of Dr. Rudolf Steiner. His work and accomplishments include:
- Founder of Biodynamic Agriculture
- Founder of Anthroposophy
- Founder of Waldorf Schools
- Artist Innovator
- Critic Philosopher
- Social Reformer
This is a non-exhaustive list of his accomplishments and his contributions to any particular field of study. However, my goal is to establish an understanding of Rudolph Steiner’s upbringing, spiritual beliefs, education, and his personal relationships, and how that subsequently influenced his pursuit of developing and implementing a biodynamic agricultural methodology.
Rudolf Steiner was born in 1861. His place of birth was Kraljevec, a small railroad town, which bordered Hungary and Croatia; a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Rudolf Steiner was the son of Johann and Franziska Blie. Johann was a gamekeeper (professional hunter). Franziska was a housemaid. Both were in the service of Count Hoyos in Geras, a noble family. He left his employment at the House of Hoyos when the Count refused to give his permission for him to marry Franziska. Johann later became a telegraph operator for the railway. It seems that Johann, was perhaps, a freethinker in his own right.
Education of a Creative Mind
Steiner was a student at the village school during the time his parents resided in Pottschach, located in the foothills of the eastern Austrian Alps, in Lower Austria. He was briefly educated at home following his attendance at the village school because of a disagreement between his father and the schoolmaster at the village school.
At eight years old, Steiner attended another village school after his parents relocated to Neudörfl, on the Hungarian border, in 1869.
In 1872, at the age of eleven, he proceeded from the village school to the Oberrealschule, in Wiener Neustadt.
His family relocated in 1879 to Inzersdorf to allow Steiner to attend the Vienna Institute of Technology. Steiner was eighteen years old at the time he enrolled at the Institute. At the Institute of Technology, on an academic scholarship, he was enrolled in courses of study including mathematics, physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, and mineralogy. He was also enrolled in audited courses such as literature and philosophy.
He withdrew from the Institute without graduating in 1883.
Steiner received a doctorate in philosophy, at the University of Rostock, in 1891.
Influences That Shaped an Innovator
From his youth, Steiner was attracted to the works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German writer, poet, playwright, and statesman. J.W. von Goethe had completed major works in botany, morphology, and physiology. At the age of 21, while a student, Steiner was recommended by a teacher to edit the scientific works of, Goethe.
Felix Kogutski, a licensed herb-gatherer who sold medicinal plants to the city’s pharmacies and the botanical department at the medical school, met Steiner on his daily train rides into Vienna. Steiner was able to speak freely to Kugutski about his personal experiences with the spiritual world. Steiner explained, ” When you were with him you could get deep glimpses into the secrets of nature.”
There were other figures in Steiner’s life that would greatly influence his views, increase his knowledge, and set him on his course as the innovator of biodynamic farming.
Anthroposophy – Spiritual Philosophy
Rudolf Steiner’s self-proclaimed history and involvement with the spiritual world may enlighten your understanding of how this influenced his innovative biodynamic farming methodology. His spiritual-scientific insights brought him to the belief that humans and the universe should be thought of as a whole unit and needed to be managed as such.
He theorized; humanity would bring destruction upon itself and the earth if the realization of the spiritual world and its interrelationship with the physical world remained independent entities in our minds and in our hearts.
Anthroposophy is a philosophy founded by Rudolf Steiner in the early twentieth century. He founded the Anthroposophical Society in 1912. The rudiments of Anthroposophy include:
- Spiritual-scientific approach to knowledge.
- Spiritual perception independent of the senses
- Increase the power of thinking as a tool for spiritual development
- Centered on knowledge produced by the higher-self in man
- The human intellect has the ability to connect with spiritual worlds
Cultural Shift Promotes Purpose
Rudolf Steiner saw a cultural shift during his lifetime. The world in which he lived was very different from what we are accustomed to today. However, history does repeat itself in many ways. Specifically, the old culture gives way to the new culture. For example, technology seems second nature to our children; while to some in the older generation, it is a struggle to use basic functions on their cell phones.
In Steiner’s day, he saw the rural peasantry; poor but self-sufficient give way to the Proletariat; poor but dependent upon external sources for sustenance.
- Old Culture – Rooted in nature and subsistence
- New Culture – Rooted in the machine and industrial processes that required a dependent working class
A vision of a future where people could once again experience freedom through self-sufficiency may have influenced Steiner’s scientific work in agriculture.
Lectures – Holistic Farming
A mechanical philosophy of nature, although the origins of such can be connected to ancient times, began to take root in agriculture in the early 1900s. The philosophy of treating the whole (holistic) as separate parts (mechanical) that have no intrinsic value to one another led to the production and use of synthetically produced fertilizers and pesticides. Farmers began to adopt these new chemical compounds as part of their farming practices. Eventually, farmers began to see a negative impact on their farms and began to seek help for solutions.
Steiner had become a trusted authority in the field of science, and certain farmers had become familiar with his work and his reputation. Therefore, although, Steiner was never a farmer or professor of agriculture, he was sought by farmers to address concerns and provide insight as to how the farmers could rectify the decline of the health and fertility of their animals, soil, and plants.
In 1924, in Koberwitz, a small village in Germany, at the time; Steiner delivered a series of eight powerful and informative lectures and five discussions: Spiritual Foundations for a Renewal of Agriculture. These lectures were not meant to teach farming, but to address these farmers’ agricultural concerns with a spiritual understanding of the forces of nature with a holistic perspective. He proposed a methodology of farming that is ethical, ecological, and sustainable. He outlined a course of action that contained practical applications that could be implemented by farmers, in addition to the existing farming procedures that had historically brought vitality to the earth. These series of teachings were the basis of a biodynamic agriculture awakening.
Biodynamic Farming Endowment
Rudolf Steiner’s warning that the widespread use of chemical fertilizers
would lead to the decline of human, animal, soil, and plant health and the
subsequent devitalization of food is still relevant today, as many farmers are following traditional farming methods that have been proven to be destructive to ecosystems around the globe.
Steiner endowed us with a unique and comprehensive approach to human, animal, soil, and plant health. His methodology recognizes the importance of the healthy interplay of the spiritual, cosmic, and earthly influences. He developed a set of homeopathic preparations to be used on the soil, compost, and plants that help strengthen and regulate the farm’s innate immune system and vital forces.
Educating new generations of farmers with the perspective of the farm as a single, self-sustaining organism that thrives through biodiversity, the integration of crops and livestock, and the creation of a closed-loop system of fertility, is imperative for the survival of future generations.
The culminating theme of Rudolf Steiner’s lifelong work was cultural renewal. He realized, in part if not entirely, that the land is our greatest life-sustaining heritage and the freedom that creates cultural renewal lies therein.
By applying these diverse principles and methods, biodynamic farmers have
established a worldwide reputation for creating socially responsible. farms These farms are producing organic products of the highest quality and flavor.
As we are choosing products, such as CBD oil, to improve or maintain our quality of health, may we be mindful of companies that partner with farms that practice environmentally responsible and sustainable farming methods, such as biodynamic farming.
My Appreciation for the Road Less Traveled
The study of Dr. Rudolf Steiner’s life has left me to ponder how Dr. Steiner would feel about the advancement of biodynamic and organic farming in modern times, specifically CBD prepared from hemp grown utilizing his biodynamic methodology for the possible remedy of ailments in humans and animals.
Although Steiner is not considered one of the most historically influential public figures, I have gained a great appreciation for the man, with mystifying insights and resoluteness, that seems to have taken the road less traveled and left us with a wealth of knowledge.
Share your comments or questions about your experiences with biodynamic farming and/or products produced from such.