The Agriculture Course
Since Rudolf Steiner had given so many new impulses brought forth by his Spiritual Science (Anthroposophy) and bearing upon every field of knowledge and practical activity of life, he was also approached by farmers who asked him for, help with spiritual insight and practical advice concerning the difficulties, unsolved questions and problems of agriculture.
So, for instance, it was many years ago when Herr Ernst Stegemann and Count Lerchenfeld as practical farmers had received new points of view for an agriculture founded on spiritual knowledge; and afterwards in Dornach at the Goetheanum I had the privilege, together with Herr E. Pfeiffer, to carry out several experiments under the personal guidance of Dr. Steiner. We were the first to produce some of the preparations later on mentioned in this, lecture course, we exposed them to the influence of the rhythms of the seasons; and R. Steiner in spite of his tremendous overburdening did, not refuse to come to the piece of land lying far off and to test the first preparations which had become ready; he then gave help and advice for the further development of the preparing methods and their application and took things in hand himself.
An increasing number of agriculturists longed for a systematic laying down of the new principles and eventually in Spring 1924 Count Alexander Keyserlingk who had been sent by his father Count Karl Keyserlingk to Dornach succeeded in securing Dr. Steiner's promise to give a lecture course on agriculture at Koberwitz Castle (Silesia, Germany).
Dr. Steiner wrote in the Members News Sheet of 22nd June, 1927, “It has been a long cherished wish of a number of Anthroposophists working in the agricultural field to have from me a lecture course which should contain all that can be said about agriculture from the point of view of Anthroposophy. Between the 7th and 16th of June I was able to find the time to fulfil this wish. Koberwitz near Dresden, where Count Keyserlingk is running a big farming estate in an exemplary manner, was a good place for such a course. It was natural to speak of agriculture in surroundings where the audience could have around them the things and processes to which the lectures referred. It is thus that meetings of this sort receive their mood and colouring. As my subject I took the nature of the produce of agriculture and the conditions under which this can arise. The considerations aimed at practical points of view for agriculture, which should add to the results of modern practical and scientific experience the results of a study along spiritual scientific lines. Our friend, Herr Hegemann, began right from the start of the meeting to speak of the things which he connected with conversations on agriculture which I had had with him some time ago. He had as a matter of fact carried out on his farm practical experiments on that basis. He put before the audience his results and wishes. His speech was followed by a proposal of Count Keyserlingk to begin with immediate experiment according to what was to be given in the course. This aim he proposed to be to a group of professional agriculturists. Such a group was actually formed at a subsequent meeting of the farmers present. It was agreed to fake the contents of the course for the time being as hints which will not be discussed outside the circle of those attending the course; but to use these hints as the basis of experiments which are to bring the material into a form in which it can be published. This circle (community) ... was declared to be a group of members which form part of the Natural Science Section at the Goetheanum. This Section will continually indicate the direction and aims of the experimental work.”
With the impulses of this course which open unbounded prospects for the future the attending members returned to their work, strengthened with new insight, with new hopes and forces. And many a practical farmer who — through the de-spiritualising materialistic tendencies in industry had felt his profession to be a burden, could see again the deep spiritual background of just this profession and with wholly transformed view and with new love resumed his work upon animal, plant and soil.
The problems of agriculture through the influence of nourishment upon the life of each individual and that of the community have become the most central problems of our time, much more so since numerous farmers in the civilized countries have come to the conviction that the methods hitherto applied materialistically and only based upon observation of mere matter have led into a blind alley and have brought all civilized material into decay. A new foundation for agriculture is certainly a turning point important for all human history. This is what Rudolf Steiner himself felt. I shall never forget how he in his modest manner said to me on the journey back from this course; “Now we have gone another great step forward.”
Whoever expects this course to give a list of easily manufactured preparations whose application will pay in very short time, will not have any understanding of what this course means and will better put it aside without reading it. But whoever grasps that to begin with, our whole attitude to the natural kingdom needs a new orientation, since science hitherto with its materialistic-mechanistic methods had to stop short before the life phen and whoever is prepared to adopt this new attitude, will feel compelled to make a change in many important points of his farming, but he will find also that the new orientation is indispensable and — if properly carried out — yields practical success. No doubt that the changeover of the estates to the new methods must be done slowly, systematically and in organic connection, and many primary indications given in this course need practical elaborations and modifications according to the individual farm and its geographical and cultural peculiarities — but this is the case with every method. Rudolf Steiner emphasised this point often very seriously. Whoever enters into the living experience of the whole teaching will find soon what those who began as the first have already seen in all details that in reasonable and careful carrying out the most valuable practical result will be achieved.
Rudolf Steiner's wish to see Experimental Circles arise could already be fulfilled in several European countries? and in many non-European countries and continents centres have been formed where the principles of this renewed agriculture are practically applied.
In order to transmit to beginners in these methods the experiences of those who have worked for years with them and in order to secure a final success through exchange of views and ideas, to avoid unnecessary mistake and to broadcast supplementary discoveries and improvements of the “Bio-Dynamic methods of Agriculture,” the Natural Science Section at the Goetheanum and the Experimental Circles in the different countries holds meetings and informative courses*).
I have to thank those who have helped to produce this second (German) editions Herr E. Pfeiffer for his essential help in revision and correction, Frau L. Kolisko for lending her shorthand report which gave important corrections of the text and supplements of the first edition, Herr E. Vojeh for working out the index, and Fräulein E. Riese for copying the diagrams. This new edition has been supplemented by an Appendix with the summary of some agricultural conversations which Dr. Steiner had with several personalities.
Dornach, Switzerland. November, 1929.
On behalf of the Natural
Section at the Goetheanum.
Dr. Guenther Wachsmuth.