For me, the most important element of the work of Rudolf Steiner was his work with agriculture. He rarely spoke of it himself, albeit there are various tales of him conversing with the farmers he met. One of these was cutting his hay and being unimpressed by finely dressed city folk, told Rudolf Steiner to get lost because he knew nothing about farming. Steiner took of his coat and asked if he could take the scythe and continued the farmer’s work with as much energy and dexerity as the farmer himself. In meeting the backward, intellectual soul, it is for the higher soul to break the ice, to establish contact.
Which, unusually, is aposite to this post. Because Rudolf Steiner spoke of the earth becoming deaf. More than just an allegory, he meant this quite literally. Because the earth is becoming harder – the topic for a forthcoming post that may be published publicly – and part of the hardening process of the human being is the loss of external perception. Dementia is a clear example of where a person has lost the ability to experience the world around them in the way a healthy human will.
So what are the manifestations of a hardening earth? Well one can see this in fields that have little or no humus – the living element of the soil. The soils are ‘degraded’ and lack cohesion: all that is there are the bare minerals, as it were. The only way for a plant to survive is through the addition of more chemicals – NPK (1). Materialistic thinking leading directly to the death of the soil it is caring for. Materialistic thinking in this respect only sees life where life is to be seen: the animal and the plant. Even with microscopes, the ‘life’ of the soil is considered to be flora and fauna living in the soil, not as part and parcel of the soil itself. That is to say, an expression of the soil’s life and activity. They are merely seen as ‘being there’, almost by chance! Certainly, in the mind of the scientist, they are merely adjuncts to the things a plant needs in order to grow.
But then, manganese deficiency in cabbages cannot be cured by spreading NPK fertilizers. The so-called ‘trace elements’ show that there is more to the plant’s needs than the bare bones of NPK that they are customarily given to eat.
The resulting poor growth – indicated outwardly by poor flavour. (2) Qualities – or the lack of them – go through and through. This lack of flavour, lack of quality, leads by extension, to there being poor quality seed. The kind of thing that find it hard to grow on any kind of soil.
An inspector was visiting a farmer I knew in Launceston and was surprised at the kind of wheat the farmer was growing. “Maris Widgeon, if I’m not mistaken?” said the inspector quizically, “I haven’t seen that in decades!” The farmer responded by saying that he kept his own seed. The crop was not as good as might be expected from a modern variety – but the flavour and keeping qualities were exceptional. And then, when harvested carefully, the farmer could double his profits by selling the straw for thatching. Modern wheat has straw that is easily broken up in the threshing machinery and the resulting weakness not only leaves it open to weather damage but renders it useless for thatching. The modern farmer, like everyone else, prefers the quick and easy methods that are the result of quick and easy thinking. My farmer friend may well have had a poor crop, and thereby a poor profit, his intelligence and insights into the local needs of the market made it possible for him to make a living.
The other problem with the modern plant is not only its insipid flavour, weak structure, but as mentioned, the poor quality of its seed. A farmer needs to buy in new wheat seed every year because last year’s varieties would not thrive in modern, industrialized fields that are starved of all qualities – the very things that lead to life.
Now it is true that the seed would germinate, but the chances of a healthy crop are far from guaranteed. With poor soils and the thinking that both produced and hastens them with chemical fertilizers – not to mention the poisons and pesticides that have all but exterminated our birdlife – guarantees are essential. Such guarantees were the result of the hard work and forward thinking of my friend in Launceston, but these come at the cost of long years of preparation and of no few mistakes along the way. Today, with margins cut painfully close to the bone, mistakes are out of the question. It’s painful enough just to survive as a farmer, leave alone try out silly ideas, be they proven or not.
Farming really is has reached a dead end: they have gone too far with the pressures of industrialization that they have become utterly dependent on this poisoned chalice that they cannot now change to a form that is sustainable. Leave alone healthy.
After all, one of the reasons my friend was able to survive was that he had no seed bill, and his fertilizers came from animals that brought him milk and meat.
Furthermore, he used compost along with the homeopathic remedies that Rudolf Steiner described in his all too brief Agriculture Course that was held near Breslau in Germany, in the June of 1924 (3). The two main remedies are Horn-Manure and Horn-Silica. The first is made from cow manure, prepared under certain conditions whilst stuffed into the horn of a cow (4). It is used on the soil to stimulate its – how can one say? It’s awareness? It’s ability to absorb things from outside.
For the human, that is to listen. For the human, it is healthy to listen. For the soil, it is healthy to absorb the things that come to it from outside, the things that promote the growth of a rich and diverse life in the soil. The very things that the chemicals push away. But then, the unhealthy human pushes away the very things that could bring them new life as well.
I made a mistake the other day, because when I was in my local supermarket, there were some rather lovely leeks on sale. It wasn’t so much the price – albeit that they were on offer and this was another temptation – it was more that they looked so nice!
A Different Stand On Something We All Sit Down To Do.
Why is it that nobody likes shit? There is nobody alive who doesn’t go to the toilet at some point in the day. Even the Queen of England has a groom of the stool.
(1) Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium the three elements that Liebig Leibnitz? Had abstracted as the formative elements for plant fertilizers.
(3) Today’s Wrocław, pronounced ‘Vrotswav’. The Soviets stole this land to form the New Poland. Schlesien, the province of which Breslau is the capital, had been Austrian for a millennium prior to its being German. The Polish people had never been a majority in that land. I will add that a more caring solution would have been to allow the cultures to interact, but the will of the Soviets was bent on the extermination of any German who sought to remain. They treated the Poles little better, but allowed them to live to tell the tale.
(4) Incidentally, the cow’s horn is the part of the animal which has the highest density of gold. That farmers bent on the industrialization of animals neglect this little known fact denude the cow not only of its finest attribute, but to an organ that has the closest link to the heavens. This will be the subject of a forthcoming series of posts on the planetary metals.