The Visionary Behind Biodynamics

The visionary mystic behind biodynamic farming is Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner, born in Hungary in 1861. A writer, philosopher (he wrote two books about Goethe’s philosophy), active in social causes (he advocated equal rights and individual freedom in cultural life), an architect, and sculptor, Steiner founded a spiritual movement, Anthroposophy, which had its roots in Transcendentalism and Theosophy. The movement reached beyond the scientific method to embrace the phenomena of human soul-life and spiritual experience. The driving force behind Steiner’s endeavors –including his philosophy for biodynamic farming, was this combination of “external life” (or science) with that which is unseen or “occult.”  Wrote Steiner, “Occult Science is the science of what occurs occultly insofar as it is not perceived in external nature, but in that region towards which the soul turns when it directs its inner being toward the spirit.” *

In the early 1900s Steiner worked with pharmacists and physicians to create a pharmaceutical company called Weleda, which is still in existence today–distributing natural medical and body care products worldwide. In the early 1920s, he was approached by a group of farmers concerned about the future of agriculture. His lectures on agriculture constitute the beginning of biodynamic agriculture.

The idea of the “farm organism” as a living being to be protected from outside materials is inherent to the idea of biodynamic farming. Other aspects include timing specific farming activities according to the patterns of the moon and other planets. Anything added to the soil or the plants themselves must be prepared in specified ways without chemicals–all part of a design to protect the “organism” and engage the full power of natural forces.

Steiner was violently opposed to chemical farming, convinced that it was detrimental to the land and robbed its yield of nutrition. But it wasn’t only the addition of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that Steiner opposed, it was the concurrent damage in the spiritual realm. For him farming meant the marriage of spiritual and material–monism. And by adding synthetic nutrients, or “dead” matter, you were upsetting the natural rhythm of the earth and production of food.

Steiner’s belief in karma and reincarnation translates to his reverence of the farm as a living organism that must be viewed in its totality, revered as it were–just as he believed that humans must exist through a blend of scientific and spiritual thought and experience.  For him “natural science” was limited in that it investigated the outer world, but paid no attention to matters of the spirit, which for him were as essential to life as the sun and the moon.

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