Any discussion of Biodynamics® begins with a discussion of Rudolph Steiner. Who is Rudolf Steiner? Many of those who knew and worked with Steiner in the early part of the 20th Century considered him a seer. Others saw him as a clairvoyant, and still others a pioneer and teacher in many different subject areas. During his lifetime, he wrote over thirty books and gave approximately 6,000 lectures covering a vast array of topics such as agriculture, medicine, education, childhood pedagogy, philosophy, astronomy, science, economics and much more. Steiner’s teachings comprised a comprehensive worldview that he called ‘anthroposophy.’ A fundamental task of the anthroposophical movement was to help form a bridge between the material world and the spiritual world with the help of many of the techniques that Steiner prescribed in his teachings on agriculture, education, medicine, psychology, the arts, etc. This was seen as particularly important in our materialistic age, a time when direct perception of spiritual phenomena has largely been lost but could, according to Steiner, be re-enlivened to help cultivate a more harmonious and holistic approach to human affairs in the future. It should be made clear, however, that Steiner’s interest in spiritual matters in no way diminished his interest in and respect for natural science. On the contrary, Steiner believed that humankind’s development of science was a necessary step in the development of what he called ‘spiritual science,’ something that could eventually be used to help us reconcile the spiritual/material divide that has plagued modern man.
In terms of spirituality, Steiner saw the incarnation of the Christ in the body of Jesus of Nazareth as a pivotal point in the evolution of humankind, serving as a potent manifestation of the indwelling spirit. Through his work and the practices he advocated in agriculture and other fields, Steiner sought to reawaken our conscious appreciation for the unfolding of spiritual forces in our daily activity. A compelling summary of Rudolf Steiner’s life’s work was given by his wife, Maria Steiner, in the introduction to Steiner’s May 1908 lecture series on the Gospel of St. John (copyright 1940). She writes: “For all of his endeavor had this one goal – to pave for the world the way to the Christ.” This is a path open to all humankind, regardless of profession or religious denomination. Whether one embraces the contents of these or any other lectures Steiner gave during his sixty-four years on this Earth, one cannot miss his efforts to engage his audience to consider the world from a spiritual perspective – a perspective symbolized quintessentially by the life of Christ.
The foundations for Biodynamic® agriculture were presented in what is known as the Agriculture Course, an eight lecture series given in June of 1924. The Agriculture Course, later compiled
in a book entitled The Spiritual Foundations for a Renewal in Agriculture, was one of the last series of lectures given by Rudolf Steiner, just eight months prior to his death in March 1925. By all indications, Steiner was interested in doing something in the agricultural realm because of the importance of working with the land and of growing food that contained what he called ‘life force.’
For every initiative that Steiner founded, whether it was agriculture, medicine, education, etc., he always worked with a point person(s) to direct that initiative. For Biodynamics®, one of those individuals was a young man name Ehrenfried Pfeiffer. In the preface to the 1974 George Adams translation of the Agriculture Course, Pfeiffer tells of a conversation he had with Steiner shortly before the agriculture course was given. He writes: “He had been speaking of the need for a deepening of esoteric life, and in this connection mentioned certain faults typically found in spiritual movements. I then asked, ‘How can it happen that the spiritual impulse, and especially the inner schooling, for which you are constantly providing stimulus and guidance, bears so little fruit? Why do the people concerned give so little evidence of spiritual experience, in spite of all their efforts? Why, worst of all, is the will for action, for the carrying out of these spiritual impulses, so weak?’ I was particularly anxious to get an answer to the question as to how one could build a bridge to active participation and the carrying out of spiritual intentions without being pulled off the right path by personal ambition, illusions, and petty jealousies; for these were the negative qualities Rudolf Steiner had named as the main inner hindrances. Then came the thought-provoking and surprising answer: ‘This is a problem of nutrition. Nutrition as it is today does not supply the strength necessary for manifesting the spirit in physical life. A bridge can no longer be built from thinking to will and action. Food plants no longer contain the forces people need for this.’”
Later on, in the preface to the Adams translation edition, Pfeiffer goes on to explain and describe the lecture series. He writes: “In the agricultural course, which was attended by some sixty persons, Rudolf Steiner set forth the basics for a new way of thinking about the relationship of Earth and soil to the formative forces of the etheric, astral and ego activity of nature. He particularly pointed out how the health of soil, plant and animals depend upon bringing nature into connection again with cosmic creative, shaping forces. The practical method he gave for
treating soil, manure and compost, and especially for making the Biodynamic® compost preparations, was intended above all to serve the purpose of reanimating the natural forces which in nature
and in modern agriculture were on the wane. ‘This must be achieved in actual practice,’ Rudolf Steiner told me.”
Dr. Steiner also told Pfeiffer, “The benefit of the Biodynamic® compost preparations should be made available as quickly as possible to the largest possible areas of the entire Earth, for the Earth’s healing.”