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The Agriculture Course

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Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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The Agriculture Course

Agriculture Course: Discussion after Lecture 8

Schmidt Number: S-5776

On-line since: 26th June, 2007


16th June, 1924.


Question: Has liquid manure the same Ego-organising force as manure itself?

Answer: The essential point is to have the manure and the liquid manure properly combined. Use them in such a way that they work together, each contributing to the organising forces of the soil. The connection with the Ego applies in the fullest sense to the manure, though this does not hold good, generally speaking, for the liquid manure. Every Ego — even the potentiality of an Ego, as it is in the manure — must work in some kind of connection with an astral factor. The manure would have no astrality if “manure juice” did not accompany it. Thus liquid manure helps — it has the stronger astral force, the dung itself the stronger Ego-force. The dung is like the brain; the liquid manure is like the brain-secretion — the astral force, the fluid portion of the brain, i.e. the cerebral fluid.

Question: Might we have the indications as to the proper constellations?

Answer (by Dr. Vreede): The exact indications cannot be given now. The necessary calculations cannot be done in a moment. Broadly speaking, the period from the beginning of February until August will hold good for the insect preparations. For field-mice, the periods will vary from year to year. For this year (1924) the time from the second half of November to the first half of December would be right.

Dr. Steiner: The principles of an anthroposophical calendar, such as was planned at the time, should be carried out more fully. Then you could follow such a calendar precisely.

Question: Speaking of full Moon and new Moon, do you mean the actual day of the full or new Moon, or do you include the time shortly before and after?

Answer: You call it new Moon from the moment when this picture appears, approximately speaking (Diagram 22). This picture is there; then it vanishes. And you reckon it full Moon from the time when the following picture occurs. New Moon, therefore, from the time when the Moon appears as a quite narrow crescent, and then disappears. Twelve to fourteen days in each case.

Question: Can insects, unobtainable at the season of the given constellation, be kept until the proper time arrives?

Answer: We shall give more exact indications of the time when the preparations should be made. The several forms of insects can no doubt be kept.

Question: Must the weed-seeds be burnt in summer, or can it be done at any time?

Answer: Not too long after collecting the seed.

Question: What of the sprinkling of insect-pepper taken from insects that have never come into actual contact with the earth?

Answer: Sprinkle it on the earth just the same. For the insect, the process does not depend on physical contact, but on the quality communicated by these homoeopathic doses. The insect has quite another kind of sensitiveness; it flees from what ensues when the preparation is sprinkled in the earth. That the insect does not come into direct contact with the earth makes no difference at all.

Question: What of the harmfulness of frost in farming, especially for the tomato? In what cosmic relationship is frost to be understood?

Answer: If the tomato is to grow nice and big, it must be kept warm; it suffers greatly from frost.

As to frost in general, you must realise what it is that comes to expression in the effects of frost. These effects always represent a great enhancement of the cosmic influences at work in the earth. This cosmic influence has its normal mean when certain degrees of temperature are prevalent; then it is just as the plant requires it. If, on occasion, we get frost of long duration or too intense and deeply penetrating, the influence of the heavens on the earth is too strong, and the plants will tend to ramify in various directions, to form thread-like growths, to spread out thinly. And the resulting growths, being thin, will under certain conditions naturally be received by the prevailing frost, and destroyed. Frost, therefore, when it goes too far, is undoubtedly harmful to plant-growth, simply because too much of the heavens comes into the soil of the earth.

Question: Should one treat the bodies of animals with the burnt relics of horse-flies and the like, or should these relics be scattered over the meadows and pastures?

Answer: Wherever the animal feeds. Sprinkle the relics over the fields; they are all to be thought of as additions to the manure.

Question: What is the best way of combating couch-grass? It is very difficult, is it not, to get the seeds?

Answer: The mode of propagation of the couch-grass you have in mind — where it never goes so far as to form seed — will in the end eliminate itself. If you get no seed, you have not really got the weed. If, on the other hand, it establishes itself so strongly that it plants itself and continues to grow rampantly, you then have the means to combat it, for you will soon find as much seed as you require, because, in fact, you need so very little. After all, you can also find four-leaved clover.

Question: Is it permissible to conserve masses of fodder with the electric current?

Answer: What would you attain by so doing? You must consider the whole part played by electricity in Nature. It is at least comforting that voices are now being heard in America — where, on the whole, a better gift of observation is appearing than in Europe — voices, I mean, to the effect that human beings cannot go on developing in the same way in an atmosphere permeated on all sides by electric currents and radiations. It has an influence on the whole development of man.

This is quite true; man's inner life will become different if these things are carried as far as is now intended. It makes a difference whether you simply supply a certain district with steam-engines or electrify the railway lines. Steam works more consciously, whereas electricity has an appallingly unconscious influence; people simply do not know where certain things are coming from. Without a doubt, there is a trend of evolution in the following direction. Consider how electricity is now being used above the earth as radiant and as conducted electricity, to carry the news as quickly as possible from one place to another. This life of men in the midst of electricity, notably radiant electricity, will presently affect them in such a way that they will no longer be able to understand the news which they receive.so rapidly. The effect is to damp down their intelligence. Such effects are already to be seen to-day. Even to-day you can notice how people understand the things that come to them with far greater difficulty than they did a few decades ago. It is comforting that from America, at least, a certain perception of these facts is at last beginning to arise.

It is a remarkable fact that whenever something new appears, as a rule in the early stages it is heralded as a remedy — a means of healing. Then the prophets get hold of it. It is strange, where a new thing appears, clairvoyant perception is often reduced to a very human level! Here is a man who makes all sorts of prophecies about the healing powers of electricity, where no such thing would previously have occurred to him. Things become fashionable! No one was able to imagine healing people by electricity so long as electricity was not there. Now — not because it is there, but because it has become the fashion — now it is suddenly proclaimed as a means of healing. Electricity — applied as radiant electricity — is often no more a means of healing than it would be to take tiny little needles and prick the patient all over with them. It is not the electricity — it is the shock that has the healing effect.

Now you must not forget that electricity always works on the higher organisation, the head-organisation both of man and animal; and correspondingly, on the root-organisation in the plant. It works very strongly there. If, therefore, you use electricity in this way — if you pour electricity through the foodstuffs — you create foodstuffs which will gradually cause the animal that feeds on them to grow sclerotic. It is a slow process; it will not be observed at once. The first thing will be, that in one way or another the animals will die sooner than they should. Electricity will not at first be recognised as the cause; it will be ascribed to all manner of other things.

Electricity, once for all, is not intended to work into the realm of the living — it is not meant to help living things especially; it cannot do so. You must know that electricity is at a lower level than that of living things. Whatever is alive — the higher it is, the more it will tend to ward off electricity. It is a definite repulsion. If now you train a living thing to use its means of defence where there is nothing for it to ward off, the living creature will thereby become nervous or fidgety, and eventually sclerotic.

Question: What does Spiritual Science say to the preservation of foodstuffs by acidification, as in the Silage-process?

Answer: If you are using salt-like materials at all in the process — taken in the wider Sense — it makes comparatively little difference whether you add the salt at the moment of consumption or add it to the fodder. If you have fodder with insufficient salt-content to drive the foodstuffs to the parts of the organism where they should be working, the souring of such fodder will certainly be beneficial.

For instance, suppose you have turnips, swedes, etc., in a certain district. We have seen that they are especially fitted to influence the head-organisation. They are excellent fodder for certain animals — young cattle, for example. If, on the other hand, in some district you notice that as a result of such fodder the animal tends to lose hair too early or too much, then you will salt the fodder. For you will know that it is not being sufficiently deposited at those parts of the organism which it should reach; it is not getting far enough. Salt, as a rule, has an exceedingly strong influence in this direction, causing a foodstuff to reach the place in the organism where it ought to work.

Question: What is the attitude of Spiritual Science to the ensiling of the leaves of sugar-beet, etc., and other green plants?

Answer: You should See that you get the optimum effect; you must not go beyond the optimum in the method used. Generally speaking, the souring will not have a harmful effect unless carried to excess by the addition of excessive quantities of admixtures. For the salt-like constituents are precisely those that tend most strongly to remain as they are in the living organism.

Usually the organism (the animal organism also, and the human to a still greater extent) is so constituted that it changes whatever it absorbs in the most manifold ways. It is mere prejudice to think, for example, that any part of the protein you introduce through the stomach is still available after this point in the same form in which you introduce it. The protein must be completely transformed into dead substance, and must then be changed back again by the etheric body of man himself (or of the animal) into a protein which is then specifically human or animal protein.

Thus, everything that penetrates into the organism must undergo a complete change. What I am saying applies even to the ordinary warmth. I will draw it diagrammatically (Diagram 23). Assume that you have here a living organism; here you have warmth in its environment. Suppose on the other hand that you here have a piece of wood, which, though it comes from a living organism, is already dead, and you have warmth in its environment. Into the living organism the warmth cannot simply penetrate; it does not merely penetrate it. The moment the warmth begins to come inside, it is already worked upon by the living organism; it changes into warmth that has been assimilated and transmuted by the living organism itself. Indeed, it cannot rightly be otherwise. Into the dead wood, on the other hand, the warmth will simply penetrate; the warmth inside is the Same as in the surrounding mineral kingdom of the earth.

Not so with living bodies. The moment any warmth begins to penetrate unchanged into our organism, for example — as it would penetrate into a piece of wood — that moment, we catch cold. Whatever enters from outside into the living organism must not remain as it is; it must at once be changed. This process takes place least of all in salt. Hence, with the salts, used in the way you indicate for ensiling the foodstuffs — provided you are just a little sensible and do not give too much (for then in any case the animal would reject the food because of its taste) — you will do no great harm. If it is necessary for preservation, that in itself is a sign that the process is right.

Question: Is it advisable to ensile the fodder without salt?

Answer: That is a process much too far advanced. It is, I would say, a super-organic process. When it has gone too far, it can under certain circumstances be extremely harmful.

Question: Is the Spanish whiting (sometimes used to mitigate the souring effects) harmful to animals?

Answer: Certain animals cannot stand it at all; they become ill at once. Some animals can stand it; I cannot say which at the moment. Generally speaking, it will not do the animals much good; they will tend to become ill.

Question: I imagine the gastric juice will be dulled by using it?

Answer: Yes, it will be made ineffective.

Question: I should like to ask if it is not of great importance in what frame of mind one approaches these matters? It makes a great difference whether you are sowing corn or scattering a preparation for destructive ends. Surely the attitude of mind must come into question. If you work against the insects by such means as are here indicated, will it not have a greater karmic effect than if in single instances you get rid of the animals by some mechanical means?

Answer: As to the attitude of mind — surely the chief point is whether it be good or bad! What do you mean by the “destruction”? You need but consider the whole way in which you have to think about these things in any case. Take to-day's lecture, for instance, and the way it has been held; when, for example, I pointed out how one must know about the things of Nature: how one must see from the outer appearance, say, of the linseed or the carrot, what kind of process it will undergo inside the animal.

You will go through such an objective education if this knowledge becomes a reality in you at all, that it is surely quite unthinkable without your being permeated with a certain piety and reverence. Then you will also have the impulse to do these things in the service of mankind and of the Universe.

If harm were to result from the spirit in which you do them, it could only be a question of your bringing in deliberately evil intentions. Yes — you would have to have downright bad intentions. If, therefore, common morality is at the same time fostered, I cannot imagine how it should have bad effects in any way. Do you conceive that to run after an animal and kill it would be less bad?

Question: I was referring to the manner of destruction — whether it be by mechanical means, or by these cosmic workings — whether that makes a difference.

Answer: This question raises very complicated issues, the understanding of which depends upon your seeing them in large connections. Let us assume, for instance, that you draw a fish out of the sea and kill it. Then you have killed a living thing. You have carried out a process which takes place upon a certain level. Now let us assume that for some purpose you scoop up a vessel of sea-water in which much fish-spawn is contained. You will thus be destroying a whole host of life. Thereby you will have done something very different than in destroying the single fish. You will have carried out a process on an entirely different level.

When such an entity in Nature passes on into the finished fish, it has followed a certain path. If you reverse this path, you are bringing something into disorder. But if I hold up, at an earlier stage, a process which is not yet completed (or which has not yet come to an end in the blind-alley of the finished organism), then I have not by any means done the same thing as when I kill the finished organism.

I must therefore reduce your question to this: What is the wrong I do when I make the pepper? What I destroy by the pepper scarcely comes into question. The only thing that could come into question would be the creatures I need to make the pepper. And to do this, I shall obviously in most cases destroy far fewer animals than if I had to catch them all with much trouble, and kill them. I fancy, if you think it over in a practical way and not so abstractly, it will no longer seem to you so monstrous.

Question: Can human faeces be used, and to what treatment must it be submitted before use?

Answer: Human faeces should be used as little as possible. It has very little effect as manure, and it is far more harmful than any kind of manure could possibly be. If you will use human faeces, so much as will find its way into the manure of its own accord on a normal farm is quite sufficient. Take that as your maximum measure of what is not yet harmful. You know there are so and so many people on a normal farm, and if with all the manure you get from the animals and in other ways there is also mixed what comes from the human beings — that is the maximum amount which may be used.

It is the greatest abuse when human manure is used in the neighbourhood of Large cities; for in large cities there is enough for an agricultural district of immense proportions. Surely you cannot fall a prey to the demented idea of using up the human dung on a Small territory in the neighbourhood of a large city — say, Berlin. You need only eat the plants that grow there; they will soon show you what it means. If you do it with asparagus, or anything that remains more or less sincere and upright, you will soon see what happens.

Moreover, you must bear in mind that if you eat this kind of dung for growing plants which animals will eat, the eventual result is even more harmful, for in the animals much of it will remain at this level. In passing through the organism, many things remain at the level which the asparagus preserves when it goes through the human body. In this respect crass ignorance is responsible for the most awful abuses.

Question: How can red murrain (Erysipelas) in swine be combated?

Answer: That is a veterinary question. I have not considered it, because no one has yet asked my advice about it. But I think you will be able to treat it by external applications of grey antimony ore in the proper doses. It is a veterinary, a medical question, for this is a specific disease.

Question: Can the Wild Radish[1], which is a bastard, also be combated with these peppers?

Answer: The powders of which I have spoken are specifically effective only for the plants from which they are derived. Thus, if a plant is really the outcome of crossing with other species, one would expect it to be immune. Symbioses will not be affected.

Question: What about green manuring?

Answer: It also has its good side, especially if you use it for fruit-culture, in orchardry. Such questions cannot be answered in an absolutely general way. For certain things, green manuring is useful. You must apply it to those plants where you wish to induce a strong effect on the growth of the green leaves. If this is your intention, you may well supplement other manures with a little green manuring.



1. Raphanus raphinastnrm.

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