Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), was the founder of the Anthroposophy movement, the “wisdom of the human being”. His thought had an impact upon many fields, but may be best known to the public through his influence on education and Waldorf schools. Perhaps next is his influence on agriculture, where he sought to go beyond even organic farming and permaculture (it was not known by this name then), to present essentially a cosmology of agriculture. Not only is the Earth comprised of interacting ecological systems, but so is the entire cosmos, of which the Earth is a part.
Steiner was a spiritual scientist who rejected the philosophy of materialism, that all that existed in the world was matter in motion. Certainly matter existed, but it was influenced by spiritual forces – even our diet does so – as he explained in “Nutrition: Food, Health and Spiritual Development”. A vegetarian diet, for example, “stimulates the forces in the human organism that brings us into a kind of cosmic union with the whole of the planetary system”. (p.42)
Consumption of vast quantities of alcohol saps the spirit and annuls human freedom: “The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity” (1894).
Steiner in his “science of the spirit” saw humanity in a process of evolution in the development of the human spiritual mind-soul. Humans themselves have an ego, astral body and ether body and higher beings – Angels _ impact upon aspects of this three-fold ontology, an interaction which clairvoyants can uncover. Steiner himself believed that the Angels, under guidance of the Spirits of Form guide each individual. The purpose of this intervention is to create on Earth “absolute brotherliness” so that all humanity is one.
Books advancing biodynamic agriculture thus seek to go beyond organic growing, which is merely holistic materialism, and seek spiritual gardening, considering cosmic relationships. Two books detailing this are “Maria Thun, Gardening for Life” (2012) and Hilary Wright, “Biodynamic Gardening for Health and Taste” (2009), which advocate planting according to the Zodiac and gardening by daily rhythms. As Thun puts it: “Plants are able to make visible the impulses and influences which emanate from the planets, sun and moon (for example, in the ‘head’ of a lettuce) in their shape and structure”. (p. 11)
I am not one sympathetic to esoteric metaphysics being by nature more pragmatic. However, I agree with Hilary Wright that the ultimate proof of the pudding is in the eating, and if the biodynamic way produces superior tasting, healthier food, as Maria Thun argues that it does, then there must be something in it. And what harm could it do trying it?