Life is peculiar. For instance, we can know we are alive and not know how we are alive at the same time. What gives? Religion has made many a fortune and follower arguing who is right, but one thing most agree on is that the source of life is beyond us. Call it faith or just humility, but ask any quantum physicist tasking themselves to discover the origins of life and they will say the further they look, the less we know. It seems obvious to consider a garden is alive, but most only consider the plants themselves—maybe the microbes in the soil, let alone how they work together symbiotically. But life is much larger than this. Most would only consider the materialistic reality of these phenomena, but what we are searching for here is that which is beyond us. We’re looking for where life comes from, and to do this we must grow our perspective larger than we may have been asked to in the past. There is something different and surreal about life. Life works together on many levels in order to work. But how exactly?
Consider the indoor grow room, a farm or the Earth itself as its own individual organism. Rudolf Steiner used the idea of the farm as an organism in his development of biodynamic methods. Through our experiences and observations, we can see the Earth takes a breath between the equinoxes by incubating (breathing in) its energy during the winter and expressing this energy (breathing out) in the summer.
We experience life: We observe it and take advantage of it, but by all means we take it for granted. Don’t get me wrong—this is not about showing appreciation or being thankful to be alive. I’m saying we are alive by default, and this innately manifests complacency and a failure of responsibility toward our potential without proper attention.
For example, in modern conventional agriculture, farmers use dead synthetic fertilizers and toxic biocides in an attempt to grow living food crops. That doesn’t make sense on paper. Still, it is how the overwhelming majority of food is grown in the U.S. In fact, the majority of our agriculture has been genetically modified so crops are able to withstand various poisons. We have gone as far as changing the genetics of life. Our ingenuity has mastered the art of profit at the expense of nature, but we have not stopped to consider people and the terrible expense we are creating for ourselves. We spend more time trying to kill problems we create with our toxic ways than we do trying to increase the quality of what we are producing. In many ways, we have lost perspective toward what is best for us.
A common mistake for people first introduced to these concepts is to imagine the messenger is suggesting the supersensible capacities of living systems are more important than materialistic capacities. That is not at all what I am doing here. The physical materialistic world is not irrelevant. Indeed, it is what we experience in day-to-day life—and it’s a major piece to the wholistic puzzle. But this article is about what we may be missing. Imagine trying to ride a bike with no chain—or without the human awareness that steers us in the right direction. We have to think our way out of this agricultural conundrum we have created. What we think, we grow. What we eat, we know.
Life contains physical, mineral, biological, and energetic components. The physical and mineral components amount to plowing and fertilizing conventional agriculture. From a certification level, organic growing completely disregards microbial inoculation and diversity, but at least organic fertilizers feed microbes. However, both methods of growing completely ignore and discount the energetic component and concept of life force.
Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic methods are the standard bearer of energetic farming. But biodynamics does not represent a complete farming system. In fairness, Steiner’s lectures show this was not his intention. He was asked to deliver methods of generating and working with the life force of the farm, not deliver concepts such as soil testing for mineral balance or brewing compost tea for biological diversity. In our consultation work, we call our agronomic approach “BioEnergetic Agriculture.” If conventional agriculture is drowning, and organic growing is treading water, BioEnergetic Agriculture is swimming where we want to go. In order to accomplish the potential of our agriculture, we must open our minds to the qualitative and relatively immeasurable concepts of form, resonance, potentization, and life force.
Literally, life is energy. In our own bodies we can identify the nervous system and the electrical firing of the synapsis in the brain, calling our bodies into action. The true workings of the energies that regulate these life systems are far more subtle and profound. We know life is more than the sum of its parts. The reason living things do not fall apart into their component pieces is due to the organization and communication of the physical body with, what Steiner called, the etheric body, the astral body and the I-organization, or ego, of humans. These subtle energy bodies represent the glue that holds life together. This glue is accomplished through the phenomena of resonance and potentization. Resonance is the force generated by pumping on a swing, or the concept of a pendulum continuing its initial momentum.
Potentization is the art of working with resonance in order to bring higher order and significance to life experiences. Consider the crescendo of a symphony orchestra as an example. Woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings work together to move the human spirit with sound. Resonance and potentization can be leveraged in a similar way in agriculture with proper intention. Think of pest infestation or plant disease like an out-of-tune instrument. Resonance and life force may be new concepts in regard to a garden, but they are vital to grasp in order to leverage the true power of living systems. Our language is very limited, as we are not invited to imagine life beyond its physical borders from an educational level. Interestingly enough, when we investigate higher energy bodies, and put their merits into application, we find they are perfectly represented by our experience in nature.
The ego is unique to humans on Earth. Animals cannot see themselves in the mirror, but a human ego can say “I.” The human ego represents responsibility of free will and leaves us disconnected from the rhythms of nature. Animals have no ego, but like humans they retain an astral body. Consider it as the soul body, or the bearer of pleasure and pain, cravings, desires, and passions. It is the astral body that regulates animal instinct. It is also at work in the human dream state. Plants do not retain an ego or an astral body, only an etheric and physical body. Throughout life, the etheric body resists decay by providing living substance a different setting, so to speak, than it would otherwise physically have by itself. Without an ego or an astral body, plants are more directly influenced by the subtle etheric energies of nature. They remain completely immersed in her natural rhythms. This is why plants are so heavily influenced by celestial events, such as the full moon, and represent the basis for the biodynamic method of farming introduced in Steiner’s Agriculture Course in 1924.
True health, in Steiner’s view, is only achieved when the higher energy bodies are working in conjunction with the physical body. To put it another way, illness occurs in the physical body as a precipitation of the imbalances in the wholistic system. Essentially, there is more to life than what is physically here. Life has a force, or an energy, that ties us altogether. This force is lost on the average human, as it is on the average modern farmer or popular scientist. All we need for confirmation of this pervasive energy is to take an inventory of the way these energies are expressed in nature—the spiral vortex.
We see the spiral vortex in water, snail shells, the tendrils of a climbing plant, the pattern of seed in a sunflower or pine cone, and in every living creature. Even shapes we see that are not spirals are patterned according to the sacred geometry of nature. From the tiniest of particles like DNA to the largest of systems such as galaxies, the spiral vortex is the pattern template of nature. Through resonance and potentization, life moves like an energetic ghost in spaces between physical substance via the form of the spiral vortex. Outside of itself, life is in resonance with and responsive to its greater environment, including climate, celestial cycles, the structure of water, and the great many subtle energies of nature and the universe, all of which work to regulate and communicate in and between living systems.
A living system is responsive to the farmer working the land, who, in most agricultural circumstances, is not operating in resonance with the wholistic system. This is the innate responsibility of a BioEnergetic farmer: making sure they are not working against the forces that are at work for them. There are ways to measure these forces, such as Kirlian photography or sensitive crystallization, but these methods are not accepted by popular science because they are not repeatable in the sort of exactness we have come to expect in scientific circles. Nature does not work in straight lines and data points, only chaos and spirals. Therein, nature does not repeat herself by design. The mighty scientific method might have brought us to where we are, but is it capable of taking us where we want to go?
The best measurement is experience. If we are to heal and conquer agriculture in any sort of collective way, we must come to terms with the confidence developed through the experience of growing with subtle energies, pondering life force, developing our own personal agriculture, eating our ideals, and holding ourselves accountable to the responsibility that we have for ourselves and the world that sustains us. Ideas are a real and tangible thing, and life is a force. It is form, resonance, and potentization personified. We can play it like a fiddle if we open our minds and provide ourselves the opportunity for reinforcing experience through the generation of supersensible ideas.