Questions on the modern teacher’s tasks. A contribution from Tomáš Zdražil.
On the twelfth day of the First Teachers’ Course (translator’s note: now available as three parts in one book) Rudolf Steiner outlines to the teachers to-be a unique picture of the connections of the true nature of the human being with the three realms of nature, the animal, plant and mineral realm (GA 293). The human being is described here – put in modern terms – as an ecosystem in a higher sense that lives in symbiosis with the realms of nature. The year 1919 is a point in time, in which there was not yet any ecology, but also not any anthroposophical medicine , let alone any anthroposophical agriculture . But nonetheless, you have the impression that the ecological approach as well as the fundamental viewpoints of anthroposophical medicine and biodynamic agriculture are already being expressed in this lecture.
I bear the animal forces within me
This lecture of 3rd September 1919 describes the different levels at work in the being of humans, which live in the particular realms of nature, but also in their own manner form the particular aspects of the human organism, the head, the trunk and the limbs. They are a part of human beings and they work respectively in their three subtle, invisible bodies, the etheric body, the astral body and the ego-organisation. The decisive factor is the role of the physical body, which joins the invisible bodies together through its extensively developed perfection in a higher – in the true sense of the word – unity of the human being. The connection of the body with the human soul life, with the life of thinking and feeling and the will forces is related to this mysterious relationship of the physical body to the animal-like etheric body, the plant-like astral body and the mineral-based ego organisation .
This is explained in full in the exploratory, intimating descriptions of Rudolf Steiner: I bear the animal forces within me, I need them and I am them and I must spiritualise them in my head. I bear the plant forces in myself, I need them and I am them and I must turn them around and internalise them in my torso. I bear the mineral in myself, I need it and am a mineral too and I must dissolve it . At stake is a spiritual and also a physical symbiosis and partnership. Steiner expresses his conviction a number of times that these symbiotic viewpoints with regard to humans, animals, plants, microorganisms and the mineral world will become more and more important in the future with respect to health .
Furthermore, anthroposophical medicine, later developed and extended, is based on a view of human beings which grasps them in their intrinsic kinship with the realms of nature (minerals, metals, plants and animal organs and substances). This kinship is the basis of anthroposophical-therapeutic principles; the pharmaceutical methods of the production of medication in this sense are based on this. The biodynamic way of farming, arising in 1924 from Rudolf Steiner’s so-called Agriculture Course, sees itself as closed loop farming. It does not only orient itself according to the chemical elements in the soil, but also according to the cosmic forces. A farm is viewed as an individual farm organism in which each plant, each animal, each person represents an integral part of the overall organism. This is related to the strict keeping of livestock according to the nature of the species in terms of animal welfare, plant diversity, the breeding of fruit, vegetables and different kinds of grain and the attention paid to sustainable soil fertility and the diversity of soils with an extensively rich soil microbiome through special preparations.
Against the background of the present ecological crisis this description attains a particular urgency and explosive force and in the current context should be considered independently of what is to come and with regard to the conclusions for education . In Waldorf education the relationship to the animals is developed right through from kindergarten and Class 1. Animals figure in a pictorial way in a close kinship to human beings in children’s stories, in the fairy tales, fables and sagas in the guise of the pictures told. They speak and are bearers of moral qualities.
From Class 4 onward, animals’ lives and their relationship to human beings become an explicitly conscious or an unconscious latent question for the children. The life of animals in their natural surroundings is the subject of Animal Studies. In the upper school the zoology lessons are linked to that. Within the framework of gardening the children come across animals. Some schools practise approaches to education supported by animals. All the same, the question needs to be put as to whether these efforts are sufficient in view of the present situation. Would the relationship to animals and the awareness of their plight not need to be reflected differently and more strongly in school life?
Plants are much less conspicuous life companions of human beings than animals, yet they are all the more fundamental and more indispensable for people’s lives and the life of the planet. They are green and they master photosynthesis, a fundamental life process. Plants have a special relationship to sunlight and are able to transform water and carbon dioxide to carbohydrates and oxygen. Only through plant metabolism do all other creatures, animals and human beings, live. They feed on the plant’s body (sugar types and starch), into which the plants have bound the energy gained from sunlight . From the energy that is released animals and humans can become active.
«Platonic World Year»
In our breathing we have a strong rhythmicity and regularity, which is by and large removed from people’s awareness. We draw in air about 25'000 times a day and breathe in about 10'000 litres a day; in the process 400 litres of carbon dioxide are breathed out. We breathe automatically and unconsciously in and out. In a healthy organism there is living rhythmical synchronisation between breathing and the blood circulation (in a ratio of 1:4). Among the life processes of the organism, breathing is most directly affected by what emotions are stirred in our souls, something that, for instance, can be seen in an elemental way in expressions of cheerfulness or sadness (laughing and crying). At the same time, breathing is the only life process that we can also control voluntarily. Rudolf Steiner never tires to stress how breathing runs very much in tandem with the cosmic rhythms, for example, in conformity with the so-called «Platonic World Year». Its duration corresponds to the number of breaths we take each day (see Steiner, Lecture 2 in the second part of theFirst Teachers’ Coursebut formerly in Methods of Teaching).
We are unable to deliberately control our process of digestion, yet nutrition is to a large extent determined by people’s own decision-making or whimsical nature with regard to the timing, frequency and choice of food. This is influenced or even determined by our lifestyle, our eating habits and food preferences; they all have a strong egocentric or even egoistic colouring. In the average lifespan of 75 years we take in 30 tons of food and 70'000 litres of liquid from the outside world. Digestion is a very complex process through which it can take up to 40 hours until the waste is excreted. The mineral, plant or animal substance is ingested, is crushed mechanically in the mouth and split up chemically, through the stomach juices and enzymes, the liver, the pancreas, the spleen and then broken down in the gut (microbiome), dissolved, detoxified and absorbed into the circulating blood. Through the bloodstream the transformed foodstuffs (gut) and oxygen (lungs) are transported, just like the carbon dioxide and the toxic products to be excreted. 1500 litres of blood flow through our kidneys alone daily. How can people’s conscious awareness be transformed with regard to the interwoven connection between people’s food and the environmental crisis?
Schools and other places of education have a key task in this domain. For schools and kindergartens are involved in a closely-woven network of social relationships between teachers, children or pupils and parents. During these social interactions people spend a lot of time together and food plays an important role: breakfast, breaks, and lunch-time. People meet at conferences, which often include supper. People celebrate festivals together, at which providing food represents an essential component. Likewise on class trips or while doing other projects where classes and groups of pupils cook together.
Waning of healthy instincts
In schools food and nutrition are an issue. Nutrition is spoken about, baking, cooking, eating are done together, sometimes even shopping is done together. Sensory experiences (tasting) with a lasting effect are provided, habits and abilities are formed; indeed, health is developed. Does the school have a plan concerning nutrition? Is nutrition part of the school’s health programme? Rudolf Steiner recommends teaching nutrition as the main lesson on health for Class 7.
He justified these lessons with the waning of healthy instincts, with the rise in egoism, on the one hand, and with the faculty of judgement-making, on the other. Are the content taught and the timing of the lessons still in order? How are the pupils introduced to the complexity of the problem of nutrition? For instance, through the main lesson from the grain to the bread, or the main lesson on plants, or through particular projects? In which other lesson contexts can biological, geographical, historical, economic and other interconnections of the complex problems with nutrition be treated?
Lots of questions arise for dealing with this area, lots of things would be possible. How many schools have integrated the home economics topic, which includes cooking as well, in their lesson planning? How many schools have invested in a kitchen for lessons? How many schools have a school kitchen programme, in which the pupils are involved? What views on nutrition and what training do the head of the school kitchen and staff have? To what extent does the school succeed in integrating gardening into the school kitchen situation? Where does the school get its food from? Of what quality is it? What views on the nutrition of the children are passed on at parents’ evenings? All this is time-consuming to organise, but everything is a question of priorities, of the school’s plan.
In the 21st century it is evident how the health situation of human beings forms one entity with the ecological situation of the earth. Medicine in the present and in the future must take into account the context of the whole earth. On 15th November 2022 the number of human beings on the planet crossed the threshold of eight billion . In 1974 there were still only 4 billion. People assume that by 2050 the earth will have to feed nearly ten billion people. This fact, together with the manner in which all the inhabitants of the earth are fed, lead to huge challenges, challenges for agriculture, food production, and for the relationship of human beings to the realms of nature on the earth.
More than 70 % of our illnesses are caused by people’s lifestyle. Heart and circulation problems, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, cancers and strokes are largely bound up with our eating habits and the amount of exercise we have. They are frequently the result of overweight and obesity. Overeating and unhealthy eating are currently the cause of roughly a quarter of all illnesses.  All chronic illnesses and some mental illnesses are an existential threat to the future of humankind, to be compared with climate change. Thus, medicine is standing at a crossroads. For, with the familiar approaches, which concentrate on the body and on the fighting, eliminating and suppressing of illnesses with the help of medication and high-tech equipment, it is travelling down a dead end road. At the current rate of the spread of chronic and mental illnesses, the health care system will collapse in a limited number of years. If the next generation is not to be faced with an unmanageable burden of illnesses anymore, a decisive change in lifestyle and just as much a change in energy policy is required.
Education: Not just a transfer of knowledge
Thus, it becomes evident that stronger preventative and salutogenetic approaches have to be sought, laying the foundations for a positive, healthy lifestyle from early childhood on, tackling their behaviour regarding their health and stimulating and enabling them to actively shape their lives. Thus, we come to the area of education, not only age-wise. Medicine needs to take on the soul-spiritual side, that is to say, the motivational side of our human personalities. Thereby, pedagogical aspects regarding the significance of prevention receive a more important role, whether it be in the area of community building and social interactions, whether it be in relation to children’s ability to imitate, whether it be in the manner of conveying the material or of the instruction, or else in the sense of the schooling and self-development of the teachers.
On the other hand, it is becoming more and more obvious that in education, it is not simply a matter of passing on knowledge and competence, but of learning physically with the body, of learning emotionally and socially, of developing a readiness to learn through relationships; it is a matter of relieving stress, creating positive feelings and well-being, of rhythm and a holistic view (among other things); in other words, it is a matter of considering many aspects that are relevant to health.
«Only when we dwell in our bodies, will we keep the earth as a place fit to dwell in» (T. Fuchs: Die Verteidigung des Menschen, p. 14, meaning «The Defence of the Human Being»). The realms of nature are the extension of our bodies. They are the living foundation of our health, our self-awareness and our culture. The integrated unity of preventative medicine (also veterinary medicine), of sustainable and regenerative nutrition and agriculture as well as holistic education and formative development in the sense of salutogenesisis currently the task of civilisation. This can only happen on the basis of an integrated and holistic image of the human being and world-view. 
Anthroposophical fields of life – through their sisterly (or brotherly) set-up – have a favourable starting position for this. Anthroposophy has an approach with an intrinsic health-supporting factor. It may well be one of the most eminent tasks of the next few years to increase the awareness of this approach in the interplay of anthroposophical agriculture, medicine and education and to enhance its practise.
Translated by John Weedon
 The first Medical Course was given in March 1920.
 The Agriculture Course was given in summer 1924.
 The relationship of etheric body- animal-like, astral body- plant-like and ego-mineral is unusual, but nonetheless correct because thus, the “cosmological” degree of maturity and stage of development are indicated. The physical body is most developed and truly human. The etheric body , though it is also well developed, remains animal-like, the astral body less so, is therefore plant-like and least of all the ego, which is, therefore, still mineral.
 In the above-mentioned lecture Rudolf Steiner touches upon the relationship of the human being to the most elemental level of life, the microbes. At the time such scientific knowledge was very limited; nowadays, we know that with respect to the microbes the human body is also an ecosystem and that we need the microbes. For example, our digestive system and also our immune system could not mature and function healthily without them. Nevertheless, the immune functions are heavily dependent on our self-regulation and lifestyle, on our social relationships and our motivation in life or the purpose we give our lives. How we react to viruses depends on these factors. A virus without a host organism, i.e. without the living element surrounding it, is without any function or significance. In the lecture, Rudolf Steiner expresses it somewhat crudely: «It is essential for us to look after our physical constitution in such a way that it is no longer a pleasant place for all this vegetative riff-raff to reside; if we do so, then these small folks cannot wreak that much havoc on us». (Steiner GA 293, p. 180)
 «Here this fine web of processes comes about, which medicine in future, hygiene in future, will need to study in particular detail … In relation to such things modern medicine is in its infancy». (Steiner, GA 293, p. 180)
 I am concentrating solely on the two realms of organic nature, animals and plants.
 The variety of plant species is estimated to be approx. 380'000 world-wide; of these approx. 30'000 are edible.
 More than 30% of them are children and adolescents.
 In contrast, there is the global problem of malnutrition and the unfair distribution of food, which has been worsened by the Corona crisis and the war in Ukraine.
 Already after the Second World War the scientist Lily Kolisko went into the necessary future synergy of the three fields of life, agriculture, medicine, education. See her essay: Our Tasks for the Future. In Kolisko, E. and L.: Landwirtschaft der Zukunft (Agriculture of the Future); Schaffhausen, 1953, p. 433 onwards.