Theme of the year 2013/14

The bees, creators of relationships

The Agriculture Conferences 2011-12-13 constituted a trilogy aimed at learning new methods of dialogue reasearch (“From burning issues to beacons of light”), giving new impulses (“Onwards to the source”) and bringing the biodynamic impulse into civil society (“Alliances for our Earth”). The Section for Agriculture at the Goetheanum would like to suggest a new thematic arc this working year. On the one hand, it will be oriented more closely towards agricultural practice, with soils, plants and animals at the centre of attention. On the other hand, it will be guided by the question “How do I achieve inner certainty?” in my dealings with living beings on the farm, so that I am not dependent on external authorities of any kind. With this foundation in mind, we propose the new theme of the year: “The bees, creators of relationships”. This topic is highly prominent at the moment and still connected to alliance building work.

The collapse of bee colonies is a shock for many people. Beyond the circle of bee-keepers and farmers immediately affected by the problem, we are all affected and startled, because one of the most profound symbols of our agriculture and our only domesticated insect - the bee - is in deadly peril. In recent years the bees have become an important motivator for people to join together in new initiatives, resulting in a number of articles, books and films on the theme. The dying of the bees has focused our attention on the weakening and degeneration of our life world.

Formerly considered priestesses – Melissa was a priestess in Ephesus – bees have been reduced to machines for honey production and pollination. Bees were once omnipresent on every farm, but with the industrialisation of farming and bee-keeping, bees have disappeared from many landscapes. In 1923 Rudolf Steiner spoke about the danger of bees dying as a result of the technologisation of bee-keeping, such as the artificial breeding of queens. He gave many suggestions for the development of bee-keeping in accordance with the essential nature of the bee. In the Agriculture Course Steiner speaks about the importance of the insect life on the farm as compensation for the vegetative life of plants, because insects bring the necessary astrality for the flowering and fruit development of plants.

From practical questions concerning bee-keeping, to professional practices of biodynamic bee-keeping, and the place of bees in tradition and symbolism, to the products of bees, this theme is a wide venue for exploration, research and interdisciplinary exchange.

The following questions can be guidelines for preparatory engagement with the theme:

  • How can we understand the nature of the bee and its role in the farm organism?

  • What are the elements of bee-keeping in accordance with the essential nature of the bee?

  • How can we shape the landscape of a farm so that bees and other pollinator insects can find food throughout the year?

  • How can alliances between bee-keepers, farms and consumers be developed, so that each farm can keep bees?

Bees fascinate us as social animals. With their gesture of giving, sacrificing and altruism, they show us images of a possible future society. How can we understand these pictures and use them to inspire our social life? What role can bees play in pedagogy, therapy and the arts?

There is a richness of precious substances made available to us by bees: honey, wax, propolis, bee venom, etc. How can these substances and their uses in nutrition and medicine be understood?

These certainly incomplete suggestions aim to be a guide for the work with the annual theme, which encompasses bees and insects, and explores all their possibile relationships with agriculture, landscapes, history and humans. Through the interdisciplinary deepening of this theme we hope to give back to the bees a place in the heart of our farms and landscapes.

The Michael letter that will accompany the theme of the year is entitled “The freedom of man and the age of Michael” (Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts, GA 26).

Suggested reading on the theme:

  • Rudolf Steiner (1923). Bees. Anthroposophic Press. (GA 351)

  • David Heaf (2010). The bee-friendly bee-keeper. A sustainable approach. Northern bee Books.

  • Gunther Hauk (2002). Toward saving the honey bee. Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association.

  • Taggart Siegel Ed. (2011). Queen of the Sun. What are the bees telling us? Clairview Books.

The Circular letter of the Section for Agriculture that is issued twice a year will develop this theme further. It can be obtained by contacting the Section for Agriculture:

Hügelweg 59,
CH-4143 Dornach
Fon +41 (0)61 706 42 12
Fax +41 (0)61 706 42 15

The theme of the year forms the basis for the Agriculture Conference 2014, that will take place from 5th to 8th of February at the Goetheanum in Dornach.