In 1921, Ernst Stegemann, an Anthroposophist and farmer who managed the Convent Estate Marienstein, asked Rudolf Steiner about the development of new plant cultivars as he’d noticed a decline of vitality in existing forms. Steiner referred to the use of native grasses as a source of new grain varieties, elaborating that it would become essential to pursue this, as with the end of Kali Yuga* (3001 BCE – 1899 CE), the vitality of all existing varieties would be exhausted.
“What our friend Stegemann said about being able to notice a decline in the quality of agricultural products was very much to the point. This decline, like the transformation in the human soul itself, has to do with the Kali Yuga coming to an end in recent decades and in those to come. You can take this remark amiss or not, as you wish. We are also faced with a great inner transformation in nature. The natural gifts, naturally inherited knowledge, traditional medicine, and so on that have been passed down from ancient times are all losing their potency. We need to acquire new knowledge in order to be able to enter into all the interrelationships of these things. Humanity has only two choices: either to start once again, in every field of endeavour, to learn from the whole of nature, from the relationships within the whole cosmos, or allow both nature and human life to degenerate and die off. There is no other choice. Today, no less than in ancient times, we are in need of knowledge that can really enter into the inner workings of nature.” Steiner, Agriculture, p. 40
* Then, however, came another age, an age in which this familiarity with the spiritual world also ceased, where, as it were, the gates to the spiritual world closed. People’s gaze became more and more limited to the outer sensual world and the intellect, which processes the impressions of the senses, so that people could only think about the spiritual world. That is the lowest way of knowing something about the spiritual world. What people now really knew from their own experience was the sensual-physical world. If people wanted to know something about the spiritual world, they had to achieve this by thinking. This is the time when man became the most unspiritual and therefore the most fixed and entrenched in the world of the senses. But this was necessary in order to gradually develop his self-awareness to the highest height. For only through the rough resistance of the outer world could man learn to distinguish himself from the world and to feel himself as a separate being. This latter age is also called Kali Yuga or the dark age.
Steiner, Lectures to Members, 25 January – 15 May