Steiner’s Verses: Mother Earth, Father Sun

The sing-song voice of Kid1 floated into the kitchen:

Give thanks to the Mother Earth.
Give thanks to the Father Sun.

These lines were repeated a few times, and then there was a crash of blocks as they moved on to something else. I asked Kid1 about the song later and was told “we sing at school” before they ran off to do other things.

The first two lines floated around in my head for several days until I got around to asking at Kid1’s school. The blessing is one of Rudolph Steiner‘s and is recited before snack and meal time.

The complete verse is

Give thanks to the Mother Earth.
Give thanks to the Father Sun.
Give thanks to the plants in the garden,
Where the Mother and Father are One.

Given Steiner’s views on Christ, angels with flaming swords, and seasonal rituals, I can’t say I’m too surprised by the simple verse citing Mother Earth and Father sun, and I find it to be one of the milder things that Steiner introduces. Some of Steiner’s ideas on Anthroposophy (1) are hard for me to wrap my mind around, and some of the criticisms leveled against Steiner and the Waldorf movement (2) are rather unsettling.

Although I am still learning about Steiner’s more unique ideas (3), I think the simple snack time verse is sweet, and sends an appropriate message. I prefer it to the Omni-everything Mother-Father God (OMFG) that Ms. Eddy endorses.

Unlike the OMFG, Mother Earth and Father Sun are solid concepts that are easily understood. Mother Earth is all around us, Father Sun is in the sky shining down on us. You can walk around and enjoy the earth/nature, you can feel the warmth of the sun shining down on you.

Mother Earth and Father Sun are not a perfect analogy, but the concepts have been around for centuries. Mother Earth (and Mother Nature), is a common metaphorical expression for the Earth and its biosphere as a giver and sustainer of life. Mother Earth is also recognized as a deity in various cultures  – Gaia, Terra and Pachamama to list a few (4). Similarly Father Sun and predominately male Solar Deities can also be found in numerous cultures and traditions – ex: Helios, Apollo, Sol, and Tonatiuh (5).

Being thankful for the plants in the garden where the Mother and the Father are One is also conceptually solid. Without the earth to plant seeds in, and without the sun (yay for photosynthesis) there would be nothing in the garden to eat – although if you want to be strictly technical without the Earth we wouldn’t be here to begin with and there would just be space and other stuff orbiting the Sun.

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 8.52.33 PMTo me, Steiner’s underlying message is that the earth, sun and garden are things that should be cherished. Although it is hard imagine how one would love and care for the sun (other than appropriate seasonal festivities celebrating its return), appreciating the Earth and garden are easier. This appreciation of the material world, and acknowledgement of spiritual elements within it (6), are the opposite of Ms. Eddy’s stance that the material world is unreal.

For Ms. Eddy the earth is a preparatory school in need of improvement (7). Her “science” is one of the Science of Being, and her focus is on abstract concepts that require a fair bit of what fellow former-CS blogger Emerging Gently often refers to as “mental gymnastics.” In the land of OMFG, at the end of the day, we are Spiritual, not material, so while Christian Scientists pray to know the unreality of a bitterly cold Boston winter, the waldorf-minded individuals layer on their woolies.

Steiner, even with his quirks, did start one of the first sustainable agriculture movements. From wikipedia (6)

Methods unique to the biodynamic approach include its treatment of animals, crops, and soil as a single system; an emphasis from its beginnings on local production and distribution systems; its use of traditional and development of new local breeds and varieties; and the use of an astrological sowing and planting calendar.

Christian Science is very egocentric, it is all about the persons personal relationship with OMFG, often at the cost of all else. To my knowledge, Ms. Eddy never ventures far from the topic of her Science of Being and the OMFG relationship. The closest she gets to discussing agriculture is to make sheep/shepherd metaphors, and Principia’s motto “As the sowing, the reaping” drives home the point:

It’s a simple equation. What we receive is in direct proportion to what we give. Principians are encouraged and expected to give their all in every activity—academic, athletic, artistic, social, and spiritual. (8)

Academics, athletics, art, making the social rounds, and prayer aren’t going to feed anyone. Unless someone is actually out there sowing and reaping people are going to starve. Being a “fisher of men” (9) is all well and good, but unless someone is practicing sustainable fishing habits there won’t be much to eat in the long run. This is trivial in Ms. Eddy’s immaterial world, as she is the woman in the Apocalypse and soon we will all be as angels in Heaven (10), any suffering we have now (bonds of marriage included), must be tolerated until then.

These problems, which are unreal to Ms. Eddy, are issues that Steiner addresses, and while some of his mystical methods are questionable (11), no difference in beneficial outcomes has been scientifically established between certified biodynamic agricultural techniques and similar organic and integrated farming practices (6).

At the end of the day, I find Steiner’s simple verse, about Mother Earth and Father Sun to be far more pleasant than Ms. Eddy’s grandiose reinterpretation of the Lord’s Prayer (12).

Our Father which art in heaven,
Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious,

Hallowed be Thy name.
Adorable One.

Thy kingdom come.
Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present.

Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Enable us to know, — as in heaven, so on earth, —
God is omnipotent, supreme.

Give us this day our daily bread;
Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections;

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And Love is reflected in love;

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;
And God leadeth us not into temptation, but delivereth
us from sin, disease, and death.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
For God is infinite, all-power, all Life, Truth, Love,
over all, and All.

From Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
by Mary Baker Eddy, pp. 16–17

There is no need for grandiose kingdoms, or power and glory forever. Go take a walk. Enjoy your garden.

Image credit: screen shot from A Child’s Book of Blessings via GoogleBooks

  2. – I need to research this more, it brings up interesting questions
  3. Let’s face it, Steiner was influenced by 18th and 19th century German philosophers and writers, including but not limited to Nietzsche, GoetheSchopenhauerJean Paul, and Hegel*
  7. S&H p. 486 “Earth’s preparatory school must be improved to the utmost.”
  10. S&H p. 56 discusses the matter some, it is also mentioned a few other places
  11. including burying ground quartz stuffed into the horn of a cow, which are said to harvest “cosmic forces in the soil”

*as was Ms. Eddy, but that is a post for another day

Further reading:

Update 8/20/2019:  a commenter has informed me the verse is not from Steiner, and the earliest use of if they could find was in RitualCraft: Creating Rites for Transformation and Celebration by Amber K and Azrael Arynn K. I don’t know the origins of the verse, but I do know it is widely used in Steiner-inspired schools and Waldorf settings.