This article mighty make some of you out there roll your eyes. If you find the use of the term ‘life energy’ as it relates to gardening sort of nutty, and find solace in believing only in what can be proven—or that which is based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence—you might not allow yourself to take the concepts we’re discussing here too seriously.

That’s okay—you can grow plants without paying attention to this sort of stuff. All that I’m asking here is for you to think about what you could be missing.

Consider first that there is no human logic in nature. For instance, ask yourself: why does a plant grow up?

It’s a tricky question if fully considered. Think about it—a plant resists the most powerful force on Earth…gravity. In school we spend plenty of time learning about how plants grow, but we are rarely encouraged to ask why—we are only learning half the story.

Humans formulate scientific laws to provide order in the way we look at the world. Many of the forces and processes described in our laws and axioms take place on a scale that we cannot observe, and yet we take it all for granted without actually having seen it for ourselves. We have Bohr models in chemistry class that allow us to ponder the structure of the basic forms of life, but they are exactly that—models. Who knows what’s really happening down there?

Einstein’s relativity theory attempts to explain the forces that govern the universe in the way that Newton’s laws demonstrably govern humans on Earth, but the two are not always compatible, so a physical law as applied to a human can be different than the law that seems to govern the behavior of vast processes in the universe.

Consider that a growing plant fails to abide by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or increased entropy. The idea expressed in this law is that available energy—in this case, heat—is used up for the purposes of productivity and growth and in the process some usable energy is always irretrievably lost. As this occurs, disorganization, randomness and chaos increase.

Why the,n do plants not decompose as they grow, and why do warm-blooded animals retain heat against the forces of entropy? What is it that allows living organisms to resist these natural laws?

The main reason these apparent inconsistencies go unexplained is because they lack an explanation that fits neatly into our human constructs. We make laws that only apply to parts of the universe, and we use scientific methods to tell us what is true in the natural world when these methods are actually incapable of measuring or describing the mechanisms at work. Nature works in spirals, not straight lines. In the end, the subtle energies that work in harmony to organize life are not only unobservable, but often impossible to measure.

This apparent disconnect between measurable scientific laws and what actually happens only begins to make sense when we make the connection that there is a life force involved in living systems that operates beyond our physical senses and that functions on a frequency that our instruments are incapable of registering. The truth of it is that there is more to life than we can know—with our current state of scientific knowledge, at any rate—and we must humble ourselves to accepting this.

It is the five human senses and our intellect that calibrate the technology we use to measure our world. But what happens if we cannot experience or even detect the presence of some aspect of universal reality in order to calibrate a machine to measure it? Does it make this universal reality irrelevant, or not real?

Let’s think about Einstein again. He came up with the theory of relativity not by experiment but through original thought. His idea has been accepted by most as truth, but it has never actually been proven. We are all capable of original thought—just imagine how much more there is out there!

The concept of ‘life energy’ has a bit of a New Age ring to it, but our language is limited. It’s a shame, because there certainly is a force of life, as evidenced by the difference in behavior between the individual components that make up life forms versus that of the activity of the entire life forms themselves.

Most of us would accept the premise that there is more to life than that which is physically measurable, yet very few of us ever enter into experimentation with it. We can argue all day long trying to define what this ‘more’ actually is, but it shouldn’t prevent us from taking advantage of its existence.

Think of it this way. There is absolutely no explanation as to why the calcium coming out of a worm is 10 times higher than that which goes in, or how a chicken lays an egg every day without eating enough calcium to form it, but who wouldn’t use worm castings or eat eggs because they don’t completely understand the processes involved?

In order to fully explore the idea of life force and its relevance to the garden, we must first investigate how plants are linked through innumerable processes to the life of the world around us.

In 1924 the spiritual scientist Rudolf Steiner delivered lectures in response to a request by farmers who had noticed degraded soil conditions and deterioration in the health and quality (or life force) of crops and livestock, resulting from the use of chemical fertilizers. These eight lectures became known as the Agriculture Course, and are a must-read for anyone who strives to understand plants and their relation to the natural world.

Steiner opens the lectures by speaking on how rhythms indicate the degree to which natural beings have become emancipated from their relation to nature. This emancipation from nature is almost complete for human life, and is expressed as free will. Plant life, on the other hand, is still to a high degree immersed in the general life of nature, which is why the moon and other celestial bodies so strongly influence plant growth—as demonstrated in farmer’s almanacs with concepts such as ‘sow by the moon’ and in planting calendars such as the Stella Natura.

The scope of this article is not sufficient to fully express these concepts, but suffice it to say that the organization of what Steiner called the ‘higher energy bodies’ corresponds directly with how we experience nature. Humans are unique in possessing an ego, or the ability to recognize ourselves in the mirror. Animals possess no ego, but they do, along with humans, possess an astral—or soul—body. This is the bearer of pleasure and pain, cravings, desires and passions. It is the astral body that regulates instinct, and it is also at work in the human dream state.

Plants are not subject to the influence of emotion. According to Steiner, however, they do possess an ‘etheric’ body. This energy body can be explained as being responsible for fighting off decay. This is why seeds can sprout in a compost pile—even though decay is being encouraged, life can emerge.

When a plant dies and the physical body is removed from its energetic association with the etheric body, only then does it begin to decompose. The same is true for all living organisms. This occurs through the phenomenon of resonance. When the higher energy bodies are no longer retained in the physical body, the frequency is changed and the physical organism begins to break down.

So how does this apply to the grow room? The short answer is—in every way possible. The point of a grow room is to grow living organisms: plants. We are bringing living systems into our grow rooms and only considering the physical aspects of what we are growing. Simply put, we are squandering the potential of what we can grow when we fail to consider the mechanisms of the natural systems involved.

The broader idea at play here is that there is far more involved in nurturing crops than we presently understand, and it is related to what plants want as opposed to what they need. Humans can eat nothing but fast food and continue to grow, but they won’t stay healthy for long, and the same is true with plants. All of us realize you can grow a plant hydroponically with nothing but 17 elements and tap water, but what are we missing? Is mere growth good enough, or do we want growth that boggles the mind and nourishes the soul?

The very act of contemplating concepts like this can begin to open doors of potential in the garden that were not even on your radar previously. Plants are sentient beings—read The Secret Life of Plants or Secrets of the Soil.

Imagine you didn’t make your bed in the morning for a whole week, then think about how it would make you feel when you entered the bedroom. Something would be off in the energy of the room, and it would affect how you acted and felt. The Chinese call this concept feng shui. Nature works this way by design, but humans march to the beat of their own drum. We mean well, but we can be very disruptive. Although we have the capability to make plants grow in spare rooms in our house, we don’t always consider how the plants actually feel about it.

If we can humble ourselves to accept these concepts and realize that subtle energies are all around us—the threads that run through every aspect of life in our world—we will be able to start growing happier, more nutrient-dense plants with higher yields. Consider it feng shui for the grow room!