A little more about the man whose work inspired our range of tools …
Viktor Schauberger was an extraordinary man, a visionary with a new, integrated way of understanding the processes of nature. A forester by training, he lived in Austria in the first half of the 20th century. Through observation of the workings of nature in the forests under his care, he developed a view of the Earth as a living entity, with water as her lifeblood, a living fluid.
“Even in earliest youth my fondest desire was to understand Nature and through such understanding to come closer to truth; a truth I was unable to discover either at school or in church.”
Viktor Schauberger rejected academic training as a young man, preferring to learn from experience in the woods and mountains while he did his work as a forester. He was a patient, intuitive man. He had opportunities granted to very few today – he could observe Nature in her raw state, undisturbed by human technologies. In the mountains where he wandered, some areas had hardly ever been visited by humans before. How many of us, in the course of our work, have stumbled across the place where the chamois go to die? And seen the flowers that grow on their grave?
He learned from what he saw, the ways of Wise Nature, as he called it. He developed an understanding of the way that Nature worked. He then, much later, developed practical applications based on what he had observed. The copper tools project was an exception – most of his inventions were to do with water. They led to his being given the nickname ‘the water wizard’.
The copper tools project
From his understandings of the ways of living Nature and his experience as an engineer, Viktor came to the assessment that cultivating the soil with copper implements would be more beneficial to the Earth and lead to healthier plants. In his writings, he listed several reasons for this.
Primarily, he believed that using iron or steel implements to work the soil was detrimental. Everything in Nature is in movement, moving towards either growth or decay. If metallic iron is exposed to the weather it will rust and decay in a relatively short time. He could not see the logic of trying to encourage plants to grow using a material that is in a process of decay. Copper, on the other hand, is much more stable. Nuggets of metallic copper have been found in the Earth. It is not antagonistic to the Earth, is not in a process of decay. (In fact, it actively resists harmful bacteria. More about this on the copper page of this site.)
Secondly, he believed that on planet Earth, growth occurs in cooling conditions, in the medium of water; and decay occurs in conditions of warmth: the medium of fire. That is why compost heaps get hot. The heat encourages the constituents of the heap to break down, to be accessible for the next cycle of growth. Iron has greater frictional resistance than copper. This means that as an iron or steel ploughshare is dragged through the soil it heats up. With copper implements the friction is greatly reduced.
And thirdly, iron is a sparking metal. A spark is a discharge, a loss of energy. Viktor Schauberger believed that as the groundwater makes its way to the surface, it acquires a weak electrical charge. This charge is part of what nourishes the plants. Using iron tools depletes the groundwater of this charge, leaving less for the plants. Copper is a non-sparking metal, so there is no loss of energy in this way.
In the late nineteen-forties he collaborated with an academic from Salzburg to institute some field trials to test this idea. They grew a range of eight crops over fourteen trials, cultivating each test plot half with a copper-plated plough and half with a conventional steel plough as a control. The results were consistent. The crops cultivated with the plough with copper ploughshares had larger, healthier yields and fewer pests.
Despite the success of the trials, for various reasons he was not able to go into commercial production. However, his family kept his ideas alive and in the late 1990’s a coppersmith was invited to develop a range of garden tools, inspired by Viktor Schauberger’s work nearly half a century previously.
The golden plough revisited – Jane’s story
The copper-plated plough used in the Salzburg trials came to be known as the ‘golden plough’. There is a diagram of a plough in Callum Coats’ book about the work of Viktor and Walter Schauberger, ‘Living Energies’. Shortly after the launch of Implementations, as a tribute to Viktor Schauberger, I decided to try to make the plough, based on that diagram.
An engineer agreed to make it, and after much difficulty with deciphering the small diagram and working out how to make the template, he managed to make a copy. This was trialled at the Biodynamic Association conference, Botton Village in 2004. It almost worked, but not quite. The engineer then moved on to other ventures, I had neither the skills nor the resources to carry on the project myself, and so it was shelved again.
However, various things have been learned. When the engineer and I trialled the plough, one clever man asked – what is your archetype? All we could say was – we copied Viktor’s drawing. I now realise that simply won’t do, for me anyway. When I am dealing with living things, I want to bring as much of myself as I can to the process. That is what Viktor did and that is why he is such an inspiration. He made a connection with the essence, the life of water and from that connection had understandings that were not accessible in any other way. He loved the water and the trees and was greatly saddened when the logging flumes he designed were used to denude the mountains. He had a reverence for nature that made it safe for these living processes to reveal their secrets to him. That’s how I see it now. It’s what humans can do. Then the skills they have acquired in their life determine the applications they can make and what they can do with the understanding.
After that trial, I decided to focus on what I could do, so I wrote a book about Viktor Schauberger, trying to see the world from his perspective. For me now, it is greatly enriching to know I can engage with the natural world in a similar way to the way Viktor Schauberger did. That is the most important part of his legacy for me.
The official Viktor Schauberger website is run by PKS, the society established by Walter Schauberger and now run by his son and daughter-in-law.
A Conversation with Frau Ingeborg Schauberger
Frau Schauberger is the widow of Walter, Viktor Schauberger’s son. At the time of our conversation, when she was 89 years old, she was living in the family home in Bad Ischl, upper Austria. Each time I saw her she was wearing the traditional Austrian clothes, the close fitting tailored jacket and a dirndl skirt. Although she is less than five feet tall, she has a powerful presence. She shows a sharp intelligence. She speaks some English, more than my German, so our conversation was mainly in English. She was concerned that she would not be able to express herself well in English, so at each meeting we had an interpreter sitting with us.
Thank you for agreeing to talk to me about your memories of Viktor Schauberger.
Goethe talked about the difference between poetry and reality. A large poem can come from a small core of reality. I want to tell the reality about Viktor Schauberger as I remember him. There are not many people alive now who knew the real Viktor Schauberger.
I only knew Viktor for a short time, from 1952 until he died in 1958. I did not spend a lot of time with Viktor. Walter and I lived in Bad Ischl, and he lived in Linz.
He was one of the special men of the twentieth century. But by the time I knew him, he was disappointed about many things. It was always the same, all his life. His ideas always fascinated people, but few people could put it into practice.
The Schauberger family has a long tradition of working in the woods. Do any family members do this work still now?
Viktor was the last. He had grown up north of Linz, in an area of original woodland even now. This is rare in Austria these days. He was a soldier for four years in the first world war. He fought in Russia, Italy, Serbia and France, and was wounded. After the war, he worked in the wild woodland until 1924, then his forestry work was finished. After he built the logging flume (his first invention, which brought him to the attention of a wider audience), he was invited to work in Vienna. He was the last one in his family to work in the woods. Now nobody does that work. There is no hunting, nobody works in the wild woodland.
What did Walter and Viktor talk about?
Walter said, ‘Help Nature, help the trees. We have to have many more trees, more woodland. The first task for the woodland is to bring the water into existence. What can we do for Nature, what can we do for the woods, and what can we do for the woods and the water together?’ He always talked about this.
This was a time of industrial growth, the time of the German postwar economic miracle. Everything had to be bigger and better. These two men, Viktor and Walter, said it is not good to always have bigger and bigger. They said you have to look, where is the concentration, the essence, what is important for the whole of life. For Viktor and Walter, this was the important thing. How they could put this idea across so that people could understand it.
What did Viktor talk about?
Viktor Schauberger always said, ‘Think about Nature. Nature has to have a long time to grow. So natural things do not happen immediately.’
He used to say to Walter, ‘Now, everything is more expensive than water. But you will see, the next war will be about oil. And even more than oil, about water.’
He always said, ‘CAN’T YOU SEE IT? Can’t you see the water climbing up in the trees, 30 metres or more? There is no pump in the Earth! Nature works silently, without heat or pollution. In industry there is always noise and heat and pollution.’
He said that with the way industrial society has built up, now we are up to our necks in problems, we are drowning in difficulty. What can we do to get humanity back to the right way? He said, ‘Who will speak for the water? For the Earth?’ Nowadays, things are a little better than in Viktor’s and Walter’s time. The times are turning towards Viktor Schauberger’s way of thinking.
Viktor wanted to provoke people, to make them think. He would say to the engineers and professors, ‘You don’t know. You can’t even tell me how a blade of grass grows. And if you can’t tell me that, then what about the trees?’ Then he would put on his hat and leave.
He was a compelling speaker. When he spoke, everybody listened to him, and they understood what he meant. But when they went away and tried to remember it, the influence diminished. They remembered the feeling, not the understanding. They didn’t remember what they had understood when they were in his presence. It was as if a connection had been cut.
He had a group of devoted supporters, who loved to listen to him speak. Afterwards, they would say, ‘That was excellent!’ But when he asked them what they had understood, their jaws dropped and they said nothing.
My father-in-law was an impatient man. Sometimes he was angry and frustrated that his life was too short for him to put across all his ideas and the whole of his vision. He said, ‘Can’t you understand me?’ Looking back, I can see that he was unhappy. He spoke and spoke and spoke, and nobody seemed to hear him. It was like talking into thin air. And many of the people who did listen to him, they wanted immediate answers. For Viktor and Walter, the understanding of Nature came first. The machines came much later.
For Viktor, his life’s work was to speak to everybody, to make people think. He knew he had to put across the whole of his vision before he died. By the time I knew him, I think he could feel his approaching death. This gave him an extra sense of urgency. He had a very clear vision of what was needed. For him, it was simple. So he was very impatient when people did not understand.
I think now that he began to have doubts towards the end of his life. He began to wonder if he had achieved anything at all. His ideas were so simple and evident to him, but nobody else seemed able to grasp them.
The tragedy of Viktor Schauberger was that he was unable to communicate what was so clear to him. He knew that people did not understand, but he never asked if the reason for this was with him. It was always everyone else who was at fault.
Another problem was that he did not trust people. He made everything himself, because he did not trust other people to get it right. I think he was afraid that people would take his ideas and use them wrongly, either through ignorance or intent. His work was so unconventional, so extraordinary, that some people thought it was trickery. This was not helpful.
Viktor and Walter thought the same things. Why did they disagree?
They had the same idea, but father said, ‘Sorry, it’s my idea!’ He was often angry with Walter. There was a lot of difficulty between the father and son. Viktor always said, ‘Be quiet, you don’t understand what I mean!’
Viktor came from intuition. His three older brothers all had an academic education, and were distinguished men. But Viktor did not trust the thinking of people who had studied academically. Viktor believed that a person’s thinking is spoilt by academic training. Academic training prevents people from appreciating the ways of Nature.
Walter had studied Engineering at the Technical University. Viktor did not like to share his ideas with him. He was afraid that Walter would explain his ideas incorrectly, that he would say things Viktor could not accept.
One day, father came to Ischl. He and I had a discussion. I said, ‘Father, it is not so. Walter knows these things too.’ Viktor asked me, ‘Do you support Walter?’ I said ‘Yes, I stand by him in what he does, and I know that Walter also has an intuitive understanding of the ways of Nature.’ Viktor reluctantly accepted this, and after that he never said another word against Walter. They worked well together in the end, in the last two or three years of Viktor’s life.
In the end, Viktor said to Walter, ‘I think it is good that you studied academically. You can speak with the academics, the engineers in their language.’ Because nobody understood Viktor’s language. They were reconciled, and this made Walter very happy. After that he was more settled.
Walter respected his father and his ideas. Walter would translate his father’s ideas in a way that people could understand. Walter was intuitive too. He was the sort of man who could see that a woman was pregnant before she knew it herself! He could bridge the two worlds – he was intuitive and academically fluent. Viktor also bridged two worlds, from that of the old knowledge from his own father to the present. Viktor was a hundred years before his time.
And then there was the American episode.
We don’t know the exact background of the American adventure. Nobody knows exactly what happened, and many people speculate about it. In 1958 two men, two Americans came here. They promised Viktor mountains of gold. They said, ‘Anything you want, Viktor, you can have. It will be possible to bring it all with you. Come with us to Texas.’ Viktor understood no English, and Walter only spoke basic English. He was only interested in the language of Mathematics and Physics. There was a translator, a naturalised German-American. He said to me, ‘No word. Don’t talk about this to anyone. We are watching you.’
First they went to New York. There was an official welcome. ‘What luck for America, what luck for you,’ they said. They spent three or four days in New York then flew to Dallas. Then they drove out into the desert. They were provided with a bungalow in the desert. And so Viktor and Walter asked, ‘When can we begin to work?’ ‘You must have time to acclimatise,’ they said. But there was no work, no target. Walter did not know why they were there. They always had the feeling that they were being controlled.
Viktor became ill and went into the hospital. They did everything possible, anything he wanted, first class treatment. But nobody in the USA told the family in Austria that Viktor was ill. We didn’t know he was ill.
He wanted to come back home. They said, ‘If you want to return to Europe, you must sign this document.’ He had to promise not to speak about his ideas. If he had any new ideas, he was not allowed to speak to anybody about them. Only to the Americans. He was forced to sign this document. Five days after his return, he died. Before he died, he always said ‘I can’t say anything. They have taken my words.’
After Viktor’s death, an American came and apologised to Walter for the way they had been treated. But he couldn’t explain why it had happened, either. Later, other Americans came, five or six of them at different times. They all said, ‘You will have to excuse the treatment you had. Not all Americans are so bad.’ But Walter had nothing to do with Americans after that.
Tell me about PKS (Pythagoras-Kepler School).
Walter started the PKS. He felt that his life’s work was to explain the principles behind Viktor’s system. Walter studied Kepler’s ideas very intensively, and saw the correspondences with Viktor’s intuitive knowings. He looked for a mathematical explanation of Viktor’s system. Kepler’s work with the movement of the planets was a good starting point.
Pythagoras is almost too far back in the past, but what he learnt in Egypt also has resonances with Viktor’s ideas. Pythagoras was the grandfather, Kepler was the father and Viktor was the son. Each picked up the baton from his predecessor and passed it on. With each of them the expression is different, but the core principles are the same.
(Joerg (her son): Pythagoras and Kepler were both heroes for my father, as they brought the idea of Harmonics into Physics and Astronomy. They led my father to his Natural Tone Law – Natur-Ton-Gesetz – with hyperbolic cones and the hyperbolic spiral as manifestation of harmonics in evolution. That is why the PKS symbol is a hyperbolic spiral.)
I know about Viktor Schauberger’s ideas from reading Olof Alexandersson’s book, and Callum Coats’ translations of his writings. So his message is reaching out to people now.
Olof Alexandersson came here in 1959. He was the first outsider to make connection with Walter. I don’t know where the connection came from. He came here six or seven times, and they kept in contact. He was a great help for us, and still is. Everybody who read his book said, oh, what a man Viktor was! Olof and Walter had an academic relationship. With me, it was a personal friendship.
Callum Coats first came to Bad Ischl one year after Viktor died, with his mother. His mother knew Richard St Barbe Baker, and he introduced her to the Schauberger family. I remember when Callum came. He stepped into the PKS office and saw the spirals drawn on the walls. At that moment, a big door opened for him. It was a life-changing moment. The memory of those spirals stayed with him. Later, he came back and worked here. Callum is a dear friend of mine. I think that wherever Viktor is, he is very pleased with Callum. ”
Bad Ischl, Austria, June 2004.