Making biodynamics appear respectable

There is still a lack of understanding of exactly what biodynamics (bd) is and where it came from. For a picture of what has been found by investigation, look at the criticism on wiki;

In a 1994 analysis, Holger Kirchmann, a soil researcher with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, concluded that Steiner’s instructions were occult and dogmatic, and cannot contribute to the development of alternative or sustainable agriculture and that many of Steiner’s statements are not provable because scientifically clear hypotheses cannot be made from his descriptions (for example, it is hard to prove that one has harnessed “cosmic forces” in the foods).

in a 2004 overview of biodynamic agriculture, Linda Chalker-Scott, a researcher at Washington State University, characterized biodynamics as pseudoscience, writing that Steiner did not use scientific methods to formulate his theory of biodynamics, and that the later addition of valid organic farming techniques has “muddled the discussion” of Steiner’s original idea. Based on the scant scientific testing of biodynamics, Chalker-Scott concluded “no evidence exists” that homeopathic preparations improve the soil.

 

Based in Stroud, the Biodynamic Association “exists in order to support, promote and develop the biodynamic approach to farming, gardening and forestry”.

The Steiner approach to growing is described on the website as “unique” (I won’t argue with that) and “seeks to improve the nutritional value of food and the sustainability of land by nurturing the vitality of the soil through the practical application of a holistic and spiritual understanding of nature and the human being”.

A reference to Rudolf Steiner appears well down the page, where they say he “first envisioned” biodynamics. They also say they have a spiritual purpose, and quote a line from the Foundation Stone Meditation written by Steiner in 1924; “Zielvoll führen Wollen” . The BDA says they “let it resound in our hearts and in our organisation.”

Other local organisations are Stroud Common Wealth and the Biodynamic Land Trust (BDLT) which have been successful over the last few years in raising money mainly for biodynamic projects. In 2010 Stroud common Wealth, run by anthroposophists, seems to have raised and spent £150k.

The BDLT similarly implies that biodynamics was not solely the invention of Steiner;

Biodynamics was founded in the early 1920s, when farmers, concerned about the declining health of soils, plants and animals, sought the advice of Rudolf Steiner…This approach has been under development around the world ever since.”

This is all designed to make bd seem respectable in the modern world, and to imply that it is not something practiced exclusively as part of anthroposophy.

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“Radiating astrality”

Both organisations refer to lectures given by Steiner in the 20s and these are available in English to read in line on the Rudolf Steiner Archive. Doing so is the easiest way to confirm that indeed Steiner did invent bd. Here he describes “Spiritual manure”;

Thus in the horn you have something well adapted by its inherent nature, to ray back the living and astral properties into the inner life. In the horn you have something radiating life — nay, even radiating astrality

We take manure, such as we have available. We stuff it into the horn of a cow, and bury the horn a certain depth into the earth — say about 18 in. to 2 ft. 6 in…). You see, by burying the horn with its filling of manure, we preserve in the horn the forces it was accustomed to exert within the cow itself, namely the property of raying back whatever is life-giving and astral.”

“So you dig out what has been exposed to the summery life within the earth… You can take a fragment the size of a pea, or maybe only the size of a pin’s head, and distribute it by stirring it up well in a bucket of water. Here again, you will have to stir it for an hour, and you can now use it to sprinkle the plants externally. It will prove most beneficial with vegetables and the like.”

These methods are used today, as Stroud community Agriculture members and Ruskin Mill students will recognise; over 50 acres locally is used for bd, owned by a Steiner school and two Steiner colleges.

Anthroposophists in Stroud are busily enlarging their Steiner empire by presenting biodynamics as sustainable and nurturing, when in fact it is a prime example of pseudoscience. A waste of time and money which is contributing to the global expansion of Steiner enterprises- all based on the clairvoyant visions of  a long -dead mystic.

All those members and supporters of community Agriculture, Land Trusts, etc who do not believe in magic, homeopathy and astrology as valid methods of food production should ask themselves whether they really want to support the disciples of Rudolf Steiner in their unpleasant belief system, anthroposophy. Here is Nick’s apposite comment;

Remember that, while most Steiner parents, children and teachers might not consider themselves to be racist, or Anthroposophists, the money received by the many Anthro businesses from Steiner/Waldorf schools, Biodynamics, Weleda, the Triodos Bank, various publishing houses, Camphill and so-on all goes to strengthening the people who control Anthroposophy who, in spite of decades of pressure from critics, refuse to say that Steiner’s racial hierarchy is wrong. Yes, they have claimed to be against racism, yes they have said that Steiner’s teaching might be thought to be racist by some people and, yes, they have said that modern Anthroposophists do not believe in racism. Yet they will not say that the racist hierarchy is racist and they will not say Steiner was wrong. Furthermore, they will not say how their belief in Anthroposophical reincarnation works without the racist hierarchy. So the £billions flowing into the Anthroposophical empire continues to expand the organisation and to keep the staunch Anthros (who believe in Steiner’s ‘truth’) in positions of wealth and power.

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9 comments

  1. Jim

    Helen, I’m afraid you haven’t understood biodynamics at all. It’s based on sound homeopathic principles – take one part sense and ten billion parts nonsense stirred ( and shaken ) and there you have it! And of course the more you increase the nonsense ratio the more potent it is.

    Simple really.

      • Jim

        Remember the old Thatcher joke? “What about the vegetables?” “They’ll have the same as me”.

        It seems that BD enthusiasts are beyond criticism. If you point out the evidence that BD veg is no different to any other they just take it as evidence that you are too dumb to appreciate the subtle spiritual virtues. In some ways it’s the same as people who go gluten-free despite the fact that few are actually allergic to it.

  2. Jim

    Nigel Slater writing in the Observer Food Magazine last weekend has added, probably inadvertently, to the air of respectability. Writing about Fern Verrow, his “favourite farm”, he eulogises the farm and its organic produce until inevitably comes the reference to biodynamics and Rudolf Steiner’s holistic vision ( no Nigel, megalomania is the word you want).

    There is no detail of what this means other than an ambiguous reference to energies of life permeating all living things. Ambiguous because Nigel is quoting and his direct endorsement is to the quality of the produce rather than the underlying magical thinking. But nonetheless the overall tone is supportive.

    Does he not know what BD is all about? Does he know and approve? I’ve noidea but I have emailed him so if I get a reply it may become clearer.

  3. Jim

    Nothing yet. But on looking further I see he wrote previously in 2007 going into the BD aspects a bit further – the cow horns full of dung, the deer bladders etc. Hard to tell what he thinks beyond acknowledging it sounds a bit daft. Of course in isolation the BD stuff sounds daft but harmless ( if pseudoscience doesn’t bother you too much ). But in the wider Steiner context it’s all part of a nastier picture.

    • Helen

      Lettuces cost £2.70 from Fern Verrow 2 years ago according to a promotional video – about 5 times the cost of the lettuce I have been buying from the WI market or the supermarket. And that’s from a farm that relies on volunteers as well as workers who are paid “some wages” according to their website.

  4. Nick Nakorn

    So many celebrities, including chefs, are into Anthroposophic ways of doing things and I think it’s partly down to radio and television producers who are themselves ‘believers’ – how else can one account for numerous unapologetic plugs for Seiner organisations by media outlets who should know better? Of course one might say that they simply don’t know the details; but when details are supplied they are not the least swayed or apologetic – indeed, they generally are even more keen to rubbish the critics rather than change their views. The fact that The Food Programme (BBC R4) prides itself as ‘science and evidence-based’ yet still thinks BD wonderful tells one a lot about the politics and power of anti-rational Anthroposophy.

  5. Jim

    Still no response from Nigel Slater……….

    Whether he and others are true believers or just superficial I don’t know. Though I suspect they would probe more thoroughly if they were dealing with a major commercial food producer.

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