Maybe you’ve heard the word “biodynamic” or seen it used in marketing, but it’s a safe bet you’ve never used a genuine biodynamic gardening product before.
It’s one thing to use the word, but another entirely to hold the space and manifest the will and intention to carry out the process.
The biodynamic method was introduced by Rudolf Steiner in 1924 with eight lectures given at the request of farmers noticing the degradation of the life force on their farms.
These lectures have been accumulated and are available to us all in the work The Agriculture Course, and represent the very first reaction to chemical farming, even before the organic movement.
The biodynamic method resides in the energetic realm of BioEnergetic Agriculture. BioEnergetics involves the conscious intention of identifying and the act of working with the physical, mineral, biological and energetic mechanisms of living systems. The premise is simply that if one is ignored, the entire system is limited.
Think of like four legs of a chair. All legs are necessary to prevent the chair from falling over. Conventional farming only works with the physical (plowing) and mineral (fertilizing). Organic works with those, plus the biological. But both ignore energy, or life force.
This being said, biodynamics is not a complete farming system, as it has been identified by many. However, it is a profound revelation for humanity as Steiner provided a context for us to understand and work with the formative forces that shape our existence.
Life is defined by energy, so much so that we take it for granted. Consider the many inner and outer workings of your body. The parts work together on a level beyond the capability of the parts. There is more to life than what is physically here. Breathing, the beating of your heart, cells working, blinking; all of these movements and processes involve involuntary coordination by your body system in harmony.
There is cohesion, a resonance amongst the parts that allows it to work together as a unit. In other words, the parts act as an organism.
This mindset can be applied to a plant or even a farm. A premise of the biodynamic method is to treat the farm as an organism. Rather than a sole focus on the plants, the more important concentration is how the components of the whole are working together in a functional and synergistic way.
Even the Earth itself is an organism. It breathes in during the winter when the Earth energies reside inside the Earth, and out during the summer when the Earth expresses itself in bloom and growth.
The biodynamic method itself is a living thing. Rudolf Steiner did not even coin the term “biodynamic”. It was named by the students that were inspired by and carried on his work.
Steiner was a spiritual scientist that contended that there is more to life that what can be experienced with our senses or measured. He did not intend for biodynamics to become a movement. It was simply his spiritual response to a materialistic issue. An open book, offered to the future to make of it what we will. A true novel and living concept.
But when something is given a name, it is objectified. It can be judged. It can be handled and placed into a box and restricted. We can choose to ‘think outside the box’, but only when informed of a proper context for understanding why we’re in the box in the first place.
And most of us are in the dark about energetic concepts of farming, or life in general for that matter. It’s not our fault, we simply are not prepared by our education system to deal collectively with realities outside of materialism, the scientific method, and general reductionist science.
Make the connection that the way we evaluate Nature from a “scientific” point of view cannot prove anything, it can only deny. If an experiment does not happen the same way every time, the hypothesis cannot become a theory, or after further experimentation, a law.
But Nature doesn’t work like this. There is not clockwork, no replicability, or circles, straight lines and data points. Only diversity, variety, spirals, and order derived of chaos.
Literally, we have established a method of defining what is true and worth further study in Nature that is counterintuitive to how she works. We’re only considering half the story. Steiner recognized this and decided to do something about it.
The farmers that asked Steiner to speak to them were not operating from textbooks or dogma, but from real world experience. Their animals were succumbing to afflictions that they had never seen before from the artificial empty obese crops they were now feeding them. Not unlike what is happening in modern society today.
Here is a recounting of the context
“In 1922/23 Ernst Stegemann and a group of other farmers went to ask Rudolf Steiner’s advice about the increasing degeneration they had noticed in seed-strains and in many cultivated plants.
What can be done to check this decline and to improve the quality of seed and nutrition? That was their question.
They brought to his attention such salient facts as the following: Crops of lucerne used commonly to be grown in the same field for as many as thirty years on end. The thirty years dwindled to nine, then to seven.
Then the day came when it was considered quite an achievement to keep this crop growing in the same spot for even four or five years. Farmers used to be able to seed new crops year after year from their own rye, wheat, oats and barley.
Now they were finding that they had to resort to new strains of seed every few years. New strains were being produced in bewildering profusion, only to disappear from the scene again in short order.
A second group went to Dr. Steiner in concern at the increase in animal diseases, with problems of sterility and the widespread foot-and-mouth disease high on the list.
Among those in this group were the veterinarian Dr. Joseph Werr, the physician Dr. Eugen Kolisko, and members of the staff of the newly established Weleda, the pharmaceutical manufacturing enterprise.
Count Carl von Keyserlingk brought problems from still another quarter. Then Dr. Wachsmuth and the present writer went to Dr. Steiner with questions dealing particularly with the etheric nature of plants, and with formative forces in general.
In reply to a question about plant diseases, Dr. Steiner told the writer that plants themselves could never be diseased in a primary sense, “since they are the products of a healthy etheric world.”
They suffer rather from diseased conditions in their environment, especially in the soil; the causes of so-called plant diseases should be sought there.” (SOURCE: Preface to The Agriculture Course)
This was how Steiner was convinced to give the lectures that birthed the biodynamic method. It was from personal ambition or sense of ego. He was asked.
Steiner had an amazing gift of spiritual insight. But an equally amazing ability to remain rational to all aspects of the living system at hand. He did not discount the materialism and reductionist science of our age, he embraced it and made it an integral part of his approach.
He understood that food was empty and that people were suffering from it.
We would collectively rather sit back and watch than be involved in any sort of mutual process. Our cities are larger and we live closer together than ever before in history, but we are more lonely than ever.
We have the highest standard of living, but we are the most unhappy.
Why is this?
Again in the preface to The Agricultural Course a conversation between Steiner and his student Ehrenfried Pfeiffer is described.
Pfeiffer asked Steiner, “How can the spiritual impulse and the inner schooling for which you are constantly providing stimulus and guidance, bare so little fruit? Worst of all, why is the will for action for the carrying out of these spiritual impulses, so weak?”
Steiner replied, “This is a problem of nutrition. Nutrition, as it is today, does not supply the strength necessary for manifesting the spirit in physical life. A bridge can no longer be built from thinking to will and action. Food plants no longer contain the forces people need for this.”
Life force may read as a vague term, but we would all agree that there is a force to life. It is what prevents our bodies from decaying until we die, or that which allows a plant to grow up against the force of gravity.
Steiner called the regenerative natural forces that work on plants “etheric formative forces”.
He begins the The Agriculture Course by speaking on how rhythms indicate the degree to which natural beings have emancipated from their relation to surrounding Nature.
This emancipation from Nature is almost complete for human life and is expressed as free will. For the animal life it is less so, but plant life on the other hand, is still to a high degree immersed in the general life of Nature, including the outer Earthly world.
This is why the moon and other celestial bodies influence plant growth, as recommended in farmer’s almanacs with concepts such as “sow by the moon” and planting calendars such as the Stella Natura.
In order to fully appreciate what Steiner has put forth with the method of biodynamics it is necessary to view life as being made up of physical matter that we can feel and measure, but also subtle energies that serve to organize this physical matter.
This is accomplished via the phenomenon of resonance. Some examples are in order. Consider the vortexial organization and form of a tornado. If we could walk up to one, we would be able to punch it. It is physical, yet it is derived of thin air.
It is the resonance between the air molecules brought forth by the energies stirred by the whirling of the Earth that create powerful tornadoes. The wind tells us that the world is turning, a tornado is simply a release of the energy generated. It can also simply destroy everything in its path.
What we see and experience as straight lines are actually space curves. There are four major components to motion.
Orbital motion, as in the planetary movement around the Sun
Rotational motion, as in spin, or the individual rotation of the planets
Circulation motion, as demonstrated by aurora borealis and the pattern and movement of the electro-magnetic field generated by the rotational motion.
Creative Formative Motion is created from a combination of the orbital, rotational and circulational motions.
These forces working together create the conditions of life as we know it. Project this idea onto the electrons whirling around in the atoms and the DNA in your cells that make up the human body all the way to spiraling galaxies and you have come to a realization that our bodies, and all of life, is organized energy in resonance.
When Steiner was asked upon first articulating the method of biodynamic agriculture if the research should begin right away, he replied, “The most important thing is to make the benefits of our agricultural preparations available to the largest possible areas over the entire earth, so that the earth may be healed and the nutritive quality of its produce improved in every respect. That should be our first objective. The experiments can come later.”
Biodynamic researchers are not satisfied to either wholly accept or hastily reject folklore, nor are they helped by superstition or sensationalism. Rather, they insist upon careful and verifiable investigation.
There have been many intensive studies proving the efficacy of biodynamics over the years, one being the success of biodynamics in countries like Australia and Israel, where they do not enjoy the bountiful soils many take for granted in the US.
There are two 21-year old experiments in Germany (Raupp, 1995) and Switzerland (FIBL, 2000) and one 33-year old experiment in Sweden (Pettersson, 1995) comparing conventional, organic and biodynamic methods.
The biodynamic soils in all three experiments had greater quantities of soil organic matter and greater soil enzyme activity than the organic system. Most importantly, under stressful conditions the biodynamic crops performed far better.
Biodynamics recognizes that there are forces influencing biological systems other than gravity, chemistry and physics. These supersensible concepts are not new; they have been utilized by primitive cultures since time immemorial – Native American’s, Aborigine’s, farmers, Shaman, etc.
But they have been lost from our modern culture due to the inability to replicably measure the benefits associated with their practice and the incessant economic and intellectual onslaught of corporate materialistic agriculture.
The concept of dynamic practice, or those practices associated with non-physical forces in nature like vitality, life force, homeopathy, chakras, chi, subtle energy and related concepts, is a commonality that also underlies many systems of alternative and complementary medicine such as acupuncture or kinesiology.
Biodynamics is defined by the employment of specific fermented plants and herbs called “preparations”, or “preps”, numbered for unknown reasons by Steiner BD500-508. In truth, these preps are used as forces and not as substances.
If you think of your farm or environment as a living organism, these preps help to form and setup the “organ systems” in essence: the brain, nerves, skeleton, digestive tract, and endocrine system of your farm and plants.
Acting as stimulants, the preparations are applied in small homeopathic quantities, positively affecting soil quality, compost and soil microbes, the relationship between plants and nutrient elements, and especially, the quality of vegetable produce.
Here is a brief synopsis of each preparation: Foliar Sprays
BD500 Horn Humus is the result of cow manure fermented in a cow horn buried over the winter, when all of the energy is inside the Earth. The Earth breathes as humans do, in & out, with the seasons, allowing the fermenting material to utilize the digestive factors of the Earth’s telluric energy.
To apply BD500 in farming the resultant humus is stirred in both directions for one hour. One horns worth of BD500 is capable of treating almost four acres of land! It is applied as a spray to stimulate biological activity in the soil and encourage root development. BD 500 relates to organic carbon, calcium and silica.
When permeated by sufficient oxygen and nitrogen it allows the formation of a rich humus structure. The root zone and the rhizosphere surrounding it act as the “brain” of a plant, regulating which materials are allowed to leave and enter.
BD501 Horn Silica is made of finely ground quartz also fermented in a cow horn. To make BD501 quartz is ground into a dust and mixed with small amounts of spring water to make a paste.
This is then packed into a cow horn and buried again in the ground, but this time during the spring and summer months, exposing it to the Earth forces of summer. Its function is to enhance light metabolism in the plant, stimulating photosynthesis, increased sap sugars, and the formation of chlorophyll.
The average horn produces 300-500 grams of 501, enough for 150 to 250 acres of land. BD501 is also potentized by stirring in a bucket back and forth for an hour and is normally applied in Autumn and Spring in late afternoon.
It is intended to influence the color, aroma, flavor, and keeping quality of the crops. BD501 exerts its formative influence directly on the plant itself and increases the light-intaking ability of the plant. BD 501 helps the plant to sense its surroundings.
If you imagine BD500 setting up the “brain” of the farm and plants, then imagine BD501 setting up the “nervous and sensory system”, which is why BD500 and BD501 are used in conjunction with each other on the land. What good is a brain with no senses?
Vegetable Substances Used in Compost Preparations
These preparations are designed to be inserted into a compost pile to help micro-organisms transform it quickly into fertile humus, drawing on what Steiner called etheric formative forces.
BD502 Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) prep facilitates the plants utilization of potash and restores to the Earth the power to absorb the finest dilutions of substances. Yarrow is very high in sulfur, combined in a model way with potash. It is created by fermenting the blossoms of yarrow.
As the Greek legend goes, Achilles used the juice of the yarrow plant to rejuvenate his soldiers on the field of battle. As Steiner said, “Yarrow contains that with the spirit always moistens its fingers (sulfur) to carry the different constituents to the plants organs- carbon, nitrogen, etc.”
Steiner saw sulfur as the mediator between the physical and the formative power of the spiritual reality behind all substance. The work of sulfur brings potash into the organic processes of the soil. BD 502 relates to the “endocrine” system, allowing the farm to regulate purification and excretion.
BD503 Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) prep is high in sulfur and related to the element calcium. It keeps plants physiologically healthy and stabilizes nitrogen. BD503 relates to the activity of digestion and assimilation. It is known to transform depleted organic sources into forms available for plant nutrition. It also protects the plant from up taking any toxic elements. It is created by fermenting chamomile after being buried during the active winter months.
BD504 Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioeca) is utilized as the great enlivener of the soil, stimulating its health and helping to provide plants with the individual components of nutrition they most need. BD504 relates to the heart and circulation of the farm, giving it energy to function. High in sulfur and iron, it can be used to correct iron toxicity or deficiencies, energize minerals or activate soil enzyme potential.
Stinging nettle regulates the effects of manure on soil life to provide optimum conditions for the crops as if the soil were somehow permeated with order and reason. It is also well known to break-up heavy clay soils, build humus, increase nitrogen fixation, and unlock bound micronutrients.
BD505 Oak Bark (Quercus robur) dampens excessive growth forces, thus reducing the crops susceptibility to fungal disease. BD505 relates to the skeletal system, naturally, as 77% of its substance consists of finely distributed calcium. Of the many forms in which calcium can appear, the calcium structure of oak bark is the most ideal. BD505 provides what plants need to be upright with good form, it also develops the “immune system” of the farm, catalyzing disease resistance.
BD506 Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is also valuable for its calcium, working to attune the growing crop to the subtle influences of its environment. BD506 establishes a balanced relationship between calcium and potassium, and is also related to silicic acid / silica.
Consider how the flower blooms around Easter and opens and closes with the sun. BD506 relates to the “liver and endocrine system”, allowing the farm to balance, regulate, and harmonize its actions.
The flower of the dandelion is to be inserted into a cow’s mesentery – the membrane which surrounds the animal’s internal organs. It is to be buried during the winter. Dandelion attunes the growing crop to the subtle influences of its environment. For those familiar with medicinal herbs, dandelion should be very familiar.
BD507 Valerian (Valerianum officinalis) is merely a tincture produced from the juice of valerian blossoms. BD507 relates to the farms “respiration” and ability to produce heat. It will activate phosphorus, bringing it into the organic process. Being a “warmth-giver” BD507 has been used to protect against late frost damage.
Steiner did not expound upon its significance very much, only to say that Valerian is somehow connected to phosphorous…consider how many products are preserved with phosphoric acid. BD507 Valerian is used by spraying the compost pile and serves to “fix” the finished humus.
BD508 Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is not used directly in making biodynamic compost, but is brewed into a strong tea and sprayed onto plants and trees in the spring and summer to prevent fungus molds.
BD508 regulates “watery growth” common during times of heavy rainfall (especially during full moons). This prep helps to conserve energy during these watery times to ensure a hearty plant with enough energy to fully mature with good form.
Our lack of focus and attention towards the energetic components of living systems for the last 100 years of agronomy has resulted in empty food and empty people. People are waking up to this reality and seeking answers to the wrongs that we must right. The biodynamic method is part of that answer.
Incorporating biodynamic methods and products into your garden will provide immediate results and begin the process of mineral, biological and energetic rejuvenation, and will only get better with time.
In this method of investigation, we have much work to do, with potentials limited only to the imagination…so the Earth may be healed.