Continuing my commentary on paragraphs 41-43 of Peter Staudenmaier's Anthroposophy and Ecofascism.

Like Waldorf Education, Biodynamic farming is inseparable from its anthroposophical context. It is that context that I feel Peter Staudenmaier has not understood, and it is his misunderstanding that is at the root of so much of his misinformation and the outright fabrications of this article.

As is typical, Peter Staudenmaier cannot resist imputing ill will to anthroposophists, citing author Stewart Easton to demonstrate the supposed disdain that the cult-like adherents of Steiner's biodynamics hold towards mere organic farmers. This is a rather transparent ploy. The purported condescension in Easton’s simple statement has been added by Mr. Peter Staudenmaier.

"Unlike most farmers who farm in what they speak of as an "organic" manner, the biodynamic farmer recognizes fully that the earth has indeed lost much of its fertility and is losing more every day, and that it is simply not enough in the present age merely to refuse to use herbicides, insecticides and chemical fertilizer, and to manufacture compost from waste farm products in the traditional manner. These things in themselves are good as far as they go, but much more I needed to restore its lost fertility to the earth. The 'organic' farmer may well farm 'biologically' but he does not have the knowledge of how to work with dynamic forces—a knowledge that was given for the first time by Rudolf Steiner."

Easton 's statement is probably shared by many practicing biodynamic farmers, and represents what many would consider a simple fact. This does not mean that biodynamic farmers do not frequently make common cause with other organic farmers and supporters of sustainable agriculture. The movement is not nearly as insular as Mr. Peter Staudenmaier makes it out to be.

Peter Staudenmaier writes in Paragraphs 41 to 43 of Anthroposophy and Ecofascism:

Biodynamic farming is based on Steiner's revelation of invisible cosmic forces and their effects on soil and flora. Anthroposophy teaches that the earth is an organism that breathes twice a day, that ethereal beings act upon the land, and that celestial bodies and their movements directly influence the growth of plants. Hence biodynamic farmers time their sowing to coincide with the proper planetary constellations, all a part of what they consider "the spiritual natural processes of the earth." [Footnote: Lindenberg, p. 134.]* Sometimes this "spiritual" approach takes unusual forms, as in the case of "preparation 500."

To make preparation 500, an integral component of anthroposophist agriculture, biodynamic farmers pack cow manure into a steer's horn and bury it in the ground. After leaving it there for one whole winter, they dig up the horn and mix the manure with water (it must be stirred for a full hour in a specific rhythm) to make a spray which is applied to the topsoil. All of this serves to channel "radiations which tend to etherealize and astralize" and thus "gather up and attract from the surrounding earth all that is ethereal and life-giving." [Footnote: Steiner, Lecture Four from the 1924 Course on Agriculture.]**

Non-anthroposophist organic growers are often inclined to dismiss such fanciful aspects of biodynamics as harmless, albeit pointless, appurtenances to an otherwise congenial cultivation technique. While this attitude has some merit, it is not reciprocated by biodynamic adherents, who emphasize that "The 'organic' farmer may well farm 'biologically' but he does not have the knowledge of how to work with dynamic forces—a knowledge that was given for the first time by Rudolf Steiner."[Footnote: Easton, p. 444]*** For better or worse, biodynamic farming is inseparable from its anthroposophic context.

This, I feel, is an accurate description of biodynamic farming. It is obvious that Peter Staudenmaier is highly suspicious of the non-sense-perceptible aspect, but he has not factually misrepresented it. That aspect makes more sense when explained by someone sympathetic to the aims of biodynamic farming should be obvious. With farming in particular a theoretical method can be judged by its effectiveness. Farmers are known for being practical and for being suspicious of highfalutin theories. The broad dissemination of biodynamic agriculture is therefore evidence of its practical success. If biodynamic farming is indeed inseparable from its anthroposophical context then this is powerful evidence that Steiner's understanding of invisible cosmic forces has real efficacy in practical reality.

* Once again Lindenberg yields a quote that is accurate. Peter Staudenmaier does his best to spin the respect for the earth and its spiritual aspects which are is inherent in Biodynamic farming into something both silly and dangerous, but the fact itself remains undisputed.

** I must note that Peter Staudenmaier has not cited a publisher or page-number for these short-phrase "quotations". The two phrases he quotes: "radiations which tend to etherealize and astralize" and "gather up and attract from the surrounding earth all that is ethereal and life-giving" are taken out of context, as Steiner never described the purpose of the preparation in those words. The first is taken from a sentence found on page 99 of the present German edition, "Dadurch, daß das Kuhhorn äußerlich von der Erde umgeben ist, strahlen alle Strahlen in seine innere Höhlung hinein, die im sinne der Ätherisierung und Astralisierung gehen." The 1958 translation by George Adams (page 74) from which Peter Staudenmaier probably took this reads, "Through the fact that it is outwardly surrounded by the earth, all radiations that tend to etherealize and astralise are poured into the inner hollow of the horn." Thus, it is not the spray that is made by mixing the contents of the horn that possesses the qualities, but the contents of the horn while it is in the earth. This is perhaps a minor point, but also very telling of the exactitude of Peter Staudenmaier's scholarship.

The second quote comes from the next sentence in the text, "And the manure inside the horn is inwardly quickened with these forces, which thus gather up and attract from the surrounding earth all that is ethereal and life-giving." The gathering up and attracting is done inside the buried cows horn, and not by the Preparation 500 once it has been spread.

In treating such a complex subject as the making of Preparation 500 and its use in such an offhand manner, Peter Staudenmaier has failed to adequately explain Steiner's carefully grounded indications. But then, his goal is merely to show how silly it all is, rather than to actually understand it.

See, Steiner, Rudolf. Agriculture. London: Bio-Dynamic Agricultural Association, 1972. Page 74.

***

"Unlike most farmers who farm in what they speak of as an "organic" manner, the biodynamic farmer recognizes fully that the earth has indeed lost much of its fertility and is losing more every day, and that it is simply not enough in the present age merely to refuse to use herbicides, insecticides and chemical fertilizer, and to manufacture compost from waste farm products in the traditional manner. These things in themselves are good as far as they go, but much more I needed to restore its lost fertility to the earth. The 'organic' farmer may well farm 'biologically' but he does not have the knowledge of how to work with dynamic forces—a knowledge that was given for the first time by Rudolf Steiner."

Easton 's statement is probably shared by many practicing biodynamic farmers, and represents what many would consider a simple fact. This does not mean that biodynamic farmers do not frequently make common cause with other organic farmers and supporters of sustainable agriculture. The movement is not nearly as insular as Mr. Peter Staudenmaier makes it out to be.

Peter Staudenmaier writes in Paragraph 40:

Although not a farmer himself, Steiner introduced the fundamental outlines of biodynamics near the end of his life and produced a substantial body of literature on the topic, which anthroposophists and biodynamic growers follow more or less faithfully. Biodynamics in practice often converges with the broader principles of organic farming. Its focus on maintaining soil fertility rather than on crop yield, its rejection of artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and its view of the whole farm or plot as an ecosystem all mark the biodynamic approach as an eminently sensible and ecologically sound method of cultivation. But there is more to the story than that.

What is missing from this largely accurate summary is the fact that Steiner's indications in the Agriculture Course are just that: indications, and not prescriptions. Beyond the rather obvious concerns such as viewing the farm as an ecological unit to be run on a sustainable basis, Steiner gave indications concerning other forces that influence the practices of farming. For example, he called attention to the role of the planets in the growth of plants. While this may at first appear rather nebulous, it can be quite easily tested in practice, and this is what Steiner encouraged. If Steiner says that the position of Mars in relation to the earth has an influence on the growth of rye, then this can be quite easily tested: plant some rye in a supposedly auspicious moment, then plant some more in a separate plot a week or two later and compare the growth of the two. You will very quickly determine whether Steiner's indications work in practice or not. And I would suggest that the experience of thousands of biodynamic farmers indicates that Steiner's indications do work in practice. If Mr. Peter Staudenmaier is troubled as to how Mars could possibly influence the growth of rye, then that is a problem for him to work out. Disparaging the obvious success of Biodynamic farming from a theoretical position that it ought to be impossible is simply not scientific.

Peter Staudenmaier writes in Paragraph 39:

Next to Waldorf schools, the most widespread and apparently progressive version of applied Anthroposophy is biodynamic agriculture. In Germany and North America, at least, biodynamics is an established part of the alternative agriculture scene. Many small growers use biodynamic methods on their farms or gardens; there are biodynamic vineyards and the Demeter line of biodynamic food products, as well as a profusion of pamphlets, periodicals and conferences on the theory and practice of biodynamic farming.

Finally, a factually accurate paragraph! It appears that Mr. Peter Staudenmaier is more familiar with biodynamic agriculture than with Waldorf education. He has neglected to mention the success of biodynamic agriculture in South America, the Philippines, and Australia, and Egypt, but that is probably an oversight. And biodynamic agriculture is not limited only to small growers; there are quite a few larger farms that employ the techniques, though Peter Staudenmaier would be correct to point out that biodynamic techniques are not very easily applicable to large-scale factory farming.

Continuing my commentary on the 37th paragraph of Peter Staudenmaier's Anthroposophy and Ecofascism.

The “occasional outbreaks of racist gibberish” is probably a reference to one incident in Holland in 1995, which resulted in a teacher being fired. Investigation by the authorities and the press (it was front page material for several weeks) established that the incident was not a typical of Waldorf schools, yet it has remained a prime example used by Waldorf critics of the alleged racist bent they are so sure is inherent in Waldorf pedagogy.

Continuing my commentary on the 37th paragraph of Peter Staudenmaier's Anthroposophy and Ecofascism.

Mr. Peter Staudenmaier appears to be profoundly ignorant of even the most basic aspects of Waldorf education (the kind of things you learn if you tour a school even once) so his statement that Waldorf education contains a pervasive anti-technological and anti-scientific bias, a suspicion toward rational thought, and occasional outbreaks of racist gibberish must be treated with great suspicion. In fact I have a hard time even imagining what a pedagogy would have to look like in order to systematically teach students a suspicion toward rational thought. The important place of math and science, starting particularly with the Waldorf middle school curriculum, certainly makes it hard to call the pedagogy “anti-scientific.”

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