Introduction to Biodynamic Agriculture

Ehrenfried Pfeiffer and Peter Escher
Back when I started farming, my first biodynamic mentor was Peter Escher, Ehrenfried Pfeiffer’s partner in setting up his laboratories at Threefold Farm in Spring Valley, New York. Pfeiffer was Rudolf Steiner’s right-hand man in his agricultural work, and he devoted his life to carrying out Steiner’s wish that we apply the benefits of our biodynamic preparations to the widest possible areas of the entire earth. Clearly Peter Escher also devoted his life to this task, and I was deeply touched by his hope that somehow something of Steiner’s gift to humanity would succeed in bearing fruit for the greater good.

By the time I met him in 1977, Peter was a very old man with an immense sense of urgency about him. As I got to know him, this urgency came across to me as a palpable sense of relief that from time to time I got his teachings—nearly all of which involved extremely acute observation—in one or two goes. Sometimes I think I am incredibly stupid—but on the occasions when I worked with Peter there was a mystique about the old man that inspired me. I was really keen to grasp what he told me with all my heart, knowing that Peter himself was a gift and an answer to my solemnest prayers.                

Rudolf Steiner’s Parting Gift
Rudolf Steiner gave the insights of his Agriculture Course and his indications for making agricultural remedies in the hope of reversing the trend where selfish, deluded, insecure people are increasingly wringing the life out of the world. The biodynamic preparations, which are meant to re-enliven the earth, spring from an understanding of how energy builds up to make things more and more alive. Steiner’s agriculture course was his final, desperate effort to introduce a new impulse that might remedy the root causes of our social problems. The more effectively the preparations are used, the more they will make our land and our crops thrive in a complete and balanced way. Only if this occurs will food impart sufficient forces for uniting our wills with our imaginations and making us whole. Unless this happens on a large scale and soon, the earth will lose its ability to support life.

Peter Escher’s Insight
Both Pfeiffer and Escher believed there is little time to waste in applying the benefits of the biodynamic preparations to the widest possible areas of the entire earth to improve its produce in every respect. The philosophy which gave birth to Steiner’s impulse would have to catch up later, once the trend toward personal ambition, illusions and petty jealousies reverses. The extreme urgency of this mission suggests that we must apply the preps as quickly as possible in whatever form we can—and Steiner himself was one of the most innovative people of his time. How can anyone ignore that after an incredibly insightful lifetime he became convinced that improved nutrition was the fundamental factor that would overcome the main inner hindrances that otherwise would mark the end of this evolutionary experiment?
In one of our discussions, Peter pointed out to me that it was the demons who first recognised Christ for what and who he was. He noted that those opposed to human progress are always at the forefront of stifling and stymieing any impulse to the good. Everywhere you looked our social systems create shortages, by which a few lord it over all the rest. And as he stressed, the biodynamic movement itself is hardly immune to this.

When Pfeiffer got his laboratories working he began manufacturing and distributing two biodynamic preparation products—Dr. Pfeiffer’s Quick Composting Compound and Dr. Pfeiffer’s Field Spray. This was met with furious condemnation by those who held that no one could or should use Steiner’s agricultural remedies who was not first devoted to Anthroposophy. Had Pfeiffer bowed to this pressure, Steiner’s task of applying the preparations wherever possible might have suffocated in its infancy.

Although Peter and I talked about many things philosophical and spiritual, I don’t remember ever having any conversations about Anthroposophy even though the word came up from time to time. However, with my love of language, when I first encountered it reading Steiner’s agriculture lectures I looked it up in my Webster’s Unabridged. I don’t know who writes dictionaries, but there is deep wisdom in the definitions of words. Webster’s gave two definitions of anthroposophy: 1. The study of human wisdom; and 2. A cult based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.While I don’t recall when I was not engaged in anthroposophy of the first sort, the second definition would not have applied to Rudolf Steiner himself.

The Divide
I reckon what it comes down to is the world has always had two kinds of people on board. One set believes in taking whatever they can for themselves at the expense of others and the world, thus aggrandizing and enriching themselves while forcing others into insignificance and poverty. Their ideal of perfection is to force everyone besides themselves to conform to the lowest common denominators. They love pitting everyone against each other whilst they make off with the loot. Of course, they think they are special exceptions. This world view results in the earth running down to exhaustion and death. Indeed it is the mentality of death.

The other set of people believe in freely enriching the world around them and encouraging others to develop their gifts, whatever they may be. Thus their ideal of perfection is to promote diversity and cooperation, which by its dynamic nature enhances the world and humanity while creating abundance. Quite naturally this sort believes everyone is special, and this world view would result in a world running up to greater and greater enhancement. Such is the impulse of life.

It is no wonder that the first group has an easy time exploiting the other. The first group automatically takes, the second gives. It is a match made in heaven—except domination by the takers over the givers results in a world of serial rape, pillage and oppression that runs down until it dies. Considering that our culture is dominated by the taker mentality, it is little wonder that the belief in shortage, escape and insufficiency is so entrenched while its opposite, of abundance, empowerment and satisfaction is commonly seen as utopian and absurd. 

Can ? Can’t !
Many are those who prefer establishing what cannot be done rather than encouraging what can be done. In the glossary of A Biodynamic Farm (ACRES, USA, 1994) I define good, evil and freedom in the hope of bringing clarity to some of these issues. Good is an adjective used to describe something or someone who brings about an increase in freedom and ability. On the other hand, Evil is a cause of limitation or harm. Freedom is the choice to, or not to, or the choice not to choose*. Freedom cannot be either/or; it must be both/and; and it also includes the ability to choose not to make a choice. As long as one must either have freedom from or freedom to, one is under compulsion. One is even under compulsion if one is forced to make a choice. Truly Peter warned me that there would be those that insist that biodynamics can only be practiced a certain way—a very difficult way—or not at all.

He also assured me, with a mischievous grin, “You will succeed . . . because you have to.”  ≈