Performance in the Garden
A Collection of Talks on Biodynamic French Intensive Horticulture
Lectures by Alan Chadwick, Editor: Stephen J. Crimi, Foreword: John Jeavons, Introduction: Stephen J. Crimi. Paperback: 344 pages
Publisher: Logosophia (23 May 2008)
Why we oppose the commercialization of Alan Chadwick's legacy that this book represents.
Steve Crimi, though never having met Alan Chadwick, was given approximately 250 tapes of Alan's lectures that had been collected by Craig Siska. Crimi transcribed 16 of these lectures and published them in 2008 under the title, Performance in the Garden. The lecture titles are as follows (with links to the audio recordings of the same lectures available on this website):
Introduction to Biodynamic French Intensive Horticulture (Listen to and read this lecture)
The Cosmic, Four Seasons, Cycles (Listen to and read this lecture)
Fertilization (Listen to and read this lecture)
Propagation (Listen to and read this lecture)
Fertility (Listen to and read this lecture)
Cultivation (Listen to and read this lecture)
The Story of the Gazelle
Bees (Listen to this lecture)
Ritual and Festivalia (Listen to this lecture)
The Grand Herbaceous Perennial Border (Listen to this lecture)
Classic Herb Garden (Listen to this lecture)
Relationship and Disrelationship
Frageria: The Strawberry
Angelica Archangelica (Listen to this lecture)
Roses (Listen to this lecture)
Although the majority of these lectures were recorded at New Market, Virginia, in 1979, anyone who worked with Alan for any length of time has heard them in their earlier incarnations, since Alan often repeated himself. One difference that can be found in these later versions of his talks is that Alan begins to make use of a limited number of anthroposophical ideas. His incorporation of these concepts seems to have begun in the later years of the Covelo project, since a letter from Alan to the Board of Directors in Covelo dated 1977 makes use of this terminology. Such language was completely lacking in the presentations he gave at Santa Cruz, Green Gulch, Saratoga, and in the early days at Covelo.
1. The duality between the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic. These are terms that Rudolf Steiner used to distinguish between a kind of imbalance resulting from being lost in the clouds, given to vague imaginings, or wild flights of fancy, on the one hand (the Luciferic), and the kind of imbalance resulting from being overly earth-bound and materialistic , on the other (the Ahrimanic). Alan also applies these ideas to plant growth in attributing the leaf growth to the Luciferic and root growth to the Ahrimanic.
2. The idea that the four seasons, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, are expressions, manifestations, or under the control of the four archangels: Rafael, Uriel, Michael, and Gabriel respectively.
Aside from these two themes, Alan does not make use of anthroposophical terminology; his message is basically unchanged from the earlier periods of his work in the United States. Some commentators have suggested that he was a follower or disciple of Rudolf Steiner from the outset of his work in the U.S., but the utter lack of his use of these ideas in the earlier projects, coupled with the very limited number of anthroposophical concepts that he employed later, would argue strongly against this view.
It is more probable that Alan was exposed to these two anthroposophical ideas at some point during the Covelo project, and chose to adopt the terminology for his own use thereafter. Steiner's lectures published under the title, The Four Seasons and the Archangels, is very likely the source that Alan encountered, but there are many other possibilities as well. Over three hundred books of Steiner's writings and lectures have been published, and the number of concepts that he describes is truly vast. Alan's very late use of two of these is a miniscule proportion of the total. This hardly qualifies him as a serious student of Steiner.
Paul Lee has suggested that Alan was a follower of Steiner from the beginning of the Santa Cruz project, and that he hid or down-played this fact so that the university faculty and administration would not immediately discredit his mission. But if this were the case, one would expect that Alan would have begun to deliver his true anthroposophical message as soon as he left Santa Cruz and arrived at Green Gulch, where no one would have cared at all about his philosophical influences. But this is not the case at all.
Once, while still at Santa Cruz, Alan was invited to speak at a yearly meeting of the Anthroposophical Society in Los Angeles. Five or six of us apprentices went along for the ride, and this was the first most of us had ever heard of Rudolf Steiner or Anthroposophy. Alan felt no need to hide this journey from the university; he was quite open about it. His comments at the time were somewhat derogatory about the Anthroposophical Society. He said that it consisted of "a bunch of old ladies who spend all their time speaking of things that they know absolutely nothing about." The talk that he delivered there in L.A. completely mystified the Society members, as it really had nothing to do with biodynamics as that word is understood by the followers of Rudolf Steiner. In short, there was very little relation between the practices of Alan Chadwick and the concepts of biodynamics, as these have been developed by anthroposophists, other than the principles of good organic husbandry that Alan grew up with as a child and always practiced, and which Steiner also advocated. Alan did not learn any of this from Steiner.
As I have described above, Alan never used the so-called biodynamic preparations. When I asked him why, he told me that he did not want people to get the mistaken notion that his success in the garden was a result of the use of these products. His secrets, if you want to call them that, were two: classical technique, and a correct attitude of approach. By attitude of approach, Alan meant giving to the earth more than you take, not extracting everything you can from the soil in order to exploit it. You add sufficient organic fertilizations to the soil with each sowing or planting so that when the crop comes out, the soil is richer after the harvest than it was before the crop was planted. That way you get an ever-increasing fertility in your garden. A correct attitude of approach also meant respecting life in its totality, working within the sacred balance of nature, not killing off everything but your precious little garden crops. You respect nature, and she shares her abundance with you.
Many of the lectures transcribed in Performance in the Garden are classic Alan Chadwick. The "Cycles," as he called that talk, describe the relation between the sun's influence on seed germination and plant growth, contrasted with the influence of the moon. This was almost exactly the same talk that he gave to Allen Kalpin and myself in the garden chalet in 1971, after he fired the staff and closed the garden. I describe the events leading up to this experience in my audio recording entitled, "Alan Chadwick Gains Two New Apprentices, Part 2." "The Story of the Gazelle" and "Bees" are beautifully presented; Alan is masterful at creating a mood and delivering a strong moral message.
For me, in reading through these lectures, one theme returns again and again. Alan deplores the rise of abstract verbosity over first-hand and immediate experience of nature. He observes that the perverse need to reduce everything to shallow intellectual concepts actually cuts us off from the ability to see the reality that is right there in front of us. A few examples from Alan's lectures:
"You can't know it. You can't understand it, and you mustn't try. Because the moment you try you can't perceive it. When you stop trying to understand it in words, you will begin to perceive it. You do begin to perceive it."
"It can't be found in the education of today. It can't be found in the verbosity of the mind. And you can't think that you're going to lead the mind into spiritual living and activity and vision by thinking in words. This is the huge thing of all the gurus tearing about in airplanes screaming their heads off. It is there all the time. It's terribly simple and it's right in front of the nose."
"Now the principle influence that produces what you would call the same colour, the same forms, the same shapes — these are all verbosities which you are going to loose. You are never going to use these words again. You have been taught to use them and you can't use anything else. It is like a camera on a tourist. You just go on taking photographs all your life. It doesn't mean anything. To say that this is scabious [scabiosa, the scientific name of a flower] removes the comprehension; you have actually stopped the comprehension."
"You have to lose your verbosity and you have to become real, because you haven't got any false boots to stand in. You have to have bare feet."
I'm only going to be able to give you that secret by not using words in the ordinary sense. Words are the great illness and disease of today. We have turned everything into words. From the moment we wake up, from the moment we go to sleep, to even the time when we re-wake, we turn our dreams into words. We have no other way, indeed, of even accomplishing the memory of dreams, but that we turn them, suddenly, into words, upon memory. And all of this points to the enormous age of deceit, of synthetic, of entertainment.
Out of the performance in the garden, which we are studying and working at, which as you realize is also a relievement out of the world of verbosity into the world of deeper senses.
And our thoughts are given us from above. And they are not verbose; they are not words. Words are merely an American tourist's photograph of Niagara Falls. And to say that that is a poppy and that is a dahlia is unutterable drivel; it isn't, it's a foof-poff. And that's a wees-coos.
I went to visit this monk, the other day, as you know, and this very matter was the one thing which he predominantly kind of held the key out and said, "You must tell them always that everybody has got to be a monk. Everybody has got to go and hide in the forest." As he did for two or three years. "And shut up. And discover."
But how can someone who has grown up in the morass of this intellectual delusion that is so pervasive in all aspects of life and education, free himself from it and return to a true vision of the world and nature? Alan gives a very succinct answer to someone who asks a question after a lecture. The question is:
"If I wanted to do what I must do in obedience to the cosmic law, if I wish to live and perceive as a peasant lived and perceived, how can I learn all this and undo all that I have lived and been trained and brought up in a world to think that I must know and search for knowledge and search for certainty and get to the bottom of the secret? How can I turn my back on the secret, it is so tantalizing? How can I live a simple peasant life when I have been baited all my life by knowledge, the possibility of knowing?"
Alan answers her that it has nothing to do with returning to the life of a peasant (Alan uses the French word paysan). Here he links the separation from nature that all this verbosity has produced, with the rise of electronically intermediated forms of communication that have further isolated us from reality. Just think of all the mindless drivel that is transmitted across the electrical wires of the world, and that passes for communication. But where in all of it are the heart-forces, the life-giving nuances of the glance and the flush of the skin and the knowing gestures that contribute so much to real communication. More and more, we are accepting the electronic simulation of speech for the reality, and loosing the ability to distinguish between the two. Alan's answer:
"Our approaches here are not talking about going back to be a paysan. I am not talking about going back to being a paysan. I am an incredible lunatic of the future. Oh Garden, that I see! It is the most incredible garden! A pomegranate, it's all made of emeralds and rubies. But that is a secret, you wouldn't understand it. It will reveal itself. I think that you have a momentary difficulty. I think that your momentary difficulty is still that you have chains of Basilisk with your parentage upbringing and your educative upbringing, which is one incredible mass of the telephone of verbosity. Do you follow?"
And now, Alan gives his prescription for the ennui of the modern alienated age.
"The moment that you are going to be loose in art— I mean painting, music, singing, movement, poise, breathing, the secrets and magic of the garden, the excitement of work, the operation of your muscles and glands and nerves, you are going to be so busy, so occupied, so full of color and light, that verbosity is going to gradually release. And you are not going to be worried about its extinguishing, its death, because it is going to be. I don't think that you have got anything to leap out of the window about. I think that secretly we have all got this same indigestion. Do you understand?"
Finally, Alan observes that the awakening that the garden can provide is in stark opposition to the mind-numbing lies, advertising, and propaganda that are spewed forth from out of the wealthy commercial interests and the political power that these interests buy with their millions. They have a vested interested in keeping people asleep and docile.
"I would trust that this poor little project, that is being run by such wonderful people here, leaving everything to it— I would trust that it would be the gateway into the garden for you. You can't expect to accomplish it overnight. I think you will find that we are going in the opposite, completely opposite direction to the White House I am afraid. Does it help you at all?"
Alan knows what he is talking about here, and he knew how to lead people out of the morass of verbosity back to an alignment with reality. He used the garden as a catalyst, but his true goal had very little to do with growing vegetables. He was a gardener of souls.