Alan Chadwick at the Urban Garden Symposium,1975, Part 3
See here for an Introduction to Alan Chadwick's Lectures and a Glossary of Terms
Contents of this Segment:
The miracle of nature cannot be reduced to words. Plants provide food, healing, and spiritual uplift. The virtues of comfrey [then widely accepted, but not now recommended]. Additional examples of herbs and their uses: angelica archangelica, hops, digitalis, willow as the source of aspirin, passiflora as a tonic for exquisite sleep. The illusion of destruction. Nothing is ever wasted in nature. Biodynamics is intensely connected to the attitude of approach of the gardener. Fertility builds upon itself, bringing new life-forms to the garden. It also has a spiritual effect on the human beings who enter the garden. A herbal bed of anthemis nobilis to calm the spirits and restore vitality. Nature cleanses the impurities created by man. Teachings of Steiner concerning the relationships between all of life. Nicotiana affinis and its ability to keep aphids in balance within the garden. Reverence and obedience to the laws of nature is the basis of Biodynamics. Knowledge is a journey. We must perceive the eternal and the invisible behind everything that we do. (17:52)
Full Text of this Lecture:
Alan Chadwick Lectures at the Urban Garden Symposium in 1975, Part 3
Everything is Governed by an Invisible Law
But, as you would know, yet all people who grow wonderfully, who really grow wonderfully, never talk. They can’t talk about it. It’s all invisible. And this is a very articulate matter that we have to look at: the whole incredible miracle about the very magic of the garden. And all the jewels in the world of all the maharajas put together are not the equivalent of the plants in one little back garden. And that they are full of inestimable, invisible magic. Every herb, in other words every weed that grows, is related to the government of one or more of the planets or stars. And every limb of the body, finger, the wrist, the heart, the liver, a kidney, the eyes, the nose and the ears are all related, astrologically as you know, to astronomy and are governed by planets and the stars.
Now you will begin to see why it is that within plants—as Dioscorides, as Pliny as all of the great botanists and visionaries and philosophers realized—that there was, in all plant life, both food and medicine. And it was here that the ancient Greeks went much further, for they discovered and knew very well from their observance of the laws of nature, that it was inadequate for any man to eat food for his physical sustenance. That within that food is invisible concern, and that by the adaptation of herbs for food is found spiritual vision, uplift. That the very world of nature, that the plants and the insects and the birds can actually feed man in inspiration into vision of higher evolvement, of further sight. And I think with the whole of that aspect comes the perfection of health: That food is not just food, that all food in the universe should have with it the herbs that are also the medicines. And therefore in eating food and medicines together, remains perpetually always in perfect health.
You must know somewhere that the very plant, Symphytum, which you would commonly call comfrey, contains in it such endless elements that if you eat it regularly, for two or three years—that is the leaves and the root and so on—that you do indeed have perfect teeth and bones, and repairs and flesh and skin [see ed. note below]. And indeed, it is the very plant, Symphytum, Symphytum number six, that is the reestablishment of the excellence of cattle. Bones which have become solid, when eaten—animals will vary in this matter—again become hollow and beautiful as they should, and the whole structure of the animal becomes right. And the whole tremendous fat which is issued, returns to its proper lean, quantities.
You must know, and you must surely perceive the importance of so many of the plants. You would realize digitalis is an incredible plant for the heart, and that quite all of the herbs are relators and disrelators. I can give you a whole list of herbs that will restore baldness to anyone, for any reason whatever: That they will grow hair however they have been bald. And if you want all of your hair to fall off your head, I will give you two herbs that will do it. And if you want to stop mice in the house or mice in the beds, you have only to use mentha aquatica, and they will not come near it. You know that the whole family of euphorbias will demonstrably drive gophers and such animals and moles from the garden, the use of ricinus likewise. The use of the one seed of the sage of Clary, in your eye, will remove that terrible complaint which only surgeons can usually attack. But the seed, one seed of Clary, has been used for countless years for this.
That the most magical herb in the world, vervain, cures fifty, fifty human ailments and keeps everybody in perfection. That Angelica archangelica, and Melissa officianale will lift your mind and your whole mental attitude into perfect memory and good reason. That the climbing plant of a religious name, that one of the perfect plants to give you good sleep— it used to be stuffed in pillows and not told to visitors who suffered from insomnia. Humulus lupulus, hops, that this pillow stuffed with hops, and say nothing, and the person would sleep deliciously, and will not suffer. None of these herbs have any ill inferences whatever.
That all of the ancient Greeks, as you know, used sage, white willow and spirea as a solver for pain. And indeed that became the aspirin, until today it has become synthetic and makes almost everybody to bleed internally. When you use the salix in white willow, or the spirea, it does indeed relieve pain. Can you give me the name? Passiflora incarnata. Thank you. There is one of the most magical of all plants to produce good sleep for insomnia. It will always relieve intense pain, and induce a gentle sleep, and of all of these matters, does not reduce consciousness, but raises it. It improves the clarity of consciousness. And the use of Passiflora incarnate is so enormous, that there is a German firm that mixes it with four other herbs, and it is world famous. Much of this is over-ridden today because of the enormous beliefs in the subterrestrials and synthetics. Everybody lives on synthetics.
Could you please tell me, why does anybody grow a field of peas and out of inner fear and terror and disbelief in the enormous law and goodness of nature, freeze the lot on the spot, and imagine they’re not going to have anything else to eat in the world? And this is the huge absurdity of the panic of today. There is no starvation. There can never be any starvation. It is not of reason. There is always beautiful soil, endless fertility, endless wonderful seed. It is only our absurdities that remove it from us. When, out of fear, we must kill something… We cannot kill something. You cannot get rid of anything. The whole of ancient ( ) were with diseases, which you don’t just [imitates immunization injection] and get rid of it. Because you’ve got two or three more serious things at once. But you can always induce something to go from something into something else. So that they always used a herb in an animal or a horse or a rat as a receptive herb to that disease or ailment. They then used to drive it out with herbs given to the person suffering, and with incantations and numerous such matters, drove the ailment into the other body.
But you must realize that there is no destroying anything in this world. And indeed nature has no waste. Everything that is created in nature is useable, everything. And this is what is so magical. How absurd it is that we make all this hideous cellophane and such and can’t do anything with it and never will literally be able to destroy it, literally.
So, within this view of what is biodynamics, is an essential matter, it concerns the word approach. Why? Why do you want to grow something? What is the reason? Do you want money? Because any idiot can get money. You must never go to nature and say to twenty acres, I want fifty thousand dollars. Because you can have it. You must go to nature and ask her the laws, and observe and learn, and be obedient, and reverent. Because the whole laws of nature are the governance, and out of that observance and following, an enormous provisionment, which is increased all the time, comes an enormous fruition. And from the fruition of that fertility out of that observance comes the most magical matter of all. And it is this: You will now receive your bonus, and it is this: Having produced though your labors and your sense of goodness of that magnification, having produced that fertility, it will rebound in the ensuing circle, or cycle, will come new growth, new atmosphere. And with that new growth and new atmosphere will come new weeds, new seeds that you know nothing about, that you have not seen in the area before—that you don’t even know about. And will come new insects, new birds, and they will all interpolate and produce a further growth that you have never been able to conceive. They have come out of the invisible. And because of this, and the moment that something new in your pulsation and inclination, it will lift your very image, your very seed, man’s image. This very seed from which he sees vision and increases. And here nature lifts the image of man, and again it rises and climbs the ladder, to further heights, and further procedures.
If it is not irrelevant, in the talk about herbs, we see that herbs must be grown and used au nature. You will probably know that in ancient days all real gardens had couches, divans, made of Anthemis nobilis. Here is a beautiful little herb, so high, that adores to be trod upon, like strawberries do, and will grow much much better. And since it is full of enormous strength and vitality—as is Petroselinum, parsley, the rock of Saint Peter, the keys of the gates of heaven—so they always made couches in the garden, of Anthemis nobilis, and mowed them. And at all times, when feeling a little melancholia or tiredness, the thing was to go and lie on this couch for an hour, and all of these plants would there give off their emanation, restoring your vitality and your goodness.
Is it not true, that however we live, however monstrously we live today with all our perniciousness, is it not true that the trees and the plants and the grass breathe in our perniciousness? And absorb it and dissolve it and give it out as pure air again, which is absolutely true. What an incredible magic is this.
Steiner used to teach me to lean up against the different trees and to be resuscitated by them and to feel what their give off was. The pine tree, as you know, is dry and affects you here (presses chest), as others draw upon. And the whole world, all the plants and the insects and the birds have this relationship, an inter-relationship. There is no use, no reason at any time, because you find something out of balance, to fly to a shop full of perniciousness and to say, “Quickly, quickly give me a spray, give me a powder and you wipe, wipe out. Get out...! That is all nonsense. In the whole law of nature, the whole revelation of the stars none of them run into each other, none of them. The flight of the birds, all flying, migrating, they never fly into each other. And that within all of that is a relationship to this matter. You’ve only to seek it out. You’ve only to find it and know it, and interpret it.
When you use the deep rooteds beside the shallow rooteds, you have got your method. No whiteflies like nasturtiums. No aphids at all would ever survive in the garden for long where you grow Nicotiana afinis. Nicotiana afinis is one of the most beautiful plants in the garden and is covered, as you would know, with the most delicious nectar that goes out of the flowers. It’s nocturnal, and the hummingbirds go crazy over it. They adore it. And it will bring the hummingbird moth. And the humminbird moth flies at quite the pace of the hummingbird. And the hummingbird flies at 70 miles an hour forwards, and 75 miles an hour in the reverse. But the Nicotiana afinis is so astonishing a plant because it is covered as all plants are, with little hairs. And all of these hairs give off this delicious nectar. And the whole garden, at night—it opens when it is dusk—is filled with the scent of lilies from this plant. And as dawn comes, the scent is gone. It isn’t there at all. Do you understand? Is it tangible? Can you talk about it?
Well, all of the aphids, whether they be green or grey or black, absolutely adore this nectar, more than any other nectar in the world. And they can’t resist it. It doesn’t matter what plants there are in the garden, they can’t resist it. And so they go straight to this plant to have a wonderful drink of brandy. They alight on the hairs and they suck. And at the moment that they alight to suck, the hairs close upon them. This goes on, as you can perceive, ad infinitum. Givers and takers, relators and disrelators, inclination and declination.
And so, this is the basis, and the approach of biodynamic. Behind it is again the word approach: reverence and obedience, all that incredible, endless knowledge which is always changing. We must not ever think that we can get hold of something, put it in the cage and say “I’ve got it.” Because everything is changing. And all education is exactly the same. There is no such thing as knowing anything. There is no such thing as actual, no such thing as actual knowledge. It’s a journey, it’s a passage, and therefore it’s an absurdity for us to create temporal things and say they are permanent and eternal. It is eternal things that you would seek, and the invisible, and then all the temporal plays itself. It’s so easy. This is basis of the attitude and approach of biodynamic: spiritual vision behind everything that you do.
[ed. note: While comfrey was, in the latter decades of the 20th century, widely considered a beneficial plant for livestock feed and even for human consumption, it is now considered harmful when eaten in any appreciable quantity.]