WHY I BELIEVE STEINER WAS A FRAUD, PART 1

 I’ve noticed that Steiner uses several very clever techniques, verbal sleight-of-hand tricks if you will, to convince his audience that his arguments are reasonable and valid.  One of those techniques is to elaborately embrace and acknowledge the common sense or practical view of an issue, convincing his audience that he too, is reasonable and uses common sense in delivering his lectures.  Steiner then uses an analogy to deflect attention from that common sense pretext and goes slowly in the exact opposite direction and delivers information which is unreasonable and defies common sense.  

 In the following rather long quote you will see Steiner bash modern agriculture and science, setting the stage for his new theories, and then give a seemingly reasonable discourse on who is entitled (or not) to give opinions on the subject of agriculture; “… the only ones entitled …. (are those whose) judgment derives directly from the field, the forest, and the stable” reinforcing the belief that Steiner is both qualified to speak on this subject and has the answers to their questions.  Then he begins his diversion from the logical path of qualifications and launches into a rather meaningless analogy about a compass and then slides into his ridiculous comments about agriculture and the cosmos. 

 On June 7, 1924 Steiner is giving his first lecture on agriculture and very early in the lecture is the following:

      “In order that we may speak in concrete terms and not in generalities, let me answer using agriculture as an example.  Nowadays there are all kinds of books and lecture courses available on economics, and they all include chapters on agronomy.  There are even whole books on how agriculture should be organized according to various socio-economic principles.  All of this, all of these books and lecture courses on economics, are nothing more than blatant nonsense.  But blatant nonsense is promulgated everywhere nowadays.  It ought to be clear to anyone that people have no right to talk about agriculture, including its social and organizational aspects, unless they have a sound basis in agriculture, and really know what it means to grow grain or potatoes or beets.  Without this, you cannot talk about economic principles involved.  These things have been derived from real life and not merely from theoretical considerations.  Of course, if you say this to people who have taken a few courses in agricultural economics at the university, they all think it is absurd, because to them everything seems so cut-and-dried.  But in actual fact, the only ones entitled to an opinion on agriculture are the people whose judgment derives directly from the field, the forest, and the stable.  All discussion of economics that is not derived from the things themselves should simply stop.  Until people realize that economic discussions that float above the things are mere talk, the outlook for agriculture or anything else will remain pretty dim.”

        “The reason that all kinds of people think they are entitled to talk about agriculture, even when they don’t know anything about it, is that they cannot get down to fundamentals even in their own fields of endeavor.  Of course, we can all describe a beet, and say whether it is hard or easy to slice, what color it is, or whether it has these or those constituents.  But with this we are still very far from any understanding of the beet, and even further from any understanding of how the beet interacts with the soil, and with the season when it is ready to harvest, and so on.  What we must come to understand, is the following.”

        “I have often used a comparison to make this point clear with regard to other areas of life.  If you look at the needle of a compass, you discover that one end always points more or less towards the north, while the other end points south.  If you want to explain this, you don’t look to the needle but rather to the whole Earth:  you hypothesize that there is a magnetic north pole at one end of the Earth and a magnetic south pole at the other.  It would be ridiculous to try to explain the behavior of the compass needle by looking for the cause in the needle itself.  The position of the needle cannot be understood unless you know the needle’s relationship to the whole Earth.”

        “To many people, however, what is nonsense with regard to a compass needle makes perfect sense in relation to other things.  For example, take a beet growing in the ground.  It makes no sense to restrict our attention to the narrow confines of the physical beet, if its growth actually depends on countless conditions present not only on the Earth but also in the cosmos….” (Underlining  and italicized added)

 Here is a clever and successful attempt to deflect the fact that he knows little about real agriculture, and creatively uses his imaginary tools of “intuition,” “perception” and “Spiritual Science” to formulate his theories of fantasy.  Steiner clearly acknowledges that he knows the qualifications that prohibits “people have no right to talk about agriculture” and “the only ones entitled”  to speak on the subject of agriculture.  But Steiner was not a farmer and had never been a farmer; he did not have those qualifications, yet undaunted, he plows forward with his theories by giving eight lectures and four discussions.  His theories on agriculture and the nine preparations are so outlandish that I suppose it is possible that he started to believe his own fantasies and sort of deluded himself with his own lies.   

 It’s important to remember that the contents of Steiner’s lectures were utterly unique: no one had ever heard of these theories before and no one had ever farmed using these theories.  I believe that Steiner was smart, clever and imaginative and created a ruse intended to deceive and was thus a fraud, but you can judge for yourself.  What are your thoughts?

Stuart Smith

50 Responses to WHY I BELIEVE STEINER WAS A FRAUD, PART 1

  1. Erchek Sargo says:

    I have been intrigued by Steiner’s work for some time.
    1/ It appears to hold a promise of knowledge yet that knowledge fails to satisfy. I am still trying to discover what it is that jars me – he professes to be scientific but his logic is appaling. He wrote some 300 books! I am attempting to read “The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity” (G Metaxa translation, the better one)and still find it nearly incomprehensible. I can see very little logic in his style of reasoning, and a lot of assuption making. His favourite manovre is to boost his credibility by asserting that he procedes from the platform of common sense, that all his extrapolations are strictly logical. To his credit he admits “spiritual science” (incl. his own?) is not infallable.
    2/ I tried many Biodynamic products and find them in 100% cases considerably more dense, more potent, more rich, more substancial. This includes breads, butter, flours, grape juice, apple juice, rolled oats, brown rice, fresh meat. I can’t eat rolled oats and the interesting thing is that BD rolled oats made me twice as sick as conventional ones – they were more potent in all respects. I heard an opinion that Biodynamics is not entirely Rudolf Steiner’s invention but that many of those special practices were actually used by various traditional farming communities in Central Europe and Steiner recorded them and possibly improved.
    3/ Steiner’s notions on human and earth prehistory come across as very absurd, lacking 100% in collaboration or verification by mainstream scientific disciplines (archeology, geology), e.g. The Atlantean Civilisation.
    4/ My personal feelings are that he is just another (relatively) noble prophet, not violent as e.g. Mohammed, but equally deranged. His message, just like other prophets’ messages, has some truth in it (4%?), and 96% of deranged babble. He holds out the promiss of a satisfying drink but leaves me parched.
    One would need an entire lifetime to read his 300 books PLUS. It’s more rewarding to have a stretch in the sun than trying to decipher his jumbled meanings.

  2. PhilipC says:

    Hi biodynamicsisahoax, I just stumbled on your blog,

    I enjoy BD food, attend work parties at BD farms, and have been practicing BD on my backyard garden near Seattle since 2005.

    Based on results on my own apples and raspberries, I suspect that the following test might start to make a believer out of you:

    1. Buy the 2011 Stella Natura ( ~ $15) and one set each of 500 (manure of a lactating pasture cow, aged over the winter in a buried cow horn) and 501 (powdered quartz, aged in a buried cow horn over the summer) from Josephine Porter Institute or Oregon Biodynamic Group, whichever is closer to you ( ~ $20). Keep the preps in an opaque (e.g. glazed) earthenware jar with a tight-fitting (rubber gasketed) top, in a corner or shelf in an unheated outbuilding where the 500 and 501 won’t be disturbed until used.

    2. Next season, at the nearest point in time before the grapes are about to flower, during an afternoon before a morning when the moon will be opposite Saturn as shown in the Stella Natura calendar (remember to adjust for any time difference between your location and Kimberton Hills, Pennsylvania), go out and, using a wooden stick, stir up a 3-gallon plastic bucket half-filled with water, with a walnut-size clump or small handful of the 500 powder dropped into it. Just ignore how much like a voodoo-practicing idiot you feel –I felt that way, too. Keep a vigorous whirlpool vortex, reverse directions of the stir once a minute, and break the whirl at each change of direction quite vigorously. It’s a good arm workout. After about 20 minutes you’ll feel a change in the water’s viscosity; it gets easier to stir. After stirring one hour, use a whisk broom to fling droplets of the water from the bucket onto the soil and lower parts of the vines of one test row.

    3. The next morning, with the moon opposite Saturn, do a similar stir with a half-bucket of water and a pea-size pinch of the 501 powder. Filter the stirred water through a clean rag using a funnel, put the water in a manual pump sprayer, and spray it over the top parts of the vines of the test row, making sure to soak the points where the grape flowers/fruit will emerge.

    It sure does make the flowering happen dramatically on my apples and raspberries. Fruit set is near 100% too. Taste is absolutely wonderful. The first time I tried it, it just blew me away.

    I would, however, offer these caveats based on my own observation, to wannabe BD farmers, gardeners, orchardists and viniculturists:

    Biodynamics won’t transform a sand dune waste into Eden. It succeeds only on soils which fall within a certain range of content of calcium-rich clay, testing out at between 5 and 14% aluminum (in the clay) by weight in the top 8 inches. I base this advice on my own observation of attempts to biodynamically farm the local (western Washington state) soil, in which bentonite is the predominant clay with a small proportion also of vermiculite. Other clays in locations elsewhere may make for a different range.

    Soil CEC for a new BD field should be 20 MEq/100g or higher in the top 8 inches.

    Soil organic matter content (after separation-out of microbial life, which in a BD field will be prodigious) should start out at a minimum of 2% by weight in the top 8 inches. There should be clear growth room for roots with some organic matter (no rock, hardpan, plowpan etc.) for a minimum of two feet down.

    Otherwise, if you try BD farming under conditions less favorable than these, you are doomed to failure before you start.

    Any field which has been treated with anything mined or synthetic, including agricultural lime, including dolomite lime, is not BD until the mined or synthetic amendments get leached away. In western Washington, this takes only one of our rainy winters.

    I know one BD farm which has been in continuous operation since 1970, on which lime has never been applied. The livestock and crops are perfectly healthy, the milk and cabbages are chock-full of calcium, according to analyses conducted by a professor and his grad students affiliated with Washington State University. I’ve never eaten better-tasting food.

    Best,
    Philip
    BD believer since 2005

  3. bill says:

    So you don’t like Biodynamics because somehow you find “them” to be overly self-promoting and also based on the fact that you know a couple people that “tried it” probably without truly understanding the concept and more then likely didn’t know how to manage a vineyard properly in the first place.

    Makes perfect sense to me.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Bill,

      Instead of just sneering, why not try addressing my remarks directly? If you think I’m mistaken tell me where and why I’m wrong.

      Bill, is it too much for you to answer these questions?
      Is Steiner correct about Atlantean airships? Is Steiner correct about Biodynamic farming practices controlling Phylloxera and Downy Mildew? Is Steiner correct about the yellow color in the plant kingdom coming from the planet Jupiter? Is Steiner correct about the Red color in the plant kingdom coming from the planet Mars? Do you really think that burning the European Grapevine moth during the sign of the Bull and then spreading it’s ashes over the vineyard will really eradicate this new exotic pest?
      Stu

  4. bill says:

    I guess I’m still not clear on why you would spend so much time railing against something that is basically a way for winemakers to work naturally in the vineyards?

    If you don’t want to operate in that manner then just don’t do it yourself. What is the point of wasting so much time and energy trying to “debunk” something when the practitioners of biodynamics probably couldn’t care less about your thoughts on the subject.

    In my opinion when people act in this manner it is because they feel threatened by something.

    Incidentally it is interesting to see someone work so hard to discredit a way of working in the vineyards when it does no harm whatsoever to anyone including yourself.

    Obviously you’ve never tried to work biodynamically yourself. More likely you are simply unhappy that other winemakers have found a way to positively promote their products by getting organic certification. Something that you resist because you’ve been working for so long in the same manner that you are afraid to change at this point in your career.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Bill,

      Biodynamics is a farming method; there is no Biodynamic wine. Wines made from Biodynamic grapes can be made anyway winemakers care to make wine –with no restrictions except for the State and Federal laws.

      For a full answer as to why I’m doing this read at my June 16 post, “High Noon – in the 21st Century” it’s toward the bottom of the opening page. You may not like my reasons, but I can’t be any clearer as to “why” I’m doing this blog. Try reading this blog as the only alternative view to the relentless self promotion of the Biodynamics community.

      Also, I’ve seen several growers hurt by pursuing biodynamic farming. My neighbor (new to farming) believed that her Biodynamically grown grapes would be healthier than regular grapes and got the worst case of mildew I’ve ever seen. I have another friend (also new to farming) who is Biodynamically certified and the vineyard is in terrible shape because of it.

      I would never presume to know your motivations because I don’t know you and most likely would be wrong, and it’s presumptuous of you to think you can read my mind. How I farm today is much different than how I farmed 40 years ago. I am consistently learning and refining Best Management Practices (BMP) and hopefully will as long as I’m involved in agriculture. Why would I try Biodynamic farming, when, after reading all about it, I believe it to be a hoax?
      Stu

  5. Ken Payton says:

    Not sure where to post my 7/19 response to Stu’s 7/17 comment. This blog format can handle very few nested replies. In any event…

    Stu, I think it is much too much to claim I have written off-topic, that my contributions are meaningless. Fact is I’ve chosen to respond to a number of your many acolytes posting here. It is they who have raised extra-textual considerations. (And so have you, to be truthful.) Yet you have not upbraided them for their waywardness. Incomplete meditations on rationality, the fabrications of an imaginary ‘us’ collective, neither have provoked a solitary word of rebuke. Well, so what! (To use your rhetorical knee-jerk phrase. But I digress…)

    Let’s be honest, Stu, your strategy has from the beginning been to let proxies fight a battle you have been unable to engage. I have no problem with that, beyond its obvious bad faith.

    Moving on… That you are now reasserting the primacy of a theme, the precision of which you’ve neglected to stress until this moment, that is good news. Sure, Anthony Bourdain may wander the erased streets of New Orleans, but, at the end of the day, it’s all about the food on the plate. Right?

    I look forward to hearing about the specifics of your organic practice. And an elaboration of your positive opinion of Monsanto, hinted at in a previous comment. The term ‘organic’ is the source of much confusion. Yet I am sure you can provide a practical model around which all grape farmers can rally.

    So, Stu, let’s hear about your practice.

    • David Vergari says:

      ACOLYTE!!! Dear gawd, Ken. You are a very funny cat. I dig your style.

      What do you do for a living?

    • An actual winemaker says:

      Ken, you’ve reduced this debate to one of a hierarchy of aptitudes (and name calling on your part). That’s not the game. And you don’t get to be the judge of your own intellectual prowess. I hope someday you come down to earth and join the rest of us.

  6. bill says:

    If you are so sure then why don’t you do a full chemical analysis of your wine and see what’s in there.

    I’d be willing to bet that you find amounts of everything that you put in the dirt or spray on your vines.

    I have a winemaker I know who was exporting his wines to Canada. They required a full chemical analysis of his wines to get approval. When he read the report and saw all the pesticides and other chemicals represented albeit within the allowable amounts for the Canadian regulations he went organic that very day and never looked back. (over 10 years ago) He realized he didn’t want his clients or his family or friends for that matter ingesting any of those chemicals regardless of how small the amount.

    How how many malnourished and starving people have been saved by using pesticides and chemicals in vineyards?

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Bill,

      We sell wine to Canada and we have had no such chemical analysis required, so I am doubtful of your winemaker friend’s claim.

      However, I don’t know everything so why don’t you get that anaylsis from your friend and I’ll put it up here and we can all examine it together. Also ask your friend to include the required pesticide reports for those grapes so we can actually see what was used, how much was used and when it was applied.

      As to our own grapes, I use Gyyposate for weeds and sulfur dust for mildew control.

      Once you’re willing to concede that cow shit from those horns gets into your Biodynamic wines along with Yarrow roots, Red Stage bladders, Silica and all nine preparations then I’ll reconsider looking to see if my Glyphosate can enter the vines root system.
      Stu

    • David Vergari says:

      Willie-Baybee!

      I love you, man. You’re actually against BioD and came up with the brilliant idea of coming off like a lunatic in your posts to further discredit the movement. You are one clever mole, dude.

      THAT’S why you won’t identify yourself. I get it, I get it!!!

      Stu…stop taking the bait. Bill’s with you, man.

    • Bill Stewart says:

      Hey, “bill” – Stu’s not dissing organic farming here, he’s dissing Biodynamics, which is a combination of organic farming and mystical woo-woo stuff like stirring 50 times with a cow horn when the moon is full or Mars is in the right part of the sky.

      If anything, Biodynamics is more likely to get random chemicals in the wine than non-Biodynamic organic farming, but it’ll probably be trace amounts because most of the silly mystical ingredients are just basic plant and animal material (assuming your cows and herbs are also raised Biodynamically and you’re not getting your silicon from Silicon Valley Superfund sites.)

      As a vegetarian, I’d prefer not to have cow skull debris in my wine, but there are organic farmers who use fish meal as fertilizer, so it’s more of an aesthetic objection than an actual quantitative difference….

  7. David Vergari says:

    Mr. Bill
    Please…refrain from using the word “fortitude” as it applies to your actions. Provide your full name for cripe’s sakes. Anonymity is a cloak worn by the coward. Man up. Identify yourself.

    I mean, damn.

  8. bill says:

    I understand that people want the easy way out and using pesticides and chemicals is certainly that. Trying to assuage your guilt about ruining the earth with your practices by setting up a ridiculous blog is not surprising. Old salty farmer who doesn’t want to change the way we’ve worked for 30 years. Blah Blah Blah. I understand your need to resist change, its inherent in all of us. Some of us just have more fortitude to take on new challenges than others.

  9. bill says:

    Anyone who thinks that the chemicals that you put into the vineyards don’t end up in the wine is obviously a moron.

  10. bill says:

    Not surprising you would not post my comment. Obviously hits a little too close to home.

    I guess if you’re a mediocre winemaker that owns a mediocre winery you have to have something to bitch about.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Bill,

      Let me reiterate what David asked you yesterday. How is it that you know that vineyard chemicals get into wine? Can you cite any studies, especially peer reviewed studies, or is it something that you just know to be true?

      Earlier this week I spoke with the Napa County Ag. Commissioner about this very issue, because I’d seen an article in the Wine Business Monthly claiming more or less, the same idea that chemicals applied to vineyards can get into the wine. I thought I remembered a study done some years ago that addressed that issue so I called our Ag Commissioner and indeed, there had been such a study about 15 years ago that tested an assortment of wines for chemicals used in our vineyards. The results were that there were “no detectable amounts” of chemicals found in the wine samples.

      I have not read or reviewed the research and will make an effort to obtain it. I don’t know if you’re a farmer or not, but the wine grape industry uses very few chemicals or pesticides.

      While I’m not going to be an apologist for the chemical industry, I disagree with your attitude about chemicals and pesticides. There are 6 billion people in this world and without chemicals and pesticides there would be many more people than are already mal-nourished and starving. Are you willing to ban chemicals and pesticides and watch people die because of it? Abuses can occur in any part of the world, but in United States and California you have the safest food possible, and plenty of it.

      Oh by the way, your comment was posted yesterday afternoon, and I suspect that some chemical use on your part might be warranted, since it appears that your humors are out-of-balance.
      Stu

  11. bill says:

    Dude, if you want to dump a bunch of chemicals into your vineyards that end up in the your wine go ahead!

    I don’t understand what your problem is with people who don’t want to operate that way or why you are so bent about Steiner and biodynamics.

    Sounds like you probably have some issues in your personal life that need resolving.

    • Gary says:

      I don’t think that’s the issue. The issue is the lack of empirical science behind Steiner’s methodology and the somewhat bizarre beliefs about which I recall reading in 19th century texts when I was studying Germanic mythology. People don’t walk under ladders lest something be dropped on their heads. It’s generally not because of the bad luck associated with this act. It’s the attempt to try to apply the metaphysical to the physical which leads to aberrations.

    • David Vergari says:

      Bill…Exactly what chemicals find their way into wine? Name names. Be specific. Thanks.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Bill,

      Thanks for your comments, you almost made me believe that Dennis Hopper was alive and well and still riding his bike with your “Easy Rider” imitation of him. I’m really bummed and have a major downer when people (of course not you) are deluded into believing that Steiner and Biodynamics are true.

      But seriously, I’m assuming you are referring to vineyard chemicals getting into wine. If that is the case than let me tell you that you are mistaken. There were a series of tests done about 15 years ago that found no detectable levels of any vineyard chemicals in northern California wines.

      Stu

  12. John says:

    This “debate” is just silly. Plenty of great wines are being made this way. (and not at crazy prices) I have not found that biodynamic farming raises prices at all– and can name 20 examples to prove it. None of the actual prcactics are hurting the consumer either so why go on and on and on like this??
    Sounds like you are just trying to get some publicity for your own winery thru your writing.
    Fine- Steiner may not have been 100% correct on many things but no one is. If you pick out random quotes of any author you will find strange bits…but many farmers have been able to take pieces of what he spoke about and make it work for them. (and expand on his ideas as well)
    Its a natural way to farm the land that really thrives on a stong base of organic and sustainable practices along with the key idea that you should treat your soil as a living thing.
    Again, I dont’ know you and only you know the reasons you are so passionate about this but it seems to me it may be self promotion.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      John,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Indeed, there are many great wines that are made from Biodynamic farmed vineyards, just as there are many great wines made from vineyards that are farmed by the other methods, but so what, it proves nothing one way or the other. It is the Biodynamic farmers that are claiming superiority over all other methods of viticulture and I’m just the skeptic that says I think they’re wrong.

      It was only after reading Steiner’s lectures on Agriculture that I decided to do this blog. Until you have actually read Steiner you have no idea just how idiotic he was because that entire book is filled with similar outlandish quotes. I believe that Steiner was much closer to being 100% wrong than anything else. You might also ponder the paradox that if Steiner is right than most of all the science that our modern world believes to be valid is wrong. Take a look at some of my earlier posts.

      My motivation is just what I’ve said it is in my Introduction, I think of this blog as my good turn, my mitzvah to our society and culture because fantasy shouldn’t be allowed to parade around as reality. I’ve also seen growers hurt because didn’t know what they were doing and believed in Biodynamics.
      Stu

  13. An actual winemaker says:

    Ken, I think many of us are perplexed by your resolve to rationalize Steiner’s work. When any of his nonsense is scrutinized, you want to place it in the larger sociological context. Why? To us, this is just dancing around the issue. You then attempt to impress us with your pedantic knowledge of esoterica. Like Steiner, you hope that it makes you look smart, and that anything else you say will be taken seriously.

    Look, in the world everyone else lives in, the light switch works or it doesn’t. Your car starts or it doesn’t. Your keyboard types the letter “a” or it doesn’t. Yes, you can break it down to small, easily observable issues. It’s not complicated. Why not play the game everyone wants to play, or is it that you think you can’t win?

    • Ken Payton says:

      @An actual winemaker: Sorry for my tardy response. I’ve been away. Just read your penetrating questions tonight.

      Two things. 1) I am not quite sure to whom I am writing when I read “To us, this is just dancing around the issue.” Who is this “us”? Does your group’s charter have anonymity as a foundational principle? Hey, dude, I use my real name. Why hide behind a pseudonym? 2) I am not attempting to impress your imaginary collective with ‘pedantic knowledge of esoterica’. Not sure pedantic knowledge can also be esoteric, BUT if you have been even remotely impressed, I can provide you with a good reading list. History matters. And historians of science can show you why!

      Here’s the thing… Stu has set in motion a series of questions he is not qualified to answer. Very simple. (And I encourage you to read the many comments I’ve made to drive this point home.) Funnily enough, I’ve tried to make his arguments more precise. I’ve tried to show him how to properly think Steiner. But he is a stubborn man. He is most comfortable playing the reactionary. Indeed, all he offers are half-baked platitudes slathered with a few stale condiments. Yes, Stu has the wisdom of a farmer, no doubt, but he suffers the curiosity of a mule. He simply does not care about a wider intellectual culture. Still, that’s fine with me.

      What I refuse to tolerate is Stu’s ugly dismissal, for that is what it is, of the many Biodynamic farmers I am privileged to know. I may not share in their spiritual temptations, but I have seen with my own eyes the honesty of their purpose, their labor. Sure, frauds are everywhere, and press releases are only as faithful as their writers, but what I do know, free and clear of contradiction, is that the hand that works the soil with deliberation and grace, is the hand I am honored to shake.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Ken,

      Rudolf Steiner created a prescription for farming, a manual if you will that includes potions and how to make and apply them. This blog is about the efficacy of those farming methods and whether Rudolf Steiner was a fraud or not – nothing more.

      While you agree that Steiner is off base, you avoid any direct discussion about what Steiner wrote or whether his farming methods work or not. You’ve chosen to engage in an off-topic and meaningless debate over the history, milieu, cultural and societal texture of Steiner’s world which is more appropriate for a literary or philosophical debate. Deconstructing Steiner adds nothing. However, assume for the moment that your arguments are correct; I will reiterate what I said earlier: So what! It is meaningless to deciding whether Biodynamics is valid or false. I’m happy to be proven wrong, unfortunately, your disjointed and dismissive ramblings are neither cogent nor persuasive.

      I agree that history matters, yet you don’t seem understand that “historical context” is not appropriate to every argument. Biodynamics works or it doesn’t – period. Contrast that with the recent Supreme Court rulings dealing with the Second Amendment where historical context is very important. England’s very first game law of 1389, Henry VIII restriction of crossbows, Charles I’s forest policy that lead to the English Civil War of 1642, Virginia’s 1776 Bill of Rights, the Dread Scott decision, the fourteenth Amendment, the Miller decision, Huey Newton and the Black Panthers all added texture and content that was used in deciding D.C. v. Heller in 2008 and the 2010 decision of McDonald v Chicago.

      While I am dismissive of Biodynamic farmers’ belief in a false system, I support their right to that delusional thinking. I hope you’re not suggesting that only Biodynamic farmers are honest, hardworking farmers that work the soil with deliberation and grace.
      Stu

    • An actual winemaker says:

      Ken, “us” refers to the winemaking community at large. Yes, I can make a broad statement like that. Aside from a few fringe elements of the community, none of us believe in biodynamics. I’m not making an ad hominem attack on my fringe colleagues. You have to respect their force of conviction, regardless if you agree with it or not. I hide under a pseudonym because I’ve been bitten in the past by writing against the grain of “all things green.” That doesn’t make me a minion of Big Ag, just someone who can think for himself.

      Now, I can appreciate your knowledge of history. I’ve followed all your previous postings. But I have to agree with Stu that, at some point, it doesn’t matter. It’s a common debate tactic to enlarge the issue so much that a sheer volume of knowledge is taken for specific knowledge of the topic at hand. You are guilty of this. The name of this blog is only 4 words. The broader implications of the history and attitude of the time are not at issue. If you can’t accept this, then we’re at an unfortunate stalemate.

      The wine industry is unique in that, in some part, it is not lead by experts in wine or viticulture. The “expert” community is unduly influenced by those that really have no education in viticulture/enology. Bloggers contribute to this. Critics do as well. Add to this phenomenon where many winery owners have all the money in the world and choose to follow false experts and you have a situation where the accepted wisdom in viticulture/enology follows the money. It’s time to nip this latest incarnation, biodynamics, in the bud. If you can address the specific issues that Steiner had with BD, great. If not, then please tell us your end game.

  14. Ken Payton says:

    Stu, thank you for your considered response. For the record, I do not see Steiner as a guardian angel. Like many other movements of the era, the old world was straining under the prophecies and programs of multiple messiahs. I am simply suggesting that Steiner was one, but by no means the most malignant voice. Far from it. His was an attempt to provide a very select group of farmers with a bit of spiritual dignity appropriate to the threats of the time. How was he to have known what would become of his work?

    I am trying to situate Steiner’s work in a larger historical tapestry, but not to dissolve your practical concerns. Rather, I think the proper first step in understanding the current state of Biodynamics requires an uncoupling of your overly strict equation that the evils of the world equals contemporary Biodynamic practice. It is a foolish proposition.

    In an earlier post you celebrated your intellectual devotion to DaVinci, Galileo, Darwin, Newton, Currie, among others. I. too, share in this joy, but for very different reasons. None of these thinkers were rationalists. None excluded, as a matter of ideological commitment, other forms of thought as such. Newton was, as you may know, a practitioner of alchemic science. DaVinci was so horrified of female anatomy that he used a cow’s pudenda for his notebook drawings of female genitalia! And M. Currie died of from an imperfect grasp of radiation. I celebrate these people because they found a way forward precisely as a consequence of the mixed contents of their brains.

    Now, I’ve not read a biography of Steiner. I suspect there are many. But I do strongly suspect that, at the end of the day, he is not generally seen by scholars as an unalloyed villain of an era roiling in sacred, political, and scientific violence.

    Further, I believe you should reconsider your breezy dismissal of who Steiner thought to be his adversary, certainly with respect to the Ag Lectures. Make no mistake: It was the rise of scientific agriculture, as then practiced. Steiner was concerned, however ambiguous his methods, with the preservation of a traditional way of life. In this narrow respect, I believe Steiner to have been a visionary of sorts. But by repeatedly denying the relevance and density of the historical dimension, you are dangerously close to a kind of analysis repugnant to your intellectual heroes. After all, what would Darwin have ever learned on the Galapagos Islands if all he could have seen were mere flocks of birds?

    What was that line from the film Stalag 13? Remember when William Holden’s character was beaten up because everyone thought he was the informer? How did he then know who was, in fact, the real informer? Because, as he said, “He hit the hardest.”

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Ken,

      I’m glad you don’t agree with the Guardian angel angle, and of course he wasn’t a Nazi, but then he didn’t live long enough. I do see that you are trying to situate Steiner in the larger historical context, but frankly, I don’t care, it’s simply not important to the way I think and the way I view Steiner. It’s like I said earlier, we come at this debate from a very different points of view. Several of my English teachers taught me to “read the words,” not what I think the words say, but what the words actually are and what the sentence says – period! The Biodynamic folk print his book of lectures as their foundation so I consider critiquing his words, his actual words fair game, and I suspect that you won’t defend his words. You should really get his book because it would just blow you mind and leave you apoplectic – at least temporally.

      I’m not familiar with all the issues that you brought up about the various scientist of past, but I will proffer that I don’t know much about those ideas because those ideas didn’t pan out in the long run. Whatever those ideas may have been, they fell by the wayside because they didn’t stand up to testing and scrutiny, regardless of the hideous social and/or political milieu of the times. Do you really think that Steiner labored under as oppressive yoke as did De Vinci or Copernicus?

      The industrial revolution brought about many changes that the early 20th century was struggling to deal with, agriculture included; there was pain, maybe even a lot of pain and life was hard and life was unfair – still is. We learned, we advanced, we moved on as best we can, and we’re still advancing and with certain hick-ups we will always continue to advance.

      Let me ask you this: Organic farming is certified by the US and/or the State of California, Sustainability is just now developing its own certification standards, yet Biodynamic farming is owned by, promoted by, and standardized by the private company called Demeter; doesn’t that raise some red flags for you? I hear lots of screaming about Monsanto, but maybe we should be looking a little closer at what Demeter is all about?
      Stu

    • Ken Payton says:

      Stu,

      Your English teachers were wrong if they left you with the impression that all texts are without histories, that all writing is equivalent irrespective of its origin, or that one may freely ignore the importance of hermeneutics. On the other hand, this may be the punctual source of your chronic ahistorical readings.

      That you don’t know much about the issues with respect to Newton et al, is not because those ideas ‘didn’t pan out’; it was because history is written by winners. We don’t have Sitting Bull on the $100 bill, after all. Newton’s alchemic practice was considered heresy by subsequent generations of physicists and therefore suppressed, buried deep in the archive. It was attentive historians of science who gave new life to Newton’s full range, who restored his dignity, made him something more than a poster child for future rationalists. Standing on the shoulders of giants? We’re gonna need a bigger book.

      Indeed, historians of science were able to show why Newton’s interest in alchemy positively informed his subsequent discoveries for which he is now celebrated.

      But, I’ll be honest, these academic exercises are tiresome to me. You simply don’t appreciate, I feel, the complicated intellectual lives of the very people you claim to champion. And to you Steiner is nothing more than an a gripe, the irritation, an endlessly rewritten complaint to the newspaper editor about the trash in everybody else’s yard but your own. ‘Man Shouts At Clouds’ reads the headline.

      So, bottom line, and with all due respect, though you may not be interested in the history of science or ag., anthropology, philosophy, or lit. criticism, I am. You’ll have to excuse me (and I hope you do) that I find your intellectual carburetor set a bit too lean for the oxygen my brain requires.

      And the Demeter versus Monsanto nonsense? WTF? You have got to be kidding me…

  15. Stephen says:

    As this is one of the hottest topics out there now, I believe one should try to stay away from hyperbolic speech on both sides. Drawing Rush Limbaugh into the argument is not much different than what Steiner is being accused of.

    I work in the the trade and have a winery that does not know why, but believes that his plants and vineyards are healthier and producing better quality fruit since he has shifted to BD. He has long term vineyard workers(20+ years) who confirm that the vineyard has never looked better. The wines being produced are better from one vintage to the next as well, IMO.

    I can not isolate just the BD. Obviously working with the vineyards one would hope you got better from year to year and working with the grapes, one would hope to make better wines from experience gained. Is it possible to isolate BD and change nothing else to have a control group study in order to prove the hoax? Proving a negative is never an easy thing to do.

    The barking at the moon stuff is obviously way out there(along with a lot of other looney stuff), but there are some other aspects to BD like treating the entire vineyard as one organism which seem to make some sense. Just want to play a little devil’s advocate here and see if the arguments can be sharpened as opposed to using them as a blunt instrument.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Stephen,

      Isolating Biodynamic farming practices is the very essences of this debate. I have no doubt that the winery you speak of has increased its vineyard and wine quality, but should we accept that it is the Biodynamic farming techniques? Was this person both an experienced grower and winemaker, did he learn on the job, was he really committed to wine quality? Was the vineyard over cropped, over watered, wrong clone, young vines, is there now a different vineyard manager, a different winemaker. Could the answer be that this owner started paying more attention to business because his vines and wines weren’t good enough?

      If you read closely the article on Domain de la Romanee-Conte in a recent Wine Spectator, Aubert de Villaine admits that his estate had planted too much of the wrong clone, over fertilized, over cropped and in general wasn’t paying attention to business, and then implies that it was Biodynamic farming that turned them around.

      It takes knowledge, experience and discipline to separate fact from fiction, even in the field. Just some thoughts on why there could be another answer, other than Biodynamics.
      Stu

  16. Ken Payton says:

    I don’t think Steiner is here saying he possess agricultural knowledge. As I read the passages he is, rather, faulting a certain era-specific economic logic that, if I remember correctly, advocated the stream-lining of agricultural production, which would have included synthetic nitrogen additions, uniform crop rows, heavy pesticide use, a general dependence of emerging agricultural technologies that were at odds with traditional European farming traditions.

    In your rush to judgement, what you consistently overlook is the historical character of Steiner’s adversary: the rise of new agricultural technologies that pointed a dagger at the heart of traditional agriculture. Environmental degradation, dislocation from rich ag soils of ‘underperforming’ farmers, forced collectivization, these elements and more contributed to the era’s sense of urgency, the very real understanding that the brave new world of the scientific technocrat was fast destroying everything it turned it’s jaundiced eye to.

    With the benefit of hindsight, its clear to me that Steiner was one of an endless parade of individuals performing a rear-guard action against the scientific depredations of the day. Remember, Stu, his was a world wherein it was perfectly respectable to believe in the inferiority of the ‘races’ and of women. ‘Ether’ had only been recently been dismissed. Water flowed through the canals on Mars. Chemical warfare was seen as rational, as a way to save lives. Engle’s scientific socialism was all the rage.

    • Ken Payton says:

      (I accidentally hit the ‘submit’ button.)

      To continue:

      Steiner’s successful speaking engagements, that he was sought ought, were a direct function of the fact that the entire world was going mad. The Ag essays, sandwiched between two world wars and countless civil bloodbaths, were a perfect fit for such a time. Your observation of Steiner’s rhetorical strategies is banal inasmuch as the headlines of the newspapers of the day everyday screamed of new insults to humanity. No subtly was required.

      Steiner was attempting to supplement a positivistic economic logic with an appeal to native folk traditions of the traditional farmer, and what he believed to be a more humanistic approach to civilization itself. Dominant religious denominations of the day were either helpless to resist or were themselves helpers in the imperial ambitions of nations and their ideological programs. Steiner’s goal, as I see it, and it was fractured and contradictory to a considerable degree, was to try to reintroduce spiritual values through the back door, so to speak; to persuade farmers that they possessed an (agri)cultural wisdom worth preserving, that it was they, not the economic specialist or the scientist, or the technocrat, who possessed the keys to the kingdom of life. In a world bent on self-destruction, Steiner, therefore, insisted his spiritual science to be the equivalent of any other science. But as a form of resistance! That’s what I think he believed he was doing, anyway.

      I am not interested in whether Steiner was ‘right or wrong’. That is the most unproductive question of all. So, perhaps we can agree, boring though it may be, that Steiner was marked by his age. Perhaps we can agree that it is simply wrong-headed and silly anti-intellectual bravado to pretend or willfully neglect even the broadest outlines of Steiner’s historical era. Nietzsche’s prophetic utterance ‘God is dead’ accurately anticipated the nihilistic sickness that was to sweep across the Western World scarcely a generation later. It is well worthwhile to occasionally hit the books.

    • Ken Payton says:

      Apologies for all the errors of grammar and syntax etc. I only have minutes at a time to scribble. Should take more time to edit!

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Ken,

      It seems, we come to Steiner from very different viewpoints. If I may, you see Steiner as some guardian angel resisting the intemperate times and giving succor to the woe-begotten farmer. There is no doubt that Steiner lived in strange times, but I would argue that he embraced one of the strangest of all the variants of his time – anthroposophy and the occult.

      Unfortunately, I can’t get past what Steiner actually wrote. I read those words and try to understand what those words mean in a real and literal sense because this is now 2010 and thousands of people are farming in a very specific and particular way because of those words. Steiner’s words are all that we have; it is because of those words that Biodynamic farmers are buying cow horns, spraying ground up silica and using the other seven preparations. I have a friend who actually skinned, burned and ashed his vineyard expecting it to rid his fields of gophers, moles and voles – now he uses an exploding propane gun – don’t tell PETA.

      Steiner absolutely presented himself as THE person with THE answers for the farmers sitting in that audience. There is no way to avoid this reality. While Steiner is dismissive of the then current science and agriculture, it is because he thinks of them as having only a babies understanding of those subjects. Think of Steiner as the grand master that is all knowing, elevated above the poor, ignorant simpletons that make up traditional knowledge.

      Frankly, I don’t care what Steiner’s adversaries (agricultural or not) were thinking, saying or doing in 1924; all that matters to me is what Steiner said and that there are people, many people, good people, who have been deluded into believing Steiner’s rubbish.
      Stu

    • Erchek Sargo says:

      He no doubt has a permanent and prominent place in the organic farming movement. Organic farming would not be where it is today were it not for Rudolf Steiner. So i give credit gratefully, not begrudgingly, where it is due, although i find his style of thinking, in just about every other printed material, bordering on lunacy. A crazed genius?

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Erchek,
      Welcome. Your comments are very astute. Steiner was very creative to the point of genius, but his genius was in his imagination, he should have “channeled” his talents into creative writing and science fiction where truth isn’t an issue. Don’t forget Steiner held séances and spoke with the dead, and his insightful knowledge of the Atlanteans and their airships is ample proof for my “belief” that Steiner was a complete fraud. Clearly his writings are delusional, but his technique of setting up straw man arguments and telling little stories to deflect attention from the truth is effective.

      I’m not sure how to respond to your comments concerning Biodynamic foods, which I’m not familiar with, however, I do know the Biodynamic wine scene and just like non-Biodynamic wines, there are excellent ones, good ones and horn-manure level wines.
      Stu

  17. Patrick says:

    One phenomenon that contributes to the acceptance of biodynamics(by some people) in viticulture is that many vineyards/wineries are established by people with little or no scientific training….it takes a whole lot of $ to get into this business, so the vineyard/winery entrepreneurs are often from backgrounds such as business or finance etc. Very few have agricultural training.(I see this happening all over the country.) Thus, these people are more susceptible to to the “smoke and mirrors” of people like Steiner.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Patrick,

      You are so right!
      Stu

    • Gary says:

      This is correct. There are many vanity and trophy wineries out there. People who made their money in demolitions suddenly buy a couple acres of grapes and print business cards with “Vintner” on them. They plant, grow, harvest and make wine by hearsay. If they would only take a fraction of their millions and invest it in four semesters at Napa County College! The last place I worked had just such an owner. And this is again why I am umeployed again!

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Gary,

      To your and Patrick’s comments let me add I have several vineyard manager friends that confided to me some years ago that they have clients that insisted on narrow spacing for their new vineyards. When the managers tried to discuss the fact that the vineyards would be much more expensive to install, that it would be much more expensive to operate, that it would be hard on the workers bending over all the time and that grape quality could actually be poorer their response was that if it was good enough for Robert Mondavi and the Baron Philip at Opus One it was good enough for them! “I’m paying the bills you just plant it!”
      Stu

  18. Both the BD and Natural Wine [sic] movements give one pause as they rely on belief systems to promulgate half-assed “theories”…sort of like Intelligent Design, no?

  19. Loweeel says:

    Stu, here’s a great image that you should use (XKCD.com permits linking)


    see it at xkcd.com

  20. Hans N. Poket says:

    I think it is important to read the Agricultural Lectures and to extend your reading to any other writing of Steiner. This perspective is absolutely important to my understanding of Steiner: Steiner wrote as an expert on hundreds of subjects. Almost every day Steiner was asked to use his clairvoyance on a new subject. Steiner never disappointed his audience. Whether the subject was Adam and Eve’s relationship to Atlantis and Lemuria or predictions for humankind’s origins on the other planets in our solar system, Steiner as never at a loss of words.

    When we look only at the Agricultural Lectures, we get a very misleading take on Steiner. Steiner lectured on just about everything, and just about all of it is some of the most pathetic clairvoyance a medium ever offered. At least Nostradamus was poetic and vague, Steiner was so deluded as to be absolutely sure about everything.

    Steiner’s deluded utterances need to be seen as a whole. All of his writing should be put on the table to give emphasis to the incredible nature of his misunderstanding.

    • Erchek Sargo says:

      Very interesting. I get the feeling that the BD method and some of his literary criticism of Goethe are probably the only part of his work that has any lastin value in it. He had the charisma to impress upon people that he is communicating something valuable and true.
      He mesmerised people with his manner and enthusiasm and the air of absolute assuredness. The perfect making of a powerful (benevolent) magician.

  21. Greg says:

    I like to call this the “Rush Limbaugh” technique. Tell listeners very simple concepts or principles that everyone will know is true and are presented as coming from an expert. Then when the speaker starts going off the rails everyone will tend to agree with the speaker.

  22. Gary says:

    This kind of rhetoric is very common. You’ll find it employed very often by religious groups which evolved during the 19th century. You start by writing your own bible and then find a justification in it for all your arguments, principles and methods. If you create the premise, then you can’t lose the argument. Everyone who doesn’t think like you is simply “wrong.” That’s going on here with Biodynamics, too. And, then, as generations go by, the source of the reasoning and method just disappears in the wind and the message, errant or not, is accepted as gospel. And it’s because of this opinion that I am unemployed in the wine industry today!

    • Erchek Sargo says:

      Very interesting. The 19th century was the time of the birth of the Adventist movement. New interpretations of the Bible arose, and some survived till our present time: the Seventh Day Adventists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Theological Society etc. Antroposophy is in a sense also a reinterpretation of the Bible, seeing the Second Coming more as a personal enlightenment than an actual physical event…
      I just got a weird feeling there is something terribly amiss about Steiner’s assertions, something bordering on cold-headed insanity. I don’t question the existence of insight and intuition – many great scientific discovries were stumbled upon in this manner – but almost invariably after an exhaustive LOGICAL enquiry. Just because Steiner extolls the virtues of thinking does not mean that whatever he does is LOGICAL thinking. Yes, he engages his faculties of thinking – observation, deduction etc. – but keeps distorting logic, liberally incorporating assumption which he fails to recognise as assumption.

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