ExpO N&C – 2/2005

  • Notes from the Secretary
  • Minutes of the meeting – contributions from Vivian Griffiths, hazel Straker, jo Bradley, Lawrence Dungworth, Alan Brockman and Christopher Houghton-Budd

David Clement and daughter Ann attended.

The Experimental Circle at Broome Village Hall

David then spoke to us.

I want to express my deep gratitude for all that has been done in the world of biodynamics since I gave up active involvement. We have just experienced a wonderful summer. Though I couldn’t be there I have heard marvellous things about the 80th anniversary conference at Botton. The biodynamic garden at Hampton Court was a marvel. So many people saw and heard about biodynamics. If not in this life then maybe in the next this will make a deep impression upon them. And the winning of a bronze medall We are now seen as professional in the world.

During the summer it was also wonderful to be invited to visit Jo and Sue Bradley’s farm. They have achieved there what I failed to do at Broome, a mixed, balanced farm of healthy animals and wonderful crops, though the year was wet and I hope they have not suffered too much.

Then there was the AGM of the BDAA. Reading the annual report made me want to cry with joy. There are now 37 or 38 countries with Demeter growers. Imagine 37 or 38! The finances looked marvellous. We have a director and secretary in professional offices. How different this all is than in the early days. With all this in mind I am touched and happy to be invited to this annual meeting and what I hear is very encouraging. This does not mean we will have an easy ride in the future. The real opposition will begin when biodynamics has a voice in the world. We will have to face much. But there is no room for despair at all. We only need courage, courage, courage. We only need to look at those who came before us.”

  • Finances improving – can be held as a reserved fund in the BDA
  • Bernard Jarman – Siamese Twins

The Section and the Circle – like Siamese twins?

Bernard Jarman

During the Koberwitz course, Rudolf Steiner founded the first research circle for the new agriculture that he was inspiring. This evolved into what in Germany became the Forschungsring and in the UK the Experimental Circle. This was to be a circle of practical farmers who share experiences from farming life with one another and work with the perennial source of inspiration that is found within the Agriculture Course. He asked members of this new farmer organisation carefully to observe the unique living qualities of their farms (the soil, landscape features, vegetation, fauna, the productivity of their crops, fertility and the inner and outer vitality of the farm etc.) and gain deeper understanding for it with the help of anthroposophy. In short they were asked to work inwardly with the mighty imagination of the farm as a spiritual individuality. The task was in effect to develop each farm as a centre for holistic research which, integrated in this way within the reality of practical farming and permeated by a quality of inner devotion, would avoid the intellectual and analytic sterility that is so common in natural scientific circles. The aim was consciously to reawaken the deep inner understanding for the earth and nature that had once lived so strongly in European peasant culture.

Rudolf Steiner had also founded at this time the School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum. This school or institute for spiritual research was to become a centre for inner training and an inspiration for further work and development in every realm of human culture. It is where anthroposophy in its most universal expression was to be developed. Just as he idea of the farm individuality with its intrinsic source of wisdom can provide ongoing inspiration for the farmer so the pure expression of anthroposophy and its daily practice can be a resource for human beings everywhere. The two aspects compliment one another. It was Steiner’s hope and intention that the farmers forming the experimental Circle and his colleagues at the Goetheanum would become ever more closely working co-workers. He spoke of them as becoming so closely connected that they would become like Siamese twins.

History and the destiny of the Anthroposophical Society however led things to develop in another direction. The Experimental Circle evolved in its own way and largely separate from the Goetheanum where throughout the twentieth century the agricultural impulse lived as part of the Natural Science Section. The two streams developed apart from one another. The reasons for this lie in the complex history of the movement, a history which has been both tragic an same time filled with hope. The tragic events of the nineteen thirties are well known. Less often appreciated however is the remarkable process of reconciliation that has been taking place since then over the course of many decades.

A highlight in this process for the biodynamic movement came about in the UK during the nineteen eighties with the start of what became known as the IBIG conferences. Each year for a period of 12 years, Manfred Klett was invited as the lead contributor in these international English speaking events. At the time he was the leader of the Agricultural Department of the Natural Science Section at the Goetheanum. Through his contributions he was able to bring to expression the work of the School of Spiritual Science in relation to agriculture. It was a powerful impulse that challenged the biodynamic movement in the UK (and elsewhere) to enter more deeply into the essentials of biodynamics. Put another way it made Section work visible. Other Sections had begun to develop identifiable structural forms within the UK during this time. This was not the case with agriculture however. Despite a wish expressed by a number of people, a British group of the Agricultural sub-Section never materialised. I believe in retrospect that this was a good thing for instead of developing a national administrative identity the work could thus remain a vital, streaming impulse with a direct link to the Goetheanum. Consciously or unconsciously it is perhaps also in deference to the ongoing work of the Experimental Circle that this development never took place.

The Experimental Circle carried by its long and rich history has continued to work in the field of spiritual research in its own way. Like everything else however it is undergoing change and development and now in the first years of the new century it is perhaps facing a particularly strong existential challenge. It is one that reflects the changed place of anthroposophy in the world. No longer is it our task simply to protect the tender shoots that appear and guard them from dangers. Today the challenge is to discover where the strongly growing plants are growing out there in the world and then recognise them. This reality is reflected in the widespread and genuine interest which there is today for spiritual questions and the warm acknowledgement that can be experienced for biodynamics. In this climate the Experimental Circle too needs to change and evolve.

At Michaelmas in 2004 a highly significant event took place at the Goetheanum, an event that will have far reaching consequences for the development of the movement. It was the occasion of the founding of a free standing Agriculture Section. This small yet long over due step is already bringing about some quite profound changes. As a result of this step biodynamic agriculture has found a new home within the School of Spiritual Science. It now has the opportunity to develop the full breadth of its artistic and social as well as its scientific nature – to serve ‘Agricultura’ and facilitate the birth of a new “peasant culture’

But where does this leave the Experimental Circle? To find an answer it is perhaps time once again to consider the original hopes that Rudolf Steiner cherished for both the School of Spiritual Science and the Circle of farmers that he brought together at Koberwitz. We can ask whether the time has now come to consider placing the Experimental Circle consciously within this new Agriculture Section? There are I believe many positive reasons for taking this step and a number of benefits that could result from bringing these “Siamese twins” together.

  • The Experimental Circle would become an acknowledged working partner of the Section

  • The long awaited founding of Section work in the UK would be achieved

  • The unique quality of the Experimental Circle could reinforce the work of the Section and contribute to the development of the School of Spiritual Science as a whole.

  • The circular newsletter could become an important organ for the wider dissemination of Circle material

  • The work would be acknowledged by the AS in GB and could become eligible for funding support (the Society currently supports the work of other Sections)

  • Above all it would bring a new cohesiveness and purpose to the work in this country

Although the School of Spiritual Science and its Sections are led by members of the School, there is no reason why its local / regional groups cannot include non-School members. Indeed for or its healthy development this could be a desirable feature. Since the various Sections of the School are concerned with spiritual research and this research activity aims to arrive at objective results, the present criteria for joining the Experimental Circle should be adequate.

With these thoughts I would like to suggest that all members of the Experimental Circle consider these questions over the coming months. Perhaps a new step can then be taken in the autumn.