This article is from a book about the religious spirituality of the late stone age (Neolithic period – BP 3,000 to 8,000 years ago). The setting is in the Cognac valley of France, an area that has been continually farmed for 8,000 years.
In the article, Steven is the Australian learning about the ideas in the book. Jasmine is a member of the female quasi-Masonic group unearthing and experimenting with Neolithic spiritual rituals. The other characters represent themselves.
The article is from real discussions, on the farm shown in the pictures.
I hope the insights help you.
And yes, it’s true: the French wine growing industry is heading for a wipe-out, from a mysterious plant fungus that is spreading from west to east.
The Anthroposophical Farmer
Jasmine drove too quickly down the narrow hilly roads south of Barbezieux.
Steven felt uncomfortable with Jasmine, her dominating female energy intensified by her bundle of tight white hair. The Kangoo’s hard seat and the tight seat belt didn’t help; he felt the need to make conversation. “Tell me about your group.”
“Again? Our interest is how Neolithic people lived with the land, the stars, the Spirits. We limit our study to the Neolithic rituals that we can discover and use. Today is a special treat for me. I plan to explore the Fontenoys farm. You know, the earth desperately needs new ways to care for the land.”
“And you think Bio Farming is a new, better way.”
“You’ll learn. Here is the road down to Fontenoys farm.”
Jasmine slowed and turned into a narrow downhill track.“We need you here today to translate from Australian English to French. A countryman of yours, Rob Willcot, is coming to talk with the Fontenoys. They struggle with his Aussie bush accent”
“You didn’t tell me that, you just said Coffee on a super organic farm.”
“True enough, coffee and a few words. You’ll learn something.”
Jasmine left the Kangoo by the side of the road. “There are the Fontenoys now, lets walk down to greet them.“
“Amazing place” said Steven. “As an Australian it always surprises me how old everthing is. In Oz there is nothing old, but here ... ”
“But not Neolithic. In those days they built on hillsides. This valley is early middle ages, when they built on creeks. Water wheels were the high technology of that age.”
Jasmine lead the way. When Steven caught up she spoke “Biodynamic farming uses an energy approach that could be Neolithic. We don’t know for sure, but the Fontenoys are masters and have told us what they do. They pride themselves on their magic compost; that’s not for us — we are into ritual approaches. “
“Pascal has told me that the Archelogical digs show animals, grain, everything that one would find on a modern mixed family farm.”
“Yes, Pascal got that right. That was also Steiner’s Biodynamic idea, a mixed farm with the human farmer making spells and mixtures that hold the farm in place. Steiner’s farmer carried the Church’s teachings, what he calls the risen Christ energy, into the land. That’s not the way we see it. For us its more complex than ‘Christ Energy’ whatever those words really mean. But Steiner satisfies the Fontenoys.”
“I’m beginning to understand the Neolithic complexity.”
“Good, I’ll just introduce you and than go for a walk, I’ve heard it all before and they tend to annoy me. I go and to check out the little hill with the forest at the edge of the farm. There may be Roman or Neolithic remains, they both liked to build on hills.”
Mrs Fontenoy welcomed Steven with a warm smile. “Thank you for coming, when we heard that you were accepted by Jasmine and her friends, we were excited. A Neolithic Australian, you look native, can I say that? We are waiting to greet another Australian, a Biodynamic wheat and sheep farmer who we met at the Bordeaux Biovin conference. He is very keen on Biodynamic agriculture, he was at the big event with a Swiss representative from the Group’s Basel Headquaters. He doesn’t speak French and his English is so, so Australia. Will you translate over coffee? Would you mind?”
“It would be a pleasure, is he a real farmer, one who uses his own hands?”
“What a strange question! And you didn’t tell me, are you native?”
“Oh what a Biodynamic statement.”
“I like people who work the land, not aristrocrats who live from other people’s work.”
“Oh Robert has rough hands, he works. His clothes, his shoes his walk – he is a worker like us and loves Biodynamics.”
On the table in the large room of the house was a special greeting for the Australians: Wattle blossoms. Steven took a close look.“Green wattle I think; did you grow it on your farm?”
“No we picked it along the coast; we knew Robert would be coming. I am so glad that you are here to translate.”
“Jasmine just told me about it, she thinks it will be of interest to me.”
“Are you native Australian? You didn’t answer the question before.”
“No, not in this life.”
“So you believe in reincarnation? I do. I’m an Anthroposophist, follower of Rudolf Steiner’s teachings. Have you heard of him?”
“Yes, naturally, I know he started Biodynamic farming.”
“Steiner showed us the way and we follow it. At the conference Robert told us that Bio farming is very popular in Australia. When he comes, we want to discuss the differences between his way and ours.”
“I hope I will know the right words.”
Steven heard a door opening and a marmalade coloured cat shot across the room. Behind it came a large man speaking in English “So sunny, you have big windows facing the sun outside, on the south side …”
“You must be Robert,” said Steven adding, “Do you see the wattle? They got it especially for us!”
Mr Fontenoy guided Robert into the sitting area of the large room and indicated a chair facing the fire. Tea, slices of cake and biscuits on were on a tray. Steven noted that Robert was a large man with large hands. He had the slow deliberate movements of a hereditary farmer. His voice carried the sound of the Australian wilderness, of wind in eucalyptus trees; Steven felt a little homesick.
Robert sat next to Steven, the pair faced Mr Fontenoy. Robert spoke to Steven “Please tell Mr Fontenoy that I was one of the first Australian farmers to use 500.”
Steven translated and asked, in English, “What is 500?”
“I’m sure the French hosts have a better description; it is what Steiner invented, a way of bringing Cosmic energy into the soil.”
Steven sensed a link with Neolithic Dolmens and Menhirs which were used to connect to the Cosmic and complex earthly energies. So curious, he asked, “how?”
Mr Fontenoy answered in French, “You asked about how 500 is made? We make a porridge of cow manure, spoon it into cow horns and bury it over winter in a high energy location. I can show you our cow horns and compost.”
Robert added in English “Steven, you asked ‘how’. We are Australians, you will understand. Australia is pagan - that means native. We never had Christian priests saying Mass and blessing the land. We have had no Middle Ages with its Christification of the land*. The spirits in our country are Aboriginal, not Christian. We now farm European plants and animals and they require Christian love. Ours is not a Christian country, we are still pagan and we need Christ, the love of Christ in the soil for our European ways. I believe that is what I do when I spray 500 onto my soil — it makes the Cosmic Christ to enter the land.”
Steven struggled to translate.
Finally, after asking for a few clarifications, Mrs Fontenoy answered “That is an unusual viewpoint. Steiner teaches that the Cosmic Christ energy works through people. I believe it is vital for the Biodynamic farmers to take the Christ into their hearts through the head, with real understanding and love. It is not the spray, it is the farmer. He becomes the path by which the Christ is brought to his farm, to his land.”
After Steven translated Mrs Fontenoy added, “I say this because I have seen that farmers who take Christ into their hearts continue to prosper with the Biodynamic techniques. The first three years are easy. But after seven years it is the farmer’s Christian love that keeps the biodynamic farm prospering. Without his Christian love the farm will collapse.”
Rob thought awhile and then answered “But to me it is all the same. Maybe it is all the same for me because I believe in Christ, but I perceive that when I spray the 500 the work is done. I believe that vortex mixing creates an energy hollow of energy and that allows the Christ forces to enter the 500 spray.”
“How do you mix your 500 spray?” Asked Mr Fontenoy.
“I use a copper drum and a reversing electric motor. On my property ‘Bahoolo’ we spray about 200 hectares of sheep’s grass and oat crop in good years.”
“I mix small batches by hand,” said Mr Fontenoy. I will show you later. I spray with a back pack sprayer.”
“I use a low pressure sprayer on my tractor. In Australia some large wheat farms are sprayed by air.”
“Australian Bio Dynamic bread wheat is very good.”
“Yes, we use aerial spraying on some large wheat properties; one wonders what would happen if we would spray large areas of land — like this whole valley.”
“You know, our farming BD group,” said Mrs Fontenoy, “did try spraying 500 on hunting preserves. We tried, but it didn’t work. It takes a farmer’s ownership of the land to get the right result.”
“I understand,” said Robert, “The farmer, the animals, the land and the Spirits need to be one.”
“Ah,” said Steven, “as in Neolithic culture.”
“Perhaps,” said Mrs Fontenoy, “but now we have the Cosmic Christ. This is a point of disagreement I have with your friend Jasmine who wants to take us all back to Neolithic times.”
“It was kind of her to bring me here.”
“It was her responsibility.”
Seeking to keep the conversation going Steven asked in English “Please tell me more about the 500 mixture.”
Robert paused to gather his thoughts. “Yes, I would like to say more, from what I’ve seen in Switzerland and Bordeaux the problems are very different in Europe. I don’t know how you will translate this, but please try to be gentle…The land here is sick and the grapes are sick, very sick. I cannot help but say this. In Australia the land is native, pagan, unformed. With my 500 mixture I bring structure to the soil. When I spray, the oats grows quickly, tall and straight. Here everything fights sickness. I guess the 500 helps.”
Steven asked, “You use the word ‘guess’ — do you mean yes or no?”
“I don’t know if it helps. The European problem seems deep and complicated”
Steven struggled to make his French clear.
“It is true that the grapes have ‘the malady’. This is not an issue for me, but for all the wine growers it is the problem. Before grape vines lived for a hundred years, now thirty years is usual. The malady may be a virus in the soil, but we don’t know; there is no cure. The 500 spray makes the vines healthier, so the grapes make better wine. But certainly the grapes are sick and die young. We think it may have started in 1860’s with the American Phylloxera attack.”
“Steiner says something of interest” commented Mrs Fontenoy “and some of the ONS members think he is right. I will arrange for you to travel to vineyards with Justine. She believes in Biodynamics and has developed a good technique for dealing with the problem.”
“Please tell us what Steiner said, and I will translate,” said Steven.
(Lecture 3: 21st Oct 1923)
“ ... People poison the earth. We do it because we when think inside our heads, we draw energies, spiritual energies, out of the earth. When we die we should give these borrowed energies back to the earth — but we don’t and can’t because if we did we would lose our “I” the, our human soul, the human self awareness we have collected during our life. We cherish this and so take it with us into the worlds after our death. This means we rob the earth of the energy we have borrowed.”
Steven translated and waited for Mrs Fontenoy to go on.
“But it is worse than that. We humans poison the earth with our leftover emotions and actions — the things we have done in our lives. These leftovers are indigestible for the Elemental Spirits and Devas that reside in the soil. It is this poison, the miasma that haunts the soil of Western France.”
Before he translated, Steven said in French “So this is the other side of eight thousand years of continuing settled agriculture. We just don’t have this problem in Australia; with only a hundred and fifty years of settled agriculture. I’ll try and explain the local situation to Robert.”
Robert asked questions to help clarify Steven’s explanation and then said “Please tell Mrs Fontenoy that I understand what Steiner was describing. In Australia, when I look at the landscape I see white spiritual energy shooting into the sky. Here, I see a layer, a cloud of obstruction over the landscape. This may explain the reason for the grape malady.”
“Justine, who understands Steiner, thinks the malady comes from the human toxins he described. I will get her to take you and Robert to the vineyards. When are you leaving France?”
“In three days. Next week I have a Steiner farming conference at Dornach in Switzerland.”
“Shame, but Steven will be able to go. Now let us show you around the farm. We are no longer young and do the minimum.”
“I’ll show you my 500 stirring technique. It is old fashioned but it works well.”
“Cow horns that we fill with the soft cow manure and bury on the hill over winter. This allows the earth’s winter forces to collect into the mixture. That’s all it takes to make the physical side of 500. In Spring we lift out the cow horns and remove the crumby mixture. I use about two cubic centimetres of 500 activated cow manure, in my wooden stirring bucket.”
“This is what I use for stirring the 500. It is old fashioned, it does very good work to bring in the cosmic forces when I reverse the vortex from my stirring. It takes an hour for the cow horn mixture to gather the right energy. Then I spray it with a small backpack unit.”
“My compost, here is a sample I collected for your visit. I make it with cow manure. I used the mixtures Steiner discovered ...Chamomile, Stinging Nettle, Oak bark, Dandelion and Valerian. I mix them up myself, with plants that grow on the farm. Smell it, superb yes?”