Biodynamics, Art and Ritual
By Dennis Klocek
Artists who have worked for a long time can confirm that overcoming the trials of the two tyrannies is difficult. The first trial is the tyranny of the white. This is the sinking feeling that the first stroke on a drawing or the first strike of a chisel has set in motion a destruction process. The beauty of the unsoiled white paper tyrannizes the soul who dares to violate the pristine harmony of the blank paper. In Zen this is called the un-carved block. It has a primal integrity that is violated by the intent of the would be creator. To overcome the prison of this perfectionism requires the willingness to enter into the dark chaos of the unknown outcome. This dread is loaded with the possibility of future disappointments. The soul knows that the outer world of the artifact that is produced will never reach the perfection of the inner vision .
The first trial is the tyranny of the white. This is the sinking feeling that the first stroke on a drawing or the first strike of a chisel has set in motion a destruction process.
In gardening as an art there is a version of the tyranny of the white. It could be called the tyranny of the weed. My neighbor over the back fence has a curious gardening ritual that is enacted every morning. He brings out a hoe to his carefully sculpted garden beds and begins to detail their surfaces. The beds are exactly two feet wide and ten feet long, each reminiscent of the work of the ancient mound building cultures. He takes his hoe and scratches the surface of each bed where a weed seedling that has germinated overnight has violated the pure surface. Once the surface is weed free but rumpled he takes his hoe and gently taps it to once again regain the purely flat surface that is now weed free. To do the eight beds takes about an hour. Once the empty beds are in order he puts up his hoe, sits down in the sun, lights a cigarette and surveys his once again blank canvas. In his garden, except for some peas that quickly run up and die in the heat, there is virtually no produce that results from this activity. The beds are sculpted every day until the heat comes on and then whatever weeds have managed to escape the hoe are left to germinate and wither into the summer. This is repeated every spring. Seeing him with a great satisfied smile, basking in the sun with his cigarette is surely the soul impulse of a devoted minimalist artist.
The second tyranny in art is at the opposite end of the creative spectrum. It is the tyranny of the artifact. This occurs when after overcoming the blankness of the beginning a pathway seems to present itself in time and space. Certain portions of the work begin to unfold and the artist takes possession of the process of how the image is changing. This leads to the artist identifying more and more with the finished work or artifact. The longer this phase is continued the more the focus is on the finished work and not the process of its unfolding or becoming manifest. The artifact becomes precious, changes are seen as dangerous and the process of artist learning from the struggle is diminished. The artifact becomes a tyrant unwilling to change. In reality it is the attachment of the will of the artist to the artifact that is unwilling or incapable of change even when it is necessary to make the artifact more harmonious.
The product or artifact consciousness moves the dance of the gardener with nature into patterns of willful imposition of human expectation on the life rhythms of nature. This is the state of consciousness large scale agriculture today.
In gardening this aspect of artistic practice changes the focus from seeking to learn from the lessons being presented by the rhythms of nature into creating shortcuts to harvest a product. The product or artifact consciousness moves the dance of the gardener with nature into patterns of willful imposition of human expectation on the life rhythms of nature. This is the state of consciousness large scale agriculture today. The drive towards a product or artifact of the work represents a tyrannical mood in the consciousness of the worker. The artifact signals the end of the creative process of interaction with the rhythms and beings of nature.
These differences from an esoteric point of view relate to the will forces used to attain a goal. Biodynamic practices that focus on producing more products use a level of will known as intention. Intention as a will force is linked to the desire for an expected outcome. It is often confused with the will force known as intent. Intention and intent are not the same. My neighbor’s intention in making an earth sculpture exemplifies a desire to control nature. It is not his intention to grow a lot of produce. The intent of his acts is more subtle. It reveals a motive for a need to order a space against natural intervention against his own will. We could say simply that the man is just out working in his garden. That may be true in his case. But these distinctions become important when gardening and work in nature move away from just producing vegetables into ritual control of nature beings. Ritual is an esoteric art.
Practices and preparations designed to influence elemental beings in nature require a deeper level of will than intention. An outcome that is desired from a ritual enacted on the land may be distorted by the unconscious intent of the person performing the ritual. The intention is a conscious force that entrains the will of the worker to an expected outcome, this is the tyranny of the artifact. The intent is a deeper emotionally driven will force that contains a motive that becomes part of the ritual being enacted. When the intent or fundamental emotional motive of doing a ritual on the land is not made clear at the onset, the intention that drives the work towards a particular end is not in the best interest of the elemental beings driven by the ritual. This issue is amply depicted in many of the Rosicrucian plays by Shakespeare where an unwitting human enters the elemental world seeking to control nature spirits only to be ensnared in circumstances that have to be resolved by higher powers.
A current push towards intention in Biodynamics involves ritual practices aimed at creating new substances. Much of this is based on interest in executing the will level of intention. Little is said of the more fundamental will level of intent in these practices. These issues are represented by the golem in the Cabbala, and Lord of the Rings, or Frankenstein. Shakespeare wrote the Tempest and Midsummer Night’s Dream to illustrate the dangers of humans entering the elemental world with intention. Read Caliban’s complaint in the Tempest and you will get a clear picture of this issue. Goethe wrote the Sorcerer’s Apprentice to illustrate this danger. The magician and the wannabe magician in these works pay little attention to intent and are motivated by the magical outcomes of rituals. In each of these works the pattern is that the operator, through intention, can start forces moving by entraining elemental beings. But, lacking knowledge of their own intent, they cannot stop or control the beings once the ritual has started. The cascades of events leading to an out of control natural conclusion require a more measured and conscious approach to the challenges of the artistic side of work in nature. In the alchemical language one who is engaged in a ritual to transform substance is known as “the artist”. The “artist” needs more self knowledge than the worker. This wisdom is codified in the old mantra, Ora et labora. Pray first, then work.
In the alchemical language one who is engaged in a ritual to transform substance is known as “the artist”. The “artist” needs more self knowledge than the worker. This wisdom is codified in the old mantra, Ora et labora. Pray first, then work.
The creation is designed so that humans endowed with free will can eventually become stewards of the natural order. This requires an understanding of the artistic side of the practical work on the land. This artistic element can lead the mind to the magical aspect of work in nature. It involves the transformation of substances that go beyond the general natural order. It involves ritual. Such ritually transformed substances are exemplified by the Biodynamic preparations that require an understanding of the more hidden forces in nature. The artistic, magical aspects of this work can lead to harmonies of minerals, plants and animals orchestrated through conscious human efforts. But art and ritual require that the operator be in contact with the deeper emotional needs of the intent in the will. This requirement goes beyond the intention of the operator to control nature. Agricultural ritual arts require that the “artist”, like the physician, first do no harm.
Agricultural ritual arts require that the “artist”, like the physician, first do no harm.
In the sorcerer’s apprentice the master comes to his laboratory to find that the apprentice has, through intention, set in motion natural forces beyond his understanding. The chaos that is threatening is out of control. The apprentice has stolen his knowledge from the master’s magic book. He aspires to be an “artist” who is in control of nature. His intention has pushed him past the tyranny of the white. He starts a ritual to enchant elemental beings to do his menial tasks. When the desired effect manifests he then falls under the tyranny of the artifact. He is delighted by his own power over the creation and repeats the magic again and again. But he has no remedy for the hubris this generates when his lack of understanding of his intent fails him and the elements go out of control. Lacking intent, his will for desiring control has no effect on the deeper will forces of the natural world.
Upon his return the master takes control of the chaos. The master’s understanding of his own intent is his true power over his own intention. The natural order must bow to this intent because it is deeper than the will forces in the elements. Goethe’s summation of this issue is “Only the true master is self limiting”. This is a profound injunction for those who would have the intention to engage nature in a Biodynamic, ritualistic, artistic way.
Dennis Klocek, MFA, is co-founder of the Coros Institute and a faculty member at Rudolf Steiner College. He is the author of nine books, including the newly released Colors of the Soul; Esoteric Physiology and also Sacred Agriculture: The Alchemy of Biodynamics. Dennis is also an international lecturer.