Biodynamic agriculture is based on the idea of farming in harmony with the rhythms of nature. But at which point do we really stop hurting the earth and begin to love her? This is a profound reflection brought forth by Marios Dessyllas; a green angel whose mission is to bridge the gap between city and nature, between matter and spirit.
As an agronomist with a degree from the Agricultural University of Athens, he has been active since the late ‘80s in organic farming, when it first appeared in Greece, helping many small and larger farms convert to organics.
Since 2000, he promotes biodynamic agriculture and the last years has represented in Greece the evolution of this method, known as homeodynamics. He organizes seminars and lectures throughout Greece to agronomists, students, farmers, amateurs and children. He often writes articles on technical and ideological aspects of farming.
Your engagement with the earth largely concerns the biodynamic method. Can you give us a description of this special type of farming?
Biodynamic agriculture is a non–chemical, therefore organic method of farming, which in addition takes into account the subtle forces acting from the universe on both plants and us. It respects e.g. the moon cycles and operates accordingly. When needed it can assist these influences, with the use of special preparations. The whole process feels like playing the piano, where you choose the notes to play and in this way you can direct the process to a certain harmony, a balance between the two main impulses of “Sky and Earth”. Plants are strengthened and become healthier as well as developing their subtle qualities, such as fragrance and taste. Not to mention that when taken as food, they have a different effect on us, a positive spiritual influence.
|Homeodynamic Cyclamines Photo: Ioanna Kallistratou|
Looking at nature as a system of forces, carries our environmental perception to a more conscious understanding of the dynamic relationships between all natural phenomena and human beings. What do you think is the deeper connection between nature and humanity? How does one affect the other?
Talking about farming, the first step one has to take is to cease hurting the earth, to declare a “ceasefire”. This means to stop using chemical pesticides and fertilizers, something a lot of people have understood by now - and this refers to applying organic farming. Organic farming in my view, however, is not the end of the journey. It is a station where you cease doing harm, being violent, but that doesn’t mean you ‘ve started to love the earth.
The next step then is to cultivate a loving relationship with the land. Start to feel the unity between yourself, the earth and her creatures. Now this approach calls for a different technique, which would go along these priciples.
|Vortex mixture Photo: Elena Gogou|
In order to do that, biodynamic agriculture almost separates itself from the material realm. Biodynamic preparations are of natural origin but are used only in minute quantities.
For example, in organic farming, in order to fertilize 5 acres of land, we would need a truck of 12 tons of manure, plus a tractor to apply it etc.. In biodynamics we use a minimum amount of cow manure, which of course should be properly selected and of very good quality. This manure is further charged with earthly forces, using a special procedure, during the right time of the year (winter), and we get the preparation BD 500. So we have a minimum amount of matter, just some hundreds of grams, less than one kilo, whose role is just to direct a process.We stir this prep in water, spray the fields with it and the soil gets into the process of natural humus formation. We almost move away from matter, we cross the boundaries between material and spiritual. And one can go even further.
The recent development of biodynamics called homeodynamics, moves further along this line, to the use of purely homeopathic preparations. We use water as a carrier. A homeodynamic preparation contains no other matter other than 100% pure water. We start from an initial substance, which is being homeopathically potentized. After the sixth potency there are no more molecules of the original substance, only the “energy footprint” or message of it. We spray this on the plants - and the plants respond. We have been working on it for the last twelve years or so with visible results. This application initially started around 1995 in Italy.
After someone has understood the processes of nature, the next stage is to be able to “be the preparation himself”, through the way he thinks and feels.
In short, the human spirit as a conscious energy can affect the forces of nature?
We have examples demonstrating that this is possible, e.g. the experiments done by by Dr. Masaru Emoto, on the impact of the quality of thought (negative, positive) on the structure of water molecules. Similarly in biodynamics, we have studies that show how fruit juices create different forms of crystalls, when they come from conventional or biodynamic farming. I am referring to “sensitive crystallizations” according to E. Pfeiffer: crystal forms appear to be harmonic in the second case and non harmonic in the first.
|Kalamata Olives. Top Row: conventional cultivation. Buttom Row:processed homeodynamically + pruning + manure|
How do people respond to this approach of dealing with nature? Is there an interest in this type of farming?
15-20 years ago it was very difficult for people to accept it, and they were quite skeptical and even ironic. Around the year 2000, together with other colleagues, we decided to bring forward this type of farming and so we did. We contacted people who were into organic farming who had reached a basic level of working with nature and had somehow started to get bored with it and needed something beyond that. I am talking about real professional farmers, who finally adopted the homeodynamic method and are working with it today. During the last 2-3 years, we find people who are ready to go even further, to take the next step. Often they come to us with the question whether they can incorporate some kind of prayer in their farming practice!
Now at what stage of implementation are you?
We are practicing the classical biodynamic farming with the use of preparations made e.g. of manure (BD 500) as mentioned above, we are practicing homeodynamics with homeopathic preparations and we also have some cases of people who have worked with the purely spiritual way; e.g. in Italy there are such farms.
Here in my country, if we take a good look into traditional folk culture we can find practices of the past, as special wishes or blessings, that people did in order to help the plants in special occasions, e.g. when they would start sowing their seed. It is interesting to take a closer look at these traditions. If the elders who used these sayings, at that time really believed it, then we are talking about a kind of “peasant spiritual agriculture”. But all these were slowly forgotten and entered into the realm of folk tradition, seen as mere non-sense or just ethnology by scientists. In the articles I publish I try to refer to all these, as well as to the “green thumb” phenomenon; I kind of bring these things to the attention of the people …and so they are intrigued “what is really this green thumb - or good hand (“heriko”) in our language- all about”?
|At times when pesticides "kill", homeodynamics provide the most harmless pesticide formulations (consisting of 100% potent water). Photo: Marios Dessyllas|
We often hear the term 'ecological sensitivity' and for everyone this may mean something different. What is it for you?
Of course any action taken by anyone for the protection of the environoment is valuable and needed. However what makes sense to me, is “real sensitivity”. I feel that recycling because you have to or because it is a trend or fashion, doesn’t go very far. Sensitivity for me is to feel e.g. that kitchen waste of plant origin, when put into a plastic bag and brought to a landfill, “suffers”. You can tell this by the bad fermentation, the terribly bad smell, equivalent of a cry saying “we want to go back to the soil!”. Similarly I can understand that plants suffer when sprayed with pesticides, while when given natural food, as good quality compost, they rejoice. As a person when I have no contact with nature and do not step e.g. onto the earth barefoot, I suffer too. If we really feel all these and do not approach the issue of “ecology” merely with our intellect, then real sensitivity arises. Another word for it is “deep ecology”, a path from outside to inside.
|Photo: Giannis Stapas|
What do you think is the deeper message behind the crisis we are faced with?
It is a disease of the social organism, where many people are suffering. At the same time it is an opportunity for awakening and change. One has only to ask, why did I get sick? What have I done wrong? What food did I eat? What feelings or thoughts did I have? If we go succesfully through this process within, then this wonderful feeling may come, when you wake up and feel again full of energy, detoxified, have thrown off harmful habits or patterns of the past. On the social level, ‘harmful stuff’ to get rid of may be consumerism, may have to do with what our priorities or our values are, where we work or live, how we want our homes to be, how we wish our relationships to be and also the quality of our contact with nature.
Which value do you think we need to restore in our lives?
The value I appreciate the most, and like to have at least as an aim, is truth. This “truth” may have to do with myself, to what extent I am in touch with my inner self, or may have to do with others and whether I am honest in my relationships with them. Truth has to do with catharsis, with clarity, with awareness, it has many aspects. Another value I ‘ve realized is important for me, is assisting life in all its expressions. And that's about finding one’s own role or position in life, one’s call. And there we will be able to experience the real and deeper reward.
What role does the choice of a vegetarian diet has to play in all this?
I have been a vegetarian for several years now and I think it helps, it allows you to have a subtler sense and clearer contact with the truth. The feeling is that of being in a higher sphere, without this heaviness that pulls you down. Added to this is the notion that if I want to be in harmony with nature and be able to act in a more subtle way as I mentioned above, being fed with animals is not really fitting. For me to get a more exciting taste on my plate is not good enough reason for the pain and killing of an animal. I ‘d like to be able to live without causing pain.
As you described before, in biodynamic farming plants are tuned to and embody different energies of the universe, so how these plants as a food will influence the man who eats it?
One of the reasons we practice biodynamic farming is caring for the earth.The other reason is caring for people, through what we take as food. At a first level, this type of food is more delicious, it does not necessarily mean it has a more intense flavour, but it tastes more real, it is more honest food. For example, I was never a real fan of milk, but one morning while in a biodynamic farm in west England, I was offered a jug of raw biodynamic milk, just milked from the cows, not pasteurized. It was something incredible that I had never experienced before in my life, resembled something like melted ice cream. Such testimonials –as well as scientific research- are available for many products. And this is just the first level.
Then we have that this type of food is very well accepted by the body, it is easily digested, it is kind of “friendly” to the body. The animal or plant that produced it, lived and emitted happiness, and you in your turn can experience this gratitude. Your soul and mind are more elevated and clear, it is a food beneficial for life, in all its aspects. The more of this food is grown and consumed, the more we will have people with another type of thoughts and feelings. A student asked once Rudolf Steiner, the founder of biodynamics: “Why do we have so poor results in our spiritual efforts?” And his response was: “It is a problem of nutrition. Nutrition as it today, does not supply the necessary strength for manifesting the spirit in practical life”. Steiner and Spiritual Science or Athroposophy, helped in a way to bridge eastern philosophy with the western perception and way of thinking.
|Add captionRosehips Photo: Elena Gogou|
How do you see your own course in all this?
During the last decade I dedicated myself to the promotion and practice of biodynamics. Lately I am concerned about creating an ecovillage. Practicing the right type of agriculture is always important, but how can we best organize our lives? I think the idea of an intentional community has the answers to many of the problems we face, both ecological and political. It offers opportunities to create small cradles of deep democracy, it gives alternatives for health, therapy, energy and food sufficiency, ecological housing. If you look to Greece from above from a plane you would see countless areas where –almost- nothing happens.
In order to step towards such a goal, an important element is the art of relationships. Another one is God and faith, and by this I mean a strong common spiritual point of reference.
|Fruits of the earth Photo: Elena Gogou|
If one really looks to the quality of relationships around us, he will find a huge deficiency in truth and love. There is often confusion, aggressiveness, that is violence, whether conscious or not, I mean at a verbal or even non-verbal level. Again things to be cleansed and …lots of inner work to be done, towards a non violent communication and culture! The eco-communities I know and have visited abroad, work a lot with spirituality and relationships, as well as politics. But relationships are perhaps the key element, and with it comes the need for a closer look inside.
For a successful eco-community I understand there needs to be people with a similar vision, good sense of relating and an ability to work and create things together. So there has to be harmony on all three levels: mind or spirit, heart and action (or will).
Marios Dessyllas was interviewed by Vasia Pelegrati
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