Malcolm Gardner's Summary
from BDNOW! 22/01/2000 and with Malcolm's permission
Malcolm Gardner's reply to Allan Bailett's question
That's a good question, but I don't want to say how I feel about her "calendar work" without presenting at least a rough overview of the facts. That way you can also draw your own conclusions. For clarity, before reviewing the experimental work, I will first spell out Thun's "sidereal trigon theory," which is the basis for the recommendations in her calendar ("Working with the Stars").
1) THUN'S SIDEREAL TRIGON THEORY
Thun's theory basically has three parts:
a) Plants (i.e., higher plants) consist of four main organs, each of which is related to one of the four classical elements:
Fruit & Seed = Fire (or Warmth)
b) The circle of 12 sidereal constellations of the zodiac consists of four overlapping "trigons" (roughly equilateral triangles), each of which is related to one of the four elements (which in turn is related to the four plant organs):
Ram, Lion, Archer = Fire/Warmth trigon = Fruit/Seed trigon
c) The four sidereal trigons "engender favourable conditions" for the development of the corresponding plant organs "as the Moon passes in front of the particular constellation, that is, if cultivation, sowing and planting are carried out at the corresponding period" ("Work on the Land and the Constellations," East Grinstead 1990, p. 11). Thus, according to Thun, if these things are done when the Moon is in a particular trigon, one may expect better development of the corresponding plant organ, and poorer development of the other, non-corresponding organs.
More specifically, Thun defines the 12 sidereal constellations in accordance with the annual astronomical calendar published in Dornach, Switzerland, which uses slightly different divisions than the IAU (International Astronomical Union). These 12 constellations are unequal in size and so too are the four trigons (thus, for example, the Earth/Root trigon [Bull, Virgin, Goat] is 56% larger than the Air/Flower trigon [Twins, Scales, Waterman]).
2) EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH
2a) Maria Thun's Research
In 1952, Maria Thun noticed variations in the form of radishes sown over a 10-day period in similarly prepared soil. She was intrigued by this and began doing various experiments to try to figure out the cause of this variation. In the next years she came up with the idea that the position of the Moon in the zodiac was important and that the different sowings of radishes could be divided into four different "types," a root, leaf, flower, and fruit/seed type. However, it was not until she heard a lecture by Guenther Wachsmuth around 1957, that she hit on the idea of "elemental trigons" within the zodiac. She then expanded her research to include other annual crops and in 1963 published a general report of her morphological observations and her trigon theory ("Nine Years' Observations of Cosmic Influences on Annuals," Working with the Stars 1986). Around 1963 she also began publishing her annual sowing calendar and began doing her first quantitative experiments, measuring potato yields. In 1966 she began publishing her results with the help of Hans Heinze and over the next years published more than a dozen experiments, on several crop species, all of which seemed to exactly confirm her theory. In the late 1960's other researchers became interested in her spectacular results, but they also recognized that her experiments, and Heinze's statistical methods, contained a number of problems, which they tried to correct in their own research. Some of these problems were: lack of true replication (sowings on different days are not true replicates if the differences in weather are not taken into account); usually measuring only one parameter (usually weight) of one organ; often not reporting the exact date and time when the sowings took place; and not considering alternative explanations for the observed phenomena. In addition, although Heinze mentions subjective influences as a possible factor in the success or lack of success in these experiments (Lebendige Erde 1983(1)), he and Thun do not report any effort to control for this in their own experiments by "blinding" the experimenters and technicians (e.g., not informing everyone which row is which). The reports of Thun's ongoing experiments that appear every year in her sowing calendar, along with the pretty pictures of the experimental gardens, etc., are impressive to casual readers but are far too sketchy to be scientifically meaningful.
2b) Other Researchers
I am aware of about 80 experiments undertaken by other people to test Frau Thun's sidereal trigon theory. Many of these experiments have not been published (only mentioned in passing), some have been published but not very completely, and the remainder (about 30) have been published in full. All but three of these experiments were done in Europe and most
# of exps / result / researcher / year / (test plants) / [publication]
1 + Schwarz 1968 (potatoes) [Lebendige Erde 1969(?)]
58 - (negative)
Hartmut Spiess' work is by far the most extensive and most scientifically rigorous. It was published in German in 1994 in two volumes, totalling more than 550 pages ("Chronobiologische Untersuchungen mit besonderer Berucksichtigung lunarer Rhythmen im biologisch-dynamischen Pflanzenbau"). However, some of his work (on rye and radishes) *is* in English: Biological Agriculture and Horticulture, vol. 7 (1990), pp. 165-189. Spiess designed his experiments with Frau Thun's cooperation and had expected to be able to confirm her theory in a couple of years; when this did not occur, he extended his experimentation for six more years but still could not confirm it. He found some evidence of a sidereal lunar rhythm, but not of a *trigonal* sidereal rhythm, and even the sidereal rhythm could be better explained by the simultaneously present synodic (full/new) and tropical (high/low) rhythms. Moreover, contrary to Thun's recommendations, he found no detrimental effects at lunar perigee, at the lunar nodes, or during planetary occultations.
Recently, Kollerstrom and Staudenmeier have published an article entitled "Maria Thun's Trigons: What Have Other Investigators Found?" (in the New Zealand BD journal "Harvests", vol. 52/1, Winter 1999). In this article they focus exclusively on the six most impressive "positive" experiments listed above. They disregard four of Kollerstrom's own experiments (which I have therefore labelled "unclear") as well as the negative results reported by the other two researchers whose positive results they cite. In an amazing display of chutzpah, Kollerstrom and Staudenmeier conclude their article with the statement that Thun's theory is now supported by "a considerable and growing body of evidence."
In sum, it is certainly true that just because other researchers have had difficulty confirming Frau Thun's theory, does not necessarily mean that her theory is wrong. It is equally true, however, that if her consistently positive results are possible only in her location, or only when she does the experiment, then, from a practical standpoint, her work may be marvellous, but it is *irrelevant* for the rest of the world.
3) THUN'S CALENDAR AND STEINER'S BIODYNAMICS
As mentioned above, a crucial part of Thun's sidereal trigon theory, and hence her calendar, came from Guenther Wachsmuth (1893-1963), who was the leader of the Natural Science Section of the Goetheanum in Dornach and who also attended Steiner's Agriculture Course in 1924. Wachsmuth, however, does not exactly say that this trigon theory came from Rudolf Steiner. What he says in his astrological book, "Kosmische Aspekte von Geburt und Tod" [Cosmic Aspects of Birth and Death] (Dornach 1956), is that the trigonal correspondences between the four elements and the twelve parts of the zodiac rests on an "ancient tradition," which he then goes on to suggest Steiner had confirmed out of his own spiritual research. What seems more likely, however, is that Wachsmuth merely *inferred* such a confirmation, because nowhere in Steiner's own writings is there any hint of such a trigonal pattern in the structure of the zodiac. Similarly, no one has been able to trace this pattern back to any truly ancient astrological tradition, but only to writings from the Middle Ages, a time when direct perception of the subtle worlds had largely been lost and instead been replaced by superstition and speculation. This "ancient tradition" was also given a further twist when Wachsmuth took the trigonal scheme of the elements that had hitherto been applied to the equal signs of the tropical zodiac, and instead applied it to an unequal division of the sidereal zodiac, which meant that it was shifted by almost a full sign relative to the tropical zodiac. (I note in passing that although Steiner favored a sidereal zodiac, there is actually no evidence that he favored unequal divisions.)