Well, it’s autumn and the time for harvesting has passed. In the farming year, autumn is always considered as being the start of the year: after all, the crops have been harvested and whatever remains of them are now bagged and bushelled. It was whilst I was clearing my borlotti beans that I was reminded of something the good doctor had said about seeds.
I mean, it wasn’t anything outrageous, it was just that he mentioned that if a seed was to be fertile, it had first to die. Thus Demeter, the goddess of fertility is metaphorically thrust into the underworld for the duration of the winter. A seed is the creative power of the plant, yet it has no generative powers of its own. A bean left in a sack will keep for many a year – and will provide food for all comers. Rats included.
It’s not possible to live without death: anything we eat that has any nutritive value will have been alive at some point. The most nutritive is that which we eat fresh and uncooked, straight from the ground. It is so nutritive that as an exclusive diet, it is considered appropriate only in medicinal circumstances. Nevertheless, all that livingness that is held in the fresh leaf or the dry seed is consumed – and thereby killed.
Killed that we might live.
It’s not a nice thought, but that’s reality for you. It’s not always what we want it to be: yet we all sit down to a meal of one kind or another during the day, and we are all part of the process of destruction. If we wish to escape this fact, the only way to do it is through the process of illusion, which if engaged with for long enough becomes firstly habitual and then unconscious. (1) Dispelling such illusions is a difficult and painful process – but that is why so many illusions are held so tenaciously.
It was whilst gathering my seeds, I took the finest of the pods and counting the number of seeds in the pod, made a general estimation of their quality. After all, a good flower will bring pollinators and thus will seed freely. In the case of my borlotti beans, seven was considered good and eight excellent. My ultra-deep purple runner beans weren’t so active – the soil in my back garden is anything but good – yet they were away from other varieties with which they could cross pollinate, I could be assured of their purity. Save of course for a stray bee, but that’s life. So these seeds were all gathered, irrespective of their ‘quality’. I have at least enough for several years.
Now I spoke here of quality in the manner of a ‘length’, that is to say, a number. I did explain why, yet the bean itself is a quality in and of itself. It has a distinct shape, colouring, smell and when eaten, flavour. All of these things define my borlotti beans and contrast them to the four kinds of runner beans (pole beans) that I grow – and the half dozen French and Italian beans that I enjoy through the year in one way or another. Imagine now that I plant one of my little borlottis… and when it sprouts, it becomes a haricot!
Okay, so that just doesn’t happen, does it? Either the resulting bean is a borlotti, or it isn’t. That is to say, if it grows, the bean can only be one thing, and that is the result of the fixed parent plant and the chaotic process of pollination. The resulting seed contains all this and does so in a way that is all but impossible to discern. Sure, you have people who examine the DNA, but that’s like talking about organic chemistry in terms of atoms. The theories follow reality – up to a point – one kind of substance will smell differently to another, and this is then ascribed to various combinations of atoms. Whether this is the truth of the matter is irrelevant here; there are enough people who believe in this clap-trap to make modern science a high religion. Reality is still there, the fluid sloshing around in the test tube will still have the same qualities whether it is described poetically or using boring scientific terminology that strips it of all its liveliness – that is to say, they draw it into their comfort zone. As ever, the manner in which a person describes the world they see will tell you more about them than it does about reality. It’s how the soul works: it is our mirror to the world around us.
Back to beans: the bean itself contains all that is needed to bring about another plant, but can only do so given the right conditions. That is to say, the alchemical triad of sulphur, salt and mercury. In this case, sulphur is both light and warmth, salt is the earth and mercury is the water. The compost heap provides two of these – salt and water, and thereby performs a useful duty: the seed is tempted to germinate but with the exclusion of light, the seedling cannot grow. Hence the potential of the dead seed is killed when its life-forces are unleashed. This digestive process is part of what gives compost its nutritive value for the soil.
As mentioned, a particular kind of seed will only give rise to that kind of plant; again with obvious limitations on this argument which have been explained. It is the fertilization of the flower that creates the seed, and in doing so creates something that can take that capacity through the gates of death. That ‘capacity’ is the quality of the seed itself, that which created it. Reduce the quality of the parent plant and you reduce the value of the seed – and thereby you reduce the fertility of the seed. I will remind you that modern agricultural science has driven this into a dead end, where a modern seed cannot now survive in the wild without generous supplies of artificial fertilizers and gallons of toxic pesticides. In short, it needs protecting from the outside world in the way a university professor will protect his students from the realities of science. Furthermore, last year’s seed, even if stored carefully, has lost the ability to grow after the first sowing. Sow it a year later and it cannot grow. Modern agriculture has sterilized the soil to such a degree that every year they need a new adaption.
Healthy Plants And Healthy Seeds.
In short, the healthier the plant, the more qualitative forces it harbours within it. It is quality that can stand the test of death – and the more quality there is, the better it can stand up to the processes of decay. In human terms, decay can be seen all around us in the form of dementia and other assorted ‘progressive disorders’. It is a human expression of the things the agricultural scientists are doing to the seeds they adapt: in both cases, the quality of the individual is decreased and its capacity to regenerate itself is diminished. Many humans have now reached the point of no return, where their powers of regeneration are now at an end. It is, after all, quality that we are here to first distinguish in ourselves, and then employ in order to improve given the ‘soil’ of our karma. I have already strayed too far in this, my public blog.
If you have quality, it always leads to liveliness – both in plants and the food they provide, and in the human. In my post ‘Leeks For Dinner’ (2) I describe the process whereby people want their food always to taste the same – and in demanding this, would rather have the consistency of an artificially produced sauce for the flavour. For myself, I prefer the varied flavours of the leek varieties Musselburgh, Pollux and the uninspiringly named – but still tasty – ‘Blue-Green Winter’. I have all three varieties of leek struggling for life against the suctional powers of my allotment garden. Skinny and half dead they may be, they are still distinct and tasty. Or will be when fellow gardeners have stopped discarding their poor leeks on the communal rubbish heap. Their poor leeks being ten times better than mine… but that’s what good soil does for you. By the time they’ve stopped doing that, my own will be incrementally larger.
In short, if you want to bridge the gap that divides one season from the next, it is quality that one needs. Quality speaks for itself, needs no defence on account of its lively and energetic nature that is expansive …and threatening to the weak – and because of this, will stand the test of time. Anything that wants to defend or needs defending will lack quality and suck it out of others, thereby weakening their own ability to withstand the forces of death themselves and denying it to those around them.
Such seeds are worthless.