Magnesium and 501
This article is stimulated by Marinus la Rooij's article in Harvest Volume 50 No 1. which explored Grass Stagger management. While I found the article stimulating and a excellent addition to our Biodynamic practice I am left with some questions. Some I have been able to answer, others I wish to put back to the author and the community. This essay was submitted to Harvests however I do not believe it ever got published due to it being too complex for their readership.
One of the main conclusions of the article as I read it, is that if we spray 501 on any suspect pasture, the grass will mature raising the available magnesium levels and staggers will disappear. So staggers are more an expression of insufficient maturity than low magnesium levels in the grass or soil. I am left to wonder if this is a traditionally held belief? What data can be provided to support this statement? While I do not disagree with Marinus, I would appreciate more hard data to support his opinions so often presented as facts. What does happen to the Mg readings on pasture when it is sprayed with 501?
Other questions are:
What is the incidence of grass staggers on properties that do have adequate magnesium in both the soils and plant tissue? This naturally leads us into a discussion on what are adequate Magnesium levels in the soil and foliage. I wish to suggest we use soil levels of between 12 & 20% and herbage levels of between 0.3 -0.6% as `adequate' levels of Magnesium in this discussion.
Given light appears to be the critical factor in Grass staggers what is actually going on and how is Magnesium effecting a cure to a nervous disorder?
When approaching any chemical question from a Biodynamic perspective I use as a starting place the association Dr Steiner made for how the elements of Protein, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen and Carbon are the physical carriers into the chemical sphere of life, for the four bodies continually referred to in his lectures. Hydrogen is the chemical carrier of the Spirit, Ego or `Warmth organism', Nitrogen carries the Astral body or `Sensation body, Oxygen the Etheric, or `Life body' and Carbon is the basis of physical bodies. ( see footnote 1 ) This statement appears to be different to what is presented in lecture 3 of Agriculture. However in lecture 2 of "Fundamentals of Anthroposophical medicine" on page 39 he sums up a lengthy explanation of this point by saying "You see that the ego organisation is connected to Hydrogen in the same way as the physical organisation is connected to carbon, the etheric organisation to oxygen and the astral organisation with nitrogen." Aligning this statement to what is presented in lecture 3 - Carbon is the carrier of the ego - is a very enlightening exercise and may be presented in the future.
While researching magnesium a few interesting facts which support Marinus' idea have arisen. In `Living Energies" by Callum Coates, (Pg 219) ( Gateway Books ) he discusses the activity of chlorophyll production and outlines the difference between magnesium + water + carbon dioxide + Light and the combination of these same three substances minus light. In the first reaction Chlorophyll and oxygen are produced. The Chlorophyll molecule is described as a very stable molecule consisting of 137 atoms of 1 Magnesium ringed by 4 Nitrogen atoms with the rest being Carbon, Hydrogen. Oxygen is released to the atmosphere. In the second reaction, without light, magnesium carbonate and hydrogen are produced. The Hydrogen is given off as gas.
This provides us with two very different scenarios. In the first we have a complex molecule with Mg closely accompanied by the volatile Nitrogen , and the life producing ( Etheric building ) Oxygen being released for both the plant and the atmosphere. Here the Magnesium could be more available for the metabolism and in combination with oxygen, would provide a big ( Etheric ) life force boost leading to greater health. The hydrogen - an element which acts as a acidifying `death force' when free - is stabilised into the chlorophyll as well.
In the second situation the magnesium is carbonated, which I imagine would make it less available. Simultaneously, the plant would contain and release more hydrogen during the process without light. Hence, the `death processes' ( Ego ) carried into the physical by hydrogen, creates acidity and stress which in turn consumes some of an animals' oxygen and life ( etheric ) forces in an attempt to balance this hydrogen.
The life body ( etheric ) and the sensation body ( Astral ) have a very close relationship. When one is reduced in power the other fills the empty space. Hence with grass staggers once the life forces (etheric ) are weakened this allows for a strengthening of the ( Astral ) sensation bodies effect, ( less etheric cushioning ) hence weakening the animals general resistance further. When the sensation body dominates, the quick pulsing of this `force' dominates over the slower pulse of the ( etheric ) life forces which leads to the `shuddering' experienced in nervous disorders and staggers.
But what of the magnesium? In photosynthesis light is the determining factor. It would appear it is not a lack of magnesium, but a lack of light which stops the magnesium present being lifted out of its carbon form and into a `nitrate' form making it more freely available. Equally important is the binding of the hydrogen (Ego) into the chlorophyll which brings both maturity to the grass and keeps the hydrogen in a `digestible' living process.
The whole question of magnesium's place in natures household has provided a intriguing and at times confusing search. From Marinus description we can see Mg's relationship to light and the nervous system. If 501 activates it we could easily be lead to assume from these associations that Mg has a particular relationship to silica and the working of the ( Astral ) light forces in life.
However on the periodic chart of elements Mg ( atomic no 12 ) shows its special relationship to calcium ( atomic no 20 ) by being on the same `arm' yet one ring inside calcium. This means they have the same number of electrons on their outside shell. Magnesium is commonly found in the earth with calcium as dolomite, while in a soil test magnesium is the second largest percentage cation to consider in base saturation levels. A specific ratio of these elements needs to be maintained in the soil for healthy plant growth. Many reports ( Internet - Magnesium ) show that when Ca & Mg are taken out of the water supply to create soft water greater levels of heart disease and Asthma occur. This and many other indicators suggest that when Ca & Mg are removed there is a weakening of the ( Etheric ) life body.
I have come to see magnesium as calcium's `younger sister'. In Lievegeod " Workings of the Planets in the Life Processes of Man and Plant" (Pg 6 & 7) we are provided with a picture of the planetary forces as having two processes. The two moon forces are described as: the first Moon process being responsible for reproduction and cell division up to the formation of the skin. ( Which is why we use the skin for peppering). The secondary moon process leads the moon onto the formation of the nervous system and ultimately the brain. Calcium we are aware, has a strong connection to the moon. The Oak Bark preparation, ( the Moon preparation ) for example, is used to contract excessive moon forces which show themselves as fungal attacks, ( an expression of rampant reproductive processes ). So does Magnesium's relationship to Calcium and the nervous system indicate it is the carrier of the secondary moon forces into matter, providing the carrier for the etheric body in its nervous system workings? Hence its help with grass staggers.
With heart disease I understand magnesium and potassium form a creative polarity which normally allows for healthy heart function. I imagine potassium ( associated with the astral process of flowering in plants ) allows for the inward moving ( astral ) impulse of the heart, while magnesium carries the responsive and repelling pulse of the ( Etheric ) life body in this heart sphere. Once the Mg ( etheric carrier ) decreases the sensation body ( Astral ) dominates, with palpitations ( astral shudder ) and ultimately cardiac arrest developing. Palpitations in the heart are similar in cause to the nervous shuddering experienced in grass staggers. Both are overactive sensation body ( astral ) processes however in different systems and different `animals'. In Biochemistry the cell salt magnesium phosphate is characterised as a anti-spasmodic. It causes nerve fibres to relax and can be seen as a polarity to the outer planet Mars related ferrum phosphate, which causes muscles to contract. (Dr Schuessler's Biochemistry by J.D. Chapman, Pg 27 )
Dr Steiner draws another picture of magnesium in teeth formation. It is usually Calcium I have heard as important in tooth formation however in "Spiritual Science and Medicine" ( lecture 12, Pg 165 ) he outlines the polarity function between Magnesium and Fluorine. ( interestingly, in the periodic table Fluorine - atomic No 9 - is on the same arm as Hydrogen - atomic No 1 ). Earlier in this lecture he was describing how the metallic forces radiate outwards in organic organisms and are met and `dammed up' by what he often describes as `plastic forces'. In his descriptions of nutrition ( see lecture 8, Agriculture ) he uses this same term. I see them imaged and working in the action of preparation 507. This preparation `caps' the compost heap providing a containing shield over the activity of the other preparations.
He says " The forming and fitting of the solid framework in the human organism takes place through the continuous interaction between the forces of magnesium and fluorine respectively; in this interplay the forces of fluorine act plastically, mould as a sculptor moulds, fill out contours and bar the way to the forces of radiation, whilst magnesium acts as a radiating force and constitutes the fibres of tissue, etc., into and along which the substance arranges itself. It is not a senseless phrase, but wholly in accord with the course of nature to say that a tooth is formed thus: It is shaped, as far as its circumference and its cement is concerned by the plastic artist " fluorine" and magnesium pours into it the forces which have to be shaped to a plastic form. . So fluorine comes from the external world to counteract the centrifugal radiance of the metal."
Again we see Magnesium playing the `female' role of supporting the activity of the life processes ( etheric ) by providing the mass of substance which can be moulded into the hardened shape of teeth by fluorine ( an ego substance ). Interestingly it is Magnesium which builds the teeth and which somehow has been substituted in our modern science by Calcium. A striking feature of many of my american friends is their large teeth. Many US soils, especially those in central USA have very high Magnesium contents.
In short, many examples link calcium and magnesium together as a team, working towards the stimulation and strengthening of the ( Etheric ) life body's activity. Calcium, with its special relationship to carbon, could be seen as a carrier of the ( etheric ) life forces into the physical body, while Mg's light relationships might suggests it is an ( Etheric ) life element which provides a pathway for ( Astral ) forces of sensation to work more deeply into ( Etheric ) life processes. It is magnesium's `Astral' connections while being an etheric element I have found the most difficult to understand. Any suggestions?
I put forward the above ideas, in their developmental form, as an extension of Marinus' article and as a stimulator of further discussion, so I /we might gain a fuller more conscious picture of what Magnesium is in nature and in our Biodynamic practice. Can you help in this process?
For more a more detailed outline of the four body system of all life forms used in this article and fundamental to Rudolf Steiners work readers should refer to `Occult Science - An outline' Chapters 2 & 3, The introduction to `Healing Plants' by W Peliken, `Biodynamics Decoded' By Glen Atkinson, Pgs 39 - 41. For the chemical spiritual body reference see Lecture 2 , "Spiritual Relations in the Human Organism"
For a quick picture of the bodies activity we can see from a short paragraph by W Peliken how the bodies influence the four kingdoms of nature.
" Manifestation IS in the mineral kingdom ( physical body only ), LIVES in the plant kingdom ( Physical + Etheric body ), EXPERIENCES through the animals, Physical, Etheric + Astral body ), and COMPREHENDS ITSELF through humans ( Physical, Etheric, Astral + Ego or Spirit )