Re-Enchanting Agriculture, Farming With the Hidden Half of Nature

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


It is widely held that our farming and food systems require a systemic change away from industrial approaches and toward greater ecological and social sustainability, but this, as this chapter argues, is only half of the challenge. Drawing upon the scholastic works of neuropsychiatrist Ian McGilchrist and psychologist Anna Baring, it identifies the industrial worldview as a disorder, a manifestation of an irregular, left-hemisphere dominant brain, which expresses through the need to hold dominion over nature. This contrasts with the worldviews of non-Western cultures that recognise not only our interconnected relationship with nature but also hidden, invisible dimensions which may be variously interpreted as involving energy, consciousness and/or the other-than-human. Applying this to contemporary agriculture, the chapter explores how the practice and research of several of the predominant, ecologically-based farming movements are rooted in the mechanistic-material ontology of the industrial worldview, and identifies biodynamic agriculture as the only approach that embraces these invisible dimensions and their associated phenomena.
If ecologically-based farming is to be truly holistic in its practice, and live up to its claims of embracing indigenous knowledge and worldviews, then a serious consideration of these hidden dimensions is long overdue. The chapter concludes by introducing the discipline of Subtle Agroecologies, and suggests that by researching and applying these farming practices we may not only enhance the sustainability of agriculture but also fundamentally shift the way we relate to nature as a whole, and in doing so move toward the healing of the hemispheric rift or imbalance that McGilchrist, Baring and others have spelled out. Those who take invisible dimensions seriously have been, at best, disregarded, and especially in the face of contemporary, pressing global challenges, where mechanistic-material solutions assume priority. Yet because the consideration of these dimensions promises a more complete understanding of reality, these global challenges may not be overcome until we do consider the hidden half of nature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSubtle Agroecologies, Farming With the Hidden Half of Nature
EditorsJulia Wright, Nicholas Parrott
Place of PublicationBoca Raton
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780429440939
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021


  • indigenous
  • biodynamics
  • metaphysics
  • farming
  • consciousness


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