Wonders of Development in Plants, People, and Projects

by Jan Diek van Mansvelt 
translated by Laura Liska
                                                                 Available August 8th, 2022
Adonis Press 2022 
hardcover; 9.5 x 7 inches; 127 pages with numerous color illustrations
ISBN 978-0-932776-66-2

Book Description

Those who have studied Goethean science will be familiar with the journey that begins at the end of a developmental process and traces its way back – in full consciousness – from the finished phenomena, up the formative stream of time, to the archetypal gestures that shaped them. While plants clearly demonstrate the unfolding of gesture in space as it occurs in the medium of time, and their metamorphosis has been widely researched, human development is far more complex, and its lawfulness more difficult to discern. The unfolding of human projects over time – from their conception, through various planning stages, to their actual realization and future consequences – goes well beyond biology, and little research has been devoted to the subject.

Despite the disparity of these three topics – plants, people, and projects – the author of this extraordinary, deeply refreshing little book, having worked intensively in each of these realms, shows us how similar archetypal developmental gestures can be observed in each of them. 

Beginning with easily surveyable phenomena in the plant world, author Jan Diek van Mansvelt carefully leads us on the journey upstream toward the gestures underlying their development. Deftly, and with great agility, he then guides us through some of the outstanding phases of human development. The more we become able to inwardly participate in their distinctive gestures, the more we will be moved by a sense of wonder when we recognize how differently, yet unmistakably, the same formative gestures we encountered in plants now reveal themselves to us in human development.  In the final leg of this journey into the inner dynamics of development, architect Pieter van der Ree leads us through the phases of a building project. Each step of the way, he helps us to inwardly enter into the unique experiential gesture of each phase. Again, to the extent that we succeed in meeting him halfway by participating in this lively process, we can stand in awe as we begin to realize how differently developmental processes can take place and how nevertheless certain fundamental gestures are common to all of them.


About the Author

Dr. Jan Diek van Mansvelt is a former Chairman of Avalon Foundation and an organic farming pioneer who has been involved in the development of organic and biodynamic agriculture in the Netherlands and internationally. He is a founder and former chairman of the Louis Bolk Institute and was also director of Warmonderhof center for biodynamic agriculture and member of the International Representatives Council for Biodynamic Agriculture.

​In 1981, he was appointed Extraordinary Professor of Alternative Methods in Agriculture at Wageningen Agricultural University in the Netherlands, where he continued working until 2000. He has been a long-term board member of the Dutch Platform of Biological Agriculture and Nutrition. In 1986–1992, he served as member of the World Board of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) and was its president 1988–1992. He was also president, and is now Honorary Board Member of the Dutch Biodynamic Association.

​In 1991, Dr. Diek van Mansvelt was appointed Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences. He has published on organic farming extensively and lectured worldwide. For his merits on promotion of organic agriculture the Kingdom of the Netherlands awarded him a chivalric Order of Orange-Nassau.



I. Introduction – enlivening perception   

II. On the development of plants – node by node   

1. Seeds   2. Germination   3. Stem and Leaves   4. Flowering   5. Pollen dispersion and pollination   6. Towards a new plant   7. Plants fructify the earth with their seeds   8. Plants never live alone  9. A little detour: leaves on trees  

III. On the development of people – knot by knot      

1. The zygote and the embryo  2. Development of the young person   A little detour: The embryonic development of the human spine   3. The cycle of life   4. Dying as flowering? Steps by Herman Hesse   5. The human being after death   6. On the road again   One Version of Events by Wislawa Szymborska   7. Human beings fructify the earth   8. People never live alone   

IV. On the development of plans and projects – through fits and starts   

1. The seed: The idea becomes an initiative   2. The initiative becomes a plan   3. The plan becomes a project   4. Completion as flowering   5. Contemplation as fruit   6. On the road again: On to new projects!   7. Fructification   8. Our plans for our world   

Architectural design processes by Pieter van der Ree  

The design of “The Red Hazel” by Pieter van der Ree  

Reconsidering the development of plans and projects  

V. Intent and methodology   

1. Deadly analysis as a prerequisite for learning living thinking   2. Observation and thinking   3. Where do I find firm ground for knowledge?   4. The sense of truth   

VI. Acknowledgments   

VII. References   123

About the authors  127


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