In this blog Prajna offers: Sections of Stephen Harrod Buhner his absolutely brilliant book The Lost Language of Plants. This book is both poetry and medicine that substantiates what we have long ago forgotten, how to communicate with the natural world, and how we overlook the power of plant’s as natural healers. Stephen clarifies the ecological importance of plant medicines on earth, the limits of Science, “the Exterior and Interior Wound,” the diminishment of “biophilia,” and challenges us with the question: are we are polluting our environment with the pharmaceuticals that western medicine has developed with a promise to heal us?
At the center of all things is spirit. As daylight expands with spring in full bloom the underlying unifying sacred force in the Universe is more visible. Look, listen, walk in wild nature and feel this sacredness manifesting in all things.
Embedded within the underlying epistemologies of the vast majority of nonindustrial cultures are the components of an other way of gathering information. While containing numerous variations, themes, and differences these nonindustrial epistemologies do contain a basic framework that is very similar in a number of areas, most assert that:
• At the center of all things is spirit. In other words, there is a central unifying force in the Universe that is sacred.
• The sacred manifests itself in physical form.
• Because all matter is made from the sacred, all things possess a soul, a scared intelligence or logos.
• Because human beings are generated out of this same substance it is possible for human beings to communicate with the soul or intelligence in plants and the other way around.
• Human beings emerged later on Earth and are the offspring of the plants. Because we are their offspring, their children, plants will help us whenever we are in need, if we ask them.
• Human beings were ignorant when they arrived here and the powers of the Earth and the various intelligences in all things began to teach them how to be human. This is still true. It is not possible for new generations to become human without this communication or teaching from the natural world.
• Parts of earth can manifest more or less sacredness, just like human beings. A human being can never know when some part of Earth might begin expressing deep levels of sacredness or begin talking to him. Therefore it is important to cultivate attentiveness of mind.
• Human beings are only one of the many life forms on Earth, neither more or less important that the others. Failure to remember this can be catastrophic for individuals, nations and peoples. The other life in the Universe can and will become vengeful if treated with disrespect by human beings.
TURNING THE UNIVERSE INTO A MACHINE
The journey from sacred intelligence at the center of the universe to generally excepted believe that the universe is a great machine devoid of spirit occurred over a number of centuries, perhaps as few as five or six, perhaps as many as twenty. It has accelerated greatly during the past 75 years. This major shift in how the universe is viewed is exceptionally new geologic time. It received great boost during the renaissance from Nicholas Copernicus (1473— 1543), Galileo (1564—1642,) Johann Kepler (1571—1630), and Francis Bacon (1561—1626). But it was raised to its primary importance by Renée Discartes, the French mathematician and Philosopher (1596—1650). And as it spread in popularity, this newly emerging epistemology of reductionism began to shape a reality was, or could be, perceived.
Prior to the rise of Christianity, the Romans believed, like most historical cultures, that sacredness and intelligence were present in everything. As a response (in part) against Roman paganism, Christianity, as it attained political power during the fall of the Roman Empire, began a process of narrowing other religious expression’s and theologically removing sacred intelligence from everything except the Trinity and those deities (such as angels and saints) designated by the church to be sacred. The church also inculcated the biblical imperative to exert dominion over nature, a nature created expressly for people by God, which, in and of itself, made nature more of a “resource” and less sacred than the Romans held it to be. And some of the fears of nature’s darkside, disease, and unavoidable fate, and of the wild, powerful, unpredictable Nature of the Roman religion—seeped in as well. Nature was not only a resource but something to be controlled and ordered for Man’s use. The Wild redeemer abandoned for the Light. Protestantism carried this further, abandoning saints and angels, and reducing sacredness in physical form to a single expression: Jesus (and, possibly, the Bible). Modern (scientific0 thinkers, began during the Renaissance, took this logic even further: there was no sacredness in the universe at all—it was, and is, just a machine.
“Alienated from nature, human existence becomes a void, the wellspring of life and spiritual growth gone utterly dry. Man grows ever more ill and weary in the midts of his curious civilization that is but a struggle over a tiny bit of time and space.” —Masanobu Fukuoka, The Natural Way of Farming
There are, however, implications to the proposition that all things are part of a great machine, that they are neutral in value, and without essential soul or interior depth. If all things are part of a great machine, merely parts in its functioning, then human beings are merely parts as well, without essential meaning, only machine like bits. Accepting this kind of thinking, internalizing it, gives rise to a sense of existential despair, a feeling that one’s life is meaningless.
“The coming ecological disaster we worry about has already occurred, and goes on occurring. It takes place in the accounts of ourselves that separate ourselves from the world. —James Hillman, The Souls Code
At one time or another, using scientific rationale, women, blacks, Asians, and indigenous peoples all have been denied to be fully human or equal to white men. Christopher stone, and his law review article “Should Trees Have Standing?” Comments: “The first woman in Wisconsin thought she might have a right to practice law was told she did not in the following terms”:
“The law of nature destines and qualifies the female sex for the bearing and nurture of children of our race and for the custody of the homes of the world… All life-long callings of women, inconsistent with these radical and sacred duties of their sex, as in the profession of law, or departures from the order of nature; and when voluntary, treason against it.” —Christopher Stone, Should Trees Have Standing?
It was argued, using the same reliance on the scientific order of nature, that blacks and Asians were in capable of the same level of rational thought as whites. In consequence they were not reliable in court as witnesses.
Groups who have been disenfranchised by this way of seeing the world, as they have each gain social power, have eventually been accorded equal interior depth and value—though there is still a lingering believe among some that women and blacks do not think as well as white men. The horrors that have come from the denial of value to certain groups by those in power have led to the struggle to expand the zone of value and subsequent legal “standing” more and more people. It is exceptionally rare, however for this “standing” or value to be extended to nonhumans—to trees or lizards, to plants or bacteria. Extending equal value to plants—to treat them as human beings—is as laughable and inconceivable to most people now as it once was to extend equal value to women or slaves. Or, as Theodore Roszak put it, “as prevailing reality principle would have it, nothing could be greater madness than to believe that beast and plant, mountain and river have a ‘point of view’. As a result, trees and lizards and plants and bacteria can be treated as things to be owned, cut down, experimented on, sold, processed, killed, or consumed without regard for any interior depth or intelligence on their part. THE EXTERIOR WOUND.
Losing Connection To The Living World
The internal effects on people of the scientific epistemology are more subtle but just as painful as the effects on the rest of nature. Once the Universe becomes a machine, no longer alive, once human beings are defined as the only intelligent life-form, a unique kind of isolation enters human lives, a kind of loneliness that is unprecedented in the history of human habitation on the Earth. It is a source of many of the emotional pathologies people struggle with. In addition, people begin to judge themselves internally, to identify their level of value according to how much or how well they think. Any internal expressions, perceptions, or thoughts that come from older epistemologies—that are based primarily on feeling or intuition or aliveness in the Universe—they label unscientific, irrational, unreasoning, or illogical. Such thoughts and perceptions, it is assumed, have less value, are based on improper assumptions about the nature of reality, and are there for something to be discounted, dismissed, degraded. This dynamic has become so ingrained that people routinely monitor and censor perceptions that are contrary to universe–as–machine. And so people cut themselves off from the Universe in which they live; they become passengers on a ball of semimolten rock hurtling through the Universe. They internally denigrate and deny their most basic experiences of the livingness of the world in which they live, no connection to it, and the importance of that connection. THE INTERIOR WOUND.
In earlier times, when nature was perceived as alive, with intelligence and soul, natural process took place. People bonded with nature much as people bond with their pets are family now. This bonding process—which has decreased in frequency the more the mechanistic worldview has pervaded society—engendered a certain kind of attitude toward nature. It is an aspect of what Edward O Wilson calls Biophilia—a genetically encoded or innate emotional affinity with all other life-forms on Earth. But the more that children are taught that thinking defines their value, that Earth is dead, that other life-forms intrinsically possess less value, and the more they are separated from regular contact with wild nature, the less biophilia occurs—the less the genetic encoding for caring for and bonding with life is initiated.
Biophilia: bio—life; philia—a tendency toward or an excess of affection or fondness for. From the Greek words bios—life—and phileein—to love. In other words, a deep fondness, connection to, and love for life forms and living things.
Biognosis: bio—life; gnosis—knowledge or recognition, especially spiritual knowledge or insight. From the greek words bio—life and gignoskein—to know. In other words, to know life through the deeper spiritual and intuitive faculties of mind; also the body of accumulated knowledge that comes from perceiving life in this manner.
In recent time there is an emergence of biophilia with the Language and Natural Healing of the Plants. Plant medicine cultivated from the remaining indigenous peoples around the world is slowly seeping into our modern mechanical culture as medicine for the many people that have once again begun to perceive the accumulated value of our plant elders. I am one of them and routinely take groups of people to the amazonian jungle to gain a first hand experience of the teachings, wisdom and healing available as a responsible health care system.
You are welcome to join me and connect with the natural healing of the plants. Register here for upcoming expedition to Jakon Nete Retreat, Iquitos, Peru.
Watch this 60 minute video talk/meditation with Prajna: THE VALUE OF MASTER PLANT TEACHERS
PRAJNA GINTY is a spiritual teacher, Hakomi Therapist, Shipibo trained Curandera, Consciousness guide and author of the Amazon Best Seller: Edge of Grace: A Fierce Awakening to Love. As a single mom of two children with special needs, she was inspired to create The Flowing River School and Sangha Project (2001). She is also the creator of The Embodiment Intensive (2006). Prajna has been featured in One Truth, Many Voices, Buddha at the Gas Pump, Living-from-Love, 10,000 Awakenings and Conscious TV. She came to spiritual realization by way of mysticism and three decades of extensive training in the world’s non-dual wisdom traditions, depth psychology and living an ordinary life. Inspired by Anandamayima, Ramana Mahashi, her root teacher Adyashanti, her children, and Curanderos, her teachings are practical, non-dogmatic and elicit the direct knowing of who we are amidst everyday life. In recent years she has taken in-depth training in the Language, Teaching and Healing of Plants as Natural Medicine. She is widely known for her depth of presence, unabated compassion and potent meditations for reclaiming your original wholeness and aliveness. She graciously points to spirit that the underlying unifying force present in you, and all things in the Universe. She creates a soft place to land and embody your true self for the deepest connection and aliveness with all of life.