I have been noticing a change in the flora in the parks in Toronto and in the countryside outside the city. Many years ago I was teaching a gardening course and a student in the course had a special map. It was a publication of a botanical study in Ontario. The map was covered with symbols that showed the name and number of plants in an area. Serendipitously I saw a map in the newspaper mapping cases of children with asthma. The second map clearly showed that dense population centres in which there was a lot of manufacturing had higher incidences of asthma cases. I believed there would be a third corresponding pattern and was sagacious enough to overlay the two maps. There, in the regions where there were concentrations of asthma, were concentrations of Elecampane (Inula helenium) and Mullein (Verbascum thapsus). The places and curves of overlap were too consistent to be a mere coincidence yet it was hard to prove a causal relationship. Did the chemical pollution and urban density favour these plants? Here is a case in which the Gaia principle can be applied. Basic ecology holds the principle that every member in an ecosystem must have its needs met by that system or it shall perish. The converse is also true. A member can only join or leave its habitat if it can have its needs met. That is not really a causal relationship in the traditional sense. The Gaia principle would say that the Earth and the region are responding to the needs of its members. Do the plants clean up pollution as well as heal human breathing problems? Why did they form that particular distribution pattern? Throughout history, there has been in most cultures a practice by which people can acquire information to make important decisions. The practice is called Divination. Literally, it means to know the will or mind of a god or the God. The principle was first articulated in Greek translations of an Egyptian text of Thoth or Hermes as he was known in Greece. Thoth/Hermes was a god/ man who taught the sciences to humanity. The Rishis of the Himalayas, the Yellow Emperor of China, Quetzalcoatl of Mexico, and many others represent those beings, which came to Earth at different times to different peoples to teach them the Ways of Heaven and Earth. Science, religion, medicine, astronomy and other topics were taught as well as a way to live in harmony with the creation and the Creator. If you do not understand by the principles spelled out in the teachings, what to do or what comes next, you can try divination. In its simplest form, you merely ask a question and wait for a sign. You can search the stars, read palms, or look at the kind of birds flying by after you ask. When a good sign comes to us and we notice, that may be called an auspicious event. The word “auspicious” comes from the Latin root words avis meaning birds and spicere meaning to see. Auspicious means, “to see the birds.” How do we interpret the signs? How can we make a diagnosis? Diagnosis comes from the Greek words which mean to know something (gnosis) apart (dia) in other words to discern. We have to use a principle that reveals and governs the natural order. It is called the Principle of correspondence. It could be described in the phrase “as above so below.” It means that the forces of nature governing life on Earth are the same as those governing the stars. There is a correspondence between the two but not causality. This is the foundation of astrology. What we read in the heavens above correspond to life on Earth. Also when we read the yarrow sticks (I Ching), bones on the ground or in an x-ray we are looking for signs to interpret in order to discern some truth in life based on the principles we believe in. Knowledge acquired by science (scio, to know by the senses) and knowledge acquired by gnosis (gnosis, to know inwardly, intuitively) both use signs and the principle of correspondence. Modern quantum science will read lines in a pool of water many miles beneath the ground looking for particle trails to tell us about the sun in the sky. Why then is it considered strange to look at the form of a plant or the distribution pattern of a plant to discern some kind of knowledge of the plant itself or its relationship with its environment including humans? Paracelsus and Boehme believed that there was a correspondence between the shapes and colours of plants and their parts and where they grew with the relevant medicinal actions. One has to learn how to “see with the interior eyes” the imprint of the divine in nature. Goethe taught how to read the markings in nature to reveal invisible forces behind natural phenomena. In modern times, we have so elevated the knowledge of science to make it a pseudo-religion of “scientism.” This is meant in the sense that a person who has achieved a degree in a science can make statements with a false authority. True science is willing to examine the facts but much of what is presented in esteemed journals of science and medicine is opinions that serve economic ends. A white lab coat wandering the halls of an university does not confer true authority or guarantee veracity.
In this Journal we are going to introduce Goethean science and indicate that it is relevant to herbalists who practice any kind of herbal medicine. Are you a phytotherapist, a pharmacological therapist, a shamanic healer, a wild woman, a holistic herbal therapist or a herbal clinical therapist or practitioner of Tradional medicine then you can expand your understanding and improve your practice with a new knowledge and a new way of acquiring knowledge. Read the article by Keith and Maureen Robertson and try some of the exercises. Peruse the bibliography for books you may not have heard of and stay tuned for further articles on this relatively new science. If you become inspired, you may want to explore the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine for courses.
I can hear the bluettes sauvage calling to me. When I close my eyes, I can see them. Miles upon miles of wild blueberries begging, for me to pick them, bring them home, and share them. What kind of knowledge is this? What invisible forces are drawing me inexorably to the fields and forests of northern Ontario? Those who have the “vocation” can hear the calling. The plants I saw and mentioned in the opening line of this letter were Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) all through the metropolitan region. What does this mean? What are they saying to you?