Have you ever watched a flock of birds flying overhead suddenly change direction and all the birds instantly move in unison? They do not move in succession but all at once without bumping into each other. How do they know to turn so precisely? Once they land and move about, they seem independent and random in their movements. What principles are at work that we are observing?
Previously, we discussed the evolution of consciousness from nescience to sentience and beyond. When the birds are a “flock”, they are of one accord and are of one mind. When the birds mill about, they have the beginning of sentience. Ultimately their genetic programming will dictate the majority of their actions. Some birds, when building a nest, will not stop until it is completed. Rascal scientists have removed branches that had been set to observe birds work unto exhaustion. The scientists learned something whereas the birds apparently did not.
During the 1970’s, some magazine articles and books began reporting strange tales of a spiritual community in northern Scotland where enormous vegetables were growing on near-barren land. Botanists and horticulturists from the British “Royal Societies of” came to see what the brouhaha was all about. When the scientists arrived at Findhorn, what they found were some pleasant elderly English and Scottish folks living in caravans, scraping what appeared to be arid beach soil and producing county-fair prize-winning vegetables. Their soil analysis showed mostly sand and a little manure and seaweed compost but no nutrients significant enough to produce these kinds of crops. The scientists were gobsmacked. During interviews with the community members, it became evident that a great experiment had begun. Nature beings had come forward and revealed themselves to this group of humans, with the desire and intent to begin a program of reintegration and rehabilitation between the different kingdoms of life. It was because these people held an attitude of receptivity and were truly dependent on the land in this wind-swept and isolated landscape that they were thus approached. Years of silent meditative practice had made them sensitive to the more subtle side of life. Spirits of the plants and soil and wind began communicating messages to the group about how to grow crops, not just with physical inputs but also with mental, emotional, and spiritual inputs.
If you were reading this account in an ethnobotany treatise or anthropology course, all the elements would fit right in until you get to the 20th century white-folks part; then you might halt abruptly. As I myself read their stories, I sensed the sincerity of their words and I felt it was right to go. What I found there was profound; it became part of my herbal practice and of my whole life. The Findhorn community had grown large and modeled itself as an open, co-ed monastic/spiritual intentional community. The days were structured into periods of meditation/work/ meal/meditation/study/meal/meditation…etc. Learning to communicate with the various nature beings might occur spontaneously while working, or during a meditation or attunement exercise. There was a jargon at Findhorn and three words were very important: communication, attunement, and resonance. The Latin roots of the first two are indicative. Communication means, “to come together to impart knowledge.” Attunement means, “to be at one” with. Resonance is the term from harmonics describing how two vibrations can be reflecting or “re-sounding” a similarity by induction. In practical terms we were being shown scientifically how vibrations could resonate somewhere inside our consciousness just as a piano can resonate with a tuning fork on a certain keynote. Through attunement exercises, we learned to harmonize ourselves with known, positive vibrations (for example, a virtue like cooperation) and so have a set of standards and a vocabulary to work with. Alternately we might attune to a plant and feel how or where it resonated within ourselves. Subtle communication was understood to be the process of using attunement and resonance within a two-way flow of energy or consciousness between oneself and another being.
My first breakthrough experience came while I was doing de-construction on a newly acquired property. The old stone house had rotten timbers. There were termites everywhere in the house and we were puzzled about how to proceed without killing them. The work group gathered and decided to try to communicate with the termites. An amazing thing happened right at the beginning: as we attempted to attune to “termite consciousness” and communicate with the thousands of termites, we all felt that we were communicating with a single entity. The colony existed like a fluid being and was one in number. There was no individuality amongst these bugs. They were one being. The being showed us that its purpose was to recycle old, rotten wood and that it had no interest in the fresh lumber that had been put in recently. We pondered our conundrum and someone remembered an old grove of rotting beech trees in the forest. Our inner guidance pointed out that the colony would be better served to be in the forest where it could move from tree to tree without disturbance and with more hope for perpetuity. We drove to the forest, gathered large pieces of rotting wood and returned to the house. As a group, we communicated our proposal to the termite being (Queen?), left the wood on the floor, and went home for the night. On the following morning, we returned to find the floor shimmering, ankle deep with termites and the wood completely covered. Gingerly we loaded the wood into the back of a pick-up using dustpans and shovels to carefully scoop up the rest of the insects. We drove to the grove and unloaded our colony at the base of a large rotting beech tree. When we returned, not one termite was seen in the house. When we later went back to the grove, we received a message that a higher level of order had been achieved. A feeling of gratitude flowed in both directions for the opportunity to participate in the communication.
How can we apply attunement, resonance, and communication to the practice of herbalism? When we go wild crafting, the forest itself will guide us to places to find the treasures growing there. We will not talk to individual plants per se as we now know that most plants live in their specie’s consciousness. We can tune in to their inherent qualities and let them communicate through their displays of beauty in shape and colour and their outbreath of perfume. There is a healing that takes place through attunement and resonance with the plethora of life beings and the virtues they hold in the matrix of creation. When we go out into nature we also go within to our inner nature. Observe what moves inside of you when the warm wind blows and the scent of spring blossoms reaches you. Perhaps you will see something quite mundane transform into the revelation of a mystery you did not realize had been there all along.
Once we become aware that all of creation (the macrocosm) is evolving consciousness and that we as individual humans (the microcosm) have imprinted into our very being a reflection of the whole, we can use attunement and resonance to know the inner essence of the plants and their medicines and all of life. Truth can be known directly and perceived within ourselves and be verified in our day-to-day living.
The lesson that most species have a collective consciousness—and therefore a single directive entity— guiding the group can be applied to many other situations. This can lead to a holistic perception of life and will perhaps introduce us to Gaia itself. Every habitat, like the forest or meadow or swamp, has boundaries and all the members of the habitat are in a relationship with each other and with the whole habitat. The whole habitat can be perceived as a singular being regulating itself to maintain a dynamic homoeostasis. Instead of competition between the parts, there is organic cooperation for the benefit of the whole habitat. In ancient times, people took it for granted that every grove of trees or region or habitat had a resident spirit-being to whom respect was due when passing through or working in their area. We must not let the limitations of scientific acceptability exclude our perceptions of things which, though unseen, can be known from within. Trust yourself and your own feelings, first.