During the Peloponnesian war, the great Athenian leader, Pericles, could see the end of the golden age of Greece. His building and rebuilding of the Acropolis left a legacy for the world. Using his tremendous oratorical skills he told the citizens of the great city-state that they should not mourn the demise of Athens. He explained to them that the Parthenon would last a long time but the exalted lifestyle of the citizens not so long. To assuage their grief, he expounded how Athens was not just a city-state but a state of mind. Pericles elucidated his vision of Athens as the eternal city, placing it into the realm of ideas and concepts of justice and democracy. Plato wrote The Republic to describe the perfect city-state with comprehensive descriptions of all facets of life. When Gandhi began his Satyagraha movement, his compatriots chided him that he and all he stood for would soon be vanquished. Gandhi retorted that he was allied with Truth which was a direct emanation of God. He said that the despots of the world and the evil they perpetrated would someday end because they were not rooted in eternity. Einstein searched for the universal equations that would explain everything. Tolstoy and Martin Luther King both advocated finding the universal principles of right living and adhering to them. Today, scientists are trying to add a fourth and fifth laws of thermodynamics to the three agreed upon laws governing all things physical. When we examine biological systems under the purview of classical physics and especially thermodynamics we can find no adherence to the second law that implies that the universe is heading towards disorder and chaos. Biological evolution is the antithesis of this law. Are the laws of thermodynamics wrong or are there more laws to be discovered?
Culpeper’s humoural and astrological medical system and Hildegard of Bingen’s cosmological medicine both tried to take the science of their time and apply it to biological life systems including humans while incorporating the social elements as well. All of the people mentioned so far were looking for explanations that were comprehensive and based on universal principles. Perception, understanding, and cognition are three components of knowing. When perception is directed at things outside ourselves, we use our senses or devices that amplify our senses such as microscopes and chemistry labs. When we direct our perception to the things that exist inside of us such as our thoughts, feelings, life-force, and spirit, we take our attention and bring it to a focus and perhaps hold that focus for some time period at a particular locus like our head or chest. It is here, inside ourselves, that we perceive those things that are eternal and ineffable. If we are looking for universal principles and all things eternal, the search must be directed within ourselves. We must scrutinize our own minds and hearts to find Truth, Satyagraha, the harmony of the spheres, eternal spirit. When we perceive the smell of cinnamon buns baking in the oven, our nose does not say “Mmm, cinnamon”. Our minds do. The same is true when we hear a complex piece of music. We hear with our ears but articulate the words, “ Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony”, in our minds. When we perceive within ourselves the knowledge of something, we choose the locus by the thing being observed. If it is of the empirical senses, we focus our mind in our head. If it is of the inner worlds, we perceive with our heart but need our mind to articulate the words to communicate our cognition. Often we see people put their hand over their heart and say: “I feel this is true” or, “You hurt my feelings.” If we are to conjoin all the sciences in a collaborative and comprehensive body of knowledge, then we must begin to create a meta-science of the 21st century. We must reconcile the energetic knowledge of traditional medicine, the spiritual knowledge of aboriginal medicine, the orthodox science of physical medicine, and the complex relationships portrayed by psychoneuroimmunology. We need to be able to scrutinize our feelings in a scientific manner to articulate the knowledge that resides there. Hearts and minds and molecules must share the same page. Who wants to volunteer for the job?
From my very first reflective essay, I proposed that herbal medicine is comprehensive and complete when it comes to human experience. We are surrounded with herbs from cradle to grave and at all the important events between. There is herbal medicine for conception, gestation, and parturients to facilitate birth. Mothers drink herbal galactogogues to enrich their milk. Fathers drink herbal adaptogens to maintain their health during times of stress. At all of our rituals to mark passages of change from childhood to adulthood we incorporate herbs and flowers. Plants are with us all the way through life and time. We have evolved along side each other and have a relationship that needs to be understood in a comprehensive and complete fashion. What is the herbal medicine that is rising out of the scientific advances reconciled with the expansion of consciousness that this new century is bringing us? In the books of Michael Tierra, David Hoffmann, Peter Holmes, Matthew Woods, John Freeman, Stephen Buhner, and others we see the efforts of herbal leaders who have volunteered for the job of advancing herbal medicine with the advancing consciousness of the human race.
Many of us believe that there is emerging in our world a new human race. Our world is not so vast as it once seemed. Travel to distant lands is easy. What can be considered exotic, really, anymore? Multicultural cities like Toronto have polyglot children playing together and swapping lunches. Mixed ethnic and mixed racial children are more common than not. As the physical differences between peoples become less important, the quality of consciousness becomes more important. The new children are expressing new qualities of consciousness. Almost all cultures have in their literature or oral tradition stories of communication with the nature beings in plants and animals and even in stones. Communication with the caelestial beings is also a historically accepted practice by most people, but now we wonder who those beings are. Are they of a spiritual hierarchy, or inter-dimensional, or from a distant place? Even communication between humans has changed tremendously in the last two decades. We need to develop and remember how we originally related to life on Earth. Progressive evolution is always an emergence from hidden potential to actualized reality. Out of matter came life. Out of life came mind. From within the mind was revealed sentience. From sentience we have self-will. Beings with self-will (humans) have finally reached the point of accumulated wisdom where self-directed evolution of consciousness is now possible. We can now learn to assemble the secrets of the Rishis & Yogis & Lamas & Monks & Shamans &cetera and we can direct ourselves in the liberation of our inner potential. The emerging human race will focus its attention once again on its inner world of consciousness. Teilhard de Chardin and Aurobindo Ghose both described and prophesized the process of change that we are now witnessing on Earth or, rather, in the consciousness of the inhabitants of Earth. “This is the second discovery of Fire.” The philosophy can get confusing and where the heck are the herbs?
We, the herbalists, have our deepest roots in science, medicine, sociology, religion, nutrition, agriculture, and all the fields and pursuits that mark us as human. We are the rhizometists, the first radicles / radicals. When the plants become an integral part of the transformation of humanity by being consciously invited by us, we will forge a new world. A salient experiment in plant / human communications occurred at the Findhorn community in the Scottish highlands during the late 60’s and 70’s of the last century. For the first time in recorded history, a conscious connection was being formed between the two kingdoms of nature and this time the plant kingdom was promoting it. The definitions and parameters were established by the directing consciousnesses of the plants (who were called devas, angels, or fairies). The plant spirits addressed the human inhabitants during morning meditations and manifested their message during work hours. The people at Findhorn documented the communications in a series of books. The Findhorn Garden is one such book of the collected experiences of the founding members. Eileen Cady and Dorothy McLean also both published a series of communications between themselves and the life beings and light beings who had sought them out. I found some of the early literature and had to go to experience it for myself. I met with the founders and witnessed the near miraculous growth of plants and community. I say “near miraculous” because it was so fantastic a story, but the people demonstrated that all of life follows all the laws of creation so their experiences cannot be deemed thaumaturgy. It was at Findhorn in the late 1970’s that I began to understand the true nature of health and healing with plants. The plant kingdom is food for the entire planet. Some of that food is for our bodies, some for our minds & emotions, and some for our spirits. Forming a living, conscious relationship through open communication and in both directions nourishes us. The inner pathways between plants and people are tread by few now but will soon become part of the norm. As herbalists we can infiltrate the culture with foods and medicines and ritual uses of plants while inculcating the respectful attitudes that open doors to our more subtle experiences of living in cooperation with all of life. When people notice that our gardens are more productive and our fruits and vegetables more lush they will ask how we did it. We can introduce them to our invisible friends who whisper on the winds and giggle in the forests. Soon there will even be a way to communicate to scientists and scholars. It is coming. “Green” is more than a buzzword to sell something. Green is an attitude and orientation toward respecting all living beings. Viriditas is more than the power of green. It is the divine healing power of green, which connects all living beings to their place and purpose in creation. Become a herbalist and volunteer in the rebuilding of the golden age and the replanting of the holy garden. The plants are calling to us. Will you answer?