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Thursday April 25th 2013

cartoon of plants talking to each otherpictkure of the Wild Tobacco PlantLast weekend Charque and I finally caught up with P.B.S's "Nature" documentary titled "What Plants Talk about". It is a fascinating scientific exploration (questioned, I might add, by fellow scientists) about how plants communicate. (The scientist doing the research said that lay people think he's "crazy", but scientists think that he's "crazy and wrong". So much for an open mind on either front!) This research explores new concepts in "plant behaviour", exhibited in the movements of plants and in the chemicals they produce, both to attract pollinators and to defend themselves against predators, and in some instances, in a sharing of resources to support community. So you have plants that forage like bears. You have top predator plants that try to kill off everything else through chemical warfare. You have plants like the Wild Tobacco Plant, whose growth is kickstarted only by wildfire and this can be hundreds of years apart. The genome of this plant shows that it has more genes involved in environmental protection than most animals. Interestingly, the production of nicotine is its chemical defence by poisoning attackers! You also have social interaction and kin recognition among other plants. Just like the Mother Tree in the movie "Avatar", who sustained every living thing in the forest, so the tall, old trees of the Douglas Fir forests support the growth of the young firs who have less or no access to light under the dense forest canopy. They do this by dispersing and sharing carbon through their extensive root systems. The scientist who researched this in British Columbia exclaimed when she saw "Avatar": "Look, they must have read my paper!" There are amazing things happening in the plant world, just as in everything else in Nature. Also of interest and to be noted, most of this activity in the plant world goes on underground. What a metaphor! Until time lapse photography was employed, there was little scientific evidence of any this. Although, there has always been plenty of folk lore, herbal lore and ability in some cultures to truly observe and learn from Nature.

There are two important realisations, to my mind at least, in all of this. One is that everything in the Universe has will, consciousness and expression. The other is that it speaks a particular language which is its own form of expression. It is the basis of Creation to express. TO BE CREATED means to express some aspect of The Big Universe/God/Source/The Creator. TO CREATE means to express some aspect of self. Everything expresses according to its own nature and in its own way or language. Just as there is a mystery and magnificence in your own creations, so there is mystery and magnificence in the creation of that which is not you or yours. But for that or to that you must be open and listen, whether it be to a plant, to a tree, to an animal, to another world or to another person. Anything else is extreme arrogance, or ignorance, or both. You can and need to speak for yourself. You should not speak for someone or something else unless you have first listened to what it is saying and how it is saying it, which is why this scientific exploration of plant behaviour is so fascinating. These scientists are researching how plants communicate and express THEMSELVES.

Picture of a boquet of cur flowersA third factor becomes evident in this research. Plants have no brain, no nervous system, no eyes or ears. Yet they communicate. So they must have will and consciousness all their own. A brain and nervous system would then appear to be only one filter or channel of the will to express. Must we not then be cautious in our definition of what constitutes consciousness? It was once said by a spiritual teacher many years ago that the brain is a filter and the heart is a brake. Our philosophies and our definitions of what is right and wrong in the world are based on OUR filters. It makes vegetarianism and veganism different kinds of choices if plants are expressing an S.O.S when they are cut or picked. These scientists describe the smell of mown grass and the perfume of cut flowers as just that i.e. an S.O S with an extra and intense outburst of plant volatiles and scents when they are cut, not unlike a scream. It means that we have to think differently about Nature and the World and listen to it, instead of telling it what it is doing and then basing whole philosophies on that projection. Interestingly, people who work with plant volatiles and flower essences do seem to be honouring and respecting the chemical language of the plants in some fashion. This same respect can and often does go on with choices of foods and diets. Mostly what all of this tells me is that we need to understand, honour and respect what the plant is saying and why, in its own language, and not in our projections.

diagram of the tree of lifepicture of hawk mothThe statement in this documentary that "Nature recognises a balance of positive and negative" is also to me profound. It is what we keep saying about Yang and Yin in Eastern philosophy and in I Ching; or about the Pillars of Mercy and Severity in Qabalistic teaching. It is not about "good and evil" but more about balancing opposite polarities. The Wild Tobacco Plant produces what the scientist jokingly calls "an evil lollipop" or "Halloween candy that has been laced" in the form of a sweet and scented sugary chemical which its predating Hawk Moth Caterpillar consumes, then smells of, so callingin the Big pictue of the big eyed bugEyed Bug which then consumes the Caterpillar. Even here, you can see the human brain filter and language at work in the scientist's explanation, albeit with humour, of what is going on! You might also call this "evil lollipop" Quabalistic "severity". It is the plant's defence mechanism and part of what maintains balance in Nature. It is not unlike the song of a bird claiming or defending its territory, or the scent-marking or posturing of an animal saying "I have been here" and "this is my space". This is all part of the will to express and to take up existence in the universe... for all life, including humans. Scents and chemicals are a kind of language,particulaly important to plants and Picture of the Hawk Moth Caterpillartrees who don't move. They communicate in that language, demonstrating once again the multifaceted and varied expressions of Existence and the Will to Exist.This is the white of the top sphere or sephira on the Qabalistic Tree of Life expressing through the multitudinous and colourful range of will. As the poet, Shelley once said: "Life, like a dome of many coloured glass, stains the white radiance of eternity". (Elegy on the Death of John Keats)

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