View Full Version : Intelligence in nature and our relationship to plants

06-27-2012, 02:43 AM
Found this little mini-essay on a blog surfing the web. I liked it so I am posting it here.

Plant alchemy and Gnosis

Part of the nature of the human animal is a need to transcend its normal conscious awareness. This need for humans to alter perception and awareness has led us to experiment with everything from fasting and self flagellation to the consumption of exotic plants and animals. All in an effort to change our perceptions. Why? That question has many different answers and perhaps has as many answers as there are people. My suspicion is that expanded awareness and our quest as a species to transcend normal waking awareness function as a kind of instinctual internal compass meant to direct us towards a more evolutionary adaptive method of perceiving the world.

This line of thinking leads me to contemplate the role of plants in human diet. It is widely believed that our earliest human ancestors were primarily vegetarian, but were opportunistically omnivorous, meaning that we would occasionally scavenge kills from predictors to supplement our diet with the much more calorie dense meat. I for one find this hard to believe. Personally I think that the earliest humans were most likely like chimps in that we ate bugs for protein and fruits and vegetables when we could find them and would hunt small animals occasionally. I know this sounds like I am going off on a tangent here but bare with me. So you see, as far as plants go, humans would go for fruits and vegetables, roots, tubers etc. However, how ever did we develop some of the sophisticated forms of plant medicines that ancient peoples had access to?

This is where magic and altered states go hand and hand. Dreams are the one altered state that can be said to be common to all humans. The dream state has for all of mankind's history been seen as a direct path to communication with gods, spirits, ghosts and all the other denizens of the spirit world. Theses spirits in many times are helpful and act as teachers to those who seek out knowledge and guidance. In cultures that view the world as pantheistic (spirit exists in everything) plants are seen as conscious beings that humans can communicate with. In fact in many shamanic traditions, psychoactive plants are called Teacher Plants. Shamans in these traditions report that they are taught how to use the plants in different ways by the plants themselves, or rather the spirits of the plants. These communications may start as rituals of communion months or years before the plants themselves are consumed. By building a relationship with the plant spirit, the shaman learns all he needs to know about how to use the plant and how to navigate the altered states that the plants produce.

In this way, modern shamans differ greatly with those of generations past. Today, you can buy all the ingredients for Ayahuasca by mail, mix it up in your kitchen and be tripping and barfing by that evening. There is no perceived need to commune with the plant. I think this is a mistake and a missed opportunity for modern psychedelic shamans. By personifying the plant spirits and by addressing them, we can build relationships with these plants and maybe develop new techniques and new practices based on knowledge given by the plants themselves. This is the approach that our ancestors took and it seemed to work pretty damn good, considering that they were about to discover plant combinations that would take millions of years to happen upon by mere chance.


If you for some reason want to debate vegetarianism please see this thread instead: http://forum.alchemyforums.com/showthread.php?2623-A-vegetarian-tradition

These days our relationship to plants is usually a house plant that we water a few times a week (if that). I am speaking now mainly of the urban population. In cities the only nature we find are parks or cemeteries. This is a little ironic that we find the most life in the place where we ourselves put our dead.

Personally I have always been drawn to trees, but in an urban setting this is a problem because trees are usually where people urinate so you don't want to sit next to them.

At work (because the offices I work in don't have windows) we have plastic plants. Even if they are fake they at least provide the right vibe. Humans still prefer to be surrounded by plants (real or not). So deep is our relationship with plants no matter how hard we have tried to move away from nature (consciously or not). In the end we will all end up in the ground or in the sea (depending on your preferred burial ritual). Unless you have done like I and donated everything to science.

I can't recall if I have posted about it before but there is a good book called Intelligence in Nature by Jeremy Narby that I recommend. It documents how plants and lower animals are showing high intelligence. It is a very interesting read. Some quotes from the book just to give you all an idea:

Trewavas [a biology professor] described the behavior of the stilt palm. This tropical tree has a stem raised on prop roots and moves towards sunlight by growing new prop roots on the sunny side and letting those in the shade die off. By doing this over several months, the stilt plant actually changes places. It 'walks' around in this manner, fending off competitive neighbors and foraging for light, at a speed imperceptible to humans. Trewavas considers this a clear example of 'intentional behavior'.

Brain signals tend to be small molecules, whereas plant signals tend to be large and complicated, such as proteins and RNA transcripts. This had only become clear in the last five years... Prior to that, "no one would really believe that proteins would be swimming around a plant providing information." And large molecules can handle large amounts of information, which means there is room for enormous complexity in plant communication. "Where does it [the brain of the plant] actually exist? It is in the whole organism." Plants do not have brains, so much as act like them.

The whole natural world is one big brain then? What the hippies call Gaia...


I once talked to a Christian about Pantheism. I said that I saw God and Nature as one and the same and I figured this Christian person would partly agree with me, after all he believed in God and that God created Nature, but to my surprise the Christian did not agree at all. I mean if I was a Christian I don't see a problem with this concept... is Nature not good enough to be part of God or what?

- from my own post in another thread about amongst other things pantheism (http://forum.alchemyforums.com/showthread.php?2825-Monism-Dualism-Pluralism&p=20834#post20834)

Today I talked to some Muslims and I said the same thing as above, and they shared the Christian view. They said it is the human brain that makes us different from nature. And it is the brain that God has given us, the brain is what God has knighted us with... but if nature is one big brain this argument is pretty naive.


05-29-2014, 03:48 PM
The whole natural world is one big brain then? What the hippies call Gaia...

We cannot possibly pin-point consciousness in ourselves, but I think it is safe to assume that consciousness is established by a large number of cells and molecules arranged in a pattern. Even if you have all the parts of a brain, if the pattern is not there, you don't have anything. Only when all those individual parts are working together do we get what we can perceive as awareness.

So as the cells of our bodies give rise to our consciousness, so maybe all the life forms on this Earth, or within the Universe, in concert give rise to a greater consciousness we could possibly have no knowledge or understanding of... just as our cells live out their lives in cycles, each having its own function and presumably unaware of the greater purpose for their existence... which is the human being they inhabit.