being a natural philosopher at heart i like to have a reasonable basis for my belief. as a druid in mixed society, when my beliefs are questioned i appreciate the credibility that goes with having a sound rationale. i try to ensure that a scientific description of the material world supports my belief in nwyfre as a flow of information-dense effects through the network of communication that interconnects all material beings. so i will begin with a glance into the magic of the rich and varied world that is within the range of our ordinary perception and proceed later to the so-called ‘invisible’ worlds that exist beyond that range.
if i stand near a tree, its radiance mingles with mine. they interact and both are changed, charged with the excitation of this new stimulus, which we communicate to everything around us. the same happens if a rock fetches up under a tree, or in my hand. as a human being i have special senses – of sight and sound, smell, taste and touch – which read the radiances of the material world, streaming data to my brain where i construct my perception of reality. this means i can create much more dynamic interfaces than i otherwise could, reading much more of the detail encrypted in just the light, for instance, simply by looking at things, stones, trees, yes, but also far-off mountains, the rising sun, the distant stars and galaxies, and indeed everything that radiates or reflects the colours of the spectrum of light. in dividing the light in this way i am part of the processing of light – light changes as it changes me. i respond to it and it responds to me.
these exchanges may be subtle, but as a human being, i have a brain as well as senses, a brain that generates a mind that categorises and stores information selectively according to nuances more subtle than i can bring to consciousness. it’s a mind that gives or finds in or for everything a meaning, and it responds to everything with feeling, understanding and imagination to categorise, judge, wish for, repel or condition the nwyfre in all sorts of ways. all the time i am feeding back my responses to the whole through the beings nearest me, and contributing to its evolution.
all of this is dynamic and effective and all of it is magical. the power that the mind exercises over matter, which medical scientists know can cause psychosomatic illness when random, repressed or abused, can also enhance life when used consciously and may be used creatively for all kinds of exciting and beneficial magical effects beyond healing. we have before us the task of learning how to use it.
the universe is logical; our physiology is logical and we think logically, but within the infinitely packed reality we inhabit, our ever-evolving minds are as yet not capable of comprehending more than a relatively small range of logical systems of limited extent, which we work very hard to extend, for example, through education and intelligently sought-out experience and the mass media developed for the purpose. the magic of mind over matter is also logical, and it is by understanding the default logic, which doesn’t foreground human needs over those of other beings, that we learn to advance beyond it and contribute to the evolution of the more human-friendly logicistics of the metaphysicist’s reality. nature doesn’t mind if our planet dies – we do, and we can save it by taking control of our proper share of the planetary magic.
logic maintains and manages the relationships between systems in the universe. some of the logic governing physics is so simple that its laws can be written as mathematical formulae. other logic, such as that of children’s play, is whimsical, witty and subtle, often submerged and not obvious, with so many variables that it takes child psychologists years of study to begin to discern it. our species is timidly and cautiously learning to reason logically, experimenting creatively with meaning, relationship and idea, observing the energetics and transformative power of ideas, observing the poetic force of thought, feeling and experience, beginning to understand how attitude can heal or harm us, learning the consequences of faulty, simplistic or misapplied logic along with those of sound reasoning. and in doing so we are learning to believe in the magic.
the more logically we reason, the more realistically we view the world and the more appropriately we interact with it. even people who seem to be illogical are simply following an inner logic of their own that does not necessarily mesh seamlessly with that of others, though at least equally sound. it may even be less flawed than the common logic, not more so. we should respect all paths even at that level, even if they clash with our own, perhaps even paths less respectful than our own.
all this is obvious when we consider the visible world, and equally true when we begin to search the edges of our consciousness for evidence of what exists beyond. so far i have considered only the material universe, without addressing the question of aether, the light body, the astral plane and so on. the reason for this is that we need to be sure of our material body’s clarity and to affirm what so many spiritual pathways still often deny – the validity of the here-and-now life of the biological body we live in and through.
the surface of any object infinitesimally small to infinitely vast, including humans, receives and responds to information about its environment. a mirror reflects reality. images are created in it by virtue of what happens when light strikes its surface. many birds and animals are imitative, and will, upon receiving impressions from other animals, mimic them, or mirror them. in the zodiac reflections of the great celestial patterns generated in the intricate spiral dance of galaxies and stars, and planets and their moons contribute to and reflect the myriad forces affecting the lives of small mammals on earth, including our human selves.
we’re used to seeing and responding to, mimicking and mirroring the actions of our fellow creatures, of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, insects etc. we do it mindfully, and who’s to say trees don’t? being motile, our gestures are writ large, purpose-built for the sensoria we’ve evolved. we can see our fellow animals responding to hunger, love, fear, joy, anger, pain and the passions of oestrus, social competition and the hunt. it’s different when we come to appreciating the life experience of a plant.
the plant seems still, usually needing a breeze or other disturbance to move its leaves, the roots fixed firmly in the ground. we can’t see the writhing, twisting, bustling activity of its growth – time-lapse photography had to be invented to show us that, and even then, its dance has not necessarily evolved as a means of communication. it tells us about the growth habits of plants, but except in a very few anomalous species does not seem to demonstrate responsivity to fellow creatures, and tells us nothing about the inner experience of the plant.
microbiology does lift the veil a bit. it’s a precise science and is currently making amazing breakthroughs into the biochemical responsivity of plants. the gushes of pheromones and bating of vital processes, the alterations in tensions and force-fields within the tissues of plants in response to threats such as herbivores, bad weather or pathogens is comparable to that which we find in animals, where we take it for granted it is associated with feeling, with awareness, with intelligence. plants have a ‘fear’ response, although just as it is chemically different from our own, it is probably experientially different to the same degree and corresponding to the chemical difference. and plants have attitude: it’s basic to their spirituality and anyone can discern it. people often joke about the perkiness of petunias or the bombast of a much-frilled gladiolus, the feistiness of a young pine tree or the gaiety of a bed of annuals. take it seriously. it’s a major key to the fun and magic our favourite garden flowers have brewing for us.
plant chemistry centres around the flamboyant, light-hearted, extravagant, dancing, delightful magnesium, while that of animals centres around dull, plodding, solid, pattern-seeking, hard-working, reliable iron. therefore a sensitive study of magnesium and iron are useful to an ovate seeking to bridge the communication gap between them. basic chemistry can be a useful starting point. watching magnesium expend its capacity for inter-reaction with air in an extravagant flare with little energy input while iron absorbs and consumes more and more energy before glowing dully, and still more before passing through the red, orange and yellow part of the spectrum before flaring much more sedately, can help us to understand what sort of bridge across what kind of gradations in what spectra of nature we have to build. same sort of process, but at a different speed and with comparable but different results.
how do plants experience us? plants have no visible organ that corresponds to an eye or an ear. we can see only what our very different physiology allows us to see. certain fine highly active structures in the neurology of the brain are in form so similar to tree branches that they are termed ‘dendrites’ after a greek word for a tree. it’s not difficult to understand that though they serve different physiological forms, having similar shapes brings them into a special relationship through the natural geometry of forms. morphic resonance begins to be a feature. humanity needs to be doing much more research into these areas of plant study, both as scientific studies and as the magical explorations that are much more relevant here to ovates in particular.
now at about this point, we can turn our attention to the extended reality that becomes accessible to us as we open our psychic eyes. we have to acknowledge that there is another gap to be bridged: the gap between our scientific, objective understanding and our own personal subjective experience. we have in our support the testimony of generations of fey peoples and fey individuals, accounts of whose daily experience have contributed to the lively traditions in many cultures worldwide of ‘plant spirits’ in human or human-like form, traditions that persist in the mainstream imagination as myth even though seldom still believed in – and always have and no doubt always will.
people who practice organic gardening often become conscious of plant spirits. the findhorn foundation http://www.findhorn.org/ revived our current consciousness of them. rudolph steiner http://wn.rsarchive.org/lectures/19101208p01.html taught us more about them. cultures worldwide are currently contributing to our knowledge of them in australia and the world wide web is currently vibrant with the buzz of their magic.
anyone who takes the time to approach the idea of communicating with plants seriously can usually fairly readily obtain a glimpse, or other equally clear and unmistakable impression, of a dryad, provided they start with a domestic or traditionally befriendable tree. (apple tree dryads are willing, patient and druid-friendly teachers, having been family members for millennia and are now ogham trees as well, and apple wands are easy to enchant).
so the bridge we have to build between our experience and that of plants is apparently being built with equal willingness and enthusiasm from both sides. and the gap between science and subjective or ‘psychic’ experience is not so difficult to bridge.
immersion in nature or gardens and parks is necessary for successful communication with plant spirits. if you can’t get out and about, work through pictures in books or on line. i’ve seen plant spirits pop up out of seed-packet pictures. reading about nature as scientific, faeried, whatever, can deepen and widen the experience and be very inspiring. but one thing is certain: none of it works without an open mind.
this article first appeared in SerpentStar, the newsletter the order of bards ovates and druids in australia. here: http://serpentstar.wordpress.com/