building bridges: sharing of nwyfre


never mind et intelligences – can trees communicate?

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 revived our current consciousness of them. rudolph steiner 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:


on the legitimacy of talking to trees

on the legitimacy of talking to trees.

mallee woman tree

mallee tree ('mallee' means 'woman' in aborigine languages)

roots are radiant. they ray out thinner roots from thick ones and finer ones still from the thin ones. they aren’t passive; they move about like fingers, purposefully seeking out nutrients in the soil. they have an array of techniques for attracting the chemicals they need from the soil and repelling those they don’t, which is as various and impassioned as asking, soliciting, begging, imploring, acquiring, pleading for, stealing, appealing for, etc. are in humans. from their quests, sallies and gestes activating their biochemistry the spirituality of tree roots is composed, which together with those of the trunk and crown, which are just as highly organized and structured, make a major contribution towards the spirituality of the tree. the physical is spiritual.

what a multitude of beings a tree comprises. atoms are beings. cells are beings. leaves, flowers and seeds are beings. how busy and alive they all are, from the fine, feeding filaments of the roots to the busy chemistry in the cells of leaves. they actively respond to the sea of molecular and microbial events in the soil. no two atoms are alike. tin atoms have a spirituality distinct from that of all other kinds of atom, but similar to that of all other tin atoms. every atom has travelled its path through the cosmos from its genesis to its present position. every atom has a memory, a record of its total experience in all its aeons long minutiae. each element deals idiosyncratically with its memory, according to its own inner logic, which is itself determined by the structuring features of its total experience. within those complexes of paradigms and timeframes of the apparent world that constitute the reality that humanity subscribes to, they can be said to evolve.

the enchantments spun by atoms out of the myriad tugs and tweaks, rays and dynamics, passions and strategies, dilemmas, desires and demands of their chemistry are the elements from which the enchantment of the entire tree is built up. every tug and tweak represents a feature-rich complex of qualities. they mediate…what? is that a religious question? or does marshal macluhan’s famous slogan “the medium is the message” originally referring to the mass-media of the 1960s apply also on this cosmic scale? or are they what australian aboriginal dreaming theology would describe as dreamings, mediating, via the physical, psychical and spiritual dimensions within them, so as to constitute what we know as reality itself, the ideational motifs that manifest as the events and features of the universe, from the births and deaths of cosmoses to the events of the daily lives of people on our tiny little planet earth? the forces within atoms determine the structures they’ll form. the structures structure still more structures, ultimately determined minutely from within the primordial atom. is this not genetic?

qualities are soul. when a number of qualities constellate sustainedly we have ‘a’ soul. atoms are soulful. sulphur is sour. tin is giggly. oxygen is ebullient. hydrogen is mutable. sodium is sulky. probably, on another scale, our big bang is passionate too, perhaps with a whole range of passions of a whole higher order of subtlety and complexity than we can imagine. ‘personality’ exists at the atomic level. it does not stop at the level of species, but goes on building, to the planetary, the galactic, the cosmic and beyond.

molecules are composites of soulful beings, and their logic makes one thing of many parts. their memories are pooled, and they generate paradigm complexes that do not instantaneously harmonise. perhaps their disharmony is a clue to what drives an atom, a molecule, or an organisation of molecules (i.e. an organism). it may be that a major part of the work of the universe is towards the harmonisation of all paradigms, or it may be that the disharmonisation process, the antithesis of entropy, is life, the idea being that we should celebrate the stimulation of disharmony while learning to manage its stressfulness in comfortable, joyous creative ways that hurt no one and contribute to the pleasurableness of existence for all.

there is no real distinction between living and non-living things, no point of complexity or stage of evolution at which a molecular complex becomes living. even the division between biotic and non-biotic systems is not clear-cut. to impute to atoms and molecules non-sentience and non-livingness, i.e. deadness, is unscientific. to distinguish between biotic and non-biotic life-forms is a useful convention, but scientists who are still attempting to present a theory that ‘life’ is something that gets engaged as a soon as a molecular complex reaches a certain level of a certain type of complexity are failing to convince. the molecules comprising genes compose themselves in accord with the inner logic of their passionate, spiritual, mindful atoms, conditioned by the multifarious forces and qualities of their environment. any organism is a colony of organisms, and trees are large and complex ones.

the myriad subatomic memories forming the composite soul of a tree, a human or any organism correspond to what freud called the id. the energy generated by their interplay, is patterned by the logistics of that interplay, such that it mediates, if not mentality itself, the makings of it, and it can be easily structured. their interrelationships constitute what we call logic. the application of logic to data is reasoning. so molecules, in which vast swathes of data are being structured logically by their environment and are structuring it also are already reasoning.

our human sensoria select from the data information relevant to us and surely mountains, fish, herbs and trees do too. trees surely would sense their birds, the animals, snakes and insects they shelter, and the people who care for them and harvest their fruits.

a multi-billion-atomed tree has a vast palette of conditioned energies. it is not necessarily going to create novels or convert its aeons of experience into memes comprehensible to humans, but it’s palette draws from the same array, with minor exceptions such as that the human avails itself of more iron and the tree of magnesium. the degree of difference that we see between the biochemistry and physiology of trees and people, from the molecular level to the gross forms of the organism, the limbs and circulatory, sexual and other systems, will be similar to the degree of difference we might expect to find between tree and human sentience. just as its physiological traits are broadly similar to those of a human in many ways, especially on a cellular level, but different in other ways, so there will be some overlap in the genetically determined usage of the resources of the id. after all we share some significant portions of our genome with plants.

but can trees be thought to have consciousness or not? logically, there’s no way they haven’t. as with life, there is no threshold of consciousness. it doesn’t ‘arise’, the result of a particular arrangement of atoms. atoms are text rich, with myriad memes recorded in their infinitely intricate mathematics, and memes are value-laden, and between one meme and another is a relationship, and that has many aspects all of them vectored, and vectored meme-loads are thought. these intricately complex streams of thought are exquisitely variously responsive to the myriad movements of meme-laden complexes around them, and their responses are conditioned, and purposeful and driven. this is sentience, intelligence, and it is unreasonable not to believe also that it is consciousness.

atoms are consciousnesses. their logical structure dictates that their consciousness concatenates its records of events and situations relevant to it logically. structure is itself intellect. responsivity is passion. sensitivity is feeling. composed of logically interrelated, inter-responsive, sensitive atoms, molecules are mentalities. we have every reason to believe that the microbes in soil ‘behave’ in precisely the sense that animals in an ecosystem behave, and that this behaviour reflects the behaviours of their atoms, which are harnessed by their own internal logic to generate the observable behaviours of visible beings. the awareness of any earthly being is the pooled, multileveled awareness of all its atoms structured from the molecular level up through the cellular level, through organs such as leaves and flowers, clefts and cliff-faces, or eyes and hands to the individual tree, mountain, or human being.

proteins within the cytoplasm of cells or in soil solutions wriggle and writhe. water molecules have been described as behaving ‘like drunks at a party’, forming loose associations, breaking off, clustering here and wandering off alone to join another group somewhere else.

we don’t have to impute to trees the idea that they ‘think’ sequences of thoughts that would be intelligible to us, or ever could, but it would be unscientific to rule it out. trees have no lungs, yet they breathe in a sense relatable to the sense in which we humans breathe. we recognise their circulatory system, their feeding mechanisms their excretory systems and their reproductive systems. all manner of metabolic processes within the human organism have parallels within plants, similar functions being performed by systems vastly dissimilar in appearance. their environment is continually producing changes within them and they register such changes and respond to them within the complex chemistry of their physiology.

are they able to discern their own boundaries?  are their boundaries what we think they are? perhaps the question should be: do they imagine their own boundaries the way we imagine ours? is a ‘tree’ the part we call a tree plus the teeming ecology that always surrounds its roots, trunk and crown?  or is the tree oriented to our apparent reality obliquely, experiencing its wood-and-leaf avatar as a single sense organ, say, of a vaster, mostly extradimensional being whose forms are beyond our imagining?  why not?  after all, it’s fair to describe humans as mostly extradimensional beings, unacquainted though we mostly are with practically every part of it not mediated through our material consciousness.

consider the predicament of a tree in a forest depending on the rich mix of debris on the forest floor for its sustenance. not able to move, a tree can nevertheless manipulate its own chemistry, not only to defend itself against pests, but also to manipulate other beings for its own advantage. by experiment trees can learn to make just the right pheromone to draw a favourite animal (copies of its sex hormones for example, reconstructed from bio-chemistry  derived from corpses that decayed among their roots) and a predatory tree might team with it a species specific leaf-spray of a finely-tuned soporific or paralytic drug, to be triggered by the approach of the animal, which might cause the animal to lie down under the tree in a state of apathy, there to slip into a coma and then die.

well, okay, trees can’t do that to people these days (or can they?), but it might help to explain some of the anxiety about haunted forests that permeate human folk-lore and fantasy still. plants do employ frogs, snails and insects, and they do manipulate bird and animal flocks for their own use, attracting birds and mammals with pheromones or energetic cues and then triggering defecation and or urination, and sometimes sickness or paralysis and death, thus enriching the soil around their roots. rhubarb plants shepherd whole flocks of snails about, sending them out at night to graze beyond the rhubarb’s reach and calling them home to nestle (and defecate) all day under their leaves, to sleep, to breed, perchance to die and thus nourish the plant still more.

this bespeaks a system actively discriminating between its own interests and those of other competing systems; a life-form that agrees with us in principle as to what constitutes it’s self – at least its material self – and where its ego boundaries are.

people, according to the freudian conception of a person and models based upon it, generally behave not like conscious beings, but like integrated cooperative complexes of conscious beings, and these may or may not be conscious of each other. we normally assume that one of these is a primary consciousness, the ego, and that it shares most of its major consciousness features with the egos of all other (normal) people. associated with it are other consciousnesses, perhaps repressed.

complexes of consciousness which have become almost autonomous within the greater composite consciousness ( perhaps i mean the atman) of a human being, which are able to influence the primary ego with inarticulate or even with heavily-coded or actually articulate promptings such as dream symbolism or psychopathological quirks and glitches; (and perhaps also a ‘soul’, informed from the collective consciousness in the same way as a primary consciousness is informed from the collective consciousness; that is, from the culture it shares with the primary consciousnesses of other people) would be like angels interacting on a whole higher, transcendental level which our material consciousness seldom perceives.

anthropological insights are challenging the assumption that all normal people have a circumscribed consciousness that shares most of its major consciousness features with all other people’s consciousnesses. consciousness and self-orientation varies enormously from one ethnicity to another. parapsychology shows us that, when the experiences of all cultures are considered, the range of kinds of so-called ‘paranormal’ experience indicates that humans are a whole ecology of personality complexes co-existing more or less harmoniously within a single personality, with each culture emphasising some culture specific selections at the expense of others. some of these personality parts are capable of sustained autonomy, like the astral body, others, such as freuds ‘unconscious’, not. even within a single culture, jane hypothetical-smith the accountant is also a wife and mother, and also a tennis player, a vulnerable child, a wildcat fighter, a hostess, a poet, and in her fantasy life, queen and high priestess of bblazthwygx on the planet zwatch. the elements of even a human ego are selected from a formidable array of possibilities encoded within the rhythms and sequences of genes, whose rhythms and sequences are encoded within atoms, the vectors and powers of whose encoding forces are encoded within…etc, ad infinitum, and while one selects within one’s culture. ones species, ones genus, ones biological kingdom etc, from within a particular strategically limited range, these selections vary from culture to culture, from species to species, and from kingdom to kingdom, etc, and the boundaries are usually more or less blurred.

the argument that there isn’t necessarily awareness wherever there are life processes is usually based on the idea that we aren’t normally aware of our digestive processes, the operations of our spleens, our pineal bodies, or the mechanistics of muscular movement, all of which we must painstakingly achieve cognisance of by a process of scientific discovery not available to a dog or a sheep, which therefore would be less aware of them than we are. but that assumes that our ‘primary’ ego is the only ‘conscious’ part of us. in fact, just as all the complexes of a person, body and soul, are as likely as this ‘primary ego’ to be self-conscious and sentient and aware also of a selection of features of their environments and contexts, so all the organs of a body inevitably have their own awarenesses. it could be said that different parts of the body interpret different experiential realms, and through the brain they share the knowledge they get with other parts only in interpreted forms, as in dreams, and other psychopathological events. if this is so among the parts within a human being, it is so among the beings within an ecology.

all this sets a scene in which intelligent communication with trees could be possible, if not one in which it would inevitably happen. but the proof can only ever be through subjective experience.

so, remember to smile and say good morning to the trees you regularly encounter. it’s amazing what a delightful difference their responses make to your life – more convincing than any number of carefully composed words!

vyvyan ogma wyverne /|\