Do Plants Have Consciousness?
Last month on our way home to Vancouver from a tour of South Africa, we stopped off in Brazil for a vacation. We eventually found ourselves in a sleepy fishing village about an hour’s drive north of Salvador, enjoying the magnificent beaches and fresh seafood. One day, as we were out walking, Sylvia called excitedly to me. She was gently touching a fern with a twig she had picked up. When the fern was touched all the leaves instantly curled up into a compact, ball-like shape. The plant had obviously developed a system that detected when insects or animals approached it, and this action made it more difficult for them to chew on the leaves.
Seeing this reminded me of being on safari several years earlier where a game ranger pointed out a species of tree that not only reacted to animals eating its leaves, but transmitted signals to other trees of the same species as well. It seems that these particular leaves were very delicate and tasty favourites of the giraffe. So whenever a family of giraffes would begin eating them, within 15 minutes the taste of the leaves would turn sour. What was so interesting, however, was that it was not only the leaves on that particular tree that turned sour, but the leaves on all the identical trees within a half-mile radius! The tree whose leaves were being eaten was able to somehow communicate with the other trees in the area and warn of impending danger.
Does this suggest that plants have consciousness?
It would appear so, and this conclusion is not so out of place considering that many cultures believe absolutely in the power of communicating with plants. Even within our own culture, it is no secret that those with «green thumbs» who work regularly with plants tend to talk to them. There have been numerous studies proving absolutely that an empathetic understanding and psychic connection to plants by a gardener tends to produce larger and healthier plants. The «Findhorn» experiment is one such example where vegetables were grown, sometimes several times their usual size, in very inhospitable ground, using the power of love and encouragement. Talk to anyone who loves gardening, who spends time daily with plants, and you might be surprised to hear what intelligent and well-educated people have to say about the consciousness of plants.
Peter Tompkins wrote a fascinating book called The Secret Life of Plants, which sold over 1 million copies. In it he chronicles how plants communicate with each other as well as with humans. This is not as incredulous as it seems.
The indigenous peoples from around the world, those who live close to the land, have always had a special relationship with nature. Whether it be the North American Indian, the Aboriginal, or the Bushmen of the Kalahari, all the traditional teachings encourage respect and communication with nature. In my travels through Africa I have met and befriended some fascinating Sangomas. These people are the traditional healers, and through herbs and prayers and trances and sacrifices, they treat the people who have come to them for help. Let us not forget that according to the Bible, the cure for everything ailing the human body can be found in the plants that grow upon this wonderful earth of ours.
So how does the Sangoma know what herb or combination of herbs to give? Some of it is passed down from healer to healer, but beyond that the plants themselves will tell you, if you’re properly attuned to them. This is what the Sangomas tell me. I have no reason to doubt them.
About five years ago during one of my Awakening courses, a participant of the course had a most remarkable experience. We were exploring the hidden rhythms that exist in all of nature, learning to feel and sense the consciousness of trees and plants. (Unfortunately, with the urbanization of our society, we have lost the ability to feel and sense the pulsating life of living organisms. With practice, however, it can be reawakened.) What happened is that one of the participants (a woman in her thirties) had an inner communication with a tree, and it told her to chew its leaves and rub the saliva in her eyes, which she did. (She was having problems with her eyes.) I asked her if she knew what the tree was and she answered no, she had never seen that type of tree before.
My initial reaction was horror. In Africa there are many poisonous plants, and you can cause immense harm to yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing.
«I have complete faith,» the woman answered. «It spoke to me so clearly.»
While not wanting to doubt her, I needed to verify that what she’d done was okay. We called the local ranger, and the ranger, the woman and I walked into the bush to identify the tree. Once she identified it, we went back to the camp and looked it up in the camp library. The tree was the Silver Terminalia. We read the description of the tree for several paragraphs and then we read, «Among African peoples this tree has a wide variety of uses… The leaves have a very bitter taste and can be taken to cure diarrhoea and may also be applied as an eyewash.» You can imagine our surprise and amazement.
By the next day her eyes were completely cured. Coincidence? Miracle? Communication with a plant? I’ll let you decide for yourself, but having personally been there to witness the event, I have no doubt in my mind that the plant spoke to her. There is consciousness in every living thing. Plants, animals and humans. Each consciousness may be different from the other, but we are all plugged into the same mystery of life. The plants are indeed our brothers and sisters, and we have much to learn from one another. I will explore this further in future monthly topics.