The spiritual and healing power of plants cannot be denied. How could any human live without the help of the plants? They give us food, medicine, oxygen and so much more. Plants have the power to heal the body, mind and spirit. The study of plant medicine has been ongoing since prehistory and highly developed in the medical systems in India (Ayurveda), China (TCM) and in the western world. Indigenous communities throughout history have developed holistic sciences of botanical healing cross culturally using local plants. We now know many of the chemical constituents of the healing plants and can use many varieties of preparations to aid in healing. Many of these plants have been the foundation for development of pharmaceutical medications.
In many indigenous communities plants can play a central role in their traditional and contemporary religious practices. The Native American Church (N.A.C.) uses the sacred sacrament peyote internally and the religion itself could not exist without this central plant teacher. There are many examples of societies using other plant medicines as a sacred sacrament in their spiritual traditions such as ayahuasca, san pedro, datura, marijuana and other lesser known plants. In these cultures the physical plant itself is not the focus but rather the plant is integrated into a complex ritual and spiritual structure. The view of plant medicines as a packet of chemicals which have a certain effect on human chemistry is a contemporary idea which is just now influencing some of the medicine people around the world. Traditional medicine inside indigenous communities focuses on a holistic framework which involves communing with the sacred plant spirits in a special set and setting.
In these indigenous communities the focus is not the material plant but rather on the spirit world. The concept of spirits is difficult to understand in western society because there are no equivalent concepts in modern western worldviews. Every plant has a spirit associated with it, these spirits are not a metaphor but rather they are real intelligences within the plants and all things. The spirits are many and the sacramental use of plants is based in ceremony, ritual, song and communication with the spirit world. These various elements of the ceremony all bring in certain spirits whom are called by the medicine people through the songs, ritual objects and plants. These spirits hear the prayers of the participants and work in the spiritual dimension to bring about the desired healing.
The plants spirits often remind us that we are just humans and have limited influence but the spirits are powerful and can make magic and miracles happen. Healing in this way comes in the form of psychological, spiritual, physical healing as well as helping with anything in life. If one has no job and asks for a job in these ceremonies they will honor and pray to the spirits to help them get a job. This is part of the healing medicine and is essential to balance the health of the community and the individual. Some wish to see the future or to find happiness and love; others are there to gain power to help others heal or to make peace with a deceased relation. Plants are used to determine the future, to find the cause of disease, to find lost objects, to bring wealth, health and spiritual well-being amongst many other attainments. The central power of the healing medicine is not in the hands of the medicine people who guide the healing rites but is determined by the spirits.
In Plant Spirit Shamanism by Ross Heaven and Howard G. Charing they quote a Santeria priest saying, “As long as the diviner is in good standing with the gods and at one with the plants, he will find the answer his client needs (35).” This clearly illustrates the point that the person leading the healing needs to be connected with the intelligence of the plant and with the various spirits and gods. The plant and the spirits are not mythological beings, archetypes or fantasies but rather they are living creatures with intelligent who can communicate with those who develop an honorable relationship with the plants.
The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird goes into great detail about many researchers who use biofeedback machines to study the reactions of plants to their surroundings. Clive Backster began to use polygraph equipment to study plants while he worked as an expert in police investigation. By attaching the electrodes to plants he measured the surface tension of the leaves and determined how the plant responded to the stimulus in the same way that a polygraph is used in police interrogation for lie detection. When he would bring a burning match close to a plant it would have a dramatic response with the needle dramatically spiking and waving. Backster began to notice that the response on the polygraph machine occurred when he thought of harming the plant before any physical action was taken. This was repeatedly found in many different plants and all seemed to respond to human thought. The plants also showed reactions to the environment such as the movement of spiders in the room.
The plants also responded to human emotion. For example, Backster cut his finger and the plant responded as though shocked by the appearance of distress and blood. Later, he discovered that plants developed a connection to their owner and could sense their distress even when they were far away. When Backster walked several blocks away and thought lovingly of the plants they would respond. He repeated the test with friends and their plants would respond much the same way even at a distance of 700 miles. In this test the plants were placed inside a lead container which blocked all electromagnetic energy. He concluded that plants have tremendous awareness and intelligence and they were detecting some force which was outside the electromagnetic spectrum.
Alfred Vogal conducted similar experiments and ultimately came to this conclusion, “Man can and does communicate with plant life…Plants…may be blind deaf and dumb in the human sense, but there is no doubt in my mind that they are extremely sensitive…they radiate energy forces that are beneficial to man. One can feel those forces! They feed into one’s own force-field, which in turn feeds energy back to the plant (43).”
This extreme sensitivity of plants has been further explored by a group of Italians in a unique community known as Damanhur. They have conducted research on plants by attaching electrodes to leaves and routing the signals into a synthesizer instead of the standard polygraph which uses needles which draw lines on paper. They have been perfecting this technology since 1976 and have come to similar conclusions. The observed the plants becoming aware that they are producing the music in the room and begin to make it more harmonious and musical. If multiple plants are hooked up to these machines in the same space they will begin to make music in harmony with one another. If a human preforms music in the room the plants will respond to the human as well. The Damanhurians have videos of humans making music with the plants. When the machine is attached to wild plants in their natural environment they respond to what is around them the weather, animals ect. For example when a storm is approaching the music of the plants will be more chaotic and frantic then it is on a sunny day. (http://www.damanhur.org/philosophy-a-research/research/1429-the-music-of-the-plants)
All this suggests that plant have a great deal of intelligence, creativity and psychic powers as well. In other words, the spirit of the plant is very sensitive to humans and their intentions. The medicine people working with sacred plants develop the knowledge of how to communicate with the plants through their traditions, rituals and personal experiences. Ways of honoring the spirits of the plant are developed over millennium and passed down generation to generation. A strong line of communication between the medicine person and the plant spirit develops into a complex ceremonial and ritual structure which is used for greater connection to the universal life force or the Great Spirit. The connection to the supreme life force and its various messengers allows one to become more complete and integrated with the larger universe. This connection to the whole of existence brings about spiritual realization and healing. A medicine man once told me, “Healing is the remembrance of our divinity.”
By: Transpersonal Spirit
Heaven, Ross; Charing, Howard G. Forward by Pablo Amaringo. Plant Spirit Shamanism: Traditional Techniques for Healing the Soul. Destiny Books . Rochester, VT. 2006.