Thursday, 1 June 2017

Thoughts on the 'intelligence' of creaturehood.

The 'intelligence', or 'innate wisdom' of the body.


We refer to 'instinct' when we speak of how animals know how to be animals.  A robin, for instance, knows how to build a robin-style nest, which differs from a grackle's or a crow's. The robin isn't taught, it just 'knows', on 'instinct' how to build its nest.. or at least this is the vague and non-committal way that science explains it.

potential pears
We humans have to be taught most of our human-ness (supposedly). We have a few instincts that we retain into adulthood, but not many, and most of those involve responses to danger. We've managed, just in the last several of generations, to quell even our most basic instincts, like the need for water or certain foods. Now we're told how much water to drink. There was a time we drank only when thirsty; the human race didn't die out from dehydration.

At the most basic of levels, the care of our newborns, once instinctive, has been so profoundly influenced by 'authorities' (social mores, baby formula makers) that many women have lost the instinct to breastfeed their babies. What was once an absolute necessity for the infant's survival is now a choice, and we've come to the point where there are many women who simply cannot produce milk.

So it's no wonder, when we see how far removed we are from the instincts we once had, that it is difficult for us to believe that the body itself has an inherent wisdom, or intelligence, of its own.

But it does.

We were visiting the kids on Sunday and the youngest grandchild, a toddler, was barfing on and off throughout the day. It didn't seem to bother her at all. She was playing, laughing, and then would just .. upchuck. "Better out than in" is what the adults always say as we deal with the aftermath of these things, and try not to react in a way that would make the baby think there was something wrong. In this case, that little person's body is acting on its inherent wisdom, its intelligence, and clearing itself out. As we get older, barfing is something we don't take lightly, in fact we do just about anything we can to prevent it (or, conversely, there are those who barf deliberately!).

Essentially, what we've done is take wilful control of bodily processes that were designed to be automatic. We've lost our 'autopilot', so to speak. Eating, drinking, eliminating, giving birth, sex, all of these are functions that the body's own intelligence could guide us on; now we look outward for instruction.

Self-heal in the lawn.
It pays not to mow sometimes.
In a sense, we've abdicated our responsibilities. It wasn't deliberate of course. This is, relatively speaking, new (several generations) but it's already beginning to change our physiology. I'd wager that if you ask a woman whose breasts cannot produce milk about her family history, you'll probably find that women in her family have long chosen the bottle, dutifully taking the dry up pills after giving birth. The message has then somehow made it into her genetic make-up that no breast milk is required. In 'traditional' societies, women who cannot produce milk are rare. In ours, they are becoming quite common. You may counter that this might have to do with our diet, but I would counter that in its wisdom, the female body will produce milk for offspring at the cost of the mother's health. Even a malnourished woman can produce milk. Lousy milk, but milk, nevertheless. Yet here we have affluent, well nourished women without a drop of the stuff.

I've been thinking about the intelligence of the body from reading herbalist Matthew Wood. In his writing on dosage (also known as posology), he says this:

"It takes very little amount of herb, or "plant intelligence" to influence the core intelligence of the organism, but much to influence functions and parts that are more material. I have long used medium to large doses when there were deposits of material in the body that had to be moved, because these are not "energetic" but material .. I use small doses (1-10 drops) in "energetic" disturbances involving the core intelligence of the body, infinitesimal (homeopathic) doses when poisonous plants are involved and "material" doses (10-35 drops) when there is material to be moved or cancer is involved." (source)

What would that mean, in practice? It means there is very often a two-pronged approach to natural healing. We want to resolve the material issue of, say, a wet cough, but we also want to awaken the body's own intelligence so that it 'remembers' to draw excess liquids away from the lungs; we might want to use a plant that has an affinity to the kidneys there.


This is where the 'doctrine of signatures' begins to make sense. To oversimplify (because I must) - The plants that grow near water have of necessity developed an intelligence about water. We may use them when there is something 'off' with the 'watery' systems of our bodies (the respiratory or renal systems, say). Whether ours are too damp or too dry, these plants are able to remind the intelligence of the body about what it knows about water.

I can't get into specific examples in this quick post, I just want to point out that we don't want to force the body, we want, essentially, to get 'autopilot' back on line. So we help to relieve the material issue and address the glitch in the system.

I believe that most of our chronic glitches (illnesses) are the indirect result of our collective disbelief in the body's intelligence. We spend our lives from birth being told that we must leap in and 'fix' everything that goes 'wrong', when in fact most of the illnesses we experience are, like a toddler's barfy day, self-limiting. The body can and will make the necessary adjustments. But as we meddle, the body's intelligence just fades away. Use it or lose it, and if we keep meddling, we pretty much lose it.

I don't think, in most cases, it is lost forever. The beauty, to me, of using the intelligence of plants as medicine, is how quickly our own intelligence then responds and reasserts itself. When we use the plants with this in mind, we don't have to use much, we don't have to use them often, not only because they work so quickly and thoroughly, but because our innate, body intelligence is so responsive. They can't do it alone, there has to be something for them to work with. So you see? It's not just the plants, it's us, too.

Wild honeysuckle, a volunteer
in the garden.
As I gain more experience with the intelligences of the plants I'm coming to understand how and why 'less is more' works. There are certain plants I have always used in minute dosages (1-3 drops in a large glass of water, sipped over the course of a day), because the plant itself has so much, let's call it presence that I just knew to .. and here is the advantage of growing or finding these plants in the wild. Book larnin' absolutely has its place, especially when those books are written by Matthew Wood or Stephen Harrod Buhner and the other great writers with the voice of decades of hands on experience. But still, there is no substitute for meeting a plant in person, creature to creature. Visiting with it where it lives, watching it respond to the challenges of its environment over the seasons, inspires an understanding of what is meant by 'plant intelligence'. It inspires an understanding that we, too, have an intelligence, or instincts or however one wants to phrase it.

We must, for we too are creatures of Creation. How else would we have survived as a species before we had our scientists and other 'voices of authority' to tell us how best to be human?
Chokecherry blossoms

I don't just 'work with' the plants, I live with them. I grow them, or I go to where I know they are, and hang out with them. When I'm in my back yard, even just to hang the laundry, I am surrounded by these creatures. They exhale, I inhale and vice versa. In a sense, in those moments, we are as intimate as my husband and I are with each other, or as you are with your family and the co-workers you exchange air with every day. It's my belief and prayer that they are teaching me with every breath I take, as their intelligence and mine work together. This means, in fact, that taking them internally is not always necessary for healing work. Just being with them, being in relationship with them, changes us, awakens what we have in common with them.

I don't take kindly to religions, or the people who follow them, that imply that our world is somehow "less than" the "spiritual" world (I believe they are interwoven). I abhor, detest and wish I could wipe from the face of this planet the term "meat space" invented by the techies. And after trying it out, I stepped quickly back off the traditional Christian path in part because of the insistence that "the flesh" is inherently weak, untrustworthy and/or sinful. Left to its own wisdom, the flesh, the body, like all of creaturehood, is intelligent and we'd do well to remember that.

If I may say so, it's the mindsets of the religious and scientific 'authorities' that are sinful, as they teach us to detest the miraculous bodies we're in (or the bodies that we are depending on your viewpoint). The churches and the sciences, and of course the companies that sell "healthcare" (actually, they profit from sickness) all want to keep us reliant on them for guidance. The best way to do so is to tell us that the intelligence inherent in creaturehood is a fantasy. These 'authorities' want us to believe that, on the one hand, physical reality is inherently flawed, yet on the other hand it can be 'fixed' (or at least controlled) by physical or chemical means. But most of all, whatever they're teaching, they're teaching us that we are weak, that nature is untrustworthy, and yet they (also human beings, mind you) know better.

Even by their own rules of logic that doesn't make any sense.
and friends.

I am as much a victim of that propaganda as anyone, and it will be a lifelong battle to rid myself of every one of the little demons of doubt they've implanted in my mind. I think I have at least a fighting chance of keeping them at bay, so long as I can breathe in what the plants breathe out. The intelligence of the body almost works against us in a way, in that it is so adaptable to new conditions. That's why human breasts have stopped making milk - they don't need to any more, and the intelligence of nature is that it won't waste energy if it doesn't have to.

So - Those of us who want to live in the glory of the Creator have to walk our talk in every way. That means avoiding contact with anything that interferes with our body's intelligence, whether it be drugs, social mores or taking substances that the body should make on its own (like Vit D or melatonin). It means walking the fine line between vigilance and paranoia, between genuine faith and fanatical puritanism. It's hard, especially watching people we're fond of fall into the state of learned helplessness that the various systems in our society expect of us all. Living this way is to live outside the "norms", deliberately, and to choose, instead, a precarious sort of individuality.

That's how it is for this moment in humanity's history. I take comfort in the fact that everything cycles in nature, and it is likely that the downfall of medical science's antibiotics and its inability to create health will, eventually, awaken more of us to the one thing we can count on - Creation. It will mean a relearning of nearly everything it means to be human, of course, but maybe, thanks to our monstrous present, we'll move forward with lessons learned into a stronger relationship within nature.

Or maybe not. I won't be around to see what happens next in the grander scheme of things anyway, and in truth, all I care about in this moment is that my irises are about to bloom.


  1. Walking through my yard and listening to my trees, laughing with the fireflies at night as they dance before my eyes, nibbling on the feast the ground offers up to me or just being in the now. All of this has transformed me into one with Creation. I am holy in this sense, not a reject or misfit, but a part of the Glory. I am grateful.

  2. "The churches and the sciences, and of course the companies that sell "healthcare" (actually, they profit from sickness) all want to keep us reliant on them for guidance."

    Yes! But I'm not sure they mean to. I think they really think what they're doing is a great service. We need new songs. We need a new diet. We need an exercise plan. We need objectives in school. But darn it. We don't.

    I occasionally tutor kids in algebra/calculus or help people close to me with their health. We go hard together at it at first as I exhaust all that I can to help them along "their" way. But the whole point is that I'm teaching them to go it alone. I don't want them reliant on me. Not even my own four kids. (Please especially not them, haha!)

    1. I agree those who work 'in the field' don't mean to, for the most part, keep people reliant on them. But I'm cynical enough to believe that those who run the systems, do keep people reliant on those systems for profit and/or power.

  3. Maybe. I'm undecided. My husband agrees with you, but I'm still in denial.