Our present global crises is more profound than any previous historical crises;
hence our solutions must be equally drastic. I propose that we should adopt the plant
as the organizational model for life in the twenty-first century, just as the computer
seems to be the dominant mental/social model of the late twentieth century, and the steam
engine was the guiding image of the nineteenth century.
This means reaching back in time to models that were successful
fifteen thousand totwenty thousand years ago. When this is done it becomes possible to
see plants as food, shelter, clothing, and sources of education and religion.
The process begins by declaring legitimate what we have
denied for so long. Let us declare nature to be legitimate. All plants should
be declared legal, and all animals for that matter. The notion of illegal plants and animals
is obnoxious and ridiculous.
Reestablishing channels of direct communication
with the planetary Other, the mind behind nature, through the use of
hallucinogenic plants is the best hope for dissolving the steep walls of cultural inflexibility
that appear to be channeling us toward true ruin. We need a new set of lenses to see our
way into the world. When the medieval world shifted its worldview, secularized European
society sought salvation in the revivifying of classical Greek and Roman approaches to
law, philosophy, aesthetics, city planning, and agriculture. Our dilemma will cast us
further back into time in search for models and answers.
The solution to much of modern malaise, including chemical dependencies
and repressed psychoses and neuroses, os direct exposure to the authentic dimensions of
risk represented by the experience of psychedelic plants. The pro-psychedelic plant position
is clearly an anti-drug position. Drug dependencies are the result of habitual, unexamined,
and obsessive behaviour; these are precisely the tendencies in our psychological makeup
that the psychedelics mitigate. The plant hallucinogens dissolve habits and hold motivations
up to inspection by a wider, less egocentric, and more grounded point of view within the
individual. It is foolish to suggest that there is no risk, but it is equally uninformed
to suggest that the risk is not worth taking. What is needed is experiential validation
of a new guiding image, an overarching metaphor able to serve as the basis for a new model
of society and the individual.
The plant-human relationship has always been the foundation of our individual
and group existence in the world. What I call the Archaic Revival is
the process of reawakening awareness of traditional attitudes toward nature, including
plants and our relationship to them. The Archaic Revival spells the eventual breakup of
the pattern of male dominance and hierarchy based on animal organization, something that
can not be changed overnight by a sudden shift in collective awareness. Rather, it will
follow naturally upon the gradual recognition that the overarching theme that directs
the Archaic Revival is the idea/ideal of a vegetation Goddess, the Earth herself
as the much ballyhooed Gaia--a fact well documented by nineteenth-century anthropologists,
most notably Frazer, but recently given a new respectability by Riane
Eisler, Marija Gimbutas, James Mellaart, and
The closer a human group is to the gnosis of the vegetable mind--the Gaian
collectivity of organic life--the closer their connection to the archetype of the Goddess
and hence to the partnership style of social organization. The last time that the mainstream
of Western thought was refreshed by the gnosis of the vegetable mind was at the close
of the Hellenistic Era, before the Mystery religions were finally suppressed by
enthusiastic Christian barbarians.
My conclusion is that taking the next evolutionary step toward the Archaic
Revival, the rebirth of the Goddess, and the ending of profane history will require an
agenda that includes the notion of our reinvolvement with and the emergence of the vegetable
mind. That same mind that coaxed us into self-reflecting language now offers us the boundless
landscapes of the imagination. Without such a relationship to psychedelic exopheromones
regulating our symbiotic relationship with the plant kingdom, we stand outside of an understanding
of planetary purpose. And an understanding of planetary purpose may be the major contribution
we can make to the evolutionary process. Returning to the bosom of the planetary partnership
means trading the point of view of the history-created ego for a more maternal and intuitional
The widely felt intuition of the presence of the Other as a female companion to
the human navigation of history can, I believe, be traced back to the immersion in the
vegetable mind, which provided the ritual context in which human consciousness emerged
into the light of self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-articulation: the light of
the Great Goddess.
What does it mean to accept the solutions of vegetable forms of life as metaphors
for the conduct of the affairs of the human world? Two important changes would follow
from adopting this assumption:
- -The feminizing of culture. Culture would be feminized on a level that has
yet to be fully explored. Green Consciousness means recognizing that the real division
between the masculine and the feminine is not a division between men and women but
rather a division between ourselves as conscious animals--omnivorous, land-clearing,
war makers, supreme expression of the yang--and the circumglobal mantle of vegetation--the
ancient metastable yin element that constitutes by far the major portion of the biomass
of the living earth.
-An inward search for values. Inwardness is the characteristic
feature of the vegetable rather than the animal approach to existence. The animals
move, migrate, and swarm, while plants hold fast. Plants live in a dimension characterized
by the solid state, the fixed, and the enduring. If there is movement in the consciousness
of plants then it must be the movement of spirit and attention in the domain of the
vegetal imagination. Perhaps this is what the reconnection to the vegetal Goddess
through psychedelic plants, the Archaic Revival, actually points toward: that the
life of the spirit is the life that gains access to the visionary realms resident
in magical plant teachers. This is the truth that shamans have always
known and practiced. Awareness of the green side of mind was called Veriditas
by the twelfth-century visionary Hildegard von Bingen.
A new paradigm capable of offering hope of a path out of the cultural quicksand must
provide a real-world agenda addressed to the escalating problems that the planet faces.
There are several domains in which the rise of awareness of Veriditas might
help stave off armageddon:
Detoxification of the natural environment.
The process of detoxification is naturally carried out by the combined action of the atmosphere,
the biological matrix, and the oceans. This planetwide process was able to take care of
even urban industrial waste, until modern industrial technology became a truly global
phenomenon. Planting species of datura, the plants once a part of the religious rites
of the Indians of Southern California, and other plants that leach heavy metals from the
earth and sequester them in their cellular tissue are examples of a natural process that
could help clean up our environment. Recognizing the many ways in which the biological
matrix of the earth functions to avert toxification, recognizing that nature is working
to sustain life, might go a long way toward building a political consensus to actively
participate in saving that same life.
Connectedness and symbiosis. Like plants,
we need to maximize the quality of connectedness and symbiosis. Plant-based approaches
to modeling the world include awareness of the fractal and branching nature of community
action. A treelike network of symbiotic relationships can now replace the model of evolution
that we inherited form the nineteenth-century. The earlier model, that of the tooth-and-claw
struggle for existence, with the survivor taking the hindmost, is a model based on naive
observation of animal behaviour. Yet it was cheerfully extended into the realm of plants
to explain the evolutionary interactions thought to cause speciation in the botanical
world. Later, more sophisticated observers (C.H. Waddington and Erich
Jantsch) found not the War in Nature that Darwinists reported but rather a situation
in which it was not competitive ability but ability to maximize cooperation with other
species that most directly contributed to an organism's being able to function and
endure as a member of a biome. Plants interact with each other through the tangled mat
of roots that connects them all to the source of their nutrition and to each other.
The matted floor of a tropical rain forest is an environment
of great chemical diversity; the topology approaches that of brain tissue in its complexity.
Within the network of interconnected roots, complex chemical signals are constantly being
transmitted and received. Coadaptive evolution and symbiotic relationships regulate this
entire system with a ubiquitousness that argues for the evolutionary primacy of these
cooperative strategies. For example, mycirrhizal fungi live in symbiosis on the outside
of plant roots and gently balance and buffer the mineral-laden water that is moving through
them to the roots of their host.
Whole-system fine tuning. If the phenomena
associated with biological harmony and resonance could be understood, then such large-scale
systems as global banking or global food production could be more properly managed. The
gaian biologists, Lovelock, Margulies, and others, have argued persuasively
that the entire planet has been self-organized by microbial and planktonic life into a
metastable regime favorable to biology and maintained there for over two billion years.
Plant-based Gaia has kept a balance throughout time and space,--and in spite of the repeated
bombardment of the earth by asteroidal material sufficient to severely disrupt the planetary
equilibrium. We can only admire--and we should seek to imitate such a Tao-like sense of
the planet's multidimensional homeostatic balance. But how? I suggest we look at plants--look
more deeply, more closely, and with a more open mind than we have done before.
Recycling. Like plants, we need to recycle.
On a cosmic scale we are no more mobile than plants. Until this point in history we have
modeled our more successful economic systems on animal predation. Animals can potentially
move on to another resource when they exhaust the one at hand. Since they can move to
new food sources, they potentially have unlimited resources. Plants are fixed. They can
not easily move to richer nutrients or leave an area if they foul or deplete it. They
must recycle well. The fostering of a plant-based ethic that emulates the way in which
the botanical world uses and replaces resources is a sine qua non for planetary
survival. All capitalistic models models presuppose unlimited exploitable resources and
labor pools, yet neither should now be assumed. I do not know the methods, but I suggest
we start turning to the plant world to discover the right question to ask.
Photovoltaic power. Appreciation of photovoltaic
power is part of the shift toward an appreciation of the elegance of solid state that
plants possess. Plants practice photosynthetic solutions to the problems of power acquisition.
Compared to the water or animal-turned wheels, which are the Ur-methaphors for power production
in the human world, the solid-state quantum-molecular miracle that involves dropping a
photon of sunlight into a molecular device that will kick out an electron capable of energetically
participating in the life of a cell seems like extravagant science fiction. Yet this is,
in fact, the principle upon which photosynthesis operates. While the first solid-state
devices arrived on the human cultural frontier in the late 1940's, solid-state engineering
had been the preferred design approach of plants for some two thousand million years.
High efficiency photovoltaics could today meet the daily needs of most people for electricity.
It is the running of basic industries on solar energy that has proved difficult. Perhaps
this is nature's way of telling us that we aspire to too much manufacturing.
A global atmosphere-based economy. The approach
of vegetational life to energy production is called photosynthesis. This process could
be modeled by the creation of a global economy based on using solar energy to obtain hydrogen
from seawater. Solar electricity could supply most electricity needs, but the smelting
of aluminium and steel and other energy-intensive industrial processes make demands that
photovoltaic electricity is unlikely to be able to meet. However, there is a solution;
plants split atmospheric carbon dioxide to release energy and oxygen as by-products. A
similar but different process could use solar electricity to split water to obtain hydrogen.
This hydrogen could be collected and concentrated for later distribution. Plants have
been very successful at finding elegant solutions based on materials present at hand;
a hydrogen economy would emulate this same reliance on inexhaustible and recyclable materials.
The notion is a simple one really; it has
long been realized by planners that hydrogen is the ideal resource to fuel a global economy.
Hydrogen is clean: when burned it recombines with the water it was chemically derived
from. Hydrogen is plentiful: one-third of all water is hydrogen. And all existing technologies--internal
combustion engines, coal-, oil-, and nuclear-fired generators--could be retrofitted to
run on hydrogen. Thus we are not talking about having to scrap the current standing crop
of existing power production and distribution systems. Hydrogen could be "cracked" from
seawater at a remote island location and then moved by the already existing technology
that is used for the ocean transport of liquid natural gas from its production points
to market. The objection that hydrogen is highly explosive and that proven technologies
for handling it do not exist has largely been met by the LNG industry and its excellent
safety record. Hydrogen accidents could be extremely destructive, but they would be ordinary
explosions--local, nontoxic, and without release of radioactivity. Like plant life itself,
the hydrogen economy would be nonpolluting and self-substaining; burned hydrogen recombines
with oxygen to again become water.
An internal effort of extraordinary scope
would be neccessary to begin to move toward a proof of concept demonstration of the feasibility
of a hydrogen economy. Granted, there are many possible problems with such a scheme. But
no plan for the production on energy sufficient to meet the demands of twenty-first century
is going to be without difficulties.
Nanotechnology. The era of molecular mechanism promises the
most radical of green visions, since it proposes that human-engineered quasibiological
cells and organelles take over the manufacturing of products and culture. nanotechnology
takes very seriously the notion that manufacturing techniques and methods of manipulating
matter on the microphysical scale can affect the design process of the human-scale world.
In the nanotech world, dwellings and machines can be "grown", and everything that is manufactured
is closer to flesh than stone. The distinction between living and nonliving and organic
and artificial is blurred in the electronic coral reef of human-machine symbiosis contemplated
by the savants of nanotechnology.
Preservation of biological diversity. The
life on this planet and the chemical diversity that it represents is likely to be the
only source of biologically evolved compounds until the day that we discover another planet
as teeming with life as our own. Yet we are destroying the living diversity of our world
at an appalling rate. This must be stopped, not only through the preservation of ecosystems
but also through the preservation of information about those ecosystems that has been
accumulated over thousands of years by the people who live adjacent to them. It is impossible
to underestimate the importance for human health of preservation of folk knowledge concerning
healing plants. All the major healing drugs that have changed history have come from living
plants and fungi. Quinine made conquest of the tropics possible, penicillin and birth
control pills remade the social fabric of the twentieth century. All three of these are
plant-derived pharmaceuticals. My partner Kat and I work in this area by managing Botanical
Dimensions, a botanical garden in Hawaii that seeks to preserve the plants utilized
in Amazonian shamanism, one of the many such systems of knowledge that are fast disappearing.
The measures outlined above would tend to promote what might be called a
sense of Gaian Holism, that is, a sense of the unity and balance of nature and of our
own human position within the dynamic and evolving balance. It is a plant-based view.
This return to a perspective on self and ego that places them within the larger context
of planetary life and evolution is the essence of the Archaic Revival. Marshall
McLuhan was correct to see that planetary human culture, the global village,
would be tribal in character. The next great step toward a planetary holism is the partial
merging of the technologically transformed human world with the archaic matrix of vegetable
intelligence that is the Overmind of the planet.
I hesitate to call this dawning awareness religious,
yet that is what it surely is. And it will involve a full exploration of the dimensions
revealed by plant hallucinogens, especially those structurally related to neurotransmitters
already present and functioning in the human brain. Careful exploration of the
plant hallucinogens will probe the most archaic and sensitive level of the drama of the
emergence of consciousness; it was in the plant-human symbiotic relationships that characterized
archaic society and religion that the numinous mystery was originally experienced. And
this experience is no less mysterious for us today, in spite of the general assumption
that we have replaced the simple awe of our ancestors with philosophical and epistemic
tools of the utmost sophistication and analytical power.
Our choice as a planetary culture is a simple one:
Go Green or die. [XXX]
From The Archaic Revival by Terence