You are on page 1of 5

On the legitimacy of talking to trees.

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 as various and impassioned as asking,
soliciting, begging, imploring, acquiring, pleading for, stealing, appealing for, etc. are in
humans. From their chemo-physical quests, sallies and gestes is composed the
spirituality of tree roots, which together with those of the trunk and crown, which are just
as highly organized and structured, form the spirituality of the tree. The Physical is the

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 of their myriad tugs and tweaks, rays and dynamics,
passions and strategies, dilemmas, desires and demands 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 s 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, 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 deal with 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 odic: i.e., it mediates mentality, and can be easily structured. Their
interrelationships are what we call logic. The application of logic to data is reasoning.

Our human sensoria select from the data information relevant to us and surely
mountains, fish, herbs and trees do too. They 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 odic palette. 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
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 /|\