(This photo requires some explanation – I am living at the edge of a river to the east. To the west I see this mesa. Here in New Mexico the Tewa speaking Pueblo peoples honor Avanyu, the Horned Serpent who is the manifestation of the Spirit of Life living in the flowing waters of the river (which is dangerously low from drought) and falling as rain or snow. His image is pecked into the canyon walls (or painted as a pictograph) and on the mesas that overlook the river. On this particular mesa there is a powerful petroglyph of Avanyu accompanied by other serpents. Although I have never been able to climb this steep mesa my friend Iren is a mountain climber and scales cliffs without effort and she has shown me exactly where this petroglyph is and has pictures of Avanyu which have burned themselves into my mind. Early in the pre -dawn hours I visit the river’s edge and acknowledge the power of Avanyu’s presence… Turning around I imagine I can also see Avanyu pecked into the rock high above me. Being in this Presence each morning, I experience a moment of Deep Time.)
Lately I have been using the phrase “Deep Time” in some of my writing. It occurred to me that I really didn’t know what I meant by the phrase beyond sensing/experiencing the spiritual aspect of it in those moments when I enter that space in between worlds where “Now is all that is”. I will not be covering the spiritual aspect of Deep Time in this essay. Engaging with this phrase is my first attempt to answer this question about Deep Time in other more concrete ways.
I am drawing on three interdisciplinary fields and my own ideas when I use this phrase. One discipline is Dr. Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of morphic fields and the use of morphic resonance to transmit information/energy. Morphic fields are biological, psychological, mental, emotional, social, spiritual fields that can be tapped into by all species and across generations by living beings in order to receive/transmit information and energy. This theory works outside space/time with resonance being a central to its existence. The closer the relationship the easier it is to resonate with another living being. This theory is considered controversial in mechanistic western science as it is practiced today, and has been dismissed as irrelevant because “it isn’t needed”.
The second discipline I am drawing on is Carl Jung’s use of archetypes and fields, also controversial and totally dismissed even by the American Psychological Association. Archetypes are patterns of energy that carry information that also work outside the acceptable space/time constraints. Archetypal fields are like morphic fields in that they convey energy and information between species and across generations by pulling persons or cultures into specific fields of influence, but this theory is restricted to psychological patterns of energy, although it is compatible with Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance. It doesn’t include the other areas listed above.
A third discipline is that of field theory itself. Like the others mentioned above field theory contains energy but information is not part of most hypotheses. There are so many different variations within this discipline that I encourage the reader to research this body of information independently.
As an example I use the unified field theory of particle physics, which attempts to describe all fundamental forces and the relationships between elementary particles in terms of a single theoretical framework that has also been dubbed ‘a theory of everything’ at least on a mathematical micro –level (subatomic). Even though this unified theory appears to have parallels on a macro level we refuse to accept it at the human level which is in the middle of the other two! I am convinced this attitude of dismissal is pure scientific hubris and the result of our destructive world politics. If we accepted that relationship is fundamental to all parts of Nature/Universe humans would be FORCED to make radical changes.
In my way of thinking Nature taps into Deep Time because all of Nature has a kind of memory that resonates through and across time, but is not dependent upon linear time as humans experience it as Rupert Sheldrake states.
To have an experience of Deep Time one has to have a relationship with another person, family, or another species. I think humans most commonly enter Deep Time with relatives and people they love either dead or alive when identifying with “family” and ancestors through these different layers of biological/psychological/mental/emotional “fields” through feeling.
We have been taught that our DNA carries all the information necessary for new life. However, DNA is a protein, and proteins do not code for the form, personality, or gifts and disabilities that a person may develop. If we allow for the possibility of memory in Nature then it becomes understandable that a person develops into who s/he is partly because of DNA heritage and partly because s/he can tap into her family’s field through her mind and/or body.
As an example, let me use my friend Iren who is an incredibly gifted artist that works in every medium I can think of. She is also the daughter of a man who was an artist, although I believe Iren’s talent surpasses that of her father’s. Certainly, Iren carries her father’s DNA, but an artistic gift doesn’t develop out of a protein. The current theory of epigenetics suggests that characteristics/ behavior etc. can also be inherited from parent to child, a theory that was dismissed with scorn until quite recently. The resurrection of this theoretical perspective blurs the dogmatic western scientific belief that DNA is solely responsible for how an individual develops and brings us much closer to the idea that there is also a memory inherent in all Nature that can be tapped into on a biological, psychological, mental, emotional and physical level. Individual species all draw on a collective memory and also contribute to it so it evolves, or is capable of evolving.
I think it’s necessary to re-iterate that tapping into Memory in Nature is dependent upon the strength of the emotional connection between people or other species. This can be either a positive or negative emotional occurrence. In my experience interconnection occurs through the mind or body, sometimes both. Like attracts like, and the same is true for polar opposites. A negative emotional connection has as much power to influence as a positive connection does. I give as an example the power of hatred to destroy, or the universal fear of the “evil eye” which is based on the idea that the strength of a person’s negative power can harm another.
I think that animals, plants, and trees routinely tap into their own multilayered biological, social, mental, behavioral and emotional fields for information and perhaps even more importantly for guidance and love. I give as an example the fact that some tree stumps in untouched forests remain alive for centuries after having been cut down. How can this be?
We now know that these “elders” are being fed water and nutrients by their relatives through extensive root systems assisted by fungi underground (who are more like insects than plants). Why would the younger trees bother to keep feeding a severed trunk without limbs unless there was a good reason to do so?
Author Peter Wolhlleben posits that these trees need the support of their elders – I would add that this emotional component goes completely unnoticed in non – human species unless one is a person who has developed intimate relationships with particular plants, trees, forests, deserts, and animals, both wild and tame. Most people ridicule people like myself who discovered love and found their “family” roots in Nature.
Deep Time is not species specific. On this blog I write again and again about my close relationships with plants and animals (tame and wild) on both a personal and collective level. My last blog entry on passionflowers is an experience of the former.
My dreams about Nature are deadly, repeating the themes of lack of water and dying trees, animals that are disappearing. In these dreams my grief is overwhelming and I am powerless to intervene. I believe I am literally dreaming for the Earth. This is the collective insanity of Climate Change, manifesting through one person’s dreaming body (And I am not alone). In addition, during my day life I live this reality as a naturalist and Earth Advocate. I have not been free of these dreams for thirty years and they are intensifying, I believe, because I am living through an age of Earth extinction.
Deep Time is multi-layered and multi-valenced. It has (personal) biological, behavioral, emotional, psychological, mental, social, as well as spiritual aspects. Because its not space/time dependent (it can occur almost instantly), past present and future can be experienced simultaneously in Deep Time, and the passage of time as humans experience it can also be reversed. An example of the former is the psychic experience of presentiment in which the individual has a bodily sensation that something is going to happen in the near or distant future and it does. I routinely have this kind of experience through mindless fear, feelings in my body, or through dreaming the future.
Deep Time also has a cultural aspect. A good example of this is what happened to many folks on 9/11. People had all kinds of frightening experiences. I for example, was in the middle of a painting and stopped to take a walk in the woods. When I returned I suddenly had the compulsion to paint the sky in my painting brilliant orange although I had previously planned that I would paint it blue. Three hours after I finished my sky, I discovered that I had painted it during the time of the explosion in NYC. My sense is that this collective aspect may also sometimes be dependent upon the strength of the individual’s emotions around what is happening. I am very opposed to war, and fear its deadly consequences; with this kind of emotional fear dominating I might be more sensitive. Painting the sky an explosive color mirrored what was happening in the collective.
There is also a teleological aspect to deep time. We are pulled into these stories or “fields” often against our will, for example, repeating deadly childhood experiences in adulthood. On a more positive note a cottonwood seed grows into its tree not just because it has its parents’ DNA but also because there is an invisible cottonwood field that is calling it into being through its cottonwood form.
I finish this exploration with some tentative conclusions. Whatever Deep Time is, Memory in Nature is fundamental to its existence. The strength of relationship is also fundamental to entering Deep Time. We also enter fields of influence when we enter this space. Deep Time is not species specific; In fact, animals, trees, fungi, plants probably live closer or reside permanently in Deep Time; it is more difficult for humans to enter this space. Deep Time is multilayered and multi-valenced and it is not space/time dependent. Information and energy are relayed almost instantly. Deep Time has both personal and impersonal dimensions and it is teleological by the nature of its existence. Deep Time is not static and allows for the possibility of evolving new patterns of human and non human behavior – for better or worse.
Deep Time is also about entering “a Great Mystery.”