Following in his Father’s Footsteps

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(photo taken directly from Rupert Sheldrake’s website)

 

A Tribute to a Father and his Son.

 

Part 1: The Father

 

I first discovered Rupert Sheldrake’s work by reading his first two books: “A New Science of Life” written in 1981 followed by “The Presence of the Past.” These two books changed my life because they validated my experiential reality and demonstrated that my personal experiences were located in a much larger context. I was not imagining things I felt or dreamed!

 

(At the time I first read these books I was in personal crisis. I was struggling to accept that I was living the shadow side of Rupert’s hypothesis of morphic resonance as a rejected member of my own family. This rejection had so little to do with who I was that it left me paralyzed and numb, least until I began to sense that my situation was rooted deep in a very dark past I knew nothing about.)

 

Nature does have a kind of memory that we can tap into in unexplained ways… the past intersects with the future through resonance which can occur instantly either through our mind/and or body. What this means practically is that we can communicate with those who have gone before or with other species as long as we have a relationship with them. Rupert says like attracts like. I would also add that it is my experience that the opposite can occur. Extremes in relationship carry a charge. It’s the strength of relationship positive or negative, an open mind, and sensitivity to the unknown, that seem to determine whether we will be able understand that we are having these experiences. Only then can we begin to separate past from present.

 

In his visionary hypothesis Rupert Sheldrake describes the process called morphic resonance, in which the forms and behaviors of the past shape living organisms in the present. How this happens is not understood but Rupert suggests that telepathic communication is probably the means by which this communication occurs almost instantly. (Quantum non – locality is another possibility.) There is nothing paranormal about telepathy. Rupert believes as I do that animals developed telepathy to keep in touch with each other. Telepathy developed as a survival technique and anyone that has a close relationship with an animal is privy to this kind of communication although it is still dismissed by materialistic science as wishful thinking or – fill in the blank – for some other equally stupid reason (what would happen if we actually acknowledged that this kind of communication routinely occurs? – we’d have to make a radical change in the way we treat animals for one thing). So many scientists have completely closed minds – a kind of tunnel vision. The “either or principle” – it’s either “hard science” or its just a “story/myth” that can’t be quantified – is still the norm. “Prove it” is one aggressive stance that is taken by some, an attitude I find revolting.

 

The late Sir John Maddocks was Rupert’s long standing critic and the author of an infamous editorial in the prestigious scientific journal Nature in 1981 over A New Science of Life, in which he wrote “This infuriating tract… is the best candidate for burning there has been for many years.” Maddock’s denunciation was followed by a series of hostile reviews in Nature and in British newspapers.

 

In an interview broadcast on BBC television in 1994, Maddocks said: “Sheldrake is putting forward magic instead of science, and that can be condemned in exactly the language that the Pope used to condemn Galileo, and for the same reason. It is heresy.”

 

Naturally, cowardly conventional scientists from countless disciplines jumped on the bandwagon because this was followed by another series of hostile criticism by the entire scientific community.

 

This brilliant visionary scientist became known as a radical fringe pseudo scientist who didn’t adhere to “the man against nature paradigm” arguing instead that all Nature was alive and interconnected and that the past intersected with the present.

 

To make matters worse, Sheldrake also refused to split science from spirituality a fact that also enraged atheistic materialists, biologists, and scientists alike. This trend remains current today as scientists from all disciplines split spirituality from science, often demonizing the former. Sheldrake has the immense courage to maintain that a “both and” perspective can be applied to both science and spirituality, and in his latest book “Science and Spiritual Practices” argues for what he knows to be true, namely that we cannot split science from spirituality because the earth is alive and sentient and science and spirituality are two lens that reveal they are parts of the same whole.

 

Amazingly this man of great kindness, deep humility, and integrity (I know him and his family personally) persevered against all the odds continuing his research, submerging himself in rigorous experimentation and went on to author many more books. He was ridiculed and condemned, and even shot in Texas for giving a talk on animal telepathy.

 

I remember one of my graduate professors dismissing Rupert’s ideas with disgusting hubris claiming that “science didn’t need his hypothesis – DNA can tell us everything we needed to know about heredity.” I heard that same argument robotically repeated by mainstream materialistic/mechanistic/ atheistic scientists for years and years – and most astonishingly by people who actually refused read Rupert’s work.

 

Oh, how pleased I was to read about epigenetics which validates that DNA is NOT the only way human behavior is passed on. Rupert stated years ago that DNA only codes for protein, not for form as part of his hypothesis. We can and do inherit the characteristics and behavior of the family systems’ we came out of. The study of epigenetics moves us on step closer to Rupert’s theory of morphic resonance, once dismissed with such ridicule.

 

When I read The Rebirth of Nature in the late eighties I knew that the naturalist in me had found “home” in western science even though by then Rupert had been banned from the scientific community by his so called radical ideas. Sheldrake argues and demonstrates our intimate relationship with the universe through open minded science — he believes that we are a part of a breathing, living, thinking cosmos and that intelligence is a pervasive reality inseparably one with nature. In The Rebirth of Nature Sheldrake urges us to move beyond the centuries-old mechanistic view of nature, explaining in lucid terms why we can no longer regard the world as inanimate and purposeless. Through an astute critique of the dominant scientific paradigm, Sheldrake shows recent developments in science itself have brought us to the threshold of a new synthesis in which traditional wisdom, intuitive experience, and scientific insight can be mutually enriching.

 

I have been following Rupert’s career and submitting my own experiences with animals (and some with humans) to his data bank for the past twenty plus years. In the process I have come to deeply respect this man not only because of his visionary ideas but because he has somehow persevered in the face of such hostility becoming a model for me to emulate. When I first met him on Cortez Island, B.C. I walked into a room where people were conversing at a table in a far corner with their heads turned away. Instantly, I knew, though it was impossible to identify the people by sight, that the back of the head I felt compelled to stare at belonged to Rupert. That  very second Rupert turned around to look at me and our eyes met. I will never forget the moment. I am so grateful that at this conference I had an opportunity to get to know Rupert’s wife and family, and to thank him for validating my ideas, helping me to believe in myself and for changing the way I perceived the world opening my mind to a whole myriad of new possibilities. I have been blessed by having such an extraordinary mentor.

What follows is a biographical portrait of some of Rupert’s accomplishments:

Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author of more than 80 scientific papers and ten books. He was among the top 100 Global Thought Leaders for 2013, as ranked by the Duttweiler Institute, Zurich, Switzerland’s leading think tank. He studied natural sciences at Cambridge University, where he was a Scholar of Clare College, took a double first class honors degree and was awarded the University Botany Prize (1963). He then studied philosophy and history of science at Harvard University, where he was a Frank Knox Fellow (1963-64), before returning to Cambridge, where he took a Ph.D. in biochemistry (1967). He was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge (1967-73), where he was Director of Studies in biochemistry and cell biology. As the Rosenheim Research Fellow of the Royal Society (1970-73), he carried out research on the development of plants and the ageing of cells in the Department of Biochemistry at Cambridge University. While at Cambridge, together with Philip Rubery, he discovered the mechanism of polar auxin transport, the process by which the plant hormone auxin is carried from the shoots towards the roots.

From 1968 to 1969, as a Royal Society Leverhulme Scholar, based in the Botany Department of the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, he studied rain forest plants. From 1974 to 1985 he was Principal Plant Physiologist and Consultant Physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, where he helped develop new cropping systems now widely used by farmers. While in India, he also lived for a year and a half at the ashram of Fr Bede Griffiths in Tamil Nadu, where he wrote his first book, A New Science of Life, published in 1981 (new edition 2009).

Since 1981, he has continued research on developmental and cell biology. He has also investigated unexplained aspects of animal behavior, including how pigeons find their way home, the telepathic abilities of dogs, cats and other animals, and the apparent abilities of animals to anticipate earthquakes and tsunamis. He subsequently studied similar phenomena in people, including the sense of being stared at, telepathy between mothers and babies, telepathy in connection with telephone calls, and premonitions. Although some of these areas overlap the field of parapsychology, he approaches them as a biologist, and bases his research on natural history and experiments under natural conditions, as opposed to laboratory studies.

The Science Delusion in the UK and Science Set Free in the US, examines the ten dogmas of modern science, and shows how they can be turned into questions that open up new vistas of scientific possibility. This book received the Book of the Year Award from the British Scientific and Medical Network. His most recent book Science and Spiritual Practices is about rediscovering new ways of connecting with the more-than-human world through direct experience.

In 2000, he was the Steinbach Scholar in Residence at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. From 2005-2010 he was the Director of the Perrott-Warrick Project, funded from Trinity College, Cambridge University. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California, a Visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute in Connecticut, a Fellow of Schumacher College in Devon, England, and a Fellow of the Temenos Academy, London.

He received the 2014 Bridgebuilder Award at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, a prize established by the Doshi family “to honor an individual or organization dedicated to fostering understanding between cultures, peoples and disciplines.” In 2015, in Venice, Italy, he was awarded the first Lucia Torri Cianci prize for innovative thinking.

 

Part 2

The Son

I met Merlin and his brother Cosmo, (a brilliant musician) at Cortez Island when Merlin was an undergraduate. What I remember best was his penetrating dark eyes and his ease around strangers. Polite and friendly, the two brothers were off to an island party to play music (the whole family is musically gifted) so we spoke only briefly and yet I was struck by that same warmth and genuine kindness that made their father Rupert so easy to be around.

 

Merlin Sheldrake graduated from Cambridge in biological sciences history and philosophy of science. He completed his PhD on the ecology of fungal networks at Cambridge and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama where he conducted extensive fieldwork as a Smithsonian Research Fellow. Merlin received a triple first in Biological Sciences and starred First in History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University where he was a prize winning scholar. He is 28 years old.

Dr. Merlin Sheldrake’s experience in the area of ecology, mycology, botany, history and philosophy of science give him a broad perspective from which to write his forthcoming book on mycelium: Entangled Life: Fungal Networks and Intimacies which I cannot wait to read.

 

Merlin Sheldrake is an expert in mycorrhizal fungi, and as such he is part of a research revolution that is changing the way we think about forests. For centuries, fungi were widely held to be harmful to plants, parasites that cause disease and dysfunction. More recently, it has become understood that certain kinds of common fungi exist in subtle symbiosis with plants, bringing about not infection but connection. These fungi send out gossamer-fine fungal tubes called hyphae, which infiltrate the soil and weave into the tips of plant roots at a cellular level. Roots and fungi combine to form what is called a mycorrhiza: itself a growing-together of the Greek words for fungus (mykós) and root (riza). In this way, individual plants are joined to one another by an underground hyphal network: a dazzlingly complex and collaborative structure that has become known as the Wood Wide Web. The  scientific journal Nature first coined the term.

The relationship between these mycorrhizal fungi and the plants they connect is now known to be ancient (around four hundred and fifty million years old) and largely one of mutualism—a subset of symbiosis in which both organisms benefit from their association. In the case of the mycorrhizae, the fungi siphon off food from the trees, taking some of the carbon-rich sugar that they produce during photosynthesis. The plants, in turn, obtain nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen that the fungi have acquired from the soil, by means of enzymes that the trees do not possess.

The implications of the Wood Wide Web far exceed this basic exchange of goods between plant and fungi, however. The fungal network also allows plants to distribute resources—sugar, nitrogen, and phosphorus—between one another. A dying tree might divest itself of its resources to the benefit of the community, for example, or a young seedling in a heavily shaded under-story might be supported with extra resources by its stronger neighbors. Even more remarkably, the network also allows plants to send one another warnings. A plant under attack from aphids can indicate to a nearby plant that it should raise its defensive response before the aphids reach it. It has been known for some time that plants communicate above ground in comparable ways, by means of airborne hormones and scent. But such warnings are more precise in terms of source and recipient when sent by means of the myco-net.

The revelation of the Wood Wide Web’s existence, and the increased understanding of its functions, raises big questions—about where species begin and end; about whether a forest might be better imagined as a single super -organism, rather than a grouping of independent individualistic ones; and about what trading, sharing, or even friendship might mean among plants. “Whenever I need to explain my research to someone quickly, I just tell them I work on the social networks of plants,” Sheldrake says.

As an undergraduate studying natural sciences at Cambridge, Sheldrake read the 1988 paper “Mycorrhizal Links Between Plants: Their Functioning and Ecological Significance,” by the plant scientist E. I. Newman, in which Newman argued boldly for the existence of a “mycelial network” linking plants. “If this phenomenon is widespread,” Newman wrote, “it could have profound implications for the functioning of ecosystems.”

Those implications fascinated Sheldrake. He had long loved fungi, which seemed to him possessed of superpowers. He knew that they could turn rocks to rubble, move with eerie swiftness both above ground and under it, reproduce horizontally, and digest food outside their bodies via excreted enzymes. He was aware that their toxins could kill people, and that their psychoactive chemicals could induce hallucinogenic states. After reading Newman’s paper, he understood that fungi could also allow plants to communicate with one another.

“All of these trees have mycorrhizal fungi growing into their roots,” Sheldrake said. “You could imagine the fungi themselves as forming a massive underground tree, or as a cobweb of fine filaments, acting as a sort of prosthesis to the trees, a further root system, extending outwards into the soil, acquiring nutrients and floating them back to the plants, as the plants fix carbon in their leaves and send sugar to their roots, and out into the fungi. And this is all happening right under our feet.”

Hyphae will be growing around in the decomposing matter of half-rotting leaves, rotting twigs and logs and then the mycorrhizal fungi grow into hotspots, Sheldrake explains. In addition to penetrating the tree roots, the hyphae also interpenetrate each other—mycorrhizal fungi on the whole don’t have divisions between their cells. “This interpenetration permits the wildly promiscuous horizontal transfer of genetic material,” Sheldrake finishes.

A central debate over the Wood Wide Web concerns the language used to describe the transactions it enables, which suggest two competing visions of the network: the socialist forest, in which trees act as caregivers to one another, with the well-off supporting the needy, and the capitalist forest, in which all entities are acting out of self-interest within a competitive system. Sheldrake is especially exasperated by what he called the “super-neoliberal capitalist” discourse of the biological free market.

Working with local field assistants while obtaining his PhD Sheldrake carried out a painstaking census of the soil in a series of plots, sequencing the DNA of hundreds of root samples taken both from green plants and mycohets, a kind of plant that has no chlorophyll.

Sheldrake became interested in mycoheterotrophs, or “mycohets” for short. Because mycohets are plants that lack chlorophyll, they are unable to photosynthesize, making them entirely reliant on the fungal network for their provision of carbon. “These little green-less plants plug into the network, and somehow derive everything from it without paying anything back, at least in the usual coin,” Sheldrake exclaims. “They don’t play by the normal rules of symbiosis, but we can’t prove they’re parasites.” Sheldrake focused on a genus of mycohets called Voyria, part of the gentian family. One of the reasons Sheldrake loves these plants is that they are harder to understand, and more mysterious. He calls them the hackers of the Wood Wide Web.

His research allowed him to determine which species of fungi were connecting which plants, and thereby to make an unprecedentedly detailed map of the Panama jungle’s social network.

For each formal scientific paper he published about mycorrhizae, he plans to publish the paper’s “dark twin,” in which he plans to describe the “messy network of crazy things that underlies every piece of cool, clean science, but that you aren’t usually allowed to see—the fortunate accidents of field work, the tangential serendipitous observation that sets off a thought train, the boredom, the chance encounters.” No doubt the Voyria will find a way to become one of the dark twins.

When you look at the network of fungi Sheldrake states it starts to look back at you! This remark sounds so much like something his father would say that I have to laugh. Everything is predicated on relationship. Both Father and Son are brilliant cutting edge scientists who I hope together, will continue to shift the present destructive “man over nature” paradigm into one that has interconnection, caring, and cooperation at its core.

Exploring the mysteries of the Earth and Cosmos as both father and son continue to do is rigorous open-minded scientific inquiry that could lead to a new way humans perceive themselves in relationship to our planet and cosmos, penetrating more deeply into the wonders inherent in “Great Mystery” through direct experience and rigorous scientific experimentation. Ironically, keen observation, understanding that non – human life forms and the entire Earth and Cosmos are our spiritual and scientific teachers is a practice Indigenous people have been engaged in for millennia.

In this sense the work of both Rupert and Merlin have the capacity to return us to our lost beginnings and open up almost unimaginable possibilities for a new future if only we will join them on this journey.

 

 

Postscript:

Normally I spend little time highlighting credentials because I have always believed that it was the person that mattered, not the degrees he or she amassed.

But in this case I feel differently because my own life journey has been tied to that of Rupert Sheldrake’s over a period of almost 40 years. After discovering that this remarkable open-minded scientist/naturalist was asking the same questions I was afraid to voice I was horrified to learn how viciously his ideas were attacked and continued to be dismissed by the scientific establishment. (In my personal life and through my own writing I have encountered the same resistance and skepticism.) This condemnation continues among skeptics today who refute Rupert’s visionary work as fraudulent because he dared to stand up for open – minded scientific inquiry and refused to be bludgeoned by a crumbling dogmatic atheistic scientific establishment. We would not be in global environmental crisis today if we had listened to what Rupert Sheldrake had to say 40 years ago. Once, I was in awe of science as a discipline, not so today. Materialistic atheistic science is the myth of our time, not Eternal Truth.

When I first read an article praising Merlin’s groundbreaking work article in The New Yorker I experienced pure jubilance. Perhaps Rupert’s work will remain controversial but his son is in the thick of it getting attention from every direction! I feel a personal sense of vindication for them (and for me) because without having Rupert as his father Merlin might not have had the courage to explore the mysteries of Nature with the confidence that has led this 28 year old man into uncharted  territory with such enthusiasm. I look forward with great anticipation to further publications from a father and son team who are changing the way some humans see and understand the world. With scientists like this working so diligently to change human perceptions of how the Earth and Cosmos works and how relationship and interconnection are fundamental aspects of both I can even feel a spark of hope.

Deep Time

 

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(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.”

Precognition, Telepathy, Presentiment, and the End of the Year

 

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(painting by Susan Boulet)

 

Yesterday, I sat on the top of a granite glacial boulder on a carpet of green moss that overlooks a tired ribbon of sluggish water recalling years when this brook was a force of nature tumbling to the sea after abundant October rains. Summer temperatures kept biting insects active, and swarms of small gnats swarmed around my face like a plague. We will soon be moving into November and still the rains do not come.

 

I look around me at the withered leaves of many deciduous trees noticing papery skeletons devoured by insects falling into the stagnant pool below me, striking because the water is unmarked by a discernable current. The brook has dropped three feet below “normal.” The fish are gone.

 

Thirty years ago when I first lived on this land that was once lush with new growth and clear untroubled waters I dreamed repeatedly of a time when the brook would no longer flow, and the pools would stagnate. Many beloved trees would also be destroyed dreams warned me. I was so happy here in this woodland sanctuary, so full of gratitude and love for the cathedral of evergreens that climbed the mountain that I was totally baffled by these forbidding words and graphic images.

 

Another set of dreams ran parallel with the dreams of severe drought and tree destruction and these also haunted me. “Mean neighbors” would soon surround me and cause endless amounts of trouble. Since I had no neighbors and lush forested areas held me in their embrace this series of dreams made no sense to me what so ever.

 

Today, they do.

 

I couldn’t comprehend it then that the earth was trying to warn me about a future I would one day begin to live. The way She chose to communicate with me was through my dreaming body.

 

Sure enough, seven years later the first neighbor bought land behind me and logged most of his property, left piles of slash in his wake, and opened gaping holes to the sky letting road noise in. The one time I visited this man’s house I was horrified to see snarling bear heads complete with bear skins (some from very small bears) hanging from most of the walls. The second neighbor who bought land in front of me built a house and cut trees down on my property to build a bridge over my brook, as well as stripping his own land of trees. When I asked him to remove the bridge his response was that “he had done it for me.” A third neighbor built a house in front of me refusing to leash her free roaming dogs who bullied my animals for years beginning with the day she first arrived. When I attempted to address the bullying she told me her dog “just wanted to play.” (Last year after twelve years of this behavior I finally submitted a formal complaint to the state in order to get the bullying stopped. The town refused to help me). Finally a second hunter bought 100 acres next to the bear killer, and he cut huge swathes of trees including boundary trees on my land totally destroying what once was a wilderness area that I loved as much as my own property. The two miserable hunting/tree destroying neighbors who live behind me (and now others) treat me to random blasts of machine gun fire as part of daily reality. Fireworks split the nights in two.

 

How was it possible that I had forgotten about those dreams in less than the four years it took for me to be surrounded by these hostile neighbors?

 

That the dreams suggested precognition or prescience doesn’t change the fact that precognition isn’t supposed to happen because it apparently violates the principle of causality. What is so hard to understand about precognition is that time as westerners experience it is not experienced in a linear sequence. Instead, precognition indicates that the future (personal and collective) is somehow present now and can be accessed through visioning, paying close attention to natural occurrences, or through dreaming. Dreams, I might add, are the language of the body.

 

Even rogue scientists like Rupert Sheldrake are somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of precognition, although telepathy, presentiment etc. are subjects he discusses with ease. For example, Rupert Sheldrake believes that telepathy is a survival mechanism that allows animals to communicate with one another even when they are separated by great distances, and that humans have this ability too, but it is not as well developed. From my experiences with animals wild and tame I would have to agree that animals have the edge here.

 

One other point that Sheldrake makes is that precognition may be less about seeing into an objective future and more about dreaming a personal future that will be experienced by the dreamer. If I look at my hostile neighbor experiences in this light, I can easily see that if other people lived in this house, perhaps hunters and lovers of guns, noise, and wild dogs, they wouldn’t experience the grief and rage that I have endured as a naturalist who loves stillness, trees and bears. But this doesn’t change the fact that I dreamed my own future.

 

Indigenous and country folk of all cultures took dreams seriously. I think they were able to maintain more open minds as a result, and probably routinely had experiences similar to mine because they lived in harmony with nature. It is my experience that when a person is aligned with the earth (and nature) communication between the two occurs in improbable ways. The earth body and the human body are part of one whole and experiencing this form of communication is an opportunity to see how well connected we really are.

 

We know through folklore that there have always been men and women who communicated with the Great Beyond.

 

Women in particular were associated with prophecy and these women came to be called witches during the very Christian middle ages. Witch, by the way is a modern word meaning to bend or shape; these same women were healers, and women who were also greatly feared because they could apparently discern what the future would bring.

 

When ancient shamanistic practices began to emerge this power was subtly transferred from women to men. Some men made journeys to the spirit world, leaving their bodies behind. Some were (and may still be) great healers, but prophecy wasn’t as important a quality to these practitioners, although some did engage with the future especially with regard to hunting practices through visioning, the use of hallucinogenic substances, and dreaming.

 

Indigenous women continue to practice midwifery/hospice, healing with herbs, and prophesizing, some “reading” tea leaves, cards, sticks, melting metal, etc. to help them see into the future; others receive this knowledge through dreaming.

 

One difference that stands out to me concerning Indigenous men and women healers is that men often leave their bodies in trance to gain knowledge, while most women remain in their bodies retaining a close connection to the earth in order to heal with herbs, or read the future.

 

In the Amazon I witnessed (over a period of three years 2005 – 2008) authentic women shamans practicing in their own villages, while male shamans traveled from one village to another with ease and were generally accepted as being more powerful. Is this an example of the hierarchical structure of knowledge over intuition? At the risk of sounding the bell of sexism I also wonder if men and women who live in communion with the earth are gifted with information that comes to them (in altered states) in different ways that somewhat depend on gender?

 

Today, shamanism is primarily a New Age commercial construction and almost all modern day shamans are men. It is very important to recognize that shamanism may also represent the first transference of spiritual power from a matrifocal culture to a patriarchal one.

 

But to return to the thorny subject of precognition, the fact remains that in scientific academic circles precognition is relegated to the absurd. I think this is why having dreams or visions that indicate precognition causes many individuals to reject their own experiences seeking other explanations.

 

I know I certainly did.

 

However, as a woman who has kept track of her dreams and visionary experiences (altered states of consciousness experienced without drugs that occur spontaneously when I am in a very open, receptive state) for more than 40 years, I was forced to come to the conclusion that precognition in some form does indeed exist.

 

After researching so called paranormal abilities in depth I recognized that for me telepathy works through my body when I am awake often affecting my nervous system. I sometimes experience an uncomfortable buzz when telepathy is occurring with people. Presentiment is a sense or a powerful (often totally illogical) feeling that something is about to happen, that I experience during daylight hours. Both can manifest for me through an animal sighting (or cluster of sightings), weather, or other natural occurrences and are reinforced by my dreams.

 

Years ago I began to put either a “T” for telepathic or a “P” for precognition at the tops of dreams and animal sightings that seemed to carry a peculiar charge of energy and/or message/ information. I also noted feelings of presentiment.

 

When I review my journals once a year I continue to be struck by the accuracy of these T’s and P’s. Many of my experiences are telepathic. And because I already had a dove who had been reading my mind and vocally responding to my thoughts on a daily basis for many years and had repeatedly entered these vignettes in my journal I had developed an open mind years ago. Lily b, taught me that telepathy was real, so I am not surprised that experiences of it are so commonplace in my life. I have lived the same kind of instantaneous “knowing” with my dogs, my children/other members of my biological family/friends/foes/ and in Nature with wild animals, especially during my study with wild bears who apparently communicated with each other and with me through what I still call the “bear grapevine” though we were/are separated in space/time.

 

I’d like to give the reader a personal example of what I believe might be objective precognition. In 1997 I dreamed that my mother developed cancer in her left breast, and that she was operated on and survived without a reoccurrence. Just before receiving this information I was in a yoga class and heard my mother’s voice singing a song she loved in French in a plaintive frightened voice. Simultaneously my body cringed with some kind of irrational death fear that I was unable to shake. A year later my mother did indeed develop breast cancer and was successfully operated on. The cancer did not return.

 

How else do I explain this experience if I refuse to acknowledge precognition? Telepathy may have been part of this soliquay (the song coming through the air) but the cancer itself hadn’t been diagnosed yet. Of course there was always the possibility that the seeds of the cancer were there in my mother’s body and I picked that up telepathically.

 

On another occasion I dreamed that my youngest son was going to have a terrible accident. He was in college at the time and working construction over the summer to pay tuition and you can imagine his reaction when I told him not to go to work the morning after I had this dream. He ignored my warning and almost cut his hand off. Again, it could be argued that telling him he was going to have an accident may have made him more likely to have one.

 

The night my son was in what could have been a fatal car accident, I woke up hearing him cry out to me at 3 AM in the morning. The next day I learned that the accident occurred at 3 AM.

 

I have literally, hundreds of personal stories, some more fantastic than others but together these accounts have taught me that at the very least I must always keep an open mind.

 

Although unable to stay in my body under stress – I have an anxiety disorder – unconsciously, through my dreaming body and consciously through a powerful sense or feeling I seem to have a direct link to other ways of knowing. Believe me, some days I am really haunted especially since there is no consensual reality to access for confirmation unless I consult cards or throw myself on the mercy of Nature.

 

I have written this essay to raise questions about how we perceive reality, and hopefully, to open people’s minds to new possibilities. As the reader can surely understand my experiences raise some questions that I cannot answer.

 

It is my intention to put my queries out there to allow the forces of nature to provide new insights if they are so inclined. All Hallows is almost upon us, signifying the end of the year for many Indigenous and pre- Christian cultures, a perfect time I think, to query what we mean by “reality,” because the veil is thin as we move into this dark time of the year. I think of this passage as a holy time, a time to honor the dead and to give thanks for life, as we set new intentions for the coming year.