Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Garden of Eden, Plants, and Autism

If you consider our teachings in their entirety, my friends, you will realize that the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge must have something to do with the essence of the human being. Being forbidden to eat from the Treeof Knowledge means, as you will eventually discover, that the human soul is not to strive for the kind of knowledge bound to the physical body. This has led to the kind of sense-bound perception we know today. “Eating from the Tree of Knowledge” means becoming bound up with the physical body to the extent that the kind of knowledge brought about by Lucifer now prevails, as I described in a recent lecture. Thus, the Elohim were referring to something inherent in human beings when they spoke of the Tree of Knowledge. And they must also have meant something intrinsic to the human being when they spoke of the Tree of Life. 
We may wonder why we see as we do today, how it came about that we perceive as we do. It came about because our soul and spirit, permeated with the being of Lucifer, have become embedded in our physical body and are consuming it, although this is not what was originally intended. This physical body is the Tree of Knowledge, and the ether body is the Tree of Life. After having let themselves be seduced by Lucifer into using their physical body for purposes of perception as we know it now, human beings were prevented from also acquiring knowledge through the ether body. That has been denied us. If you are really thinking, my friends, you will arrive at trains of thought like this one. 
The next question to be asked, then, is why the physical body is called the Tree of Knowledge in the language of the gods. 
Why do they call it a tree, and why do they also call the ether body the Tree of Life? Why are they talking about trees? It is easy to understand what is meant by this if you recall that the gods in question evolved during the Sun period for the most part and thus assumed some essentially Sun-like qualities. For a moment, just reflect on the fact that during the ancient Saturn period, everything was at the mineral level, while during the ancient Sun period, everything was at the evolutionary stage of plants. Since the gods we call the Elohim developed their characteristic way of speaking during the Sun period, it is natural for them not to speak of things that could only be experienced later, during the Moon and Earth stages of evolution, but about what evolved in the universe during the Sun stage, namely plant life. When using their own language, which is the language of the Sun, it is only natural for them to speak of trees.  - Rudolf Steiner, Community Life, Lecture III

If we were not asleep as regards our powers of desire, for instance and the feeling-impulses connected with them, we would develop an extraordinary activity. We would follow the actions we perform right into the body; with everything we fulfilled as will-impulse, we would follow what was inward — our blood, into all the blood-vessels. This means, if you could follow the lifting of a piece of chalk with reference to the will-impulse, you would follow what takes place in your hand, right into all the blood-vessels. You would see from within the activity of the blood,and the feelings attached to it, for example, you would see inwardly the gravity of the particles of chalk, and things of that nature, and would thereby become aware you were following your nerve-paths, and the etheric fluidity found therein. You would inwardly experience yourself, along with the activity of blood and nerves. This would be an inner enjoyment to your own blood-and nerve activity. But during our earth-life we must be withheld from this inner enjoyment of our own blood and nerve-activity, otherwise we would go through life in such a way that in everything we did, we would experience this inner self-enjoyment. But man, as he has become, may not have this enjoyment, and the secret of why he may not, we again find expressed in a part of the Bible towards which we should always feel the greatest reverence.
After those things had taken place which are expressed in the Paradise-Myth, man was permitted to eat of the Tree of Knowledge but not of the Tree of Life. Eating of the Tree of Life meant this inner gratification. That might not happen to man. I cannot develop this motive further here to-day, because it would lead too far; but through your own meditation on the motive here touched on you will be able to find out further things for yourselves. But starting from this point there is something else you can keep in mind which can be of essential importance for you in these days. We are unable to eat of the Tree of Life, i.e. — enjoy in our own inner being our own blood and nerve activity. We cannot do this. But something happens, especially when observing the world through our senses and our intellect, which is closely connected with such an inner enjoyment. In the perception of any object in the outer world, and in pondering over any object in the outer world we follow the senses — that is, we follow the eyes, nose, ears and taste nerves — we follow the path of the blood vessels; and when we think, we follow the path of the nerves. But we do not perceive what might be perceived along the path of the nerves and of the blood. Only what we might perceive in the blood, is reflected through the senses; it is as it were thrown back, and from this, sense-impressions arise; and that which is conducted along the path of the nerves is also reflected and brought to where the nerve-paths reach their end, and is then reflected as our thoughts. - Rudolf Steiner

'The tree of life' is love and faith deriving from love; 'in the middle of the garden' means in the will of the internal man. The chief place that the Lord occupies in men and angels is the will, which in the Word is called the heart. But since nobody can do good with self as the source, the will or the heart is not man's, even though it is referred to as his. What is man's is evil desire, and this he calls his will. Since the will is the middle of the garden, where the tree of lifea is, and since no will, only evil desire, belongs to man, 'the tree of life'' is therefore the mercy of the Lord, who is the source of all love and faith and consequently of all life. - Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 105

And Jehovah God commanded the man and said, From every tree in the garden you may indeed eat.
'Eating of every tree' is recognizing and knowing, from perception, what good and truth are; for, as stated already, 'a tree' means perception. Members of the Most Ancient Church possessed the cognitions of true faith by means of revelations, for they talked to the Lord and to angels. They were also taught through visions and dreams, which to them were supremely delightful and blissful. They received perception from the Lord continually; and as a result of that perception, when they thought from things in their memory they instantly perceived whether these were true and good, insomuch that when anything false came up they not only had nothing to do with it but were also horrified. This is also the state of angels. Later on however knowledge of what is true and good took the place of the perception which the Most Ancient Church enjoyed, a knowledge based on what had been previously revealed, and later, on things revealed in the Word. - Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 125

But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it, for on the day that you eat of it you will surely die. Taken with those that precede them, these words mean that it is allowable, by means of every perception obtained from the Lord, for anyone to discover what truth and good are, but it is not allowable to do so from self and the world, that is, to probe into mysteries of faith by means of sensory evidence and factual knowledge. If he does the celestial in him dies. Men's desire to probe into mysteries of faith by means of sensory evidence and factual knowledge was not only the cause of the downfall of the Most Ancient Church, that is to say, of its descendants - to be dealt with in the next chapter; it is also the cause of the downfall of every Church. For that desire leads not only to falsities but also to evils of life. The worldly and bodily-minded man says at heart, Unless I am taught about faith and about things that belong to faith by means of sensory evidence so that I see for myself, that is, by facts so that I understand for myself, I am not going to believe. And he confirms himself in this attitude from the consideration that natural phenomena cannot be at variance with spiritual. Consequently it is from sensory evidence that he wishes to learn about heavenly and Divine matters. But this is no more possible than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. The more he wants by this method to become wise, the more he blinds himself, until in the end he believes nothing, not even in the existence of anything spiritual or in eternal life. This arises out of the basic assumption he makes. This is eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And the more he eats of it, the more dead does he become. But the person who wishes to be made wise not from the world but from the Lord says at heart that he must believe the Lord, that is, those things the Lord has spoken in the Word, because they are truths. This is the basic assumption of his thinking. He confirms himself by means of rational, factual, sensory, and natural evidence. And things that are not confirmatory he sets aside. The person who wishes to become wise from the world has for his 'garden' sensory evidence and factual knowledge. His 'Eden' is self-love and love of the world, his 'east' is the west or himself. His 'river Euphrates' is all his factual knowledge, which is condemned; his 'second river', where Asshur is, is his insane reasoning from which come falsities; his 'third river', where Cush is, is the resulting assumptions he makes consisting of evil and falsity, which are his cognitions of faith; his 'fourth' is the wisdom that results, which in the Word is called magic. - Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 126-130

The feeling dimension of the world is not easily describable in words, but it’s deeply important—especially if you want to touch the dreaming of Earth. Unfortunately, in the West, the feeling sense is not only atrophied, very few people even know that it is a primary sensory modality. As Bradford Keeney relates, in a conversation with a Kalahari Bushman, it is incredibly difficult to convey its importance . . . or its reality to people in the West. I reply as I have before, “The difficulty, my dear friend, concerns how to say it. The rest of the world does not yet accept that a feeling is as real as a tree or a rock.” “Or a lion,” she adds . . . “Are they emotionally blind? Do they keep bumping into feelings and emotions they don’t know what to do with? I bet they keep on telling their hearts to go back to sleep.” The truth is: Every physical object you see has a distinctly different feeling aspect than every other object you will encounter. The object’s visual inputs, auditory inputs, olfactory inputs . . . all have unique feeling dimensions to them. (And every one of them, just as with different musical notes, has a slightly different feeling or emotional tone to it than the one before or after it.) The developed use of this feeling dimension of things—the secret kinesis of physical objects—that is the key to opening sensory gating channels more widely. It’s one of the innate mechanisms of hallucinogens, neurognostics of any sort. They (usually) make people feel very good. Unless you’re having a bad trip (and yes, I’ll talk more about that later) They restore the feeling sense and enhance it. They open the gating channels of the feeling sense more widely so you can feel the impact of the world, its nonkinesthetic touch, upon you while at the same time enhancing the pleasure centers of the brain. They stimulate the reclamation of the feeling sense—and subsequently access to the metaphysical background of the world. This is the real reason they are illegal Reclaiming the feeling sense, and developing it as a primary sensing tool, is one of the main ways to begin to enter more deeply into the metaphysical background of the world. Although it seems onerous, the key to its reclamation, as it is with all art forms, is a lot of practice. So, let’s play with it a bit so you can get a sense of what I mean . . . Let your eyes wander around the room you’re in until something catches your attention—desk, pen, cup; it doesn’t matter what it is. It is just, for whatever reason at this moment in time, interesting to you. It appeals in some way. Now. Look at it carefully, note its shape, notice its color. Really look at it; let your visual sensing take it in. Let your eyes touch the thing as if they were fingers capable of extreme sensitivity of touch. Immerse yourself in seeing the thing that has caught your attention. Now, ask yourself, How does it feel? In the tiny moment of time that follows that question, there will be a burst of feeling, an “intimation of mood or feeling” as Goethe once described it. Your nonphysical touching has just felt a part of the exterior world. There’s a specific and unique feeling experience that occurs whenever this question is asked about something that is acutely observed. What stands revealed is a dimension to things beyond height, width, and breadth. There is a feeling dimension to them. The secret kinesis of things. Now, let your eyes be captured by something else, again focus on how it looks, its shape and colors, and when you are really noticing it, ask yourself, How does it feel? There will be, again, that immediate emergence of an “intimation of mood or feeling.” The thing has a feeling tone to it. Even if you might not be able to say exactly what that feeling tone is, it’s very distinct, isn’t it? And this particular feeling tone will be unique to the thing itself. It’s different from the one possessed by the last thing you felt. In fact, everything you touch in this way will have a slightly, or sometimes very, different feeling or kinesis to it. Now, do it again with something else. Only this time after you ask How does it feel? just after the unique feeling tone emerges, savor it for a while as if you are smelling a unique but delicate perfume or tasting a unique and subtle flavor. Immerse yourself in what you are now feeling. Now . . . shift your attention to yourself. Notice how you are feeling. Interesting, isn’t it? The state you are now in is different from how you were before this exercise began. If you really have immersed yourself in this exercise, you will find that your physiology has shifted. Your breathing will have slowed and deepened, your body become more relaxed. Eye focus will be different, too, more soft-focused; peripheral vision has been activated. You are seeing with Henry David Thoreau’s “unworn sides of the eye.” As he says . . . It is by obeying the suggestions of a higher light within you [he says] that you escape from yourself and, in transit, as it were see with the unworn sides of your eye, travel totally new paths. Colors will likely be a bit more luminous, sounds more resonant, body sensations more sensitive. sensory gating in all systems is opening more widely now Everything around you will feel more alive. State of mind has shifted as well. Your thoughts will be slower and deeper. Perceptual focus is enhanced. You will feel a bit dreamier. Now, do it again—look at something, observe it in detail, and then ask yourself, How does it feel? At the emergence of the feeling tone, again savor it for awhile, then pay attention to your state. Pay attention to how you feel. Now compare that feeling to the feeling you had just a moment ago, when you last focused on yourself. There’s a similarity, isn’t there? There is a particular feeling that accompanies this kind of perception. The particular feeling you have in your body when you do this can be remembered, if you wish, and recreated anytime. You begin to get a sense of the state you are going for. Habituating yourself to this feeling, deeply anchoring it in your experience, gaining familiarity with it, will allow you to drop down into it over and over again. At will. This state, as everyone who trains in it learns over time, can be deepened considerably. It must be if you wish to fully enter the metaphysical background of the world. This first step, you might say, is where you get your foot in the door of it. You can, if you wish, extend it a bit further now . . . Do the exercise again and while you’re in that state, slowly take your eyes off the thing you are looking at and slowly look around at everything else you can see. (Keep breathing from this more relaxed state, let your eyes remain soft focused.) Let your eyes slowly pan the room and allow that feeling part of you to feel everything in the room as a wash of feeling flowing into you from what you are seeing. Instead of feeling the secret kinesis of one thing, you are feeling the secret kinesis of many things at once. At this moment you are feeling the world around you (with the part of you that can nonphysically touch) as a continual act similarly to the way you see or hear the world around you as a continual act. This form of perception is a natural one for all people. But for most people in Western cultures, the skill hasn’t been developed (often it has been actively discouraged). The same isn’t true for our other forms of sensory perceiving. When we were born we experienced a continual flow of visual and auditory sense impressions but we had no interpretations for them. It was through experience that we learned to understand what we were seeing and what we were hearing. By intentionally working with the secret kinesis of things, intentionally activating this form of sensing as a regular part of our perceiving, we learn to understand and work with these kinds of sensory impressions just as we once did visual and auditory impressions. We reclaim a form of perception that was once common to all people and cultures and which is innate in every infant born into this world. Engaging again with this kind of nonphysical touching is what James Hillman describes as “recovering the response of the heart to what is presented to the senses.” Continually sensing in this way is the key to opening the doors of perception more widely at will, the key to entering deep within the metaphysical background of the world. When this form of perception is initiated, the conscious mind begins to move into the background, the statistical mentality begins to be left behind, mechanicalism begins to be abandoned. By focusing intently through the senses and then asking How does it feel? you move out of analytical thinking, out of the brain, and begin to move into a different kind of cognition, one that is intimately interwoven with feeling. So, there are three initial, essential steps to this. The first is seeing—really looking at—what is right in front of you, the second is asking How does it feel? The third? It’s something rather tedious I’m afraid . . . practice, practice, and, still, more practice. In other words, everywhere you go, every place you visit, everything you encounter, ask yourself, How does it feel? How does this restaurant feel? How does that street feel? How does this pencil feel? How does that tree feel? How does this person feel? How does it feel to my sensing, to me? And just an FYI, don’t ask How do I feel? That question takes it into the realm of emotions: mad, sad, scared, angry, depressed, I-don’t-know, pissed off, sort-of-happy. Of all the phrasing I have explored, How does it feel? produces that burst of feeling, that intimation of mood that Goethe spoke of, more effectively than anything else. As you do this you will begin habituating the skill and building an internal database of feeling experiences associated with the multiple phenomena you have encountered. You will become used to using this kind of sensing as a regular part of your life—just as you have done with visual and sound perception. Your feeling sensing will grow stronger as a result; you will become increasingly more sensitive to even the slightest touch of the world upon you, the slightest feeling tone in anything you encounter. And, as well, importantly the novelty of things will begin to increase. One of the truths about habituated gating parameters . . . everything you daily encounter has a reduced novelty to it. That is why hallucinogens are so potent in engaging their user with the world, they increase the novelty of sensory inputs. Because each thing—every phenomenon—does in fact possess a unique feeling dimension to it, different from all other things, when you begin to pay attention to the feeling tone of a thing, its novelty increases against background sensory inputs. you have also created a task set that begins to override gating parameters As the skill is habituated—as you continually perceive the world through your feeling sensing—the novelty level of everything increases. This, over time, opens gating channels more widely as a general condition. All sensory inputs begin to take on the same kind of luminosity that occurs with hallucinogens. You begin to engage the world, as a habit, with more open gating. As more time passes, gating continues to expand, you begin to enter more and more deeply into the metaphysical background of the world. You, in essence, begin to live in the same state that hallucinogens induce. You are, in fact, high all the time. - Stephen Harrod Buhner, Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal World

I still remember seeing a great, ancient maple send shudder after shudder through its trunk one year—for days on end. The entire tree was undulating; I’d never seen or felt anything like it before. Some dimension of the world that I had never encountered before was intruding itself into my experience. It literally felt like the underpinnings of my world view were crumbling. It seemed as if the tree were having an epileptic seizure, something far outside my experience of trees. Then, with a great crash one day, a single giant, diseased limb came hurtling down from the canopy, at which point the shudders ceased. In a flash of insight then, I understood that trees self-prune, that they self-caretake, that I had only the barest understanding of the plant world and finally grasped Einstein’s observation that “we still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us.” - Stephen Harrod Buhner, Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal World

Plant biologist Peter Barlow adds that the tips of the roots “form a multiheaded advancing front. The complete set of tips endows the plant with a collective brain, diffused over a large area, gathering, as the root system grows and develops, information” crucial to the plant’s survival. And, as he continues: “One attribute of a brain, as the term is commonly understood, is that it is an organ with a definite structure and location which gathers or collects information, which was originally in the form of vibrations (heat, light, sound, chemical, mechanical, . . .) in the ambient environment and somehow transforms them into an output or response.” By this definition, plants do have brains just as we do, but given their capacity to live for millennia (in the case of some aspen root systems, over 100,000 years) their neural networks can, in many instances, far exceed our own. Old growth aspen root systems can spread through as much as a hundred acres of soil creating a neural network substantially larger than Einstein’s or any other human that has ever lived. They are, sometimes, far, far more intelligent than human beings. Plants, it must be realized, possess a spectrum of neural networks, just as mammals do. Some plants possess extremely large networks, others possess smaller networks. In other words, “brain” size occurs across a considerable range, just as it does with mammals. Nevertheless, all plants are intelligent (just as are all mammals). They are all self-aware. They all engage in highly interactive social transactions with their communities. - Stephen Harrod Buhner, Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal World.

Although studies on gating “problems” have occurred with various “abnormal” states (such as PTSD, migraines, bipolar disorder, Asperger’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, and autism) most of the work has occurred with those labeled schizophrenic. A common complaint among this group is of “sensory inundation and inappropriate orienting to irrelevant stimuli,” and this includes a great deal more than just sound. It is often spread across the sensory spectrum. Essentially, they perceive a lot of things other people don’t and they don’t know how to sort it out. In them, the doors of perception are more widely open than in the rest of the population, sometimes much more widely so. - Stephen Harrod Buhner, Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal World

Many behavioural characteristics typical of autism closely parallel the effects of psychoactive compounds such as LSD and mescaline. I believe that if one were to be in a permanent state of altered perception, such as would be the case if the brain was spontaneously producing an endogenous psychoactive compound, you would effectively get the autistic state, which was why I called the paper ‘The Trip of a Lifetime’.  
One of the most common findings in the biochemical makeup of autistic children is the presence of high levels of bufotenin. Bufotenin is a minor metabolite of tryptophan, the amino acid precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Another reason to suspect bufotenin is that the tryptophan molecule’s structure is ‘indole’; it is the only amino acid in the body to be so and shares this characteristic with psychoactive compounds such as LSD and mescaline. It is, if you like, the common ‘link’ between the two states. 
Bufotenin levels are normally held in balance by monoamine oxidase (MAO). If, however, MAO was inhibited, bufotenin levels could rise to a point where concentrations become such that behaviour is affected and the subject effectively begins to ‘trip’. 
This idea seems to be supported by recent research, published in New Scientist, carried out by Dr Ira Cohen, a psychologist at New York’s State Institute for Basic Research in New York. Dr Cohen’s research team has identified a relationship between the more severely affected autistic boys in their control group and a variation in the length of a control region at the start of the MAO gene. The variation determines how much of  the enzyme is produced. Dr Cohen’s work also seems to support the prevalence of autism in males, inasmuch as boys have only one copy of the gene, because it is only found on the X chromosome, while females of course have two.  
In summary I believe that we should be doing studies to confirm the presence of bufotenin in both the autistic child and in their parents – this would be relatively simple because it’s detectable in urine – and then perhaps developing a drug to block bufotenin receptor sites in the brain.  - David Selwyn

A handful can let go the realm of the significant or the literal and revisit the sensory; for some this happens under overload where the passing traffic becomes a whirr, the surrounding conversation a jumble. For others, this overload may be brought on by the effects of alcohol of drugs or the involuntary drug-like effects of viral, bacterial or fungal infections; fluctuating blood oxygen or glucose levels; vitamin, mineral or hormonal imbalances; ; or the effects of food or chemical allergies. When I was about ten years old I used to have a certain colour billiard ball -a pink one. I used to spend around an hour with it before I could reach the point of resonance with it where I would merge with the colour. To anyone else this would have looked like someone `psychotic' but if they'd known the physical alteration  felt in that moment of becoming one with a colour some people would perhaps see it as far less crazy than other ways many people may have spent an hour of their lives at the same age - Donna Williams, Autism and Sensing, the Unlost Instinct

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