Sacrifice For Science |
Do you remember the book, Secret Life of Plants? What started that whole thing was when Cleve Backster, a polygraph technician, hooked up the leads of his lie detector to the leaves of a philodendron. He found the same kind of reactions in plants that he found in his human subjects. He rigged up a test that would dump live brine shrimp into boiling water at random times. His plants showed an "emotional" reaction to the death of the shrimp. Backster hooked his wires to thousands of plants, each showing the ability to react to this type of remote stimulus. He then found ways to attach his electrodes to infusions of single cells. He tested amoeba, yeast and mold cultures, blood and even sperm.1 Tompkins/Bird In all cases he found that there exists a primary communication system that carries the message of the dying shrimp to the plants or cells. Further experiments showed that ANY emotional reaction or pain in the person caring for the plants was also recorded on the polygraph even though the subject was many miles away from the plant.
Although similar experiments have been repeated thousands of times, all over the world, for more than 30 years, we have failed to grasp the implications. We still find it hard to believe that the "primitives" were actually communicating with their plants through rituals and sacrifice. We simply refuse to believe that there could be any "intelligence" around here but us, while we live in a world smarter than us at every turn. It is obvious that our collective view of primitive religion is in need of some revision. It doesn't seem to be happening, does it?.
For any kind of a partnership, whether it be business, sports, marriage, peace treaty or symbiosis, communication is required in order for it to exist at all. Somebody has got to pop the question and the other has to agree to participate before they can interact in a positive way. In order for the partnership to be successful there must be successful communication, for superior success, superior communication. This "language" is what holds the Natural World together. This communication system includes color, shape and form as well as "chemical" elements. The purpose of the entire spectrum of light, electro-magnetic and physical waves is to carry information! Every component, whether it is the velocity, the wave length or the frequency, IS information by its very movement.
The entire Universe is made up of messages and their messengers. The implication of information exchange is that there is intelligence, not off in the distance somewhere, but at the two ends of every movement of energy. The point is, that by viewing each exchange as PRIMARILY an information transmission we can begin to fathom just how this bio-sphere operates.
There are some people who will never believe that the Earth is a living thing, but the Bio-sphere, that thin layer that nestles against the surface of the Planet and supports life as we know it, MUST be understood as a total organism, more than the sum of all of its parts, with more "alive-ness" than any of them. Our failure to be considerate of Mother Nature in our mad scramble to be strong, powerful and rich, has put us in the precarious position of having that fragile Bio-sphere collapse.
We have already talked about odors emitting high frequency signals, but it has been shown that individual cells communicate with each other in ultra-violet wave lengths.2 Tompkins/Bird The result of all of these discoveries is that we must face the fact that plants communicate in a way that we would have to call telepathic. Some people refer to messages that seem to come from out of nowhere as "spirits", others claim they are hearing from god, but apparently, we live in the middle of a blitz of information being transferred from one living thing to another. That info is being transmitted with equipment and in a manner which can be encoded by our nervous systems. It is a very important point to realize that the "language" used by other animals and plants to communicate is the same one used within our own bodies. The hormones secreted by the glands of mammals will communicate similar messages to other mammals. The "telepathic" message of the death or pain of an animal is received and understood by the cells of plants as well as other animals.
Although most primitive cultures still engage in complex conversations with their plant neighbors, modern man has gotten out of the habit. One of the reasons is that the part of the brain that monitors these environmental "CB" channels, is located in the right hemisphere of the brain. The ego-centric left side denies even the existence of the right brain, and refuses to accept the messages. The purpose of this communications network, is to keep all the organisms in the proper balance. It is the call that the scent of the orchid brings to the fly and the channel used by the hallucinogenic fungus to make its pitch to mankind.
One of the most common messages, one that mankind has responded to many times is, "Eat my fruits, cultivate my children, and we will feed yours." On some level we have entered into that agreement with every food source we have exploited. In some cases the relationship has been understood by those involved and becomes their religion. The traditional Hopi knows this is the deal that his ancestors have made with the Corn Mother, and he strives to maintain the partnership. The religious ceremonies are meant to strengthen that relationship by re-establishing the bond on a regular basis. Not only do the rituals affect the attitude of the humans involved, but we now know that the plants are receptive to deep emotion and are very much aware of the commitment of their symbiots.
The renewal of the promise to keep their part of the bargain is not a message to the gods, but a statement made directly to the plant species itself. The experiments of Cleve Backster and others confirm this fact.
Sacrifice Of The First Born
"When the young queen from one of these nests goes out to found a new colony, she has her infrabuccal pouch filled with the fungus on which the colony has lived for millions of years. After being fertilized, she seeks out a likely spot, grubs out a small chamber, and casts her wad of fungus out on the floor. As soon as the mold begins to grow from this pellet, she lays an egg or two, crushes these, and mixes them with the growing fungus. She also mixes her excrement with the compost... This is not done just casually and by chance, but deliberately and by intent."
The relationship has shown a great deal of biological success, as these species of fungus raising ants are very prolific and seem to dominate their part of the environment. The fact that this queen ant kills her first progeny in order to feed her fungus farm shows that her behavior is influenced by the fungus itself. The interior communication channels of the ant have been taken over by the fungus and she can do nothing but the bidding of her "god". We find that there is parallel behavior reported in the Old Testament. Abraham was told by his god that he must sacrifice his first born son to prove his faith.
There are many examples of interesting behavior when fungi and insects get together. There are species of termites that raise fungus gardens that fruit in miniature mushrooms. The termites suck on them for some of their nourishment, and a good dose of growth promoting vitamins and assorted allomones. These termites are proficient at building arches and use this basic building technique to construct elaborate nests. These nests can get to be several feet high and are built in the shape of a mushroom.
Not all of the relationships are symbiotic. There is a fungus that grows in the South American rain forests that dispenses with any partnership agreements and just devours its ant host. When a spore lands on the insect, it bores through the "exoskeleton", and begins to grow in its new home. Once inside the victim, the fungus takes over the nervous system of the ant and causes it to "climb to locations favorable for the dispersal of the fungus spores!" 4 Perry When the ant is high enough over the rest of the ant colony, the fungus cuts off the life of the insect and finishes off the meal. Then it shoots out a fine stalk or two that culminate in a little cap that produces more spores. From this vantage point the fungus can infect many more ants. The mushroom that fruits out of the back of the dead ant is so placed that if another ant attempts to move the body of his dead comrade, he will be showered with spores.
There are thousands of species of fungi that have yet to be even categorized, let alone studied. We find many cases where they seem to be more involved in their environment than just breaking down the leaves and litter on the forest floor. There is another species of fungus that uses a web like lasso to capture and immobilize its prey. The more these plants are studied the more we see them participating in complex symbiotic arrangements. The important thing is that there are fungi who invade the nervous system and alter the behavior of their host to facilitate the dispersal of their spores.
There are some species of ants that make slaves of other species, milk aphids and form "trade federations" with other ant hills. They show a high degree of organization. It has been reported that ants communicate with pheromones and hormones that circulate throughout the nest. It has also been noted that the species of ants that have formed symbiotic partnerships with fungi have enjoyed conspicuous success. According to the researcher who reported on the queen ant and her sacrifice, the difference between the ants that raise fungus gardens and the ones that don't is like "orchids compared with ragweed." 5 Christensen
The species of ants not involved with a fungus lead a rather mundane existence, tending pretty much to their own affairs, while those with the fungus in their diet carry on like ancient warrior cults. Its very much like comparing human beings with the great apes or chimpanzees.
"We might wonder how the ant became accustomed to 'milking' the plant louse (aphid) and by what kind of process the carnivorous species learn to respect the lives of succulent prey so as to get an even greater benefit from them. That an insect should know enough not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg is something for us to think about."
"Some fifteen worms were placed in a small aquarium over which hung an electric light and which was equipped to give its occupants an electric shock. The light went on two seconds before the electric charge came, and very quickly the worms started to react characteristically to the shock from the time the light went on. Using scissors, the experimenters cut each worm in half and put the severed heads and tails into separate aquariums. The experimenters found that all the regenerated worms, both those building from the original tail and those from an original head, retained the memory of this training."
This is representative of a series of experiments done with flat worms that shows how our nervous system functions. Granted that we have a far more complex nervous system than does the lowly flatworm, but the basic equipment is the same. This experiment with the flatworms tells us that the memory of this "trauma" was recorded in the cells of the nervous system or in the DNA of all of the cells rather than in the brain, which only the head possessed. In further experiments, "educated" flatworms were minced and fed to worms that had never faced the light bulb and its shock. These worms also learned the reflex much faster than worms without any clues. What this tells us is that the information recorded in the memories of the minced worms was encoded by the digestive system and understood by the nervous systems of the "cannibal" worms.
There is a slime mold that lives on the forest floor that exhibits some interesting abilities. This creature is an amoeba that has very limited powers of locomotion. They are very small and reproduce every few hours by simple cell division. When they have devoured the available food, a half a million or so of these single cells will band together and form a slug-like organism. The individual cells take up the jobs of various muscles and organs and this "amalgamation" of co-operating individuals crawls off in search of food. It(they) can stay in this state for a couple of weeks while finding just the right spot and then the slug sits up on its end like a mushroom and ejects spores which become little amoebae.8 Koestler
We can no longer afford to indulge in our simplistic views of the parameters of intelligence and individual integrity. The boundaries of our intelligence and individual nature are as blurred as those of the slime mold. We are ants in a hill and cells in the living body of our Mother Earth.
The Living Earth
We have a relatively accurate model of the Planet as a giant sphere surrounded by gas. It is obvious that the Earth is in a constant state of change. We accept the fact that this change is an evolutionary system, in fact, we refer to mountains and oceans as being "young" or "old", indicating growth. We refer to stars as to having an "age", and yet we refuse to deal with our own Planet as a living thing. It is obvious why; if we admit Her being ALIVE, then we are forced to admit that we are killing Her.
Let's take a little ride on the space shuttle and look back on this Planet from the perspective of a new arrival from another Galaxy. Let's pretend that we are from the Interplanetary Health and Research Department of some hotshot Federation of Galaxies. We have detected an increase of infra-red emissions and radio waves coming from this area. As we approach the Solar System we can see that all is not well here. The Earth has definitely changed since our last visit. Immediately apparent is that there is a lot less green on the land masses than there used to be. There has been a 30% decrease in the World's forests in the last 200 years. When we begin to measure the temperature, we find that it varies more than is normal. The patient is having hot flashes and chills. There are great scabby growths that have spread along the seacoasts and rivers. They are also sprouting up in the middle of dry prairies and deserts. These growths have so crusted the Earth's circulatory system that some of Her greatest Rivers run only on Fridays. The crusty areas give off enormous amounts of heat and noxious fumes along with more of the mysterious radio waves. From the bottom of some of these tumors there is a shaft that pierces the Earth's outer layer and taps into Her lymph system, removing the lubricants from between Her growing surface plates. Many of them have locked in place against each other, stopping the sliding action that makes for smooth growth. The plates continue to move, but the locked areas can't, until something fractures.
The crusty growths feed on the oil and water they suck from the Earth and use other minerals and green plants to build their scabs. The waste from this action is released into the gaseous layer or dumped into the "bloodstream." The gases released have severely upset the balance of elements that the atmosphere needs to properly filter the harsh rays of the Sun, so that plant and animal life can continue. The poisons dumped in the rivers have upset the balance of nutrients in the oceans, which has affected the ability of the plankton to contribute oxygen to the gaseous layer. The deforestation and plankton damage have acted in concert with the increase in carbon dioxide and other gases released into the atmosphere to endanger the Bio-sphere's ability to sustain itself.
As we zero in on this disease, we find that this is all being done by a tiny little species of animal that has decided to operate on his own rather than in harmony with the rest of the Bio-sphere. We can plainly see that all of the trouble is caused by this one creature, like a cancerous cell run amuck.
Being from the Galactic Paramedic Squad, we are familiar with the situation. Something interferes with the information channels of the species and causes them to reproduce in astounding numbers. Cancer is the only fitting analogy.
Not very pretty is it? Myself, I feel a little uncomfortable with the idea of being a cancerous growth that is killing this Planet. From the vantage point of our orbiting satellite, and without our human ego-centric bias, there can be no other diagnosis.
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1 Tompkins/Bird, The Secret Life of Plants,, Harper and Row, New York, 1973, p 27.
2 Tompkins/Bird, The Secret Life of Plants, Harper and Row, New York, 1973, p 212.
3 Christensen, Molds and Man: An Introduction to the Fungi, Universtiy of Minn. Press, Minneapolis, 1963, p 72.
4 Perry, "The Creeping Killers", Science Digest, Feb. 1984.
5 Christensen, Molds and Man: An Introduction to the Fungi, Universtiy of Minn. Press, Minneapolis, 1963, p 72.
6 Graven, Non-Human Thought, Stein and Day, New York, 1974, p 97.
7 Graven, Non-Human Thought, Stein and Day, New York, 1974, p 125.
8 Koestler, The Roots of CoincidenceRoots of Coincidence, Random House, New York, 1972, p 115