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The Secret Teachings of Plants

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The Secret Teachings of Plants & The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature

by Stephen Harrod Buhner

Inner Traditions, 2004 ISBN 1-59143-035-6, 315 pp.

with epilogue, appendix, bibliography, notes and index


No doubt this book is one of the most special books I read in the last few years. Its particular value is that it lays a bridge between the subtleties of the heart and mental science, and therefore between what some will indicate as “vague” and others as “mere brain-mind thinking.”

The book consists of two main parts, called ‘Systole’ and ‘Diastole’, the contracting and expanding phases of the beating heart – which two parts at first sight have but little to do with each other. Also there are no frequent cross references between the parts. But when an intuitive reader has read it from beginning to end he will be thoroughly aware that the book as a whole is a piece of art. The various parts indeed have everything to do with each other. The author, who is also known as a poet, has by means of a good share of scientific information, by relating living and deep-felt experiences with the world of plants, and by applying quotations from profound prose as well as poetry and singled-out sentences created a whole that make a sound connection between science and new age sentiments, between historical and modern nature perception, between prose and poetry, between personal intellectual and emotional experience and a medical art based on altruism and universal ethics. The red thread through the book is that of a mystic who chooses various entries to unveil universal truths. An “added value” for me while reading the book was that by the selection and positioning of the quotation of, among others, Goethe my understanding and respect for this mystic/author and others were significantly increased.

After a short introduction about himself and how he came to this way, Buhner opens a fierce attack on linear “Euclidian” thinking. He makes very clear that straight lines and neat mathematical systems do not occur in nature, and that the fact that we (at school and in our culture) are constantly taught these abstractions as realities is the great obstacle for the acquisition of knowledge directly from nature herself. Here he indicates that fractiles and Mandelbrot structures come a lot closer to reality.

The scientific parts of the book discuss the physiology of individual cells, the heart, the brain, especially in relation to the continuous production and interchange of (information through) electric as well as magnetic fields, and also very refined and intelligent processes in physical and energetic nature. Communication is something take takes place continually in the body, inside and between organs, between cells, and last but not least between individual organisms, and this in a way in which the brain mind is not directly involved; or, when dealing with processes within the human consciousness the brain mind becomes involved only in second instance – as an interpreter and observer taking some distance. Buhner certainly does not belong to those who reject intellectual thought, but he recognizes the right position of the consciousness of the heart, the brain, and even the intestines in a conscious whole. All of these belong to the truth of nature.

Regarding cells, he cites, among others, Jan Walleczek “Biological cells can be viewed as highly sophisticated information-processing devises that can discern complex patterns of extra-cellular stimuli. In line with this view is the finding that, in analogy with electrical circuits, biochemical reaction network can perform computational functions such as switching, amplification, hysteresis[*], or band-pass filtering of frequency information.”

Some things Buhner himself says about cells: “The plasma membrane is a primary sensory organ for all cells. It possesses thousands of receptors across its surface, designed to detect perturbations, influxes of chemical, electric, magnetic, hormonal, pressure, and mechanical impulses, among other things”; and “Cells can recognize extremely subtle differences in electric fields,” and “The hippocampus decodes and integrates sensory information …  The hippocampus is most active when the sensory data it receives come from the real environment. It is designed to work – not surprisingly – with complex, nonlinear environmental information, as opposed to linear information like mathematics or what comes from the television. … the greatest degree of change or plasticity anywhere in the brain is, in fact, the hippocampus. Enriched environments stimulate the formation of many more neurons than simple environments do.”

His chapters about the heart deal with “The physical heart,” “The emotional heart” and “The spiritual heart” respectively. The heart is far more than only a pump. The physical heart is in fact rather the organ which determines the rhythms of our organism and a provider of information to the blood than a propeller (for which there are also other mechanisms in the body). The heart consists of 60% nerve cells – so there are more nerve cells then muscle cells in the heart. The heart is in the first place a processor of consciousness and information, and besides a subtle and intelligent pump. The rhythm of a healthy heart is never regular: each heart beat is unique. Likewise the magnetic as well as the electric field that the heart builds around itself is unique. In this way it communicates with other parts of the body, in the first place with the brain. But these fields are also measurable outside the physical body, and thus they continuously communicate information from the heart to the world around, and from the world around to the heart. In this way information from and to our consciousness (though often perhaps without our being aware of it) takes care of reciprocal influence. To this we can learn to listen consciously, by perceiving and understanding the subtleties of our constantly moving feelings.

With this a bridge is built to the second main part of the book, with deals with communication with plants. Every plant has a consciousness just as all other living beings, and bears messages it wants to communicate. Every plant has its own character, not only outwardly (though surely reflected in its outer appearance) but especially where its own specific force is concerned. The specific magnetic and electric presence of every plant can be perceived by the magnetic and electric fields of the heart. Therefore it is possible to really know and understand a plant, and the processes of information interchange are mutual. It is in this way that people who stood or stand close to nature have discovered the medicinal or other influences of plants – and not by trial and error as our school teachers may have told us.

We can practice and learn to recognize this sensitive communication – at the end of the book Buhner gives some exercises to accomplish that. Also for us, in our culture, this method is applicable, and is more reliable and exact than the usual scientific approach in which only the nervous system and the consciousness of the brain are taken into account.

This communication and way to knowledge does not, of course, only occur between human and plant. It works also between human and human. Buhner is himself active as natural healer. He has learned to communicate with plants, not only directly, but also through his memory in which all impressions which reach the heart are registered – and with the cells and organs of (diseased) people. Thus a natural healer who has developed the ability to perceive the subtleties of his heart and mind can acquire a deep empathy with a patient and his or her problem as well as the psychology and ethic of it, and see directly which natural remedy will be helpful for the patient, not by means of information from books or by just trying – on which even most naturopaths have to rely.

This book will be received warmheartedly by those who really experience nature, by healers, and by all who feel the wish to be more aware then they are at present of their complex and refined connections with nature

The last part of the book deals with ethics. Good intentions and feelings alone are not enough to help a fellow human being. One should become anchored firmly in the truth of nature, and not in the lie of its mere description: “Because Nature does not lie  …” “The more we lie, are out of accord with the truth that is found in Nature, the less we are able to perceive of the depth dimensions of Nature. The hidden face of Nature, thus, is an expression of its moral dimensions, which are as real as its physical dimensions. We partake of the moral not because we are human, but because we are of Nature”; and: “All people naturally should possess multiple points of view, have a multidimensional consciousness” (I wish that the adherents of so many brain-born religious sects would understand this aspect of real religion! –RJ) “Nature is both the creator of man and his greatest teacher.” “… in this service to Nature you surrender the dominance of the linear mind … [which] does not mean defeat, but life itself.”


The book contains an appendix with “exercises for refining the heart as an organ of perception” and a bibliography with biographical notes about the cited poets, notes and an index


More information about Buhner’s work can be found on www.gaianstudies.org.

– Rudi Jansma

Published earlier in:

Sunrise: Theosophic perspectives WELKE ?

[*] Hysteresis is the lag between an effect or response and the force that caused it. (From: Babylon 8)


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