Coltsfoot Speaks Again

Does the nose cause the smell? Do the eyeballs cause the thing beheld?
Why, then, do we cling to this pernicious idea of consciousness arising from and caused by the brain?

It was the middle of last night when I was almost forced to get out of bed. Phlegm had trickled down into my lungs as I slept and I was wracked with useless unproductive coughs.

I took a slice of bread and peanut butter and some water in the dark. It was then that I remembered the promise to a colleague which had slipped my mind for days – I took out the boxes of dried Coltsfoot flowers and Artemisia, mixed them together, and sealed them in an airtight bag.

As I did this, the Coltsfoot spoke directly to me. Under its direction, I picked out a pinch of Coltsfoot flowers, crushed them a little, and inhaled the tussilaginous aroma. I could feel the vapour dispelling the phlegm from my chest as I drew it in. After a couple more sniffs, my lungs were clear and I went back to bed.

As I have ranted before, parsimony compels me to ascribe such knowledge as coming from the plant, rather than that murky, somewhat abstract and completely undefended notion of the-brain-making-shit-up.

Unfortunately, we seem to have bought that idea hook line and sinker: that consciousness arises in and is created by the brain, rather than the idea which more closely fits all the experiential knowledge, that the brain is an organ of reception for consciousness just as the nose is an organ for the reception of smell and the eye an organ for the reception of sight.
Sometimes, I just don’t know what to do about humans. I just don’t.

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8 responses to “Coltsfoot Speaks Again

  1. Thing is, I'm not really sick. Art least not yet :)It was just one of those things which has the power to wake you up in the middle of a deep sleep – and I found myself wondering if, in fact, I'd been woken up for some other reason. Hmm..Love,T in J

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  2. That's an interesting idea, the brain as a receptor of consciousness. But doesn't the brain rely on sensory apparatus to bring input in, rather than 'gathering' input on its own? I mean, from a purely nuts and bolts point of view, you'd have to show the physiological basis for "consciousness receptors" and you'd have the even thornier question of defining and quantifying what 'real world' thing 'carries' consciousness.Wouldn't you?It seems to me that consciousness is something our brain 'does'- our brain, and every other brain as well, not limited to our species alone. I mean, that makes sense to me from an 'emergent qualities' point of view- that is, given a system of sufficient complexity, ie, our neural network, then these larger, dynamic, incredibly complex capabilities arise intrinsically from the system itself.I certainly don't know if that's true or not. I think our consciousness is so provisional, our grasp of reality so occluded by our limited physiology, that it's amazing we can hold an opinion about anything at all. Anyway, you've given me something tantalizing to consider. Thank you.Also, I like your writing a great deal.yrs-Scott

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  3. Hey, Scott,That's just it – the brain doesn't always rely on sensory input from other parts of the body. I mean, it does for some things, such as balance and velocity control, but what about so-called altered states of consciousness? Visions which are available to all humans under ayahuasca, DMT and psilocybin mushrooms are reliably decriptive – across the ages and across the race of humanity – in '"causing"certain sets of "hallucinations". Also, information gathered and prescient phenomena, as I was referring to.I think it's a "hard problem"indeed!Love,T in J

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  4. PSYes, I can see how psychedelic plants, rythmic dancing, meditation etc. might be considered external stimuli to these brain phenomena. But that doesn't cover prescient visions and communication from plant beings. I've been looking for that mechanism for years – having come from a family of scientists and in fact being one myself, once upon a time. I wantd a mechanistic explanation very badly. That I've never found one doesn't quash the brain-as-producer model, but the brain-as-receptor model is, to my thinking, equally capable of expalining this stuff.Love,T in J

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  5. Yeah, I've been thinking a lot lately about how vigorous and relentless the brain is in 'creating reality' for us, no matter what input system it is currently 'connected' to- that is, given our normal sensory apparatus, most of us with brains get 'this reality'- but when you look at brains that receive somewhat different input, in the blind, deaf, paralyzed, etc. what you find is an altered reality, one richer in sound, for example, as Louisey wrote about so beautifully and powerfully in her post. Then look at our rich dream life- you could say that there is the brain with most input 'damped down' or shut off, and still, there it goes, busily creating all kinds of crazy shit that, no matter how fucking odd it gets, we still think of as real when we're in the middle of it. In the dream world, our bullshit detectors get switched off. (?) So, it makes sense to me that given the same chemical compounds, our similar neurochemistry and neurobiology gives rise to similar internal states of hallucinatory 'reality'- whether this arises out of the 'spirit' of the ingested plant or chemical or is 'simply' a function of the chemistry is, to me, a false dicotomy, in some sense a semantic riddle we can't untangle yet.As for prescient visions and communications from plant beings, I am inclined to chalk most of this kind of activity up to 'spillover' from the unconscious- that is, an artifact of the massive amounts of data that get dumped by our brains and sensory organs as we go about filtering the raw data and then 'building' our heuristic model of reality- this dumped data never really goes away, and if there is enough of the same kind of data it may leave a 'shadow' of itself inside the brain that isn't quite enough to have triggered a representation inside the conscious brain's model, and yet the clamoring of the unconscious mind to get the data noted continues- this set of conditions may give rise to the conscious mind 'admitting' the jettisoned data in the form of something 'it just makes up', as it does for dream state information, so it 'creates' a plant spirit, or an alien, or an angel, devil, what have you, to give a face and voice to the new information.But really, it's just the data making its way toward consciousness by another route. My point is that the brain is a 'reality creating machine'- that is the brain's job, to create a working model for us so we can hunt and eat and boink and stay alive long enough to replicate our genes. (On the purely nuts and bolts physical level, that is.) I mean, that's the physiology, that's how the tool we have works. What that means is that we don't really have any way of knowing whether the spirits of plants are talking to us (well, to you, not to me, unfortunately) or if we are really just talking to ourselves.Wow. I'll shut up now. Thank you, sincerely, for the great ideas. I hope I'm not coming across as a closed-minded rationalist or puritan. I'm really interested in the brain, and really interested in the numinous, the odd, the unexplainable, and especially interested in those who move in those worlds with integrity.love-Scott

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  6. You don't have to shut up Scott. It's really interesting.I decided -for the moment anyway – that when it came to hard questions like plants talking to me, I'd take the more parsimonious explanation: that the plants, as living creatures, are capable of communicating with other living creatures. Hence "the plants talk to me". It's diametrically opposed to what mainstream science (with a few expceptions) thinks, but in this case it's about me making sense of this incarnation.Prescient problems for me are highlighted by the dream I had a couple of years back of a Lamborghini on fire, only to find that, that night, four people had burnt to death when a Lambo crashed into a little security car. I didn't know any of the people involved. It semt me nearly into a frenzy trying to explain the mechanism behind this one..I may never figure it all out. But I'm more than OK with that.Guess I stopped being a "real" scientist some time ago. :)Love,T in J

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  7. I have to admit that things like that stump me as well. Although quantum mechanics is telling us now that there's no reason time has to run front to back rather than back to front- in fact, positrons are said to be electrons that are running backwards in time, so….it makes sense to me that there is a lot of "leakage" from one state to another, from one 'being' to another, since at the fundamental level we are all just intersecting vibrations in an undifferentiated energy field.I think that the world, exactly as it is, is altogether more strange and magical than we will ever know, and that, especially given our clumsy and provisional consciousness, we had better be open to the mystery and not be too quick to shut out anything that is trying to communicate with us, wether we 'understand' it or not.And again, thanks for the thoughtful conversation.yrs-Scott

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