Of Plants and Planets

by Nancy Humphreys on February 1, 2016

Plants, Planets and Astrology


I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree. ~ Joyce Kilmer, February 2, 1913

Why am I writing about a book devoted to plants on a site devoted to astrology?

It might seem an odd coincidence, but if you take away the the “e” in planets, “plants” are what you are left with.

Perhaps the only difference between these two things is that plants are closer to us and planets further away.

I decided to read The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature (affiliate link) because it has three chapters on the heart, and these chapters discuss the physical, emotional, and spiritual heart.

It was after reading those chapters I came to a different understanding of astrology.

Both plants and animal bodies contain cells. The difference is that plant cells make energy from sunlight while animal cells make energy from foods we take in.

However, this book points out that oscillating movements of the heart and of a plant are both due to differential cell growth.

For example, differences among cells in a plant can determine the direction and amount of bending of the stalk of the plant, or they can produce actual movement in response to stimuli perceived by one part of a plant—such as the leaf of a Venus flytrap snapping shut.

In the heart, different weights of cells within the bloodstream contribute to the pressure that sends blood through the entire body.

The heart is not just a simple mechanical pump.The rest of the circulatory system exerts its own pressure on the flow of blood from the heart.

Thus “…blood pressure is a result not only of the force of the heart’s contractions, but also of the resistance of the vascular system to the pressure exerted by those contractions.” (p. 72)

The heart sends out “…information encoded in the timing, force, volume, and pressure of each successive pressure wave…to the brainstem and the central nervous system.” (p.73)

To my consternation I realized that there is no such thing as a steady heartbeat or rhythm—nor should there be. The heart beats its own tune, and the rest of the body hears and reacts.

Like a drummer, the heart, by varying the speeds of beats and the rhythms it makes can “communicate” back and forth with all other parts of the body (in particular the brain) through pulsations of the blood.

It dawned on me that prescription medications, many with nasty side-effects, that doctors use to control our heart rates actually impede the heart from doing its job, a job that’s quite complex and impacts cells in all other parts of our bodies.

The heart often knows even before the head what it is that we are seeing or sensing from inside or outside of our bodies. The heart tells the brain what’s going on and corrects the brain when it comes back with an interpretation of things that isn’t quite right.

But this book about plants has even more to say about the heart. The book’s whole structure is organized around the metaphor of systolic and diastolic movements of the heart.

It uses this metaphor to teach the reader how to listen to what is outside of ourselves by using our heart.

The author’s primary emphasis is on learning to hear what plants are communicating to us. And that brought me quite close to thinking about how planets influence us.

For a long time, I just couldn’t see how planets and other celestial bodies millions of miles away could have any influence on the inner development of human beings.

The Secret Teachings of Plants, however, gave me a glimmer of insight into how to see what planets might say to us and why.

Cynthia Wood suggested in her book, Earth Rise, and in my interview with this astrologer in Daykeeper Journal, titled, “Do We Need More Earth in Astrology?” that we bring Earth into the discussion of astrological influences of planets.

When she said this, I was quite ready to agree. After reading The Secret Teachings of Plants, Cynthia’s suggestion makes even more sense to me.

Today I woke up early and came out in the living room just to see the full moon setting behind a tall pine tree. I could feel the pull of attraction to its warm white light in the cold darkness of the morning.

Poet Amy Lowell, however, when writing about writer’s block, projected her own state of being upon the moon. Her poem, “Still Life,” opens with the line:

“I am so aching to write
that I could make a song out of a chess-board”

It closes with the lines:

“I might have been a poet, but where is the adventure
to explode me into flame.

Cousin Moon, our kinship is curiously demonstrated,
For I too, am a bright, cold corpse
Perpetually circling above a living world.”

It occurred to me after reading The Secret Teachings of Plants that astrologers left out Earth from the influential planets because science, with its reductionist, skeptical view of reality, has taught us all to view the Earth as a dead planet, dead as the moon.

But truth to tell, when I was a child living in the country, I felt the opposite way. The Earth and all that grew on it was not a dead thing at all. In particular, like the poet Aline Kilmer’s husband, Joyce, I loved trees the most.

Growing up in the country, I regularly visited the poplar trees as the foot of the hill out front of our house beside the road, but it was the willow tree in town that I loved to linger under—hidden within its bower of drooping leaves.

A cloud of gingko leaves

A cloud of gingko leaves

Later there were the three ginkgo trees in town with their delicate fan-shaped leaves that evoked a sense of mystery and awe, a feeling that China often inspires in Westerners. It was a feeling as real as the unique taste of tea made from the gingko’s leaves that I experienced much later in life at the Chinese garden in Portland Oregon.

On the other hand, when first living in California, I was riding to Mendocino with friends in a borrowed VW van when it broke down. We were stranded in the midst of a primeval evergreen forest on a mountain that held only a penitentiary for male prisoners and the warden’s house where we telephoned for help to come the next day.

I was terrified sleeping in the van that night. I lay awake all night sure that those trees resented our human presence and were just waiting as an ancient tribe of Native Americans might, to take back their ancient lands again.

Only when I encountered the redwood trees in the peaceful stillness of Hendy Woods State Park did I feel comfortable with the big trees on the West Coast. I found over two days of walking amidst the redwoods that these awesome trees each had a distinct personality.

One laughed at me. It felt I was a very funny little being for hugging it and asking it questions. Another whined endlessly about the fire that had burned out the blackened middle of its trunk that I stood within, while I unsympathetically pointed out it was lucky to still be alive.

Who can be in doubt that places as well as plants bring meanings into our lives? Who can say for sure that plants and planets couldn’t possibly attract or repel us when we first encounter them or that we can’t hear what they say to us—and vice versa?

Who can fully doubt that the other planets, like the Earth we live upon, also might just have something to say to each of us and all of us?

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