bacterial utopia or oblivion


Recently somehow came across this very interesting fellow: Stephen Harrod Buhner. Author of 20 or so books, a wide ranging scholar interested in all kinds of interesting stuff, I recently listened to a couple of interviews with him. Both were wide ranging and there was little overlap between them, and the content was at times so wild and exciting I ordered one of his books, which hasn’t happened in a while.

By way of a sampling of what I mean by wild and exciting: bacteria build cities with streets and buildings; plants take psychotropic drugs and respond to them in much the same way humans do; an apple tree can get itself drunk; if antibiotics stop working in the next 10-15 years, we will also lose surgery, as you can’t cut people open if they are susceptible to infection – the ramifications of this for modern medicine are total, and he argues we will return to herbal etc remedies by necessity, and has written books about herbal antibiotics and antivirals etc…

(A fascinating counterpoint to this is Craig Venter’s current work in creating synthetic life. Essentially, he can now analyse a bacteria, digitize its DNA, send that digital code around the world, and rebuild the organism synthetically from that digital code – while synthetic it will be alive and able to self-replicate etc. The speed with which this is becoming possible is what may save us from the failing of antibiotics. As Howard Bloom argued back in ’98 in Global Brain, we need to get our species wide global brain up and running to combat the billions of year old bacterial global brain that will otherwise kick our ass.

As Buckminster Fuller said, whether it will be utopia or oblivion will be a touch and go relay race until the very end; and this bacterial struggle is one of the clearest illustrations of that.)

Ultimately Buhner argues that the way out of all this is for people to reacquaint themselves with their thinking/feeling/sensing intuitive direct knowing and follow what that tells them. For example, the first generation of psychoanalysts were never trained, they just created the field. We have the ability in ourselves to come up with new things, and need to use it.

The thread of Buhner’s work I found most interesting is the plant intelligence side of things, and it is a fabulous extension of what Jeremy Narby was talking about in Intelligence in Nature back in 2005 and that I was writing about in my main nonfiction book about consciousness back in ’08. His compelling vision is of a very alive and aware cosmos in constant interaction and dialogue with itself, and his reasons for thinking this are electrifying.

So I am awaiting a book in the mail, with a reasonable hope it will be able to live up to expectation. Also, nice to feel intellectual stimulation again.




4 Responses to “bacterial utopia or oblivion”

  1.   bruce
    July 18th, 2014 | 6:35 pm

    I’ve read Sacred and Herbal healing beers and the Secret Teachings of Plants.

    They were both full of awesome and interesting information but there is something about Buhner’s style that I dislike– he seems very much to me like he has an axe to grind. He comes across as angry and bitter and perhaps with too sharp a focus on his particular issues in a way that goes along with these emotions.

    For instance on the beer book, greatly full of history of other herbs besides hops that were used in beers, but as a beer recipe book it shows little knowledge of how to make beer and devotes much repetitive word count to railing against hops.

    The Secret Intelligence of Plants, if memory serves, had on its positive side some techniques for contacting the intelligence of different species and getting a feel for their nature, which I had some very encouraging preliminary success with, but again had that anger too it and like a whole chapter spent on the whole fractal infinite length coastline analogy/teaching example, hammering at it in repetitive detail.

    Will be curious to hear what you think. Does the audio stuff sound angry or is he more cheerful?

    One question about what you were saying about surgery– my memory of the Atul Gawande book checklist manifesto, I think that’s where I read about early surgery techniques and I think I read about Checklist on your blog? anyway it seems like there was early success with surgery without penicillin and later technologies. If this is indeed the case it would be an example of Buhner, as my other experience of him suggests, being too extreeme. Or maybe I am just feeding my own preconceived notions.

    Race between oblivion and utopia, yes. I feel more and more as the buddhist samsara or charnal ground/nirvana being the same thing right here right now viewpoint infiltrates my world view that this is basically the general continuing story of the human experience. That we are wired to constantly be experiencing the world as potentially about to end.

  2.   billy
    July 18th, 2014 | 7:53 pm

    Weird. He came across real well, sane and grounded in the interviews. Certainly not angry.
    The one I ordered is called something like Plant Intelligence in the Imaginal Realm, which I guess is a followup to Secret Teachings of Plants.
    Yeah, part of why I wanted to get him in writing with references was some of the claims he was making were quite wild, though intellectually consistent and deeply interesting.
    Have not heared of Guwande or checklist.

  3.   bruce
    July 19th, 2014 | 8:50 am

    don’t get me wrong, Bunher still worthwhile, i’m just picky 😉

    so yeah, just taking a spin through suggests he’s exagerating. Things that help surgery, which was already deemed worthwhile, which kinda puts “losing surgery” into perspective– washing hands or a patient’s wounds, spraying carbolic acid, sterilize equipment, wearing of rubber gloves.

    which is not to say penicillin isn’t even better, but yeah, not losing surgery i don’t think.

  4.   bruce
    July 26th, 2014 | 8:38 pm

    Just listened to the Buhner interview you link to from permaculture podcast…

    yeah… I really like where he ends up saying each person needs to act according to their individual genius in their own situation: excellent.

    Probably where he gets into trouble with me is end of the world scenarios, and extremes in oppositional thinking… of course i am prone to the same things 🙂