Life’s Intelligent Organic Network in the Earth
by Tom Bunzel
Everything truly is connected. We must look not only cognitively at this idea, but sense it with our entire being, including the gut and heart.
Last week I wrote about our relationship with Life as individuals and as a species, putting forward the possibility that we are not material objects nor do we have an attribute called life, but rather whatever it is that Life is – that is precisely what we ARE as well.
We have a body, sensations, mind and thoughts but no matter how deeply we identify with any of these attributes, none of them are “us.” We can see this by recognizing that some entity is aware of all of these aspects – so we cannot be any of them. We can focus on our innate Awareness.
Then a day or so after the piece was posted, I was sent an email that would allow me to screen Fantastic Fungi. Many of you may have seen it but I am old and too cheap for Netflix.
Fantastic Fungi is a 2019 documentary film directed by Louie Schwartzberg that explores the world of fungi and their power to heal, sustain, and contribute to the regeneration of life on Earth. Their web page literally invites the visitor to “CONNECT WITH NATURE’S INTELLIGENCE”,
[Note: You can take a quiz on the website that told me my mushroom type is the Reishi – the Queen of Mushrooms. Apparently, I am “an unflappable old soul and a natural leader” and my next step is to “Embrace the joy and beauty of mushrooms.”]
How Can this Connection Be Achieved?
One of the film’s narrators so eloquently states, in comprehending the reality of fungi — “Our task today is to understand the language of Nature.” – Paul Stametz
It is precisely this sort of insight that I felt resonated with my previous piece in a way that suggested synchronicity. At one point the film literally states that the existence of fungi is an example of the vast intelligence of nature – that is behind DNA — and runs our organisms without our conscious participation.
I think a vital theme of the film is that our connection with Nature, or the language we need to use, is much deeper than the language with which I am writing this article.
Rather our connection with Nature is best achieved by a merger of feeling, sensation and thought as we imagine a computer-like network of organisms that send signals between trees and other life forms. We have now discovered that these mycelium are using similar electrical and biochemical signals as we transmit or receive through our own brains.
The Magic of the Mushroom Happens Beneath the Surface
I was under the mistaken impression that fungi essentially refers to mushrooms but the film explains that they are merely a fraction of the organism (which they say is neither animal nor vegetable but essential for the survival of both) is above ground; under the surface there is an immense dense and continuous growth of Mycelium, the network of interconnected threads that runs for miles beneath the earth, and communicates like our brain, using electrolytes and biochemical reactions.
The film uses a nice analogy to emphasize the critical role fungi play in Life on our planet…
“Fungi are like the eggs in a cake. Flour and sugar don’t connect unless you have eggs. Plants and animals don’t connect unless you have fungi.” Giuliana Furci
As the cake analogy suggests, the role of fungi interconnects with everything living on this planet. And believe it or not, that even includes us.
I have to say this profound message, which many of us blithely articulate that “everything is connected” is communicated effectively right at the beginning of this film with music, imagery and amazing photography, but the narrative takes us beyond the intellect and into the gut and heart.
As one watches one cannot help but be affected by the obvious connection between the elements described – and our own existence.
One’s growing intimate familiarity with the subject matter as one learns all about this critical life-sustaining organism goes ever deeper, to a more visceral experience.
The film goes into the medicinal and healing properties of fungi and describes how an extract was used to save bee populations by affecting the virus that has been killing off colonies.
It’s not a big leap to contemplate that within the vast array of fungi on the planet, many probably endangered, are the potential means to heal many human maladies, both physical and psychological.
It’s worth noting that this currently is the domain of the for-profit pharmaceutical industry.
Discovering the Healing Properties of Fungi
But when considering that these life forms contain within them the very biochemicals that can be used to treat so many ailments, one might suspect again that Nature has provided the means for our own healing if only we can connect with its essence – which I believe is infinite intelligence and love.
As someone who has been recovering from a brain injury, I was so intrigued by an experiment on mice with psilocybin. The mice had been conditioned to associate a sound with pain, so when they heard it they cowered in fear. With the psilocybin, they no longer made that connection. This is being considered as a treatment for Alzheimer’s but given its obvious effect on the brain, it may be very effective for all sorts of trauma.
It turns out that Lions Mane grows neurons – it stimulates neuroplasticity – exactly what I sought to heal my own brain.
It also turns out that the Mayans had “mushroom stones” in the shape of a mushroom that they used for divination and worship.
A True Sacred Science Touching Metaphysics
Andrew Weil asks a fascinating question relating to our very connection with the natural world – “Why do mushrooms produce molecules that fit receptors in the human brain and body?”
Science isn’t very good at the “why” questions generally – but this one, if you let it sit can take you beyond modern science.
If it becomes deeply obvious that everything in Nature is intelligently programmed in some completely logical way, then it can sink in that Nature itself IS infinitely intelligent.
Inevitable Resistance from the Establishment
The film also reminded me of a time when mushrooms actually were allowed briefly in the culture and resulted in people “who weren’t going to fight your wars” – concurrent with the protests that greeted Johnson and Nixon and resulted in these “drugs” being suppressed as illegal.
Like marijuana, they clearly had the effect of loosening our “conditioning” to societal norms and allowed for greater freedom of perspectives and thought. It was the time of Tim Leary and Ram Dass, and also Dr. Andrew Weil…
The film points out the consequences of having such life-affirming substances made illegal as creating an inner conflict within the user that can result in “a bad trip” – due to the contradiction between the wants and needs of the organism and the dicta of society.
Acceptance Could Lead to a Shift in Consciousness
This is a very insightful comment on the current schisms in our society as we begin to (hopefully) shift from one paradigm of reality as being a species separate from Nature to a new sense of integration and wholeness.
The film is a hopeful look forward in its description also of how psychedelic research has been resumed with great potential benefits to humanity, along with a deeper understanding of our relationship to nature.
I Had a Brief Glimpse – And Now It is Real
At the end of the film, when they described the effects of psilocybin as being life-changing, I was reminded of a few experiences I had in college in my early 20’s and now looking back I can see how they may have shaped the person I’ve become. I had one experience where I remember how words and language lost all of their meaning and I felt deeply connected to the very essence of what I was. The film has helped me contextualize that.
There are many people who believe that the Earth, and perhaps even the Sun and other planets and stars are living entities – not as a metaphor but literally.
I have always liked the metaphorical concept, especially with respect to the planet we inhabit, seeing the natural world as an expression of the planet itself.
Now when we consider that the Earth also managed to “Fungi” creating an intelligent network of mycelium beneath the surface of the earth by which other life forms can thrive and even communicate with the same biochemical and electrical signals as we have within our own organism, the concept of a living earth, a living Sun and a living universe becomes less poetic and much more tangible.
Besides expressing its infinite intelligence the existence of fungi also shows Life “naturally” expressing Love.
Tom Bunzel was a contributor to Collective Evolution and now writes for The Pulse.