The Time to Re-weave Our Spirit of Co-operation – A way to rebuild and strengthen our lost communities.

In our introduction to The Herbarium we state that it is the creation of a small autonomous group of independent herbalists, who have come together in the spirit of co-operation, to share knowledge and resources, and find different ways of organizing ourselves in a rapidly changing world.  We would like to expand this concept of co-operation to inspire, support and facilitate others to venture into a constructive relationship with each other and the communities in which we find ourselves, that transcend current limitations such as cyber communities or the restrictions and differences we may place unintentionally between members of different organizations and individual herbalists.  We value communities grounded in real people and the earth.

Human beings are social animals, and we can achieve much if we participate and work co-operatively with each other, especially if we are clear about our common intent and aims, which are ideally for the ‘greater good’.  We are clear we do not have prescriptive answers or solutions, but rather we echo the Transition Town ethos – where as a community of people involved in herbalism at many levels we identify the issues that are of concern, and then in an inclusive and collective manner find the solutions that work at a grass roots level.  We would postulate that we have lived for too long under the restrictive view of one reality that asserts itself as the only one, i.e. that life on our planet is one of competition, survival of the fittest, one of control and domination of the Other, a reality that has built in victimhood and disempowerment at its core.  However, we need to explore other realities and many, ranging from those at the edge of scientific research to those who keep the ancient indigenous wisdom alive, confirm that while the energies of the Universe may be constantly changing the ethos is one of co-operation and harmony, albeit it a delicate one in human hands.  The current human predilection for  ‘ruling elites’ is a dead end for human evolution, being based on fear and control which is life sapping and a block to creativity, full vitality and empowerment.

All our current ways of being are, and will continue to be, put under great challenges and much needed questioning.  Let us reflect that at the moment, most of our social and political structures are based on paying (usually) distant others to do something for us – along with the assumption that our needs will be met and taken care of.  It is all the ‘they & them’ who control our lives, whether that be central or local government, power suppliers, health services, schools, various regulatory bodies etc.  Most of these systems are motivated by wealth creation and the social-political forms of control are predominantly fear based.   As we can see from the current economic situation, those who were assumed to be the ‘experts’ actually have had a poor understanding of what they purported to control and that the whole system is driven by selfish and individualistic needs to acquire more (illusory) excessive wealth for a few at the top.  As this ineffective state of affairs unravels we have experienced for example the scandal of MP’s expenses, the continuing issue of banker’s bonuses, the bizarre handling of swine ‘flu and vaccination programmes.  Entangled with many of these events, and maybe typified by the MPs expenses was the cry “I was only following the rules”, this is a dangerous place where we negate our personal and collective responsibility and integrity.  Then there is the disempowering ethos of governing bodies that proclaim they know what is best for us, and if we should raise questions then it must be we who are at fault.  All these activities consume vast amounts of money (usually taxpayers) and time, let alone the diversion caused by the obsession with targets.  All this is a distraction from humans using their time in an effective and creative way to find real solutions.

We are in no doubt the current state of affairs is liable to unravel further and faster.  Inevitably more is yet to come because most of our current organization of  modern living is not sustainable on all levels.  Each time a ‘new’ situation is exposed it gives us individually and collectively an opportunity to realize that WE need to be the answer to the mess that faces US ALL, we need to find our voices and power to seek our own ways forward, however small they may seem to be initially.

Some simple, yet clear questions we can pose for ourselves are:  Do we feel the way our society currently acts is a healthy way for us individually or collectively? How does our heart energy respond?  Does our current way of being truly serve life? These issues are more than eloquently addressed in the works of Martin Prechtel, who notes “it was nature, wildness, this undomesticated spirit that fled when it got enslaved, insulted, maimed, beaten or scared off.  This trespass on one’s personal nature or soul is what Mayan shamans considered the prime source of illness to humans.” (1)

Those of us involved in The Herbarium wish to explore and find empowered ways of being with each other that extend beyond the usual expectations of professional bodies and old formal and linear group structures.  This has involved co-operation, participation and challenge.  However, even the challenges have enabled us to learn and extend our expectations.  While our focus is herbal medicine, it also enables a re-building and re-working of communities upon a founding principle of co-operation and inclusivity.  A co-operative spirit moves away from a top-down and linear process of acting and thinking to an inclusive and lateral way of acting and thinking.  Over the last few years it has come increasingly to the fore that many people want to find another way of engaging with the world of herbs.  The motivation is to step beyond the current linear, hierarchal and expert concepts that dominant, and (re-?)establish an inclusive co-operative community that encompasses all who have an interest in the survival of western herbal medicine.  This model values all from the wise hedgewitch, enthusiastic allotment grower, the studious degree student, all variety of established herbalists who may chose to be or not to be in professional associations, the inspired ethno botanist and so on.  Surely we can all be humble enough to respect the fact we need the support of each other on our herbal journeys.  When individuals collaborate at a micro level and take responsibility as well as truly engaging with others around them, then humanity at large will find its greatest chance of adaptation and evolution, even survival.

We would enthusiastically encourage all of you who are alert to the issues that face us on the herbal and wider fronts of human evolution, to have the trust and courage to come together with your own local communities, and organize your own co-operative and supportive groups that can be interlinked with a network of like- minded souls.  For it is only by being proactive and co-operative that we will find the solutions to the whole range of issues that face us all.  To illustrate from our own experiences we have pondered and worked upon issues such as how to access and harvest good sources of  particular herbs; exchanging surplus tinctures; facilitating knowledge exchange whether between ourselves or organizing workshops for fellow herbalists and/or the public; networking with herbalists nationally and globally; supporting students and finding ways to re-establish apprenticeship styles of learning; giving our own empowered responses to current government proposals for regulation; and not least establishing our support for each other.  Yet we are acutely aware such an endeavor needs to be part of a bigger story for it to be fed and thrive.

Finally, we hope this article will give you the inspiration to network and build your own dynamic groups.  For more detailed information please see our article on ‘Forming A Network of Transition Herbalists’, where we have more tangible suggestions for a more fluid and dynamic gathering where we can evolve an interlinked system of networking.  Collectively we are not only in the business of empowering others to find their own well-being, but also collectively and individually we need to give ourselves permission to move beyond the current limitations of being that no longer serve us well.  Let us all dare to create something different, that has actions based on celebrating co-operation and harmony – values that the few remaining indigenous cultures that still live as integral communities have always held true, and values that our spirits need to reconnect with.


(1)  from Martin Prechtel – Secrets of the Talking Jaguar pub.1999