At a certain point every autumn, one experiences the light receding. I notice it when I have to turn on the “headlights” on my bicycle on the ride home after work. Sometimes I notice that the growth of the garden plants slows to a crawl; other years I just notice a tendency to want to sleep more and be less active. In any case, the cause is very clear: the light is receding and the darkness is growing.
This experience, of course, is one of the meanings of both the Christmas and Hanukah stories, both of which teach us about overcoming the darkness both within and outside of us. As we approach the darkness this year, I would like to introduce you to an interesting plant that Rudolf Steiner claimed could support light processes in the human being. Before getting into the details of the plant, we could ask, what is meant by light processes in the human being, and what does it look like when a human being is deficient in light.
In my new book Human Heart, Cosmic Heart, I question the accuracy of the current model that explains the function of our nervous system. For me, the theory that ionic fluxes and the movement of neurotransmitters across synapses are the basis of nerve transmission is implausible, if for no other reason than it’s simply way too slow to account for the instantaneous functioning of our nervous system.
To account for this instantaneous functioning, referred to as quantum coherence, we must look for some other mode of transmission than cumbersome chemicals. The two obvious candidates are the flow of electrons or the flow of photons, i.e., light. My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that the connections that are fundamental to any living being are a combination of both of these forces –- light and electricity. In other words, as an intrinsic condition of health, we must have a robust flow of light throughout our nervous system. In its absence, we suffer from one of the various neurological diseases, such as depression, sleeplessness or memory loss. In fact, Steiner pointed out that a failing memory was the indication for the plant that would introduce light into the human being.
The plant I am referring to is the Chinese Wild Yam (Dioscorea batatas), otherwise known in anthroposophical circles as “lightroot” (see photo above). The wild yam has many uses in traditional Chinese medicine, from kidney diseases to snake bites, probably because of its tonifying effects.
The Dioscorea plant is a permaculture star as it’s an easy-to-grow, prolific source of nutrients and starch for just about any home garden. We are actively looking for a farmer or large-scale gardener who is willing to grow this species for us to turn into powder. If you are such a person or know of anyone, please contact us.
With joy and light for the holiday season,
Tom Cowan, M.D.