By Barbara Janelle M.A., B.Sc.
Published in Species Link, The Journal of Telepathic Communication, Summer 2017, Issue 99
As communicators, we have the opportunity to explore how other species function and then perhaps to understand our own human behavior in a different way. My purpose in writing this article is to intrigue and encourage readers to consider different frameworks in trying to understand the behavior of both animals and humans.
As humans, we have largely seen ourselves as individuals. We often band together to accomplish things, but even in groups, we tend to see ourselves as individuals. When I connect with other species and explore the understanding that they hold, I discover differences that make me look at human behavior from a different vantage point.
I have worked with trees for years and have found that mature trees are wise and very effective healers, and that the sense of the tree as an individual intimately connected to the Earth and other life forms is very strong. Many years ago though, I had a different experience as I stood with my back against a young tree in a small grove of young trees. I was surprised to discover that this tree understood that it was the group. It spoke in terms of the whole group, not as an individual. Individual identity did not exist for this young tree.
I have watched birds flying in a group, making sudden swoops and turns – all acting in a single unit with a united mind. I have seen fish do this, and herds of horses running free too. A group of dogs running up a mountainside on an organized hike with their humans can become a whole united group mind. But I have also seen members of these species act as individuals too.
Recently, I was reading a book about the behavior of deer. It was full of well-described observations, but the interpretation of many of these observations was off because it was made solely within the framework of human individualistic behavior. Everything from seeing the herd as composed of dominant individuals and low status individuals to it being two groups: a dominant one and a lower status second group, missed the understanding of the herd as one being.
Vegetation, from succulents to grasses to bushes and trees are connected and communicate in many different ways. Roots systems, chemical interactions, sound, scent, and other energetic dimensions make up an information web that animals and even people are connected to as well. More than that, each species has a note or phrase that it sings as it participates in the Earth Song (1). That music is the ultimate union that is greater than separate parts formed by the web of life.
A “Gestalt” is “a configuration or pattern of elements so unified as a whole that it cannot be described merely as a sum of its parts.” (2) The Earth is a gestalt, composed of an infinite number of parts that is more than just the parts together. It has meaning and will and creativity.
Plants, animals and humans can function in gestalts. A flock of birds, a herd of deer, a pack of dogs, a forest, a meadow, a swamp are all gestalts – greater than the sum of parts. As a gestalt, a tree does not see itself as a tree, but rather it is a whole. The image it presents is a world, not an individual.
Humans may work as a recognizable gestalt in crowd situations where emotion, sound, smell, thought, and other things can trigger group behavior – a group mind that results in coordinated group action. It is common that a group of young to middle aged women in a week long workshop can all suddenly have their periods simultaneously. Gestalt affects not just behavior but physical function too. Indeed, wholeness means everything: everything is one.
In a home, people and animals are a unit whether the humans recognize the gestalt mind or not. The dynamics among the individuals create a song, a quality of harmony or disharmony that involves awareness, mirroring, and interwoven behavior. Each member is both an individual and the group.
So a gestalt may be composed not just of members of the same species. A horse and rider can become one, as can a human and dog walking down the street. Cats and dogs and birds in the same household can become one mind. My garden is a gestalt and the birds, insects and lizards that come in become the gestalt too.
It is hard to wrap our minds around this idea because we have focused so much of our attention on how we humans are individuals and then we have come to believe that everything else is too. My experience leads me to believe that for many species, there is individual awareness and gestalt existence, and the shift between them may be fast or they may be simultaneous.
As communicators, it is useful to recognize that when we engage with an animal or its person, we may be working with a gestalt. Mirroring, group mind, something more than just the two is in the field we are connecting. And indeed we can experience the gestalt too.
- Janelle, Barbara, “Earth Song,” Our Healing Power, London, Ontario Canada, 2004
- From Wordbook on my Apple I-pad. The Oxford Dictionary defines gestalt as “an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.”