INTERVIEW WITH: Theo Ferguson
INTERVIEW BY: Linda Milks
DATE: March 4, 2005
PLACE: Berkeley, CA
I met Theo at a fundraiser for the Women’s Sanctuary Sacred Grove. It is a 14 acre lot in northern CA with old growth redwood trees on it. In order to save it from being felled, a group of women raised funds to buy the land from the farm that wanted to sell. In order to pay off the mortgage, they have periodic fundraisers. Theo has made some very lovely note cards in pencil of a rendering of the redwood grove and gave me some for which I was very grateful!
Theo's organization, Sustainable Ventures, works with various investor groups and individuals to enhance the environment and social justice. She has also established a Prize which is awarded annually to encourage and promote work in these areas.
This interview takes place at her home in Berkeley on a wet rainy day. Her 24 year old cat comes in to join us as we chat a bit before we begin.
- Last time when we were out by the Japanese Maple - you asked me to tell you what the tree was telling me. And you know, this is not a usual behavior of mine. But I took your request and asked the tree what the tree had to say and I got this really wonderful message which I had never really gotten before about the matter of living in place, and place can be defined by the individual.
To me it was the rootedness of this particular garden but also the rootedness of the place; and that being rooted period, is not only as much a benefit for the being that is doing the rooting. Taking in the nutrients, being able to photosynthesis, taking in the waters and the minerals and the cellular stimulation and growth. But also the earth is giving - the nutrients, the chemical conversion, etc. So basically what I got as the message is this: If we draw, if we are rooted in whatever way - spiritually, physically, -we are not only getting whatever it is -energetically, spiritually, balance - but we are also putting that back into the place. And to me that was like -OH - so that’s what that tree told me. Of course I know about the biological aspects of the tree giving water and oxygen, but that’s only part of the story.
It was an energetic connection that it was implying.
Well, energetic, spiritual, ritual - whatever. Whatever you give - your rootedness, the process of rooting. Being connected and acknowledging this symbiotic relationship, that you’re part of this same system - in the biochemistry the spirituality, psychology, - feeds both - feeds the whole system. So that was cool. And I went OH, of course! That’s’ what the spirit was saying. And I was just touching the tree and asking the question and getting the message.
Very cool. Do you think that’s a viable way for you to work?
I have no idea and I have no inspiration to do it, I’m not drawn to do it. My sense for myself is that if a tree says, I’ve got something to tell you, come closer, then I will. Or if I’m drawn to a tree, which I often am, I will be drawn to the tree and have this wonderful little relationship with the tree. Weather or not I ask a question or there’s a message given is another matter.
The Nature Spirits class ( given by Sandra Harner) you spend the entire day talking with grasses and trees – it’s wonderful.
(We discuss the time period for our session - she has an hour - and what she wants to share with me about her shamanic journeys. I reiterate my appreciation for her time. She encourages me in my own practice. Emphasis’s the way you ask the question is very critical. Be specific in asking.)
The messages you get from the animals and teachers are totally tours. You’re the one who will understand that answer. If I journeyed for you, I’d get something that would mean nothing to me. But I tell it to you and you go - wow! Normally if you journey for someone else, you’re going to get a lot more help because you’re doing it for someone else as opposed to asking for yourself.
World Pulse is this meditation that I had based on Winfield Coleman, who’s a professor of anthropology at Stanford. And his story was the story of the use of shamanic powers in hunting among the Plains Indian people. ( She had gone to a symposium w/ him)
When he spoke about his Cheyenne shaman’s picture of the world, it was beautiful. It was like a gyroscope. - You have your world and you have your tree. (She’s describing the picture which she gave me a copy of)
The tree goes thru a hole in the earth that goes to the North Star and you have the Upper, Lower and Middle worlds. And then you have North, South, East, West - so you have these 7 branches that create this living Being. The communication that Coleman was sharing with us from his studies, as I understand it, is the way most Indigenous people hold the living earth, and their relationship with the earth.
The fact that it’s called a tree is that it’s a good symbol for them to use so they know what they’re talking about. This is how I understand it.
So if you think about your own pulse, 92 beats per minute, that’s your pulse. It’s not fast or slow it’s just the way your physiology works. For the earth, the way she works in her travels around the sun is that she has day and night. She rotates on her axis and revolves around the sun.
So she has a time when she’s facing the sun and all those activities we call day - photosynthetic, chemical activity is going on during that time. And that’s how, for the observers rootedness in place, we /they experience it and how it manifests for us.
So as the sun rotates on her axis so that our place on earth is no longer facing the sun, i.e. it is dusk and its turning, then we have night. And the earth’s pulse happens in the turning from dusk to night and from night to dawn. That seems like a large amount of time but that is the earths pulse because of the scale of this organism in this particular solar system.
So this is a typical belief for the Plains Indian?
No, I’m saying that the world tree is the way indigenous people view the world. They wanted to make clear that there is this pulse, this turning. This is the way it was communicated to us as part of the Cheyenne philosophy. Now whether or not all the indigenous people share the same one, I don’t know. This was what Coleman was saying.
I asked a very specific question. I said it sounds like a gyroscope and he said yes, it is. So you have this flipping - I’m getting vertigo. He said - it’s very slow. Another person there said, -it’s a very specific place and if you’re very quiet at dawn and dusk you can feel the turning. So there is this pulse that can be experienced.
Now in my meditation and investigation of this when I was doing this drawing (of the world tree & earth) the living earth is a planet orbiting the sun. She has physical, spiritual, behavioral needs to be healthy - the chemistry, energetics - whatever. Energetically and systemically she is overstressed right now and cannot cycle through her program. Thru her pulse.- Because none of us rest and we do nightly things. We keep working, we keep doing whatever we were doing during the day because the world is so closely connected now in our homosapien experience. Whatever it was that’s a night thing - a communing, a healing, a connectedness with other energetic and systemic levels, is not happening. We’re on top here going woosh, woosh.
My interest is - were in trouble here, the planet as a patient is unhealthy. And as a healer, what is going on - some diagnosis must be made, some communication must be made.
Since my business is converting energy and intention to money, I have to find out what’s going on so I can talk about the horrendous degradation of the planet and what we can do about it. So this is this exercise.
So moving on (to her shamanic journeys and away from this meditation experience).
The focus of the question is very important. What I asked was: “How can people, plants and animals experience being kin?” I went thru 2 journeys.
There was 1st this experience of being a plant and going thru the tendrils, etc. Then there was this naked man running thru the system of us being plants when the journey ended.
I decided something was happening so I was going to go there. I went back to the same place and followed the trajectory of that person -which I didn’t see and was not part of the business.
The business was that there was something going on over there. I wanted to go there because a teacher or someone was directing me. He didn’t have cloths because we weren’t human, but in order to get the message, this is how it appeared. So I became a redwood tree, and Trans evaporated and the water went thru me and all of a sudden the redwood tree created this amazing chair. And I thought isn’t this wonderful! That they know I’m a different Being. And their communication to me was to create this chair out of their own cellulose so that I could feel welcomed. That was just so dear, and then I saw the fish. And then I became a fish. That was the experience.
Can you give me a little bit of a description about how you felt when you became the fish and the tree. About what your conscious experience was in your human body?
Oh, I wasn’t in my human body.
Oh, was your consciousness of being a human totally gone?
No my consciousness was dual. I was the tree experiencing the trans-evaporation, how it would go thru my cellular body, but the questioner was still there.
So you had dual consciousness but 1 physical sensation.
Then the other experience was this. I was working with a group of women. So in this instance I was very concerned about how women particularly could save forests. I went to the upper world and my teacher basically brought me out to his garden and there were these rings of women from all around the planet that were surrounding forested areas. And they were doing what I understood were these energetic healing circles.
It was very consciously biologically, physiologically, chemically and spiritually based. Each one of those women were color coded because of different origins and races, and would come together intermittently over time. Maybe some in the spring and summer and in the Scandinavian fiords - but this was a global healing activity. This was a network and anyone could come but the women were coordinating it, were causing it to happen.
Now this was another journey based on the same question?
No, this question was: “What is the best way to work with Tracy Gary?” Basically creating these sanctuary forests. Tracy and I have many things we could be doing together but that was the one that occurred.
One of the activities I was involved with was creating a curriculum for this group Resourceful Women for socially and environmentally responsible investing. Unfortunately we had our final meeting on December 16, 2004 - they are disbanding.
But I also wanted to draw on the earth forces. Whatever it is the spirits would care to share with me so that in the process of communicating with them I would be able to use imagery or language that would really have them connect with this place. And the importance of their voices in speaking for the wellbeing of planet earth. So I had asked several times (thru spirit journeys) how could I work with this group?
And one of the images that came was the dandelion. So the dandelion is a single head and each one of those amazing umbrella seeds goes anywhere and can be completely self-sufficient and creates a whole other dandelion. Each little umbrella is self-sufficient, drives itself into the ground and boom. They have tremendous healing and anti-erosion properties. There are more species of dandelions in a given bio -region around the planet.
So I said that we should come together as a people like a dandelion head every so often and then we should pursue our lives but stay connected. So in the process of asking one of those questions, I had an experience where I was visiting my teacher in a journey and all of a sudden there were like 3 little dandelion umbrellas that shot off and I knew that I was suppose to follow.
The 1st one I followed was actually the last one because it was the most current. So I went there and later I realized I had to go back and do the other two. Which I did. I was working on a large woven robe from things, fibers that all of us had woven. And we, the group of women, were holding on to this long root and pulling the skin back off of a jicama. And this was being greatly supported.
Some over-growth that kept the living core, edible part, the living juicy part of the earth separate from this (skin). (this is what the vision meant, was referring to - the earth. The jicama was just an analogy used by the spirit for her reference so Theo would understand the meaning of the vision better. Theo knows that if you do it right you can pull the skin off the jicama easily without wounding the flesh or meat.)
There was a great big Plane tree behind me and I walked this rope (the rope they used to pull the skin from the jicama) around the Plane tree and then the Plane tree started pulling. Then all the other trees and plants and animals started pulling. We were all pulling to reveal that our relationship, our awareness, our interaction with the living earth had this cover, this seal, that was making the living earth non-inhabitable. . And so we all were pulling that dead skin off. And I was very excited the Plane tree was helping. That was the culmination of that journey.
The pulling of the skin symbolized getting rid of our misunderstanding of what our relationship is with the earth. The fact that we don’t get that we are part of this living system. So we have this idea and context which we overlay and so the use of the jicama was wonderful for me because I know the skin is strong enough. Together we can pull that veil - it will hold -that whole veil of context - and there is the living Being. Everybody was there - the birds, animals, the trees were pulling - it was great fun!
So the last journey I want to share. There is this Ecuadorian shaman (during a journey, not live) who decided that I was doing something that was worth reinforcing. That’s the only way, someone else learned things and he shared it because I couldn’t do that on my own. And he gave me my power animal too.
On this journey we went to the Amazon and walked to this village. The shaman was drying a drum. I’m not sure about the question I asked - probably something about the living earth. We went into the forest and into this amazing hot springs and thru them. Then we went along the chasm of the river bed to the Achuar village where Milton, the chief, and a younger and an elder greeted me.
Sometime later, a second time I went there asking to meet that forest. Milton took me thru these beautiful woods and eventually got to a very large waterfall. I went down the falls, primarily as water. Then with the energetic propulsion went thru the foam and there was this band of peacock feathers. I knew it was an opening and I went thru it. There was a cave I went into and there were many beings protecting the cave and they then allowed me to pass into an inner cave where there were these 4 lights. White, yellow, blue and green. I figured these were the elements - that is the 4 flames, which is the life of the forest and life of the earth
And then the call back came - and I went back thru the same way I had arrived and I thanked Milton. (the call is from the person in charge of the class who “calls” people back from journeying. She was in a class at the time of taking this journey) .
Those are the stories. I’m going to have the chair that I saw in the one journey that the redwood tree made for me, I’m going to have that made for a friend.
End of Tape.
I thanked her for her time and generosity.