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The Duality of Herbalism and Dogma

Image by Digitalarts of freedigitalphotos.net; used with permission.

Please note: This article was written from a place of inclusivity, kindness and respect for all. Thank you for your consideration.

Is there a place for dogma in Herbalism—the study and engaged art of partnering supportive herbs with beings? Dogma is “something held as an established opinion; especially: a definite authoritative tenet,” or “a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church,” as stated in Merriam Webster’s Dictionary. For most, dogma is associated with the latter meaning, clarified as Religion. For an individual, the answer may be yes, but for the Herbal community as a whole, “no” would be the reply in support of herbalism being a simple art, unfettered, that is for everyone.

Some would argue this is false. Some would assert that Christianity, Paganism, or any religion or belief system should be or are, integral to herbal practice as an absolute. To that end, even online communities supporting individual faiths exist in the Herbal spectrum, but even within the same faith a difference of opinion of what constitutes their belief system and its association with Herbalism can arise, as evidenced in forum bylaws. Again, for the individual Herbalist, that is their truth to believe however they may; for the community, however, Herbalism is about self-healing, so why would anything as heated as mandating religion or dogma must be paired with Herbalism be considered incontrovertible for everyone? In doing so, the beauty of an art that promotes self-healing can become divisive, not inclusive—for all deserve to heal, just as all deserve to worship however they may choose. One could even consider that in order for all to truly heal, we must all inter-be, an interconnection of the highest order. Inter-being is at-one-ness; it is expansive and has no borders. Some achieve this during meditation. Some are so pure in heart they are inherently in this state, 24/7.

If Herbalism and dogma being inseparable is true for someone, it is because the practitioner believes the two are twain for their own need—and that is rightfully, undeniably theirs to choose. However, just as one, in harmony with others, would not mandate their religious beliefs on another, an individual should not dictate for others that dogma and Herbalism are singular. That way everyone is free to act upon their own beliefs and right to choose; their dogma is just that, theirs; while Herbalism continues to be the unifier it is—as the plant kingdom exists for the benefit of all. It is when one’s beliefs that differ from another’s incites disharmony or even contention in a practice that promotes balance, that the essence of the very healing the practice promotes gets lost.

The fear or confusion about others’ belief systems being attached to something as plain in principle as discovering a need for well-being, finding an herb that supports it, and applying that herb is misplaced, as the endeavor to promote self-healing with supportive herbs is nothing more than considering and implementing a gift of the earth beneath our feet. How that gift came into being may be considered debatable, but in the scope of Herbalism for all, it is not significant. Gratitude for that gift, and to Whomever the practitioner feels that gift came from (or not), is.

Herbalism is not an act of religious ceremony for the community of practitioners as a whole, as again, that would require mandating that dogma is required in order to utilize a gift. If, however, an herbalist or herbal enthusiast wishes to honor the process in some ceremonial or honorific way, that is their right, and rightfully so.

“The earth laughs in flowers,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said. Some were of the opinion that the writer was a theologian.  Some would state that Emerson just wrote from the heart and appreciated nature. Some were opposed to his views of nature and questioned his influence. Which is correct? Does it really matter?

Nature exists. It is here for our benefit. How we choose to implement that use is for each of us to determine for ourselves; however, as a community of care, Herbalism, by its very nature to support well-being, is indeed, inclusive of all. In order to be so, lines cannot be drawn. Instead, may we take any lines and tie them up in a nice, neat bow to wrap about this precious gift of Herbalism.

Note: The author believes and sustains that everyone has the inherent right to worship how, where, or what they may, without exception. The same applies to how an individual chooses to practice Herbalism, or any art that promotes self-healing. The point of this article was to promote unity. If anyone has felt anything to the contrary, apologies are sincerely offered.