Since the early 1990s I have pursued study and documentation of forms of traditional knowledge. This led to my working with government (in India) and specifically in the areas formally known as agriculture and environment, but also with a variety of voluntary and non-profit groups. During the last 15 years this work has come to have three focus areas: crop cultivation, indigenous and local medicine, and handicrafts and hand weaves. More recently since 2010 I have been associated with Unesco’s culture section on living heritage (mainly in Asia), and also with inter-governmental organisations (such as IPBES, CBD) working on or with traditional knowledge.

About the working group

Traditional medicinal, healing and curative sciences and arts stand, in many ways, at the threshold between material and non-material worlds. Their most experienced practitioners have developed ways of not only seeing, but of understanding and diagnosing currents and fluxes within and surrounding our gross bodies. Their abilities draw out the connections between the material sheaths and structures of the body and its super-sensible emanations. Imbalances or injuries to one or more of these brings ill health or partial domination by disease. Cures and remedies re-connect the bodily and extra-bodily sheaths and emanations to raw or refined products of nature and also to spiritual devices. The working group examines such sciences in Asia (and elsewhere) and finds ways to encourage and continue the transmission of their arts and values.

Aims – to find and bring to the working group practitioners of and scholars on medicinal traditions with perhaps some bias towards those whose usage is becoming infrequent and therefore whose continued transmission is endangered. Terminologies and epistemologies that are particular to any medicinal tradition are of special interest because the language/dialect they are conveyed in contains meanings and concepts (such as of attributes or qualities of natural substances) and relations. Working group members may consider their deliberations (recorded discussions, articles, commentaries, videos) as contributing to reversing the trajectory of ‘public health’ which has been accelerating away from the subtle to the gross.

Several very promising inter-connections present themselves. Groups whose work includes or touches on the natural world (not only flora, but also the effects of seasonal cycles, astrological influences, the five elements) and on spirituality, cosmologies, have correspondences with the outlook of the traditional medicine group.

Group members would I expect like to post a variety of media for discussion or to elicit comment or review. These could be text, images, videos, audio recordings, manuscripts or documents. There may need to be scope for annotating these, or commenting on them. An electronic forum may be useful.