Volcanism that pierces plate interiors is characteristically rich in alkalis and volatiles, and its cause and persistence are essentially expressions of the Earth's outgassing. The general balance of mobile elements (such as H, C, F and Cl) rules out recycling of sea floor, hydrosphere, sediments or atmosphere: furthermore, it is not in accord with accepted planet degassing budgets. The typical eruptive mode of volatile-rich magmatism means that the observed regional chemical variations, and even differences between adjacent volcanoes, must largely reflect source heterogeneity. In a broader context, this magmatism is also at odds with a concept of continental crust underlain by strongly depleted (refractory) mantle. Repetition of activity along crustal zones of weakness shows that the lithosphere mantle (a) is structurally complex and (b) still holds continuing (or continual) rich reserves of mobile elements. Unbroken lithosphere muffles the evolutionary escape of volatiles from the deep mantle: any lesion that appears then offers easy escape channels, whereby volatiles are drained from a large mantle region and funnelled through the plate. Horizontal movement of thick continental lithosphere releases volatiles from deep sources, imparting some of the special chemical characteristics of the stable continental magmatism. Present evidence requires consideration of the continental lithosphere as a site of primordial heterogeneity that has been accentuated rather than diminished by geological processes.