When seeking to realize some thing new, we instantly search for parallels in our earlier experience: we look for illustrations from the acquainted in get to better realize the unfamiliar. Normally, this can be valuable, as when we master a new language and we attract on our awareness of yet another language with a typical root.
Regrettably, this system can also just take us down a path that potential customers not to increased knowing, but to the confusion of truth with conditioned considered and to a type of distorted vision.
This can conveniently be noticed in the interpretation of animal behaviour by reference to human behaviour, which is 1 type of what we contact anthropomorphism. Myths and fables and kid’s tales are so suffused with the granting of human values and character attributes to animals that it is challenging to feel of a creature that has not, in our imaginations, been stereotyped and imprinted with attributes ascribed to it by an individual with a specific point to make, or axe to grind. Hence the fox is ‘wily and cunning’ the canine is ‘faithful and obedient’ the elephant is a ‘gentle giant’ and the snake is ‘sneaky and deceitful’. Aesop likely begun the pattern, but I choose to contact it the ‘Beatrix Potter Syndrome’, in recognition of her influence on the producing minds of twentieth-century young children, of whom I was 1.
Beatrix Potter was an accomplished illustrator and observer of character, who, had she been born a century later, may nicely have had a distinguished career in science. Unfortunately, she is now only remembered for her kid’s publications depicting animals in human outfits who wander on their hind legs. From her tales, a direct line can be drawn to the emotionally billed portrayals of animals in several Disney movies, even though the brutal truth of the life of wild animals is concealed beneath a veil of sugary sentimentality.
Potter’s assignation of human characteristics and behaviour to animals is only 1 type of anthropomorphism. There are at minimum two other strategies in which we routinely corrupt our knowing of the non-human environment by our preference of language: the use of phrases to title or describe an animal and the description of animal behaviour in human phrases.
We can attract illustrations from the environment of bees to illustrate both of those of these phenomena.
When we label the egg-laying mother of the colony as ‘queen’ bee, we impose on her by implication all the this means with which that English term is loaded. Hence we may anticipate to come across her as a monarch in cost of the colony, issuing orders and, most likely, punishments for infringements of ‘colony law’. The phrase ‘queen bee’ has passed back again into the English language as a description of a woman with a controlling and manipulate character, who likes to have people all around her to serve her desires and give her notice. This reinforces the well-liked but inappropriate photo of a real ‘queen’ bee, which need to definitely be far more properly considered of as the egg-laying servant of the colony and surely not its ruler. Even though the queen bee does certainly have a retinue of attendants to feed and groom her, it is they who guide her all around and prepare places for her to lay. When she begins to display any signals of a decrease in her ability to offer eggs, she will be outmoded, overlooked and left to starve.
Furthermore the male bee, or drone, which has inherited the well-liked this means of its title as a parasitic loafer, or 1 who life off the labours of other individuals. Even though the male bees do no evident and seen perform when compared to their occasionally hyper-active sisters, we know remarkably little about their working day-to-working day actions thanks to the comparatively little quantity of research that has been carried out on them. I propose it is really improbable that a colony would intentionally encumber itself with a ‘useless’ 10-15% of its populace at a time when gathering foodstuff is its most important worry. Merely for the reason that we have so far failed to review them with thanks care does not entitle us to label them as ‘surplus to requirements’, which is how they are regarded by most traditional beekeepers. In truth, research by Juergen Tautz at Wurtzburg University has revealed that drones may certainly have hitherto unsuspected obligations in just the hive and may nicely have features in the exterior environment that have so far eluded detection. As long back as 1852, Moses Quinby (Mysteries of Beekeeping Discussed) recommended that drones would probably have features outside of mating with a queen, most likely such as helping to preserve the brood warm. R.O.B.Manley noted that his best honey-creating hives typically had “a big quantity of drones” (Honey Farming, 1947).
When we come to bee behaviour, so substantially of it is alien to us that we wrestle to make sense of it, so it is not stunning that we vacation resort to attempts to demonstrate facets of their environment in human phrases. We discuss freely of bees foraging for foodstuff, scouting for a nest site, speaking by indicates of the ‘waggle dance’, defending their household, mating and carrying out their lifeless for the reason that these are all actions that we can very easily relate to and make simple sense in phrases of working day-to-working day survival in a colony.
What is most likely far more stunning – and infinitely much less valuable – is when people concoct mystical ‘explanations’ derived solely from their imaginations and move them on as if they had some scientific validity or basis in truth.
Myths and legends, populated by gods and heroes, are poetic allegories via which we have conveyed data – both of those oral and written – from generation to generation and consequently gained some knowing of our cultural history. Lots of myths are anthropomorphic in their personification of natural phenomena, but as long as we realize their origins and real character, we can master from them without baffling their information with objective truth.
Even so, as our scientific knowing of the natural environment grew rapidly through the nineteenth and twentieth generations, there was a parallel expansion of well-liked interest in this kind of factors as clairvoyance, telekinesis, telepathy, reincarnation, ghosts, out-of-body encounters and suchlike para-psychological phenomena that show up not to be subject matter to the acknowledged legal guidelines of physics, chemistry or biology. Irrespective of the absence of verifiable proof for this kind of phenomena, they show up to occupy a nether region that stubbornly persists in well-liked tradition.
In the context of this post, the thing to consider of whether or not this kind of phenomena definitely exist is much less pertinent than the truth that they have, since Victorian moments at minimum, been routinely introduced as if they had been legitimate by people with a substantially increased expertise for showmanship than for scientific rigour. Demonstrations of ‘manifestations from the spirit world’ had been fashionable in late nineteenth century modern society, even though Ouija boards and ‘table-tipping’ have floated in and out of trend practically to the present working day, despite the attempts of rationalists this kind of as James Randi and Derren Brown to expose the trickery behind them. Versions on the ‘clairvoyance’ concept have been all around at minimum since the days of the Delphic Oracle – likely the initial illustration of a tourist marketplace developed all around a mystical cult – and display no signals of losing attractiveness, despite various myth-busting general public exposures of fraud and trickery.
Rudolf Steiner, in his lectures on bees, shipped in November and December of 1923 at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, sought to interpret the environment of bees by indicates of ‘Anthroposophy’, a Christianized, edition of the mystical nineteenth century japanese-derived ‘religious philosophy’ of Theosophy, whose best-acknowledged proponent, Helena Blavatsky, was also a doing clairvoyant. Equally Steiner and Blavatsky claimed to derive their occult awareness from exterior the content environment, by a course of action that would currently be referred to as ‘channeling’.
Steiner considered that mankind had existed on Earth – while not automatically in content type – since its creation, and that bees (as nicely as other animals) had been established for our profit. This chronological reversal of the truth of the matter as discovered by fossil proof – bees acquiring surely been all around for far more than one hundred million a long time ahead of Homo sapiens – sets the scene for further doubtful assertions, this kind of as when he talks of embryonic queens “giving off mild” that in some way will cause a colony to swarm from “worry that ‘it no longer possesses the bee poison”.
Any individual unfamiliar with Steiner’s idiosyncratic cosmology and his other writings about the intended history of the Earth may be shocked by passages this kind of as:
“Our earth was as soon as in a problem of which 1 could say that it was surrounded by clouds that had plant-existence in just them from the periphery, other clouds approached and fertilised them these clouds had an animal character. From cosmic spaces arrived the animal character from the earth the essence of plant-being rose upwards.” (Lecture VIII)
Back in the environment of bees, Steiner helps make substantially of the 21-working day gestation time period of a worker bee as being equal to “a one rotation of the sunshine on its axis” (Lecture II), seemingly unaware that the equatorial regions of the sunshine complete a one rotation in twenty five.six days, even though polar regions rotate as soon as in about 36 days (NASA).
He goes on to say that ‘the drone is consequently an earthly being’ (for the reason that its completion requires longer than the sun’s rotation – which in truth, as we now know, it does not).
He further elaborates on this thesis:
“The drones are the males they can fertilize this power of fertilization will come from the earth the drones obtain it in the couple days during which they continue on their expansion in just the earth-evolution and ahead of they achieve maturity. So we can now say: in the bees it is clearly to be observed that fertilization (male fecundation) will come from the earthly forces, and the female ability to establish the egg will come from the forces of the Sunlight. So you see, you can very easily visualize how considerable is the length of time during which a creature develops. This is quite vital for, the natural way, some thing transpires in just a definite time which could not manifest in possibly a shorter or a longer time, for then quite other factors would happen.”
As transpires quite a few moments in the Lectures, Steiner helps make a statement that is demonstrably erroneous, and then goes on to elaborate a sequence of specious arguments from it, which, being derived from wrong premises, ought to inevitably guide to wrong conclusions.
It would be laborous to cite each and every occasion the place Steiner is obfuscatory, unnecessarily mystical or just plain improper. Suffice to say that, even though not being thoroughly devoid of interest, his Lectures are about as helpful a resource of insights into bees as a medieval guide of medicinal herbs would be for conducting fashionable operation. Indeed, Steiner even betrays his absence of primary knowing of the features of the human body (Lecture VII) in expressing that:
“…it is represented as however the heart had been a form of pump, and that this pumping of the heart sends the blood all in excess of the body. This is nonsense, for the reason that it is in truth the blood which is brought into movement by the moi-corporation, and moves through the body.”
Even so, Steiner does make some non-mystical statements that ought to be considered, as they at minimum drop into alignment with observable truth. He warns towards pushing bees for in excess of-generation, drawing a parallel with the dairy marketplace (Lecture V) he emphasizes that “… the bee-colony is a totality. It ought to be observed as a totality.” (Lecture V) The 1 substantially-vaunted but frequently mis-quoted, ‘prediction’ made by Steiner, typically misrepresented as a ‘prophesy’ of the normal demise of bees, quantities to a instead moderate criticism of the then reasonably new observe of artificial insemination: “…we ought to see how factors will be in fifty to eighty a long time time…”.
Proper at the end of the ultimate Lecture, we come across obvious proof that Steiner’s watch of character is really really anthropocentric:
‘Thus we can say: When we notice factors in the proper way, we see how the processes of Character are really visuals and symbols of what transpires in human existence. These adult males of olden moments viewed the birds on the juniper trees with the exact love with which we search at the little cakes and items on the Xmas tree. “…I have therefore spoken of the juniper tree which can truly be regarded as a form of Xmas tree, and which is the exact for the birds as the blossoms for the bees, the wood for the ants, and for the wood-bees and bugs in normal.”
And so Steiner’s own mysticism, as nicely as his sentimentality, turns out to have a big part of anthropomorphism lurking in just it.
Obtaining reached this point in our evaluation, we have to consider what is left to us: what would be a legit methodology for the review of bees, that would be free of charge from the elephant traps of anthropocentrism, anthropomorphism, sentimentality and mysticism, nevertheless can encompass the sense knowledgeable by several who come into call with bees that there is ‘something else’ present, outside of the purely content?
A rationalist would say, ‘observe without interpretation: see what is there and describe it as properly as doable, but without overlaying it with this means. Be real to observable reality’.
And nevertheless, several people report some form of transcendental experience in the existence of bees en masse, so are their studies to be written off as mere whimsy?
Speaking from my individual experience, I can say that even though doing work with bees and protecting a relaxed, unhurried demeanour, I have had times of internal peace akin to that I have also knowledgeable even though meditating or engaging in particular martial arts procedures that purpose to ‘still the mind’. Obtaining one’s unprotected hands in a hive that contains fifty,000 absolutely-armed bees has a way of concentrating the brain quite substantially in the minute, even though any deviation from the ‘now’ is probably to be punished far more rapidly and far more seriously than by a Zen master’s workers.
Currently being present ‘in the moment’ is a rarer – and consequently far more treasured – experience for the 21st-century Twitter-dweller than for our ancestors. For the chance to experience that sense of timelessness in the organization of a wild creature so several millennia our senior is a privilege that beekeepers need to celebrate and cherish.
Mysticism has had its working day. We are developed-ups now: we have observed the atom bomb and the double helix and we want to come to phrases with objective truth in all its wonderful forms without ascribing all phenomena just outside of our knowing to the perform of gods, aliens, faeries or gnomes. We can value character without projecting our aspirations or values on to it. We can notice without usually needing to know the ‘hidden meaning’ of what we see hear, smell and style. We can be elevated by what is all around us and appreciate all the sensations out there in this outstanding, natural environment. We can even compose poems and tracks, myths and fables to entertain us and our young children, but we no longer want to sit at the ft of all-also-mortal adult males who exert power in excess of the ignorant by interposing themselves amongst us and authentic experience of the mysteries of existence.