The Beatrix Potter Syndrome

When trying to recognize anything new, we automatically seem for parallels in our past encounter: we find examples from the familiar in get to greater recognize the unfamiliar. Generally, this can be handy, as when we find out a new language and we draw on our information of another language with a frequent root.

Regretably, this system can also choose us down a path that leads not to higher knowing, but to the confusion of actuality with conditioned imagined and to a variety of distorted vision.

This can conveniently be noticed in the interpretation of animal conduct by reference to human conduct, which is one variety of what we call 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 difficult to consider of a creature that has not, in our imaginations, been stereotyped and imprinted with traits ascribed to it by someone with a certain point to make, or axe to grind. As a result the fox is ‘wily and cunning’ the pet is ‘faithful and obedient’ the elephant is a ‘gentle giant’ and the snake is ‘sneaky and deceitful’. Aesop possibly commenced the development, but I choose to call it the ‘Beatrix Potter Syndrome’, in recognition of her impact on the building minds of 20th-century young children, of whom I was one.

Beatrix Potter was an attained illustrator and observer of character, who, experienced she been born a century afterwards, could effectively have experienced a distinguished career in science. Sadly, she is now only remembered for her kid’s textbooks depicting animals in human clothes who stroll on their hind legs. From her stories, a immediate line can be drawn to the emotionally billed portrayals of animals in quite a few Disney movies, although the brutal truth of the lives of wild animals is concealed beneath a veil of sugary sentimentality.

Potter’s assignation of human attributes and conduct to animals is only one variety of anthropomorphism. There are at minimum two other means in which we routinely corrupt our knowing of the non-human environment by our preference of language: the use of phrases to name or explain an animal and the description of animal conduct in human conditions.

We can draw examples from the environment of bees to illustrate the two of these phenomena.

When we label the egg-laying mother of the colony as ‘queen’ bee, we impose on her by implication all the indicating with which that English term is loaded. As a result we could count on to locate her as a monarch in demand of the colony, issuing orders and, perhaps, punishments for infringements of ‘colony law’. The expression ‘queen bee’ has handed back again into the English language as a description of a girl with a managing and manipulate character, who likes to have men and women all over her to serve her demands and give her notice. This reinforces the well-known but inappropriate image of a genuine ‘queen’ bee, which really should truly be much more precisely imagined of as the egg-laying servant of the colony and absolutely not its ruler. Although the queen bee does in truth have a retinue of attendants to feed and groom her, it is they who guide her all over and get ready locations for her to lay. When she begins to display any indications of a drop in her capacity to offer eggs, she will be outdated, overlooked and remaining to starve.

Similarly the male bee, or drone, which has inherited the well-known indicating of its name as a parasitic loafer, or one who lives off the labours of many others. Although the male bees do no clear and visible function when compared to their often hyper-lively sisters, we know remarkably little about their day-to-day things to do due to the comparatively tiny volume of analysis that has been carried out on them. I counsel it is really inconceivable that a colony would deliberately encumber itself with a ‘useless’ 10-15% of its inhabitants at a time when accumulating food stuff is its main worry. Basically simply because we have so considerably unsuccessful to study them with due care does not entitle us to label them as ‘surplus to requirements’, which is how they are regarded by most traditional beekeepers. In actuality, analysis by Juergen Tautz at Wurtzburg College has demonstrated that drones could in truth have hitherto unsuspected obligations in just the hive and could effectively have features in the outside the house environment that have so considerably eluded detection. As prolonged ago as 1852, Moses Quinby (Mysteries of Beekeeping Discussed) instructed that drones would likely have features outside of mating with a queen, perhaps including assisting to preserve the brood heat. R.O.B.Manley pointed out that his ideal honey-generating hives frequently experienced “a big range of drones” (Honey Farming, 1947).

When we occur to bee conduct, so considerably of it is alien to us that we struggle to make feeling of it, so it is not shocking that we vacation resort to tries to demonstrate facets of their environment in human conditions. We talk freely of bees foraging for food stuff, scouting for a nest web-site, speaking by signifies of the ‘waggle dance’, defending their house, mating and carrying out their lifeless simply because these are all things to do that we can conveniently relate to and make sensible feeling in conditions of day-to-day survival in a colony.

What is perhaps much more shocking – and infinitely much less handy – is when men and women concoct mystical ‘explanations’ derived solely from their imaginations and pass them on as if they experienced some scientific validity or foundation in actuality.

Myths and legends, populated by gods and heroes, are poetic allegories through which we have conveyed info – the two oral and prepared – from era to era and thus acquired some knowing of our cultural heritage. A lot of myths are anthropomorphic in their personification of purely natural phenomena, but as prolonged as we recognize their origins and genuine character, we can find out from them with no baffling their content with objective truth.

However, as our scientific knowing of the purely natural environment grew swiftly in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth hundreds of years, there was a parallel expansion of well-known fascination in these types of points as clairvoyance, telekinesis, telepathy, reincarnation, ghosts, out-of-body encounters and suchlike para-psychological phenomena that appear not to be topic to the regarded legal guidelines of physics, chemistry or biology. Despite the lack of verifiable evidence for these types of phenomena, they appear to occupy a nether location that stubbornly persists in well-known tradition.

In the context of this report, the thought of no matter whether or not these types of phenomena truly exist is much less related than the actuality that they have, considering that Victorian moments at minimum, been routinely introduced as if they had been genuine by men and women with a considerably higher expertise for showmanship than for scientific rigour. Demonstrations of ‘manifestations from the spirit world’ had been fashionable in late nineteenth century modern society, although Ouija boards and ‘table-tipping’ have floated in and out of trend pretty much to the current day, even with the endeavours of rationalists these types of as James Randi and Derren Brown to expose the trickery powering them. Variations on the ‘clairvoyance’ theme have been all over at minimum considering that the times of the Delphic Oracle – possibly the initial case in point of a tourist marketplace developed all over a mystical cult – and display no indications of shedding recognition, even with numerous fantasy-busting general public exposures of fraud and trickery.

Rudolf Steiner, in his lectures on bees, delivered in November and December of 1923 at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, sought to interpret the environment of bees by signifies of ‘Anthroposophy’, a Christianized, version of the mystical 19th century jap-derived ‘religious philosophy’ of Theosophy, whose ideal-regarded proponent, Helena Blavatsky, was also a undertaking clairvoyant. Both of those Steiner and Blavatsky claimed to derive their occult information from outside the house the material environment, by a course of action that would nowadays be referred to as ‘channeling’.

Steiner thought that mankind experienced existed on Earth – even though not always in material variety – considering that its creation, and that bees (as effectively as other animals) had been developed for our benefit. This chronological reversal of the reality as uncovered by fossil evidence – bees getting absolutely been all over for much more than 100 million several years ahead of Homo sapiens – sets the scene for further more dubious assertions, these types of as when he talks of embryonic queens “supplying off light” that in some way triggers a colony to swarm from “fear that ‘it no extended possesses the bee poison”.

Any one unfamiliar with Steiner’s idiosyncratic cosmology and his other writings about the intended heritage of the Earth could be astonished by passages these types of as:

“Our earth was the moment in a problem of which one could say that it was surrounded by clouds that experienced plant-existence in just them from the periphery, other clouds approached and fertilised them these clouds experienced an animal character. From cosmic spaces came the animal character from the earth the essence of plant-staying rose upwards.” (Lecture VIII)

Back again in the environment of bees, Steiner tends to make considerably of the 21-day gestation time period of a employee bee as staying equal to “a single rotation of the sunshine on its axis” (Lecture II), seemingly unaware that the equatorial locations of the sunshine perform a single rotation in 25.6 times, although polar locations rotate the moment in about 36 times (NASA).

He goes on to say that ‘the drone is thus an earthly being’ (simply because its completion normally takes extended than the sun’s rotation – which in actuality, as we now know, it does not).

He further more elaborates on this thesis:

“The drones are the males they can fertilize this electricity of fertilization will come from the earth the drones obtain it in the handful of times through which they keep on their expansion in just the earth-evolution and ahead of they reach maturity. So we can now say: in the bees it is clearly to be viewed that fertilization (male fecundation) will come from the earthly forces, and the woman capability to develop the egg will come from the forces of the Sunshine. So you see, you can conveniently visualize how considerable is the duration of time through which a creature develops. This is quite critical for, the natural way, anything occurs in just a definite time which could not arise in possibly a shorter or a extended time, for then pretty other points would happen.”

As occurs various moments in the Lectures, Steiner tends to make a statement that is demonstrably faulty, and then goes on to elaborate a sequence of specious arguments from it, which, staying derived from phony premises, must inevitably guide to phony conclusions.

It would be tiresome to cite every single occasion where Steiner is obfuscatory, unnecessarily mystical or just basic incorrect. Suffice to say that, although not staying thoroughly devoid of fascination, his Lectures are about as valuable a source of insights into bees as a medieval e book of medicinal herbs would be for conducting contemporary operation. In fact, Steiner even betrays his lack of primary knowing of the features of the human body (Lecture VII) in indicating that:

“…it is represented as however the coronary heart had been a type of pump, and that this pumping of the coronary heart sends the blood all around the body. This is nonsense, simply because it is in truth the blood which is introduced into motion by the ego-group, and moves in the course of the body.”

However, Steiner does make some non-mystical statements that must be deemed, as they at minimum drop into alignment with observable truth. He warns from pushing bees for around-creation, drawing a parallel with the dairy marketplace (Lecture V) he emphasizes that “… the bee-colony is a totality. It must be viewed as a totality.” (Lecture V) The one considerably-vaunted but usually mis-quoted, ‘prediction’ created by Steiner, generally misrepresented as a ‘prophesy’ of the common demise of bees, amounts to a relatively delicate criticism of the then fairly new practice of synthetic insemination: “…we must see how points will be in fifty to eighty several years time…”.

Suitable at the stop of the remaining Lecture, we locate apparent evidence that Steiner’s look at of character is basically really anthropocentric:

‘Thus we can say: When we notice points in the suitable way, we see how the processes of Nature are basically illustrations or photos and symbols of what occurs in human existence. These men of olden moments watched the birds on the juniper trees with the identical enjoy with which we seem at the little cakes and presents on the Xmas tree. “…I have consequently spoken of the juniper tree which can really be regarded as a type of Xmas tree, and which is the identical for the birds as the blossoms for the bees, the wooden for the ants, and for the wooden-bees and bugs in common.”

And so Steiner’s own mysticism, as effectively as his sentimentality, turns out to have a big component of anthropomorphism lurking in just it.

Owning arrived at this point in our assessment, we have to take into account what is remaining to us: what would be a respectable methodology for the study of bees, that would be cost-free from the elephant traps of anthropocentrism, anthropomorphism, sentimentality and mysticism, nevertheless can encompass the feeling experienced by quite a few who occur into call with bees that there is ‘something else’ current, outside of the purely material?

A rationalist would say, ‘observe with no interpretation: see what is there and explain it as precisely as doable, but with no overlaying it with indicating. Be genuine to observable reality’.

And nevertheless, quite a few men and women report some type of transcendental encounter in the existence of bees en masse, so are their reports to be prepared off as mere whimsy?

Talking from my own encounter, I can say that although performing with bees and retaining a tranquil, unhurried demeanour, I have experienced times of internal peace akin to that I have also experienced although meditating or engaging in particular martial arts techniques that aim to ‘still the mind’. Owning one’s unprotected arms in a hive made up of 50,000 thoroughly-armed bees has a way of focusing the mind quite considerably in the moment, although any deviation from the ‘now’ is likely to be punished much more swiftly and much more severely than by a Zen master’s staff.

Getting current ‘in the moment’ is a rarer – and thus much more valuable – encounter for the 21st-century Twitter-dweller than for our ancestors. For the opportunity to encounter that feeling of timelessness in the organization of a wild creature so quite a few millennia our senior is a privilege that beekeepers really should rejoice and cherish.

Mysticism has experienced its day. We are developed-ups now: we have viewed the atom bomb and the double helix and we require to occur to conditions with objective truth in all its great kinds with no ascribing all phenomena just outside of our knowing to the function of gods, aliens, faeries or gnomes. We can appreciate character with no projecting our aspirations or values onto it. We can notice with no constantly needing to know the ‘hidden meaning’ of what we see listen to, odor and flavor. We can be elevated by what is all over us and appreciate all the sensations available in this outstanding, purely natural environment. We can even compose poems and tracks, myths and fables to entertain us and our young children, but we no extended require to sit at the ft of all-as well-mortal men who exert electricity around the ignorant by interposing themselves in between us and genuine encounter of the mysteries of existence.

Supply by Philip Chandler

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