Bee Life, Part IV: The Sacred BeeMar 29, 2015 01:08AM ● By Juliette Jones
Give and Take…For, to the bee, a flower is a fountain of life
And, to the flower, a bee is a messenger of love And, to both bee and flower, the giving and the receiving is a need and an ecstasy. – Kahlil Gibran
How is it that we might come to establish a person, symbol, entity or place as having a sacred character? And, on a purely practical note, what benefit might we come to expect by holding an attitude of sacred regard toward something that is worthy of veneration? For one thing, the thoughts that we project establish a living-link between ourselves and that which we hold in our mind’s eye. Thus, an open attitude of sacred regard favors the flow of life-giving experience between the giver and the receiver. Generally speaking, the designation of sacredness is related to qualities of self-giving, healing ability or the possession of some miraculous power.
In the ancient world, honey bees were revered, not only for the production of wax and honey, but for their powers of communication, supremacy of social order and relationship to higher values. Our historic and sacred relationship has been lost due to highly mechanized industrial practices and the material shape of our culture. Today, we have “progressed” to a worldview where the honey bee appears to be incompatible with our treatment of the environment and, like the monarch butterfly, may move ever more rapidly toward extinction. As the life support systems of the honey bee continue to be breached, we undermine the same chain of being that humans depend upon. Honey bees are quite literally communicating a signal that we have entered a “danger zone” in our treatment of the planet worldwide.
The Divine Speaks to Humankind through Bees
The honey bee was once held prominently in the holy books of major world religions. The Torah, Old and New Testaments, Koran, Vedas, Upanishads and Buddhist Cannons all feature praise and reference to the works of the honey bee. To the early Hebrews, the idea of a wonderful land was one that offered milk and honey. In the Old and New Testaments combined, honey is referenced no less than 56 times. Bees and their hives appear throughout sacred mythology, and honey has a long history of use in rituals surrounding important events such as birth, marriage and death. In ancient cultures, bees were considered to be especially gifted, often sacred creatures. According to Mohammed, the only living creature to which God spoke was the bee.
The Lord said, “Build dwellings in the mountains and the trees, and also in the structures which men erect. Then eat from every kind of fruit and travel the paths of your Lord, which have been made easy for you to follow. From inside them comes a drink of varying colors, containing healing for mankind. There is certainly a Sign in that for people who reflect.” – Qur’an 16:68-69
Synchronicity---Nature and Psyche in an Interconnected Universe
There is a numinous, otherworldly quality about honey bees. Even the sound, if not spelling, of the word, “bee” suggests present and direct association with life and living. There are many stories and fables, both ancient and present day, which speak to the communication and healing power of honey bees. Charles Mraz, a pioneer in American apitherapy, writes of a woman, who was stricken with arthritis and could barely walk and prayed earnestly for pain relief. Her husband kept bees near their house, which had never bothered anyone. However, when she began to suffer the crippling effects of this disease, for no apparent reason, the bees began to sting her exclusively on the wrists and ankles whenever she sat outside in the yard. Neither the woman nor Mraz thought this was an accident. The bees never bothered her once the arthritic pain cleared up.
All of nature begins to whisper its secrets to us through its sounds. Sounds that were previously incomprehensible to our soul now become the meaningful language of nature.
– Rudolf Steiner
Spiritual philosopher, Rudolf Steiner had a lot to say about our relationship with bees. In 1923, he gave a series of lectures in which he predicted the disappearance of the bee that we are witnessing today. Steiner regarded our relationship with nature as the gateway to intuitive understanding of super nature and, in essence, the Divine. He spoke of the importance of communion with nature in early childhood as a foundation for understanding our sacred roots in the cosmos.
Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans
Rudolf Steiner’s work has been of great interest to me, especially in light of early childhood experiences. At about the age of three, I was frequently drawn to lie down on the grass beneath two large, old lilac bushes situated in our backyard garden. From this vantage point, I could fix my gaze upon the vivid blue sky through a hole in the overarching canopy and inhale the sweet, powerful fragrance of lilacs in bloom.
One late spring afternoon, when the blossoms were especially full and fragrant, I fell into a meditative state while contemplating white, fluffy clouds passing over the hole in the canopy. Before long, I noticed some bees moving around on the flowers. Previous to this incident, I don’t know that I had ever particularly noticed these creatures and wondered what they were. More and more bees congregated on the flowers above me, and after a while, I could hear their collective buzzing sound – a sound which continues to intrigue me even today. I focused the point of my meditative attention upon the buzzing sound, the frequency of which seemed to penetrate throughout my entire being. Suddenly, I had a whole-body realization that the whole of nature was sacred and subsequently experienced a deep love for all existence. This feeling persisted throughout the entire day and inspired me to a life-long understanding of nature as a mystical, magical event, gratefully shaped, in no small part, through direct exposure to the message of the honey bee!
Her labor is a chant, Her idleness a tune, Oh, for a bee’s experience, Of clovers and of noon.– Emily Dickenson