The Alchemy of Bee-ing

When we step into the world of Apis Mellifera, we are entering a multidimensional landscape of being. The life gesture of the honeybees is so unique and different from most other life forms, that a rational mind alone cannot provide sufficient understanding of its nature. Rudolf Steiner described the bees in his lectures as a “Weltenrätsel” which literally means “world-enigma”. It points towards an understanding that goes beyond rationality, and it is an invitation into another mode of awareness.

To describe the oneness of the honeybee nest, we can use the term of the bien, which refers to its unique personality and to the emotional and spiritual quality of its gestalt.

Depending on our perspective, the single bee can either be understood as an individual (bee) or a somatic cell, and it oscillates incessantly between both poles of being. Similar to light which can be described as a wave and a particle, the bien can be observed on multiple levels with sometimes contradicting paradigms. One very important aspect of the phenomenon of the bien is to be in between worlds and paradigms. Ancient cultures recognized the honeybees as messengers, linking heaven and earth. This oscillation between opposite poles of being makes the bien into a very unique, sacred, and sometimes enigmatic being.

To live with the bien is an opportunity for developing new ways of being and communication. As we enter a relationship with it, we will find that it does not have an obvious face that we could observe with our regular senses. We may feel more comfortable communicating with our dog, cat or other domestic animal, because we can look into a face. The face of the bien on the other hand, can only be seen with “ir-regular” senses. In other words, in order to perceive what is imperceivable within our regular mode of awareness, we have to shift our perspective.

The search for the face of the bien has the potential of transforming our normal ways of thinking and perceiving, because we are aiming towards something outside of our regular reference points. It is an invitation to step into an unknown field within our consciousness. Who are we in this moment? How do the bees appear when observed from this new perspective? Does our own sense of self change in the process?

When we enter the multidimensional landscape of the bien we come away with a whole new understanding of its life gestures. One example is that of what we call swarming. The swarm as a newborn is leaving everything behind. It forsakes its identity and the precisely memorized location of its old home and ventures into the complete unknown. The swarm leaves behind somatic tissue and parts of its corpus such as comb, with its intricate multidimensional comb-wide web of properties. It enters the unknown with vigor, faith and determination, crossing the threshold into a place between death and rebirth. This pouring into the unknown seems to be accompanied by an absolute trust and confidence, similar to the primordial trust within our own life. It is as if we could see our own grasping fall aside and gain insight of being completely in the present moment, as if we were arriving home, because we had left home. When we step into the intimacy of not knowing, then we can enter a vast field of being.

Altruism is one of the bien’s deepest life gestures. Always humble and ordinary, the bien’s fabric of life seems to consist of service and compassion. Its sense of self is oriented towards inclusion and not separation.

When we link ourselves to the bien, we can develop a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of all life and connect intimately with our most fundamental questions. The bien emits a sense of warmth and inwardness. It can make us feel infinitely vulnerable. The bien invites us to see with our hearts rather than solely with our eyes. The inquiry into the bees will naturally lead to an inquiry into our own consciousness.

Living with bees is not about hardware, hives and management techniques any more – it is ultimately about the survival of life on earth. The bien is at the core of the earth’s biosphere. Bees are agents of life, as they sustain the health and existence of vast numbers of plants and animals. Our food supply depends upon them. The multidimensional landscape of the bien presents an opportunity to step into a creative field of finding new ways of living. The bees can be an inspiration in these times of great turmoil and change. Apiculture can become consciousness work, and our role as apiculturists can become that of a practitioner. This is what we can call Apisophia. There are many gates and paths to enlighten our life, and Apisophia is one of them.

Michael Thiele, first published in Star and Furrow