“True knowledge, it is asserted, exists as a positive commodity, like the honey of the bee. Like honey, it can be accumulated. From time to time in human history, however, it lies unused and starts to leak away. On those occasions the Sarmouni and their associates all over the world collect it and store it in a special receptacle. Then, when the time is ripe, they release it into the world again, through specially trained emissaries.”
Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees (the genus Apis) is the one most commonly referred to, as it is the type of honey collected by most beekeepers and consumed by people...
Honey bees transform nectar into honey by a process of regurgitation and evaporation. They store it as a primary food source in wax honeycombs inside the beehive. …
Honey has had a long history in human consumption, and is used in various foods and beverages as a sweetener and flavoring.
- It also has a role in religion and symbolism.
- It has also been used in various medicinal traditions to treat ailments.
Flavors of honey vary based on the nectar source, and various types and grades of honey are available.
- Pollens and spores in raw honey can determine floral sources of honey.
- Bees carry an electrostatic charge whereby they attract other particles in addition to pollen, which become incorporated into their honey; the honey can be analysed by the techniques of melissopalynology in area environmental studies of radioactive particles, dust and particulate pollution.
Honey's natural sugars are dehydrated, which prevents fermentation, with added enzymes to modify and transform their chemical composition and pH.
- Invertases and digestive acids hydrolyze sucrose to give the monosaccharides glucose and fructose.
- Invertase is one of these enzymes synthesized by the body of the insect.
Honey bees transform saccharides into honey by a process of regurgitation, a number of times, until it is partially digested.
- The bees do the regurgitation and digestion as a group.
- After the last regurgitation, the aqueous solution is still high in water, so the process continues by evaporation of much of the water and enzymatic transformation.
To produce a single jar of honey, foraging honey bees have to travel
the equivalent of three times around the world.
Honey is produced by bees as a food source.
- In cold weather or when fresh food sources are scarce, bees use their stored honey as their source of energy.
- By contriving for bee swarms to nest in artificial hives, people have been able to semi-domesticate the insects, and harvest excess honey.
In the hive (or in a wild nest), there are three types of bees:
- a single female queen bee
- a seasonally variable number of male drone bees to fertilize new queens
- some 20,000 to 40,000 female worker bees.
The worker bees raise larvae and collect the nectar that will become honey in the hive.
- Leaving the hive, they collect sugar-rich flower nectar and return.
In the hive, the bees use their "honey stomachs" to ingest and regurgitate the nectar a number of times until it is partially digested.
- Invertase synthesized by the bees and digestive acids hydrolyze sucrose to give the same mixture of glucose and fructose.
- The bees work together as a group with the regurgitation and digestion until the product reaches a desired quality.
- It is then stored in honeycomb cells.
- After the final regurgitation, the honeycomb is left unsealed.
- However, the nectar is still high in both water content and natural yeasts, which, unchecked, would cause the sugars in the nectar to ferment.
- The process continues as bees inside the hive fan their wings, creating a strong draft across the honeycomb, which enhances evaporation of much of the water from the nectar.
- This reduction in water content raises the sugar concentration and prevents fermentation.
- Ripe honey, as removed from the hive by a beekeeper, has a long shelf life, and will not ferment if properly sealed.
Honey seeker depicted on
8000 year old cave painting.
At Araña Caves in Spain.
Honey use and production has a long and varied history.
- In many cultures, honey has associations that go beyond its use as a food.
- Honey is frequently used as a talisman and symbol of sweetness.
Honey collection is an ancient activity
Humans apparently began hunting for honey at least 8,000 years ago, as evidenced by a cave painting in Valencia, Spain.
- The painting is a Mesolithic rock painting, showing two honey-hunters collecting honey and honeycomb from a wild bee nest.
- The figures are depicted carrying baskets or gourds, and using a ladder or series of ropes to reach the wild nest.
The Greater Honeyguide bird guides humans to wild bee hives and this behavior may have evolved with early hominids.
So far, the oldest remains of honey have been found in Georgia.
- Archaeologists have found honey remains on the inner surface of clay vessels unearthed an ancient tomb, dating back to some 4,700–5,500 years ago.
- In ancient Georgia, honey was packed for people's journeys into the afterlife.
- And more than one type, too – along for the trip were linden, berry, and a meadow-flower variety.
In ancient Egypt, honey was used to sweeten cakes and biscuits, and was used in many other dishes.
- Ancient Egyptian and Middle Eastern peoples also used honey for embalming the dead.
- The fertility god of Egypt, Min, was offered honey.
The spiritual and therapeutic use of honey in ancient India is documented in both the Vedas and the Ayurveda texts, which were both composed at least 4,000 years ago.
Pliny the Elder devotes considerable space in his book Naturalis Historia to the bee and honey, and its many uses.
In the absence of sugar, Honey was an integral sweetening ingredient in Roman recipes, and references to its use in food can be found in the work of many Roman authors including Athenaeus, Cato and Bassus.
The art of beekeeping in ancient China has existed since time immemorial and appears to be untraceable to its origin.
- In the book "Golden Rules of Business Success" written by Fan Li (or Tao Zhu Gong) during the Spring and Autumn Period, there are some parts mentioning the art of beekeeping and the importance of the quality of the wooden box for bee keeping that can affect the quality of its honey.
Honey was also cultivated in ancient Mesoamerica. The Maya used honey from the stingless bee for culinary purposes, and continue to do so today. The Maya also regard the bee as sacred (see Mayan stingless bees of Central America).
Some cultures believed honey had many practical health uses.
- It was used as an ointment for rashes and burns,
- And to help soothe sore throats when no other practices were available.
Golden bees with garnet insets
found in Childeric's (c. 440-482) tomb.
Honey is the oldest sweet known to man. An English proverb says, ‘The history of honey goes with the history of mankind.’ In the Aranha Caves near Valencia, Spain, 9,000 year old mural paintings show a man gathering honey from a cliff face whilst being attacked by the bees.
Similar murals have also been found in South Africa and India. In ancient times, honey has been mentioned in the writings of the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Indians and the Egyptians. Both the Egyptians and the Ancient Greeks used honey as a sweetener and also used it in their religious ceremonies. For thousands of years Honey has transcended all cultures and has been associated with wealth, happiness, beauty and longevity. Its therapeutic properties have been renowned to strengthen, nourish and care for the physical body.
Today, more honey is produced and consumed than ever before and research into its beneficial properties is being carried out throughout the world. Islam accords honey a special place and encourages its use for a healthier lifestyle.
The Honey Bee
Bees are responsible for 80% of all pollination and can pollinate as many as 18,000 flowers a day! They may travel as far as 55,000 miles and visit more than 2 million flowers to gather up enough nectar to make just 1 pound of honey! They are able to navigate across long distances to locate sources of nectar and then return to the hive and communicate directions to fellow bees.
They prepare special food items such as royal jelly and beebread for their young. They protect their home by recognising and repelling intruders. They regularly remove garbage and other refuse from their hive.
They control the climate in the hive by ‘fanning’ fresh air. They also sprinkle water during the summer and cluster together for warmth in the winter. When their hives become overcrowded, they are smart enough to know that some have to leave and establish new colonies.
The honey bee is smarter than today’s most powerful supercomputers. While computers can carry out over 16 billion simple operations a second (such as adding two numbers), the honey bee performs the equivalent of 10 trillion operations per second!
Each bee colony consists of the Queen Bee, Drones (‘the idle bachelors’) and the workers (foragers). The worker bee stores the nectar it collects from the flowers in a special nectar ‘sac’ where special enzymes transform the sucrose of the nectar into the simple sugars fructose and glucose. Each bee carries up to half its own weight in nectar and flies at around 15 mph. When the forager returns to the hive, it delivers the nectar to one of the indoor bees. It is then transferred mouth-to-mouth from bee to bee until the moisture content is reduced from about 70 percent to less than 20 percent. This changes the nectar into honey. It is estimated that a worker bee will literally work itself to death in six weeks!
The excess of the colony’s requirements are extracted by humans for use as food. Liquid honey is approximately as sweet as sugar yet has 17% less carbohydrate and is over 90 calories less per each 100g and contains no fat! The average composition of honey contains carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, acids, and antioxidants including Pinocembrin, which is unique to honey.
The Average Composition of Honey
- Vitamins – Thiamin, RiboflavinNiacin, BiotinB-6, B-12, C, A, D, E, Pantothenic Acid, Folate
- Carbohydrates – Fructose, Glucose, Maltose, Sucrose, Kojibiose, Turanose, Isomaltose, Maltulose, Erlose, Theanderose, Panose
- Minerals – Water, Sodium, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Potassium, Phosphorous, Magnesium, Selenium, Copper, Chromium, Manganese
- Acids & Enzymes – Invertase, Amylase, Glucose Oxidase, Catalase, Acetic and at least 8 other organic acids. Proline and at least 18 other free amino acids.
- Antioxidants – Pinocembrin, Pinobanksin, Chrysin, Galagin
Research & Benefits
Several studies have recently shown the unique properties of honey as a natural remedy. Honey has been shown to have special antimicrobial and antibacterial components, which can help prevent infections by inhibiting the growth of certain bacteria.
It is also an antioxidant, especially in the darker honeys and those with higher water content and may help eliminate reactive compounds in our bodies called ‘free-radicals’. These are believed to contribute to many serious diseases when left unchecked.
It is also a humectant, which means that when honey is exposed to air it draws in and retains moisture. When used in cosmetics it can help hydrate the skin making it feel fresh and ideal for moisturising products. Furthermore it may help in the prevention of scarring by keeping the skin moist and helping in the growth of new tissue.
Honey provides the body with quick energy, which can help in recuperation and help recover from fatigue. Honey has been shown to be an excellent post-exercise muscle recuperation and energy repletion supplement maintaining optimal blood sugar levels throughout the two hours following exercise.
Research around the world has shown that honey is an effective treatment for serious wounds and burns and the use of honey, as a wound dressing material, an ancient remedy that has now been rediscovered. In the past and increasingly today, it is being used as a natural remedy for several ailments. Studies are currently being carried out on the effect of honey on preventing tooth decay, allergies, treating ulcers, thwarting disease and ageing.
There was a secret Work school that existed in Afghanistan for thousands of years called "Sarmoun Darq," which means "The Beehive" or the "Collectors of Honey." The purpose of this beehive was to collect human knowledge during the times when knowledge was dissipating and store it for future times when it could be used again. Most often undertaken in times of difficulty on earth, times of turmoil or war, this activity is so profound that most people cannot even conceive of what is involved and what significance it has.
When we say the Sarmoun Darq stores human knowledge, we do not mean information. Information can be collected in books. There, is no need to form a school or a secret society to store information. Unlike information, this knowledge is material in the way that honey is material. The knowledge is actually collected in the same way that bees collect nectar from flowers and change it into honey. This is why the school is called The Beehive; its function is to collect all kinds of nectars - aspects of essential knowledge. The members have the capacity to concentrate it and change all the aromatic, beautiful nectars into very thick, sweet honey which they can then store in special flasks. When the right time comes, the flasks are opened and the knowledge is given out according to what is needed.
The nectars are the different aspects of knowledge about Essence, and the honey is the distilled pure knowledge of Essence. The image of the bees and the honey and the hive and the nectar is the closest description of the actual reality of the school. It is the closest description of the actual reality because knowledge of Essence is material that can be collected, concentrated, and distilled. This becomes obvious when we understand that Essence actually exists just as honey exists, just as nectars exist. The real knowledge about Essence is Essence itself. Essence is itself the knowledge.
This school, the Sarmoun Darq, collects the human Essence during difficult times on earth and stores it in special flasks. These special flasks are actually carefully prepared human beings. In this way, knowledge is preserved and passed on to other flasks until it is needed. Then these flasks, these human containers, are sent to different places to give out a particular material, material of whatever density or profundity can be absorbed.
If you look at any Work system, Work group, or Work school from the deepest, most direct, most obvious, most phenomenological point of view, you see their work is simply collecting, distilling, and purifying human Essence so that it becomes as concentrated as possible in the human individual. This is done by whatever techniques the group or school has at that time. They use in this activity whatever method they have at their disposal. Like bees changing pollen to honey, the members collect nectars and transform them into human Essence for themselves and for everybody else. The particular activity depends on the person in charge of the school who prescribes the method which the members of the group use, each person according to her own capacity. Often, most of the people don't even know exactly what they are doing. They only know the activity; they do not know all that it can accomplish. In time, as we have seen in the work we do here, people begin to understand more and more what it is they are actually doing.
At the beginning, people will see that they are looking at their emotions. They're sensing, looking, and listening, observing their reactions, understanding their patterns. After doing that for a while, they start seeing the connections between these emotions and the loss of various aspects of their essence. As that loss is felt, Essence is present more and more in the person.
In the work we do here, everybody works individually most of the time, either in private sessions or within a group context. Everyone is doing his share of collecting the nectars, of whatever quality and density he can collect. Then it is necessary for everybody to get together and engage in a certain activity that, at its deepest level, is the gathering of these nectars in one place, so that by a certain process, the nectar can be purified and distilled, made as concentrated as possible. This is the product of the work of the weekend. Specifically, it is the function of the Sunday afternoon work period. It is not just the end of the weekend; it is a time when all the work that has been done since our last meeting is present in one place. Its intensity has developed over the weekend, and everybody has done his or her part. Then we all get together and do certain things so that what has been collected can jell. Essence is then present in ways that are much more palpable, much more defined. Each weekend brings out a different quality. And each aspect of Essence becomes clearer, more palpable, more purified, more concentrated. In this way, everybody can taste what it is like.
That is the most profound level of the work. The particular activity that we do here on Sunday afternoons is to practice being fully present, as fully present as we can be, while we engage in physical activities such as gardening, painting, and so forth. You sense, look, and listen with whatever essential capacity you have, in whatever activity or task you are doing. This activity both facilitates the function I've just described and enables you to practice being present in an atmosphere and place where this is encouraged. The presence of many people engaged in the same task adds energy. This energy is not just additive. The presence of Essence is contagious, and since everybody is sensing, looking, and listening intensely while they are working on the tasks, it is possible to create a certain amount of honey in more concentrated form than is possible at other times. So sensing, looking, and listening will give each person an added capacity to be present and will help each person taste the honey. Each of you can then take this taste of Essence and the capacity to be present back into your life. In time, you can take it into your life more and more so that your life increasingly becomes the essential life.
These methods are scientific. When you do them, you achieve precise results. If they are not followed, something else results. It is much easier for many bees to make honey than for just one bee to attempt it. One bee by itself won't make honey. It will die very quickly. You never see a bee with its own hive making honey. This example of the ancient school of the Sarmoun Darq illustrates the kind of thing that we are doing here.
Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. www.shambhala.com
At the apogee of the Sumerian civilization, Bennett continues, the Sufis are believed to have founded a brotherhood called the Sarman or Sarmoun Society, which, according to Gurdjieff, met in Babylon as far back as c. 2500 BCE and was responsible for preserving the inner teachings and initiations of the Aryan tradition in a period of religious decline. Sarmoun is a word meaning bee in Old Persian, and refers symbolically to the practice of the brotherhood of storing the “honey” of both the traditional wisdom and the supernatural energy or baraka enabling it to be understood, and sending this double “nectar” out into the world in times of great need. The word Sarmoun can also mean “those who are enlightened.” The Sarmouni are believed to have secret training centres hidden to this day in the most remote regions of Central Asia.
In Gurdjieff: Making a New World, Bennett conjectures that around 500 BCE the Sarmoun Society migrated from ancient Chaldaea to Mosul in Mesopotamia, moving north into the upper valley of the Tigris, into the mountains of Kurdistan and the Caucasus. There it became active in the rise of Zoroastrianism under the Persian monarch Cambyses I. According to Gurdjieff, the Society later moved eastward to Central Asia, twenty days’ journey from Kabul and twelve days’ journey from Bokhara. “He [Gurdjieff] refers,” says Bennett, “to the valleys of the Pyandje and the Syr Darya, which suggest an area in the mountains south-east of Tashkent.” Although Gurdjieff was never explicit about his relationship to the Sarmouni or the precise locality of the monasteries in which he trained towards the end of his travels, he provides many hints in such autobiographical writings as Meetings With Remarkable Men that this Sarmoun brotherhood, whose monasteries were situated on the northern slopes of the Himalayas, was the custodian of the most ancient wisdom known and the primary source of his extraordinary esoteric knowledge and powers.
Gurdjieff came to the West as a man with a mission. He had journeyed extensively in the Caucasus, where it is thought he first entered the tekkes of the Yesevi dervishes of Sheikh Adi in the Kurdish foothills and later those of the Sarmouni in Afghanistan, receiving a number of initiations by the remarkable age of twenty two. Those closest to him maintain that he remained in touch with hidden Sufi sources throughout his life and received help and support from them. He clearly believed that he acted on their authority in setting up schools in the West that transmitted the cosmological and psychological teachings he himself had learned during his travels. Yet while freely recounting his many Central Asian adventures in his search for wisdom, Gurdjieff managed to draw a permanent veil of secrecy and ambiguity over all details of these intimate encounters with the dervish tradition. This of course is in line with the extreme reticence of the Sufi orders themselves.
The Sarmouni as depicted in the film
"Meetings with Remarkable Men."
“True knowledge, it is asserted, exists as a positive commodity, like the honey of the bee. Like honey, it can be accumulated. From time to time in human history, however, it lies unused and starts to leak away. On those occasions the Sarmouni and their associates all over the world collect it and store it in a special receptacle. Then, when the time is ripe, they release it into the world again, through specially trained emissaries.”
The reason for this school — and there have been and still are many such schools — is to gather and preserve certain kinds of knowledge regarding the human soul, particularly at times when such knowledge appears to be dissipating. This activity and its significance have a profound implication for our human evolution. Without it we cease to evolve.
Mystics and masters collect and store sacred knowledge and esoteric principles in much the same way as bees collect nectar, although they have the capacity to concentrate and change the nectars when they are gathered so that when the time comes and the containers are accessed, the knowledge that has been concealed will inform the deeply curious and be of value to seekers of truth. By bringing new meaning to old texts, or revising rituals and meditation techniques, great teachers create new bodies of work. Secrets of esoteric understanding are redesigned and couched in new forms. Methods are borrowed from one tradition and used to inform another. Legends are created and masterfully designed nuggets of wisdom are hidden within. As time passes, the truths that once were obvious become obscured. They are hidden, and they wait to be rediscovered.
There are wonderful fragments of sacred knowledge in myths and sacred rites, in sacred sounds, in sacred art and architecture, and there are profound messages in the holy scriptures from every culture that have been handed down through the ages.
– from Divine Proportion: PHI in Art, Nature, and Science, by Priya Hemenway
Not so long ago I found myself walking through a mulberry grove in what might have been an English garden — if one did not look upwards to the frowning crags of the Hindu Kush, or at the robes of the monks of the Sarmoun community.
Established here in North Afghanistan for many centuries, the brotherhood (and the sisterhood with which it is affiliated) maintain this settlement as a sort of country retreat, where aspirants are trained in the ancient arts of service and self-discipline characteristic of the cult. Elderly monks and lay members, perhaps from as far afield as Tunisa or Armenia, make their last pilgrimage here, to the Shrine of Musa the Patient, the pilgrimage of retirement.
The Sarmouni (the name means 'The Bees') have often been accused of being Christians in disguise, Buddhists, Moslem sectarians, or of harbouring even more ancient beliefs, derived, some say, from Babylonia. Others claim that their teaching has survived the Flood; but which flood I cannot say.
Like their namesakes, however, members of the order are not argumentative, being concerned only in discharging the terms of their motto: 'Work produces a Sweet Essence' (Amal misazad yak zaati shirin).
With only one break — at the time of Gengiz Khan's irruption across the Amu Daria to the north, when he destroyed Balkh, the 'Mother of Cities' not far away — they seem to have lived here for so long that no records remain of their origins.
Theirs is a good life, as much of it as I was allowed to see. Many of the devotional exercises, such at the communal 'Zikr,' or Remembering, are held in private. The Brethren, numbering no less than nine hundred, mainly lived in the hill-settlements called'Tekkies,' artistically sited oratories surrounded by vines and patches of herbs.
Each monk is specialist of some sort: in gardening, local medicine, herbs, mathematics as known to them, calligraphy or even falconry. One of the planes they grew most carefully was Chungari (Herb of Enlightenment); this I was not able to see, nor could I obtain a sample of it. According to Afghan folklore it has powers connected with mystical revelation.
Within the monastery walls numerous industries are carried on. Working with felt, pelts, wool and looms, the inhabitants produce articles of surpassing beauty and durability. Some of the carpets today called Bokhara actually originate there. The Abbot, Baba Amyn, allowed me to stay in a wood-lined cell, and talked to me in Hindustani, which he had learned during three years spent in India as the servant of a Prince: a part of his training, as he said.
I was issued with a bowl, a sheepskin run, horn, belt and cap, the standard dervish equipment, though I had little idea as to their significance or uses.
One evening I was allowed to inspect some of the treasures of the community, and was assured that they had not before been seen by any non-initiate. They had been declared 'deconsecrated,' as it were, because a new phase of teaching, somewhere to the westward, had superseded the ritual to which they belonged. Henceforth they would merely be museum pieces.
An articulated tree, of gold and other metals, which seemed to me unbelievably beautiful and resembled a Babylonian work of art which I had seen in Bagdad Museum, was by far the most impressive. It served to indicate the postures assumed by dervishes in their Yoga-like exercises, which, performed to special music, they studied for self-development. A tall pillar of lapis lazuli, about nine feet high by two feet in diameter, was used for the Daur, a turning movement, in which the devotees circle round, one hand on the pillar, to achieve a particular state of mind.
On a wall faced with white Afghan marble, delineated in polished rubies glowed the symbol of the community. This is the mystical 'No-Koonja,' the ninefore Naqsch or 'Impress,' an emblem which I was later to see in various forms embroidered on clothes. This figure 'reaches for the innermost secret of man,' I was informed.
Its operation could only be manifest, at the right time and under special conditions, by the Lord of Time, the head of the community. He, unfortunately, was absent. In any case he did not reside at this monastery, but at another very secret place called Aubshaur. He is referred to, with great deference, as a sort of human incarnation of all teachers. He is the Surkaur, or 'Workleader.'
Since the marble, rubies, and lapis are all mined in Afghanistan, and many of the miners and prospectors are adherents of the Sarmouni, this extraordinary richness of endowment was perhaps not as strange as it seemed to me at the time.
There are many legends about Sarmoun-Dargauh ('Court of the Bees'), and one of them is this. True knowledge, it is asserted, exists as a positive commodity, like the honey of the bee. Like honey, it can be accumulated. From time to time in human history, however, it lies unused and starts to leak away. On those occasions the Sarmouni and their associates all over the world collect it and store it in a special receptacle. Then, when the time is ripe, they release it into the world again, through specially trained emissaries.
It is not only in the West, I though, as the greybearded chief of the story-tellers told me this, that legends about a secret knowledge linger on. He was not very forthcoming when I started to ply him with questions trying to see how far their doctrine had developed.
Were there any such emissaries in Europe? There was one, but he must not speak of him. But surely it would help everyone if he was publicly known? On the contrary, I was informed, it might be a calamity. He had to 'work like a bee, in private.' Could a visitor like myself have some of the 'honey'? No, myself least of all, strangely enough; because I had seen and heard so much, I could have no more.
"Have you not seen that you are not allowed to take photographs, even, though other foreigners have been allowed to take them?" I had seen the treasures, that was the most that anyone could have.
Another evening, I watched the enactment of the beautiful Ceremony of the Key. As the sun was setting, several dozen of us assembled, under the direction of the 'Master of Presentations,' who was resplendent in a patchwork robe, intricately embroidered. In the light of the dying sun a dervish with crossed arms, hands on shoulders, knelt before the Abbot, deputising for the Surkaur.
Upon being handed a large key, he advanced towards a carved door that was set in a big square wooden structure, a piece of scenery, decorated with flags and maces and other emblems of power and authority. He put the key into an ornate lock and turned it. Suddenly, by means of a clever piece of engineering, the whole structure slid apart. The seen was lit by a procession of men carrying candles and intoning the Saidd dirge in honour of the teachers.
Then we saw that the pieces of the box were turning on pivots and rearranging themselves into different shapes; the scene was completely transformed. Gardens, orchards, birds in flight, and other motifs, made from wood and painted cloth, now replaced the rectangular structure.
The meaning of the drama was explained to me. It was an allegory, based on the idea that all teaching is transformed by mankind into something unnatural, institutionalized, like the box. "The Key of the Real Man opens up the real joy and meaning of life."
First publication of the above article: Major Desmond R. Martin, The Editor of The Lady, "Below the Hindu Kush," The Lady, vol. CLX11, No. 4210, December 9, 1965, p. 870.
Reprinted in Documents on Contemporary Dervish Communities: A Symposium, Collected, edited, and arranged by Roy Weaver Davidson (London: The Octagon Press, 1966), pp. 22–24.
Terms from the Glossary of the booklet which appear in the article:
Aabshar, Aubshaur: Persian, 'Waterfall.'
Chungari: 'Herb of enlightenment,' literally 'Howness.' An aromatic but non-narcotic herb consumed by dervishes at special times.
Darga (Dargauh &c): Court
Daur (Turkish usage = Devr); from Arabic: 'Turn,' a movement made by dervishes. One form of it is in the whirling of Maulavi dervishes.
Dervish: Persian, 'one who waits at the door.'
Nu-Kunja (No-koonja, &c): 'Nine-sided: Enneagon.'
Naqsch (Naqsh): Impress, diagram, design.
Sarkar: Persian, 'Work-Chief.'
Sarmoun(i): Community named after the bees.
Surkaur: see Sarkar.
Tekkie, Takia, Takiy (&c.): Dervish centre, generally a building, sometimes with special characteristics in its building or arrangement inside.
Zikr (zikker, dhikr &c): A litany. Lit. 'Repetiton.'
Genetic three-caste system
Biological caste systems So we might expect that if society has the final say, alien races will consist mostly of females when optional sex is available. Many females can be sexually serviced by a single male, so this choice is hardly surprising. What is striking and unusual is the degree of social stratification which frequently results. Biological caste systems are not uncommon.
Apian assembly line Honeybees are a case in point. The focus is on the only fertile female, the queen bee. A hive’s queen mates but once in her lifetime, and then only with a single male and only on her nuptial flight.** All the eggs the queen will ever produce must be fertilized by the sperm stored from that single mating.
As a general rule only female offspring are produced, and the beehive is populated almost exclusively by sisters. Males appear only occasionally in small numbers, whenever a new queen is needed either to replace an aging matron or to found a new colony.
The apian assembly line is faintly reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. All eggs start in the queen’s ovaries. If they are not fertilized they grow into male bees called drones. Most eggs, however, are fertilized and placed in tiny compartments in the hive. Those which are fed the regular pap of the drones mature into female bees called workers. Larvae raised on a specially enriched nutrient mix (royal jelly) grow into queens.
Notice that the honeybee has a genetically programmed three-caste system. Queens constitute the reproductive caste. Workers, while technically females, are really neuters because their sex organs are degenerate. They represent the laboring caste, able to carry on with the daily chores of the hive without the distraction of sex. The drones, or stud caste, are virile males who lack this admirable detachment and are not good for useful work. They are usually exterminated by the workers at the approach of winter.
The ganglionic system has proved an enormous success on Earth.
If this is no measure of biological success, what is?
Evolutionary fork in the road But above the level of Hydra, evolutionary convergence begins to break down. According to the paleontological record, there is a fork in the road. The animal kingdom divides into two distinct classes representing wholly different stratagems for gaining increased intelligence.
First stratagem: Ganglionic nervous system
Nearly a million animal species — arthropods, molluscs, and many other invertebrates — opted for what paleoneurologists call the "ganglionic" nervous system. The earthworm is typical. Each of its many segments is almost an individual organism unto itself — each having its own set of kidneys, muscles, sensors and so forth. Coordination is achieved by a thin latticework of nerve fibers crisscrossing the animal from side to side and lengthwise.
The ganglionic system resembles, more than anything else, a ladder with bulbous neural ganglia at each of the joints. The invertebrate organism thus is comprised of a collection of sub-brains, each of which controls a separate part of the animal with fairly complete autonomy. The organizational structure is not unlike that of a political confederation.
The ganglionic system (synopsis)
Sensors tend to cluster nearer the head. A brain of sorts — enlarged ganglia — accumulates there, but it isn’t a true brain as we understand the term. Perhaps it is better described as merely a large collection or bundle of separate ganglia. Nevertheless, such a nervous system proves to be highly efficient for getting quick response to stimuli. Each clump of nerve cells becomes "expert" as some particular function — detecting and passing along sensory information, sweeping leg or wing in wide uniform arcs, opening and closing the jaws in slow munching motions during feeding, and so on. The entire system is orchestrated by "consultation" with the "chairmanship" of the bundle of ganglia concentrated in the head, but there is no real centralized control.
The ganglionic system has proved an enormous success on Earth. The invertebrates, representing perhaps 97% of all animal species alive today, have discovered a data processing technique adequate to ensure their survival. Information is processed fast enough and in sufficient quantities to enable ganglionic organisms to thrive and proliferate. If this is no measure of biological success, what is?
Might extraterrestrials develop extremely high intelligence using a ganglionic nervous system, by far the most common on this planet?
Why virtually no improvement in the design?
(in hundreds of millions of years)
The chances are strongly against it.
Half an eon ago the invertebrates ruled the Earth. Huge trilobites crawled the shores, gigantic dragonflies with impressive wingspans patrolled the skies, and monstrous squids plied the oceans with little competition. But since that time, in all the hundreds of millions of years that have followed this period of early dominance, there has been virtually no improvement in the design. Why?
Evolutionary biologists have suggested several answers which are interesting from a xenobiological point of view. First, it is believed that the system simply is too complicated when it is scaled up in size. With more and more units, ganglia become inefficient, unwieldy, and bureaucratic. While invertebrates tend to be restricted to smaller sizes for unrelated technical reasons, it’s even true that large invertebrates of greater mass than vertebrates are not nearly as intelligent. For example, many lobsters are larger than squirrels, and many squids are vastly bigger than most vertebrates — and yet these ganglionic creatures invariably are stupider kilogram for kilogram. The system itself appears to be at fault.
It has also been suggested that the ganglionic system is self-limiting. Typical invertebrate structure has only enough room to accommodate programmed "hard-wired" behavior, with no space left over for surplus neural matter that might eventually evolve and enlarge into higher intellect. Still another factor is that the endless cross-connections within the body can become so entangled and interwoven that they actually begin to strangle other body organs. A case in point in the spider, whose head ganglia happen to ring its gullet. But they have grown so massive that they squeeze the throat very tightly, and the poor animal can only swallow its food in a thin trickle.
If one deftly clips off the abdomen of a feeding wasp,
The mind of such a creature must be alien to us
It is hard for us to imagine the mentality of beings with ganglic intelligence. Dr. H. Chandler Elliot, Professor of Neurology at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine, describes the peculiar disconnectedness of the world-view of the invertebrates:
We humans usually disregard our internal organs: We suffer discomfort from an empty stomach, and we heed a stomach’s demands for relief of indigestion, but normally we disregard its activities. The head of an insect apparently regards not only its viscera but also its legs, wings, and so on, with similar detachment: If one deftly clips off the abdomen of a feeding wasp, the head may go on sucking, obviously not distressed. The mind of such a creature must be alien to us almost beyond comprehension.90
90 H. Chandler Elliot (Prof. of Anatomy, Neurology, & Psychiatry at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine); The Shape of Intelligence: The Evolution of the Human Brain; (Charles Scribner’s Sons, N. Y.; 1969. (Illustrations by Anthony Ravielli, medical illustrator.)
1 A. Elementals and Gods are the same kind of entity structurally, though they differ enormously in personality and behavior. You might say that Gods are civilized elementals. So, for our descriptions of how the astral bodies and minds of these beings function, we'll use the general term "Elementals."
2 On one level, Elementals are specialized types of Theocratic bands. They are very large composite spirits containing thousands of human astral souls very closely linked together. On another, they are sentient creatures in their own right, with personalities and emotions quite different from those of ordinary human beings. One thing we want to stress: Elementals and humans are not two races of beings, but different forms of one race. The astral DNA template of both is identical, but humans are the individual form and Elementals are the composite form.
3 Composite physical life forms exist on Earth. The bees, ants, termites, and other social insects are the most intelligent of these. The Elementals bear the sane relationship to humans as an ordinary honeybee colony does to a primitive, solitary bee or wasp.
4 Q. I've speculated for years that a colony of social insects might have a single soul or group mind that's much more highly developed than the mind that could fit into the tiny brain of a single individual insect. Certainly the behavior of a whole colony shows much more intelligence than the behavior of an individual.
5 A. The nature of group minds depends on the amount of control they have over their individual members. There are roughly four levels of control, though each integrates with the next. These can be verbalized as co-operation, persuasion, coercion, and compulsion.
6 Co-operation is working with others because your mutual interests coincide, and the shared effort is of mutual benefit without major concessions on the part of either party involved. Persuasion is essentially barter: "I'll do this for you if you'll do that for me." Coercion is similar, but the barter is negative: "I'll do harm to you unless you do some particular thing for me." Compulsion is direct control of someone else that transcends that other person's volition.
7 Q. It looks to me as if human societies on Earth operate on all four levels, so they probably have group minds by your definition.
8 A. No. Earthly societies operate mostly by co-operation and persuasion, with some coercion and only a small amount of compulsion. A bee colony operates entirely by compulsion, almost in the same way that your brain operates your body through the nervous system.
9 Q. People don't like coercion and compulsion, so we tend to think that they are among the most important factors governing society. However, you are correct in pointing out that co-operation and persuasion are much more common. The reason we worry about the two negative factors so much is that we have an instinctive aversion for them.
10 A. There are two reasons why human societies resist becoming a true composite entity. First, people have highly developed brains and are fully intelligent as individuals. Second, each person has a separate astral soul with an astral will that resists outside control. It is possible to control the minds of living people by psychic compulsion under certain circumstances, but this is very difficult. People strongly resist such control because of their highly developed brains and souls.
11 A bee colony is a composite entity because individual bees don't have large enough brains to support true intelligence and because they don't have individual astral souls. A colony of social insects has a single astral soul that is linked to the body of every individual in it. The brain of a bee has very limited capacity for storing information, and little programming for processing data. Instead, the individual uses telepathy to pass information to the astral mind of the hive. This group mind processes and stores the information received from individual bees and does the thinking for the entire hive, passing down its orders by telepathy.
12 The collective mind of a bee colony shows intelligence far beyond the reasoning and memory-storage capacity of an individual bee. In fact, in certain narrow areas, this group mind displays a level of intelligence almost equal to that of human beings. One example is the colony's ability to direct the physical changes that individual bees go through during the course of their lives to perform different specialized functions: gathering food, cleaning and repairing the hive, rearing the young, defending the colony from enemies, swarming to produce a new colony, etc. A bee colony is actually better organized in terms of division of labor than a human society.
13 Another example is the colony's ability to control the temperature within the hive, using a biological central heating and air conditioning system. When the group mind perceives that the hive is too hot inside, certain bees are instructed to act as living ventilator fans. They cling to the walls of passageways that lead to entrances of the hive, and circulate cool air by beating their wings. When the hive is too cool, the entrances are sealed with wax; but the bees serving as fans keep on circulating air, which evenly distributes the heat generated by the metabolism of all the bees in the hive.
14 Human societies are superficially similar to composite entities, but they aren't true composites, because individual people have independent intelligence and will. However, the human astral soul has a strong potential for forming composite entities while it is in a disembodied state, because souls can literally link themselves together, as was described in the chapter on Theocratic bands. There is much more compulsion in a Theocratic band on the astral plane than in any totalitarian society on Earth, because Theocrats attach their silver cords to other spirits and control them as directly as the human brain controls the hands.
15 The structure of a Theocratic band as we described it earlier is similar to a wheel: the spirit controlling the band is the hub, and the subordinate spirits are the spokes. Notice that the world's oldest surviving religion, Vedanta, uses such a spoked wheel as its symbol. The rayed sun used by many other religions is the same symbol, minus the rim of the wheel. However, the rim is extremely important, because it indicates that a Theocratic band naturally produces a structure of astral matter separate from the individual souls attached to it.
16 Q. Are you saying that over the course of time, a Theocratic band develops its own astral soul and astral mind that is the equivalent of the composite astral mind of a bee or ant colony?
17 A. Yes. This is another important reason why Theocratic spirits don't achieve true immortality. The longer a Theocratic band lasts, the more it develops into a composite entity with a mind of its own. At first, the controlling Theocrat completely dominates the group mind; but eventually that mind becomes powerful enough to become independent, and the band becomes an elemental.
Excerpt from: The Bien: Oneness of the Honeybee Colony