The Insect-Populated Mind: how insects have influenced the evolution of consciousness
"In this book author David Spooner proposes a close connection between aspects of insect evolution and the functioning of the human intellect. By examining seemingly disparate subjects - entomology, language history, genetics, literature and music - Spooner shows how such a synthesis is possible. Once this fusion is achieved, the human species can be seen as connected not just to the great apes, but also not only via genetics and embryology, but via consciousness to metamorphic insects. The book also presents arguments on the roots and nature of the mind in the work of Daniel Dennett and Terrence Deacon."
"The Human-Insect Connection"
an appreciation by Hyatt Carter in his Einige Kleinen Nachtmusings 02
The emphasis that science has placed on our close “family” connection with the higher apes, a connection that becomes apparent when you visit the primate section of any zoo, can obscure the closer connection we have with insects on a developmental level or in terms of the evolution of consciousness.
I first became aware of this connection through the writings of David Spooner. One of Spooner’s main contentions is that the “primate connection has caused mainstream evolutionary theory to miss the all-round interrelationship of human development to entomology, and that this relation is enshrined in the greatest of the higher art forms and religion. There is a crucial oblique relationship between metamorphic insects and humans, a connection transmitted through the great works of music and literature, and through many of the paradigms of world religions.”
A friend with whom I aired this idea suggested that such a claim could be made only on the grounds of poetic license. There is surely something “poetic” about all this, agreed, but I believe it goes beyond poetic license.
Words with “psyche” as a component, such as psychology, express in their meanings an evocation of butterflies and an etymology that traces back to the Greek word ψυχή which signifies soul, yes, but also butterfly. If I am not mistaken, it’s the only word in Greek that does mean butterfly. The butterfly is an ancient and enduring symbol of the soul that finds cross-cultural expression in all forms of art. Twentieth-century Hispanic literature gives an almost sacerdotal role not only to butterflies, but other insects and other animals, such as frogs, that enjoy metamorphosis in their development.
There’s another etymological link between “pueblo” and “populus,” derived from the ancient Greek “papaillo,” meaning to flutter: the root of the French word for butterfly: “papillon.”
I believe people have always dimly discerned something of fundamental significance in the metamorphosis of insects and in the behavior of social insects such as bees and ants.
In metamorphosis, there’s a saltation, or a transcendence, that provides a metaphor that resonates with the soul, with the butterflies adding an aesthetic dimension that expresses the becoming of beauty.
And so I suppose what convinces me is the cumulative effect of this extensive network of interconnected meanings, one that I could keep extending, but the above examples should give a sense of the general direction.
Perhaps it would be better to claim less generality and speak not of all insects, but only those that express the fourfold cycle of complete metamorphosis. These are designated as holometabolous and this group of insects are four in number:
1. Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths),
2. Hymenoptera (bees, ants, wasps),
3. Coleoptera (beetles), and
4. Diptera (flies).
If the idea of developmental levels that Piaget discovered in children can be generalized to describe the growth or expansion of consciousness in adults, both individually and collectively, then two complementary processes seem to be at work: within the limits of any level, incremental growth becomes possible as the landscape of that level is explored and mapped; but the shift to a new and higher level requires a saltation, transcendence, metanoia, satori.
In our individual quests for growth, we begin as caterpillars, devouring what books, gurus, and teachers have to offer. But a deep understanding, when things start to fall into place, comes only with a chrysalitic phase wherein our slumbering dogmas are liquefied so that the imaginal cells of the new system can bring forth the butterfly of transformation.
Developmental processes, such as evolution, are impelled by at least two types of change that may be characterized as vertical and horizontal. The horizontal line is the gradual advance, step by small meandering step, sanctioned by those of a Darwinian persuasion, whereas sudden spikes give evidence of a vertical exuberance.
And so Newton’s metamorphosis of scientific thought kept scientists busy for centuries with highly interesting incremental work, whereupon Einstein comes along to invite us all to ride with him on a beam of light up to a new level. Celeritas!
Metamorphosis, a significant evolutionary breakthrough if ever there was one, exemplifies this vertical strategy and, in the case of the butterfly, does so beautifully.
In light of all this, perhaps I should sign off as —
Thoreau`s Vision of Insects & the origins of American entomology
"contains a great deal of valuable material" (the late Bradley Dean, Thoreau Bulletin)
The Metaphysics of Insect Life
"Your chapter on the 4 and 3 enriches my intuition with exquisite illustrations from the highest reaches of scholarship. All the chapters are quirky with eccentric surprises." (Norman O. Brown)
"Always wide-ranging and effortlessly learned." (Keith Carabine, President, the Conrad Society)
The Poem and the Insect: aspects of twentieth century Hispanic culture
"This book is an extension of Dr. Spooner`s previous work on the interplay of insect processes and human culture. On one level, it is part of cultural-ecological criticism. Assessing the incursion of the South American rainforest ecology into the poetry of Silva and Darío and later Eguren, this study considers its impact on Rueda, Aleixandre, Jiménez, Lorca, Hernández and González, balancing this with a recognition of Spain`s indigenous post-romantic modernism. Then while taking account of the insects in Juan Goytisolo`s novels, Spooner throws more light on the books of Márquez, Cortázar and Fuentes, where the striking of the medieval across the modern is interpreted as related to the metamorphoses of insect, and indeed the process of literary development itself. The book concludes with a consideration of the metaphysical and scientific implications of this analysis."