The Voice of the Infinite in the Small:

Revisioning the Insect-Human Connection


by Joanne Elizabeth Lauck

Swan Raven & Co 1998

ISBN 0-926524-49-6



by Christine Rhone © 1998


        The Voice of the Infinite in the Small is a master-class from a brilliant environmental educator who extends our appreciation of the animal world further than many of us would like to go: namely, to insects, by which she means all six-, eight-, and multi-legged creatures commonly considered bugs or creepy crawlers.


Yes, a book about bugs and why we should like them,

and that delivers its message in a potent and inspiring blend of facts and stories.


        With the possible exception of honeybees and butterflies, the general attitude toward insects is basically summed up as "the only good bug is a dead bug", and the U.S. pesticide-insecticide business is an estimated 3.5 billion dollar a year industry. The effects of pesticides on the environment have received some attention, but the victims of this war have had no spokesperson to strike at the heart of our cultural attitude that is feeding the imbalance.


        At the heart of this attitude are strong emotions of fear and loathing and the idea that most insects are our enemies. As soon as we reject any part of the universe, however, we have upset the order of things. Because insects are so small and numerous, and because most of us understand insects so little, we both devalue and demonize them, using them as projections of our own fears. This war-like animosity toward what we do not understand -- these fears -- are what we must deal with. Insects themselves are essential to ecological health, represent a vast proportion of the beings living on our planet, and they have much to teach us.


        If we look into the imaginative power of a particular insect -- the praying  mantis, for example -- we see that many people have experienced its intense presence, transmitted through its huge, attentive eyes, and have felt as though they were communicating with it. It was revered as a guide to the underworld by the ancient Egyptians, who occasionally mummified it. The Greek name for it, the Prophetess, has survived in the modern name "mantis". For the Bushmen, the mantis is the "Spirit of Creation", the emissary of the ancestors, and The Trickster. The Chinese observed its stillness, courage, and speed in hunting, and modeled a style of martial art on its movements. The fact that some female mantises eat their mates while copulating was seen as cruel in medieval Christianity, rather than as an illustration of female power and complete devotion to the creative cycle on the part of the male.


        In the light of what Joanne Lauck says, our tendency to project our fears onto insects is manifest today in that, among the extra-terrestrial aliens said to be visiting our planet, there is a group of aliens that have mantis-like features.Insects are commonly called aliens and monsters, but Lauck points out that the word "monster" originally meant "a portent of the gods". Many insects act as messengers, overlapping in this function with angels and other daimons. This book successfully combines discussion of such crucial issues as genetic engineering, disease, and bacterial mutation, with sections on things like chaos theory and cockroaches, bee language and quarks, communication with ants, termite dreams and telepathy, and insects as shamanic initiators. It is neither too New Agey nor too academic and could be used as a resource book on insect

myths and stories. A real eye-opener, it is an important contribution to eco-psychology and deep ecology, published by a small press in North Carolina.

 by Christine Rhone





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