Blind Huber

Poems by Nick Flynn

Blind Huber (i)

Opaque glow where my eyes should be,
what remaining light, eyelids
thin against it. Soothing,
as if all I pass were encrusted in wax,
dipped upright-wax bush & wax
bench, wax man, wax tea, waxy cup to waxy
lips, my eyes now more like their eyes,
morning filtered beyond translucence
as the acolytes cover their queen.
By the sound they will soon
swarm, clockwork, the frenzied heat of wings
forms droplets on the walls of
their city, their city softening, now twisting
just out of shape.


Blind Huber (ii)

I sit in a body & think of a body, I picture
Burnens’ hands, my words
make them move. I say, plunge them into the hive,
& his hands go in. If I said,
put your head inside,
he would wear it. Think of my body, every day
the same chair, angled
thus, Burnens
every day, think of his body, think of
a hive, each bee, each thought, the hive
brims with thought. Move it into shade, I think
& the body moves to shade. Whose
fingers, which word, each surges
from inside my head, but always returns
as Burnens.


Blind Huber (v)

Before shadows I saw the rose,
saw its thorn,
a bee navigating, never impaled.
I no longer know what is outside my mind
& what is in.




Morphic Resonance and the Collective Unconscious

Went to a talk by the wonderful Rupert Sheldrake at the Globe at Hay Philosopy Festival last week – here is a quote about ‘Morphic Resonance’

Society as Superorganism

In Part II of this essay, I want to explore some ideas about the social and cultural aspects of morphic fields and morphic resonance. A familiar comparison might be that of a hive of bees or a nest of termites: each is like a giant organism, and the insects within it are like cells in a superorganism. Although comprised of hundreds and hundreds of individual insect cells, the hive or nest functions and responds as a unified whole.

My hypothesis is that societies have social and cultural morphic fields which embrace and organize all that resides within them. Although comprised of thousands and thousands of individual human beings, the society can function and respond as a unified whole via the characteristics of its morphic field. To visualize this, it is helpful to remember that fields by their very nature are both within and around the things to which they refer. A magnetic field is both within a magnet and around it; a gravitational field is both within the earth and around it. Field theories thus take us beyond the traditional rigid definition of “inside” and “outside.”

A superorganism concept of animal societies dominated behavioral biology until about the early 1960s. Then – as Edward O. Wilson, the founder of sociobiology, notes in his book, The Insect Societies (1971) – there was a general shift in paradigm in favor of mechanistic reductionism, which explained animal societies purely in terms of interactions among genetically-programmed individuals. The superorganism concept has not been forgotten, however, and forces itself again and again upon people who think about animal societies.

There is an inherent problem in the concept: if one says that the animal society is a kind of organism, then what kind of organism is it? What is it that can possibly organize all the individual animals within it? I am suggesting that there is a morphic field which embraces all the animals, a field which literally extends around all the animals within it. This field coordinates their movements just as the morphic field of the human body coordinates the activities and movements of the cells and tissues and organs. This concept better describes the characteristic phenomena of animal societies than the idea that they are all individually interacting yet separate things.

Part II – Society, Spirit & Ritual: Morphic Resonance and the Collective Unconscious

Huber – I have seen, I have seen with my eyes.

Extracts from ‘Memoir of Huber’ by Professor De Candolle

‘Francis Huber was born at Geneva, on the 2nd of July 1750, of an honourable family, in which vivacity of mind and imagination seemed hereditary… His precocity of talent was manifest in his attention to nature, at an age when others are scarcely aware of its existence, and in the evidence of deep feeling , at an age when others hardly betray emotions. At the age of fifteen his general health and his sight began to be impaired…. The oculatist Venzel considered the state of his eyes as incurable, and he did not think it justifiable to hazard an operation for cataract, then less understood than at present, and announced to the young Huber the probability of an approaching and entire blindness.

We have seen the blind shine as poets, and distinguish themselves as philosophers and calculators; but it was reserved for Huber to give a lustre to his class in the sciences of observation, and on objects so minute that the most clear-sighted observer can scarcely observe them… He had then a servant named Francis Burnens, remarkable for his sagacity and for the devotion he bore for his master. Huber practised him in the art of observation, directed him to his researches by questions adroitly combined, and aided by the recollections of his youth, and by the testimonials of his wife and friends, he rectified the assertions of his assistant, and became enabled to form in his own mind a true and perfect image of the minutest facts. “I am much more certain,’ said he one day to me, smiling, “of what I taste than you are, for you publish what your own eyes only have seen, while I take the mean among many witnesses.”

His style is, in general, clear and elegant; always retaining the precision requisite to the didactic, it possesses the attraction which a poetic imagination can readily confer upon all subjects; but one thing which particularly distinguishes it, and which we should least expect, is, that he describes facts in a manner so picturesque, that in reading them, we fancy that we can see the very objects, which the author, alas, was never able to see! I venture also to add, that we find in his descriptions so many masterly touches, as to justify the conclusion, that if he had retained his sight he would have been like his father, his brother, and his son, a skilful painter.

Huber retained his faculties to the last. He was loving and beloved to the end of his days. At the age of eight-one, he wrote to one of his friends, “There is a time when it is impossible to remain neglectful; it is, when separating gradually from each other, we may reveal to those we love all that esteem, tenderness and gratitude have inspired us with towards them. I say to you alone,'” adds he, further on, “that resignation and serenity are blessings which have not been refused.” He wrote these lines on the 20th of December 1831, and on the 22nd he was no more; his life became extinct, without pain or agony, while in the arms of his daughter.’ ‘ Huber’s Natural History of the Honey Bee’. A new edition with A Memoir of the Author and Appendix 1841

Impassioned Seekers

In ‘The Mystery of the Hive’ published 1923 Eugene Evrard introduces the men whose obsession and dedication about the Bee changed our understanding –‘Only direct observation could ever reveal the truth’. It was the middle of the 17th century that Jean Swammerdam was visited by a ‘flash of genius which suddenly shattered the clumsy structure of the gross delusions of the past’.

He was the ideal type of scientist, and the first in time of the wonderful quartet of pioneers; a profound and glorious spirit, a worthy peer of those great-minded scientists and observers, those impassioned seekers, whose names were Reaumur, Huber and Dzierzon; as though all those who have taught us concerning the Bee must of necessity be alike by virtus of there unique qualities! Swammerdam was a Dutchman; Reaumur a Frenchman, Huber a Genevese Swiss; Dzierzon a German of Polish origin.’

I have a book about the creative process, published 1928 by Rebecca West called ‘The Strange Necessity’. When I did my PhD I spent considerable time hunting for research into creative processes – mostly I was located in Sussex University Library – this book was one of the oldest I could find and I love the language, so alive and so very different to anything one could find today. I place a quote below because these scientists, these impassioned seekers sounds much like the mindset and immersion into other worlds – similar to the artists journey.

‘It might be, of course, that in such works (of art) there are references to the conditions of another world which would be more friendly to us than this. There, most often, are these colours, these forms: there sounds sound most often like this music; there experience most often takes this turn. This universe must be real as ours, since it is weakening to brood on what is wholly fictitious… and the effect of this contemplation is strengthening. It must therefore lie parallel with this, our paradise from which we are exiled by some cosmic misadventure, and which we can re-enter at times by participating in the experience of those artists who are supposed by some mystical process to have gained the power to reproduce in this universe the conditions of that other. But the overwhelming argument against this theory is that people who prefer science to art appear to get precisely the same emotion out of contact with achievements, say in the sphere of mathematics or physics, which relate beyond all doubt to the universe of which we are a part and no other.’


‘Thats why Alfred Watkins, author of The Old Straight Track, apologist for ley lines, man of business, haunted this country. It had been the locus for his original revelation: everything connects and, in making those connections, streams of energy are activated. You learn to see. You forget to forget, to inhibit conditioned reflexes. You access the drift. Watkins was an outrider, a brewer’s rep. If he were still in the game he’d be jockeying a Ford Mondeo around the motorway system, stumbling on the karma of the M25, speculating on London’s orbital road as a prayer wheel, a dream-generator on which the psychic health of the city depended.’ From Landor’s Tower: Or the Imaginary Conversations by Iain Sinclair.

the pioneer

‘He lives in poverty, his days and nights wholly devoted to his labours. He dies in poverty, never having been able to sell his precious collections. He was forty-three years old when he died. But he had discovered, among a hundred others, this one profound truth, which entirely overthrew the conception then current of the hive: that the Bee which rules and gives life to the hive, is not a King, but a Queen, and a mother.’ The Mystery of The Hive’ by Eugene Evrard. The author is talking about Jan Swammerdam, 1637 – 1680. (From the collection in Hereford Library)