Tan, Ernest

Earnest Tan


"The awareness of a growing trend to bridge disciplines of the physical sciences, social sciences and art and humanities is something I personally welcome and appreciate.  This is what made Applied Cosmic Anthropology such an appealing course to me.  Though efforts like these may be met with resistance either from one’s own discipline or from other’s, or they may brand those (like us) who attempt to try as outcasts, I have come to conclude that the practice of specialization within each discipline only contributes to the fragmentation and alienation of the world .... 

Economics is a field that I am quite unfamiliar with  (blame it either on a boring professor in college or my own resistance to it).  But I am rather intrigued at this point to hear how an economist would view humanity, the Cosmos, and reality.  And I am especially excited to see how economics can be seen through the eyes of physical and other social scientists.  I am therefore all ears and totally open to the upcoming course lectures. I also tremendously appreciate the approach of the professor.  I found the first class rather stimulating. 

Yes, classes should neither be a venue to get knowledge nor to debate on what is the truth .... Rather, it is a laboratory to allow ideas to ferment, grow, and be tested.  This is sadly not an approach of many educational institutions, in the process, ending up killing the capacity of learners to think and reflect ....    Thanks for a most stimulating first class and for engaging me into a world of intellectual discourse on the call for humanity and the world to become whole again."



by Earnest Tan


Among the various themes that were discussed in the Mediated Economics course, two prominently stood out for me.  These are the Garden of Eden Economy through the example of our ancestors, the honeybees, and the significance of consciousness as distinct from the mind and brain.  The reason for my interest in the former is because there are a number of values that can be learned from the honeybees especially with regards to our economic, political and social life.  The latter is of significance because it serves as the way from which these values may be integrated in our lives.  In this paper, I shall attempt to articulate the values that we can adopt from the honeybees and to explore the kind of consciousness that can help us make the process of integrating these values possible. 

Lessons from the Honeybees

Nature is kind in the sense that it has built-in mechanisms, laws and principles from which we can learn how to produce resources and gain wealth in abundance.  This is clearly illustrated through the life of the honeybees.  The following are some major features of this ancestor of ours:

a)    Honeybees work in order to survive and their source of survival comes from the world that is abundant. 

b)   They, however, do not work for their own survival.  They work for the whole colony. 

c)    Their work consist of gathering nectar from one flower to another, doing some 15 to 25 collection trips per day, that could amount to visiting 2,000 flowers each day.

d)   They bring the nectar to the beehive and convert them into honeys, which in turn become food for the bee colony.  Usually what they take multiply a thousand times which is shared to other living creatures, including humans.

e)    The dance of the honeybees is in actuality the sending of information for other bees as to where the flowers and nectar are and how far they are located.  In short, information is shared to other members of the community.

f)     Honeybees collect without impoverishing the flowers.

g)    Honeybees, in the process of gathering nectar, collect also pollens that are to help flowers pollinate and to bring about production of fruits and vegetables as well.  In short, there is no taking without giving in return.  They, as a result, become responsible for one third of our food supply today.

The lessons that the honeybees teach are that wealth abounds in the cosmos but this abundance are meant to be shared and circulated to nourish all life forms.  Our ancestors, therefore, promote the following values:  one, we must have appreciation for the abundance of the cosmos that provides for our survival;  two, work not only for one’s self, but also for our community;  three, there is beauty and purpose in hard work and labor;  four, there must be creativity in production and reproduction of basic raw materials;  five, we should never be selfish in sharing our resources and information with each other;  six, we must protect our resources, which provide for us;  and seven, we are accountable and responsible for what we take.  If these values were consciously applied by our socio-political leaders and economic advisers, then maybe hunger and war would end in our world and we would not have the ecological crisis that we are having today.

Paradigm Shifts

This brings us to the second theme of the paper.  In The Turning Point, Fritjof Capra noted that a major transition that our civilization needs to go through is a cultural transformation.  “It involves what is now often called ‘paradigm shifts’ – a profound change in the thoughts, perceptions, and values that form a particular vision of reality.”  He further stated:  “We need a deep reexamination of the main premises and values of our culture, a rejection of those conceptual models that have outlived their usefulness, and a new recognition of some of the values discarded in previous periods of our cultural history.” 

This change is inevitable as Capra observed a great imbalance in the history of our civilization. 

          “...our society has consistently favored the yang over the yin –  rational knowledge over intuitive wisdom, science over religion, competition over cooperation, exploitation of natural resources over conservation, and so on.  The emphasis, supported by the patriarchal system and further encouraged by the dominance of sensate culture during the past three  centuries, has led to a profound cultural imbalance which lies at the very root of our current crisis – an imbalance in our thoughts and feelings, our values and attitudes, and our social and political structures.”

 This invitation is for us to give equal, if not more, importance to intuitive wisdom and ecological awareness, dimensions that have sadly been negated in the past centuries in favor of rational and dualistic thinking.  Capra challenges us:  “The universe (must) no longer (be) seen as a machine, made up of a multitude of separate objects, but appears as a harmonious indivisible whole; a network of dynamic relationships that include the human observer and his or her consciousness in an essential way.”  This definitely aligns with our previous discussion of the values that our ancestors have modeled for us.  It requires a collective effort on our part to redirect our civilization that has unfortunately been heading towards destruction and death of our planet.  What then is the kind of process that can help us achieve this vision? 

 Consciousness as a Response

Our proposal in this paper is to awaken our consciousness towards the values of our ancestors, the honeybees.  John Searle simply defines consciousness as “a subjective state of sentience or awareness.”  The key feature of this definition is that consciousness is subjective.  Searle sees consciousness as private to a person where “he is related to his pains, tickles, itches, thoughts and feelings in a way that is quite unlike the way that others are related to their pains, tickles, itches, thought and feelings.”  We may, therefore, hold similar sense experiences and perceptions, thoughts and feelings, but the way we look at these in our consciousness is unique and private to us.  In this sense, consciousness belongs to a higher order of thought beyond our brain and mind.  Giulio Tononi describes it as “information integration.”  It is our consciousness that gathers all our sense experiences and perceptions, thoughts and feelings, into a unified whole picture. 

The crucial questions to ask are:   What exists in people’s consciousness today?  Are the values of our ancestors, the honeybees, present in our consciousness at present?  If not, why were they lost to our awareness in the past centuries?  How can we restore these values into our existing consciousness?

In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle proposes a way to liberation through freeing ourselves from our mind.  This encompasses the need to watch carefully all the thought and emotional patterns that have been conditioned in us.  He calls this “watching the thinker (as well as the feeler).”  “So when you listen to a thought (or feeling),” he says, “you are aware not only of the thought (and feeling) but also of yourself as the witness of the thought (and feeling).”  This disposition is important in our discussion because even if we speak of the values that our ancestors can teach us, we basically maintain and hold on to what is already in our mind.  Thus, we reject the information being spoken.  Tolle explains it further:

          “Even if the voice is relevant to the situation at hand, it will interpret it in terms of the past.  This is because the voice belongs to your conditioned mind, which is the result of all your past history as well as of the collective cultural mind-set you inherited.  So you see and judge the present through the eyes of the past and get a totally distorted view of it.”

Eckhart’s view of enlightenment is at the heart of awakening our consciousness.  For instance, it is difficult to embrace the value of sharing information to others for them to acquire abundance as we have if the mind clings on to a competitive and dominance belief system.  It is also hard to actualize the value of giving and sharing when the heart is wrapped by insecurities and fear, which may have stemmed from past wounds of deprivation.  It is the task, therefore, of consciousness to be able to examine where these beliefs and feeling states come from and act on it according to the need of the present time.

Buddhist Psychology reinforces this view of liberation.  Jack Kornfield in The Wise Heart, elaborates on this:

          “When we dedicate our actions with positive intentions for all, we begin to transform the situation.  Our dedication gives us the authority and freedom to act out of love no matter what. We start with the results of our past karma.  But the canvas is incomplete.  Now we can add to it.  We can step out of unconscious habit, connect with our wise heart, and freely  choose a new response.”

Utilizing the metaphor of the honeybees, the processes that Tolle and Kornfield propose is that seeds may only be planted if the soil is fertile, so to speak.  The values of the ancestors can only be planted in our hearts when we become receptive to them.  This is attained as we examine our existing value system and challenge “old habits” that do not work anymore.  Then, in the context of love and compassion, we create a new response, one that addresses the need of the present.

Educating Consciousness

It is noteworthy to witness to efforts today that extend this process of awakening consciousness.  One such endeavor is the UNESCO Asia Pacific Network of International Education and Values Education.  This network upholds a “vision for the future inspired by the report of the International Commission on Education for the 21st Century, chaired by Jacques Delors, which emphasizes the process of lifelong learning and the need for each person to learn how to learn and how to apply knowledge ethically in order to contribute fully to society.”  Three sourcebooks have been developed along this goal:  Learning to Live Together in Peace and Harmony, Learning to Be:  A Holistic and Integrated Approach to Values Education for Human Development, Learning to Do:  Values for Learning and Working Together in a Globalized World. 

Relevant to our discussion is the network’s emphasis on a learning process that is holistic and integrated.  “The valuing process outlined in the sourcebook offers a way for the practical application of values in the learning and educational context to become a living reality, through the active participation of learners in the formation, identification and internalization of values.”

Prominent in the materials is the emphasis on the affective dimension of valuing.  Dr. Lourdes Quisumbing, founding President, states:  “The heart of education is the education of the heart...  It is not what we know that we do.  It is what we want that we do.”  Yet, ironically, seldom are we asked:  What is it that we really want?  What is genuinely in our hearts?  What do we really believe in and stand for?  What is truly in our consciousness now?  The sourcebook posits this important premise:

          “The premise is that understanding a value concept, no matter  how beautiful and wise the concept may be, does not guarantee its integration and internalization in the learner. Oftentimes, it is when the learners have experiences, whether personally or vicariously, that such a value becomes meaningful to them.  Only then does this value become actualized as one’s own.”

This reiterates our previous points.  Certainly we could go on promoting our ancestors, the honeybees, and the values they model, but if we do not personally see them as meaningful to us and uphold them in life, they remain as ideals.  As such, we need to ensure that the learning process includes a holistic and integrated approach that would facilitate the awakening of our consciousness accordingly.


This paper extols the admirable values of our ancestors, the honeybees.  In a way, it wishes that the same values they represent be lived by us today.  But it acknowledges how easy it is to discuss about them and what they can teach us.  To adopt them to our life and our present context, however, is an entirely different matter altogether.  It involves the process of awakening our consciousness to embrace these values as our own.  This implies that the education of these values can never be achieved through our traditional approach of concept learning.  Rather it entails the art and skill of being mindful of one’s subjective reality vis-a-vis the object of reflection, in this case, the values of the honeybees.  Unless these same values are aligned with our consciousness, our ancestors, the honeybees, and what they stand for will remain as an elusive ideal instead of a cosmic reality.  At best, I would like to believe that through this paper we have initially planted the seed of a vision for an enlightened future.