"The Soul of the White Ant"
Eugene Marais (1872-1936) was a brilliant Afrikaans poet. He was also an advocate, a journalist, a psychologist and a scientist of nature. He wrote Die Siel van die Mier, which was translated into English by Winifred de Kok, and was published in 1970, as The Soul of the White Ant. The book was about his study of the termite, then commonly called a ”white ant”. In the Introduction to one of Marais’ other works, The Soul of the Ape, Robert Ardrey writes on page 15 of the termitary, the home of the termite:
“Termitaries, as one sees them so frequently in central and southern Africa, are tall, compacted columns of earth sometimes twelve or fifteen feet high. Within lives the society, with its castes and its ranks, in countless number. And Marais concluded that all members of the colony and the termitary itself form what is essentially a single organism. The termitary itself is the body. The various castes in the society have the functions of the body’s organs, with fungus gardens contributing the digestive tract, soldiers and workers the cells of the blood stream, the queen the brain as well as the reproductive organs, and even the sexual flight executing the function of sperm and ova. How all communicate we do not know, but the ‘soul’ of the white ant – the psyche, we should say – is the property of the entire society.
The important point arising from the observations recorded in The Soul of the White Ant is that the different termites in the termitary, although divided by the physical barriers of the constituent parts of the termitary, are, in some non-physical way, able to communicate with one another, to co-ordinate the complex activities necessary for the termitary’s survival.
Marais was a follower of Darwin, and, in writing The Soul of the White Ant, he had no apparent religious agenda. His scientific conclusion that the termitary possessed a soul supports the view that there exists in a termitary an observable non-physical , or spiritual dimension, which is evidence of a spiritual source.