1 Description

The Marsh Fritillary, Euphydryas aurinia, is a butterfly of the Nymphalidae family. It is widespread in the Palaearctic region from Ireland in the West to Yakutia in the East, and to North-west China and Mongolia in the South. E. aurinia is represented by many subspecies. The most widely accepted are:

* E. a. aurinia Central Europe, Southern Europe, West Siberia
* E. a. bulgarica (Fruhstorfer, 1916) Carpathian Mountains
* E. a. laeta (Christoph, 1893) Central Siberia, Altai, Sayan, Transbaikal
* E. a. beckeri (Lederer, 1853) Morocco (Middle Atlas, Rif Mountains)
* E. a. barraguei (Betz, 1956) Algeria

but the total number of described subspecies is much higher especially in the Eastern Palaearctic. The insect may be best considered a superspecies.


2 Conservation management

3 The Taoist 'Butterfly Meditation

The three principle figures of Taoism - are Laozi (Lao Tzu), Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu) and Liezi (Lieh Tzu). Of these three, it is Zhuangzi who is most well-known for a style of writing which uses anecdotes, parables and dialogues embedded in playful, paradoxical stories to convey a philosophy very much in line with what we find in Laozi's writings. This writing suggests that we align ourselves with the rhythms of the natural world, honoring "the way" of the elements. Unlike Laozi, Zhuangzi spends little if any time exploring the possibilities for "enlightened leadership." Instead, in his writing we find all variety of reminders and hints and nudgings in the direction of aligning ourselves clearly with the laws of the natural - rather than the social/cultural - world.

Zhuangzi opens the first chapter of his book entitled "Free and Easy Wandering" or "Going Rambling Without a Destination." with a meditation on being a butterfly.

"Once upon a time, I, Zhuangzi, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Zhuangzi. Soon I awakened, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things."

This story is interpreted as a parable about how often we like to create division between dream and reality believing that we really understand what is real. And this understanding itself causes a form of rigidity that prevents us from flowing and being mentally flexible. We are often held captive by what we believe to be real when the current understanding is only provisional. And Chuang Tzu would have argued that these things we called real is nothing but "three in the morning" or the things of our very own imagination and creation. Our fixation prevents us from adapting to the flow of life and thus makes it difficult for us to be at a place where we can just enjoy being, flittering and fluttering around like a butterfly.

The parable points to a number of interesting and much-explored philosophical issues, stemming from the relationship between the waking-state and the dream-state, and/or between illusion and reality: How do we know when we're dreaming, and when we're awake? How do we know if what we're perceiving is "real" or a mere "illusion" or "fantasy"? Is the "me" of various dream-characters the same as or different from the "me" of my waking world? How do I know, when I experience something I call "waking up" that it is actually a waking up to "reality" as opposed to simply waking up into another level of dream?

Zhuangzi's writing suggests that we align ourselves with the rhythms of the natural world, honoring "the way" of the elements. In his writing we find all variety of reminders and hints and nudgings in the direction of aligning ourselves clearly with the laws of the natural - rather than the social/cultural - world

This reflects the sense of the Daoist who is in spontaneous accord with the natural world, and who has retreated from the anxieties and dangers of social life, in order to live a healthy and peaceful natural life. In modern Mandarin, the word xiaoyao has thus come to mean "free, at ease, leisurely, spontaneous." It conveys the impression of people who have given up the hustle and bustle of worldly existence and have retired to live a leisurely life outside the city, perhaps in the natural setting of the mountains.

Robert Allison sees Chuang-tzu's story of the Butterfly Dream as an analogy of the Enlightenment experience - as pointing to a change in our level of consciousness, which - incidentally - has important implications for anyone engaged in scientifi exploration:

"The physical act of awakening from a dream is a metaphor for awakening to a higher level of consciousness, which is the level of correct philosophical understanding."

Allison supports this "self-transformation hypothesis" in large part by citing another passage from the Zhuangzi' , viz. the 'Great Sage Dream' anecdote:

"He who dreams of drinking wine may weep when morning comes; he who dreams of weeping may in the morning go off to hunt. While he is dreaming he does not know it is a dream, and in his dream he may even try to interpret a dream. Only after he wakes does he know it was a dream. And someday there will be a great awakening when we know that this is all a great dream. Yet the stupid believe they are awake, busily and brightly assuming they understand things, calling this man ruler, that one herdsman - how dense! Confucius and you are both dreaming! And when I say you are dreaming, I am dreaming, too. Words like these will be labeled the Supreme Swindle. Yet, after ten thousand generations, a great sage may appear who will know their meaning, and it will still be as though he appeared with astonishing speed."

Robert Allison argues that this 'Great Sage' story has the power of explaining the 'Butterfly Dream' (though not vice versa) and lends credence to his self-transformation hypothesis:

"Once fully awakened, one may distinguish between what is a dream and what is reality. Before one has fully awakened, such a distinction is not even possible to draw empirically."

"Before one raises the question of what is reality and what is illusion, one is in a state of ignorance. In such a state (as in a dream) one would not know what is reality and what is illusion. After a sudden awakening, one is able to see a distinction between the real and the irreal. This constitutes a transformation in outlook. The transformation is a transformation in consciousness from the unaware lack of distinction between reality and fantasy to the aware and definite distinction of being awake. This is the message of the butterfly dream parable."