The circumstances in which the whole world finds itself, are unprecedented. There won't be many who could have predicted six months ago that the daily life of almost the entire world population would change so drastically in just a few days, although there were some who foresaw it. An immensely small virus proved capable of turning all ways of life upside down and causing a pandemic and world crisis.
As with any crisis, the more noble and creative qualities of people emerge. There are countless initiatives being taken for people to survive in these special circumstances and – more importantly – to help each other through this crisis. However, we also see fear, which manifests itself, for example, in the hoarding of all kinds of products that are not even scarce. People wonder if they become ill, can they survive and how long will this situation last.
Fear of the coronavirus itself is not necessary. If you think calmly, there are two possibilities. We are not susceptible. That means we do not attract the virus. Or we are susceptible. Then we go through a more or less severe period of illness, which – no matter how annoying physically at times – causes a new balance and renewed vitality. If we die from it – which happens in small percentages with every kind of flu – then it is the effect of the virus only to a small extent, because it is just the last straw that breaks the camel's back. Moreover, dying is not an absolute end, on the contrary, it is the start of an inner period of rest, followed by the resumption of our own evolutionary path.
The word “crisis” indicates a low point in a certain downward trend. If that is true, then there is an upward trend after the crisis. Then the way out of the pit has been found. Of course, the danger remains that we will fall back in, but there is the opportunity that we will take a new path.
The greatest danger facing mankind today is not the virus itself; this we will overcome after a shorter or longer period of time. We are in much greater danger of falling back into our selfish habits, which have ultimately been the root cause of this crisis. However, if we take advantage of the opportunities this crisis offers us, it may prove to be a great blessing.
So what are these opportunities?
First of all, let’s look at the individual human being. Because of the social isolation caused by the crisis, we can come to a much greater realization that true happiness is only created thanks to our fellow human beings. We cannot live without each other. So why should we want to live at the expense of others? Why should we set our personal, individual prosperity as the highest priority in our lives when it turns out that this prosperity is no guarantee for a happy and harmonious life?
The crisis can strengthen our empathy. Isn't it strange that just when there is “physical” isolation, we often feel more connected to others? Is it therefore not obvious that physical isolation is not the same as mental or spiritual isolation and that the latter two are much more important? Bodies can be separated from each other, but consciousnesses do not depend on locations to meet. Can't the crisis teach us this important lesson?
This crisis can bring out the more spiritual qualities within us, as long as we develop the patience that is required. Especially when the physical isolation lasts longer, it is an excellent exercise for us to learn to be patient.
You can learn to see the present state as a period of reflection on ourselves and our position in the world. Then you can come to a certain degree of detachment. You learn to see the relativity of all kinds of things that up until now seemed normal and on which we thought our happiness depended. We refer to the possession of all kinds of material things, to luxurious vacations and so on.
Global challenges: our relationship with animals
There are countless opportunities that become available when we act according to a bigger picture. Our relationship with other countries and with animals can change drastically, thanks to the crisis. Let us therefore first consider the causes of this crisis.
As with any major world event, there are countless factors that have played a role. In fact, the corona crisis is one of the many crises in our world. It would be better if we came to an integrated approach, going to the root of all these crises.
The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 disease originated in Wuhan, China, most likely because a virus that lives in bats passed to humans via a civet cat. It is certainly not the first time that viruses have passed from animals to humans, leading to epidemics. By the way, viruses also pass from humans to animals, but that doesn't give us any headaches. If we do not radically change our relationship with animals, it is not unlikely that something like this will happen again in the near future. (Soon our magazine Lucifer, the Light-bringer will publish an article about the origin of viruses).
That is why we should really think about our relationship with animals and then draw the consequences. Worldwide millions and millions of pigs, cows, goats and chickens live in extremely unnatural circumstances. They live very close to humans and very close to each other. Recently avian flu was diagnosed in chickens in Asia and Europe. Experts believe there is a good chance that the virus of this disease can spread to humans just as well as the coronavirus.
Of course, animals are weakened in such unnatural conditions. They become susceptible to all kinds of bacteria and viruses, which people then try to combat all kinds of pharmaceutical poisons, such as tonnes of antibiotics. This weakens the animals even more, which makes them even more susceptible to unknown germs. But there is more. Pesticides for agriculture and pharmaceuticals for animal husbandry are developed in laboratories, which are well isolated and secured, but whose secret manufacturing procedures always leak out, with all the consequences that entail. The same applies to the development of all kinds of chemical and biological weapons; even if we do not use them, the technique for making them is invented, and in the long run, they leak out. We play with fire. The way they are prepared can get into the hands of terrorists, which has happened before. The highly toxic sarin, discovered during an insecticide investigation, was used by a sect in the Tokyo subway, causing thousands of casualties. The sarin gas was of inferior quality, otherwise the disaster would have been much worse.
It is an illusion that we can protect ourselves against these animal-derived viruses by vaccination. In the first place, we never know which virus leaps over to humans, but moreover, viruses always mutate, so that a vaccine that has been developed over a long period of time and has been produced in sufficient quantities, quickly loses its usefulness because the virus has mutated. The only real protection is when we treat (domestic) animals in a different, respectful way. After all, keeping such large numbers of animals in very small areas is disruptive in many ways. The fodder these animals have to eat comes from places thousands of kilometers away from where these animals are kept. This means that jungles are burned down for the production of cassava and soybeans, while in other parts of the world it leads to a huge manure problem and pollution of the soil.
This whole problem is caused by human attachment to meat. Although there are more and more people who are vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian, total consumption of meat is still growing.
Everything's connected. Our hunger for meat has created a system in which animals are bred in an unworthy, yes very cruel way. This leads to a demand for animal feed, which makes it attractive to exploit the forest for soy. This leads to a manure surplus in some countries, contributes to the nitrogen problem, the climate crisis, the massive death of insects and therefore of birds.
There are no causes without consequences. Anyone who looks objectively at this discordant state of affairs knows that there must be an effect in order to restore the balance.
Another point we could reflect on is globalization. After the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, one ideology remained: the free market. The free market is based on selfishness; on individual selfishness, the selfishness of a company, or the selfishness of a country. In the latter case, we call it nationalism.
By the way, the free market is not at all as free as its name suggests. It is the result of all kinds of mutual agreements between countries and between countries and multinationals. Think, for example, of the tax benefits that many of these gigantic companies receive, enabling them to make many billions in profits. Such agreements are always at the expense of weaker parties and increase the already enormous gap between wealth and poverty.
In this selfish market, the weak never have the freedom that the rich have. The rich own companies with monopolies on goods and services. Only a few large companies monopolize, for example, the clothing, food or chemical industries. In the ØICT%% sector, even large losses are made in the race to become monopolists as soon as possible and thus the most powerful. If you do not belong to the club of monopolists, you are always subordinated to the rules of the game that they and their army of lawyers have drawn up.
Suppose you were born in a village in Romania and despite your professionalism, you cannot find a job. The choice you face is: no work and no income, or low pay in another country. Without even realizing it, you are used by subcontractors to lower the wages of people in Western Europe. And if you were born an African, even if you are highly educated, you do not even have that choice, because Europe and the US have hermetically sealed their borders for Africans. So one may speak of a free market; but it is only the free market for the rich.
If selfishness is the motive for economic action, then almost nothing else is taken into account but one's own profit. Then the production process is cut into pieces and divided over countless countries if that lowers the price for manufacturing the product and thus increases profits. Low-wage countries, child labor and unemployment in previously industrialized areas are then created. Then, during a pandemic, scarce surgical masks are offered at exorbitant prices.
The current corona crisis should raise the question of whether this form of globalization has contributed to making the world a fairer, more harmonious and happier place. Is it a healthy situation that – to give just one example – most of the clothing of the rich countries is manufactured in Bangladesh and other East Asian countries in factories that are not allowed in the countries where those clothes are sold and under working conditions that are inhumane? Is it normal that China is the “factory hall” of the world, from where just about everything comes that we buy in big department stores and throw away after a short time? Perhaps it is less efficient if every country manufactures its own products and grows its own food, but doesn't it increase the pleasure of labor if we can creatively make our own products? Of course we do not have to close our borders to the products of other countries, but shouldn't we aim much more for the welfare of workers instead of the profits of companies?
It may seem as if this issue has nothing to do with the current pandemic, but that is not true. It is the same mentality that underlies it. And again, there are no causes without consequences.
Isn’t the great paradox of our time that we have eliminated borders for all kinds of products, but closed them to people? After the previous big global “crisis”, the Second World War, we signed all kinds of treaties that should make it possible for people to move freely on the planet and to flee from injustice, war and poverty. There is almost no country that complies with these signed contracts. Millions of people are on the run. Every country is trying to close its borders to them. Is it possible to close the borders permanently to these people? If not, how do we solve the problem? Especially in times of crisis, we should think about this.
If the corona crisis teaches us one thing, it is that we cannot close the borders. Separateness is fictitious, especially in this modern world. It also teaches us that we cannot protect ourselves from the consequences of our own actions. We can feel insusceptible because we are rich, have good health insurance. The virus does not care about that and we will have to stay at home as well. We can spend billions and billions on weaponry, but we cannot defeat a microscopic virus with that. The only sustainable cure is a change of mentality.
All in all, we can say that the crisis was not caused by an innate evil of man, but rather by a blindness, an ignorance of the true nature of life.
As long as man seeks his life's purpose in appearance, in desire for prestige and luxury, he will be driven by selfishness. Selfishness leads to a narrow-mindedness of consciousness, yes, to mental blindness. By this, we mean that you then assume that the selfish causes you create will not lead to harmful consequences for yourself.
This crisis can teach us that there are other values in life, that we must strive for a more harmonious and just world in all respects, and that partial solutions to global problems do not exist.
The pandemic will undoubtedly disrupt the economy. Let countries solve that disruption together. Countries which are economically and financially better off, should not necessarily reject the request for help from less wealthy countries. They should not fall into the reflex – that is the danger that a crisis also entails – that each country should take care of its own problems.
The crisis can make us realize that the real value of life lies in the consciousness of the human being and not in the form in which it expresses itself. In other words: the body and outer circumstances obviously need some of our attention, but human dignity lies in the noble aspects of our consciousness. How rich, sublime that consciousness can be, is known to everyone who delves into this subject.
Through the study of the ancient Theosophia, you learn to discover and exploit the still unexplored layers in your own consciousness and thus seize with both hands the opportunity that this crisis offers us.
Of course the Theosophical Society Point Loma is happy to help you on this exploration.
You can always contact us.