As many people across the globe are entering their third week of isolation, their solitary states may result in interesting streams of consciousness. This article here, from clinical psychologist Jan Kaspers, comes from such a state. It’s a contemplative, meditative essay, that explores a broader perspective on the current pandemic.
The history of humanity is the history of dealing with crises: Whether to overcome, integrate and evolve or whether to fail, collapse and make space for something new. We, the current whole of humanity, would not be the first civilization that did not manage to overcome the struggles and pressures trying to defeat and test us. There were many great civilizations before us which evolved to a certain point and then vanished.
And who knows, possibly there are myriads of other civilizations out there which are so advanced that we can’t even fathom detecting them. We sometimes marvel about the relicts and ruins that the ancient civilizations left for us to find. Oddly foreign they might seem to us, yet they help us to vision a picture which shows that also our civilization is vulnerable and could collapse. Where the big cities of our times became exhibits and proof that we once existed, just poking out of the dust of time, like toys in a sandbox. That is a possibility.
Heavy crises are peak moments of testing current systems. They are as sharp as a razors edge, cutting through historic movements. As everything is in constant flux they are an inevitable part of reality and evolution. The current crisis of pandemic spread of a virus and how the world and its current systems react to it is one of those peak experiences. The test is painful and demanding. It is burdened with sacrifice for the contemporary people.
And yet we come a long way. From early matter to molecular bonds, over cells to organisms, from there to mammals, then to ancient tribes, to societies, the industrial age and the post-modern digital world that we find ourselves in. With this evolution of systems also always came a change of the inner experience. Evolution of matter has always been also an evolution of consciousness. The consciousness of our current societies is based to a far-fetched degree on the idea of the individual, competing each other, mastering nature, having faith in science and technology instead of religion and the belief that ever growing economies are possible. The climate crisis (which is broader and deeper) is still running in the background of this peak crisis at the moment. It is a real phenomenon that will force our systems to adapt.
The current pandemic crisis is a catalyst to all of that change. We have to be clear about this. A virus is not much more than an ancient, constantly mutating piece of genetic makeup that tries to find someone to host, because it cannot survive on its own. Nevertheless this tiny form of material energy is pointing directly to the vulnerabilities of our system and how volatile it can be. The virus is drawing the whole picture for us.
If we are willing to look deeper, it is possible for us to see that there were reasons for us to develop into our current system. It was neither good or bad, it was just necessary. That is why gratitude for our past and past crises is a helpful response right now. By stepping out of the old dogmatic religious societies and the power structures of heavenly sent kings, we formed wider structures of power, like national states with laws to protect more people, foremost people with privilege at first. Our ancestors fought bloody wars for the freedom that we so naturally claim to be our own today. And we owe them gratitude for their sacrifice.
The idea of freedom, equality and free exchange is a fairly new one. All of that was facilitated by unmasking the old power structures as not being updated enough for the discoveries that were made. For the last two hundred years the scientific revolution was the driving force in the world as we know it.
On the inside it came as a triumph of reason over magical thinking, of truth over blind faith and predictability over hope. This can be considered a huge liberation. Humanity was not forced to believe the authorities anymore that ruled over them, they started to educate themselves and started to act rationally out of good reasoning instead of dreading purgatory.
On the outside the scientific revolution came with a rapid advance in technology. Technology and the economies that emerged became a new belief system in itself. The new economies meant better standards for a wider range of people. Over time power shifted from churches and royal courts to voters and owners of private property. In between there were shifts back to older systems. In times of public stress and depression systems tend to fall back to unhealthy older updates that rely on better established states and are therefore safer. Those setbacks can come out of huge crises. The Third Reich is a tragic example for that. In the end capitalism and democracy asserted themselves though as the more adaptable systems.
What God and the absolutists could not give them capitalism could: A better health, prosperity for the masses and finally agency over their own life. How beautiful and necessary. What capitalism could not give them was meaning though and a path to overcome the deep pain of seperation. The meaning of life and union with God that was delivered by religion was abolished with the industrial revolution for a whole bandwidth of people. And it is an ongoing trend. Unfortunately the economic system has an inbuilt flaw though. It cannot survive without constantly growing. And up to this point the economy has grown in a pace that left its participants not leaving a real choice. Like a machine that is spinning too fast you cannot stop it from one moment to the next without damaging its parts and it subsequently collapsing.
But that is exactly what the pandemic is pointing to. Most people are kept in a constant daily race between working, chores and chasing new advantages in forms of money, status and pleasure. The pace of our lives became so fast. Looking through the front window on the road trips of our life, seeing the sights is not possible anymore, due to the speed of moving. The second we stop, we have to face the emptiness of post-modern life. It haunts us. A dreading curiosity of what this is all about. We are not in touch anymore with what moves us deeply. The current crisis is forcing us to look within. And that is very necessary.
The whole evolution of humanity seems to have two paradoxal tendencies. On one hand systems emerge that are becoming increasingly complex and at the same time the systems strive towards a higher unity — from the simple to the advanced and from the seperated to the whole. You can criticize globalism for many reasons but it also facilitated a worldview that made it easy to focus on the planet as a whole. It helped reducing boundaries between states and people. It helped different cultures to encounter each other under a common goal. But if we want to survive we have to go further, because what capitalism, science and technology cannot give us is depth. In the world of reducing every phenomenon on external, objective quantities we lose the perspective on the other side of reality. We find ourselves in a constant stream of outer, material distraction.
Beside the pressure on us, there is also a real choice to make. Not once forever, more a choice that can be made from day to day, from moment to moment. Where do we find ourselves to guide our attention to? I see a lot of hope and potential for humanity at the moment. The pandemic crisis and isolation from our usual routines is a great opportunity to rise to a higher consciousness. If we make the right choices now, humanity has a future. The last ten years and upcoming research makes it very clear that we do not have endless time to decide. An oil tanker in the deep ocean can not be turned around in short moment of time. We need a re-orientation sooner than later.
As tragic as it seems, the virus helps us here. Its emergence confronts us with our fear of death — as an individual but also as a collective. If we decide to use this fear for us rather than against us, it has the power of pushing our consciousness to the existential layers of reality and beyond. It helps us to understand that we can rise to that consciousness inside of us which transcends the individual, which transcends the boundaries of national states and cultures and even the boundaries of the planet.
If we look deep, close and long enough, if we become still and allow ourselves to be empty, we might see what happens here. Right now in this moment there lies an expression of the eternal within us. No boundaries at all. Just compassion. In the hectic trance of our everyday lifes this might seem cynical and ridiculous, but here during those weird days of isolation and politically induced slowness lies the glimpse of a new hope.
If we start this journey now we can make this leap from the separation of our egos to this intimate understanding that we are both part and the whole. If we find love in all of that, we can make this change happen. Not forced, not because of guilt or social control, but organically. We will be able to look back and thank our ancestors for the decisions that they have made. They brought us up here to the mountain, to the place from where we can see now on the horizon that unity is our ultimate reality, our highest state of consciousness. As a natural consequence we will start to appreciate our differences, we will start to love the ecosphere as our planetary home and we will start to accept the pain that comes from change and also change that comes from pain. We will be ready to heal.