Category Archives: Coronavirus

Coronavirus and the indwelling divinity within each human being

During these challenging times, I have been reflecting on what an anthroposophical approach to this Covid-19 pandemic might be. There are so many theories, anthroposophical and otherwise, that we are being invited to take in and consider. Perhaps you, like me, receive links to more pandemic-related videos and websites than it is possible to view – that is, if you wish to have any time at all away from the screen and maintain some semblance of a normal life.

All I personally feel able to do is to watch and observe and try to reach some conclusions about what is going on. One of these conclusions is that nearly all of us, including most doctors, scientists, politicians, academics and pundits of all kinds, know next to nothing about Covid-19. All the information coming to us from official channels is confusing, constantly changing and often contradictory. This is a very disconcerting experience for those of us who would like something solid to hang onto. The writer Paul Kingsnorth has expressed this dilemma very well:

“I would like to say that I know what to do about all this, or what to learn. I would like to teach it to you so that you may learn too. I would like to be a prophet in a time when prophets are so sorely needed.

Unfortunately, I am not qualified for this role. I don’t know anything at all, and I am learning, painfully, that this was my lesson all along.

I don’t know anything at all.

My society does not know anything at all.

All the things I was brought up to label as learning: my A-levels, my Oxford University degrees, all the books I have read and written, all the arguments I learned how to formulate, all the ideas I learned how to frame, the concepts I learned how to enunciate. All this head-work, all these modern European ways of seeing, understanding, controlling, managing, directing the world:

Nope.

None of that was it.”

So what has this pandemic got to teach our globalised Western civilisation? What can we learn from all of this?  Nothing, because we are not equipped to learn the actual lesson that is being taught. 

We cannot learn the lesson, because our head-centred, materialist culture does not believe in the existence of the realm from where it is coming, which is the non-material world.

During a previous piece about coronavirus, I gave quite a bit of emphasis to the positive sides of lockdown – the improvement in air quality, the reduced road and air traffic noise, the benefits for nature and wildlife, the enhanced sense of a community caring for its weaker members and a hope that, as there were so many of us who did not want to return to ‘normal’,  that governments might take notice and stop talking about economic growth as if nothing else mattered. These hopes have not endured, of course.

I also raised the possibility that I was being naïve and that all of us were being played by forces very far from benign towards human beings, citing the speed with which our civil liberties have been removed, the many restrictions being placed on social and family life and the damage being done to our economic circumstances. With each month that passes, it becomes clearer that this more pessimistic view is increasingly valid and that humanity has entered a very dark period.  

One answer to Paul Kingsnorth’s call for real knowledge about the virus is to be found in The Coronavirus Pandemic – Anthroposophical Perspectives by Judith von Halle. Translated from the German original by Frank Thomas Smith and published by Temple Lodge, this is one of the few commentaries from an anthroposophical point of view that I have found to be really useful. Despite von Halle’s disclaimer of scientific knowledge or her modest description of her writings as “motivating fragments for free consideration”, what she writes has, for me at least, a flavour of genuine anthroposophical spiritual research. She wrote this for an anthroposophical audience, in response to questions earlier this year from members of the Lazarus-John Branch of the Free Association for Anthroposophy, so at times it uses language and ideas with which general readers may not be familiar. I have tried therefore to include hyperlinks to sources of further information wherever this could be helpful, or else have provided short explanations in italics.

In such a brief post I cannot do justice to the full range of her insights but will only mention here what are for me some of the most important points she makes. Apart from all the human anguish and inconvenience triggered by coronavirus, the spiritual causes behind it are extremely disturbing. If the present pandemic is not to be the first in a series of catastrophes, humanity is called upon to make some big changes to the way we conduct our lives. Von Halle suggests that because Covid-19 is a pandemic, it means that we are in the grip of a situation where the karma of humanity as a whole applies – and this has happened in such a way that planned individual karma is thwarted. In such cases, she says, after the death of an affected person whose individual karmic threads have been severed by the karma of humanity, it is not easy for the hierarchies of angels to weave these threads back together again. This is therefore a full-frontal attack on the I-hood of the individual (the Self, the bearer of the Christ principle or the indwelling divinity in the human being, which we take with us from incarnation to incarnation) and from this she concludes that the spiritual power active in the pandemic is Sorat, the Anti-Christ, “the mightiest spiritual enemy which humanity must face on its path to development” and that the “virus is only a rippling wave compared to what humanity must still undergo in the near future”.

In connection with this last point, von Halle says that:

“Today we experience the attack – caused by us as the organism of humanity (ie humanity as a whole) – on the air-element and the physical organ associated with it, the lungs, through our corrupted, not life-giving thinking (this is a reference to the concept of ‘living thinking’, which you can read more about in Chapter 8 of Steiner’s ‘Philosophy of Freedom’). But if in the future, in the age of the consciousness soul, humanity has sunk so low that it is just as degenerate in its feeling as in its thinking, an attack on the heart will follow. Then it will be a case of absence of compassion, which is connected, among other things, with the suffering of animals.”

Von Halle also says that “it is not only the individual due to his personal biography, but also humanity as such that has developed a disposition for illness by this virus in that it has promoted and cherished materialism in its thinking for the past 150 years”. 

This is where human beings are called upon to transform their thinking:

“The greatest difficulty facing human beings is that they do not want to acknowledge the I, that is, the reality of their spiritual origin and purpose – the reality of their selves as a community of entities of purely spiritual nature, who at the present time have taken on materially physical sheaths. Only when this insight exists will life on earth for humanity – an existence that can truly be called life – be able to continue”.

Unless we can come to a clear awareness and understanding that the invisible spheres of life are as important as the physical in making us fully human, then the result will be estrangement from spiritual life, both on Earth and after death. The consequence of this estrangement and isolation is that an element which should remain in the spiritual life degenerates, is driven out and begins to manifest in the physical world as pathogens and illnesses which appear in a living organism and multiply parasitically within it. Von Halle then says:

“A different world, which is not included in the divine development plan for humanity, arises through this parasitical isolation. If human beings recognise their I and its importance, its tasks and possibilities, moral individualisation begins – the self-desired maturity from a creature to a new god (Von Halle is here referring to Rudolf Steiner’s statement that human beings are destined through their evolution over aeons to become the next order of angels, the Tenth Hierarchy). If human beings do not recognise their I and its importance, its tasks and possibilities, an amoral special existence begins, a self-degeneration from divine creature to a new – never before existing and also not in a higher sense envisaged – sub-sensory creature. Then human beings consummate this splitting from the whole and suck out all that they can of the living world that had been bestowed upon them, thus furthering their degeneration”.

This is a truly alarming insight: that humankind, through its thoughtless denial of its true nature and its embrace of atheistic materialism, is in danger of being driven by malign spiritual forces into a sub-human state of existence.

Judith von Halle also has some very interesting things to say about viruses:

“As viruses are not made up of cells and have no metabolism of their own, but only a blueprint of their reproduction, which they can actualise within the cell of a so-called ‘host’, they are not living beings like bacteria (many of which, by the way, play an indispensable role in the human digestion process, which is not the case with viruses). Moreover, viruses maintain themselves by the principle of errors that occur during their copying process and which often result in optimal situations – for them. Thereby they stand in diametric opposition to the basic divine order, namely the principles of truth, beauty and goodness, which are fundamental to humanity’s creative power. The cause of cell death in the human body is what optimises viral existence (Programmed cell death is an integral part of host defence against invading intracellular pathogens). This alone directs our attention to the spiritual nature of a virus. 

(…) An infection with the virus steers the I-slumbering person’s attention back to the purely material-physical processes, and it reaffirms his or her already biased materialistic worldview. It impacts a spiritual (sub-sensory-spiritual) impulse on the physical in the human soul. (…) The spiritual intention of viruses, as spirit bearers (or non-spirit bearers) (…) is to cause maximum harm in that they come into contact with the spirit of the human being at the level of devachan – albeit at its amoral mirror-image plane – but with the spirit not used by that person. (Here the author is referring to parts of the human spirit which are taken over by the Asuras and are thus not available to the individual human being.) Thus they are a plague of the consciousness soul age. Virus epidemics affect the karma of humanity insofar as the individual spirit is not brought to bear within an individual human being, and as a result, in what is meant to be the age of spiritual awakening, the person relapses into group-soul attitudes, which increase the physical potency of viruses.”

Will the new Covid-19 vaccines help? 

“That vaccination cannot offer lasting protection is indicated by the impulse to mutate that was induced by vaccination. Spiritually considered, vaccination campaigns, however beneficial they may be at first, cannot remedy humanity’s karmic adjustment caused by a viral epidemic. At best, a postponement of humanity’s karmic adjustment takes place. If the spiritual causes of the plague are not remedied but instead comprehensive vaccinations are administered, a more drastic consequence or compensation must be reckoned with in future. This is not an appeal against vaccinations. It is only meant to indicate that vaccination campaigns alone are not a solution, but at most a stop-gap, because without the removal of the spiritual causes for the infectious illnesses, they contribute to the eruption of other more powerful epidemics.”

It’s now clear to me that Covid-19 is just one aspect of a multi-faceted attack on human beings and all life on Earth that we are living through. Climate change, war, the sixth great extinction of species, genocide, materialism, racism, human degradation, pollution, terrorism, the polarisation of society, the undermining of democracy, fake news and ‘post-truth’ – these are all facets of attacks from the same enemy. The aim of Sorat and his helpers, the Asuras, has always been to destroy the human I (the Self, the bearer of the Christ principle or the indwelling divinity in the human being) and to destroy the earth itself, which the I needs for the future development of the human soul. This is the true scale of the battle in which humanity is now engaged. 

Foreseeing all of this, Rudolf Steiner said: 

“Mankind will begin to recover when, through work in the life of the spirit, people come to know and to see in its true light the fact that the fifth post-Atlantean epoch (ie the age we are currently living in, which runs from 15th Century CE to 4th Millennium CE) is intended to create a materialistic state of being out of the general stream of human evolution. But all the more, then, must a spiritual state of being be set in opposition to this materialism. What people in our epoch must learn is the need to wage a fully conscious fight against the evil that is making its way into human evolution. Just as in the fourth epoch (ie the Graeco-Roman age) the struggle was to come to terms with birth and death, so now we have to come to terms with evil.” 

What help is available to us in this great struggle? Von Halle suggests several things:

  • “Reducing one’s exposure to news about the coronavirus pandemic to the minimum that is necessary to avoid ignorance of what is going on in the world. (Rudolf Steiner, alongside his spiritual research, always made sure that he was thoroughly informed about outer events and opinions.)”
  • “The consistent psychical-spiritual work of an individual, or of a few individuals, can have an enormous influence on the physical and spiritual conditions of the world! When someone asks: What can I as one person do to influence world events? – the answer is: everything! If people could only see with physical eyes the effect on the macrocosmic context that the decision and its implementation to consistently practise only one meditation by a single person, then probably no one would hesitate to undertake such an exercise themselves. For the possibilities are enormous! Allow me to give you this as the greatest consolation, as the strongest ray of hope in the present situation. The individual person holds the world’s fate in his hands. This is the gift of the Christ, who sees the individual I as a deity, who treats it as a deity. (…) Spiritual life must become a reality in our hearts and therefore in our higher consciousness. We must develop a feeling in our souls for the true, the beautiful and the good that resides in this spiritual life.”
  • Speaking the Foundation Stone verse in nature. “Speaking the truth, this truth of cosmic wisdom is today (one could say, unfortunately) a shattering relief – for oneself, for one’s fellow humans, the divine spiritual world and, above all, for the physical world.”

Von Halle also recommends the Michael verse ‘Victorious Spirit’, “which shows us the essence of the true spirit of our time and, through its character, not only makes us aware of our contemporary tasks in everyday practical life, but can also give us the necessary will to fulfil them.”

Victorious spirit

Flame away the impotence 

Of timid souls.

Burn up self-interest

Kindle compassion,

So that selflessness,

As the life-stream of humanity,

Reigns as source

Of spiritual rebirth.1

(1 From Rudolf Steiner, Mantric Sayings, Meditations 1903-25, GA 268)

After having read this book, I am left with several thoughts and questions. First, how can one not be totally overwhelmed and horrified by the scale of the assault on human beings, especially when most of us are completely unaware of what is going on and have not even the basic concepts to begin to understand what is happening? Does it matter that there are so many people who will greet with derision what is written here, or have no comprehension of and no interest in what has been described? I take comfort from what von Halle says above about the massive difference one or two people can make when they work with prayer or meditation. And I also take comfort from the fact that there are so many good people doing good things for one another at this time, all of which I believe will weigh in the balance on the side of humanity.

Second, what can one do against such apparently insuperable odds? All that I personally can do is to write my blog; to look after people with learning disabilities at the care home where I work; to care for those close to me; to cherish my garden as a meditative space; to be part of my local community – for as I’ve noted before, it is human solidarity and caring for one another that will bring us through this crisis. Sorat is beyond all comparison the greatest enemy that humanity has ever had; but it is also true that having an enemy helps one to define oneself (and indeed, one’s Self). And Sorat and the Asuras have no response, no possible counterattack, that can defeat the love of Christ as expressed through simple human caring and selflessness.

Third, why is this happening? Here, I believe, we touch upon a great mystery of human evolution, ie the role of evil in human development. I have written more about this elsewhere on this blog, in case anyone is interested to take a look.

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Filed under Anthroposophy, Coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic, Sorat

Guest Post: CoronaControversies

by Steve Briault

Steve Briault is the Director of Development at Emerson College, where he is responsible for the College’s education programme as well as its capital assets and finances. He was previously an  organisation  consultant  with  25  years’  experience  of  advising companies,  government and voluntary organisations on management processes and structure. He is currently also Chair of Trustees at The Mount Camphill Community and has been trustee and/ or Chair of a range of other charities. His early career included co-founding and managing the Pennine Camphill Community, and restoring the financial stability of a Waldorf School in the role of Administrator. He taught at the Centre for Social Development at Emerson College in the 1980s and has been connected with the College since then. Steve is the author of two books: ‘Working It Out’, a handbook for violence prevention in working with young people, and ‘The Mystery of Meeting – relationships as a path of discovery’. He is also joint editor, with Martin Large, of ‘Free, Equal and Mutual – Rebalancing Society for the Common Good’, a collection of essays to mark the centenary of Rudolf Steiner’s social threefolding initiative.

Steve Briault

Like many people, I have continually been receiving messages, links, videos and documents containing different narratives about the source, severity, nature, meaning and indeed existence of COVID-19. Alternative theories are flying around the internet, some almost seeming to become viruses in themselves.  Many such materials are sent with an exhortation to “wake up” (i.e. believe their content) and/or to circulate them further.  In this infected and confusing landscape it can be hard to orientate oneself, to avoid paranoia or complacency and to make balanced judgements and decisions.  Having immersed oneself in anthroposophy, even over many years, does not, I observe, guarantee clear thinking, wise discernment or immunity from the temptation of assuming that one automatically knows better than others, particularly than the so-called mainstream view of events.

As part of my own efforts to orient myself in this toxic force-field, I have tried in this document to outline some principles which I believe are important in assessing and responding to diverse claims, and also to categorise and evaluate as far as I am able the different types of theory  which are circulating.  (I prefer to avoid the term “conspiracy theory” which is often used to dismiss controversial ideas.  Just because there is a conspiracy theory, doesn’t mean there isn’t a conspiracy: equally, it doesn’t mean there is one…).

Principles I would hope to follow:

  1. Respect conventional science. Steiner repeatedly made clear that natural science is not wrong, but rather, incomplete; and requires spiritual science in addition to create a full picture of the human being and the universe. He also emphasised that the methods of modern science – sound logical thinking, observation and experiment – are the basis on which anthroposophy differs from other and earlier spiritual disciplines. I’m uncomfortable with the use of “materialist” as a term of abuse: materialism is one of twelve legitimate world-views, valid in its own terms though needing the other eleven to balance it.
  2. Enquire rather than asserting. Many of the materials, videos, texts etc. currently circulating which “question” the mainstream narrative do not actually question at all, but simply assert – often in aggressive, dogmatic or self-congratulatory tones – the certainties of the author/presenter.  If present at all in such messages, questions are mainly rhetorical or sarcastic. One of the most impressive aspects I experience from many “mainstream experts” is their frankness about what they don’t know or where they are uncertain – e.g. the origin of the virus, the accuracy of the tests, the predictions about and measurement of the rate of infection etc. Questioning, and the testing of hypotheses against evidence, are healthy scientific principles which we should also adopt. We should enquire open-mindedly, not jump to adopt extreme assertions which we have not ourselves independently verified.
  3. Avoid vilification of individuals or categories of people. Calling those who promote vaccination “mass murderers”, accusing people like Bill Gates of genocide and attempted world domination, or painting the BBC as an inveterate purveyor of disinformation, does no service to legitimate questioning of current practice and reporting.  I have worked with many people in the civil service, the BBC, production and service industries, and with hundreds of NHS doctors, nurses, researchers, statisticians and managers, and found them with very few exceptions to be men and women of intelligence, probity and good intention.  The idea that these and hundreds of thousands like them are either so stupid and naïve, or so corrupt, as to be part of a massive plot to deceive and harm the general population, seems to me completely incredible as well as highly disrespectful.
  4. Exercise modesty and responsibility in what we say and what we circulate. It is remarkable how many non-scientists – cultural workers like myself – now feel themselves able to speak with confidence about issues well outside their own competence, on the basis of having been convinced by something posted on YouTube.  Questioning the authority of conventional scientists should not lead to unquestioning acceptance of the authority of alternative, self-designated “experts”.   I think it’s unwise and irresponsible to propagate narratives that could create unnecessary alarm – as may or may not be the case with 5G – or indeed complacency where there should be alarm – as with climate change – unless one has checked the evidence and its source oneself.  Encouragingly, I have also been sent links recently in which people who had propagated a controversial view have retracted this and apologised in the light of what they subsequently discovered.
  5. Think for oneself. As anthroposophists, we should be mindful of Steiner’s repeated enjoinders to develop clear thinking and independent judgement. In assessing controversial claims, I think this would include asking oneself, and if possible researching, questions such as:
    • What is the background and qualification of the person making these statements?
    • Do their claims make sense in the context of other knowledge and experience I have?
    • Is it plausible that the alleged conspirators would behave as described? Why would it be in their interests to do so?
    • Where my own expertise is limited, whom would I trust to give me informed comment? In my own case, it has been very helpful to be able to consult two of my sons, both Waldorf-educated and scientifically trained – one an environmental engineer, the other a hospital anaesthetist currently treating coronavirus patients.

A typology of controversialism:

These are some of the main categories of theory I have seen recently:

  • Minimalizing: this is the narrative that suggests that the virus, if there is one, is in itself relatively harmless, only dangerous for small sections of the population and essentially little different from many other viruses and coronaviruses that create colds, flu etc. The argument is that for whatever reason, with whatever motivation, the danger has been exaggerated and therefore the lockdown measures unnecessary. This account seems mainly to have come from a number of German doctors: in that country the infection and mortality rate has been far lower than elsewhere in Europe and the US – less than 10,000 deaths compared to c.40,000 in the UK – and it is quite likely that most of those fatalities were indeed people whose age or existing conditions made them particularly vulnerable.  Donald Trump started his erratic and politicised approach to the epidemic by denying, then minimising the threat; now in the face of more than 80,000 deaths he declares it “the worst ever attack” on the US.

 The clearest evidence seems to suggest that although harmless for many, COVID-19 can be deadly not only for the well-known high-risk groups, but also for some who are neither elderly nor otherwise unhealthy, and the reasons for this are still unknown.  My medical son has seen a previously healthy 52-year-old man with no pre-existing conditions die from the virus – “no matter how much oxygen we put into him, his body just couldn’t absorb it…one after another his organs just went down; and there was nothing we could do”.  Besides this unpredictable severity, the coronavirus does seem to be much more easily transferred than other viruses, meaning that without controlling the spread, and with no vaccine and no treatment, an indefinite and potentially very large number of individuals could die in this way.

  • Unlockdownism: the minimisation narrative naturally questions the necessity for the social isolation measures which have been imposed in the UK and elsewhere. There are undoubtedly severe, widespread and damaging unintended consequences to the lockdown – economic, social, psychological and indeed medical – and it is absolutely legitimate to question whether and for how long they should continue.  At the same time, it is also clear that those countries – especially ones with obedient populations – which reacted quickly, consistently and radically to the arrival of the virus, escaped much more lightly in terms of infection and mortality rates. South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and China are examples of this, but also Germany and Switzerland.  Mask-wearing, contact tracing, testing and full social distancing were effective in controlling the spread; the initial policy of the UK government, which relied on the gradual acquisition of “herd immunity”, failed and had to be replaced by the current controls, which may as a consequence have to be in place for much longer than elsewhere.

If the authorities are clear that a “second peak” must be avoided to protect the NHS, the policy of maintaining restrictions to keep the “R” number less than 1 makes sense.  Whether we agree with this policy or not, it’s also clear that to succeed it needs all or most of us to adhere to it; and it is therefore understandable that the government avoids dwelling on the disadvantages in order not to undermine the primary message.  In Germany the infection rate is now (10thMay) rising again as a result of easing the lockdown.

A 70-year old friend who is unhappy about the lockdown wrote to me that she would embrace her own death (from the virus) if that would serve the freedom of her children and grandchildren. I would want to respond: that is indeed very noble, but it’s not about you and your choices, it’s about those people whom the restrictions are designed to protect, and who might prefer not to die prematurely even in the notional cause of freedom.

  • Corporate conspiracy: there is a school of thought which suggests that the “plandemic” was deliberately created or fabricated in order to serve commercial interests, which are variously suggested as profiting from vaccination products, bail-outs from governments, or the development of testing or tracking technology. I am as suspicious as anyone of the influence and motivation of large corporations and the owners of capital who control them, and appalled that the impact of coronavirus is disproportionately affecting those who are already disadvantaged.  Nevertheless, the idea that the epidemic was somehow designed to serve corporate interests overall does not bear scrutiny. The impact on share prices, financial institutions and government debt has been enormous and highly disadvantageous to global capital.  This is why Trump and his neo-con supporters, who desperately need a strong US economy to facilitate DT’s re-election, initially denied and minimised the problem.  Of course, some people and businesses will always find ways of profiting from human suffering, and the pharmaceutical industry in particular has a lot to answer for in this respect;  but it will rightly come under great pressure to make products than can prevent or treat COVID-19 as widely and affordably available as possible.
  • World domination: another source of anxiety is the prospect of some kind of “world government” being created, using (or perhaps manufacturing) the pandemic as an excuse to subject us all to centralised authority. (The same accusation has been made in relation to climate change.) This is a genuine concern and dilemma: on the one hand, the dangers of global governance and its potential for oppression, corruption, and loss of diversity and liberty, are obvious; on the other hand, the lack of international coordination and cooperation has clearly inhibited a coherent and effective response to a global threat – as indeed has been the case, tragically, in relation to climate change.

One fruitful approach to this dilemma is clearly the principle of social threefolding, whereby equality in the sphere of rights – e.g. legal restrictions on the right to pollute, to destroy eco-systems, or to put others at risk of disease – is balanced by liberty in the purely cultural realm where one person’s freedom does not impinge on another’s, and mutuality in an economy which genuinely serves the needs of all consumers.  Another is the principle of subsidiarity, which suggests that only those issues which cannot be resolved at “lower”, more local levels should be devolved “upwards” to more general bodies.

International and supra-national bodies such as the EU, the WHO, the UN and the IPCC, for all their imperfections, are necessary in order for humanity to research and agree how to address global challenges.  The alternative is a nationalistic or individualistic free-for-all in which social Darwinism is the ruling force, and global catastrophe the likeliest outcome.

  • 5G: many people were of course concerned about this next step in electromagnetic technology long before “coronavirus” entered our everyday language. Some have sought to associate the roll-out of 5G with the incidence and severity of the epidemic – whether through a suspected weakening of the immune system, or the allegation that the wave radiation somehow directly creates viruses.  Such polemicists often use flawed “post hoc” arguments, suggesting that geographical correlation between 5G implementation and infection or death rates demonstrates a causal connection.  This is the equivalent of saying that because most possessors of facial hair wear trousers and very few wear dresses, it is clear that trousers cause beards and dresses prevent them.  In any case, there is no such geographical correlation, and plenty of counter-evidence: South Korea and Hong Kong are saturated with 5G yet have very low coronavirus rates; Iran has no 5G but has suffered a serious epidemic.

Moreover, there are extremely wide differences in susceptibility between individuals,within populations which can be assumed to have been exposed to similar levels of 5G or other radiation.  Any argument for causal influence would need to show that individuals who became ill or died had been “irradiated” more than their neighbours who had only mild or zero symptoms.  As far as I know, no such evidence exists.

On the question of 5G more generally, I personally have an open mind about the risks, but feel there are far more serious and urgent concerns, connected with the environment, human rights and inequality, that deserve higher priority.  My limited technical knowledge understands that the radiation emitted through 5G technology is, like radio and mobile phone waves, non-ionising and therefore unlikely to cause damage to humans.

I remember considerable paranoia in the 1990’s about the alleged dangers of mobile phone technology, yet I and most people I know have been using this daily since then, with no discernible impact on our physical well-being.

There are of course people who are sensitive to EMR, and at Emerson College we restrict wifi to certain areas and buildings out of respect for these individuals, who are perhaps more common among our students and visitors than in the general population, in the same way that we provide gluten-free meals for those with allergies. This does not imply that wheat – or wifi – are in themselves necessarily harmful.

  • Vaccination: I worked with vaccine-damaged children in Camphill in the 1970’s, so am well aware that some individuals react negatively, in some cases disastrously, to immunisation procedures. I remember Dr Thomas Weihs remarking that the approach was comparable to ancient religious practices in which an individual was sacrificed in order to save the larger tribe or community.

However, since then (it is claimed that) the safety of current vaccinations has improved, and I have had vigorous debates with my medic son in which he quotes alarming statistics about e.g. child deaths from measles in countries where vaccination is not available, as well as the fatal diseases that have been eliminated by vaccines.

Some anti-vaccine campaigners suggest that viruses do not actually spread diseases: however this seems to fly in the face of e.g. the historical fact that vast numbers of indigenous people in the Americas were wiped out by the introduction of viral illnesses brought by European invaders, long before any “electrical events”.  Smallpox and polio were both viral illnesses, clearly spread by inter-human infection.

I have never taken up the flu vaccine, relying on my generally very robust constitution.  I wouldn’t bother with a COVID vaccine either, unless I were convinced that by having it I would significantly reduce the likelihood of putting others at risk.  I had all the “normal” vaccinations as a child, and they didn’t prejudice my immune system or make me into a materialist: nor have I ever met anyone of my generation who claims to have been damaged by vaccination. Nevertheless I did not vaccinate my own children as infants, with the result that two of my sons went through a very painful episode of mumps in adolescence: whether this strengthened or weakened their later resilience I can’t judge…

  • Sinophobia: when reality contradicted Trump’s initial minimisation tactics, he quickly moved to blaming China in the attempt to make himself and his handling of the crisis – and foreign relations – defensible. Some of his more extreme right-wing, nationalistic supporters have suggested that the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan and was created and/or released as a biological weapon.  A milder variation is that the virus accidentally “escaped” from this virology research facility.

It does seem to be the case that the Chinese authorities originally tried to deal with the outbreak in secret, and were late in admitting and communicating the existence and nature of the disease. Once they did so, however, they seem to have done everything possible to warn other countries of the risks, share their own knowledge and indeed offer professional and practical help to affected populations.  From my visits to China I know that those people and their leaders are keen to be perceived as cooperative and responsible in their international relations.  The reality – in terms of the political and military powers – may in some cases be very different: however, if they actually wished to use a coronavirus to damage rival economies, they would certainly have found a better method than inflicting it on their own population first, shutting down their own industries and incurring huge economic losses before it affected other countries.  The Sinophobic hypothesis is simply not plausible.

  • Ecosophy: a virus, like every earthly organism, is a spiritual as well as a physical being: “Spirit never without matter; matter never without spirit”. It arises from and is integrally connected with a particular ecosystem within the overall biosphere.  Viruses are integral inhabitants of undamaged natural environments. When humans inflict damage, distortion, exploitation and cruelty on to other organisms, destructive forces are released which sooner or later also affect human populations.  The most credible “mainstream” hypothesis – scientists accept it is still unproven – is that COVID-19 “jumped species” from a wild-caught bat sold for food in the market in Wuhan.  This video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cEXfJc6_d0 expresses most coherently and accessibly, if a little sentimentally, the ecological narrative which I find the most compelling and credible.

To move from “ecology” to “Ecosophy” – “wisdom of the household (of nature)”, as “Anthroposophy” enhances “anthropology” – one can consider, for example, how Steiner speaks about the way in which suffering inflicted on the group souls of animals can create beings which inflict necessary consequences, in the form of diseases, on humans.  This perspective is the most convincing for me, and calls on the responsibility of us all to work towards our own health in harmony with the healing regeneration of our earthly environment.

I will conclude with a passage by Georg Soldner, joint leader of the Medical Section at the Goetheanum, who writes: 

“For veterinarians, corona viruses are part of daily life, but now the corona virus SARS-CoV 2 has crossed the barrier to humans…. Where do these apparently novel viruses come from and why did they develop? Interestingly enough, many of the viruses come from animals. The corona virus probably comes from the Javanese bat. So why do viruses from the animal kingdom become dangerous for humans? We are currently inflicting untold suffering on animals: Mass slaughter and experimentation on laboratory animals causes pain that the animal kingdom is    helpless to bear. Can this suffering lead to consequences that alter viruses that are native to the animal organism? We are used to only looking at the physical and to seeing it as mostly separate from the mind and emotions. Research on intestinal flora, on the microbiome, which includes not only bacteria but also viruses, proves the opposite. This raises not only the microbiological question of the origin of the virus, but also the moral question of how to deal with the animal world. Rudolf Steiner pointed out these connections more than 100 years ago. Today it is up to us to investigate these relationships and to ask deeper questions in addition to scientific analysis”.

 

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Coronavirus: what is its significance for humanity at this time?

Since early January 2020, when news first broke of a strange respiratory disease connected with a wild animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, it has become clear that the world is facing the worst pandemic since the onset of Spanish flu at the end of the First World War. But unlike the situation in 1918, the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus is able to spread much faster around today’s hyper-mobile world, in which more than 12 million of us take commercial flights every day.

The virus seems to have its most damaging impact on people with poor health or compromised immune systems. Beside the lungs and respiratory tract, the virus can also affect the oesophagus, heart, kidneys, ileum and bladder. Coming to a diagnosis isn’t easy – the patient may have a cough or fever or be short of breath – but there are also many cases of asymptomatic infection, making an outbreak significantly harder to contain.  Some cases are so mild that they never reach the notice of medical professionals. But others as we know are much more serious: at the time of writing, the death toll worldwide is 4,970; while 126 countries are so far affected, with 134,511 recorded cases. The website Worldometers has a daily update of these totals.

Here in Britain, a leaked government memo seen by the Sun newspaper indicated that the government is planning for up to 80 per cent of the population becoming infected with the coronavirus in a worst-case scenario; and in the “reasonable worst case” would result in around half a million people in the UK dying from the disease. This does seem to me to be absurdly pessimistic; the Sars virus outbreak in 2002/3, which also emanated from China, led to predictions of an ultimate death toll in the UK very similar to that predicted now for Covid-19. In the end the total number of deaths was nil and the number of cases recorded only four.

The worst-affected EU country at the moment is Italy, which has 15,113 cases as of today’s date, resulting in 1,016 deaths. But nobody knows where all of this is going or how long it might last; perhaps the best one can do is to avoid the plethora of misinformation and disinformation on social media and just look only at reputable sources, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), whose website has detailed information about the various types of coronavirus.

The WHO describes coronaviruses as “zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.” Commenting on the widespread belief that Chinese traditional medicine may have caused the outbreak, Wuhan inhabitant Wang Xiuying wrote in the London Review of Books that traditional medicine in China holds that some animal parts have near-magical properties: “Pangolin scales are supposed to help new mothers produce milk; manta ray gills clear the lungs and cure chickenpox; the penises of pandas, tigers and bears can do the same trick as Viagra; a bit of monkey brain can make you smarter.”

And in a recent article in The Spectator, Matt Ridley spelt out a possible connection between the current coronavirus pandemic and bats:

“I’m no Nostradamus, but 20 years ago when I was commissioned to write a short book about disease in the new millennium, I predicted that if a new pandemic did happen it would be a virus, not a bacterium or animal parasite, and that we would catch it from a wild animal. ‘My money is on bats,’ I wrote. We now know that the natural host and reservoir of the new coronavirus, Covid-19, is a bat, and that the virus probably got into people via a live-animal market in Wuhan.

This is not the first disease bats have given us. Rabies possibly originated in bats. So did, and does, Ebola, outbreaks of which usually trace back to people coming into contact with bat roosts in caves, trees or buildings. Marburg virus, similar to Ebola, first killed people in Germany in 1967 and is now known to be a bat virus. Since 1994 Hendra virus has occasionally jumped from Australian fruit bats into horses and rarely people, with lethal effect. Since 1998 another fruit-bat virus, Nipah, has also infected and killed people mainly in India and Bangladesh. Sars, which originated in China in 2003, is derived from bats, though possibly via civet cats. So is Mers, a similar bat-borne coronavirus that’s killed hundreds of people and camels in the Middle East since 2012. (…) Probably, captured pangolins, on sale in the live-animal market in Wuhan and mainly imported from Malaysia, had somehow caught the virus from bats. Pangolins are globally endangered because of demand from China.”

I have seen three respectable clinical studies (here, here and here) which back up Matt Ridley’s assertion of a connection between Covid-19 and bats; and this reminded me of Rudolf Steiner’s comments on bats, given in Lecture 5 of the cycle “Man as Symphony of the Creative Word.”

Be that as it may, all that this tells us is the likely source of the infection rather than the more interesting question of why it has happened. Let us put aside the conspiracy theories such as those of Dr Francis Boyle, the man who was apparently responsible for drafting the Biological Weapons Anti-terrorism Act of 1989, the American-implementing legislation for the biological weapons convention, which was later adopted worldwide. Dr Boyle says that coronavirus is a weaponised biological warfare agent that came out of the BSL-3 biowarfare lab at the University of North Carolina. Read the whole article from Natural News in which Dr Boyle sets out his allegations and then draw your own conclusions. While I’m completely prepared to believe that the biowarfare lab at UNC is very far from Rudolf Steiner’s ideal of the “laboratory table as altar”, personally, I’m unconvinced by Dr Boyle’s assertions. It’s also worthwhile looking at the website of Full Fact, a UK-based fact-checking charitable organisation, for a selection of other paranoid conspiracies about coronavirus.

So why is the world facing a pandemic of coronavirus? As an anthroposophist, I’m inclined to take a particular view on the causes of modern illness, which is that illnesses are brought about by the conditions and circumstances which we human beings create for ourselves – and not just by our actions but also our feelings and thoughts. I’m going to quote now from the book Illness and Healing by Judith von Halle, who says that since the beginning of the age of the consciousness soul, illnesses are increasingly becoming an expression of the soul-spiritual state of the whole human race and that humanity needs to see itself as a social organism which can fall ill just as much as the individual standing within it:

“We have to regard it as a tragic fate but at the same time as evidence and illustration of the context described here that the Spanish flu (…) broke over humanity like a scourge during the First World War – at a time therefore when huge losses of human life were already being inflicted. At this time, scientific advances had not only brought new developments in scientific medicine but also in the field of technology and thus in the domain of warfare. Machine guns and nerve gas are just two of the countless inventions of the modern age (…) which human beings used in a bestial way to rob their brothers of health and life. All this ensued from the dishonest politics of the time, from delusional ideas about nations and races, law and history. The beast that humanity created at this time in its thinking and emotions finally took a form corresponding to such thinking and emotions as countless millions of viruses.”

In an esoteric lesson given on 5th December 1907 (ie long before the First World War had started), Rudolf Steiner made a connection between the formation of bacilli and the god Mammon (Ahriman). Commenting on this, Judith von Halle says:

“No one today, at least, will doubt the link between Mammon and the commercial position of chemical and pharmaceutical companies in western society, which benefit financially from the ever-increasing outbreaks of epidemics. Humanity’s way of thinking has become so corrupt that it can no longer even realise how absurd it is that production of medicines is subject to financial interests – for instance that the treatment of millions of people with AIDS is, in all seriousness, dependent on the activities of profit-oriented stock market speculators.”

Referring to the rise of epidemics, Judith von Halle says that:

(…) “the organism of humanity is showing the same reaction to poor treatment as the earth organism does to the treatment which it receives. As reaction to the general deeds of humanity, the organism of humanity throws up epidemics, while the earth organism is rent with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Those who have not caused the harm are usually in fact the ones who suffer most. (…) … the social organism can only be brought back into equilibrium by innocent people having in a certain sense – with Christ as exemplar – to give up their health and life for that of the perpetrators. This will continue until humanity eventually learns, bitterly, that it is a single organism, and that through chauvinistic nationalism or economic disparity it differentiates itself into either less or more advantaged social groups or nations, and in doing so cuts off its own limbs, like arms and legs. Then we will realise that our thinking and actions have inevitably impacted on the overall social organism.”

According to Dr Dietrich Klinghardt of the Klinghardt Institute, there does seem to be a connection between the worst cases of coronavirus infection and places where there is the highest degree of 5G installation. Wuhan was one of the first cities in China for the rollout of 5G technology.  In Washington USA, there have been six deaths from coronavirus infection in the same hospital (Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland). Kirkland has prided itself as being one of the first towns in the US wired for 5G. Evergreen Hospital has, according to Dr Klinghardt’s measurements, the highest levels of WiFi exposure ever measured in a hospital. (Though I have to record that Full Fact UK, referred to above, regards any connection between 5G and coronavirus as false; nevertheless, to my mind the possibility that 5G compromises the human immune system and therefore makes us more vulnerable to viruses seems highly probable.)  The only attention that 5G gets in the British mainstream media is whether or not the Chinese company Huawei should have any part in building the UK’s 5G infrastructure. If the current pandemic raises people’s awareness of the health dangers of 5G, it will have done some good.

What are some other unexpected benefits that may emerge from this crisis? Here are a few, in no particular order:

  • The coronavirus, by itself, will not put an end to our current form of globalisation. But by serving as a reminder of how the health of humanity has been mutually dependent across borders for millennia, the latest outbreak could prompt a rethinking of how the world works together.
  • The crisis is a reminder to American politicians that there are major faults in the USA health system. Health in the USA is a perfect example of the late J.K. Galbraith’s observation that in America there is an obscene divide between private affluence and public squalor. The usual political responses won’t work – diseases can’t be deterred with overwhelming military force or bombed into submission. The federal government can’t bankrupt the virus through a heavy set of economic sanctions. Covid-19 doesn’t care how much money you make or what a big shot you are in society. This crisis could cause many more Americans to recognise that their health system is in need of fundamental reform.
  • Passenger aviation is in big trouble, because it’s clear that the virus has spread via air travel – and now the airlines have also been hit by Trump’s travel ban on Europeans flying to the US. Airlines worldwide are now in survival mode, with many implementing emergency cost-cutting measures and cutting back their flight schedules. The owners of Flybe said the coronavirus was the final blow that pushed Europe’s largest regional airline into administration this month. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the impact of the coronavirus could cost passenger airlines up to $113 billion (£87bn) in lost revenues this year. But the rest of us could be seeing bluer, less polluted skies, as was evident before when flying had to stop in 2010 after erupting volcanoes in Iceland stopped many flights.
  • Both coronavirus and climate change are crises that need humanity to unite to plan for better outcomes. The drop in global emissions caused by the coronavirus is also evidence of the level of its impact on global economic activity. No doubt many of you will have seen the astonishing “before and after” pictures issued by NASA and the European Space Agency of nitrogen dioxide pollution over China prior to the crisis and the amazing reduction in that pollution since.
  • Governments around the world need to help economies and societies that have suffered through coronavirus to recover by starting the shift to a low emissions future. They could seize this moment to enact new climate policies, remove subsidies for fossil fuels or raise taxes on carbon dioxide emissions, since lower oil prices resulting from the fight between Russia and Saudi Arabia make it less likely that consumers will feel the same level of impact as when prices were high.
  • There may be greater acceptance of the need to make sacrifices and accept restraints for both the common good and personal wellbeing. This could pave the way for many more of us to understand that, if we are to address the climate crisis not only are huge shifts in government regulation needed but also in the personal behaviour and expectations of consumers.

We live in apocalyptic times – there’s even a vast plague of locusts in Africa. The coronavirus pandemic is of course a global tragedy.  But coronavirus is also helping to strengthen recognition of our interdependence – that everyone’s health and wellbeing is everyone else’s business – and it could increase recognition that compassion and empathy are essential parts of what it means to be a human being.  Will the pandemic produce changes in society which make us more willing to act on the climate crisis and the other issues which threaten life on earth at the present time? In the end, it’s up to all of us, as it always has been.

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