Tag Archives: Covid-19

Maintaining human values in the time of Covid-19

Several of my recent blog posts have tried to express what I feel about the net that is slowly but surely enmeshing us all as we proceed into the 21st century. The dominant themes are clear enough by now – the ongoing war on culture and shared values, climate breakdown, the lack of international solidarity, the subversion of truth and morality, the deliberate inculcation of fear and division, a pandemic which has prompted governments around the world to dismantle existing civil liberties, GMO and gene editing, artificial intelligence, the merging of humans and machines and – gradually emerging from the shadows – the ongoing project by the ‘Ruler of This World’ to build a hyper-real replacement for life itself. Whatever it is, we can see it rising, and we will see it closer and more clearly during these next few years, in all its malevolent manifestations.

The divisions caused by Covid-19 are making the arguments about Brexit seem like a vicarage tea party. The unvaccinated, for example, are fast becoming a global underclass, with a two-tier society opening up between what you might call the jabbed and the jabbed-nots. Let us also not forget the arrogance and greed of the elites, who as it appears from this article are plotting to leave the rest of us behind. 

I cannot fight this any longer – force majeure is in operation. I have to live in the world as it is and I have to share the karma of humanity. For example, this means that I have had to bow to government diktat and to have the first Covid jab, or lose my job. I will have the second jab before the government deadline of 11th November. I am trying to regard this as a sacrifice on the altar of the collective. But what I really feel is that this has been a bitter demonstration of my powerlessness in the face of manifest injustice. This is epitomised for me by the fact that, as a worker in a care home for adults with learning disabilities, I must get the consent of a resident or their family before I am able to administer a paracetamol for a headache; but I am not allowed any say and have no right to consent or refuse when the government demands that I take into my body an experimental vaccine that has not yet completed its trials. This absolute principle of consent, which must be applied with complete rigour not only to vulnerable people such as those with learning disabilities but anyone in the normal course of medical treatment, does not now apply to me or other care workers because in our case the government has changed the law. Our only choice is to have the jabs or lose our jobs. The health minister in England, Sajid Javid, is said to be now thinking seriously about sacking 106,000 staff in the NHS (including doctors) who are refusing the Covid vaccines. 

All this has shocked me out of my naïve assumption that those of us who live in the countries of the West are somehow freer than the populations of China or Russia. This is a lie, which is fed to us during our education and through all the media – but it is a lie, nonetheless. The objective reality is that wherever we live, we are subject to tyrannies of various kinds, and although the degrees of tyranny may vary, in our lives within physical bodies the fact remains that we are unfree. This can never apply, thank goodness, to the non-material aspects of our being.

But I feel that I have paid enough time and attention to these negative phenomena. If we focus too hard on Ahriman, he and his minions will focus on us. “No man can concentrate his attention upon evil, or even upon the idea of evil, and remain unaffected,” wrote Aldous Huxley in The Devils of Loudun. “To be more against the devil than for God is exceedingly dangerous. Every crusader is apt to go mad.” Wise counsel indeed, and I am trying to take it to heart. In that same book, Huxley also said: 

“Possession is more often secular than supernatural. Men are possessed by their thoughts of a hated person, a hated class, race or nation. At the present time the destinies of the world are in the hands of self-made demoniacs – of men who are possessed by, and who manifest, the evil they have chosen to see in others. They do not believe in devils; but they have tried their hardest to be possessed – have tried and been triumphantly successful.”

These possessed souls are eating us alive but it is surely not inevitable that all of us will become prey. What looks right now as though its triumph is a foregone conclusion may not be as strong and solid as it appears, because as we know from the past, despite many victories in battle along the way, in the end Ahriman always loses the war. He will lose this time as well because there is a resilience in human life and the natural world which, when allied with our knowledge of the absolute and total love of Christ for each one of us, gives certainty that truth and real human values will outlast and survive the worst that can be done to us, or that we can do to ourselves.

Rudolf Steiner had a deep confidence in humanity and human beings, a belief that some of us have from time to time struggled to share, given all the disappointments we are currently experiencing. Steiner knew, however, that freedom is fundamental to genuine human evolution as “willed by the gods” and this means that, in their free actions, human beings are going to make many grievous errors.

So in this post I want to look at ways of moving beyond our present situation: how to reclaim our humanity, redeem Ahriman, and begin to sow the seeds of some kind of human-scale world again. In particular, I want to focus on the initiatives that each of us can take in our daily lives, that when allied with countless other small initiatives across the world, will turn the tide in favour of humanity and real human values.

Here, I think, it is relevant to quote what Rudolf Steiner had to say in the Karmic Relations lecture given in Dornach on 4th August, 1924:

“All this makes it necessary for the anthroposophist to pay heed to one condition of his karma — a condition that is sure to be present in him to a high degree. Much can be said, — and we shall still have to say many things — about the reasons why one or another character or temperament is drawn to Anthroposophy (…). But all these impulses, which bring the individuals to Anthroposophy, have one counterpart, which the Spirit of the World has made more strong in them than in others. All the many possibilities that are there with respect to the most manifold things in life, demand initiative from the anthroposophist — inner initiative of soul. We must become aware of this. For the anthroposophist this proverb must hold good. He must say to himself: ‘Now that I have become an anthroposophist through my karma, the impulses which have been able to draw me to Anthroposophy require me to be attentive and alert. For somehow or somewhere, more or less deeply in my soul, there will emerge the necessity for me to find inner initiative, — initiative of soul which will enable me to undertake something or to make some judgment or decision out of my own inmost being.’ Verily, this is written in the karma of every single anthroposophist: ‘Be a person of initiative, and beware lest through hindrances of your own body, or hindrances that otherwise come in your way, you do not find the centre of your being, where is the source of your initiative. Observe that in your life all joy and sorrow, all happiness and pain will depend on the finding or not finding of your own individual initiative.’ This should stand written as though in golden letters, constantly before the soul of the anthroposophist. Initiative lies in his karma, and much of what meets him in this life will depend on the extent to which he can become willingly and actively conscious of it.”

This is a wonderful lecture and there is so much in it that is well worth reading. I am struck by the emphasis Steiner gives to the additional difficulty that anthroposophists have in finding their way in the world; and also to the pain they feel when trying to connect with others who have no access to anything other than the material realm. All my experience cries ‘Yes’ to these words. So given the dire state of the world and given the additional hindrances that anthroposophists face, what can we do to find the centres of our being, the sources of initiative which are key to making life worth living?

Each person must of course answer this for themselves. My own answer includes concentrating on those areas of life where one can make a difference, rather than wasting time and emotion on problems which are way beyond my capacity to influence. Is there something in one’s life which holds a promise for a better future, a seed which has been planted for worthwhile human developments and which can support real human needs? As one small example, long-time readers may recall this article in which I wrote about Pixton Third Age, an initiative to provide a co-housing scheme for older people at Emerson College. After years of hard work and effort, this project has at last received planning consent and by the end of March 2022 we should know whether we have enough people interested to make it a success. If all goes according to plan, the building conversion work will begin in Autumn 2022 and the first residents will be able to move in at Spring 2024.

Each of us is now being called upon to do all that we can to help in the evolution and progress of human life. In the face of the current massive onslaught which is seeking to re-define what it means to be a human being, any project which concentrates on true human needs and values is a worthwhile antidote to the poison of our times. People are trying to help in their own myriad ways: artists through their creative work, teachers and parents through educating and bringing up children, activists through changing policies and laws, and any of us through our encounters in daily life. If we can be people of initiative, rather than passive sponges soaking up whatever is done to us, humanity will survive the incarnation of Ahriman.

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Suffer the little children

When I have asked anthroposophical doctors about vaccinations and Covid-19, I find there is an extreme reluctance to make any public statements. No doubt this is because the whole subject of vaccination and some of what Rudolf Steiner had to say about it is so controversial that these doctors have a great fear of what may be heaped upon their heads by the orthodox medical bodies, were they to be so unwise as to put these heads above the parapet. And yet, the cautious, almost anodyne statements put out by the Medical Section at the Goetheanum hardly reflect the gravity of the Covid-19 crisis, surely the major public health issue of our time. In these worthy and rather bland responses, one misses the emphasis that Rudolf Steiner gave to “the courage to heal.”

I, of course, am not a medical doctor and have no reputation to lose. Nor am I an epidemiologist, virologist or immunologist so I am completely without relevant knowledge or expertise. I am, however, a human being who tries to pay attention to what is going on in the world and who is disturbed by many aspects of what I see. Right now, I am very concerned by proposals that younger and younger children should be vaccinated against Covid-19. 

The UK regulator has just approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children aged 12-15, saying it is safe and effective in this age group and the benefits outweigh any risks. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulations Agency (MHRA) said it had carried out a “rigorous review” of the vaccine in adolescents. The UK’s vaccines committee will now decide whether children should get the jab.

China has just approved Covid-19 vaccinations for children as young as three years old.

And in the USA they are now giving Covid-19 vaccines to children as young as 6 months’ old…

Am I the only one who thinks that this is completely mad? Does it make any sense whatsoever to give children a brand-new vaccine with no long-term safety data for a disease that barely affects them?  The people doing this do not even have the pretence that it is for children’s own safety. It is because adults caught up in our safety-at-all costs culture think it is morally acceptable to give children a medicine, which may cause them harm – so as to protect other adults, most of whom have been vaccinated already. 

Actually, I know I am not the only one who thinks that this is both mad and ethically very dubious. A long and distinguished list of doctors, professors of medicine, paediatricians etc has recently signed an open letter to the chief executive of the MHRA, which begins as follows:

“We wish to notify you of our grave concerns regarding all proposals to administer COVID-19 vaccines to children. Recently leaked Government documents suggested that a COVID-19 vaccine rollout in children over 12 years old is already planned for September 2021, and the possibility of children as young as 5 years old being vaccinated in the summer in a worst-case scenario.”

“We have been deeply disturbed to hear several Government and SAGE representatives calling in the media for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to be “turning to children as fast as we can”. Teaching materials circulated to London schools contain emotionally loaded questions and inaccuracies. In addition, there has been disturbing language used by teaching union leaders, implying that coercion of children to accept the COVID-19 vaccines through peer pressure in schools was to be encouraged, despite the fact that coercion to accept a medical treatment is against UK and International Laws and Declarations. Rhetoric such as this is irresponsible and unethical, and encourages the public to demand the vaccination of minors with a product still at the research stage and about which no medium- or long-term effects are known, against a disease which presents no material risk to them.”

I urge you to read the whole of this very important and significant letter.

As I’ve said before, I am not an anti-vaxxer but I am against stupidity and tyrannical group-think. On a related matter, just take a look at the NHS schedule of vaccinations and when to have them – it really is quite extraordinary. Babies up to the age of 16 weeks are recommended to have no less than 8 vaccinations; and children aged between 1 year and 15 years old should have a further 10 vaccinations. Who really thinks this is a good idea, to overload young immune systems with so many vaccinations and re-vaccinations? 

Which brings me to what Rudolf Steiner had to say in his lecture on October 7th 1917. He might have been talking about our situation today.

“Let us not be deceived: we are facing a movement which has very definite aims. Just as at the Council of Constantinople the Spirit was abolished, that is to say, the dogma was established that man consists of body and soul only and to speak of spirit is heretical, attempts of a different character will be made to abolish the soul, man’s life of soul. And the time will come, perhaps in a future by no means far distant, (…) when it will be said: if a man thinks at all of spirit and soul, that is a pathological symptom: those individuals who speak only of the body, they alone are healthy. It will be regarded as a symptom of illness if a human being develops in such a way that he can conceive of the existence of a spirit or a soul. Such people will be considered to be ill. And – of this you may be sure – the corresponding medicament will be discovered and used. On that past occasion the spirit was abolished. The soul will be abolished by means of a medicament yet to be discovered. A “healthy outlook” will lead to the discovery of a vaccine which will be injected into the human organism in earliest infancy, if possible immediately after birth, to ensure that this human body never has the idea that a soul and a spirit exist.”

“This indicates the sheer contradiction between two conceptions of life. The adherents of one will have to reflect how to develop concepts and ideas able to keep pace with reality, with the reality of spirit and soul. The others, the followers of the modern materialists, will seek for the vaccine said to make the body “healthy”, that is to say, affects its constitution in such a way that man no longer speaks of such twaddle as soul and spirit but speaks, from a sound attitude, of forces working in machines and in chemistry and producing planets and suns in the cosmic nebula. This attitude of mind will be induced by bodily procedures. Materialistic doctors will be entrusted with the task of driving souls out of human beings.”

(Rudolf Steiner, “The Crumbling of the Earth and the Souls and Bodies of Man” given in Dornach October 7, 1917.) 

There are three accounts in the Gospels of Christ Jesus’s attitude when his disciples tried to prevent parents bringing their little children to him. Here is the one from Luke, 18:15-17, in the King James version:

“And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” 

“Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” But if the faculty of receiving the kingdom of God has been taken away from you by umpteen vaccines – what then?

If I were a doctor injecting experimental vaccines into very young children, not for reasons to do with their own medical needs but to try to reduce upward medical transmission from schools to older adults, then I would be wary of another of Christ’s sayings, this time from Matthew 18:6

“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Steiner indicated what is really behind this, and all the other dark phenomena of our time:

“All these methods (…) have finally one single purpose — to lead people away from the Christ who has passed through the Mystery of Golgotha, and to assign to another being dominion over the earth. This is a very real battle, not an affair of abstract concepts; a real battle which is concerned with setting another being in place of the Christ-Being for the rest of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, for the sixth epoch and for the seventh. (…) And it will be essential for people to learn to distinguish between the true Christ, who will not this time appear in the flesh, and this other being who is marked off by the fact that he has never been embodied on the earth.”

If that is too extraordinary a notion for anyone but anthroposophists to take on board, let us finish with another quotation from the letter sent by doctors and scientists to the head of the MHRA. After setting out a detailed list of both short-term and long-term safety concerns, they say this:

“There is important wisdom in the Hippocratic Oath which states, “First do no harm”. All medical interventions carry a risk of harm, so we have a duty to act with caution and proportionality. This is particularly the case when considering mass intervention in a healthy population, in which situation there must be firm evidence of benefits far greater than harms. The current, available evidence clearly shows that the risk versus benefit calculation does NOT support administering rushed and experimental COVID-19 vaccines to children, who have virtually no risk from COVID-19, yet face known and unknown risks from the vaccines. The Declaration of the Rights of the Child states that, ‘the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care,
including appropriate legal protection’. As adults we have a duty of care to protect children from unnecessary and foreseeable harm.” 

“We conclude that it is irresponsible, unethical and indeed, unnecessary, to include children under 18 years in the national COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Clinical trials in children also pose huge ethical dilemmas, in light of the lack of potential benefit to trial participants and the unknown risks. The end of the current Phase 3 trials should be awaited as well as several years of safety data in adults, to rule out, or quantify, all potential adverse effects.”

“We call upon our governments and the regulators not to repeat mistakes from history, and to reject the calls to vaccinate children against COVID-19. Extreme caution has been exercised over many aspects of the pandemic, but surely now is the most important time to exercise true caution – we must not be the generation of adults that, through unnecessary haste and fear, risks the health of children.” 

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Walking my anthroposophical talk

In a lecture given on 30th January 1924, Rudolf Steiner spoke of the qualities needed in the people who wished to become members of the First Class of the School of Spiritual Science. Among other comments, he said this:

(…) “it is necessary that everyone who wishes to belong to the Class should ask himself (sic) whether he really intends to be one of those who from the outset will not only stand for the anthroposophical cause before the world but will be a courageous representative of it in every way.”

Steiner recognised that, if you were not only to call yourself an anthroposophist but also to let other people know that you are, it requires courage. Why is this? It is surely because to identify yourself as having belief in a larger reality than that which most people subscribe to, is to invite others to heap scorn, and even hatred, upon you; you have made yourself different from the commonsensical view of the majority in the West and thus you are an offence to their idea of what is true and obvious to all right-thinking people.

But despite this, we are all human beings, struggling with life as best we can, and sharing many more things than those which separate us. So how, while staying true to our beliefs, can we connect with one another in ways which respect our differences?

For making connections with others is at the heart of it. As Justus Wittich, a member of the Vorstand (Executive Committee) at the Goetheanum, wrote in the January 2020 issue of Anthroposophy Worldwide: “The Anthroposophical Society could become a global association of people who stand up individually and courageously for human dignity and for shaping the world out of spiritual insights. The motto we have chosen for this year’s Annual Conference from Rudolf Steiner’s Letters to Members reflects this: ‘Connecting with the world willingly out of love’. “

Yes, I completely support that aspiration, although I wish the Goetheanum could go a bit further in actively putting before the public eye spiritual research about contemporary issues such as Covid-19. If it could make a connection with the wider public, then it might stand a chance of becoming that global association mentioned by Justus Wittich. But here is our dilemma: how, in this age of atheist materialism and disbelief and disparagement of anything that smacks of spirituality, can the anthroposophical movement find its relevance and connect with other points of view? 

As a blogger on anthroposophical themes, I come up against this dilemma quite frequently, because some other people simply have no way of understanding or even tolerating what I am trying to convey about the potential relevance of anthroposophy to all human lives. Here, for example, is a Tweet I received after my recent post on Coercion and the Covid-19 Vaccines

Dunning-Kruger compliant drivel excused by #Steiner #anthroposphy barmpottery. Riddled with the usual oft-debunked #antivaxxer tropes. See http://docbastard.net/2019/03/busting-vaccine-myths.html… to counter the scare-mongering on aluminium, formaldehyde, thimerosal (mercury) etc. Oh, and they’re not untested

I didn’t know what the reference to Dunning-Kruger meant so I looked it up: apparently it is a type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are. Essentially, low ability people do not possess the skills needed to recognise their own incompetence. Well, thank you, kind sir.

I also had a look at the docbastard website but don’t recommend you do the same, unless you are unoffended by frequent use of the ‘F’ word and violent, aggressive, sneering language. All I would say is that I don’t think the guy who wrote this is likely to achieve a meeting of minds with low ability people like me.

More representative of different views from my own, as well as better exemplars of civilised discourse, are those such as the Financial Times journalist, to whom I sent a link to my previous post after seeing an article in his newspaper about what he calls ‘Vaccine Hesitancy’. He was kind enough to reply:

“Mr Smith, 

Thanks for writing. I think we have different ideas of freedom. For me freedom is the freedom to go into an office or a restaurant or get into a plane without having to fear that there’s a high risk that someone else in it will give me a dangerous disease, which probably wouldn’t kill me at my age but could severely damage my organs or just give me the worst flu of my life. If you don’t want to be vaccinated, fine. I don’t think the UK govt or any other in the west will force you to. But you shouldn’t expect the freedom to then go around infecting everyone else. I should remind you that childhood vaccinations are compulsory in large numbers of countries and have been so a long time. 

Sorry to disagree, keep well.”

His comment really brings home to me, as if I didn’t know it before, that this whole issue of vaccination presents all of us with a genuine moral dilemma:

  • Should I have the jab as my contribution to the common good and herd immunity?
  • Although I don’t want to have it, do I still go ahead as a kind of sacrifice to the altar of the collective?
  • Or do I decide to stay true to my belief, refuse the jab and be perceived as selfish by others?

I replied as follows:

“Thank you for your reply – I appreciate your taking the time to do this.

I’m not sure that we do have different ideas of freedom, as I, too, would like to be able to enter an office, restaurant or plane without feeling in danger. But even after you have had the jab, you will still be wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing, as the Deputy Chief Medical Officer in England, Jonathan Van-Tam, has indicated in this short YouTube clip:

Second, no-one yet knows whether the jab will give you immunity and if it does, for how long that lasts. Nor do we yet know whether, if you are an asymptomatic spreader, it will prevent you from infecting others.

Third, I don’t expect the freedom to go around infecting everyone else. I am the manager of a small residential care home for adults with learning disabilities and I have to be ultra-cautious; I swab-test myself and colleagues every week and our residents every month; we use PPE and we are scrupulous about hand washing, infection control etc. As workers in a care home, we will be high on the priority list for the new Pfizer vaccine – but neither I nor my colleagues want to have it.

My wife, who is a reflexologist with several GPs and surgeons as clients, tells me that these NHS staff don’t want to have it, either – why do you think these professional medical staff are also reluctant?

Now it may well be that my blog post was not a balanced account, as I was writing it in the white heat of indignation – but if I were to add anything, it would be to say that there are far cheaper and safer ways to protect oneself against Covid-19, ways that can’t be patented and profited from and could be mass-adopted if the government were to advocate them. But that would have made it far longer and probably wouldn’t have made it any less contentious.

Thank you, and all good wishes.”

Reflecting on these exchanges, I am very aware of the gulf that lies between my views and the views of so many other people, as typified by that journalist. If he had taken a look at other posts on this blog, he might well conclude that he was reading examples of the mystical ‘barmpottery’, of which my Twitter correspondent accused me. 

Is there anything else I could say to people who have quite different perspectives from my own, that might help to create more understanding between us? I might say that I would like to know exactly what is being injected into my bloodstream and how it has been created; I could say that the record of Big Pharma over the years has not inspired me with trust in their integrity or moral judgments; I could add that none of the politicians who are exhorting us to have the jab seem to be taking into account what human actions might have created the pandemic in the first place.  I might ask: can we not all see that instead of going back to how the world was before Covid-19, it was that kind of mindset that has brought it towards us? Is that the way we wish to live our lives? Is that what human beings are? 

If I were to say such things, they might get us into a reasonable dialogue; but if I were then to introduce some more esoteric concepts from anthroposophy, for example about what a human being really is, the other person would most likely start to shake their head and write me off as insane.

Even someone as sympathetic to anthroposophy as is Hans van Willenswaard, who brings a Buddhist perspective to his comments on this blog, has questions about the effectiveness of anthroposophy in the world:

“The question, which also now can be applied to the numerous COVID-19 dilemmas, is whether ‘the esoteric’ spiritual science, is more effective in preventing/solving war and crisis than exoteric activism?
What are the lessons we could learn from the failed top-down political threefolding campaign shortly after World War I; and from the ultimate destruction of the First Goetheanum by fire, even though it had survived the war thanks to its position in ‘neutral’ Switzerland?
Can anthroposophy be effective vis-a-vis the COVID-19 crisis (+ climate emergency; + economic downturn; + painful inequality; + technocratic authoritarianism and + social/cultural divisions) if we are not better able to integrate the esoteric with the exoteric and shape the movement beyond the anthroposophic ‘silo’?

My answers to these questions, in the same order in which Hans asked them, are as follows:

1. Does ‘exoteric activism’ actually prevent or solve wars? For example, did Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations, set up after the 1914-18 war, prevent the 1939-45 war? Obviously not. Has the United Nations prevented any wars since 1945? I can’t think of any. Can anyone point to examples of exoteric activism which have averted war? Probably not, although one could argue that organisations like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Medecins Sans Frontieres etc have been effective in galvanising public opinion for change – but it’s not fair to contrast this with spiritual science, whose role is entirely different from that of activist organisations.

2. Spiritual impulses, important though it may be that they are brought forward at a particular time, do not necessarily find fertile ground for their reception. This was true for threefolding and perhaps it was generally true for anthroposophy as well, given that Steiner’s ambitions for anthroposophy have to this day not been realised. Does this mean that these impulses should not have been introduced to the world? Absolutely not, because the results, although fewer than Steiner might have wanted, have been nevertheless totally worthwhile and are still capable of engendering new possibilities and worthwhile initiatives into the world – and we don’t know what these seeds sown in the last century might yet bring forth in the future.

3. Because the insights of spiritual science are not yet shared by a critical mass of human beings, humanity continues to create difficult karma for itself; and as with the Covid-19 vaccines, it chases after ‘solutions’ that miss the point and perpetuate in different ways the mistakes that led to the original crisis. What I’m not clear about is whether the ‘critical mass’ that will make the difference could be (a) a small number of people acting as a kind of homeopathic dose within the body of humanity; or (b) whether it really is a question of vast numbers of people being brought to a point of total crisis before real change can happen. I fear that (b) is the more likely option, but I hope I’m wrong – and in any case I choose to be in (a).

To bring this discussion back to the personal, how can I stand in the world as an anthroposophical blogger and communicate as such with other people without it ending up in complete deadlock and misunderstanding?

Here, I think, we cannot do without Rudolf Steiner’s concept of the Twelve World Views, as expressed in his book The Philosophy of Freedom. Steiner contends that truth is expressed in twelve different ways, each one of which has its own justification – which in turn means that someone with whom you have a serious disagreement may just be looking at a different and perhaps equally valid part of the truth. There is an excellent exposition of this here. Do please have a look and try to identify which is your own predominant world view. 

So, if my truth and your truth are both facets of a much larger truth, and if we can both acknowledge that that is a possibility, we ought to be able to find ways to avoid falling-out over who is right and who is wrong. This is surely one of the greatest challenges facing human evolution, because people who are convinced that they are right and everyone else is wrong will continue to perpetuate division – and are ultimately capable of going to war to impose their truth on others.

We are currently in the grip of a pandemic which has put fear into millions of people. Responsibility for dealing with this is being given over to forces beyond our control. If we can but realise it, we have the opportunity at this time to make significant changes through our own resolve and will forces. As an anthroposophist, I believe that I was born into this world so that I could be in physical incarnation at this time of trial, because it is only here on Earth that certain things can be achieved. What is it that I need to do at this time? Surely it is to develop, out of my own free will, a renewed capacity for love – love for myself, love for others and for all creation. Love that can be shared with others and that can bring healing to this Earth, at all levels of existence.

As Rudolf Steiner put it in his lecture “Love and Its Meaning in the World”:

“Our egoism gains nothing from deeds of love — but the world (gains) all the more. Occultism says: Love is for the world what the sun is for external life. No soul could thrive if love departed from the world. Love is the “moral” sun of the world. Would it not be absurd if a man who delights in the flowers growing in a meadow were to wish that the sun would vanish from the world? Translated into terms of the moral life, this means: Our deep concern must be that an impulse for sound, healthy development shall find its way into the affairs of humanity. To disseminate love over the earth in the greatest measure possible, to promote love on the earth — that and that alone is wisdom.”

Can I find that wisdom and live my words?

If I and others who have similar views are not able to rise to this occasion, this enormous opportunity for a better future direction, then surely we will continue to experience, with everyone else, each of the coming crises resulting from the shared karma of humanity.

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Coercion and the Covid-19 Vaccines

Are you keen to be among the first people to try out one of the new Covid-19 vaccines? Or would you prefer to wait and see how these vaccines affect the ‘early adopters’ before deciding? 

Well, you may not be allowed the choice to hang back. We are seeing the beginnings of a campaign that will threaten to make life so difficult for anyone who doesn’t agree to be vaccinated that it amounts to making it compulsory.

The signs are all about us: Quantas (the Australian national airline) warned this week that it expects to allow only passengers who can prove they have been vaccinated onto international flights. 

In the USA, the New York State Bar Association passed a resolution urging the state to consider enforcing mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. The group’s task force on COVID-19 said people should be made to have the vaccine, even if they object for “religious, philosophical or personal reasons.”

Meanwhile in England, Matt Hancock (Secretary of State for Health) has refused to rule out making a coronavirus vaccine mandatory, suggesting ministers could make it a requirement if initial take-up is lower than expected. The Health Secretary said the Government was not “proposing” a legal requirement for people to be vaccinated because some would be unable to have a jab due to medical reasons – but he added he has “learnt not to rule things out”. 

Professor Julian Savulescu, whom I have had cause to mention here before in connection with his advocacy of eugenics, has described an algorithm for justified mandatory vaccination. He says that penalties or costs could be imposed on people who refuse the vaccine, including withholding of benefits, imposition of fines, provision of community service or loss of freedoms. He also argues that people “should be paid to do the right thing”, eg parents should be paid for getting their children to be immunised or workers should be paid for having the jab. This doesn’t strike me as a very ethically sound proposition from the holder of the Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford.

Fresh from culling 17 million mink, on Tuesday 17 November the Danish government finished considering a new law giving itself extended powers to respond to epidemics. Parts of this law propose that:

  • People infected with dangerous diseases can be forcibly given medical examination, hospitalised, treated and placed in isolation.
  • The Danish Health Authority would be able to define groups of people who must be vaccinated in order to contain and eliminate a dangerous disease.
  • People who refuse the above can – in some situations – be coerced through physical detainment, with police allowed to assist.

While here in the UK, according to an article by Rosalind English on the UK Human Rights Blog

“In July 2020 a group of philosophy and law academics presented written evidence to Parliament proposing that individuals should undergo vaccination as a condition of release from pandemic-related restrictions on liberty, including on movement and association. The authors of the report base this proposal on two “parity arguments”:

a. If Covid-19 ‘lockdown’ measures are compatible with human rights law, then it is arguable that compulsory vaccination is too (lockdown parity argument);
b. If compulsory medical treatment under mental health law for personal and public protection purposes is compatible with human rights law, then it is arguable that compulsory vaccination is too (mental health parity argument).

They contend that there is “an arguable case” for the compatibility of compulsory vaccination with human rights law.”

Well, one can always rely on academics and philosophers to find arguments in support of tyranny; but in England, medical treatment without consent, including vaccination, is prohibited by the criminal law on assault, which could even be construed as grievous bodily harm if the consequences of the treatment are serious.

So, knowing this, it seems likely that the government will be instead relying on pressure exerted by all those organisations with whom we normally interact, such as shops, pubs, restaurants, health centres, airlines, sporting venues, theatres, etc, to act for them by disrupting the lives of anyone who has doubts about being vaccinated. 

As John Gapper in the Financial Times of 28/29th November put it in an article headlined ‘Those who are inoculated deserve more freedom’:

“…governments that do not make vaccination compulsory themselves will be tacitly relying on companies and organisations to do it for them. It will force the latter to make unpopular decisions but they should be allowed, even encouraged, to protect customers and employees from harm.” 

Gapper speculates that: “Offices and public venues may scan mobile phone apps that link the proof of vaccination or a negative test to digital identities before letting people in. National passports are only needed occasionally for travel, but ‘immunity passports’ could intrude into everyday lives.”

It’s therefore clear that in the near future, if we want to enter shops, drink in a pub or have a meal in a restaurant, attend a sporting event, see a play or concert, go to work in an office, visit a doctor or hospital, travel abroad via ship or plane or even just get on a train or bus, then we will have to have the jab – or normal life cannot be carried on. 

This now seems to be deliberate government strategy. Nadhim Zahawi, who on 28th November was appointed by Boris Johnson as Minister for Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment at the Department of Health & Social Care, confirmed in a radio interview on 30th November that it will become virtually impossible to lead a normal life if you don’t have the vaccination. He warned that many businesses were likely to require proof of the jabs once they become available, in the same way they now ask customers to check-in using QR codes. He admitted ministers were looking at so-called ‘immunity passports’ on the NHS Covid-19 app as a way to provide evidence of vaccination. Asked if that meant people who did not have a vaccination would be severely restricted in what they could do, the minister said: ‘I think people have to make a decision.”

Yet despite the threats of punitive action, governments around the world are clearly worried that not many people will want to get vaccinated. Simon Kuper in the FT Magazine reports that between 43 and 50 per cent of the French populace say that they will probably or certainly refuse the vaccine. And here in the UK, a survey by market research company Kantar at the end of November found that 75 per cent of people in the UK were “likely” to accept a jab. But only 42 per cent said they would definitely do so, and “the hesitancy is growing”.

To try to counter such scepticism, the government and the NHS in England are drawing up expensive PR campaigns. According to The Guardian:

NHS bosses plan to enlist celebrities and “influencers” with big social media followings in a major campaign to persuade people to have a Covid vaccine amid fears of low take-up.

Ministers and NHS England are drawing up a list of “very sensible” famous faces in the hope that their advice to get immunised would be widely trusted, the Guardian has learned. 

Health chiefs are particularly worried about the number of people who are still undecided, and about vaccine scepticism among NHS staff. “There will be a big national campaign [to drive take-up,” said one source with knowledge of the plans. “NHS England are looking for famous faces, people who are known and loved. It could be celebrities who are very sensible and have done sensible stuff during the pandemic.”

This issue has a personal resonance for me, as I am one of those people who does not want to have the jab. There are many reasons why but here are just a few of them:

  • When I was 21 and wanted to visit the USA, it was mandatory to have a smallpox injection. It was fairly brutal to receive and was far from perfect; I had side effects serious enough to keep me off work for a week and I still have a small round scar from it on my upper arm. On the plus side, smallpox as a disease has now been eliminated around the world.
  • The smallpox vaccine had been around for many years but the new Covid-19 vaccines are being rushed out without the normal routine of tests. Leaving aside the dispiriting spectacle of crony capitalists rushing to make fat profits from vaccination, as well as Judith von Halle’s eminently sensible observation that “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,” we should note that Big Pharma has been given blanket immunity by health policymakers around the world. In order to get drug manufacturers to invest in research and development, it seems necessary to allow them complete freedom from accountability – so that they can’t be sued when people are hurt by their vaccines. This is a dream come true for drug company executives – billions of dollars are being funnelled their way, prototype vaccines are being pushed past administrative red tape and over licensing hurdles and clinical trials are being fast-tracked – but when one of these vaccines arrives, remember that if anything goes wrong, you will not be able to sue for any side effect, known or unknown.
  • Dozens of new prototypes for vaccines are being trialled and among these are some which use techniques that have never been tried before. I don’t pretend to understand what Messenger RNA is, for example, but Bill Gates, (who has invested $10 billion dollars in global vaccines over the past two decades and has said that he expects to get a 20-fold return on his money), thinks mRNA as being produced by Moderna will be a winner “because it’s much faster to manufacture” and “you essentially turn your body into its own vaccine manufacturing unit.” There is a catch, though, Gates added. “We don’t know for sure yet if RNA is a viable platform for vaccines. Since Covid would be the first RNA vaccine out of the gate, we have to prove both that the platform itself works and that it creates immunity. It’s a bit like building your computer system and your first piece of software at the same time.” 1 Oh dear – anyone who has memories of Bill Gates’ early Microsoft operating systems such as MS-DOS will not be reassured by that analogy.
  • We have no idea for how long these vaccines will provide immunity. I was ill last February with what I suspect was Covid-19 but at that time there was no test I could get hold of to determine it. By the time I was able to get an antigen test kit eight months’ later, I had no antibodies and the test was negative. Anecdotal and speculative, I know, but it made me think that any immunity I might have had after the illness will have lasted no more than six or seven months. Will the vaccine do any better – or will you need to have an injection every six months?
  • I’m worried about what these vaccines might contain and whether we will ever know the full list of ingredients. We do know that they are much more than just a virus in a saline solution with the worst bits of it taken out. They contain ‘adjuvants’ (an adjuvant is a pharmacological or immunological agent that improves the immune response of a vaccine). Adjuvants are added to a vaccine to boost the immune response to produce more antibodies and longer-lasting immunity, thus minimising the dose of antigen needed. That sounds sensible, until you realise that these immune system stimulants include adjuvants like aluminium; preservatives like thimerosal (which contains mercury) and formaldehyde; antibiotics like neomycin and a wide range of ‘excipient’ ingredients (ie that bulk up or stabilise the active ingredient). These excipients can include DNA from whatever cells have been used to amplify the virus in manufacturing production – and in some vaccines these have been cultured from aborted human foetuses, or dogs, monkeys, insects and more. 2
  • It’s known that at least six Covid vaccines, including two leading candidates from Moderna and Oxford University, are manufactured using human embryonic kidney cells (HEK-293 cells) drawn from a baby aborted in 1972 and since multiplied millions of times over. Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine is being developed with their patented Per.C6 cells, retinal cells taken from the eyes of a baby aborted at 18 weeks.3 How do you like the idea of that being injected into your arm?

Vaccines are not yet mandatory in the UK, and the government’s own guidelines on vaccinations say individuals “must be given enough information to enable them to make a decision before they can give consent.” The information I have so far discovered has enabled me to decide that I do not want to give consent. How about you?

1. The Vaccine Race, Explained. www.gatesnotes.com April 30, 2020

2. US Centers for Disease Control, Vaccine Excipient Summary, February 2020

3. Vaccine, 2001; 19:2716-21

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Filed under Coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic

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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