An Esoteric View of Pandemics

Pablo Sender – USA

Theosophy PS 2 An

The author

IN this article, we will explore the subject of epidemics from the point of view of esoteric philosophy. The first fundamental idea to bear in mind is that the Earth and humanity are intimately connected, so that planetary and human activity are constantly reacting on each other, be it epidemics, pandemics, or natural disasters. Franz Hartmann expressed this principle as follows:

Man is not a being whose existence is separated from Nature, but an integral part thereof. . . . The elemental forces of Nature act upon his soul; and the influence of the universal spirit radiates to his centre. Likewise, man reacts upon the whole. . . . His emotions produce currents in the soul of the world, giving rise to new causes in the invisible realm, which again react upon the physical plane. (Magic, White and Black)

Theosophy PS 3 Franz Hartmann

Franz Hartmann

Today, we are aware of the interconnection between human activity and the planet on a physical level, but theosophical teachings extend this on to the inner planes. Our psychological activity (thoughts, emotions, motivations, and so forth) can produce unsuspected physical effects. As Hartmann continues to explain:

His imagination may create thought germs, that may in the course of time find expression in physical forms, his passions may give rise to epidemic diseases, his collective and accumulative energies lead to convulsions in Nature, and if harmony is restored in the universal Man, Nature will be restored to harmony. The discords in Nature are produced by imperfect humans. (Magic, White and Black)

How can our psychological activity produce planetary phenomena that affect humanity collectively, such as epidemics and natural disasters? To understand the occult foundations of this we need to examine the concept of the “astral light”

Astral Light

  1. P. Blavatsky wrote about a correlation observed by seers between epidemics and the activity in the “astral light”:

How often have powerful clairvoyants and adepts in mesmerism described the epidemics and [illnesses]. . . as their lucid vision [clairvoyance] saw them in the astral light. They affirm that the “electric waves” were in violent perturbation, and that they discerned a direct relation between this ethereal disturbance and the mental or physical epidemic then raging. (Isis Unveiled, vol. I, p. 278)

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H, P, Blavatsky

In consonance with Hartmann’s statement that our psychological activity generates “currents in the soul of the world”, Blavatsky describes how clairvoyants observe a kind of “astral storm” in the Planet whenever there is an active epidemic in the world. So, what is this astral light? Blavatsky defined it as:

The invisible region that surrounds our globe, as it does every other [planet], and corresponding. . . to the linga sarira, or the astral double, in man. A subtle essence visible only to a clairvoyant eye. (Theosophical Glossary, p. 38)

Theosophical teachings postulate that there are seven aspects or “Principles” to any system in the cosmos, whether it is a galaxy, a planet, or a human being. The second Principle, called linga sarira, is an ethereal field that surrounds our physical body. Changes in the etheric field affect our physical organization. Similarly, the astral light is the linga sarira of the planet, and its activity can affect the physical plane.

Blavatsky continues her definition of the astral light, quoting Eliphas Levi, who was a priest and occultist before her time:

Eliphas Levi calls it [the astral light] the great serpent and the dragon from which radiates on humanity every evil influence. This is so, but why not add that the astral light gives out nothing but what it has received; that it is the great terrestrial crucible in which the vile emanations of the Earth (moral and physical) upon which the astral light is fed, are all converted into their subtlest essence, and radiated back intensified, thus becoming epidemics — moral, psychic, and physical. (Theosophical Glossary, p. 38)

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Eliphas Levi

The astral light is a source of influences which manifest in the form of epidemics, accidents, and natural disasters. This is why Eliphas Levi would identify the astral light with Satan. However, this is only half of the story. As we have seen, those evil influences are fed into the astral light in the first place by the mental, emotional, and physical activity of human beings. Thus, the astral light acts as a vehicle of expression of the collective karma generated by us.

In her “Esoteric Instructions No. IV”, Blavatsky identified the specific subplane within the astral plane (or astral light) that accumulates evil impressions:

[The 4th sub-plane] . . . is the worst of the astral planes, kâmic [desire-bound] and terrible. . . . Here are strewed the seeds of epidemics of vice, of cycles of disasters, and general catastrophes of all kinds that happen in groups — a series of murders, of earthquakes, of shipwrecks. (Blavatsky, Collected Writings [BCW], vol. 12, p. 663)

Thought forms

The next question to examine is how human psychological activity can affect this astral light. Mahatma KH, one of Blavatsky’s teachers, explained in the1880s that thoughts are not merely subjective images in our minds, but actual forces that can behave as an entity: “Thoughts are things — [they] have tenacity, coherence, and life — . . . they are real entities.” (The Mahatma Letters, to A. P. Sinnett #18, p. 66 / #9, p. 49, Barker ed.)

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C. W. Leadbeater

Theosophical teachings postulate that there are more types of matter than the physical variety we are familiar with. Thus, we have subtler forms of matter such as “astral” (or “emotional”), “mental”, and others, which can only be seen by a clairvoyant. C. W. Leadbeater said:

Our feelings and thoughts generate definite forms in the matter which they respectively affect, and . . . these forms follow the thoughts and feelings which made them. When those thoughts and feelings are directed towards another person, the forms actually move through space to that person. (The Hidden Side of Things, p. 369)

Our “private” psychological activity produces external thought forms, which are set free to influence people or places, travelling through the astral and mental planes, but they can also act in a different way. As Annie Besant stated:

When a person sends out a thought form, it not only keeps up a magnetic link with him, but is drawn towards other thought forms of a similar type, and these congregating together on the astral plane form a good or evil force, as the case may be, embodied in a kind of collective entity. (Karma)

Theosophy PS 7 Annie Besant LoC

Annie Besant

Thought forms of a similar type tend to coalesce, attracted by magnetic affinity. The aggregation of these thought forms can become a powerful influence — for good or ill. Annie Besant continues:

When people generate a large number of malignant thought forms of a destructive character, and when these congregate in huge masses on the astral plane, their energy may be, and is, precipitated on the physical plane, stirring up wars, revolutions, and social disturbances and upheavals of every kind, falling as collective karma on their progenitors and effecting widespread ruin. . . . Epidemics of crime and disease, cycles of accidents, have a similar explanation. (Karma)

We can see now how, by generating negative thoughts and feelings such as hate, anger, intolerance, and so forth, we are sowing the seeds of future epidemics, accidents and natural disasters. (It is important to keep in mind that not all natural disasters are produced by human activity — some of them are just part of the cycles of Nature.)


There is one more piece to the puzzle that we need to consider in order to understand the mechanics of how our psychological activity generates physical effects. We have seen that thoughts create forms, and these forms, if of a negative character, are accumulated on the astral light. Fortunately, this works in the case of good thought forms too. If we encourage feelings of love and compassion, this benevolent energy is also accumulated on higher planes, in what we can call a “repository of goodness”, which acts in beneficent ways to help human evolution.

But how do these non-physical forms produce an effect on the physical plane? To describe this, we need to introduce the idea of “elementals”. Mahatma KH explained:

Every thought of man, upon being evolved, passes into the inner world and becomes an active entity by associating itself . . . with an elemental; . . . one of the semi-intelligent forces of the kingdoms [of Nature]. It survives as an active intelligence, a creature of the mind’s begetting, for a longer or shorter period proportionate with the original intensity of the cerebral [or mental] action which generated it. Thus, a good thought is perpetuated as an active beneficent power; an evil one as a maleficent demon.” (Mahatma Letters Appendix I, 472)

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W. Q. Judge

The thoughts we generate do not merely create an empty form — they attract an elemental force of Nature. Elementals possess a very rudimental form of consciousness, although lacking intelligence, as we understand the term. W. Q. Judge described them as follows:

An elemental is a center of force, without intelligence, without moral character or tendencies, but capable of being directed in its movements by human thoughts, which may, consciously or not, give it any form, and to a certain extent intelligence. (BCW, vol. 9, p. 104)

When we act, feel, and think, we attract elementals whose energies have an affinity to the particular activity we are engaged in. Thus, the thought form we generate is “ensouled” by elementals, which use it as a “body” for the expression of their energy. It is important to realize that the elementals involved in this do not have the ability of choosing one action or the another — it is the quality of our thoughts which attract them that gives them a direction for their activity.

The number of elementals attracted depends on the intensity of our thoughts and feelings. Blavatsky stated:

[The elemental world] is automatic and like a photographic plate, all atoms continually arriving at and departing from the “human system” are constantly assuming the impression conveyed by the acts and thoughts of that person, and therefore, if [a person] . . . sets up a strong current of thought, he attracts elementals in greater numbers. (BCW, vol. 9, p. 105)

Now we can understand the whole process of how our thoughts generate epidemics and other natural disasters. In a previous quote, Annie Besant stated that similar thought forms tend to congregate, forming a kind of collective entity. She continued her description as follows:

When this collective entity, as I have called it, is made up of thought forms of a destructive type, the elementals ensouling these act as a disruptive energy and they often work much havoc on the physical plane. A vortex of disintegrating energies, they are the fruitful sources of “accidents”, natural convulsions, storms, cyclones, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods. (Karma)

In the theosophical view, all natural activity on the physical plane (from the blooming of a flower to the eruption of a volcano) is guided from the inner planes by the intelligence of celestial beings, or devas, which use elementals as the forces to produce the desired results. Thus, elementals have the ability to produce effects on the different planes. When thoughts congregate to create this “collective entity” mentioned by Besant, the forces of many elementals are aggregated and become able to create global effects such as epidemics or natural disasters. It is important here to keep in mind that not all natural disasters are produced by human activity — some of them are just part of the cycles of Nature.)

This knowledge is very important, because it gives us the means to address epidemics and other sources of collective suffering at their very root, instead of being doomed to try and cope with the effects, as modern science does.

Theosophy PS 9 Epidemics

The lessons Theosophy teaches are important ones, the human being is his brother’s keeper, and the only permanent protection against plagues and calamities lies in the purification of the thought plane. It is a simple problem of cause and effect. If every person purifies his own thought sphere, the astral light will eventually be cleansed. (P. M. Johns, Epidemics from a Theosophical Standpoint, The Theosophist, Jan. 1893) – to read full paper click HERE

The theosophical message, then, is that there is an ecology of the mind as there is one of Nature. With every thought and emotion we entertain we are polluting or purifying the mental and emotional atmospheres. Of course, we cannot suddenly decide not to harbor negativities — reducing the “psychological pollution” we produce is a life-long endeavor, and the theosophical tradition offers a wealth of theoretical and practical teachings to learn how to purify and master our minds. This is in fact a central part of the theosophical life.

Our attitude

Let us end by taking a look at the part that our attitude plays when we are dealing with an epidemic. Annie Besant indicated:

Diseases spread, and the thoughts of fear which follow their progress act directly as strengthened of the power of the disease; magnetic disturbances are set up and propagated, and react on the magnetic spheres [and the aura] of people within the affected area. (Karma)

As we have seen, collective diseases are more than a physical manifestation, and have their roots on the astral plane. The fear generated by people going through an epidemic spreads on that plane, making them more susceptible to the illness. For this reason, it is very important to try to stay calm and maintain a sense of poise and confidence while we are going through these difficulties. On these occasions, governments and health organizations tend to instill a degree of fear, because many people cannot act correctly otherwise. Those interested in these teachings, however, should be able to act in a responsible way without being pushed by fear. Let us remember that we are constantly expressing what we are. By working on our composure and sending goodwill to the environment and others we can become invisible helpers in the different crises we face.

This attitude, by the way, will also make us stronger against the illness. As Leadbeater said:

The person who has no fear of contagious disease is less likely to be infected by it than the man who is always in terror of it. Any clairvoyant who watched the conditions produced both in the astral body and in the etheric part of the physical vehicle by nervousness and fear will easily understand why this should be, and will see the immunity of the fearless person is explicable on purely scientific grounds. (Some Glimpses of Occultism)

Science has discovered that fear affects the immune system, but it does not know about its effect on the ethereal counterpart of the physical body (linga sarira) and on the emotional body. Calm confidence generates a steady radiation that acts as a shield. This, of course, does not mean that if we are not afraid we are completely immune to the illness. There are always karmic elements involved in all of this, but a confident attitude certainly helps us being stronger and better prepared to deal with what karma may bring.

Admittedly, staying calm in a time of crisis is not easy, especially for people inclined to the spiritual life, because they are growing more sensitive to influences coming from the inner planes. In Annie Besant’s words:

As we evolve our astral bodies, they not only receive more impressions from the astral plane but pass them on more to the physical body, and so we find a mood of great depression coming over us for which we cannot in any way account. Now very often such a mood is simply an overshadowing from the astral plane with which we have really no more to do ourselves than the stream which is shadowed by the cloud has directly to do with the cloud. . . . People, for instance, who feel strongly about public matters, who are deeply interested in the welfare of large numbers of their fellowmen, would feel very heavy depression sometimes from public calamities which are impending or going on at the time. (On Moods)

This is true at any time, and especially so in times of crisis. Our astral body responds to the unrest on the astral plane and this impression is sent to the physical body, so that we feel the sadness, fear, anger, or any other emotion that may be predominant there. People who care about humanity tend to be much more susceptible to this, so these times are more challenging for them. It is important that those who are compassionate be aware of this and use their willpower, love, and poise, so that they do not fall victims to the general gloomy atmosphere. How can we do this? Annie Besant gives us some tools:

What, then, can a person do when a mood of this sort comes along? The only way I know of meeting those is by the clear definite recognition of the law [of karma]; the feeling that nothing can come to us or to others which is not within the law; the feeling that whatever comes is working to a good purpose and for a good end, the intense inner conviction . . . [to] deliberately train ourselves to accept it and live through it. (On Moods)

For this, it is helpful to meditate on the fact that all these calamities which — from the point of view of the physical plane — seem so bad, are actually working for the evolution of the souls. It is best to keep in mind that even if the bodies die, the souls are eternal. We have died many times in the past, and will die many times in the future, but everything that happens has the purpose of helping the soul to realize its divine nature. Thus, suffering is a blessing in disguise. This does not mean, of course, that we should be indifferent to people’s suffering, or that we should not try to help. As Annie Besant said, a clear understanding of this helps us maintain our poise, so that we are more effective in whatever assistance we can lend, either on the physical or the inner planes.

This is why the study of theosophical teachings is so important — the understanding gained in times of peace becomes a source of support in times of crisis.


This article was first published in The Theosophist, Vol. 141 No. 11-August 2020

For recent issues of The Theosophist click HERE

Special thanks to Idarmis Rodriques at Krotona.


More on Pablo & Michele Sender

  • Good News from Michele and Pablo Sender, click HERE
  • Evolution of the Higher Consciousness: An In-depth Study into H. P. Blavatsky's Teachings. A book review by Dr. Ralph Hannon, click HERE
  • The Public Work of the Theosophical Society (Part one), click HERE
  • The Public Work of the Theosophical Society (Part two), click HERE
  • Living Theosophy, very first article by Pablo Sender ever to appear on Theosophy Forward (June-2010), click HERE


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