Trân-Thi-Kim-Diêu - France
Among the successive crises that humanity has gone through, the one that has been caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, has an unprecedented significance in its form, manifestation, and implications. Though there were extremely serious health disasters such as the Black Death, which decimated a large part of the European population, there were also revolutions of various kinds, including that of 1789, which swept away the monarchy in France, bringing a wind of radical change.
The industrial revolution at the end of the 19th century brought its share of spectacular progress and procession of miseries. Humanity has witnessed since then a material disruption that highlights an ocean separating the vast continent — the laborious working class — from islands of insolent wealth. One may ask: “Would Lady Fortune be blind?” Each of these two categories lived and still lives in its own world, ignoring each other, fighting against each other, and using the single language of confrontation, until today, as a kind of curse repeated by its own self-generation.
It was in this context that leaders emerged trying to point a way out of humanity’s self-destructive unconscious habits. Among them were Madame H. P. Blavatsky (HPB) and Annie Besant (AB). In 1875, the formal foundation of the Theosophical Society (TS) in New York saw a vast “rescue plan” looming. A series of works by HPB, including her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine, opened the mind to worlds, ideas, concepts, hitherto unknown. Overall, the important thing was the lifting of a thick veil at the mental level. It was as if human consciousness, suddenly awakened by shaking from the higher planes, recovered after having been stunned, began to search in all directions.
The bridgehead was thrown. Guided by universal intelligence, AB, already matured by a lifetime of social service, as an avant-garde freethinker, was brought to meet HPB. Instead of just reviewing The Secret Doctrine, as had been planned, AB implored HPB to grant her guidance. The first deck of the bridge was laid. More decks and more arches would follow to complete the construction and consolidation of this bridge, whose ultimate purpose would be to lead human consciousness towards the state of Unity. If the motto of the Great Revolution of 1789 was Freedom, Equality, Fraternity, that of the theosophical movement would be Unity. This was the start of implementing the “rescue plan”.
The industrial revolution, despite its imperfections, brought a positive note. Indeed, along with the enrichment of the new bourgeoisie born of industry, one could observe some improvement in the material life of the indigent. Unfortunately, the human mind quickly fell into the trap of repetition, which soon produced the thirst for endless consumption. The desire to possess, to have more and more, seems to be the result of the combination of two factors: the thirst generated by the lack of necessities at first, and then the unconscious repetition of acquired habits. Utilitarianism, whose motto is “to ensure the greatest happiness for the greatest number”, makes the situation worse.
The 20th century, hampered by two world wars, saw its last quarter become a witness to the rise of consumerism. In “developed” countries, huge spaces constitute “temples of consumerism” where humans wander, like half-conscious zombies, drawn in the whirlwind of unnecessary acquisitions, and eventually to financial and moral impasse. This drunkenness of possession acts like a virus that “businessmen” nurture to satisfy their own thirst for self-enrichment through the lure of gain.
Surprisingly, the cyber revolution began visibly almost simultaneously. It breaks out old notions about time, information, communication, and so on, and, consequently, old ways of thinking as well as “traditional” lifestyles. While computer science makes tremendous progress in all aspects of life, those who are dependent on consumption undergo greater pressure, right down to their homes. With one click, one after the other, in an always semi-conscious state, they can go as far as bankruptcy.
So what? The popular political revolution had its moment of glory through exportation of ideals. The industrial revolution, despite the abundance acquired by a “new aristocracy”, improved a little the daily life of the people. Then came the cybernetic revolution that, in less than half a century, has shaken up the established order on the mental level. Until a certain regulation, financial speculation allowed almost instantaneous acquisitions of insolent fortunes — simultaneously with the constant further impoverishment of the poor.
What is most painful is the indifference of the new plutocracy visà-vis others — the Other. Otherness is ignored by most of humanity, apart from rare, evolved souls on the planet. The fact is that most human souls are sick with the virus of greed, the source of a recurrent evil whose conflicts and fears are just visible symptoms.
And now Covid-19 has come. “From where”, one asked in the general panic. “From a province in China”, we were told. Let us take the risk of interpreting with some observations and reflections. First, Nature “does not make leaps”; it has no clear, definite borders among its kingdoms. Indeed, there are “beings” that cannot be defined as plants or animals because they are constantly changing; so that without our knowledge there is constant overlap between different kingdoms and planes.
Second, it would make sense to accept what theosophical teaching suggests, that is, negative and toxic, invisible thoughts could eventually become pathogenic microbes; and when these thoughts come together on a large scale, they would “rush” into the physical world in the form of epidemics, after their “incubation” on the invisible level of elementals. Evil thought-forms can precipitate viral clusters.
Therefore, whether it is from a province in China or elsewhere, that is not the point, because there is always a “before”. Reason tells us that it would be better to deal with problems upstream, where they are generated, and not where they have already achieved their precipitous forms. Downstream are the habits of thinking related to the lifestyle of humans who are rightly mocked in a song by the French singer, Jacques Dutronc, “Seven hundred millions of Chinese, and me and me . . .” — Otherness has only eyes to cry!
In all this, where does happiness stand? In the plethora of items consumed? This is rather poor! In the satisfaction of desires? Simple decoy! For, the register of desires is renewed to the rhythm of enticing catalogues that deprive the planet of oxygen by requiring the felling of trees for their manufacture. So, to provide the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people? Here again, are the shifting and outdated sands of utilitarianism.
Social ethics” seems to be nonsense because each of the individuals who makes up a society is the society. If everyone lives their life properly, society is, therefore, an ethically evolving community, without having to adorn itself with such a qualifier. To put an end to any compromising concept, ethics is certainly not the finished product of perfect behaviorism, just like happiness is not quantifiable. Then, where does happiness stand? Wouldn’t it be the natural state to which all sentient beings aspire, including suffering humans? Humans are running in all directions for its search. But, in fact, they are only grasping their shadows by catching the multitude of objects of their desires. And all this in the absence of the Other, and without a real involvement of consciousness.
With the “precipitation” of Covid-19, the human mind is once again shaken, both by the suddenness of the phenomenon and by its lightning speed. It is once again recalled attention to the natural order of things, characterized by the impermanence and interdependence of the phenomena of existence. Indeed, we can observe, with a more awakened consciousness than that of the previous centuries, that humans die in terrible conditions. Indeed, one can die in the space of a day without the possibility of saying “goodbye” to loved ones. Thus, impermanence goes beyond the intellectual concept and enters the experiential stage. One can realize that nothing lasts “forever”, that everything has an end.
It seems so obvious. But how is it that one did not see it, when one’s life flowed in a peaceful stream, so that one must take the painful experience of rupture to open one’s sight? Leaving one’s family, interrupting emotional habits, and so on, act as a slap to the various vehicles of a human being. This time, well-developed internal sensory acuity amounts to a greater ability of the soul to understand the phenomenon and to want to seek the cause. The cause is part of the recurring selfishness.
Similarly, the observation of interdependence makes it possible to no longer deny the “other”. Good discoveries! But not the only ones. Covid-19, as an act of grace, reveals this quality of the rare, evolved souls, which is self-denial and greater awareness. The “other” is no longer denied; it is recognized and placed at the centre of attention, for the “and me, and me” is no longer there. Otherness resumes its place, natural, legitimate, whole, as new as at the birth of the world. The Divine would not have allowed the manifestation of life to take place without accepting this otherness. Each of the creatures is the “other” of the Divine, until their ultimate Union with It.
Thus, let us rejoice, despite losses, suffering, heartbreaks, and tears, for the “other” has been rediscovered. We are at the dawning of another revolution. In the words of the Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard, it is the “altruistic revolution”. In all humility, but with an attempt at anticipation, I would rather call it the “ethical revolution”. Universal ethics include all life — beings and the universe. It derives from the universal order as its effective action. If “the other” is present, it is because “me” is no longer there.
However, this vision remains dualistic. If “I” disappears, it will no longer be necessary to refer to “the other”, since “the other” and “me” define each other. When “the other” and “me” merge quietly, everything fits into the natural order of things. The actions resulting from this state of order are of the nature of ethics. Thus, our Sufi brother-poet, Omar Khayyam, can, with impunity, invite his Friend to the tavern to share the “nectar of union” and drink it to their satisfaction. (It does not matter whether the anecdote is factual; the allegory is eloquent and beautiful.)
The ethical revolution is underway. It will help design a new paradigm to guide action after the pandemic, because, as there has been a “before”, an “after” will follow. It would not be wise to think that everything will return to normal, “as before”. In this case, what is the purpose of the experience? Certainly, at the social level, more effective actions for the less well-off will be needed, as well as any effort to intelligently reconstruct human society will be essential, aiming at greater equity and decency about wealth.
To do this, it will be necessary to revise one’s behavior. Will desire and greed be kept as the motive for action? Cannot sharing be another motivation? Will the language of confrontation be again used, or will people try the experience of dialogue to transform the opposition of ideas into cooperation? Will we agree to change the paradigm: reject negligence by adhering to attentive learning? Will we be smart enough not to miss the train of evolution in motion? Will we be able to learn empathy?
Experts of all kinds will concoct a “new” model of “after”. But it will not make sense if it is only a reproduction of the past model. Inventiveness is the nature of the alert mind. May it also be permeable to empathy.
Without being overly optimistic, one can in time proclaim the advent of the ethical revolution. Of course, in the early stages, failure will be unavoidable, but as the oil slick spreads inexorably, evolved souls will unite silently but effectively to move together forward. Each theosophist can participate with a brick, a hand, a thought, a step, in the building of this bridge, still invisible but already perceptible, which will lead humans towards the consciousness of Unity.
This article was also published in The Theosophist, VOL. 142 NO. 7 APRIL 2021
The Theosophist is the official organ of the International President, founded by H. P. Blavatsky on 1 Oct. 1879.
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