The “Meaning” of the Coronavirus

Recently on my YouTube channel, I released some videos where I looked at the Covid-19 pandemic through various “lens”……spirituality, politics, dealing with grief and how we might evolve to a higher state of “new normal” after the virus runs its course.  These are certainly interesting times and our social isolation has called a lot of us to reflect upon the direction of our lives, individually and collectively.

My reflection has led me to believe that humanity will not go back to where it was culturally and socially once things return to a new state of “normalcy”.  It is my belief that the events we are all experiencing collectively, but each in our own unique way, are leading us to a sense that we need to make some changes.  Whether we will act on that sense of need, well, we will see in time. The public outcry this past week, the public protests in spite of the pandemic, over the sad events surrounding George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, certainly shows that many people are ready to stand up for a new normal that doesn’t include such inhumanity and brutality. May we all be a force for positive change in our own ways.

A central part of my personal belief system (and one that I write on frequently here) is that we humans are involved in a great evolutionary story.  “In the beginning” (or “once upon a time?”—both phrases that at a deeper level really mean somewhere “beyond time”) a creative intelligent force created the manifest universe and imbedded itself in its creation in various ways.  One of those imbedded ways was through something that we frequently call “consciousness”.  That is, consciousness permeates everything and the experience of consciousness is unique to each “experiencer” (be it an atom, a molecule, a single cell organism, a plant, an animal, each human….and, yes, even a virus). 

As we step back and view the development or growth of consciousness, we can see an evolutionary upward path….that as our forms are becoming more complex, consciousness is getting “deeper” and more complex. Hence, the consciousness of a human is more complex than the consciousness of a plant while the consciousness of that plant is more complex than that of a virus or a mineral….

For more on the process of this evolutionary path, please see my book Our Spiritual Evolution.  Yes, shameless plug!  Let us continue…..

Spiritual teacher and mystic Ernest Holmes wrote the following:

“Through eons of time life has been slowly climbing up the ladder of unfoldment to the present self-conscious state achieved in man.   Some degree of consciousness exists in everything because everything is some form of Spirit, and Spirit is Intelligence.  However, there are degrees of intelligence, or consciousness.  We often hear the expression, “Consciousness sleeps in mineral life, dreams in plant life, awakens in animal life, and comes to self-consciousness in man.”  Man, then, stands at the very peak of the evolutionary climb.  He is now a self-conscious individual which means that he not only knows, but knows that he knows.  He can think about his own consciousness, and he now has the power of choice – the very summit of life’s upward striving.  Evolution, through infinite ages, has done much for him. “Ernest Holmes, The Basic ideas of Science of Mind

When one looks at this “ladder of unfoldment”, one cannot but wonder about certain key questions. Where are we going?  Is there a meaning to the universe? Do individual events in the universe thereby have some deeper meaning as they relate to our individual lives or our collective evolutionary journey?  That is, do worldly events somehow play a role in pushing or pulling us along our spiritual journey and towards our eventually destination?

In that context, we might ask “is there a meaning for our experience of the coronavirus, and if so, what is it?”

My friend and colleague, Jim Lockard, asked essentially that question in a recent posting on his blog site.  Here is a link and the article is worth a read.  Both Jim and I are New Thought ministers and students of Spiral Dynamics, so we are frequently intersecting in how we see life.  Although I agree with the general points of his article, my thoughts went in a different direction as I explored the question.  However, Jim’s blog was a great catalyst for exploring the matter. He rightfully expands the question to ask ultimately “does anything happen for a reason?”

Well…..does it?  I mean many of us have said and we frequently hear others saying “everything happens for a reason”.  It’s a popular saying. I know I have said it many times. It’s often stated at moments of despair or bewilderment or when we are experiencing some other similar emotional state in reaction to worldly events that we don’t understand.  Something happened, that experience seems to have an impact on our life, we wonder why it happened but are not quite sure.  Generally, tipping our hat to some mysterious meaning maker behind worldly events is simply a matter of coping and dealing in the moment.

In his article, Lockard quotes another New Thought teacher who says that often times folks who say things are happening for a reason really mean “Everything is an effect that has a Cause.”  Yes, that’s true.  But that raises a couple of questions….such as “and what is that cause for this particular effect?”….and “does the creation of the experienced effect by that cause have any greater meaning that I/we need to comprehend?”

New Thought, Ernest Holmes, Science of Mind and many other life philosophies teach that consciousness is creative.  Go read the quotes by Ernest Holmes in Lockard’s blog.  Read the quote from Holmes above.  Yes, we are surrounded by a “mental atmosphere” that is the result of our thinking.  Yes, there is an aspect of consciousness (frequently called “the Law”) that creates our effect based on the thoughts or mental atmosphere it receives without preference to what we give it.  Yes, it all starts with that “movement of intelligence” within us….it starts with a choice, either a conscious one or a subconscious one, but a choice nonetheless.

So to answer the question “what is the cause for this particular effect?….we must seek to track back to locate the choice in consciousness that seems most likely the culprit.  Outwardly, we can say that “striking the match caused the fire”.  Inwardly, we must go back to the thought (conscious or subconscious) that led to the striking of the match.  Such explorations are difficult enough when we are simply looking at the life of one individual and seeking to locate their “hidden beliefs” that are causing personal issues.  To expand that outward to worldly events to locate a “cause” can become infinitely more challenging.

Sometimes that choice is personal to one identified “chooser”.  Sometimes that choice can be traced back to the combined “choices” of many “choosers” whose use of the one field of consciousness is impacted in some collective way.  If that’s not complex enough, sometimes the one “chooser” is impacted by the field of collective consciousness.  Tracking causation can sometimes be like solving a mystery.

So with that backdrop….”what caused the coronavirus?” 

Could it have been a man made virus created in a lab that was either purposefully or accidentally released?  Many so-called conspiracy theorists make such claims. If this is the case, what is the choice in consciousness that created it?  Lots of possibilities to consider here.  The choices leading to create viruses in a lab to begin with.  The choices to do whatever the human action was that led to accidentally releasing it. The choices involved with any “consciously releasing” it.  Key to consider was that if you think it was man-made, there is obviously an aspect of human consciousness that was involved.

On the other hand, was it a natural mutation of an existing form of the virus?  This is the mainstream explanation.  If this is the case, what is the choice in consciousness that created it?  Was there some human choices involved somewhere?  Seems less likely.  Or, was it simply the consciousness of the virus itself (remember consciousness is in everything!) who at its limited level simply wanted to maintain its agency, survive and reproduce.  Did it “consciously choose” to mutate to meet those ends?

Well, obviously we don’t know…and be wary of those who say they do….but it is fun to play such mind games.

Yet, what about our second question posed earlier….”does the creation of the experienced effect by that cause have any greater meaning that I/we need to comprehend?”  In other words, “is there any meaning to the coronavirus?”  That answer, like many things, depends upon your worldview.

Those at the traditional worldview stage (blue in Spiral Dynamics) often exemplified by the fundamentalist religious types are debating issues such as “whether God created [the] Coronavirus – or if it’s God’s will for the virus to flourish or if it was sent as some sort of punishment”. {USA Today}

Those at the material scientific worldview stage (Spiral Dynamics “orange” level) see the virus as neutral and having no meaning.  Matter is simply following the laws of nature, end of story.

Yet, are there not other ways of looking at this?  Can there be something more than “an act of God” or “it’s all meaningless stuff acting according to scientific laws”?

As Lockard points out, ” The more mature levels of spiritual understanding recognize the mystery present in everything (including objective reality, by the way), and find ways to allow that mystery to exist without understanding it. Spiritually mature people are very skeptical of people who say they have the answers to the questions of the ages.”

I couldn’t agree more.  There is a point in our spiritual evolution where we have to live in the dynamic tension between two apparent opposites, knowing and holding that there is truth in them both.

Up to now, I have tended to steer clear of seeing the virus as any “maker of meaning”.  On the other hand, I have seen a shift in consciousness by many people based on their experience of the virus and the resulting social distancing, unemployment and other social experiences.  This is the shift that has led to some of my recent videos.  My feeling has been that if our experience of the virus has led us to wanting to return to a new and “higher” state of normalcy, that each of us has a choice that we can play in our lives to create that better world.

So did the virus cause this shift in consciousness?

It should be obvious by now….any meaning that is given to it is a choice by each person.  Each of us can choose to attach meaning to it or not….and if we see meaning, then we individually choose the meaning.  This is essentially true about all of our experiences….we choose their meanings for us.

However, if we choose to dig a bit deeper, as we live in the mystery and navigate the dynamic tensions between two opposites that we are holding as “true”, it’s hard not to come to an even higher question—“is there a direction to our evolution?”  Are we headed some place?  Is there a great and grand plan behind our experience of choice that is secretly conspiring to move us to some specific new place?  Humanity has long made such teleological arguments of one kind or another.

I know that there is power in our consciousness and that we have the ability to choose our thoughts.  So, yes, we do have free will. Yet, I also believe that there is a general direction to our evolution.  My objective evaluation of my individual life as well as my consideration of the overall arc of human evolution tends to point to the fact that we are moving towards an outcome with certain characteristics.  Yes, these beliefs tend to be opposed to one another….free will tends to push against some sort of “preordained” end game.

But consider that in our personal lives and in human history, we do meander and get sidetracked. Yes, we can slip and backslide.  But that doesn’t mean that we’re not headed somewhere.  It’s sort of like a “choose your own adventure book” where you get to take a number of different paths…..but there is an “end” to the book.  

From a higher vantage point of longer time frames that ignores the peaks and valleys, we can see that we appear to be headed in a direction that incorporates certain characteristics.  I wrote about this a number of years ago in my book Be Yourself Evolving the World Through Personal Empowerment.  (Yes, I appear to have worked in another book plug!) These characteristics include (among others) greater complexity in our systems; higher levels of technology; more focus on higher human needs; a melding of science and spirituality; greater human interest in living our callings; greater levels of human service; an expanding power of love in our interactions; and, a greater sense of the oneness of all.  These trends are seen by scientists, philosophers, mystics….and ordinary students such as myself.

In recent times, I have taken to a type of shorthand where I reference this set of characteristics as a “world that works for all”. The more that I look for evidence that we are moving towards a world that works for all, the more I see it.

So did the coronavirus come along to move us towards a world that works for all?  I certainly wouldn’t say that the virus held that intention.  And, I can’t say that the overall Covid-19 situation that incorporates all of our human responses to it came with some imbedded deeper meaning to move us to a better world.  But I do know that all of our world experiences give us choice points….and in each moment we can choose a higher path or not.  So ultimately the “meaning” of the coronavirus is up to each of us and how we choose in this moment to respond.  How are you called to respond?  The answer to that question is where you will find the meaning.

Mark Gilbert

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Mark Gilbert

Mark Gilbert

Mark Gilbert publishes Conscious Bridge. He is a former United States government leader, an ordained New Thought minister, a spiritual teacher and the author of 4 books.

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