Keeping Spirits Up in the Down Times by Wayne Saalman

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A BIBLICAL PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS on one continent, political polarization in every country, climate change on a global level… And now Covid-19.

 

How, we must ask, are we to keep our spirits up in times as distressing as these?

 

This is no easy question to answer as it goes to the very heart of our every belief as human beings. It goes deep into the nature of reality itself.

 

Many wisdom masters over the centuries have spoken at length about the nature of reality and virtually all agree that this life is a mystery of profoundly ambiguous and uncertain dimensions. Nevertheless, all have consistently offered solace and comfort, despite this admission, and have ever and always pointed to a higher, transcendent dimension where we all live on once we depart this Earth.

 

In the wake of a viral pandemic, this particular assertion regarding the ambiguity of our human reality has never been so overtly apparent.

 

Reality is ambiguous. What is “real” to one person may seem to have no accord with another. Nowhere is this state of affairs more obvious than in the historic realm of religion where Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and other organized institutions have a totally different set of beliefs from one another. In fact, none share the exact same principles, doctrines, dogmas, philosophies nor metaphysics.

 

Bring scientific materialism into the mix and we add yet another major institutional body of thought into the picture, this one totally at odds with the religions of the Earth.

 

Due to the invisibility of the coronavirus, ambiguity is quite simply a hallmark of its nature.

 

Spirituality, likewise, is constituted of invisible essences which no scientific machine can verify as “truly” existing. This renders all things “spiritual” decidedly ambiguous in nature, as well.

 

In any case, whether we believe in the existence of a spiritual realm or not, most of us have a few things very much in common: we seek “truth”; we seek answers to the mystery of our existence; we seek understanding of the human predicament into which we have seemingly arrived through no choice of our own.

 

Since life is so multifaceted and vast in scope and magnitude, we seek truth, answers and understanding in each our own way almost continuously as we go about our lives in the everyday world.

 

As a simple test of “belief”, consider the following anecdote which a close friend of mine recently shared with me: His sister, a very down-to-earth person who has never been a particularly “spiritual” personality type, told how she had joined a yoga class at the local gym for purposes of health and general vitality. Among the many exercises in which she had been engaging were certain intensive breathing exercises.

 

One day, soon after the outbreak of the coronavirus, she found herself stressed the same as virtually all of us by the pandemic, but she vigorously continued with her yoga and, during the course of a particularly intensive breathing session, she entered a kind of altered state. It was then that she met with a major surprise. She unexpectedly encountered the presence of her deceased father. He apparently told her two things: One, that he himself was fine – alive and well, in other words – and, two, that everything would be okay for her re the pandemic.

 

This greatly heartened the woman and, once the class finished, she rushed to share her experience with her siblings.

 

What are we to make of such an anecdote?

 

Clearly, each of us will react to this “story” in an individual manner. Both our conscious and subconscious beliefs will immediately assert themselves into our thinking. On the one hand, like the woman herself, we might be greatly heartened by the notion that those who have passed on are alive and well in some form of an “afterlife” or “otherworldly dimension”. This, of course, implies that we, too, will survive our mortal demise and live on. Secondly, we might well believe that those who are already in that otherworldly dimension might be privy to insights into events that far exceed our own and when a loving father figure tells us that we’ll be okay that we should be greatly gladdened by this particular communication.

 

On the other hand, it is easy enough for scientific materialists to dismiss the whole affair as wishful thinking and the result of an overactive imagination in a time of great stress. After all, if this pandemic is about anything at all, it is about life and death, the ultimate stakes.

 

A materialist will insist that what happened with the woman was that she hyperventilated and fell into some twilight realm during which her subconscious offered the kind of solace which would pointedly help her to survive. Since evolution’s prime directive is survival, a fleeting hallucination of this nature gave the woman additional inner strength to persevere and that was its sole purpose. Otherwise, her immune system might become depleted by the ongoing stress and render her more susceptible to illness.

 

Those of a spiritual disposition would say that is a very nihilistic way of looking at life and the incident was for real and wonderful beyond words.

 

There is nothing about the event, of course, that is provable one way or another.

 

The overriding significance of this anecdote, perhaps, is that each of us decides the nature of reality for ourselves, especially as to whether or not a human being continues on after his or her mortal demise.

 

One thing is certain: the presence of a deadly virus such as Covid-19 forces each of us to ponder the meaning and significance of every aspect of life, for everything is put on the line when we are reduced to our most primitive survival instincts and made to understand that health is indeed everything. It teaches us that all our luxuries and technological wonders are of little value when weighed against something as crucial as pure survival.

 

Personally, I am of the opinion that we do live on beyond this mortal earthly existence and I do find great solace and comfort in that notion. To my way of thinking, we may have only a wealth of anecdotes to consider in the matter, but once we strip away the various cultural idiosyncrasies of our religions and wisdom traditions, we arrive at the profound possibility that we humans are, in fact, eternal and immortal.

 

If that is “mere solace”, then so be it.

 

If true, however, the good news is that we are all survivors regardless of what we believe.

 

 

 

 

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