It has been suggested to me by a number of readers that I write something on the COVID 19 pandemic which has affected all of us. At first I thought that there was little to say because in my mind all the inner work we have done thus far should have prepared us for this catastrophe. If the work that we do is not preparation for difficulty, and even for death, then it is not worth our attention and should be abandoned for more profitable philosophies. Our past work on negative emotions should have given us some strategies for transforming fear and depression and anger, and our past work with self-remembering and attention should have given us some experiences that point to the formation of a second body that is not subject to the ravages of sickness and disease. Still, as the days of social distancing and isolation dragged on, I began to see through my own struggles and failures that there are some practical exercises and ways of thinking that might have some specific value during this period.

At the outset I should say that I have been luckier than many. I live in a county in California that has had less than 35 cases (and only one death) so far, and my business, which I own and am the sole employee, has not been too adversely affected up to this point. I can also walk outside freely at any hour as there is plenty of space between me and my neighbors. So whatever worth my commentary has, it must be weighed as superficial when compared to the story of those who live in continual risk of exposure or live in states and countries where the risk has not been as well regulated as it has in California.

Scale and Relativity. A good portion of our irritation and fear during any period of difficulty can be transformed by seeing what is happening to us individually from the point of view of a larger scale. When we talk about scale in relation to conscious evolution, we mean perception, we mean seeing from a higher level. Having scale is the result of the working of higher centers, so it can be seen as one of the end results or benefits of all the exercises of conscious evolution.

Relativity, on the other hand, is a way of thinking. It is a way to attempt to bring scale by using lower centers; that is, it is an exercise, like self-remembering, where we take a specific aspect of a higher state and attempt to bring that quality to the present moment. Put simply this means trying to see events, personal or otherwise, from the perspective of a larger and more detached lens. It is, like being present and divided attention and non-identification, an attempt to create a deliberate revelation.

We usually think of scale as being aware of more and more things, or levels. I can be aware of sitting in my chair and nothing else, or I can be aware of sitting in my chair and the room around me. And I can keep adding levels: I can be aware of the building where I’m sitting, the city where I live, or that I am on a planet that is moving through space. But scale means more; it also means an expansion of our perception of time. In any moment we can feel connected to the past and the future (and the people that are gone or not yet born) or we can feel adrift in the moment.

Specifically, during this period of isolation, we will be looking for activities that we can do alone that help bring scale. Reading or watching a film may or may not bring a state of scale. It depends on what you read or watch and with what attention you are able to give to it. Reading a poem by Walt Whitman or an essay of Montaigne has the potential to bring scale. Both writers were rooted in their times and yet also explored universal themes. Whitman brings us enough description of the latter part of the 19th century to remind us that he lived 150 years ago, and at the same time he deals with subjects that are relevant to what we feel in 2020. This can create an arc (or connection) to us through time. In a sense Whitman is telling us: this is what it is like to be a feeling human being during the Civil War. And when we connect to his experience, we add it to our experience of what it is like to be alive in 2020.  It is the juxtaposing of these two times and the connection you feel with Whitman personally that creates a state of scale.

This is very different than watching a romantic comedy or reading a detective novel. In these cases usually the aim is to escape. We put our personal fears and difficulties aside for an hour and a half, which allows the mind to rest for a time. We shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves if we find we need a little diversion, especially in these times.

Vice, death, poverty, disease are grave subjects and grieve us. We should have our soul instructed in the means to sustain and combat evil, and in the rules for right living and right belief… But for a soul of the common sort this must be done with some respite and with moderation; it goes mad if it is too continually tense. ~ Montaigne

If we do what we can to bring attention and observation to our leisure, that will be enough. And just so you know, Montaigne considered himself to be one of those who possessed a soul ‘of the common sort.’ These days we must be satisfied with having a soul at all, or even the beginnings of one, and not be too disappointed if our souls lack remarkable talents and qualities.

How We Acquire Scale in Our Lives. In the work of conscious evolution, we talk about consciousness being added to, that it is built up moment by moment. This is not a figure of speech, it is literally true. To understand this we need to begin to observe the structure of lower and higher centers and how they function. Higher centers and lower centers have large differences, but they are the same in that they all collect and store material.

The emotional center is a repository of emotional memories, the intellectual center collects information, and the moving center stores complex and simple sets of movements. This is not the only role these lower centers play, but it is their primary role. In ordinary life personality and essence use these stores of information and memories to negotiate our day to day living. If you need to drive to work, the moving center is called on to provide the memory of how to operate a car and to remember the streets that lead from your house to the place where you work. When you meet people, your emotional center observes their demeanor and energy and connects to your previous interactions with them in order to know how to respond. And the intellectual center calls up names and numbers and complex information as it is needed. This picture is not complete in that it is rare for one center to work alone—they almost always work in conjunction with one another—and because to this picture we need to add the instinctive center and the sex center, though they work in a different way because they are essentially preprogrammed.

In the moment you meet a friend or acquaintance, it’s the moving center that recognizes them from the way they move, their facial features and expressions, and other more individual cues; it’s the emotional center that has a working understanding of what your relationship is to that person and what is and what is not appropriate behavior; it’s the intellectual center that remembers their name and any other pertinent information; and it’s the instinctive center that determines whether the person is a threat or not. The success of any interaction depends on personality’s capability to access memories and information in a timely fashion.

One of the differences between lower centers and higher centers is that lower centers store remnants of experiences, and higher centers store the actual experiences. When you observe yourself or remember yourself or bring attention to yourself and what you are doing you store that experience in the higher emotional center. Only to access these experiences, you need a particular state and a certain accumulation of being.

Personality is not capable of accessing this store of experiences. Personality as a vehicle of self is necessary for a certain time, but it is limited, largely because it is slow. It is incapable of perceiving the workings of higher centers because higher centers exist in worlds too far removed from the world of personality.

Speed is another difference between higher and lower centers. The speed of a center has to do with the rate of vibrations. The faster the vibration the higher and more compact the world. If we use some of Ouspensky’s estimates, then we can begin to have an idea of the difference. He suggested that the higher emotional center would have a rate—this is for a timeframe of about three seconds or one perception for a man—of about 900 million vibrations, and that personality would have a rate of about 30 thousand vibrations for the same period. What this implies is that for each single packet of information personality is able to glean from the higher emotional center, it would miss 29,999 packets. Think about it this way: if a life of eighty years was played as on a film screen at a speed 30 thousand times faster than physical time, it would be clear that most of what was experienced and felt would be lost and what little would be taken away would have a high probability of being misinterpreted.

In order to have access to the store of experiences in the higher emotional center, a quicker and more focused vehicle of identity is needed. This is the soul or our being. Our being is created through acts of will or attentive behavior, and it has the potential to continue to function after the deterioration and death of personality, which does not survive physical death.

The higher emotional center is our birthright. It is the road of our life; it begins in darkness and is lit in places where we create moments of light, and the more moments we can add to our being, the more we can see our life from the perspective of what went before.

When we react to an event without observation or attention, those events are lost, but when we observe and are present to events, those events become part of our experience or our being and are stored in higher centers. They continue to exist in our consciousness, so that with time and inner work they combine in a way that can be felt each time we bring ourselves to the higher emotional center. Eventually we begin to find that self-remembering becomes larger than the moment, and that many moments of simple presence bring the scale or the experience of the entirety of our past.

It is with this perception, or with this being, that we want to meet difficulties. Too often we forget who we are when confronted with adversity, we forget that our past is littered with difficulties that we have overcome.

There is a story about a Sufi Master who boarded a ship for a journey. He was a famous holy man and many of the other passengers, as they boarded the ship, stopped to talk to him hoping to take away a pearl of wisdom. To each of them he said: ‘Be attentive. Life is not certain.’ Then several hours into their journey, a fierce storm blew up and rocked the ship with such force that many passengers ran about the deck and wailed and screamed and prayed to God to spare them. But the Sufi master remained calmly seated in one place and said nothing. After the storm passed and they were in sight of the port where they were scheduled to anchor, a number of passengers gathered around the holy man, and one who had been alarmed by the storm, asked, ‘Were you not afraid that the storm would snatch away your life?” The Sufi replied, ‘I was afraid, but I know that life is uncertain, and so I was not surprised to find that I might die at any moment.’

COVID 19, even when seen from the vantage point of scale and the higher emotional center is still not an insignificant event, but we are in the middle of it, and we cannot wish it away, so the best we can do is to bring the highest self we can muster to our day to day difficulties.

There are larger scales that are possible for a man to achieve, larger than the entirety of our past, but most of these involve the higher intellectual center, which has access to experiences from past lives and memories from between lives. But this requires an even faster vehicle, a spirit or higher mental body.  Still we can use relativity as a tool to help us envision these scales, even though they are beyond us. The difference is that they will remain theoretical for most of us.

The Value of Human Life. The public fight being waged now is between, on one side, being cautious and avoiding as many deaths as is possible, and, on the other side, accepting a certain number of deaths in order to open stores, salons, and restaurants so that we can minimize economic fallout.  Really what this discussion is about the value of human life. This is not a new equation. The idea of ‘acceptable losses’ has long been a part of the calculation in war and in business. The difference now is both in the number of deaths that we are looking at and in the number of people who inhabit the earth. The numbers of deaths are shocking, essentially the United States lost as many people to COVID 19 in the first four months of the pandemic as were killed in the eight years of the Vietnam War, and we are scheduled to double that number by the end of the summer.

The other issue is the number of people who inhabit the planet. As with any commodity—I hesitate to use the word commodity in relation to human life, but this is exactly how corporate society views it—the greater the availability, the less value the commodity has. What this means is that there is a direct correlation between income inequality and population. In a society where the population is high, there are more people who need jobs, so it becomes easier for the employers to victimize their workers by refusing to pay for safe conditions and by paying sub-standard-of-living wages because if one worker is injured or quits or becomes sick, there is always another waiting to take his place. This kind of exploitation, which was widespread before the outbreak, has been made more transparent since COVID 19, where it is painfully clear that the people who are deciding what is acceptable risk are generally not the people taking the risk. Even though it’s right to say that COVID 19 has created enormous economic hardship, it is more revealing to say that COVID 19 has exposed the weaknesses, excesses, and inhumanity of many of our economic models. It is reported every day that the rich are using the conditions the virus has created to personally benefit and that the poor and the weak represent the majority of the fatalities.

What this means is that there are obvious inequalities in the value of one life compared to another. In a corporate society like the United States, and in many other systems, economic status in practical terms means greater value. Of course there are other inequalities; race, religious belief, and immigration status, for instance, all play a role in who is protected and who is persecuted. Our democratic politicians say that every life is worth saving, but that is not the reality on the street.

Seutonius tells us that Julius Caesar, when he found that his soldiers were disturbed by the report of the great force that King Juba was to bring against them, that instead of repudiating the report and downplaying the size and fierceness of King Juba’s army, he did the reverse. He called his soldiers together and claimed that he had a second report and that in that report the number of men in King Juba’s army was said to be far greater than what had been reported earlier. It is thought that he did this because he believed that his men would forgive him for leading them into a battle against a force that was smaller than reported, but that they would not forgive him for leading them into a battle against a force that was greater than reported. When we compare this with the approach of many of our contemporary politicians, who continue to tell us as the pandemic drags on that everything is fine and that it is going to get better very soon, we can only suppose that they either have a tenuous relationship with reality or that they are lying to us because they don’t want to take responsibility for the difficulties that threaten their watch. In the first case, they are delusional; in the second case, they are cowards.

The Quality of a Life. The question of the value of a human life and economics should not be mixed up with the question of the quality of life. Quality of life is to some extent individual, but because it is largely based on the experience and the attainment of contentment, it follows specific psychological laws.

If we assume a spiritual evolution of the soul, as is described in many eastern practices, up through plants and animals and then to humans, we can conjecture that the human experience is meant to give functions that plants and animals either do not possess or possess only in an elementary form, and that it is those peculiarly human functions that give meaning or quality to human life. Primarily what we are talking about here is the emotional and intellectual functions. The capacity to feel complex emotions and to think distinguishes us from other animals. Essentially what this means is that activities and institutions that develop the emotional and intellectual functions increase the quality of life, and that the institutions that deprive people of the possibility to develop emotionally and intellectually are inhuman, in that they reduce the human experience to a lower order. Imprisonment and slavery are obvious examples of inhuman institutions; economic dominance and politicized racism are also examples.

This doesn’t mean that instinctive joys are not an important part of a life of quality; they are. But these joys, when they are meaningful, are almost always mixed with emotional or intellectual elements. A meal eaten alone is likely to have less meaning than a shared meal, and a shared meal can have greater meaning if it includes a noteworthy discussion.

Of all human compensations, Montaigne put the highest value on health.

We should have wife, children, goods, and above all health, if we can. ~ Montaigne

But for men like Montaigne health was not an aim in itself, but rather a necessary basis for a life devoted to emotion and the pursuits of the mind. In his essays we find many stories of men who chose to kill themselves rather than to live in conditions that were unacceptable to them. In some cases Montaigne seems to admire their decision, in others he seems appalled or amused. But clearly, in his mind, it is better to live fifty years in good health, than to live to be eighty-five and suffer from a debilitating illness for most of that term. Better to be poor and healthy, than rich and sick, though he himself suffered terribly from kidney stones and other ailments in the last ten years of his life, and chose to carry on.

Again, here I am talking about the human experience, not about spiritual revelation, which is of a higher order. There are writers and teachers who believe that human experience is only a testing ground for the spiritual. And though I myself have propagated this idea, I also believe that there needs to be an authentic human experience before there can be a legitimate spiritual experience, so really you cannot have one without the other.

Plutarch in Pelopidas, quoting Cato the Elder, says that there is a difference between courage and valuing one’s own life cheaply, and adds the story of Antigonus and one of his soldiers to illustrate his point. This soldier was so fearless in battle that he caught the attention of Antigonus, and when Antigonus learned the soldier suffered from a ‘little known disease,’ he asked his personal physician to treat the man if he could. The treatment was successful, but the result was that soldier lost all the ‘fire and dash’ that had distinguished him on the battlefield, and when Antigonus questioned him about the change, he said, It is you who have taken away my courage because you have freed me from the miseries that have made me hold my life cheap.

Suicide should be the last resort to a life that has lost its human meaning; if we have come that far down, we lose nothing by trying to change the circumstances that are driving us to despair. Besides, there are good spiritual reasons to carry on despite suffering and grief and heartache. The soul is made aware of itself in difficulty, and in theory, if we cheat our souls of certain experiences in this life, we will have to repeat those same experiences in another life because they are necessary to round out our being. On a higher level what suicide seems to solve, it only postpones.

Greed. COVID 19 will teach us, however unwilling we are to learn, many things about ourselves and about the societies we live in. One of the lessons we should be learning is that greed is not a positive foundation for an economic system, but is, in reality, a vice and very destructive.

Greed, like many vices, is an indictment against itself. Its very existence proves that it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. People who suffer from greed, act in their self-interest, believing that having money and possessions will make them happy, but if that were true, they would have achieved happiness at the first wave of wealth, and being happy, would have felt no need to suffer the bother and the karmic implications of profiting from others afterward. The fact that they push on to accumulate more and more wealth long after their most extravagant desires are fulfilled demonstrates that the belief that having money and houses and cars is in itself a path to happiness is a false proposition.

A man of sound judgment will see the illusory nature of greed and understand that greed is insatiable because it is based on satisfying desires for ideals like security that are impossible to maintain. As physical life can never be truly secure, the impulse to achieve it must return with every dose of reality, and realities like COVID 19 show very clearly that feeling secure is not a desire that can ever be fully achieved.

The simple life of freedom and happiness is one of the most difficult things to achieve. Man has complicated his life by the growth of artificial and imaginary desires and returning to simplicity amounts to the renunciation of desires. ~ Meher Baba

If greedy corporate owners and shareholders and politicians understood that most ordinary decent people only want a little dignity and a living wage so that they could maintain a life that is centered around family or love or creativity, it might be a very different world; but they don’t understand what it means to be decent. They assume that everybody is either like them: insatiable and predatory; or weak and ripe for exploration.

So what we end up with is a large group of people who feel that they have been cheated out of the most basic human compensations and a small group of people who are desperately trying to protect a way of life that is absurdly extravagant and ultimately unsatisfying.

It is not hard to see that this kind of social structure is, as they say, a recipe for disaster. You end up with pretty much what we see now in the United States: a police state where injustice is the rule and the job of the authorities is to protect the wealthy. It is no surprise that there are demonstrations and riots. If conditions make it impossible for people to maintain the things that give their life meaning, then they will be willing to do anything to affect a change, even if it means risking their lives. In war we see the same phenomenon: some ideals and compensations are so basic to the human experience that if they are threatened or taken away people are willing to die rather than to accept what to them is a meaningless existence.

 Injustice. The question of universal injustice has plagued man for as long as men and women cared to record their thoughts and experience. How is it fair that some men draw lives that are rich or powerful or beautiful while others must settle for lives marred by poverty, obscurity, and ugliness? Why are some born healthy and live for ninety years and others are born sickly and die in childhood? To a worldly man, who lives on the surface of thought, these discrepancies can only mean there is no justice and that some men are just luckier than others.

This seeming injustice has also caused many misunderstandings among religious people. Some see their prosperity as a sign that God loves them more than their neighbors who are less fortunate, and on the other side of the fence there are those who are by circumstance left crippled or impoverished or grieving and cry out in anger against an unjust God or refuse to believe in a higher power altogether because they can’t understand how a just God could create a world such as ours which is filled with so much suffering.

But both of these attitudes are based on misconceptions of the nature of God and the nature of the soul in relation to the human. In reality our minds and our emotions, which is what characterizes us as human, are simply not capable of comprehending the attributes of God, let alone His nature or His motives. For instance, we are told that God is eternal, but for most people eternity means an extension of time into an infinite and unknown future. Time, for them, is a single line, or arrow, that moves in one direction; that is, a movement from what we perceive to be the past to what we believe will become the future. But this picture of time is the result of the way the mind perceives. It just happens to be the way we, as humans, see the world around us. As an analogy, our scientists are discovering the limitations of the way certain animals perceive. It is thought, for instance, that some animals are colorblind, or, at least, that they don’t perceive the range of colors that we do. They simply don’t have the right sensors. In the same way we don’t have the right sensors to perceive eternity. When it comes to understanding the nature and the attributes of God, we are like dogs trying to do algebra.

Another attribute of God is that is He is omnipresent, that he is everywhere. But again our idea of everywhere is hampered by misconceptions. We think that everywhere means everywhere in our physical universe at one given moment, the present, or the moment we are in now. This is far too narrow. For instance we tend to disregard events that might have happened but didn’t; we don’t believe in their reality. But there are other dimensions, other earths, other universes that possibly or potentially exist, and these must also be part of God’s reality, his everywhere.

There is also the belief that God’s omnipresence means that He is with us, that He is in our thoughts, that He is watching and judging us. This construct of God as the father who watches over us and punishes us when we are bad is a symbol that has little esoteric truth in it. There are worlds that stand between us and a perception of God, and no amount of prayer or supplication can remove those worlds. The only way for us to even begin to understand God is for us to change our place. We are, as Gurdjieff pointed out, in a bad place in the universe.

Another aspect of our relationship with the Absolute that we have to consider is scale. Even on the scale of the earth, we are, individually, very small, and, of course, on the scale of the universe, the whole of creation, we are much smaller. Ouspensky gives us this analogy: imagine that you are present. You are keeping your attention on your body as best you can. It the best you can do, but no matter how hard you try you cannot bring your attention down to the level of a single cell and make certain that that cell is doing what it is supposed to be doing. In the same way, God cannot bring his will down to the level of an individual human being. He is simply too large and we, in relation to Him, are too small.

I suppose the correct attitude toward God or any higher power is humility, and not just because it is an antidote to our vanity—though that is a fine reason—but because the nature and motive of higher powers are outside the wheelhouse of our comprehension.

That said, there are ideas that can help us begin to transform our anger and indignation at the many injustices in the world. One of those ideas is that we live not one but many lives.

Reincarnation is a great equalizer when applied to injustice because a rich life may be balanced by a poor life and a life of illness may be balanced by a healthy life.

The theory behind why we attract one life as opposed to another is that the process is governed by an evolutionary trend to balance sanskaras (soul impressions). The progress of a soul is not brought about by a strict development of a talent or goodness, but by balancing out experiences so that our being becomes, over many lifetimes, wide and encompassing, not limited and pointed.

The progressive manifestation of life through evolution is brought about by the will-to-be-conscious, which is inherent in the eternal. ~ Meher Baba.

If we accept that the universe arose out of the need for the Absolute to become conscious of itself, then we can also see that the laws that fix evolution, in order to manifest this aim, must wheel around toward understanding and truth and patch delusion and prejudice with experiences that expose the errors of limited behavior and defective understanding. By this theory the universe drags us toward consciousness and light whether we have the will to change or not. The torturer becomes the victim, the bigot becomes the one who is persecuted, not as a punishment, but because he is caught in the whirlwind of God’s impetus to become conscious of his creation.

Because of our popular movies, we think our criminal politicians must be evil geniuses who are deliberately killing and starving people because of some twisted vision, but what we find is that they are defective personalities suffering from delusions so obvious that they would not confound a first-year psychology student. Their hell will be to be forced to see their delusions from the point of view of the people they hurt, in a life where they will be hurt in the same way. And the more fixed their delusions are, the more repetitions will be necessary.

The details of how this works can probably be never fully understood. Does it mean that a billionaire who exploited a thousand people has to live a thousand lives of being exploited in order to unwind his delusion of being worthy of extravagance when so many around him are in need? Are soldiers reborn to be victors and then the defeated back and forth in repeated succession until the hallucination of war is seen for what it is?

Twenty-five years ago on a train departing from Saint Petersburg I found myself in an overnight compartment with a rather plump Norwegian man, who told of an esoteric theory that he thought explains many of the woes of our modern societies. This theory conjectures that there are only a certain number of human souls, and that when the population of the earth grows beyond that number, humans are born with the souls of wolves or dogs or pigs or sheep. The result of this is that we have many people passing as human, who lack the necessary spiritual experiences to be fully human. In particular they would lack certain emotions like empathy and compassion and love that are singular to the human experience, as well as a capacity for abstract thought, also a quality that is undeveloped in souls of a lower evolutionary type. I have never been able to track down the source of this theory and never spoke to the man after that night, but I remembered it.

What if this theory is correct? Does that mean that certain world leaders who clearly lack any capacity for empathy and compassion have the soul of pig or a dog and will create a self that is crystallized on an animal level and be caught in a long succession of animal lives where they are slaughtered and fed to humans?

What should be clear from these ideas is that the injustice that we find in the world is not a full picture. We see through a dark glass of emotion and intellect that is the human experience. The way forward is found only in the next stage of evolution, that is, the stage that leads from the human to the spiritual. The door is open, but we must make the best use of our time and the insight that we have. When higher centers work, we need to try to fasten the perception we find there to our presence and build up a larger picture of the universe piece by piece, understanding by understanding.

The Human Experience. Part of our difficulty in putting a value on a human life is that we don’t understand what it means to be human. In a sense we have forgotten that we are human. We believed that science and technology were going spare us the suffering and difficulties that formed our good and great ancestors. COVID 19 is a stark reminder that we will not be spared, that the twenty-first century is going to be very much like previous centuries. There is going to be poverty, there is going to be oppression, there is going to be stupidity, and there is going to be death. The trappings of technology have not made us any less human: the same vices, frailties, and corruptions will be on display. But at the same time we will have our heroes, our artists, and our spiritual leaders, as all other generations have had.

We live in an age that has seen the longest median lifespan in history, which came to an end with the generation of my parents, who both lived into their eighties, a feat I doubt I will equal. There are just too many obstacles standing in the way of such an expectation. Natural disasters are on the rise because of climate change; nationalist leaders with insane notions are on the rise: pollution in many cities is often at unhealthy (if not toxic) levels, and our major health care providers have become so preoccupied with making money that they have forgotten that they were once healers.

I was told recently that an acquaintance of mine, who died of pneumonia and was revived by medics, said, ‘It’s so easy to die,’ and then promptly died again as if to prove his thesis.

What an idle fancy it is to expect to die of a decay of powers brought on by extreme old age, and to set ourselves this term for our duration, since that is the rarest of all deaths and the least customary! We call it alone natural, as if it were contrary to nature to see a man break his neck by a fall, be drowned in a shipwreck, or be snatched away by the plague or by a pleurisy. ~ Montaigne

I have already outlived most of my heroes. Cato the Younger asked friends who tried unsuccessfully to persuade him not to commit suicide, ‘Am I at an age where I can be reproached for abandoning life too soon?’ He was forty-eight. Montaigne died at fifty-nine, and Shakespeare at fifty-two. Seneca believed that the length of our lives would not seem too short if we didn’t fritter it away with trivial pursuits.

It is not that we have a brief time to live, it is that we squander a great deal of that time. ~ Seneca

And I suspect that those who complain the loudest against the shortness of life are the greatest squanderers. Man is never more indignant when you try to take away his diversions and leisure time.

What we see in most public figures above a certain age is that they become fixed in their opinions and habits, often to the frustration of the people around them. This kind of emotional paralysis is difficult to avoid even for the spiritually advanced. It makes me think that the invention of death serves an evolutionary purpose for the soul. If man lived longer, I doubt his soul would benefit from it. A break, an assessment, and a new, different experience seem to be periodically necessary for the soul to continue on an ascending path. Besides it seems impossible that one life could give the variety of experience to create the being necessary for a soul to survive on its own.

Plagues and epidemics are a human experience, which have been repeated over and over again throughout history. The number of deaths with COVID 19 are higher only because of our enormous population and crowded cites and the ease of worldwide travel, but many, many generations have witnessed an epidemic burn through their population.

It is hard not to look at this pandemic and not think that earth is beginning to take its revenge on the scourge that we have become. If planets are alive, as Gurdjieff thought, then perhaps it is more correct to say that the virus that is killing us is working like an antibody for the earth, protecting it from the disease that is man.

Sickness, the perils of old age, mental suffering, the wholesale death of strangers, public unrest, dissatisfaction with the corruption of our politicians, and the private deaths of friends and family are all on public display because of COVID 19. The veneer of sleep has been lifted for a time; change and action are important, now more than ever, but it is understanding and intelligence that are needed. Look around: the chaos we now find ourselves in was not brought about by people who were afraid to act; it was brought about by people who acted with certainty, but without consideration, without empathy, without compassion, and, most of all, without understanding.