Coronavirus can cause covid-19 disease. Let us consider the origins of disease. Do individual differences and industrialization play a role? And does the disease have something to do indirectly with the ethical quality of humanity as a whole?
Medical explanation of the origins of the disease
The coronavirus is very contagious. But whether you get it depends in part on the level of exposure. Also, resistance varies according to our immunity, age, and general medical condition. They all play a role in determining whether a person gets sick.
The point is that we cannot fully understand disease from just a study of biological processes. We also need to understand how to improve our resilience. And also, to understand the origin of dangerous microbes and other toxic agents. While medicine can often explain the disease development process, it does not understand these other factors very well. Is it possible to prevent harmful microbes in the first place?
Individual differences in the origin of diseases
In 1999, the Glen Hoddle England football coach had to resign. He said that people born with a disability were the result of sins committed by them in a previous life. Critics noted that he was being incredibly insensitive and hurtful. The idea of sin sounds critical and it seemed like he was blaming disease victims for their suffering. His belief did not seem very different from the traditional view of hell. This has been seen as a condemnation of those who are judged to have led wicked lives.
Likewise, some have thought that sickness is God punishing sinners. These old notions strongly suggest a punitive concept of a judging deity. An idea that is completely at odds with the more progressive idea of God as a wise source of loving compassion.
It is true that we can be blamed for increasing the risk of contracting diseases. We may not wash properly and live in unsanitary conditions. Or we can have a completely sedentary lifestyle, smoke, drink immoderate amounts of alcohol, or overeat. But this does not mean that all illnesses are our fault.
Origins of industry and disease
Industrial activity can cause damage by electrification, radiation, exposure to extreme temperatures, or chemical poisoning. Laboratories find odorless and tasteless arsenic compounds in some plant sprays, paints, rat poisons, and various household preparations. Also, all prescription drugs have potentially harmful side effects.
On the other hand, industrial activity does not cause many harmful viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Viruses can survive for some time in soil, water, or milk. They cannot multiply unless they invade living cells. There they can cause infection but not disease. However, when they cause illness, they can cause, for example, smallpox, flu, measles, mumps, encephalitis, warts, or the common cold.
We may wonder why harmful microbes exist in nature in the first place.
Some say that the current pandemic is a curse on everyone. Could there be a grain of truth in this? Could there really be a connection between the general moral state of humanity and the existence of a toxic microbe in the environment like the coronavirus? Could a selfish streak in human nature have negative natural consequences? I know of a spiritual theory that suggests some answers.
Swedenborg’s Conceptual Framework
Emanuel Swedenborg was an 18th century scientist, mystic, and spiritual philosopher. He wrote about three concepts that I think are relevant. Together, I think these ideas help formulate a spiritual theory of illness.
The three concepts are correspondence, spiritual world, and affluence.
Swedenborg offers numerous examples of how nature reflects the spirit. He suggests, for example, that gentle animals reflect the spirit of human kindness. The opposite spirit of the mind, that is, the spirit of cruelty, corresponds to ferocious animals.
There may be some horrible feelings around. Grudge, malice, envy, greed, etc. These he saw represented snakes, scorpions, lizards, crocodiles, as well as toxic and dangerous things of all kinds and poisons both in plants and in soils.
There is a particular example of correspondence between the common spirit of humanity and nature that is relevant. It is about the internal tension between various conscious motives that we experience. The conflict between beneficial and harmful desires; between constructive and destructive. We can consider how nature reflects this clash of feelings. This is the biological battle between toxins, fungi, viruses, etc. potentially dangerous and our body’s protective immune system, including its virus-fighting antibodies. The battle in the body represents the battle in the mind. This is just one example of how the world of spirit and the world of nature correspond.
I think the phrase ‘the spirit world’ more clearly expresses Swedenborg’s idea of ’the spirit world’. We speak of sportsmanship, spirit of camaraderie, spirit of generosity, spirit of envy, etc. For him, the spirit world is the source of such states.
It says that we will all eventually become directly aware of this normally hidden realm. This will happen, if not before our bodily death, then later. This generally veiled dimension of existence included the spirit of the people living in the world today. It also consists of the spirits of all those humans who died long ago.
This world of spirit, he says, consists of two separate general spheres. First of all, a celestial kingdom consisting of the consciousness of countless people whom he calls “angelic spirits.” They have a spirit of generosity, kindness, and many other human virtues. Second, it describes an infernal sphere, made up of millions of people who have a spirit of meanness, cruelty, and many other human vices.
Perhaps this infernal spirit shouldn’t surprise us. We see, in the media, news of war, genocide, crime, social injustice, drug abuse, political corruption and other examples of social evil present in human society.
What he saw in his altered state of consciousness was vividly real to him like seeing physical things in ordinary life. He claims that everything he saw in the spirit world was a representation of the inner state of people according to the correspondence between spirit and nature.
Influx means that there is a flow of creative life in the natural world from the spirit world. The churches teach that the divine spirit of God created the universe. Furthermore, Swedenborg says that this creative life is channeled through the spirit of goodness in the spirit world. Then nurture the beauty, growth, and healing found on our planet.
But we must note two sides of the influx coin. There is also distortion, corruption and inversion of the divine life. And this results in harmful and destructive desires in the spirit world. I have tried to show how this is represented, for example, in ferocious animals and poisonous plants in the spirit world according to correspondence. But also, and now we are getting to the crux of the disease issue, Swedenborg offers us the idea that the spirit of harm flows into the world of nature and causes effects here. If true, I understand this to mean that destructive desires present in the hidden realm of consciousness cause harmful microbes and cellular mutations in the physical world.
Origins of disease and the world of the spirit
Swedenborg points out that the influences of this sphere do not necessarily harm us even if this desire is its origin. The coronavirus is not the same as covid-19. Viruses do not make us sick or form diseases in the body unless there is already some natural condition that favors them. The disordered state of the body that leads to disease includes a dirty open wound, an injury to a limb or internal organ, or a weakened immune system. That is why people with medical complications are more vulnerable.
All this does not mean that the disease is due to an indignity of the person. We are all exposed to nature. The plague rains on good and bad alike. The presence of the pandemic is the result of the general state of humanity. The underlying cause of the disease is instead a sphere of immorality in human beings as a whole.