Protection and the Phenomenology of Disaster

We do not, maybe even cannot, know the meaning of seemingly random occurrences, like the post-Christmas 2004 tsunami that destroyed and profoundly dislocated the lives of so many. There are those who question how God can allow such calamities, especially as they affect innocent, helpless children. Some speculate that unhealthy values in that part of the globe invited the tragedy, while others console themselves that the outpouring of good will and assistance from individuals, organizations, and governments around the world redeems the situation and can ultimately lead to greater ongoing compassion and closeness among peoples across the earth.

Such conjectures tend to reflect a longing for a comprehensible, just universe and a hope that positive consequences can arise under seemingly awful circumstances. But, rather than merely believing, speculating, or hoping, we are interested in knowing whatever we can know with assurance of its conformity to reality.

What we do know, what we have been taught by Metapsychiatry, is that our experience of the news of such events does have a meaning that we can understand and from which we can learn. By doing so, we can realize protective immunity from the disturbing and frightening aspects of disasters or, what is far more common in our communications dominated society, the threat of disaster. This is accomplished by reminding ourselves of the important distinction between thoughts that come to our attention and those that enter and affect our experience. It is the degree of commitment to the meditative mode-of-being that determines whether we achieve dominion over bad news or whether we succumb to its demoralizing influence.

When we perceive that a sense of dismay, horror, or fear has engulfed us upon becoming aware of some catastrophic upheaval or dangerous disease or prospect of a terror attack, we can notice that we are mesmerized. We can ask ourselves what troubles us about the news we have just encountered. And we will undoubtedly find that, amidst our sympathetic distress for the actual or potential sufferers of the cataclysm, we somehow feel threatened by the news because we think it could happen to us; it could endanger our very existence, our relationships, or our status in the world.

Once we become fully aware that it is the possible effect on ourselves that is the source of our discomfort, our perspective on the issue has broadened. Suddenly we are reminded that untoward experiences of every imaginable and unimaginable kind are occurring at every moment all over the world, and that, if we would find a way to understand this fact and to be invulnerable to the world’s tribulations, then we need to juxtapose that awareness with the insight permeating the proclamation that “everything everywhere is already alright.”

Our motive for doing so is not that we are uncaring or indifferent to the plight of the dead, the dispossessed, and the dislocated. It is rather that we seek an understanding that is optimally beneficial, both for ourselves and for others, in the present. As we become cognizant of the self-confirmatory aspect of commiserating with the injured and the departed, we can become sincere about focusing on a God-centered orientation that is capable of producing a level of awareness more receptive to inspired ideas and blessings.

When we recognize that we are really just consciousness that is able to select its content, then we know that the issue of protection is a deceptive one. Consciousness can immunize itself from nefarious influences by immersing itself in the appreciation and manifestation of existentially valid values and ideas. When Albert Einstein explained that “arrows of hate were shot at me many times, but they never touched me because they came from a world with which I have nothing in common,” he identified the essence of invulnerable consciousness. He was not unaware of the nasty criticism directed at him, nor need we be of the dangerous threats and suggestions continually broadcast at us, nor need we react to such intimidation. As Dr. Hora, a pioneering, spiritually-oriented psychiatrist, used to say, “we are not sitting ducks in the devil’s shooting gallery.”

Rather, we are here to be beneficial presences, fearless, and imbued with and radiating peace, love and gratitude. Acknowledging this existential purpose is the key. Then we are free to direct our attention to some worthwhile idea or activity.

The word protect is derived from the Latin, meaning to cover in front. The right kind of interest in life provides protection for individual awareness, as indicated by the Eastern saying that “a poison arrow finds no place to lodge itself in an enlightened being.”

After writing this, I was sent an article for a newsletter that I edit, that dealt with the author’s relief efforts in addressing the mental anguish experienced by the tsunami survivors. My attention was grabbed by the eighth paragraph: “As for why did the tsunami happen? There was one predominant response: Over twenty years of conflict between Tamil and Sinhalese races, ethnic strife and civil war, caused this devastating tsunami. Therefore, the lesson for them was to unite and appreciate one another. Since the tsunami did not discriminate Tamil over Sinhalese in death, they wanted to learn how to collaborate and unite in life. Of course as one 25-year-old Christian Tamil man stated: ‘This unity concept is in thought only and it needs a lot to have it put in practice.’”

My conclusion is that there is always a meaning of an experience for the individuals involved, and knowable by them, but not necessarily by others, and that this need not trouble us, for we are responsible solely for our own consciousness.