I was recently talking with a friend about the state of our communities and the world as we deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. While I have family members who are recovering from the virus in a state that is being hit hard, I live in a state that, as yet, is not severely impacted. There seem to be two realities: there are the Centers of Impact and then there are the Outer Bands, and people are experiencing different realities depending on where they live. There’s an all too familiar “us versus them” mentality at play across the land in the United States, and I suspect in other countries as well.
Still, as predictable as that response is, there also seems to be something different happening with this crisis.
While my friend and I didn’t get too philosophical, or even necessarily spiritual, we did wonder if there is some “larger meaning” to what’s unfolding across the world. After mulling over this question of “meaning” for a while, here’s what I have come to think—from a paqo’s perspective.
In the teachings of our lineage through don Juan Nuñez del Prado, we examine the seven levels of consciousness. Each level has both healthy and unhealthy expressions. The world is mostly at the third level, which in its unhealthy expression involves an emotional, social, cultural, and even political view that my country, state, religion, political party, race, gender, or whatever is the best. It’s a level of consciousness that views things in oppositional terms; it’s the me vs. you, self vs. other, my country vs. your country, my religion vs. your religion view. Third-level people (in the level’s unhealthy, or hucha-inducing, expression) view almost everyone outside of their clique as “other.” This “separation mindset” leads to all kinds of other transactional responses: I win, you lose; I get more, you get less; I’m right, you’re wrong; you’re either with us or against us, and so on. It’s a thinking style focused on competitiveness, exclusion, scarcity-thinking, stereotypes and prejudices, and the like. I think we can all agree that these kinds of energetic impulses have predominated across the world.
The fourth-level, in contrast, sees beyond labels, outward and superficial appearances, and us vs. them approaches to politics, religion, and other group identities and beliefs. A fourth-level person perceives the underlying commonalities among all people. He or she has an expanded, inclusive view that we are all one community—the family of human beings. A fourth-level person seeks to resolve conflict in mutually beneficial ways, so that instead of win-lose, the solution allows for a more cooperative win-win result. A fourth-level person, while taking pride in personal and even national capacities and characteristics, keeps his or her view on the larger truth that beyond artificial boundaries of all kinds we are in this world together.
Most of the crises we have faced in the last century, even the flu pandemic of 1918, have been third-level crises. Catastrophes of all kinds have affected some of the people of the world, but not all of the people. Terrorists hit here, then there. We might rally to mutual aid, but it’s a limited response in a limited area over a limited time frame. Even weather events share those third-level characteristics, horrific as some of them have been over the past decade. It’s happening “over there,” or “to them.” We have been able to be comfortably third level, despite our empathy, relief efforts, and prayers during or after such a crisis.
Now, however, with Covid-19 we may be facing the first real fourth-level crisis of our lifetime. I call it fourth level because unlike any other challenge I can think of—except for climate change, which I will discuss later—this pandemic is truly global. This isn’t about a tornado in the American heartland or a tsunami on the coast of Japan. This isn’t a terrorist attack in Brussels or wildfires in California or across Australia. This is not a regional Ebola or SARS epidemic. Covid-19 is teqse, meaning universal. There are 195 countries in the world, and as of today 182 of them are experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks. Because of airplane flight and other modes of travel, there are no boundaries or easy ways to respect boundaries. A contagion against which we have no immunity cannot remain local or even regional. We have never faced a situation like this before. To my mind, this is truly a fourth-level event, as it is common to all of humanity.
And for the first time in my lifetime I am seeing the inkling of a global mindset and a global response—a potentially fourth-level response.
We can’t treat Covid-19 yet as there are no vaccines or therapies available, although dozens are being developed. All we can do is attempt to slow and ultimately stop its spread through social distancing and isolation measures, and good hygiene. To achieve any result, we have to act together. Everyone, everywhere—even those not yet affected—have to pitch in to do what’s necessary. This crisis is truly a fourth-level “we” period during which we must act as a family of humanity. Despite the pockets of complainers and resisters here and there, I see evidence that we are doing that: we are coming to the understanding that what I do affects you, and what you do affects me, regardless of whether we are across town or across an ocean. We are reaching across boundaries of all kinds to share knowledge and strategies, equipment and supplies, and personnel. We are reaching out to strangers and neighbors alike to bolster their spirits and lend a helping hand. Instead of a third-level win-lose response, we are much closer to acting from a win-win mindset.
I have gone even further in my speculation. Some might say too far! But let’s play a mind game, shall we? Let’s view Covid-19 as a gift we are giving ourselves to further our individual and collective conscious evolution. In the past, we have had opportunity after opportunity with increasingly dire, and truly horrific, disasters of all kinds to think and act from the fourth level, but we have never risen to the challenge. But now perhaps we are in “practice” mode. Perhaps we have taken a step up on the qanchispatañan, the stairway of the seven levels of consciousness. To tackle this crisis that is indeed what is required of us. Perhaps now, somewhere in our collective unconscious, we know we need to up our game and so we have finally “manifested” a crisis that will help us evolve as a species, as the Andean prophecy of the rise of the Runakay Mosoq (the New Humanity) tells us we are able to do. We are in the Taripay Pacha, an energetic period ripe for such a collective evolution. So, what if now through Coid-19 we truly have manifested a type of teqse, or universal, crisis that can serve to lift us to a new level of understanding, perception, and behavior?
What are we in practice for? To my mind it may be tackling the reality of climate change. We have failed as a global community to come together to face it, never mind really act to change our contributing behaviors. Climate change is the ultimate fourth-level—global—threat, and it is an existential threat. Maybe Covid-19 is our practice run to see how it feels and what it looks like to come together now to save ourselves as individual human beings and local communities of human beings, so that we can better come together to save ourselves as a human species?
Even if this pandemic is not a practice run for climate change, why can’t we treat it that way? Why can’t we use it to consciously lift ourselves to the fourth level? The Andean tradition tells us that we influence the kawsay pacha both individually and collectively. Perhaps we are ready to ask ourselves, in an immediate and striking way, “Do we have any other choice but to face our problems together?”
What I am suggesting may be happening at the energetic collective macro level, also may be happening at the micro level of the individual. I certainly hope so! Because as paqos we must each take responsibility for using the smaller challenges of this time to cultivate fourth-level thinking and actions. Instead of seeing social distancing as a challenge or a bother, can you see it as a mirror of how you might have taken togetherness for granted? Maybe the isolation you are feeling will help you cultivate a deeper gratitude for family and friends. If you have stocked up on food and supplies, are you thankful for the bounty that is available to you? Do you acknowledge that there are millions of people who don’t share that bounty? If you have lost your job, are you able and willing to overcome fear and even despair, able and willing to allow others to help? Are you reaching out to help your neighbors? Are you aware of the countless acts of kindness that are happening all around you? Are you expressing your feelings of appreciation and love to those who matter most to you? Are you receiving with an open heart the expressions of kindness and love others may be showing you? Are you realizing your yanantin nature—that you are both a physical human being and a divine spirit, and that you must take care of and express both aspects of yourself? Are you also realizing the masintin reality among people across the world—of our common humanity?
There are so many ways we can use this trying and even devastating time to contemplate what it means to move from the third to the fourth level. Each step up the stairway of consciousness increases our awareness that the well-being of the individual and the well-being of the collective are ranti—a harmonization of similar energies. Each small step we take individually also propels us collectively along the evolutionary path toward the Runakay Mosoq, the rise of the New Humanity. There is no denying the fear, suffering, and death that are sweeping across the world; but perhaps, just perhaps, there is a possibility that Covid-19 also could be a gift to us individually and collectively. Whether it is or not is entirely up to us.