Philosophy in a time of tribulation – Part 6

Immunity and connectedness

Philosophy in a time of tribulation – Part 6

(Return to part 5)


It is time for new expectations to fill the world, for a new light to shine through from new revelations for a humanity that has been depressed for so long.

These are burningly relevant sentences from the famous, pioneering physician and philosopher Paracelsus (1493-1541). That mankind had lived in bleak hopelessness for so long was a consequence of the rigid hierarchical, medieval church structures that kept man internally disconnected from God. But the darkness was also due to the grim pandemic disease, the plague, which had been killing countless people all over Europe for decades. There was no adequate medical answer, until the desperate city council of the hard-hit Italian city of Ferrara asked that ‘alternative charlatan’ Paracelsus – he did not even have his doctor’s degree yet – to combat the ‘black death’.  He put an end to the hassle of conventional medicine with ointments and plasters and used natural remedies to develop a recipe that far surpassed anything that was already effective. He cured hundreds of people. They had become immune to the hitherto inevitably deadly effects of the plague.

It is no coincidence that the word immunity entered our chronicles at the time of Paracelsus. At first in the variant emunity: a place where you are inviolable under the authority of the clergy; this meaning stood alongside another still current concept: ‘a place with the right of asylum’. Then the word developed into immunity in its current common meaning: impervious to certain diseases or infections.

During the recent viral outbreak, the concept of immunity took on a new meaning for almost everyone. I struggled with the concept of immunity and used little more than dutiful descriptions such as ‘self-confidence’ and ‘invulnerability’. Then I asked around in my circle of acquaintances. Everyone thought differently. I often heard ‘freedom’, as well as ‘trust’ or ‘being connected to one’s own strength’. Immunity is inner trust, yes resilience that dispels the fear of illness,’ a friend wrote to me. That appealed to me. If we approach immunity in this way, then it paves the way for connectedness, which is desperately needed to confront the divisions in this world. Immunity and connectedness are then like Siamese twins. Without connectedness and without the consciousness of guiding divine values, this world is like a clock without hands.

I was reminded of all this when I stood at the atmospheric Maria-Labyrinth of Wernhout [1] , on the Belgian-Dutch border in West Brabant. At the beginning there is a welcome tile with that beautiful Mayan greeting: In Lak ‘ech – literally: you are my other self. I do not exist without you and you without me, I read in it. You and I exist because we are connected, because we can say ‘us’. Such a greeting, when I walked through the labyrinth, did not, of course, at a stroke solve the maze of pressing new questions that are being forced upon us in our time and that challenge mankind to gradually reach a higher level of consciousness.

If humanity remains full of itself and is only focused on instant gratification, nothing will come of it. Emptying and self-purification seem to be necessary. It is possible that we remain the most true to ourselves by not remaining permanently focused on ourselves. The way to completion goes via the other and all that exists. In connectedness!

Isn’t that more or less what Paracelsus meant above in the visionary introduction of five hundred years ago?



[1] Maria Labyrint Wernhout – Mouws Boomkwekerij

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Date: January 12, 2022
Author: Dick van Niekerk (Netherlands)
Photo: Unsplash CC0

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