Natural Disasters : An Alternative View

(This article was contributed by Neville  Jayaweera in the aftermath of the 2004 boxing day Tsunami which killed nearly half a million people across across South Asia and East Asia)

By Neville  Jayaweera

Now that the shock of the Tsunami has given way to the long and painful task of recovery, the question why such disasters should occur at all keeps recurring and a range of divergent answers have been provided, from the scientific to the esoteric. What follows is another tentative answer to that question.

We know the manifest causes of both 9/11 and 26/12. In the case of the former it was the initiative of some terrorists and of the latter, the pressure built up at the junction of two tectonic plates. About that there is no dispute.

However, I want to suggest that these space-time events had causes at the unmanifest level also. Though talking about such things at this moment may seem academic, I shall dwell on it anyway. The reason being that, working only at the manifest level while ignoring the deeper causes, will always prove futile as they have hitherto proved to be, time and time again.

In what follows I am suggesting that all problems, from a tooth ache to a Tsunami, have their provenance at the unmanifest level, and should therefore be addressed at that level also. Which is not to say that we should not continue working at the manifest level, but that unless we are also mindful of the deeper invisible causes, from time to time more and more problems, ranging from natural disasters to political, economic and societal catastrophes, will keep breaking the surface.

The quantum world view
The contemporary scientific world-view holds that while one set of causes operates at the manifest level, a parallel set of causes operates at the unmanifest level, which one of their leading lights, Nobel Prize physicist David Bohm calls the “Implicate Order”. This view of the world, known as the quantum world-view is based entirely on its analysis of the atom. According to quantum physicists only 00.001% of an atom can be apprehended by our senses while 99.999% of it is empty space unknowable to the senses. From this it follows that, since the whole universe is comprised of atoms, what we apprehend as the world is only 00.001% of what actually constitutes it, which is another way of saying that with our five senses we can know only a mere . 001% of reality.

Quantum scientists also claim that the atoms that comprise the universe, including our bodies and brains, never die and have been around since the Big Bang 14 billion years ago, and therefore carry with them the experiences and data accumulated over all those years.

However, beyond saying that, the quantum physicists are not willing to say much, except that, probing the empty space of 99.999% of reality is beyond their technologies and capacities. There the scientific enterprise terminates and mystics and men of religion take over. Let us therefore turn to what some of the latter have had to say. The poverty of theology in accounting for man-made or natural disasters no concept has been so grievously violated as the concept of God itself. Paradoxically the violation of God is not the work of atheists but of theologians themselves, highlighting again the poverty of theology, whether fundamentalist or mainline.

One hears from some theologians the horrendous view that 26/12 was the expression of God’s wrath upon Moslem, Hindu and Buddhist societies, although by some curious logic, they do not see 9/11 also as an expression of the same God’s wrath upon Christendom!

Theologies that ascribe to God, wrath, vengeance, jealousy or anger, qualities which even at the human level would be sinful and unacceptable, are not only a contradiction of terms, but reflect the simplistic minds of those who propound them and constitute a blasphemy against God greater than any perpetrated by any atheist!

On the other hand, the Old Testament (OT) does make umpteen references to Jehovah God as given to these qualities, but these perceptions merely reflect the level of consciousness of the writers of the day, who tended to understand God and interpret him in anthropomorphic terms. One has only to read a few passages from the New Testament to discover a perception of God vastly different from the one portrayed in the OT,.
Even more pathetic is the view expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, that natural disasters such as the Tsunami undermine the veracity of God. This view exposes more the Archbishop’s own veracity as a thinker than God’s veracity as God!

The Archbishop’s perplexity actually illustrates a perennial problem which has dogged theology for 2005 years, which is its lack of a coherent doctrine of pain and suffering. While Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism explain pain and suffering with much greater credibility, Christian theology continues to remain trapped within a paradigm of God which is anthropomorphic and primitive, having to source pain and suffering either to God, which is a contradiction or to the devil, which bestows on him a power greater than God. Then, is it a wonder that theology stands naked and impotent when it has to explain natural disasters?

The activation of the Law
However, one can look at these natural natural disasters from another standpoint also, which completely absolves God from responsibility for them.

Scientists concede that the physical universe is governed by law, i.e., by the laws of physics and chemistry and biology, etc. and that if we violate them we incur certain consequences. For instance, if I were to step out of the window of my upstairs house, I will most certainly break my bones. However it would be quite silly of me to implicate God in the outcome because all that has happened is that of my own freewill I have violated the law of gravity and incurred the consequences.

However, what scientists cannot comprehend is that the universe is governed by moral and spiritual laws as well, and that if we violate them, we will incur certain consequences, just as we would incur the consequences of violating the law of gravity. It is not God who imposes the penalties but moral laws enforce themselves as does the law of gravity.

The claim that the universe is governed by moral and spiritual laws as well, and that their violation will always incur penalties, is not just my opinion but a doctrine that is at the heart of all religions. Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism account for pain and suffering in the world as an outcome of “maya” or “avijja” which triggers the Law of karma and Christianity accounts for pain and suffering in the world as the outcome of the “fall” which triggers the Law of sin and death. Basically, what they all say is that every thought or action, positive or negative, good or evil, of ignorant or fallen man, begets a proportionate reaction, or, that as they sow they shall reap and that as they do unto others it will done unto them.

It is not God who prescribes the outcome but the Law. The Law ordains that the fruits of man’s initiatives will be returned to him, inexorably and inevitably, even if it takes an illness, an accident, or a 9/11 or a 26/12, or whatever, to do so.

Religious Masters
We may invoke the quantum view of the universe to get a better understanding of how moral and spiritual laws operate. The quantum field is an infinite ocean of energy and a carrier and repository of intelligence and information. Just as radio, TV, radar, X Rays, etc. use frequencies at the lower end of the quantum field for transmitting information, our thoughts, words and actions also impact on the quantum field generating their own specific reactions. Consequently, even our hidden intentions and motives, and even the slightest flicker of our subconscious minds, being embedded in the energy field, set off ripples across the entire field, generating responses according to whether our thoughts and actions are positive or negative, good or evil. One scientist, a meteorologist in fact, called this the butterfly effect, which was his way of saying that the energy field is so densely interconnected that a butterfly flapping its wings in one corner of the globe can set off a typhoon in another part of the globe.

The great religious Masters had articulated this truth, though in different words, thousands of years ago. One of them said, Mind is the forerunner of all conditions and all things are mind made and another said, According as you think, so will it be unto you. As you sow you shall reap and as you do unto others it will be done unto you. They both meant that all things arise in consciousness before they manifest on the outside as space-time events.

There is no way we can hide from the consequences of violating these moral or spiritual laws. We may hide in caves or lock ourselves up in temples and churches, we may make vows and pray to high heaven, we may roll on the dirt and walk through fiery embers, we may go on pilgrimages or offer penance and alms, but the consequences of our thoughts and actions, accumulated over time, down the generations, will come knocking on our doors demanding payment, as surely as we would break our bones should we step out a tenth floor window.

It is the Law itself that fashions the instruments that come knocking on our door, inexorably and relentlessly, and not God, although primitive minds anthropomorphize these instruments as the will of a malevolent God. Sodom and Gomorra, World Wars 1&2, 9/11, and 26/12 and all space time events, share alike the same quantum field
This is not a philosophy of fatalism at all, as some would characterizes it, but the recognition of reality as it is and therefore a prolegomena or a sine qua non, to deliverance from it.

Prescriptions for Deliverance
However, the story does not end there, for there are ways whereby man’s subjection to the Law can be broken or at least mitigated. All the mainline religions have their own prescriptions for delivering the human race from captivity to Law, whether we call it the Law of karma or the Law of sin and death, and just as we may invoke the laws of aerodynamics to overcome gravity or harness the law of internal combustion to overcome inertia, we can tap into these prescriptions for deliverance, according to how we are called.

Hinduism, the oldest of the religions, prescribes a fourfold path of jnana, yoga, bhakti, and poojas as the way to attain moksha or deliverance.

Theravada Buddhism prescribes the Arya Ashtangika Marga (The Noble Eight-Fold Path) and vipassana bhavana, practised over numberless cycles of births and rebirths, as the way to deliverance.

Christianity prescribes faith in the absolute sufficiency of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which in turn triggers the Law of Grace, (and not merely the observance of the Ten Commandments as is popularly believed) as the way to salvation.

And, Islam demands absolute submission to the will of God through the observance of Shariah law and the Five pillars of shahadah, salat, zakat, saum , and Hajj.

Which of these prescriptions one adopts should be a matter of choice for each individual and it is not my purpose here to expound them or to commend one or the other, except to say that I have made my own conscious choice for my own journey.
However, it is important not to confuse any of the a fore mentioned models with the edifices of superstition and animism which masquerade in their name, which reflect more the ignorance of their so called devotees than the wisdom of the great Masters whom they claim to follow.

Absolving God
This article has two objectives. One, to refute the argument that in some way God is responsible for natural disasters. Two, to suggest that calamities that confront man, collectively or individually, are the outworking of powerful underlying causes, spiritual tectonic plates if you like, or unexpended reservoirs of negative energy trapped deep down at the u -manifest level, generated by man himself, which will continue to bubble up as greater and greater disasters at the manifest level, unless drained and neutralized effectively.

One word of caution, however. The view that unredeemed man is inexorably subject to Law and begets his own circumstances, is not to suggest that the afflicted and the sorrowing should be abandoned to their fate. Rather, it is one of the most powerful arguments in favor of precisely the opposite. Which is that, because at the quantum level we are all One, alleviating the condition of those under Law is incumbent on us all. When any one suffers we all suffer, and when anyone dies, in some degree, we are all die.
Love and compassion, forgiveness and charity, joy and peace, are expressions of a spiritual law that transcends the law of cause and effect. Hence the commandment, to love one another and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, the neighbors in question being not just our literal neighbors, but all forms of life throughout the universe, for we are all One.

At the quantum level, we are all One, in spirit and in body, members of each other, and therefore committed always, with humility and integrity, to uphold the truth as we see it, to combat want and poverty, strive after justice and righteousness, to promote peace and reconciliation, to bind up the wounds of the afflicted, feed the hungry, heal the sick, and comfort the sorrowing, regardless of friend or foe, wherever and whenever the need arises.