It’s WAR!!! (Or is it?)

by Apr 28, 2020Article, Modern Perspectives

Reporters covering the coronavirus keep referring to this as a war. So too do health-care personnel, politicians, and commentators. Certainly there are enough aspects of this pandemic to warrant the war analogy. We hear about the president’s War Powers Act, wartime production, field hospitals, heroes on the front battle lines, protective armor, supply lines, maps showing casualties, and body counts. But there is another way to view this which I’m sure has occurred to many of you. Rather than see the virus solely as an enemy out to kill us, we could consider the virus an important teacher who could save us.

My own perspective on the virus-as-teacher is rooted in the belief that the earth and entire universe is one Divine Field of Consciousness. There are no dualistic separations even though there often appear to be. If so, this virus—and every disease, epidemic, and plague throughout history—has a purpose for being here, a purpose for being part of what we are. And although it might not be clear to us, every plague is part of the intelligence of the earth, part of the Power that determines things and keeps the universe in order.

So we might consider that this virus’s purpose is to teach important lessons.

My suggestion, which many of you have probably already undertaken, is to ask the spirit of the virus what it has to teach us at this time in history. I’ve been given three teachings.

First, slow down and live more lightly on the earth. Social distancing and staying home have radically reduced our frenetic pace of living. We are missing our usual patterns of work and play, our needs for consumerism and various distractions, the overly scheduled hours of our days and nights. We have time on our hands and are learning how to use it, perhaps in softer, gentler, more creative ways.

The second flows from the first. We are being taught to re-evaluate our values, to discover which are really important and which are not. What do we really value most in life and are grateful for? What are our priorities and what should they be? When we in the affluent West encounter empty shelves in supermarkets, we experience the food shortages that other people know and have known, and may find renewed gratitude for the abundance we are privileged to enjoy. When we come through this, we may have a very changed way of looking at our lives, and living them. And this may be for our own good and the good of the planet.

Third, the virus is giving us an opportunity to learn how to heal the polarization in our own country, government, society, and around the world. It is not clear whether we will take this opportunity or not. We might blow it. But right now we know we have to work together, pull together, make efforts to engage and cooperate with those with whom we disagree. Recently there was even talk at the United Nations about declaring a worldwide ceasefire of all armed conflicts (war, again!) so that everyone can focus on defeating the common global enemy, the virus. But nothing may come of this. And, I hate to say it, this might be the lesson we don’t learn.

The virus is undoubtedly here to teach us many things besides these three. It may play more roles than just teacher or enemy. As our enemy we hope to destroy it. As our teacher we can learn from it. Of course the virus is both teacher and enemy. As the Dalai Lama wisely said: “Our enemy is our greatest teacher.”

About the Author

Tom Cowan is a shamanic practitioner specializing in Celtic visionary and healing techniques. He combines universal core shamanism with traditional European spirit lore to create spiritual practices that can heal and enrich one’s own life and the lives of others. He is an internationally respected teacher, author, lecturer, and tour leader. He has taught training programs in England, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia and Italy. Tom received a doctorate in history from St. Louis University. He has studied extensively with and taught for the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.

Tom is the author of Yearning For The Wind: Celtic Reflections on Nature and the Soul, Fire in the Head: Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit, Shamanism as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life, The Pocket Guide to Shamanism, The Book of Seance, The Way of the Saints: Prayers, Practices, and Meditations and Wending Your Way: A New Version of the Old English Rune Poem.



  1. Steve Staniek

    “WAR?” I’m a former war refugee, and war has always been a contagious human disease in my mind, so how could one contagious disease heal another? The lessons [outcomes] of war are death and destruction, not life.
    My Canadian, non-warring culture would not think in those terms, but it’s changing as more fear is injected into the global systems through the western media. One of the biggest contributors to world fear, almost daily, is impeached President Donald Trump, whose ego has been publicly terrorizing one nation after another, with his threats of nuclear annihilation. This is global terrorism. He actually followed up his malicious threats with a criminal attack on Iran with weapons of mass destruction, that eventually resulted in the deaths of many innocents on a Ukrainian airliner caught in the crossfire. No Americans were killed in that short but insane war, but many Canadians died as a result of Trump’s war insanity .
    In Canada, we see health care as central to our national defence, and we spend far more on being well than using violence to achieve dominance in the world. Indeed, we elect governments to protect us in our hour of need, not to exercise economic and political dominance over others.
    China taught us that the best and most effective defence against an airborne virus is face masks for everyone. That one, critical protective measure was used immediately by the people in Wuhan, who are used to donning face masks at the first sign of communicable diseases. They are so conditioned to wearing them, that they do not need to be ordered. Singapore press reports that everyone in Wuhan was wearing their own face masks days before Wuhan was locked down.
    We are not sheep to wait helplessly in silence as death approaches. We are sovereign spirits, and we create our fates.

  2. Eileen Mullard

    Oh Tom well said about this virus and it’s meaning to each of us and globally! And the 3 lessons…love it. Also perhaps also another reflection is To be honouring of Mother Earth more now than ever. It appears she is not happy with all the fires that have ravaged the lungs of the Amazon, Australia and California. Interesting How this virus targets the lungs! Interesting now how cleaner air etc etc stay safe

  3. Steve Staniek

    Every awake shaman senses that the world is in great crisis and wants to help in any way possible. This is the time for shamanic organizations that were formed to share valuable healing techniques and information, to marshal their skills and forces to create a protective container for humanity. This is the time of our greatest challenge. Now is the time to work together in ordinary reality, and step up with healing information that has been proven to protect other communities who have defeated and mastered the spread of covid disease. Unfortunately, those who remain attached to their cultural and political conditioning, will lack the courage to go forth with healing information that may contradict the official narrative of their home country.

    Viruses are not a lifeform, but non-living microbes.

  4. Forrest itche iichiile Hudson

    Tom, I subscribe to your three “take-always” that the current experience of “COVID-19” brings forth.

    I’m writing this on May 11th which gives me a longer (14days) historical experience when watching the human response (socially/culturally) to this virus 🦠. Not surprising society in general yearns to hurriedly return to familiarity, historic routines and consequently, quashes any attempt to pause and contemplate what is being “spoken” as the virus 🦠 “teaches”.

    As some have noted we’re in the 2nd Inning of a game that will needlessly go into Extra Innings in society’s hungering quest to proclaim a winner. Extra Innings are desperately needed to “awaken” our reluctant willingness to learn the “lessons”.

    Sad yet essential.

  5. Cynthia O'Connor

    Many thanks to Tom for his reflections and to the SSP for providing the platform. I think some of our experiences are not universal. For example, while some of us are immersed in more “free” time than ever before, some of us are attempting to work from home while caring for rambunctious children who are no longer leaving home for school. Parents who are lucky enough to have a job (and thereby an income) they can do from home – and who never intended to “home school” are finding themselves at wit’s end trying to meet the requirements of their work, while caring for and educating their children at home. Their situation is further challenged by the fact that the children are not free to play in the neighborhood with their peers; and so even the “play” that would happen between them falls on the shoulders of the parents. I am a shamanic practitioner who has shelved her practice in order to care full-time for a 4 year-old grandson, whose family moved in with us in March, from Brooklyn. I think it is important to remember that not everyone is experiencing this as a time of rest and reflection. Many of us are taxed on a daily basis physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually much more than we have been before, by the very practical realities of living now.

  6. Tom Cowan

    Good points. Thanks for the clarification. Tom

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