Coronavirus and Kali: Desentimentalizing Our Love of Mother Earth

In times like these when we are all in the dark in the presence of a contemporary plague called the Coronavirus, it might be useful to meditate on what might be called physical evil, that is the breakdown of nature as we know it and the emergence of physical forces such as viruses that we know very little about.  What we do know is that they are dangerous and stealth-like and we have as yet no cures at our fingertips. 

Mountain stream. Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton on Unsplash

It is good that we celebrate the wonders and grandeur and grace of Mother Earth for all the gifts she bestows on us, most of them completely gratuitous.  We ought not take her for granted with all the wonders she bestows daily rendering our lives beautiful and meaningful and healthy. 

If we were more committed to gratitude to mother earth, we would be far less busy taking her for granted and earth would not be in the peril she and her wondrous creatures–including forests, elephants, insects birds, fishes, rivers, oceans and humans–find themselves in today.

But the coronavirus reminds us of another aspect to mother earth:  She is not always benign to our species. 

Images combined from a 3D medical animation, depicting the shape of coronavirus as well as the cross-sectional view. Image shows the major elements including the Spike S protein, HE protein, viral envelope, and helical RNA. Image from on Wikimedia Commons.

There are forces and energies within earth that are not so friendly to our needs.  There is a shadow side to earth it would seem.  Sure, we know about death and mortality and we watch creatures of all kinds live, die, and resurrect in their fashion.  But there are present also beings that from our point of view seem to not deserve to be here because they don’t seem to be serving the greater good as we see it.  A coronavirus would seem to be among those creatures.

This may be why cultures have acknowledged “terrible goddesses” such as the Hindu Kali, who was created by the gods to overcome the forces of ultimate evil. Kali can represent powers of destruction within earth dynamics (think: tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, as well as coronaviruses). 

The god Shiva lies at the feet of Kali to awaken her from blood-lust after she has destroyed the armies of demons attempting to overthrow the gods. Chromolithograph by Raja Ravi Varma on Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

It is true that all creativity implies a destruction as well as a construction, a taking down and taking away—a deconstruction—as well as a reconstruction.  Creativity does not come cheap.  Birthing does not proceed without labor.

Even within the Kali energy there may be deep purpose, however: balancing her terrible aspect, Kali is also worshiped as a loving mother, divine protector, and the one who bestows liberation.  As we have discussed in the past two Daily Meditations, the involuntary fasting being asked of us at this time may be a prelude to something deeper—to getting to a more authentic version of a truer humanity.

A disruption in the ordinary habits of life may lend an opening to a deeper presence of our truer selves.  “God’s exit is her entrance” as Meister Eckhart put it.  Or, in Howard Thurman’s words, it is often a good thing to be “stripped to our literal substance of our selves before God.” A truer self and a truer humanity might emerge.  (to be continued)

See Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, pp. 130, 214.

Banner Image: Eyes of Kali. Image by Christopher J. Fynn on Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

Queries for Contemplation

Nature is not always about tiptoeing through the tulips.  There are roses—and thorns—aplenty.  Meditate on Meister Eckhart’s and Howard Thurman’s words at the end of this DM: How do they speak to you?  Elicit or name your own deep experience?

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3 thoughts on “Coronavirus and Kali: Desentimentalizing Our Love of Mother Earth”

  1. Avatar

    Matthew, Thank you for guiding us with your wisdom. But this question occurred to me. We so often say that we are one with everything created. The virus was also created by God, as are many other creatures that assail us. And yet we fight them and we try to exterminate them. How would St Francis consider them? His brother covid19? And how would he have dealt with this disease? I am truly grappling with this and would be interested in hearing your views.

  2. Avatar

    Matthew thank you. I have a little picture of Kali, as I’ve been fascinated with her. Alongside the saints she depicts to me a kind of justice and destruction of the evils in the world. Like St Michael but literally in the outer world the power of Mother Nature

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Ellen,
      Thank you for this description of Kali, of one who fiercely confronts evil and upholds justice. There is a harsh justice to the natural world, as well. Every species has challenges and no one is without the gift of struggle. Of course, we humans try to avoid that gift. But, if we are lucky, it comes to us anyway.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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