Respect for insects, bacteria and viruses

Rudolf Steiner, the 20th century Austrian philosopher who founded Anthroposophy, said, “the opposite of love is not fear; the opposite of love is power.”

The true Human Being, from an Anthroposophical perspective, includes more than homo-sapiens as manifested on Earth today. Steiner considers the Human Being to be the archetype of this planet. All life forms are fragments of this being. Humans, as we are incarnate now, are not the most evolved beings alive. In fact there are beings who are immune to death itself, like minerals. We are mentally very refined, but physically we are vulnerable and of course inseparable from the rest of Nature.


There is a highway near my home where dynamite was used to carve an exit ramp through sedimentary granite. Driving through it is a beautiful treat to see the stone tapestry of about forty feet of swirling layered rock, milleniums of decaying matter hardened over time. While this geological masterpiece build up, and the configuration of the continents, as well as biological eco-systems, changed many times, far more than modern science can account for. Insects, bacteria and viruses, and other life forms which we know nothing about, inhabited this planet when the surface of the earth would have been unrecognizable to us. They are our ancestors. Their wisdom and pain is wired into our subconscious.

The subconscious seems to be rapidly becoming conscious for many people alive today.

The shadow, what some call the “ego,” attempts to exert power over other living beings. This delusion plagues us direly at our current stage of evolution, the idea of being a separate self with justified competitive ambitions against others. For example, humans typically try and exert power over biological life forms who appear smaller than ourselves, such as insects, bacteria and viruses. The company of these “little people” strengthens humanity. Any attempt to obliterate them will loose. They of course will survive.


Consumer culture and the information age gives us as individuals unprecedented access to follow the compulsions of our own ignorance and desire. Hence, now is a time of transition. The veil between the known and the unknown are easily flapped by the winds of intuition, wonder, greed and despair. The Spirit of our times writhes in its sleep. Many people get glimmers of new ways of conceiving of reality, though for the most part contemporary humans buy into the dream of everyday life. It is easy to denote self-importance to our insights and forget who made our bodies, our senses, all the changing forms around us. The little people who inhabit the soil, the air, the depths of the oceans also populate our gut, our blood, our bones. Mold, parasites, spirokaetes, yeasts, viruses, and funguses penetrate the animate and inanimate world. They cross over the threshold of life and death. Some traverse the blood-brain barrier. We are not alone.

Insects, bacteria and viruses may not be self-conscious, but they are conscious. Like us, they have the ability to hijack the environments they occupy. Microbes can wreak havoc inside the human organism, like we do in the world, so understandably we have become neglectful, ungrateful, even hostile to them.

People do not wish to have the flu. We dislike being infected with lyme disease, herpes, or other infections. We resist being bitten by bugs or getting diarrhea when we travel. These experiences, like any other unpleasant sensation, are gifts. They make the body stronger, offer the organism an opportunity to develop new antibodies and new habits. Hardships invite us to grow in awareness of cause and effect.

When the human immune system is compromised, symbiotic microbes within us sometimes become overpowered by colonies whose toxins hasten our demise. It is difficult to make wise choices when invading armies have hijacked our feelings, fooling our minds. Nevertheless, it is irresponsible to blame microscopic life-forms for our actions and behavior, albeit it would be ignorant to deny their influence on our behavior and cognition.

Climate change is a clear indication that homo-sapiens are playing a significant role in the life of this planet today, however seen through a big picture lens of time, we are a speck. Identifying as the owner of the environment, or a victim of it, is a symptom of blindness to our true nature. Living in community with life forms that are individually smaller than us, but collectively much more ancient, sophisticated and resilient, is a therapeutic opportunity of us to learn how to survive. The little people will teach us how to farm, how to think, how to eat, how to heal. In the grand scheme of things, they have more experience waking up from the dream.


A question arises in me often: Is genetic modification ethical? When we genetically modify a large mammal, it is relatively easy to manage whether it reproduces and how. Genetic modification with smaller life forms is exponentially more dangerous the smaller the biological organism is. The progress of science is far ahead of human intelligence in terms of our ability to understand the consequences  of the power we enact materially. Just like quantum physics is more powerful than physics, even though it operates on a smaller scale, the evolution of consciousness rests on larger animals’ capacity to align ourselves with the laws of nature. The kingdoms that came before us comprise us. Their karmic debt is ours.

Spirochaete bacterium, Treponema
^BSpirochaete. ^b Coloured transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of a spirochaete (^ITreponema ^Isp. ^i) bacterium. This bacterium is from the mouth of a person with periodontal disease. This elongated spiral-shaped bacterium (spirochaete) lacks a rigid cell wall. Pathogenic species of ^ITreponema^i include ^IT. pallidum ^iwhich causes syphilis; ^IT. ^Icarateum^i which causes the skin disease “pinta” in tropical America; and ^IT. ^i ^Ipertenue^i which causes yaws in Africa. In syphilis, the bacteria may be found in most parts of the body. Negatively stained. Magnification unknown.

This post is not intended to demonize or glorify other organisms in relationship to us but rather to draw a parallel between the microbiome of human health and ecological evolution of consciousness. The community of life forms living within human bodies gives us an opportunity to acquaint ourselves with the dynamics of nature which comprise all phenomena, including sentient beings of any size. Not to mention non-sentient tiny forms of biological life who regulate the of composting soil, the production of air and the pollination of plants and move the wind and weather. When you look closely at the faces of insects, bacteria and viruses, great dragons, wizards and monsters look back. They incarnated, just like our species, as representatives of humanity a long time ago. They are our brothers and sisters who will accompany those of us with humble hearts into the beautiful and harmonious future. Video: The Inner Life of a Cell


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