Into the fire

· Long Read

Anugyan on love and awareness in the time of covid (part 3 of 3).

Ten of Swords tarot card

Etiquette is even more essential in a storm. – Leonard Justins

This autumn I was helping someone out while she was facing a particularly busy month work-wise. Mostly this entailed looking after her dog and thirteen-year old daughter Nicole. The latter would be at school during the day, except one morning I was greeted with the news that she had a sore throat and because of concerns about covid had to stay home. This was fine, as she’s a capable and self-reliant kid who was quite content staying in her room, doing schoolwork online and using gaps to do her favourite thing, dancing.

At lunchtime I was heating up some soup for us both when she came downstairs, carrying her tablet, on which I could see two of her friends reclining in their beds, also having been forced to stay home.

“Anu,” she said, “how much soup is there?”

I was about to protest that I wasn’t about to feed the whole neighbourhood, but I’m glad I held my tongue as she was concerned about her friend who was across the street. The other one, next door, was fine.

“She’s alone in the house, and doesn’t have any lunch.”

I thought it more likely there wasn’t any lunch she wanted, but agreed to take a thermos of the soup over, which I did.

A bit later I heard laughter and chatter coming from Nicole’s room. The three girls were having lunch together, albeit on Zoom.

I tell this story because we are about to launch into an exploration of the hidden side of the pandemic, which has some sinister connotations, and I wish to put it into context.

Ten of Swords

It’s not as if I weren’t warned about what was to come. A tarot reading had described the next few weeks in November as the Ten of Swords. Depicting a man lying face down with ten swords in his back, it can represent total destruction and even death (unlike the Death card which rarely does). I actually felt a sense of relief at seeing the card. So much of my life had become nebulous, uncertain, in the last two years. Having experienced the Ten of Swords before, I knew there would be nothing uncertain about its impact, any more than a freight train running over me.

I am also using the above story of Nicole because people kept telling me, rather histrionically, how much children were suffering because of mask wearing, lockdowns, and the intrusive lateral flow tests. I know there is truth in that, as has been reported world-wide, but it just hasn’t been my experience with the children I know. In fact, it was Nicole who first showed me how to do the lateral flow test, shrieking in delight, as the cotton-bud scraped the upper part of my nostril, and I reacted by screwing up my face. “That’s the face! That’s the face!” she yelled in delight. Yes, there has been hardship even with the children in my circles, but kids are remarkably adaptive and resilient, and humour is one of their gifts.

I have written extensively in the previous two essays about the concerning dichotomies in society these days, something which covid has really brought to the surface. The one I was dealing with in the spring of 2021 was the ‘To Vax or Not to Vax’ dilemma. In the end, having weighed the options, and listened deep inside to what felt right, I decided to go for the vaccination, AstraZeneca in my case.


After the first jab, I had a restless night, waking up about every hour. My dreams were vivid and bizarre, accompanied at one point by an overwhelming fear that I had surrendered to a totalitarian bid to take over the world. The zeitgeist was alive and well inside of me. Then later, as dawn approached, I had a dream where I met the covid virus itself.

It looked like one of those M&M sweets in the ads – a big purple round face with little arms and legs. It had a sense of mischief about it as it wandered along my bloodstream, then came face to face with the AZ vaccine. The latter looked similar but was a different colour, yellow or red I think, and smaller. Covid was momentarily startled then recovered quickly. “You look like me,” it declared, laughing. “But you’re not me! Come on! Let’s go and have some fun!” It took one of AZ’s hands, then they ran off to create merry havoc together.

I woke, realising there was something of the Trickster about this virus, which explained why plans kept changing at the last minute, and nothing was certain. Tricksters don’t like labels, but they enjoy revealing the truth about things.

Afterwards, I was pretty much wrecked the next day due to exhaustion, then was fine after that. With my second jab there were pretty much no side-effects whatsoever, not even weird dreams.

Then in the autumn when I was looking after Nicole and dog, Ten of Swords made its presence known: I got covid. How I got it was very clear: Nicole’s mum had got it from where she worked, where they had been very lackadaisical about precautions (and the virus tore through the company, almost causing it to close down). After I got it, Nicole followed suit, but developed no symptoms whatsoever. Cue more stay-at-home parties for her, while her mum’s boyfriend arrived rather heroically to take care of the three of us. Nicole’s mum got the worst of it, perhaps because she only had one jab which had such an adverse effect on her, even her GP advised her not to have another.

It looked like I was getting off lightly, then after four days all hell broke loose.

The beigeness

However, it’s not the physical story I wish to emphasise here, it’s the inner world that is mainly of interest.

First off, it’s the dreams again, which have been widely reported and described as Hieronymus Bosch-like. This is an accurate description, with horrific surreal depictions of grotesque horror.

Yet that was not the worst of it for me. Hell, for all its repulsiveness, can be a fascinating subject which is why creatives like Bosch, Dante or Blake spend a lot of time depicting it. The covid-induced dream world is not so colourful. Indeed, the colour that has been used to describe it, is beige. This is the word used by many with long covid. I only had glimpses of it fortunately, but while it lasted – along with a lack of taste or smell – it conveyed a pointlessness to everything that was inescapable. There wasn’t even really a point in eating, or in drinking water, which I had to force myself to do.

Past illnesses I had always used as a chance to do more reading. I had thought erroneously that covid would provide a similar opportunity. That just didn’t happen. In beige-world there is nothing of interest to read. There is nothing of interest. (Listening to podcasts was a bit easier.)

Watching shows on the computer also became limited. Oddly, there were only two I could watch at all, and not for very long: the modern-day take on Sherlock Holmes Elementary, which with its themes and colour palette seemed to reflect how I was seeing the world; and Young Sheldon, the bitter-sweet comedy about a brilliant arrogant physicist growing up in Texas. I had recurring dreams where the landscape of the dull provincial English town I was staying (trapped) in blended with the flat Texan landscape, and Sheldon’s sister and I had to navigate the strange moribund world which seemed to consist of a vast hidden labyrinth. Dreams often provide escape, insight and enlightenment for me. None of these did. I couldn’t escape, and I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. I couldn’t even see the trees.

It will be no surprise to those who have read previous material by me, that the exploration of higher dimensions is a major part of my life. I regularly go on excursions when this world becomes particularly unyielding. Yet during covid none of these excursions were possible, I couldn’t go anywhere.

My parents being South African (my father and his family escaping from Holland during WW2), they retained a strong interest in the cultures there. As a result, I grew up surrounded by African literature as well as Western. One of the authors was Credo Mutwa, a Zulu ‘sangoma’, whose historical books I dipped into from time to time. Then as an adult I came across him again in UFO literature. At one point he makes assertions that wherever vaccination programmes took place in regions he knew, the local people became cut off from their spirituality. Anyone having read Ben Okri’s incredible The Famished Road, will know how important and vital direct connections with the spirits are to many Africans. A sceptic may argue that it is not the vaccinations that may have robbed people from their spiritual roots, but Western culture that accompanied the medical teams.

Yet there is something in that which resonates with my journey from the covid vaccinations to the virus itself. A person who has worked extensively with covid patients told me she believed that the soul actually leaves the body during the height of infection. That would certainly tally with my experience of the soulless dreams, and the blocking of access to higher realms. During the sickness I had become nothing but a physical mass, devoid of aspirations, insight or anything transcendent. Never had I previously known this from any illness.

Ten days from infection, the physical assault was over, other than an ongoing weakness in my joints, and fatigue. Mentally, I would wake up and the world remained beige. Yuck. Fortunately this mental state only lasted a few days, recurring briefly now and again later. After two weeks I took the train to Devon in order to give a talk to a dowsing society, this endeavour the most energetic thing I had attempted for a month. Twenty minutes into the talk, I found my knees giving way and discreetly sat down to continue. Nobody noticed anything.

The physical toll has been immense, but nothing compared to the mental. The beigeness didn’t last, colour and life having returned in all their glory by the time I got to Devon, and the Hieronymus Bosch dreams disappeared along with Texas. What remained considerably longer is a certain deadness to the dreams, or a deceit, I would say to be more accurate. I have worked with dreams all my life, explored their many facets, including how to distinguish between the untrustworthy Gates of Ivory and the truthful Gates of Horn, as Greek writers would put it. After covid, all my dreams seemed to be of the former. The usually significant dreams before waking, pretended to be revealing great truths to me but actually they were deceitful nonsense that left me feeling defeated, and helpless.

Fortunately this residue from covid dissolved too, and my inner world has returned more or less. Occasionally I find myself having beige flashbacks but that could be as much due to the English weather or my circumstances as anything else.

Soulless experiences

It may seem that my narrative would support the idea that the virus has been bio-engineered. Certainly the sense of it being something completely different, alien, persisted. This was at its most acute during the height of infection when I would wake with the sense that the virus was actually scanning my body. I could feel it going from organ to organ, poking here and there: ‘Mmm, that doesn’t look so good.’ (Years of drinking cognac and bourbon.) Now I had become a soulless mass, I found myself surrendering to this process, and the fact I was about to die. What was the point of anything? Thus I was mildly surprised to find myself still breathing afterwards.

I spoke with a friend about this. She had spent a lot of time in rural areas of South East Asia, and told me how the local people would avoid eating anything from the ‘eternal wetlands’ at the centre of forests. These, as I have written in an earlier essay, harbour primeval germs that have not evolved with humankind. When I described my covid experience, she said that it was consistent with meeting one of these ancient viruses, which are indeed ‘alien’ to our bodies. This probable environmental catastrophe from extensive deforestation is barely mentioned in mainstream media, yet it may be at the root of our current predicament. If our assault on Nature continues in this way, covid is likely to be the first of many.

My earlier experience from the vaccine of paranoia about totalitarianism may well be just tapping into the zeitgeist, or it may be prescient, I don’t know. Talks of camps for the unvaccinated do fuel these fears. Yet I am aware that the vaccine, like covid itself, does have the Trickster element of revealing truths about ourselves, our society, we’d rather not know. And the focus of these revelations seems to be about division: between rich and poor, mainstream and complementary medicine, right and left wing, those empowered by convention and those disempowered, plus several more.

One lesson that could be gained from all this, is that these extremes need to find common ground, a way to connect rather than separate. Scandinavian countries have accomplished this to some extent as far as the rich/poor divide is concerned. A Danish woman expressed to me that she didn’t mind paying high taxes as it was the price of having a stable society. Thus the socialist and capitalist extremes find a common bond. I know it’s not that simple, but at least there are the beginnings of dialogue.

This is not so true as regards medicine, the war against homeopathy by the scientific establishment just one example of the division. Another would be the banning of medicinal herbs in Europe, strongly reminiscent of the patriarchy brutally oppressing the mostly female healers of the past. (I have quite a story about my quest for comfrey when I cracked my ribs in Portugal a few years ago, but I won’t go into that now.) In Molecules of Emotion, the neuroscientist Candace Pert emphasises in no small way the male domination at the heart of the scientific establishment, through her own experiences.

When I talk to friends who are doctors (I seem to know quite a few) I am always impressed by their lifelong commitment to helping people, to be of service, to make the world somewhat better, and their insistence on keeping up-to-date with medical knowledge. In addition, I learn from them the importance of seeing big pictures, particularly as regards things like pandemics, and to look at the verified facts and statistics rather than politicised or subjective statements.

When I talk to friends who are alternative healers (I seem to know quite a few) I am always impressed by their empathy and ability to listen, and awareness of the outliers, those who do not conform to the statistics. In addition they have a tendency to question everything we are told, an attitude that is at the heart of scientific inquiry; ironically as they themselves are often considered unscientific.

In my heart of hearts, I wish for increased dialogue between these two groups of people. I know this is happening in isolated situations – Candace Pert, whom I mention above, has accomplished a lot in this vein – but it needs to become more general, an open channel between the two groups. The people I am not interested in are the extremists who say that the officials always know best and we should do as we are told or face ostracism or worse; nor those who smoke inordinate amounts of dope and educate themselves through YouTube videos, insisting that everything that comes from mainstream science is a lie.

And so I come full circle to the thirteen year-old Nicole and friends partying through covid whilst following the rules, and I think of when I took my mother for her booster jab. It was in an ex-military hall that was light and spacious. The NHS volunteers were having to manage a vast operation. Every single person there did their job with love and grace despite the pressure. As I looked around I was really struck by the warmth and care in evidence, very much in contrast with someone I spoke to just before who informed me with rage and venom how the vaccinations were all a plot to enslave humanity. (To provide balance, I have met angry bigoted pro-vaxxers too.)

I don’t know what the truth is, even my excursions into the covid dreamscape have not enlightened me fully. I am often reminded of David Bowie’s ironic yell ‘I don’t want knowledge, I want certainty!’ in the song ‘I’m Afraid of Americans’. This is a time of great uncertainty, and it is in such times that we can learn much, and reveal the stuff of which we are truly made.

Kindness and compassion are neither esoteric nor difficult, and they are something of which we are all capable no matter how challenging the circumstances. This may seem like a cliché, but I consider clichés truths that can be recycled, and certainly in this case presents something to which we can all aspire even in the time of covid.

Articles by Anugyan from this series

After a long eclectic career, Anugyan is now a writer, Feng Shui consultant and explorer of higher dimensions.

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