Now, no person becomes ill unless that illness serves a psychic or psychological reason, so many people escape such complications. In the meantime, however, scientists and medical men find more and more viruses against which the population “must” be inoculated. Each one is considered singly. There is a rush to develop a new inoculation against the newest virus. Much of this is on a predictive basis: The scientists “predict” how many people might be “attacked” by, say, a virus that has caused a given number of deaths. Then as a preventative measure the populace is invited to the new inoculation.
(Emphatically:) Many people who would not get the disease in any case are then religiously inoculated with it. The body is exerted to use its immune system to the utmost, and sometimes, according to the inoculation, overextended [under such] conditions. Those individuals who have psychologically decided upon death will die in any case, of that disease or another, or of the side effects of the inoculation.
Give us a moment . . . Inner reality and private experience give birth to all mass events. Man cannot disentangle himself from the natural context of his physical life. His culture, his religion, his  psychologies, and his psychological nature together form the context within which both private and mass events occur. . . .
To a certain extent, epidemics are the result of a mass suicide phenomenon on the parts of those involved. Biological, sociological, or even economic factors may be involved, in that for a variety of reasons, and at different levels, whole groups of individuals want to die at any given time – but in such a way that their individual deaths amount to a mass statement.
On one level the deaths are a protest against the time in which they occur. Those involved have private reasons, however. The reasons, of course, vary from one individual to another, yet all involved “want their death to serve a purpose” beyond private concerns. Partially, then, such deaths are meant to make the survivors question the conditions – for unconsciously the species well knows there are reasons for such mass deaths that go beyond accepted beliefs.
In some historical periods the plight of the poor was so horrible, so unendurable, that outbreaks of the plague occurred, literally resulting in a complete destruction of large areas of the environment in which such social, political, and economic conditions existed. [Those] plagues took rich and poor alike, however, so the complacent well-to-do could see quite clearly, for example, that to some extent sanitary conditions, privacy, peace of mind, had to be granted to the poor alike, for the results of their dissatisfaction would have quite practical results. Those were deaths of protest.
Individually, each “victim” was to one extent or another a “victim” of apathy, despair, or hopelessness, which automatically lowered bodily defenses.
Not only do such states of mind lower the defenses, however, but they activate and change the body’s chemistries, alter its balances, and initiate disease conditions. Many viruses inherently capable of causing death, in normal conditions contribute to the overall health of the body, existing side by side as it were with other viruses, each contributing quite necessary activities that maintain bodily equilibrium.
If [certain viruses] are triggered, however, to higher activity or overproduction by mental states, they then become “deadly”. Physically they may be passed on in whatever manner is peculiar to a specific strain. Literally, individual mental problems of sufficient severity emerge as social, mass diseases.
The environment in which an outbreak occurs points at the political, sociological, and economic conditions that have evolved, causing such disorder. Often such outbreaks take place after ineffective political or social action – that is, after some unified mass social protest – has failed, or is considered hopeless. They often occur also in wartime on the part of a populace [that] is against a given war in which [its] country is involved.
Initially there is a psychic contagion: Despair moves faster than a mosquito, or any outward carrier of a given disease. The mental state brings about the activation of a virus that is, in those terms, passive. Despair may seem passive only because it feels that exterior action is hopeless – but its fires rage inwardly, and that kind of contagion can leap from bed to bed and from heart to heart. It touches those, however, who are in the same state only, and to some extent it brings about an acceleration in which something can indeed be done in terms of group action.
Now if you believe in one life only, then such conditions will seem most disastrous, and in your terms they clearly are not pretty. Yet, though each victim in an epidemic may die his or her own death, that death becomes part of a mass social protest. The lives of intimate survivors are shaken, and according to the extent of the epidemic the various elements of social life itself are disturbed, altered, rearranged. Sometimes such epidemics are eventually responsible for the overthrow of governments, the loss of wars.
There are also even deeper biological connections with the heart of nature. You are biological creatures. Your proud human consciousness rests on the vast “unconscious” integrity of your physical being. In that regard your consciousness is as natural as your toe. In terms of the species’ integrity your mental states are, then, highly important. Despair or apathy is a biological “enemy”. Social conditions, political states, economic policies, and even religious or philosophical frameworks that foster such mental states, bring about a biological retaliation. They act like fire applied to a plant.
The epidemics then serve many purposes – warning that certain conditions will not be tolerated. There is a biological outrage that will be continually expressed until the conditions are changed.
Even in the days of the great plagues in England there were those smitten who did not die, and there were those untouched by the disease who dealt with the sick and dying. Those survivors, who were actively involved, saw themselves in a completely different light than those who succumbed, however: They were those, untouched by despair, who saw themselves as effective rather than ineffective. Often they roused themselves from lives of previously unheroic situations, and then performed with great bravery. The horror of the conditions overwhelmed them where earlier they were not involved.
The sight of the dying gave them visions of the meaning of life, and stirred new [ideas] of sociological, political, and spiritual natures, so that in your terms the dead did not die in vain. Epidemics by their public nature speak of public problems – problems that sociologically threaten to sweep the individual to psychic disaster as the physical materialization does biologically.
These are the reasons also for the range or the limits of various epidemics – why they sweep through one area and leave another clear. Why one in the family will die and another survive – for in this mass venture, the individual still forms his or her private reality.
In your society scientific medical beliefs operate, and a kind of preventative medicine, mentioned earlier, in which procedures [of inoculation] are taken, bringing about in healthy individuals a minute disease condition that then gives immunity against a more massive visitation. In the case of any given disease this procedure might work quite well for those who believe in it. It is, however, the belief, and not the procedure, that works.
I am not recommending that you abandon the procedure when it obviously works for so many – yet you should understand why it brings about the desired results.
Such medical technology is highly specific, however. You cannot be inoculated with the desire to live, or with the zest, delight, or contentment of the healthy animal. If you have decided to die, protected from one disease in such a manner, you will promptly come down with another, or have an accident. The immunization, while specifically effective, may only reinforce prior beliefs about the body’s ineffectiveness. It may appear that left alone the body would surely develop whatever disease might be “fashionable” at the time, so that the specific victory might result in the ultimate defeat as far as your beliefs are concerned.
You have your own medical systems, however. I do not mean to undermine them, since they are undermining themselves. Some of my statements clearly cannot be proven, in your terms, and appear almost sacrilegious. Yet, throughout your history no man or woman has died who did not want to die, regardless of the state of medical technology. Specific diseases have certain symbolic meanings, varying with the times and the places.
There has been great discussion in past years about the survival of the fittest, in Darwinian terms, but little emphasis is placed upon the quality of life, or of survival itself; or in human terms, [there has been] little probing into the question of what makes life worthwhile. Quite simply, if life is not worthwhile, no species will have a reason to continue.
Civilizations are literally social species. They die when they see no reason to live, yet they seed other civilizations. Your private mental states en masse bring about the mass cultural stance of your civilization. To some extent, then, the survival of your civilization is quite literally dependent upon the condition of each individual; and that condition is initially a spiritual, psychic state that gives birth to the physical organism. That organism is intimately connected to the natural biological state of each other person, and to each other living thing, or entity, however minute.
Despite all “realistic” pragmatic tales to the contrary, the natural state of life itself is one of joy, acquiescence with itself – a state in which action is effective, and the power to act is a natural right. You would see this quite clearly with plants, animals, and all other life if you were not so blinded by beliefs to the contrary. You would feel it in the activity of your bodies, in which the vital individual affirmation of your cells brings about the mass, immensely complicated achievement of your physical being. That activity naturally promotes health and vitality.
I am not speaking of some romanticized, “passive,” floppy, spiritual world, but of a clear reality without impediments, in which the opposite of despair and apathy reigns.
This book will be devoted, then, to those conditions that best promote spiritual, psychic, and physical zest, the biological and psychic components that make a species desire to continue its kind. Such aspects promote the cooperation of all kinds of life on all levels with one another. No species competes with another, but cooperates to form an environment in which all kinds can creatively exist. . . .
You live in a physical community, but you live first of all in a community of thoughts and feelings. These trigger your physical actions. They directly affect the behavior of your body. The experience of the animals is different, yet in their own ways animals have both individual intent and purpose. Their feelings are certainly as pertinent as yours. They dream, and in their way they reason.
They do not “worry.” They do not anticipate disaster when no signs of it are apparent in their immediate environment. On their own they do not need preventative medicine. Pet animals are inoculated against diseases, however. In your society this almost becomes a necessity. In a “purely natural” setting you would not have as many living puppies or kittens. There are stages of physical existence, and in those terms nature knows what it is doing. When a species overproduces, the incidences of, say, epidemics grow. This applies to human populations as well as to the animals.
The quality of life is important above all. Newborn animals either die quickly and naturally, painlessly, before their consciousnesses are fully focused here, or are killed by their mothers — not because they are weak or unfit to survive, but because the [physical] conditions are not those that will produce the quality of life that makes survival “worthwhile.”
The consciousness that became so briefly physical is not annihilated, however, but in your terms waits for better conditions.
There are also “trial runs” in human and animal species alike, in which peeks are taken, or glimpses, of physical life, and that is all. Epidemics sweeping through animal populations are also biological and psychic statements, then, in which each individual knows that only its own greatest fulfillment can satisfy the quality of life on an individual basis, and thus contribute to the mass survival of the species.
(Pause at 11:55.) Suffering is not necessarily good for the soul at all, and left alone natural creatures do not seek it. There is a natural compassion, a biological knowledge, so that the mother of an animal knows whether or not existing conditions will support the new offspring. Animals instinctively realize their relationship with the great forces of life. They will instinctively starve an offspring while its consciousness is still unfocused, rather than send it loose under adverse conditions.
In a natural state, many children would die stillborn for the same reasons, or would be naturally aborted. There is a give-and-take between all elements of nature, so that such individuals often choose mothers, for example, who perhaps wanted the experience of pregnancy but not of birth — where they choose the experience of the fetus but not necessarily [that] of the child. Often in such cases these  are “fragment personalities,” wanting to taste physical reality, but not being ready to deal with it. Each case is individual, however, so these are general statements.
Many children, who, it seems, should have died of disease, of “childhood epidemics,” nevertheless survive because of their different intents. The world of thought and feeling may be invisible, and yet it activates all physical systems with which you are acquainted.
Animals as well as men can indeed make social statements, that appear in a biological context. Animals stricken by kitten and puppy diseases, for example, choose to die, pointing out the fact that the quality of their lives individually and en masse is vastly lacking. Their relationships with their own species is no longer in balance. They cannot use their full abilities or powers, nor are many of them given compensating elements in terms of a beneficial psychic relationship with man — but instead are shunted aside, unwanted and unloved. An unloved animal does not want to live.
Love involves self-respect, the trust in individual biological zest and integrity. To that extent, in their way animal epidemics have the same causes as human ones.
An animal can indeed commit suicide. So can a race or a species. The dignity of a spirited life demands that a certain quality of experience be maintained.
From The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, by Jane Roberts, 1981, Amber-Allen Publishing