THE NIGREDO – PART 2:
Working Through Depression with Alchemy
THE NIGREDO (Part 2)
Faust was given power by the Devil on condition that he would never be satisfied with what he has. The advertising myth of the “American Dream” did the same thing to us all. Happiness and satisfaction with life depend on how small a gap you perceives between what you wish for and what you possess. Traditional social shields such as religion, ethnic traditions, patriotism, etc. no longer are effective for many disrupted by the harsh winds of chaos.
Psychic disorder produces conflicting signals that prevent or distract us from carrying out our good intentions. We give this condition many names, depending on how we experience it: pain, fear, rage, anxiety, depression, ennui, anomie, or jealousy. All these varieties of disorder divert and force our attention obsessively into undesirable directions. Energetic flow is blocked.
The new biological explanations of mental disorders as neurotransmitter imbalances make “good stories” but still lack empirical substantiation. Over-diagnosis has led to a “pharmademic” of over-medicated “pod people.” Yet, research shows that talk therapy and self-regulation techniques are as effective as drugs. The cornerstones of psychotherapy are insight and emotional growth.
If you practice alchemy with the feedback of other practitioners, it functions as a process-oriented therapy, allowing for projection and solution of problems. It is one of the most ancient spiritual paths. Spiritual technologies are the intuitive response to depression and the ever-present fear of death.
Many individuals experience a period of melancholia between the ages of 28 to 30 (and again at 55 to 60). Astrologically, this is triggered by Saturn return, the return of the planet to its original position in the natal chart. Classically, it is a time of disappointment, divorce, soul-searching and reassessment of values and orientation in life. It also holds the seed of mastery.
Saturn governs the aging process, since it represents actualization of more and more of one’s potential. It presides over lingering death and chronic illness. At its worst, senex consciousness destroys spontaneity, obsessed by its repetitive disciplines into a narrowness of emotions, mental processes, and activities. Saturn has “control issues” and also rules crises situations of life and the mental cravings of “lust for results.”
The planet Saturn puts the accent on responsibility, in this case responsibility to yourself for fulfilling your potential. Finally, you are truly growing up and your destiny begins to take form. You may be pressured into it, even if you resist it, and this is that black mood’s positive intent. Suffering becomes a meaningful path.
You may think you are not depressed because your feelings are numbed out or you make sure you stay too busy to notice. You may just be in denial with workaholism, hypochondria, an antisocial personality, substance abuse problem, hyperactivity, compulsivity, oppositional behavior, rage, or other means of devil may care acting out and acting in. You may try many horizontal escapes, but no matter where you go, there you are.
Having lost the sweet savor of life, you may be feeling older than your years, not in a good way but rigid and humorless with a thousand aches and pains. If chronic degenerative disease isn’t enough, there is the continual futureshock of new technology and morphing culture. If you are young, depression masquerades as anxiety, a conflict of opposites, generational and social rebellion, alienation, and angst.
Your behavior telegraphs the underlying depression to those with eyes to see. They know because they have been through it. Often when you are in it, you can’t see it. You might even unconsciously use your predicament to manipulate the sympathy and attention of others. But something’s just not right and you sense it in every fiber of your being.
Like Charlie Brown with his dark cloud, most of us have felt depressed in greater or lesser degree. Loss is a psycho physical experience. Since everything changes as time flows, and change entails loss, this is not surprising. Sometimes we lose face through shameful behavior, in our own eyes and those of others. There are some things we just need to face directly even if they are scary or painful.
We grow sad and depressed when a person we love dies or a cherished phase of life passes. Grief is universal and normal. In fact, failure to grieve is evidence of psychological abnormality. Staying stuck in grief is not healthy; it suppresses the immune system and élan vital. Process work in alchemy or therapy is a way of moving on. Mourning is work and takes mental effort.
Mourning is characteristically a state of mind, but it is accompanied by a host of painful somatic sensations that are remarkably uniform. In acute grief we experience physical distress occurring in waves lasting from twenty minutes to an hour at a time, a feeling of tightness in the throat, choking with shortness of breath. We need to sigh, have an empty feeling in the abdomen, lack of muscular power, and intense subjective distress we call tension or mental pain.
Traumatic bereavement happens in a variety of settings including personal and community violence, even global catastrophe. Traumatic bereavement contrasts experiences of quiet death at home, without mutilation, bodily distortion, shock, threat, horror, and helplessness. Reactions to the traumatic circumstances are different and predict more adverse health outcomes for the bereaved.
Traumatic stress interferes with the grieving process. The emotional aspect of grief is just as painful as the somatic. Inner anguish, loss of interest in a dreary, empty world, isolation from other people, loneliness and feelings of inner emptiness seem to persist for an eternity. In this way, grief mimics clinical depression.
The call to heal and the call to death are ultimately the same call to formlessness, to return to source. Many disorders display symptoms and imagery which represent stalled stages in the natural consciousness restructuring process. We get stuck in our attempts to heal ourselves.
Alchemy is a creative, synergetic process. It produces the universal medicine because it is essentially a healing process. Healing is a form of creativity. You become aware of previously unconscious emotions and find patterns in your behavior. You learn discernment and to intervene in our own negative cycle by exercising, practicing your passion, thought-stopping and changing your messages to yourself.
This curative power is that of the wounded healer archetype. Conscious alchemy means self-care, self-regulation, and self-help through a philosophical mindbody lifestyle. In an eclectic approach, you choose what works for you. You apply it with a level of intensity that meets or exceeds the compelling nature of the depression. Knowing yourself is true wisdom and mastering yourself is true power. You learn to modulate your own neurochemistry to improve your quality of life.
What is described as the Elixir or Universal Medicine is a primary goal of alchemy. Those who take this literally might seek it in spagyrics or the “white gold” of Ormus, but it can just as easily be the mobilization of the body’s own healing potential through psychoneuroimmunology and/or the placebo effect.
Arguably, the universal medicine is inextinguishable Light. Science has shown that the basis of biophysics is not chemistry but subtle fields and biophotons. Life has a biophotonic nature which is the basis of the energy body or field body. Life is orchestrated by light. Our atoms, DNA and cells emit light which choreographs our biological processes. An ultrapowerful energy potential radiates from zero point.
The Void exist within us just as it pervades the entire cosmos. Uncountable photons flicker on and off within us and influence the holographic blueprint of the body that is transcribed through our DNA and gene expression. The essence of healing is a return to the unconditioned state, free of all conditioning and full of primordial energy potential. Coherent light and sonic resonance or cymatics are present at the intracellular level.
We can take responsibility for our bodies and health, reclaiming our inherent shamanic, yogic and psychosomatic self-healing power. This alone changes our compassionate spiritual relationship to self, others, and universe. Meditation masters of all traditions speak of this primordial inner light and its brilliant healing power – Medicine Light.
The old-yet-new healing paradigm includes non-material but highly effective shamanic, psychic and spiritual tech that can be applied effectively in any cultural context. Mind is more than a powerless prisoner of the body. It has the power of focus, committed attention and intentionality. When you take responsibility for you own healing and well-being, the self-organizing power of your own hyperdimensional organism creates a positive resonance.
Healing fosters our evolutionary potential. Personal stillpoint is the point of release and re-connection. There is catharsis in the void. We touch our source, drink of the wellspring of life, reboot our system. Potentials are the source of all electromagnetic phenomena. To realize our own potential, we need to learn the art of living well, not just living better.
We can root out the disturbances of the past and transform them into assets, or strengths. We can remove the incongruencies of conflicting agendas in our belief systems and their fallout – our unresolved feelings. When we change our attitudes about ourselves and our past, we initiate a cascade of neurological changes that cover all four domains of our being. We can cultivate deeper awareness. The mind can change what “matters” to embody a healthier self.
The symbols of alchemy represent aspects of yourself. As you manipulate them, the attitudes associated with them morph. You start recovering from acute depression and become less vulnerable to depression in the future. We heal in the ground of our being.
The healing comes from deep inside not outside, adding to a sense of personal empowerment, rather than reliance or dependence on a pill or another person or an intangible belief. Suffering teaches us to nurture hope. Healthier lifestyle choices may follow.
Sadness is a clarifying and relieving emotion that helps us move on after losses. On the other hand, depression is a paralyzing short-circuit of self-doubt and self-recrimination. Sometimes people become depressed because they are not appropriately angry or sad over the situation. Self-reported distress includes the experience of headaches, faintness, loss of sexual appetite, trouble remembering things, uncontrolled temper outbursts, blaming oneself, pains in the lower back, feelings of inferiority to others, feeling hopeless and nauseous.
A BITTER PILL
Some lives are structured around a depressive life script. Often someone occupies the Victim role in the drama triangle, but switches periodically into the Persecutor role, or through magical means into the Rescuer role. The timing of the script is “Wait.” The “wait” is for a magical occurrence that transforms the world without requiring us to take an active part to initiate change. This is the secret meaning of “initiation” – it includes practice. It must be experiential. One must maintain a beginner’s mind.
The blocks include negative self-talk: “Don’t Succeed,” “Don’t Think,” “Don’t Be Close,” “Don’t Have Fun,” and “Don’t Judge Others.” Even “new age guilt”: “It’s my fault I’m sick; I did it to myself.” Medications may suppress symptoms, but turn you into a homogenized “pod person.” By themselves, they are never a cure. As such, they should be used only to recalibrate for the real healing process. They don’t deal with issues of guilt or change self-accusatory self-talk.
An experience we think is worthless can turn out to be the portal to healing, deepening and enriching us, funding our compassion for self and others. “Healing” does not necessarily mean a cure or total elimination of all symptoms. It has to do with a subjective process, difficult to describe. Self-expression has a curative value. As you work with symbols to manifest them, they heal you right back. By its very nature, the alchemical process is irrational, totally individual, and yet linked to a timeless and universal experience.
The therapist gives helpful encouragement to integrate new knowledge, or relate to the unintegratable, and accept it. Alchemy also helps us understand what the unconscious is saying directly. This promotes growth according to our own inner laws, allowing the unfolding of the total potential. Alchemy helps you conduct a similar process of self-initiation on yourself. The guide is your higher self, perhaps in some personification, pulling you toward your future.
Flow helps us to integrate the self because in a state of deep concentration consciousness is unusually well ordered. Thoughts, intentions, feelings, and all senses are focused on the same goal. Concentration and ritual are forms of meditation – in alchemy, the meditatio. Experience is in harmony. And when the flow episode is over, one feels more “together” than before, not only internally but also with respect to other people, the world and cosmos in general.
Ultimately, it matters little what complex mechanisms help us mobilize our own inner capacity for healing. The fact that we enter the healing process with commitment and intentionality is far more important. Taking the journey toward healing means we recreate the archetypal journey of the hero or heroine, who is neither helpless nor hopeless, but approaches fate with determinism and courage.
Is pain, grief, depression, fear, anxiety, guilt, relationship or career disappointment, rejection, alienation, inner conflict, victimization, resentment, superstition, rage, self-doubt or procrastination holding you back? Perhaps your old view of your self has become confining, obsolete, role-bound, or you just feel stuck. Are you afraid you can’t cope with either failure or success? We always have to adapt to our environment. You have to TRY, even to fail. Maybe you think your ‘glory days’ are all in the past.
Through conscious alchemy you can retrieve the psychophysical biochemistry of your balanced and peak performance states. You can apply this felt sense to pain management as well as emotional issues or boosting your potential. By recalling vital times, you essentially regress your body chemistry to a more youthful you, and minimize the toxic chemistry of stress. This allows both body and mind to relax and recalibrate homeostasis. You can also draw on the support and encouragement of your evolving future self through imagination.
Just as one incident can create trauma, one healing moment can change that instantly. When we willingly submit to the universal process of death and renewal we activate transpersonal resources that transcend our own limited capacities for restructuring our consciousness and self-healing. Ultimately all healing is self-healing, and implies profound self-acceptance, and can lead to loving acceptance of others and the world as it is, rather than as we would like it to be. This is the basis of compassion and service.