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The Descent Experience

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Why are we sick? There are many levels of reality at which we can answer that question – the political, the economic, the biochemical, the psychological. And then there’s the mystical.

 

 

The Descent Experience

 

Since the beginning of time, humanity has described a particular kind of experience that many people have had, but many have not had. It involves terrible suffering. It lasts a very long time. During much of it, there is no help or relief that can be had. Eventually, it draws to an end, culminating in a return to life, often with additional gifts.

 

It has been called The Descent Experience, and the oldest known recorded version of a descent myth was written by the Sumerians on clay tablets in the third millenium BCE. In this version, the goddess Inanna (also known as Ishtar) has to visit the Underworld. There, she is destroyed physically and psychologically in the most gruesome way. It’s bad, no one will help; it goes on for awhile. Finally, Enki, the god of wisdom, comes to her rescue in an artful way, deals are made, she is reconstituted, and returns to the world.

 

Maybe 1000 years later, the ancient Greeks wrote their own descent myth about Persephone, who is abducted, raped, and held captive by Hades, king of the Underworld. It’s bad, no one will help; it goes on awhile. Finally, her mother Demeter pressures her father Zeus into negotiating her release. Deals are made, she has to spend part of every year in the Underworld, but is allowed to return to the world.

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Healing

The Dark Night of the Soul

 

This is a spiritual term used most commonly in Christianity. The Dark Night of the Soul was most classically described by the 16th century Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross. He described the step-by-step journey that a human soul undergoes in evolving from worldliness to a union with the Divine.

 

The journey is harrowing. It involves great pain, annihilation, and the loss of everything familiar. It’s bad, there is no help; it goes on awhile.

 

This is because, only by purging oneself of old habits, old tastes and attachments, and limited understanding, can one be clear and sensitive enough to perceive the Divine level of reality. He compares it to how your palate must be cleansed and healthy in order to even taste the most delicate, subtle tastes.

 

According to St. John of the Cross, the Divine is sending out illumination the whole time during the dark night to tempt the soul in the right direction and foment yearning for the Divine. But the soul is so off track, it can barely perceive Divine light or love until it has been purged further.

 

Eventually, critical mass is reached, and the soul is healed enough to not only feel strong yearning for the Divine, but to be assertive about pursuing Divine love and grabbing it and holding on.

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Healing

The Hero’s Journey

 

In the mid-twentieth century, the mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote a book called “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” in which he described a classic mythological story line that can be found in all times and all places.

 

It has several consistent components – the hero is minding his / her own business and initially resists the call to some kind of otherworldly journey. But the transition to an out of this world experience begins anyway, and there are many trials and ordeals. It’s bad. It goes on awhile. According to Campbell, there is no *apparent* help, but, in fact, there is occult help going on the whole time. There is soul-searching, and purification, and even death – temporary death, or partial death.

 

There is some kind of breakthrough; special wisdom or power is achieved. Campbell underscores the fact that, once this happens, the hero might even resist returning to the everyday world. But, once again, occult help guides the hero on the return journey and over the threshold of regular reality, which s/he crosses while retaining his / her special acquisition.

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Healing

C.G. Jung – The Red Book

 

In 2009, the heirs of Carl Jung allowed his account of his descent experience to be published for the first time. Over the course of many years, from about 1914 to 1930, Jung wrote and drew about his own frightening falling apart, during which he confronted the darkness in himself and in the world (including WWI). He wrote and drew in order to save himself. It was bad, there was no help. It went on a long time. Eventually, he found help from beings he encountered in his mind who may have been parts of himself, archetypes, and/or spirits of the dead.

 

Years later, he said that his most important ideas, the ones he worked on for the rest of his life, and that we remember him for, all came out of this period.

 

In the Fall of 2010, Jack Kornfield, Ph.D., psychologist and Buddhist monk, spoke at one of The Red Book Dialogues in San Francisco. In discussing Jung’s descent, and descent experiences in general, he said your worst fears are the gateway to your enlightenment. You must face them, you must suffer, yet you must not get lost in the experience either. You stay present to your fears, you wait, you listen. It can take a long time. If you can trust the desert, at some point, it rains. Then, you find out what your gift, your contribution to the world is, "some new extraordinary wholeness appears and that's who you really are."

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Healing

So what have we here?

 

These narratives are metaphors that describe a certain kind of human experience which has been traversed throughout history, even though Western psychotropic toxins were only invented a few seconds ago. The recovery from psych med neuro damage follows the classic pattern of the descent experience.

 

We can take these stories as comforting attempts to make the best of a bad deal. They may even provide a bit of a road map or some guidance. Maybe it also helps to know we aren’t the only ones who have had a bad time of it. At this level, these stories are aids to handling the psychological response to misfortune. This is a good thing.

 

Some of us might also want to take these stories as attempts to describe an underlying reality that humanity is still groping to understand – the transpersonal, psychic, mystical level. Nearly all of them have a magical, metaphysical or spiritual element that can be taken not just as metaphor, but as a glimpse of a level of reality that is there all the time but that we generally don’t allow ourselves to access because of social conditioning.

 

The descent experience involves a dismantling of the body, mind, and spirit that is suggestive of neurological rewiring, and the consensus is that it often yields increased psychic abilities or spiritual insight at the end.

 

Something about the descent experience allows people finally to see things that were there all along but that they hadn’t been able to see before.

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Druid

Thank You for all the very positive and thought provoking input that You are managing to deliver at an amazing rate! lol!..

 

Yes i am finding it extremely comforting learning about lots of different examples of other people who have gone through seemingly similar traumatic experiences to ours.. What i find very interesting and comforting is that all these stories and examples, be it from Decent experiences, Kundalini awakening, or Shamanic initiation is that in all those scenarios there is positive outcome.. They were all journeys! and not permanent states.. although sometimes extremely difficult and lengthy.. they all ended, and often culminated with positive benefits as an added bonus...

 

I have learned such a lot from You and i am so grateful for Your efforts...

 

If we had an emoticon of a little man on his knee's and bowing in a "were not worthy" Wayne's world style.. i would insert it here just for You... :D

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Punarbhava

Thank You for all the very positive and thought provoking input that You are managing to deliver at an amazing rate! lol!..

 

Yes i am finding it extremely comforting learning about lots of different examples of other people who have gone through seemingly similar traumatic experiences to ours.. What i find very interesting and comforting is that all these stories and examples, be it from Decent experiences, Kundalini awakening, or Shamanic initiation is that in all those scenarios there is positive outcome.. They were all journeys! and not permanent states.. although sometimes extremely difficult and lengthy.. they all ended, and often culminated with positive benefits as an added bonus...

 

I have learned such a lot from You and i am so grateful for Your efforts...

 

If we had an emoticon of a little man on his knee's and bowing in a "were not worthy" Wayne's world style.. i would insert it here just for You... :D

 

 

OMG.....

 

what a beautiful message to Healing! I'm welling up in tears for her.........so happy to see her honoured for all her amazing efforts. I agree with you Druid. Despite the fact that I've only known her for a short time, she's certainly is an amazing soul.

 

 

So, Dear Healing please know that there is another person paying homage to you. You put in so, so much loving and spiritual energy in your posts, as well as into supporting others, not to mention, always celebrating their gifts. You have such a generous heart and soul, not to mention quite brilliant intellectually.

 

 

I've been wanting to post something to you for a few days now so I'm so glad I popped into this thread.

 

 

And BTW, Druid, you have to be an amazing person to feel and express what you have posted. I don't know you at all but wow, your post has touched another soul today.

 

 

So many things to comment on within this thread but I'd be writing for days. I'll just allow myself to absorb the fabulous energy of the people in this thread and leave commenting on the subject matter for another day.

 

 

Punar

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Neuroplastic

If we had an emoticon of a little man on his knee's and bowing in a "were not worthy" Wayne's world style.. i would insert it here just for You... :D

Ha! I remember the "Wayne's World". Loved this movie(s). And yes, you're so right, Druid. Healing is one of a kind. Absolutely. :) Thank you, Healing, for all those awesome posts!

 

Talking of the "we first have to go through the Unimaginable Painful to grow, to learn, to mature". It's so true. B/c of this hellish WD experience, I see the world with a totally different complexion on it than 2, 3 and 5 years ago. It's some extreme type of conditioning, learning how to deal with the always present pain, and accepting it. More and more do I realize how, when a life problem arises (on top of WD), there's this mechanism, which activates itself, and makes us keeping fighting despite the still present symptoms. Once the WD is over, we'll be stronger than ever.

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Healing

Thank you so much, all three of you, for the loving words! :)! ^v^ <-- smiling cat

 

Druid -- What i find very interesting and comforting is that all these stories and examples…is that in all those scenarios there is positive outcome.. They were all journeys! and not permanent states although sometimes extremely difficult and lengthy.. they all ended, and often culminated with positive benefits as an added bonus...

You’re picking up on such an important theme in all these models – they are journeys, not permanent states. It seems we humans have a bit of a neuro-cognitive bias, and our view of the world is too dependent on our current state. So, when miserable, we can more easily remember all the miserable memories of our lives, and have trouble accessing or, if accessing, then feeling, any of the happy times. And then, if we spend more than a day in a particularly bad state, we’re sure it’s going to last forever. This seems to be a design flaw to me!

 

So, how much more difficult is it to believe that things can change dramatically for the better when the bad state goes on a very long time? I, personally, have always had trouble grasping the concept that things can take a very long time, and still happen.

 

You’re underscoring an essential element of these models – they are an antidote to this human bias. They tell us about a countervailing force that is also part of our human inheritance, which brings me to --

 

NP -- Talking of the "we first have to go through the Unimaginable Painful to grow, to learn, to mature". It's so true….It's some extreme type of conditioning, learning how to deal with the always present pain, and accepting it. More and more do I realize how, when a life problem arises (on top of WD), there's this mechanism, which activates itself, and makes us keeping fighting despite the still present symptoms. Once the WD is over, we'll be stronger than ever.

If I’m understanding correctly, you’re talking about something more than “adversity builds character,” although that, in itself, is true. You’re maybe suggesting that there is some kind of interesting built-in mechanism that kicks in automatically under extreme conditions.

 

You’re picking up on another important element of all these models – that the process happens automatically. You don’t have to figure it out, although you may have to go through pain. In fact, you absolutely cannot force it.

 

I do think we can learn how to help the process along, and just having the map that these models provide can be very relieving in itself. But, there is always a time, in each of the models, when there is nothing you can do. And we certainly experience this in w/d – a time when we are in the deepest part of the descent, feeling really helpless, and beyond help. But, you’re pointing out that, at those times, there is a built-in mechanism working for us.

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Razzle

These are difficult things to share and more difficult to understand.

 

I have been in a severe state for over 52 months - total mental and physical disability. Ten months even worse from a few doses of an AD.

 

Last Thursday I woke so sick I could hardly feed myself or walk to the bathroom - not an uncommon experience for me. I was feeling a real need to connect with spirit and not being a church person I wanted to find a place where other people had gone to seek inner guidance. By providence I thought about a Labyrinth. I looked on Google and found a site that lists Labyrinths all over the world.

 

I found several in my area, but one that stood out. It was in a protected grotto of old growth cedar trees...huge and crafted from hundred of hours of skilled work...it was dedicated to the memory of a mans wife who had passed.

 

I could barely walk but I resurrected all the energy to make the 8 mile trek across town - I should not have been driving in my condition. On the way I had severe GI cramps and had to find an emergency restroom.

 

When I arrived I removed my shoes and felt like I was going to have to crawl the pathways as I was so sick and tortured. I walked slowly talking to spirit as I conceived it. Over the next hour I had several occurrences of the Still Small Voice and was able to sense moments of great peace. As I left I was better and continued to lose symptoms the rest of the day (first time ever) that night I slept almost 8 hours (my usual is 3 to 4) had a better next day (also rare).

 

I had another more profound occurrence on Saturday I will share later. Now I am back into total hell again - puzzled by what happened but knowing that it was so profound I can not deny the reality.

 

R

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Healing

Ach, Razzle, I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time. Good for you for listening to your still, small voice and then actually following its advice!

 

The labyrinth experience sounds very healing. :)

 

I’ve never actually walked a labyrinth. It’s on my list of things to do. It’s fascinating how entrancing they are.

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cymbaltawithdrawal5600

Could this be what I am starting to experience? (I love the lines with "it's bad, it goes on for awhile").

 

I'll just note my experience.

 

I've had a great deal of 'experiences' in my life, be they really 'mystical' or just neurotic. Right now I am just trying to keep my head above water, struggling with the neuro emotion stuff (I guess). Feels like I have been asleep my whole life and have just fully waked up and and am horrified at what I see. This one piece of reality is really terrifying me: if I were not able to work again, my SS income is not enough to live on. Knowing there are options in life brings only temporary relief. Mom and I share a mobile home: her SS, mine, and what I make thru self employment are what we live on. All good. But the day I tell SS that she is deceased, huge income drop. I have not been a success at jobs. So total panic and my wish is just to avoid it all because I can't see my way through it.

 

Last night could not sleep. Got up and noodled on the puter a bit, not really thinking anything. Got a distinct thought/feeling that "the Lord" wanted to talk to me or He wanted me to talk to Him, don't remember. I am not formally religious. I persisted in my computer stuff for a bit then just stopped and decided to see what was up. I lay in bed to listen and was overcome with the most intense, naked feeling. All I have ever done, said, been, and thought has been known, including the number of hairs on my head. Thoughts flitted thru: (I felt 'sorely' afraid), my hands clenched my blankets. Then a thought: I need to 'woo' the 'divine', 'that's what the Psalms are about'. Then I fell asleep.

 

It's late in the day. The memory of last night came to me and I found this thread.

 

This is what caught my eye:

 

"You’re picking up on such an important theme in all these models – they are journeys, not permanent states. It seems we humans have a bit of a neuro-cognitive bias, and our view of the world is too dependent on our current state. So, when miserable, we can more easily remember all the miserable memories of our lives, and have trouble accessing or, if accessing, then feeling, any of the happy times. And then, if we spend more than a day in a particularly bad state, we’re sure it’s going to last forever. This seems to be a design flaw to me!

 

So, how much more difficult is it to believe that things can change dramatically for the better when the bad state goes on a very long time? I, personally, have always had trouble grasping the concept that things can take a very long time, and still happen.

 

You’re underscoring an essential element of these models – they are an antidote to this human bias. They tell us about a countervailing force that is also part of our human inheritance, which brings me to --

 

Quote

NP -- Talking of the "we first have to go through the Unimaginable Painful to grow, to learn, to mature". It's so true….It's some extreme type of conditioning, learning how to deal with the always present pain, and accepting it. More and more do I realize how, when a life problem arises (on top of WD), there's this mechanism, which activates itself, and makes us keeping fighting despite the still present symptoms. Once the WD is over, we'll be stronger than ever.

 

 

If I’m understanding correctly, you’re talking about something more than “adversity builds character,” although that, in itself, is true. You’re maybe suggesting that there is some kind of interesting built-in mechanism that kicks in automatically under extreme conditions.

 

You’re picking up on another important element of all these models – that the process happens automatically. You don’t have to figure it out, although you may have to go through pain. In fact, you absolutely cannot force it.

 

I do think we can learn how to help the process along, and just having the map that these models provide can be very relieving in itself. But, there is always a time, in each of the models, when there is nothing you can do. And we certainly experience this in w/d – a time when we are in the deepest part of the descent, feeling really helpless, and beyond help. But, you’re pointing out that, at those times, there is a built-in mechanism working for us."

Sorry to quote so much of it but it felt as tho last night's experience was set in motion a long time ago and is now on 'auto pilot'.

 

Thanks, Healing. This has been exquisitely helpful to me!

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cymbaltawithdrawal5600

Found and am reading the online article where The Descent Experience is mentioned. I am trying to figure out why my inner experiences have religious undertones and why my experience of neuro-emotions, the description of them, doesn't quite fit. Found this helpful:

 

Quote:

 

"There in an irony having to do with the descent experience and time which we wish to mention. During a descent experience, some people find that they are growing, learning, and changing incredibly fast, and yet their overall quality of life – which may involve illness, poverty, imprisonment, war -- remains absolutely stuck. The lack of synchronization between personal effort and internal development on the one hand and external lived reality on the other can be crazy-making and depressing. It will probably be very different from how your life was before the descent experience, when there was much more of a correlation between effort and results."

 

Yup, crazy-making and depressing, that's what I'm feeling. And desperate, anxious, doubtful, unworthy, energized, awake and aware, happy, paralyzed... all emotions of any name, seemingly CONCURRENTLY.

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Narcissus

Very rich stuff here, thank you.

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Nikki

Wow this is amazing stuff.  Thank you.  Someone told me that we are in a Saturn Passing Phase.  In this Phase alot of heaviness continues for a number of years and then it ends as Saturn finishes it's passing.
 
After it is over the heaviness lifts.  This occurs to people in my age group which is 50's.
 
I can believe it.  I can't seem to escape the heaviness.  With me most of the time as I have stated in the Letter to God Thread.
Don't know how to get rid of it.  Is it internal, external, in  the stars, or all of the above.
 
In the Fall of 2010, Jack Kornfield, Ph.D., psychologist and Buddhist monk, spoke at one of The Red Book Dialogues in San Francisco. In discussing Jung’s descent, and descent experiences in general, he said your worst fears are the gateway to your enlightenment. You must face them, you must suffer, yet you must not get lost in the experience either. You stay present to your fears, you wait, you listen. It can take a long time. If you can trust the desert, at some point, it rains. Then, you find out what your gift, your contribution to the world is, "some new extraordinary wholeness appears and that's who you really are."
 
 
I guess this is the answer....
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nikki

Edited by Petunia
fixed text

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Barbarannamated

Nikki,

 

I think this age (50s) is difficult for very real life reasons. The older generation is passing on and we are becoming the oldest members of our families... facing our own mortality. Kids are forming families and lives of their own. Some of us have no "circle of life" and, for me, that's been accentuated as the elder generation passes.

 

I'm not saying there are not bigger things going on, just my observations about this time of life.

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Nikki

Yeah Barb that is a really big part of it....facing our own mortality is a biggy.....

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