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The Dark Night of the Soul (and the Light on the Horizon)

You don't need me to tell you we're going through some tough times.

All of us are being challenged. Tested. Some with relatively minor inconvenience, and some with truly existential terrors--severe illness, losing loved ones, loss of income, partial or total, in a country that--for all its Christian posturing--despises the poor.

In some ways, I've been lucky. My aged parents are doing well so far, and my siblings and their families seem well-protected. I don't have a family of my own, so even though my work hours have been reduced, so I don't have to worry about providing for anyone but myself.

But I am in the shit, as they say. No two ways about it. A perfect storm of mid-life crisis and isolation has triggered a return of the savage loneliness I'd thought I'd defeated via my work with the substantia and consequent spiritual awakening.

It seems I've entered the Dark Night of the Soul.

Since the term was first employed in the writings of Catholic mystics, its come to mean different things. When I use it, what I'm saying is that I've lost my ability to access the energies of the Divine. For about two months now, my ceremonies have been losing their ability to deliver me into the Sacred Presence. I haven't experienced the Holy Ma as real, as a person I have a relationship with. That relationship has been what has sustained me for the last several years. It felt exactly like being in love. You know the explosion of relief, and joy, and inspiration, and sense of coming home that falling in love can create? I had it. In spades. In my most ecstatic moments I truly felt accepted and understood and loved for being who I am in my heart of hearts. I had a sense of mission: I would do anything, bear any burden, take any risk, in order to express the adoration I felt in return.

Now it's gone. And I'm collapsing in on myself. I'm a black hole.

Why is it gone?

I've come up with several possible reasons.
  1. The substantia simply stopped working for me. There's a story that Terence McKenna, the famous psychedelic bard, had an experience on mushrooms in late middle-age that was so terrible he never did them again. His wife said he just sat there clutching his head and muttering, "It's all meaningless, it's all meaningless" over and over. The substantia had always been his friendly teacher, and it seemed it had turned on him savagely. A similar story recounts how the Mazatec healer Marina Sabina also mournfully claimed that her "little doctors" had stopped coming to her in the wake of the hippie invasion of her village that followed Gordon Wasson's Life Magazine article. Too little is known about the long-term effects of high-dose usage to be able to say definitely that there might not come a point when the body's response to psilocybin suddenly changes. Maybe you can develop a kind of allergy to it? If so, what is there to be done?
  2. I've become depressed, and the depression is blocking me from accessing those states I'd come to depend on. Maybe the isolation required by quarantine lockdown just pushed me over some psychological brink. Although I've been in Portland for about a year and haven't made any new friends, I've been still going out to ecstatic dances and tea ceremonies and of course the gym. I was able to mount performances of my First Church of David Bowie Shamanic Cabaret (to mixed reviews). There was a sense of possibility. Even if nothing had worked thus far, there was always a chance that the next time I meant out I'd meet a person or a group that would recognize me as one of their own, and pull me in. It brought energy into my life. And without it...I often use the analogy of being a pot of water on the stove. When the burner beneath you is on, energy is introduced into your system, and soon you're at a roiling boil. Active, capable of doing work, or synthesizing materials and producing something new. But if that burner is turned off, your potential begins to decrease. You approach entropy. Soon you are still. No work is possible. 
Okay, it's time for me to jump in the shower. Even though this essay is only 1/3 complete, I'm going to publish it anyway, just to give me the impetus to finish it later. I think that for awhile this blog is going to be a spiritual diary, recounting my struggles as I attempt to navigate these dangerous waters. Because make no mistake, I am in danger. My depression gets so deep so fast that I'm a little worried that I might not survive.


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