Today there is a wide spread opinion amongst both laymen and professionals, such as physicians and psychologists, that depression is the result of bad chemistry in the brain. Or to be more specific, the result of the depletion of serotonin. There has been proven that there is a relation between depression, feelings of aggressiveness, impulsive behaviour, and addiction, etc., and a low serotonin level in the brain. On the contrary, having a high level of the said transmittor substance is supposed to create moods of the opposite end of the spectrum, i.e. feelings of happiness, fulfilment, joy, accomplishment, etc. It is known that a bad diet and reduced sleep has a depleting effect on serotonin. It has also been proposed that it may have a biogenetic origin, which is transmitted genetically.
According to this extreme materialistic attitude or paradigm on the human soul there is simply this biological, either biogenetic or somatic, cause to depression. Therefore there is no significance or meaning at all attached to feelings of melancholy or depression. Therefore there is no point in therapeutic methods of the psychoanalytical or psychodynamic variety that interprets the symptoms. As we are dealing with a medical condition, according to the psychiatrists, it must be remedied with medicine or psychopharmaceuticals. In this case antidepressants.
The latest generation of antidepressant medicine is of the so-called SSRI variety, the most well known being Prozac. SSRI stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. As the name indicates these kinds of medicines inhibits the reuptake of serotonin after it being released in the brain’s synapses. This produces the effect of raising the level of serotonin in the brain, and hence alleviating the depression. Thus in this simplistic view the symptom (the depression) is but a malfunction of the chemical balance in the brain; the chain of causation is thus very short between the cause and effect.
On the other hand, according to Sigmund Freud and his later followers melancholy has its origin in the superego, the aspect of our psyche that accuses us and punishes us, it being the internalisation of the father’s law as an outcome of the Oedipus complex. This means that melancholy is a trait acquired from the interaction with one’s parental figures and the fear of breaking against the morality of society, as represented by the patriarchy.
Later psychoanalysts expanded upon Freud’s thoughts and in my opinion Melanie Klein was the one who took it to its greatest heights. She introduced two major “positions” of the individual, the schizo-paranoid and the depressive, by later authors re-defined as “integrative”. I personally call the second position the depressive-integrative. According to Klein we all are born into the schizo-paranoid position because of the traumas associated with birth and frustrations in the early phases of life.
Basically the child cannot cope with a mother that frustrates it while also providing it with the most gratifying of satisfactions, which the child attributes to evil and good qualities respectively. Thus the child is forced to split up these two aspects of the mother, and of itself, to be able to cope with it, ere it would fall into a total confusion and psychic disintegration. Hence the terms “evil breast” and “good breast”. The child copes with its own “evil” desires, such as gluttony, sadism, etc., by rejecting it through splitting and projection out of its own system. Thus the child within the schizo-paranoid position divides the world into clear-cut aspects of evil and good, within airtight compartments. This also creates an anxiety related to persecution and paranoia, because of the projected evil persona which the child sees in “the others”.
But in due time, as the child matures, it starts to see both evil and goodness inside of the mother, and thus also inside of itself. It starts to see that it itself has had destructive intentions and behaviours, such as fantasies of killing off its mother or its father. This creates a bad conscience or guilt, which in turn leads to depression. Here we see a child who has entered into a state of integration of the opposites and of depression resulting from that integration. This in turn leads to an urge to reparate that which has been damaged; to make amends for the hireto aggressive and destructive behaviour.
The natural outcome of all this is that the symptom (i.e. depression) is but a sign of an internal conflict between the superego and the ego, and between dynamic conflicts residing in the unconscious caused by the early interaction between the child and its parents. Therefore there is always a meaning to a depression as it can lead you to understanding the underlying dynamics of your soul. According to Freud there is no actual chance to psychological processes and phenomena; everything is determined by earlier experiences and therefore has an important meaning. Contrary to this, the bio-chemical paradigm believes in randomness and chance, depleted of any meaning.
As a magician and hermeticist I of course don’t recognize any chance or randomness in any aspect of the existance, neither of the microcosm nor of the macrocosm; that everything is determined by higher causual factors beyond the material, and that everything has a true meaning. So personally, both as a psychotherapist and as a magician, I adhere to the paradigm of psychoanalysis regarding the origins and nature of depression and melancholia. Thus I am strongly against this general view or attitude that the origin of mental “illness”, of whatever kind, solely resides in the brain, in matter. Mental “illness” properly belongs to the realm of spirit but has its effect upon the body in the form of feelings of anxiety and depression.
Sadly enough however, I have recently watched and participated in discussions where occultists are defending the attitude of modern psychiatry and the extreme materialistic view upon “soul” and its “illnesses”, as the by-product of bio-chemical processes in the brain. Contrary to them I adhere to the psychodynamic view that the true origin of mental “illness” resides in the social context of the individual and how each particular individual chooses to deal with the existential facts of life and that unique context experienced by the individual. This especially is relevant for all kinds of depressive or melancholic states, but also holds true of very severe mental “disorders” such as schizophrenia.
Thus depression is not a malfunction of the brain; it is a reaction or a way of coping with existential issues, as are all “mental disorders”. This means that the same may be said about schizophrenia and psychosis. What we undisputedly do observe in the brain (the serotonine level, etc.) and the body is a reaction to these experiences and reactions to trauma. This fully confirms the hermetic axiom of “spirit over matter”.
However I agree with the observations made that some physical (somatic) disorders may change consciousness and the emotional state. But we are not talking about chronic depression (as a psychiatric diagnosis) in these few instances, so it’s not actually relevant to our discussion here. But I do acknowledge the fact that there is no real differentiation between body and spirit. And it is of course correct that the body produces hormones which also are related to emotional states; “as above so below”.
But I want to point out that I don’t actually believe in the concept of mental “illness” (that’s why I have written the word “illness” within quotation marks). Our behaviour and mental attitude, regardless of type, is our personal way of adequately coping with life and our life’s experiences; a survival strategy. Sometimes this strategy can be very hindering indeed. That’s why people seek out therapy. But it has to be remembered that each and everyone’s strategy always is adequate according to the limits of one’s maturity, experience, knowledge and understanding.
I also nurture a spiritual view upon melancholy and depression. In my opinion depression gives a rich opportunity for spiritual progress. How can it be otherwise? How can any soul develop if there are no pains, sufferings or frustrations allowed? How can there be any progression without an urge to better one’s condition and self? I hold that depression is a key to enlightment. There is the term “dark night of the soul” coined by S:t John of the Cross, the renown Carmelite monk, which basically is a depression induced by spiritual practices, such as contemplation, meditation and ritual.
Depression forces you to look into yourself and revalue your life. In this instance taking antidepressants would seriously harm this great opportunity of self-knowledge and spiritual progress. I have seen this at close hand in one of my students so I’m talking out of experience here. So in my opinion you cannot combine antidepressants and other psychopharmaceuticals with initiation. Allow me to develope this further.
Initiation is about “knowing yourself” and I know for a fact that even our modern antidepressants make you more insensitive to your emotional life, as that is the point in taking medication. They effectively put the lid on you subconscious and emotional life, at least in part.
Your doctor will tell you that SSRI medication doesn’t numb you emotionally at all, and that you will feel more and different emotions. I have heard from people taking SSRI medication that instead of feeling just that one constant feeling of depression they now can feel a wider spectrum of emotions that they couldn’t feel before, because of the depression laying its shadow over whole of the soul.
I can appreciate this kind of descriptions and do respect this attitude in a patient, but cannot help thinking that there is a danger spiritually speaking in cutting off the darkest levels of emotion. While it is true that SSRI antidepressants don’t take away your emotional life it does in fact level out your depression. It is also true that one is able to feel other emotions instead of melancholy, but this has not that much to do with emotions being silenced by deep melancholia. Instead it has more to do with the fact that this kind of antidepressants induces other emotions artificially in place of the melancholia.
The wanted effect of SSRI medication is to induce “positive” feelings instead of the “negative” feelings associated with depression, the rationale being that a high level of serotonin gives feelings of comfort and happiness, while depleted or low levels of serotonin induces depression, destructive behaviour, addiction and aggressiveness.
So what SSRI medication basically does is to effectively cut out or inhibit one important aspect of life, and of especial spiritual significance, the dark side of the soul and of existence. It bars away a person from experiencing grief, sorrow and melancholy. I therefore ask how anyone may develop and mature as an individual and spirit if one is made insensitive to respond to the real hardships of life?
From a psychoanalytical or psychodynamic perspective depression gives you the opportunity to descend into your unconscious (or subconscious to use occult nomenclature). I have seen this myself in my own therapeutic process, in my clinical observations and experience, and in the experience of my colleagues; this is a typical trait belonging to these kinds of psychodynamic therapeutic methods.
There is a phase in psychotherapy when the patient experiences depression, the equivalent of a “dark night of the soul” of the mystic, magician or alchemist. But the patient must perservere to be able to reclaim his or her life, as the esoteric student is to experience the new dawn rising within his or her soul. Thus the same may be said of intiation as of psychotherapy.
Massive clinical experience (of the psychodynamic variety) says that SSRI medication actively hinders this necessary therapeutic process of the descent into darkness. Much research points out to the fact that psychodynamic psychotherapy (i.e. which takes the unconscious into account) is more successful if not combined with antidepressants. But this means that one have to accept to suffer from a period of worsened symptoms.
Regarding the numbing effect of SSRI medication I had a talk the other day with a quite well known psychotherapist in Sweden. He confirmed my thesis with his own clinical experience, without me mentioning my position. He litterary said that one of his patients, who happens to be on SSRI medication, cannot sink down into the level of the emotions necessary in trauma therapy. Since taking her medication she cannot work with the process of emotionally dealing with her original trauma; she is only able to work with it on the superstratum or middle level of the unconscious, and levels belonging to higher cognitive functions. This effectively inhibits the therapeutic effect, which needs to process the deeply buried emotional content to be able to release it.
With SSRI medication you effectively make it harder to feel deeper feelings (“deep” as in dark, frustrating and depressive, etc.) but are instead induced to feel higher feelings (“high” as in feelings of happiness, well being, etc.). If you want to work with your self – with your own demons so to speak – you have to be able to sink down into your deeper emotional layers. This applies both to psychotherapy and initiation.
Thus I really have no problems with depressives or melancholics in my Temple. But I expect of the melancholics to be prepared to deal with their emotional issues and surpressed contents. If any melancholic lacks the guts to deal with his emotional issues the G∴D∴ is not for him. And if a candidate has a biological (i.e. materialistic) view upon mental illness, instead of the psycho-dynamic or spiritual, he or she has no place in a G∴D∴ Temple or in any hermetic Lodge for that matter.
And if a applicant cannot be without his antidepressants, even of the relatively gentle SSRI variety and of the lowest dose, I would say that it definitely categorizes someone as emotionally unstable which practically hinders them from being admitted for membership. Thus persons diagnosed with a severe mental illness have no place in the G∴D∴. And in my experience lots of mentally disturbed people seek out the mysteries, for a help of a remedy.
A Temple must bar away mentally and emotionally unstable persons of the severe kind, both for the sake of the Temple’s egregore and for the sake of the applicant. My experience tells me that initiation into the Golden Dawn creates a severe artificial disintegration of the soul, a process which may be likened to the Alchemical phase of Nigredo or putrefaction. This creates quite some hardships and turmoil for the average neurotic and emotionally functional initiate. Imagine what would happen if a person with severe cronical depression or even worse mental states would be admitted for initiation. In my opinion it is unethical to admit such a person as it definitely will lay its karmic burden upon both the initiator and the egregore.
Simply speaking, you cannot substitute initiation for psychotherapy. And if you prefer your medication instead of psychotherapy – i.e. dealing with your problems and getting to know yourself – you have no place in a G∴D∴ Temple.
You may find my words severe and harsh. Perhaps they are, but believe me they are said in the best of meaning and interests for all parties involved in an initiatory process, the initiate, the initiating team and the Temple egregore. My words that I have spoken are based upon almost two decades of experience of G∴D∴ initiation and individual initiatory processes. Today I have a quite severe selecting process for my Temple that takes one year, at least. And in my selection I use my professional knowledge of psychotherapy to spot the unprepared.
So, I have no prejudice at all against melancholics. On the contrary I prefer them as they often are of the reflective and aware kind, not to say sensitive, compassionate and emphatic. But if diagnosed with clinical depression and considering initiation they have to choose between their medication (if any) and being initiated. Sometimes taking psychotherapy before initiation is recommended to better prepare a candidate for initiation.
Regarding finding a good therapist many occultists are afraid of prejudice against the occult, afraid of being diagnosed as psychotic or mentally disturbed because of their interest in the esoteric. I don’t know how the situation is in other countries, but in Sweden a psychotherapist isn’t allowed to intervene in their patient’s religious or political convictions, or sexual orientation for that matter. It is unethical, according to the code of professional psychotherapists in my country, to try to “cure” their patients from religious, political and sexual preferences. I guess the situation is the same in other countries.
There is much misconception about psychotherapy. Psychotherapy isn’t about curing “disease”. It’s about broadening your perspective and deepening your understanding of yourself, to emancipate you. The patient defines what the problem is and what should be worked upon. The therapist uses himself and his experience to assist the patient in this process of emancipation and self-knowledge. It can truly be likened to an initiatory process.
But if someone resorts to taking medication as a solution, instead of taking psychotherapy, that’s fine by me. I’m not in a position to judge anyone’s character or choices in life. But when it comes to initiation I have to look at certain criteria, and this particular strategy is not what is to be expected from someone seeking initiation (at least not in my Temple).
Now I expect people to start refute my position and start to defend the bio-chemical-materialistic view upon man and his soul. Sadly enough I even expect this from some of my fellow occultists. This topic is very sensitive and I understand that I may have stepped upon someone’s toes, or evoked the feelings of severe and unjust judgement against their decisions in taking medication. I beg your apology in being so uninhibited in my discussion. I mean no harm. But I have to state my opinion and share my experience, both as a professional therapist and as an initiator into hermetics. And besides this, now you also know what to expect of my Temple if you decide to apply for initiation into it.
Someone will probably bring up the diabetes and insulin analogy. But I don’t particularly like this analogy, nor do I accept it as relevant. I have heard that argument before, especially by people taking antidepressant medication (it more sounds like their doctor speaking). It’s a very easy and comforting way of not dealing with one’s existential issues. And that is not becoming of an aspiring initiate.
Someone will perhaps bring out the question of menopause and estrogen medication. But this is another not particularly relevant analogy. Women applicants should of course be allowed to take estrogen pills. It cannot be compared to taking antidepressant SSRI medication. So it’s no real issue here. Again, estrogen cannot be compared to psychopharmaceuticals proper even if it affects one’s emotional life (but it doesn’t put the lid on it). Meno-pause is a natural state of a woman, and cannot be regarded as a disease as pregnacy cannot be. Therefore I would recommend someone experiencing a menopause not to take estrogen medication and to deal with this natural phase of one’s life, but I definitely wouldn’t bar anyone from initiation resorting to this medication if their symptoms are to severe.
But both of these examples are more attributed to somatic conditions. I am addressing psychiatric diagnosis in this essay, not somatic ones. And my experience tells me that you cannot fully take the advantage of initiation and magic if you are on psychopharmaceuticals or on sedation.
I am also mainly addressing the diagnosis of clinical depression here, not of a bi-polar disorder. I would definitely bar anyone from initiation having this severe psychiatric diagnosis. In psychoanalytical terms the bi-polar or manodepressive disorder is the melancholic’s equivalent of schizofrenia in the schizoid character; i.e. it properly belongs to the range of psychosis.
Besides, psychiatrists use different kinds of medication for these two diagnoses. I don’t know the situation in other countries, but here in Sweden they have started to give bi-polars epilepsy medication, as recent “research” has “discovered” that this kind of medication also has a levelling effect on mood swings.
This is quite a strange move to take in my opinion, but on the grounds of biological inexpertise I’m not in a position to decide what medicine is good and what is not good for any diagnosis, as I am not a doctor nor a pharmaceutic scientist. But I do know what forces are behind this kind of selection processes. I do know who are behind all of these new “therapies” and diagnoses, and who gives the funds for this kind of “research.” In fact I know that it is the pharma companies, who incidentally produces the medicine and earns a lot of money in the process.
You probably won’t believe my following words as it goes against all logic. I know it does, and this makes it even more tragic. Now, normally one identifies a symptom and then tries to find a remedy for it through research; the demand comes prior to the supply. When it comes to the sordid history of the development of the SSRI medicine, the situation was in fact the reverse. Researchers suddenly discovered this new serotonin inhibiting effect through an experiment and afterwards the company started to ponder on what kind of ailments it could be used against; what new markets could be profited upon and exploited.
After resolving to engaging and mobilizing their sponsored doctors a new mental disorder was invented, called “panic anxiety”. Voalá! The company created a new marked with the help of their doctors, which of course got a good compensation in their wallets. And the company’s stockholders laughted all their way to the bank.
This isn’t all. The patent for SSRI medication have just expired a year ago or so. Suddenly other companies in third world countries could produce SSRI medicine very cheaply. Loss of profits for the original company of course resulted. But soon someone discovered that the company could profit more from the fact that the patent for this particular kind of epilepsy medicine had not yet expired. So what new “diagnosis” do you think soon was about to be invented? Bi-polar light of course!
History repeats itself. If you would care to look into the dirty business or abyss of pharma industry you would soon come to fear the dark. And this is not a “conspiracy theory”. It is all well documented and accounted for. But if I am allowed to descend even deeper into the mire of the subject of conspiracies, I wonder what higher motives or forces there is behind these pharmaceutics companies?
If this development is allowed to continue I can foresee (without resorting to my crystal ball) a dystopian society similar to the one pictured in the movie Equilibrium, starring Christian Bale. This is not a particularly good movie but it has a great motif, that of a government and society that resorts to mind control by drugging their population with a sedative that effectively takes away their emotions. This is also the theme of one of my all time favourite movies THX 1138, starring Robert Duvall. In both cases we have a totalitarian system that manages to exhort mind control over their population by controlling (or taking away) people’s ability to feel – to effectively feel alive.
The rationale behind this is that feelings of depression, of frustration, or dissatisfaction, etc. create opposition, revolution or evolution. Take away the deeper and darker feelings in any human, you will take away his incentive for individuation. Thus we will have a society that basically stops evolving, with a working force who doesn’t ask for any major improvements of their working conditions. We will effectively level out the dynamics and conflicts of our society, which lays the basis for development. We will all become one happy family of consumers making the stockholders richer while being depleted of our right to a full existence as living beings. Basically we will create a dead society.
In this context an esoteric lodge or G∴D∴ Temple poses a serious threat to such a system, as its main goal is to emancipate its members. Another category of subversive elements is of course the psychoanalysts and psychotherapists. Today we se a choir of detractors which calls themselves “sceptics”, mainly physicians and scientists sponsored by pharma companies, who runs a campaign which may be likened to a crusade, not only against all forms of alternative medicine and occult theories, but also against well proven and effective psychotherapeutic methods stemming from psychoanalysis. Anyone who doesn’t conform to the new biological gospel runs a serious risk of being branded as a quack and impostor.
In my opinion, what we see here is a serious case of projection. The occult community in general and the G∴D∴ community in particular mustn’t be allowed to compromise anything of their sacred tradition, their hermetic teachings, against these forces. On the contrary the G∴D∴ must stay put and prepare some few good men and women who will become a vanguard to lead our human society towards the new era marked by the age of Aquarius, a reformation, both of divine and humane things.