Monday, August 18, 2008

A Dark Night Brings Commitment to Life


Many of us, because of a critical illness, suicidal depression or life threatening accident, have been faced with having to recommit to life to go on living. Sometimes the road back is long and arduous. It raises questions about God and faith, the engine behind achievement, and the persistence of love, divine and human. What brings us to this point? At what point do we decide, YES, I choose life! How do we go about putting our lives back together after reaching this point?

This process, along with a physical crisis, also includes what has been called through the ages, “the dark night of the soul,” which refers to purifying the soul of worldly attachments in preparation for illumination. As psychologist, Carl Jung reminds us, "when the soul embraces and accepts suffering, the pain reveals itself as the birth pangs of a new inner being." As Jung points out "the birth of the Self is always a defeat for the ego."

Author Gregg Braden presents the dark night of the soul as one of the Essene Seven Mirrors of Relationship, allowing us a deeper understanding of our relationship with ourselves and others, and an opportunity to explore the our relationship with the Divine. The "dark night" might clinically or secularly be described as the letting go of one's ego as it holds back the psyche, thus making room for some form of transformation, perhaps in one's way of defining oneself or one's relationship to God. This interim period can be frightening, hence the perceived "darkness."

During this dark night, which Kierkegaard labeled "despair," we, as an ego, experience our utter impotence and powerlessness. We seem to be caught in an infinite double-bind, and might be afraid that we are going crazy. At times it even feels like we have fallen into the depths of hell. Suicide seems the only way out. To quote the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross, who, in the 16th century coined the term the dark night: "the soul can do so little in this state; like a prisoner in a gloomy dungeon, bound hand and foot, it cannot stir, neither can it see or feel any relief, either from above or below…"

The Egyptian Hermetic teachings tell us the first step in the process of getting through a “dark night” is letting go of our ego’s hold on life brings about a complete transformation in our psyche. The second step, immersion into pure Being, brings about the revelation that our ego is itself just a limited projection of pure existence and being. Certainly from here, we begin to put our lives back together. But we will never be the same.

What do YOU think?

74 comments:

Evita said...

Oh the last paragraph especially resonated with me and is absolutely true. This topic makes me think of Eckhart Tolle of "A New Earth" and his story. His suffering became so great that he could not go on as he was and hence there were only 2 options: kill oneself or awaken. He awoke and this awakening has allowed him to let go of all these illusions of the physical reality that we think make us up, when in reality they only blind us from the truth that is.

But there is one thing I cannot yet figure out... Usually great pain leads to great awakening, but then there are people who do neither...not exit this life form or awaken...they just persevere in a painful state their whole life. I often wonder hence what could wake these people up? Perhaps it is due to people's different tolerance of spiritual pain.

JM Sherer said...

I understand the concern Evita, its very interesting. Do you think that They have "awakened" as much as they will be able to in this life? Or perhaps as much as they are meant to?

Schrodinger said...

But we will never be the same.

Perhaps, but I suspect that some who have had this experience , in their effort to get back to “normal” do end up being much the same as before. After the passage of time, the experience is pushed back into the farthest depths of memory and is treated as if it never happened. The ego is a powerful thing which will not remain suppressed for long and even tries to laugh off or otherwise diminish the effect of this experience. Surely it can never be totally forgotten but remembering it can be as frightening as the original experience itself. That is, it is frightening to the ego, which will not allow any competition for possession of the self. I think it takes a brave person to go back there again, to that dark night of the soul, for a reminder of what our true nature is. Just my 2 cents

Jufa said...

Men/women see through a glass darkly. They become caught up in their own look at me attitudes. They read and digest written thoughts of other men and believe they ride the wave of knowledge and wisdom. In the final analysis however, these men/women will find themselves looking up at other men/women staring down upon them in sadness and weeping. They will seek to arise from their reclining position and find no inertia, breath, nor blood running throught their veins, and their entire body of flesh hard as stone.

Where will their human knowledge and wisdom take them then except to the bedrock of their interpreted thoughts and thinking. There will be no other place for them to go, for they have not understood ascension from the human dimension of thoughts, of pain, of depression, sadness, anger, selflessness is accomplished by adhering to the righteousness of the law of life, and precept upon precept, and obedience to the statutes of Spirit.

Men believe they can retain their individual personalities and still be in conscious union with the Spirit which made them the consciousness of Itself. All living souls are the conscious extension of Spirit. This make Spirit the only source of conscious awareness in the realm of flesh, which makes God the true personality of consciousness. Never can men find this true personality within themselves as long as they believe they possess two personalities, and can retain both simultaneous.

Men are the product of their flesh mentality. A continuous thinking system initiated in ancient days by their ancestors has moulded and shaped men's thinking. And "as a man thinkest in his heart, so is he." As a man continues to think in his heart, so he remains. The man/woman who cannot rise up beyond this ancient thought system they inherited which carved their ways of thinking and lving today, have not understood they have been chosen to overcome this thought system while they live in the world of flesh. "If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness?"

Man has not understood he is the chosen One, the Saviour. The One who is to stop the buck passing of believing in this system of thinking. Man is the Saviour because life is the omnipresent extension of all men's conscious who have lived and died without fulfilling their purpose of redemption of mankind while living within this dimension. Man is the redeemer, the cross bearer for those who failed their mission and for him self, and all members of the human family which are the culmination of this human system of thinking now.

From the manuscript
"THE ILLUSION OF GOD"

Evita said...

Perhaps JMSherer. I guess one can say they have reached what they can in this life, but I can't help thinking that there is always potential for more growth. I don't believe the beings come in with a limit, if anything they limit themselves.

I guess in one way or another everybody is awakening constantly no matter how it may look to others, it is their rate of awakening that stands out like an eye sore. I know that just as there are people who learn physical tasks here at different rates the same can be said about spiritual learning. I just can't imagine living in such suffering and really doing nothing about it.

Molly Brogan said...

I think that we can see the suffering in a different light, as in a path chosen at the soul level that brings awareness. Longsuffering is considered to be a Catholic virtue! I am not saying that I agree, but it is certainly the road that St. Francis took to sainthood. I do agree that this path is limited. Can we learn without pain? I think so, but it seems everyone does not agree, at least at the soul level.

Dan said...

After reading your post, I find myself wondering if I've gone through a dark night of the soul, at least within the confines of the given descriptions.

There was certainly a dark period in my life which was literally a struggle to keep going on. My parents divorced when I was 12 and living in California. My mother moved back home to Chicago and my father stayed in California. I moved back and forth several times between the two states. I was already used to moving before the divorce, having done it twice by the time I was 11. After I finally settled down in Chicago, I still managed to move around quite a bit. Depression was an issue for me, as was alienation. I moved so much, and never lived in any one place very long, so I felt that I never really had a chance to set down any roots. I put up a wall between myself and others, because my life was in constant flux and I realized that any attachment to people would prove to be a source of pain when my circumstances changed again and I didn't have them in my life anymore. Life was a whirlwind for about ten years, and without going into too many specifics, I will just say that I got to know the ins and outs of hospitals and other such institutions.

So does this qualify? I'm not sure. Certainly, there are elements involved in my case that were a definite challenge to the ego. Many people seem to have their identities wrapped up in the places where they reside or the company they keep, and those two concepts are very hard for me to even fathom. A dark night of the soul challenges and uproots the ego's hold on one's life, but since these circumstances occurred at such an early point in my life, I don't think I had a definitely-formed ego for them to uproot. Adolescence is a dynamic time in a person's life, and teenagers aren't quite so set in stone as older people. The hold of ego wasn't as strong for me then.

I learned a lot of valuable lessons due to the way my life played out. I missed out on a lot of typical experiences and rites of passage, but I grew up pretty fast. I had the lessons of detachment down pat, but not in a spiritual way. It is good to understand the pain that attachment to ego-particulars can bring, but not so good to allow that knowledge to isolate you and cut you off from others. My real lesson was in learning to open up and make friends regardless of the likelihood that I might lose them soon; to strike that balance between being connected and being attached, as there is a subtle difference.

Did my "dark night" free me from the bonds of ego? No, I don't think so. Again, it happened at such a young age. Now my life has dramatically settled down; I spent a long time repeating my mistakes and missing the lessons, but I finally learned to transmute my circumstances to receive them in the best possible light, and begin to build on that. An interesting thing has started to happen: Now that I'm settling down and forming some roots, I am starting to form ego attachments, simply because that's possible now. I am finding that the challenge now is to apply the lessons I learned early on to my current circumstances. The rules have changed. I would say that I am much less fettered by the bonds of ego than many people I've met, but I am not what I would call "enlightened" yet. Perhaps another dark night awaits me.

Perhaps some people go through more than one?

Harmony said...

I am reminded of an eclipse - when there is darkness and no light. No shadows to deal with, for there is no duality at all.

I have had a few dark nights, whether by ego need, divine plan or accident, I could never say for absolute surety.

But one thing I do know, until I became comfortable with the mystery of the dark, and knew that safety was always an illusion, the blackness haunted me everywhere.

Light and darkness, like myself and my world are really one reflection of the same. In that, I am safe.

Joy said...

I like your thesis Molly and I think that it rings true with many people around the world. What we see is a process of metamorphosis which is entirely natural.

You are born innocent, then you experience. Then you are afraid, uncertain, uncommitted and finally either out of desperation or blind realisation you seek to remove this "life". But to come out of this completely intact is a fantastic experience. As our lives are experiences of the other, I think we understand the necessity of the other in forming differences.
The big problem I see is that people will deny these differences. This is truly the dark night of humanity..

Jufa said...

Would like to introduce this trend of thought to be considered. We have such a short intake of what really cause and effect mean.

A certain brahman: "Now then, Master Gotama: Is the one who acts the same one who experiences [the results of the act]?"

The Buddha: "[To say,] 'The one who acts is the same one who experiences,' is one extreme."

The brahman: "Then, Master Gotama, is the one who acts someone other than the one who experiences?"

The Buddha: "[To say,] 'The one who acts is someone other than the one who experiences,' is the second extreme. Avoiding both of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by means of the middle:

"From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications.

"From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness.

"From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form.

"From name-&-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media.

"From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact.

"From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.

"From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving.

"From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance.

"From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming.

"From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth.

"From birth as a requisite condition, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress & suffering.

"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications. From the cessation of fabrications comes the cessation of consciousness. From the cessation of consciousness comes the cessation of name-&-form... the cessation of the six sense media... the cessation of contact... the cessation of feeling... the cessation of craving... cessation of clinging/sustenance... the cessation of becoming... the cessation of birth. From the cessation of birth, then aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress & suffering."

Schrodinger said...

This seems to be saying that the Ideal State is to never be born in the first place! What, then, is the purpose of life as a Human Being?

Jufa said...

This question should not be utmost response to what I have introduced. The question which initiates [gives Cause for] all questions such as the above is what is the purpose for the known universe? If one can peak this question, then all questions, such as the above becomes moot. No answer to this question has been presented except by a few men who have been called either insane, or on some metaphorical mystical self-hynotic religious trip. Be so as it may be believed, for he man is responsible to himself in final analysis.

Nonethless the opening question of this post has been asked. And this is one way in which some meaning of answer can be alloted/

All that is pure, dear, and true to men. All which they curse, worship, rob, cheat, lie, and are willing to take another man's life to possess. Every problem men strive to overcome and solve. Every cause, slogan, and button of commitment men take to heart has but one purpose, and one purpose only. To recycle the universal human mentality, men accept as personal, within the maze of ignorance arrogance the universal human mind finds life and thrives within. This is the foundation, creed, and principle for and of the self-righteous religious thought. This is the god of this world's agenda. It it this god's thought pattern of self-righteousness which cause men to believe they have a purpose to procreate and continue to believe they can possess and influence anything outside of, only to discover when the grim reaper appears and graps ["a time to die'] their reality, nothing they did while living between the arch of birth and death, is theirs to take with them, and has no meaning whatsoever. There is no logic for existence.

Life is far more infinite than any human concept, theory, idea. or believed interpreted human purpose could ever begin to comprehend. Everything men do is done upon a time table which will end man's seeking and endeavors of understanding life's meaning and purpose in this dimension. Life's meaning and purpose is about expanding. But birth into the flesh has one purpose - death. And in this dimension, it is death which halts expansion.

Should it be consider true, that death halts expansion, why seek enlightenment? Why should a man strive to fulfill his specific purpose for being born [when he doesn't know that purpose]? Because man lives by way of thought, and the reality of thought is Consciousness. The life of man's thoughts, whether called spiritual or material, are the Spirit of the Consciousness from which intent of thought began. Seeking enlightenment is seeking for the true intent of purpose of all thoughts. It is called discernment. This is how man test the spirits to see if they are of God. Enlightenment is just being the light of life which man is. The light which absorbs all within it, as it, knowing there is nothing outside of it.

Consciousness cannot be described, yet manifestation of Consciousness is recognized by the senses of all men through the activity of the forces of nature as thought formation. Within Consciousness all forms, realms spheres, dimensions, degrees of man's omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent Spirit of Being exist. Consciousness is the reality of the Creator living as all consciousness and souls. This makes God the individual consciousness, conscience, and Soul of all mankind.

Man's primary purpose is to continuously bear witness to the truth that Consciousness is the true form of life. That Consciousness brings life to the flesh of men, and therefore, the minds of men. That every thought conceived first came out of the invisible essence and substance of Consciousness by-way of Its Spirit of intent. Man is here to bear witness to the truth that the Creator is the only power That no human thought, interpretation of human thought, nor human intent of thought is a power, in this world, and cannot alter the Creator's intent of purpose which has no logic or meaning to man.

Bito said...

"The Egyptian Hermetic teachings tell us the first step in the process of getting through a “dark night” is letting go of our ego’s hold on life brings about a complete transformation in our psyche. The second step, immersion into pure Being, brings about the revelation that our ego is itself just a limited projection of pure existence and being. Certainly from here, we begin to put our lives back together. But we will never be the same."

No, we are not the same, for we realize that there is no separate 'we' from Life that then must commit to Life. You are Life, I am Life - this is the simple truth man needs to comprehend so as to overcome his existential questing and angst.

Man seeks to manipulate Life with his thoughts about how Life should or shouldn't be. He continues with this folly of thought possession until he finally wakes up to the truth that Life is not a whole that fragments so as to "be put back together." Life is Whole, period.

Mirjana said...

I think that the most important thing is to recognize personal dark nights of the soul. Only if we are aware of them we are able to do something about it.
For me, doing something about it means to stop running away from it or hiding it, but making it even bigger as acceptance will make it vanishing. It is an old alchemical process and the whole Spiritual Technology techniques are based on that. Therefore they are so efficient in working with all aspects of the soul, including the dark night of the soul.

Vamadevananda said...

" At what point do we decide, YES, I choose life!"

Trust you, Molly, to come up with this positivity - loaded side of the suicidal experience.

You are the angel among us !

Neil said...

Molly is indeed an angel - and has shown a very practical side to this 'condition'. I tend to dislike the "positive natural" that pushes human idiocy, suffering and the reality of the mundane (day-to-day) aside (under the carpet). I'm rather Freudian in this, though dislike the "depressive position" that the most we can achieve is some kind of "normal unhappiness". Dark tea-times of the soul can lead one personally away from despair - yet I want something more fully social- cosmic than this, without any reversion to daft stuff like creationism or "rationalised madness" that will not learn that complex systems will behave unpredictably. If I have Molly right, I think this means we need to learn 'smaller lives are our chance at bigger happiness' and similar apparent contradictions - I don't believe such issues would appear so contradictory if our thinking and commitment to each other were more satisfactory.

I felt some "pride" earlier that the UK is winning gold medals at the Olympic farce - the effort we put into such esoteric dross beggars belief. The three parks of protest have, of course, remained empty. Three cheers for those who have unfurled a few banners for Tibet and for our friend Orn who is no longer posting to this group. Lots of love to my friend Vam who reminds me constantly that generosity remains possible.

Vamadevananda said...

Neil, I agree entirely with the premise that 'smaller lives are our chance at bigger happiness'.

I gave up the bait of opportunities to lead a ' larger ' life long, long back, when no one really understood why I should be by - passing such opportunities. Very, very few supported it.

Today, I am closer to ( and in touch with ) a lot of individuals who are largely either marginalised ( inwardly or otherwise ) or are at the periphery of the society ( or the organisation I work for ). And, I am happier for those infrequent occasions when they feel touched, helped, hopeful, glad or respected ... while they are trapped in a life that deals to them cruelty, hopelessness, apathy, insignificance and other intensely negative emotions.

As a result, I find, my life is filled more with love than with the largeness of my life. This love is spontaneous for everyone and everything. It is not the love conditioned by time, such as we have for our spouse or children.

It is difficult for me to write about this dimension of my life's experience. But I am not recommending it to anyone. I am not a missionary.

Neil said...

A yes to all that Vam. Some of my colleagues renounced the "love- trust" version of organisational development years back - for reasons I broadly still support - it was actually exploitative. We now have ways to understand quite wide reaching systems, but are still missionaries - as in a paper entitled 'The Missionaries of Management Go East'. One can't even apply for jobs without be committed to this, that and the other set of managerial lies, leaving integrity as something one has to hide whilst pretending!

Francis said...

I got off the merry-go-round seven years ago, giving up management and 50-60-hour-weeks, at least off the express track. I feel my life has become richer as a result - and learning to live without so much money
while occasionally frustrating) has also not been a particularly negative experience. Of course, living in the complexity of modern western society makes comprehensive dropping-out difficult, and I don't think I'd want to do that anyway. And, in the so-called developed western world, simplicity is a very relative concept - it's very different when you have to slave away under awful conditions just to feed yourself and your family. But finding the richness in the ordinary things of life is very satisfying.

John put it nicely: http://de.youtube.com/watch?v=FSBYfc46rhk

Edwin said...

When love is denied ... well, I simply don't think it can be denied. I think we have a need for love such as will find a way to acquire it regardless the "... cruelty, hopelessness, apathy, insignificance and other intensely negative emotions" naturally experienced in the course of life.
From many points of view my life has been loveless. A family that were too dysfunctional to love spawned a son that never knew what it was to love or be loved yet I continually sought it. Like many filling prophecies of doom in their own lives, I connected love with sex early on. It felt great, better than anything else I'd felt, so it must be love. I don't think I have to tell anyone where a life of following one's penis leads.

But that part of me that still needed love, to love and be loved, knew that sex wasn't the answer and kept looking. Meanwhile occasionally I'd get an odd feeling of greatness within me -- like I was destined to do something great. For a while I even thought I might be some kind of prophet that was not yet ready for revelation. I had no idea what that greatness might be but there was no denying the reality of the feeling. It persistently nagged at me for years, through jobs and places, relationships and experiences I've lived. It is possible to enjoy a loveless life but the need for love was right too.

In my fifties -- a long time later -- I discovered what that greatness I had felt for so long was. As I aged I developed an interest in history and politics which are the components I believe led me to learn what that greatness was. I was experiencing the greatness of my humanity, the greatness of the species, the greatness of the human race and with it a love and pride such as I'd never felt for anything else. So love I think cannot be denied. It will find a way to express itself and my way is what makes me so positive about the future of the human race and why I find so many of today's problems no more than a passing annoyance. We are destined for great things as a species and I can fulfill my need for love in that manner. I also love my dog. That is also as pure a love as I've ever felt.

Either that or I've devised a deceptive scenario to fool myself into thinking I've achieved something and am still just a loveless fool treading where angels fear to go.

Molly Brogan said...

"yet I want something more fully social- cosmic than this, without any reversion to daft stuff like creationism or "rationalised madness" that will not learn that complex systems will behave unpredictably."

I think it is wonderful if we can come through our dark night and reaffirm our commitment to life with a greater understanding of ourselves, that it may lead to a more fulfilling relationship with everything and everyone in our experience. This occurs for everyone in greater and lesser degrees. It sounds, from the responses above, that this may just make life worth living for many. But I think that the process is inside out. And we are taken to our dark night to reformulate ourselves so that more significant relationships are possible. Whether our lives are large or small (I think I have live a bit of both, but not simultaneously - yet) it seems to be the clarity of our self concept and quality of our relationship to our experience that keeps us going. Love, how we feel it, express it, find it, receive it, respond to it, can be a big part of that experience.

I think the social experience is formed by the inner experience. It is what we make of it.

Pat said...

Just a thought, but, is not unrequited love a form of denial of love? Also, there is a certain amount of denial of love for one's spouse in adultery, although, admittedly, there is possibly 'love discovered' in the extra-marital relationship. As far as your dog goes, it's easy to love that dog; hell, I fell for her after seeing the pictures--what a cutie! ;-)

Neil said...

With the inner and social it's difficult to know what kicks what off. The best people produce the best societies and the best societies produce the best people - except it ain't that simple. Some of the social is so bad we have to hide from it, so I'm not sure what we make of it. Molly's right in all kinds of ways with this, but not all (at least in my worldview). I wouldn't want anyone to worry unduly, but my life is under threat from a crap crook at the moment and a police panic alarm is installed in our house. There is only so much one can do with the inner self.

Ruby said...

"Suicide seems the only way out"

What Molly said is so true, suicide is the only way out, and to me that does not mean harming your own body or ending your life, i.e. removing breath from your body.

I believe that suicide should be to end the "perception" you had about yourself, which has consistently not given any desired results, this is about changing your mind about yourself. Obsession on our self, our ego, will eventually bring disappointment and dissatisfaction.

I believe all of us are on this path, until we find that inner being that contain all the joy we ever wanted, coming eventually that all you wanted, you always had.

The point where we want to take our live, is an opportune time to recommit to a life we always wanted and could find because we were looking with a wrong outlook. As Molly wrote, that is were we meet God, and know that life is not what we see with our physical, there is more, or let me say everything, and that is not visible to the physical eyes.

I learned this from the bible. As it say that we should lay our lives for our brothers. This is greater love, to live your life for others, ending all attempts to preserve your own (suicide)

Anyone should feel free to correct my thought pattern

Gabby said...

There is excitement and tension I prefer to live out in my local movie theater. When my son at the age of 7 was in fear of dying we immediately moved house and school. I was so used to the daily agony of everyday life that I forgot how much more support children need to reach this normal state of numbness. We are doing much better now. :-)

Edwin said...

"Just a thought, but, is not unrequited love a form of denial of love?"

Without doubt. But if love is unavailable, unrequited love fills a large portion of that emptiness. And given that I doubt I've ever experienced real love and may not recognize it or more likely am terrified of it, the unrequited love I feel for the species as a whole, for all living creatures, for my dog, for nature -- will never be rejected. It's safe and sufficient now.

"Also, there is a certain amount of denial of love for one's spouse in adultery,"

Undeniably so.

"... although, admittedly, there is possibly 'love discovered' in the extra-marital relationship."

Having acquired love in such manner more than once, I can say that the quality of such love is frequently less than the one left behind.

"As far as your dog goes, it's easy to love that dog; hell, I fell for her after seeing the pictures--what a cutie! ;-)"

That she is. Almost too much so. People remember her before they remember me, if at all. I fell head over heels the first time I saw her, which was tied to two street beggers asking for money for food for the dog. She looked half starved to death and so sad. After a week of seeing this every time I left the house, one day I gave the bums a hundred dollar bill and told them I was taking the dog and if they didn't like it we could call the cops. Never heard a word out of them and Zoe & I have been together ever since.

She was about eight months old then and this October she'll be ten years. I've been together with Zoe three times longer than my longest human relationship. She came with a large but not unexpected separation anxiety to which I've catered. She's changed a lot of my life because if she can't come with me I won't go -- notwithstanding some unbending circumstances such as grocery shopping and the like.

Of course Zoe assists in this by being a most well-mannered and lovable dog. Like you, everyone who meets her falls in love with her (with few rare exceptions). She has a natural gentle quality and the softest mouth. She can take a biscuit out of my hand so gently she sometimes drops it. She can come with me off-leash in some of the places I shop -- an Ace hardware store, my bank, even one restaurant if it's not busy -- because she's so easy to love and so well- behaved. Otherwise she'll sit patiently behind the wheel, all windows open, and never leave the car until I return.

"With the inner and social it's difficult to know what kicks what off. The best people produce the best societies and the best societies produce the best people - except it ain't that simple."

Chicken and egg, chicken and egg ... chasing the tail of the dog that bit you. You're right, it ain't all that simple. Hell, most people don't even know there's an inner and of those that do many ignore it or hide from it. But it's not easy to put aside what must be set aside in order to touch that part of ourselves.

Some of the

"I wouldn't want anyone to worry unduly, but my life is under threat from a crap crook at the moment and a police panic alarm is installed in our house. There is only so much one can do with the inner self."

Unless one is Bruce Lee perhaps. Not to make light ... my life has been in similar circumstances once or twice and regardless that it was my fault such a threat has a way of demanding all your attention. In your case it's all the more so because it's part of your job description. Hope things work out alright.

Just a variation on a theme. To me, the inner self is an empty vessel at birth and filled by us as we progress through life. There is no guarantee that the inner self will be kind, gentle, compassionate, loving, etc. I've met people whose inner self was utterly vile. I also believe that if there is an afterlife the content of this inner self has a lot to do with the character and nature of that existence.

As regards laying down one's life for one's fellow man, while a noble act, I think the golden rule would be more in keeping with a realistic goal -- to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. It achieves the same end with less gruesome side effects.

Without doubt the external is formed by the internal (notwithstanding scientific objectivity) because it is through the eyes of the internal that we view all else. That internal self, like clay -- what one has made of it or like a vessel -- what one has filled it with, is the crucible in which our feelings, reactions and responses to the external world are formed.

But -- isn't there always a but -- you say we are taken to our dark night to perform this reformulation. By what or how are we so taken? I can only agree if this path to the darkness is a natural one needing neither deity nor supreme power to traverse. My own take on this is that there is a natural tendency toward goodness in the living universe which comes from a healthy self interest in survival. The keyword being "healthy." A healthy self interest realizes that the well-being of our neighbors in this world are every bit as important and worthwhile as our own. Another variation on the golden rule.

Richard said...

It is not for nothing that T. S. Eliot wrote, in "Ash Wednesday,"

Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied,
The greater torment
Of love satisfied...

Each involves a denial of the self, and requires us to step outside of our ordinary existence; and each requires a special kind of patience that is difficult for most of us.

Edwin said...

Can you expand on that a touch? I don't understand TSE -- end the pain of love's failure or endure the greater pain of loving and being loved?. And what is it that involves self-denial and how does that work. To what end to we gather this difficult patience. It's all a bit confusing for me.

Neil said...

I've come to think our lives are regulated from the wrong places - a series of demons beyond the gates and a highly crooked element within that plays on this (whether as politicians or crooks and anti-social monsters). Most of the hen and egg reasoning we do stops too soon and prevents stories that at least appear to have empirical backing - like evolution. I don't favour etiquettes, politesse and manners in any simple way (these are often the tools of oppressors) - yet we rely on levels of trust and appear not to realise we need to do more to make trusting and honesty good policies.

Molly Brogan said...

I think that the TSE quote is telling us that when we look to the other in love, we are looking for those parts of ourselves that reflect to us - who we are or what we've lost, or what is tormenting us (shadow.) It does indeed, take a special kind of patience not to blame the other but see past the obvious into what is otherwise unseen - the sacred nature of relationship and what it is telling us about life's mystery.

Of course, your observation that most people recognize only the chicken (material) and not the egg (possibility) as the original impulse is very insightful. And yet, we all love, and feel loss, grieve and love again. Why deny it? That particular denial will not get us through a dark night intact.

Richard said...

I think that "Ash Wednesday" is above all about patience, and the
need for the Other. The final stanza expresses it well:

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood;
Teach us to care and not to care;
Teach us to sit still,
Our peace in His will...

...Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto thee.

Molly Brogan said...

Like all of the works of TS Elliot, what we carry away from the reading is often formed by what we bring to it. It is multi layered. The "suffer me not to be separated" certainly cries of a dark night. That isolation and hopelessness, sanctified by "our peace in his will," leaves us with the question when we find ourselves in the midst of a dark night, how do I find my peace in His will? So often within the dark night, we cannot feel God or anything else but pain.

Chris said...

When is suicide the right answer?

There are many reasons to off yourself. Financial ruin, a loss of honor, or perhaps that you are sixteen and your boyfriend broke up with you and your parents totally got you the wrong car. Obviously, there are some reasons which are more palatable than others, reasons which lift the taboo status. These are usually limited to pain relief, typically connected to some terminal illness for which death a foregone conclusion anyways. It's a tragedy when sixteen year old Beth Ann dies of her own hand, when her life had so much potential, but not so much when Dr. Kevorkian prescribes a combination of Seconal and Morphine to a terminal cancer patient with no hope of recovery.

What do you think? When is the right time to take your own life?

Juan said...

I think it's mostly cultural. If you watch enough Japanese media, you will see that there are a lot of stories about persevering, even when the situation is hopeless. This is usually treated in a different light than in Western media, here it is a given attitude. There it is the choice that is not obvious, to fight even if it means shame. Of course suicide has a strong place in Japanese history.

You know Chris, this is a really hard question to answer. Of course terminal illness is a different situation than teen suicide. Even if it is taboo, people still choose to end their lives, it seems that the level of suffering decides. I think if there is any other way to alleviate the pain, I don't think suicide is the answer. As far as we know, this is the only life we have. We can choose to live it every day, but we can only choose to end it once.

Kenny said...

i would look at other animals for the answer. are there any animals that kill themselves for some reason? i think so... as for humans my opinion is that it depends on what you believe. didn't the Japanese samurai kill themselves for certain things? it's not wrong... another thought. what kind of suicide? physical or mental? some people are killing themselves without knowing it. say if they live an... ignorant life, or a life taken for granted. but is that suicide if it is ignorance? can people be ignorant to wisdom?

Harsha said...

yes kenny- i also have the same idea, mental suicide. but killing themselves mentally *knowingly*, not unknowingly. anyways, folks who live an ignorant life or take it for granted (and u'l find plenty !!!!) appear to be committing suicide to us - in their eyes it is a great happy life given to them to while away ! i consider such lot already dead or never born !

Rachael said...

I believe that suicide is never an option made consciously. It is a cowards way out. A person just can't "off" themselves because life is tough or they think there is no way out. I believe a person can do anything they set their mind to whether it be a way out of financial troubles to healing oneself from an ailment or disease. I think the only time suicide would be an option is in the case of some horrific accident where the person has no hope of recovering such as being brain dead and on life support. Then it would only be suicide if you have left provisions for someone close to you to have the "plug" pulled. It really wouldn't be that persons decision to let you go rather it is your desire not to have your life drawn out under extreme circumstances. Comments anyone?

Chris said...

This is the crux of it, then; the determination over longevity of suffering. Movies such as Saw have played with the concept of testing whether people wish to live to suffer, or die to end it.

I believe in a right of choice. I don't believe in enforced euthanasia. Do you think we should have the right to decide?

Ulysses said...

To terminate one's existence is entirely based on the individual's perception of life at the time of suicidal contemplation. To be more precise, when all value in life has reached the point of nil, the life itself becomes meaningless. When no amount of wealth or enlightenment offers any degree of worth to the individual there is little desire to exist as the question arises, "what is there to live for?". Surely there are those who would offer alternative avenues to the suicidal individual but the alternatives may only hold value to those individuals offering the alternatives. Each individual lives within the self consciousness of the individual's self and so no one can transfer life values to that person. This is the dilemma that we face when trying to understand why someone would want to commit suicide as we cannot share the thought patterns of the individual prior to the suicide and can no longer query the individual in the post suicidal state. This is of course aside from heroic or religious based suicides and detailed explanations left by the individual prior to suicide. Though we all have the freedom (perhaps not the nerve) to commit suicide, most choose life instead and find value in it's most simple form. Truly the experience of just being alive is enough for some to view it as being the main value in living. Some view suffering as part of the living experience and therefore find no cause to terminate life. Some may insist that suicide is wrong and unjust according to various standards, however, I find that aspect to be centered upon social/religious obligations. Considering that life remains enigmatic and has yet to offer any proofs as to it's meaning or purpose, the act of suicide is solely carried out according to the individual's discretion. It is not right or wrong and there is no right time or wrong time.

Douglas said...

It brings us back to the age old question of our purpose for living,

I believe in a better life after this one, so why do I hang on so tenaciously?

Ulysses said...

Perhaps we grasp at this life for it's mere existence and the experience of the existence, as in a blissful dream from which we do not want to leave. We know the dream is occurring in our sleep state and when we awake our mind will return to our conscious world but we still in some instances wish we didn't wake up. This excludes nightmares or disturbing dreams of course. To say you believe in a better life after this one is not an implication that this life is a really bad one and so one cannot conclude that your present life is of total misery. Further, your belief in a better after life does not imply anything other than the belief itself. After life is hypothetical thesis and therefore inconclusive. This factor creates "fear of the unknown" principle which provides incentive to experience the "known" regardless of the pleasure level it presents. Life may or may not have purpose but it still remains that life exists and all we really need to do is live it.

BJ said...

In our energy universe there exists a consciousness stream which science refers to as the final frontier. Energy can neither be created or destroyed, so when our bodies die, or the energy of our body changes, our consciousness continue on to "somewhere". A healthy body does not denote a healthy mind.

Ulysses said...

How do you know that our consciousness continues? Stream of consciousness is a concept introduced by the pioneer psychologist and philosopher William James and later challenged by Dr, Susan Blackmore, an English freelance writer, lecturer, and broadcaster on psychology and the paranormal, who denies the stream of consciousness exists.
http://www.susanblackmore.co.u /Articles/jcs02.htm

Francis said...

I have experienced seven suicides in my circle of friends and closer acquaintances - three of these, none of whom knew each other, took place within one month. One of the things which affected me very much was the pain and powerlessness of those of us left grieving, questions we could never ask, help we could never now offer. I have spent two horrible periods in which I was myself suicidal - in fact, three days before I finally quit drinking I attempted it myself - fortunately I underestimated the amount of valium, combined with booze, necessary to put me out for good - or the strength of my constitution.

Reflecting on it now, I tried to off myself because I saw continuing to live as an unacceptable alternative. In my then mindset it was clear to me that if I continued drinking I was going to destroy my life anyway - and I couldn't imagine my life without alcohol.

I was wrong, of course. The problem was that I had worked myself into a situation in which I could only see negative alternatives. Looking at the situations of most of my friends who ended their own lives, I can see similar mechanisms - the development of a psychological state in which things become frighteningly simple, because one is unable to see other (positive) alternatives; a kind of fatal tunnel-vision.

If every available alternative is overwhelmingly negative, then maybe suicide is the correct choice. But how can we be sufficiently certain that this is the case? It is, after all, an irrevocable decision, and in very many cases, the decision is made out of a background of extreme personal suffering, which can (and does) easily blind us to possible alternatives.

Writing this hasn't been easy. And this, maybe is one of the problems. It's an issue with very powerful taboos, so that people who are sinking in despair feel they can't speak about it, and thus can't perceive the offers of help and support which are available to them. (I find people like Kevorkian suspect, because I have the impression they don't really work the issues of alternatives with potential clients(?)/candidates(?).) Thanks, Chris, for opening the subject.

Neil said...

Suicide has drawn a lot of interest from academics - Durkheim is the classic, but there is much philosophical posing. I not really suicidal because I couldn't inflict this on those living around me, but I do have suicidal dreams and panic sessions (though I can control these as I experience them). Flogging a whole load of booze down, especially Russian-style with quick vodka 'til you drop feels somewhat suicidal. I'm more interested in why people feel so bad about life, than in those jerks who threaten self-harm as emotional blackmail and so on. One particular form of suicide that has interested me more than most is that of those who did it because they were not genius enough. Boltzman may have been one of these.

Neil said...

Hume wrote on suicide - http://comp.uark.edu/~mpiana /hume.htm - a pack of unmitigated waffle.

Suicide is an enigmatic and disconcerting phenomenon. This inexplicably is stunningly captured by Jeffrey Eugenides in his novel The Virgin Suicides. In the novel, the narrator describes the reactions of several teenage boys to the suicides of five sisters. The boys keep a collection of the dead girls' belongings, repeatedly sifting through them in a vain attempt to understand their deaths, saying In the end we had the pieces of the puzzle, but no matter how we put them together, gaps remained, oddly shaped emptinesses mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn't name’.

Suicide is now an object of multidisciplinary scientific study, with sociology, anthropology, psychology, and psychiatry each providing important insights into suicide. There have been significant advances made in our scientific understanding of the neurological basis of suicidal behavior (Stoff and Mann 1997) and the mental conditions associated with it. Questions about suicide seem to fall at least partially outside the domain of science, and indeed, suicide has been a focus of philosophical examination in the West since at least the time of Plato. For philosophers, suicide raises a host of conceptual, theological, moral, and psychological questions. Among these questions are: What makes a person's behavior suicidal? What motivates such behavior? Is suicide morally permissible, or even morally required in some extraordinary circumstances? Is suicidal behavior rational? Some have held suicide done for the good of others cannot be suicide. Hence Hitler was a suicide, but Socrates was not.

I was involved, as a cop, with a young lad who was trying to suck off a dog on someone’s lawn in order to get sectioned. He killed himself two weeks after being declared sane. Another woman had 5 miscarriages and 3 cot deaths before topping herself at about the fifth attempt. Another killed her two kids by drowning and was going to follow them, except that I stayed with her and she coughed over a cup of tea.

Stoff, D.M. and Mann, J.J., 1997, "The Neurobiology of Suicide: From the Bench to the Clinic." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 836. From all this I only learned that the best people top themselves on someone else's shift!

Ulysses said...

Thanks for sharing that Francis. I know that it requires a great deal of courage to share those intimate instances within our own personal realm with the entire planetary realm we call the Internet. I can relate with your story, though differences in approach separate us. You all are in fact talking to a dead man. I didn't underestimate and I had been given the traditional Last Rites currently called Sacraments of the Sick.(my wife is deeply entrenched in Catholicism) However, after a two week coma I emerged, but not in the vegetable state that was the prognosis of the medical team. Surely I was brain dead but that was the part of my brain that I never used anyway. Hahaha I fooled them all. (this last sentence meant to evoke laughter) I don't think they took that into consideration even though they make the big bucks. I remember a nurse and doctor talking and the doctor turning to look at me, chart in hand quizzical look on his face, saying, "Oh yeah, this is the guy that supposed to be dead". I won't trivialize it at all, it took at least six weeks for me to relearn walking and bodily movement. The strange thing was remembering the experiences within the comatose state and trying to decipher whether or not it was all just a dream. The experienced raised many questions and more importantly gave me many more answers.

I remember that week prior, each day drinking early in the morning and watching some Discovery channel Tom Brokaw series on Atrocities topping it off with actual footage from the Nazi holocaust. It was nauseating and I wanted no part of being a part of humanity, I was embarrassed to be human. I remember seeing little babies on the end of a soldiers bayonet during the attack on China by the Japanese. I didn't know why or what was happening to me but these documentaries were coming my way not by choice but just by simply turning on the television. I kept thinking "what is wrong with us?" "why do we do these horrible things?" "surely with this next drink it will go away". After so much time I couldn't stand it anymore, the torrent of thoughts pertaining to the atrocities littering the annals of human history. Everywhere I went, everything I did, everyone I saw brought it all to the forefront of my thought process. I couldn't shake it and I realized it had nothing to do with alcohol, which is the reason I still enjoy drinking today. It is my right to enjoy the life that I have to live, without attaching any one element to escapism. This is the downfall as there is nothing wrong with enjoying a good bottle of wine or a ice cold beer on a really hot day. One thing that I will emphasize..... If I had chosen to stay on the other side you would not be reading this. I don't know that I'm ready to share all that happened on the other side of life if in fact is was the other side. I will say that I am glad to share this world within minds eye with people who live within similar realms of this enigmatic world. Maybe somehow we have all shared life together centuries ago. Perhaps.

Neil said...

There are, of course, lots of alternatives to western ideas on suicide.

Edwin said...

I'd like to weigh in on this very nicely formed suicide discussion. All statements are my own opinion and any inference that my knowledge comes from higher sources is completely unfounded.

I've read that until we ponder suicide we have not yet begun to live. Based on personal experience I find this true. I believe, in the face of a lot of denial, that almost everyone has contemplated taking their own life at one time or another, no matter how fleetingly. I certainly have and more than once. Given the twists life occasionally takes it's a safety, a way out if things get too bad. It's a way of ending what in a moment seems unbearable. For some it's mistakenly revenge.

It does seem a strangely antithetical phenomenon given human tenacity and our constant search for answers. Yet there we have it. A significant number of humans commit suicide for various reasons, some noble some not, every day. Even more humans have considered it and if my earlier thesis is correct, most of us have.

Suicide is all about yourself. It's a process of self-examination that concludes in a decision to take yourself out. The sentence can be immediate and brutal or it can be timed and less violent. My first attempt found me in what seemed like the worst pain in the world -- utter and total rejection by everyone -- and it was completely my fault. I was somehow causing it and I didn't know how to stop. I was running in fear, out of control and lost for answers. I needed it all to stop. It did when I decided to kill myself.

Being the abject coward I am when it comes to my own pain and bloodshed, I chose the timed and less violent means. I was going to die by car exhaust. There was no ambivalence about it, though after the fact some might argue there was by the fact that I hadn't. But I felt final in the decision and set about putting my meager affairs in order -- what to destroy to save whatever tattered reputation I had, who to write final notes to -- revenge also factored into my decision -- disposing of insignificant possessions from which I felt strangely detached, even a sumptuous final meal for the condemned man during which it dawned on me that since I'd chosen to die there'd been no pain, no anguish, no hopelessness. No fears. I had a purpose and everything had gone smoothly pursuing it.

I wondered over this and my resolve to die began to soften. My reason (excuse if you will) for backing out was that if I could feel this much peace, if things could go this smoothly simply because I'd decided to kill myself, then perhaps there was a way I could still live. Because I really wanted to live, I just didn't want to live with the fear and uncertainty, the guilt and pain, the hopelessness -- and suicide would have ended all of that.

Or so I thought. It's never really been proven that dying means the end of that sort of pain and anguish. What if the emotional and spiritual state in which one dies continues into any afterlife which may exist? I don't think those thoughts were consciously with me but I quickly came to the decision that if things could be this good because I'd decided to die, then there was a way they could feel that good and live.

And I turned just like that from wanting to die that badly to wanting to live and find that peace again. Though I've entertained and considered the option of suicide a number of times since, I feel a freedom to do so because I always come right up to the question and then turn away. It's been an interesting quest to say the least.

But having seriously considered or attempted suicide does change one. It seems that since that first point of no return there is a new edge to life, a new awareness and appreciation of it, a renewed purpose to existence. And I may yet take the reins of death into my own hands if for no other reason than to control the circumstances of it. I want to be as fully aware and in possession of my faculties as possible when I die. If there is an afterlife I've a feeling those last moments are vital to it's state and condition.

I don't think there is any moral judgment that can be placed on the act. It is so personal and intimate that no one has the right to judge the morality of a suicide, barring of course suicides that take others out with them. I once ran across a credible document that suggested a substantial number of head-on collisions are suicides. This I would say is highly immoral even though I have to admit to having had the thought more than once while at the wheel. Now there's a scary thought. I avoid roads with sharp dropoffs due to these urges. This is my confession and I can live with it.

I take exception with myself. There is a form of suicide upon which one can make a moral judgment and that is a selfless suicide to save or protect the lives of others. The soldier who throws himself on a grenade to protect comrades, the mother who places herself in harm's way to protect her child -- these are the sort of suicides which can be judged well but then again martyrdom has always been popular with human beings so once again it may still be a totally selfish decision in reaching for an instant of glorious self-righteousness. I gave myself so that others might live. Bah, humbug. I'm ready to give it another go when the time is right.

Robin said...

As a survivor of suicide, my mother's, I don't think you have any idea of what you are talking about. While suicide may be the ultimate selfish act, it is not one of cowardice. It is more a state of fatal hopelessness and neither you nor I can feel the pain of another person's psyche. Pulling yourself up by bootstraps is not always possible either since that in itself requires HOPE. Belief systems are at the root of the hopelessness and hope and your belief system obviously has not been shaken to it's core. Keep on living long enough and you might have an experience that allows you to view things differently...for better or for worse.

Ulysses said...

The ramifications of the act, I think, are not something that the suicidal weighs heavily during the moment of truth. The suicidal at some point must eliminate all other aspects of life surrounding individuality. Concern for others might be a consideration but the ultimate focus becomes the self in the end. The suffering becomes so internalized and undetectable but never the less, it festers within until it is no longer containable. The people surrounding the individual are usually caught in a daze of shock and dismay without any clues.

There is another aspect of suicide that I'm not sure has been covered. I found this interesting piece on the effects of family concerning suicide.

Excerpt; Transactional analysis has proposed that suicidal individuals had parents who experienced these desires (such as "I wish you had never been born") during the baby's first year of life.

http://family.jrank.org/page /1661/Suicide-Disturbing-Effects Familie...

Lois said...

Suicide is never a conscious choice. People do it as a result of many factors outside their conscious control.

This is one reason no one should blame himself for someone's suicide. If you think you could have done something to stop it, you are fooling yourself.

Ulysses said...

If you are there with someone during the contemplation of or implementation of the suicidal act you can very well have an impact on the decision to follow through or not. Records show that there have been suicidal people who changed their mind thanks to someone who was there with them to talk it out. There is a part of the preceding elements to suicide that denotes total isolation. Intervention is key.

lois said...

Which is why most people who really want to commit suicide and not just make some kind of statement, do it when no one is around to stop them. If they try to do it where someone is likely to intercede, you can be sure they didn't have any real intention of dying. They're hoping someone notices and they often go out of their way to be sure that someone notices.

Most of the time when someone who really wants to commit suicide is stopped in the act, they go on to do it later. Stopping a true potential suicide is simply a delaying tactic.

Of course, anyone with any empathy at all would try to stop a person from committing suicide. That goes without saying. But if the potential suicide arranges it so that someone is likely to come along to stop him, 99 times out of a hundred, it was grandstanding. Why else do you suppose people stand on the ledges of tall buildings, where they're bound to be seen, threatening to jump? Most of them don't do it.

And they probably go on to say that the interceding person "saved their life."

Ulysses said...

While this stands to be mostly true it also stands to reason that a person also makes decision of method. Some methods regardless of isolation don't always result in the completion and leave the suicidal in a state of physical or mental disarray. A gun, drugs or even nerve may not be available so one may opt for the tall building with the understanding that complete death will ensue, of course the exposure element may put a damper on things. I think in that high rise instance, the more the delay in jumping the less serious the intent with the hope of intercession. Suicides are usually preceded by hours, in some cases days, of deep contemplation and inner reflection. Sometimes there is the note which lays out the road map to the end, but that is the exception. The note can indicate contradiction in caring for those not cared for or those who didn't care.

Molly Brogan said...

Having completed an internship with a suicide hotline, and spent many hours on the phone with folks in various stages of suicide contemplation, I can appreciate all of the responses to this post and see the truth in all of them. There are those crying for attention that cry "suicide," those too hopeless to cry any longer and act definitively. There are those, like Hunter S. Thompson, who go through life with an exit plan, and claim that their plan is what makes life worth living, only to finally execute it. Perhaps the real question is, what makes life worth living? When it isn't, why do we condemn those who carry out their exit plan?

lois said...

I can tell you why I criticize (not condemn) some people who carry out their exit plan. It's because of the pain they leave behind. Even though I think some are probably in too much mental pain to focus on other people, many do it out of spite--to cause pain to the people they feel are shutting them out, IMO.

But I don't criticize people who are very old and/or very sick with no hope of recovery or even lessening of pain from committing suicide. In those cases there really is not much reason to go on living. I can imagine doing it myself.

I also think that a lot of people contemplate suicide many times throughout their lives. This doesn't mean they are actually planning it, but that they are thinking about it as one possible way out of their difficulties. It's a very small percentage who actually follow through. Only 1.3% of all deaths in the US are by suicide. The majority are committed by white males.

Molly Brogan said...

Can you really leave pain behind? While I can feel empathy for your pain, I cannot feel it. Nor can you feel mine. And, to be precise, neither can you alleviate my pain. That is up to me. And to be perfectly clear, I could not blame you for my pain - I feel this on my own. Others in the same circumstance would not feel it. Which begs the question - can one person really inflict pain on another? Is it possible that some people might be happy that a suicide is finally in peace and no longer suffering? If I am responsible for my own emotional pain, I cannot condemn another for it.

Ulysses said...

Criticism is always a natural, to some degree, instinctive feeling of the survivor group, as is anger, hurt, frustration and pain. Friends, family and even acquaintances feel a sense of loss and helplessness. However, keep in mind that pain is also associated with death in situations of natural loss or tragedy. People cry at funerals for their own pain and suffering. If a suicidal intentionally wants to inflict pain and suffering on people, for whatever reason, it must be justified in the mind of the suicidal just in the fact that it is a consideration in the contemplation. "I'll show them", "They'll all wish they hadn't........" etc. This is converse to those who through a deep thought process realize they don't want to hurt those they love. While the pain is severe to warrant suicide, the act is never carried out for the sake of others.

Your 1995 statistic of 1.3% of the population or 31,284 suicidal deaths is still a lot of people, therefore you should remove the word "Only" from your last sentence. Suicide is the eleventh most common cause of death in the United States. A person dies by suicide about every 16 minutes in the United States. An attempt is estimated to be made once every minute. Though people who have the highest risk of suicide are white men, women and teens report more suicide attempts. This comparison speaks volumes concerning the seriousness of suicide.

Attempting suicide is just as much a problem as successful attempts. I don't always look at suicide as the failure of the suicidal as much as I see it as a failure of society to address the issues that lead to suicide and the stigma and repercussions of the act itself. We must re-examine the values of humanity before we can alleviate the problems of depression and suicide, alcohol and drug abuse. The complexities are overwhelming.

lois said...

If a loved one of yourse committed suicide, perhaps you would feel no pain. Or if you committed suicide perhaps none of your family or loved ones would feel any pain about it. I, on the other hand, have felt the pain of a friend who committed suicide--and it was much worse for his family. If I committed suicide I know my family would feel pain from it.

It's odd that you wouldn't have this kind of reaction and don't seem to understand it.

Molly Brogan said...

I do understand this reaction, but question the source of it. You seem to be saying that one person feels pain because of the choices and actions of another person. I disagree. When we lose someone in our lives, how we handle the loss says a great deal about us. All of us humans, and I do mean all, are challenged in this life with learning the lessons of love and loss. Slip is right, the normal process of grief is denial, anger, sadness etc. We lost someone that brought value and meaning to our lives and we want that back. WE want to choose when they come and go. But it doesn't work like that, does it? Death does not listen to our wants and is a "respecter of no man." But I think that if we can take responsibility for our own fear and pain, and get past our own emotion to look at the event of the loss and the circumstances surrounding the person that was lost to us, whether we find reason in the loss or not, we can FEEL them moving into something more complete and better. We can FEEL the end of their suffering and their release from worldly pressure. People don't leave pain behind when they go. We take that on ourselves by our responses to their leaving. Often, a simple change in viewpoint can make a world of difference.

lois said...

Boy, I'll bet you're the life of the party at funerals!

Molly Brogan said...

I'm Irish. Haven't you heard? We celebrate!

Neil said...

I doubt suicide itself is particularly problematic. Threats to do it and such matters as the homicide bombers somewhat confuse the issues into emotional blackmail and terrorism away from desires to merely slip away from this mortal coil.

lois said...

I know. I'm Irish, too.

Molly Brogan said...

Please don't think that I have never experienced a deep sense of loss. Over my years, I have wrestled with that angel many times. In the wrestling, I've found that there are ways to bring closure to my relationship with another life that can bring more joy than pain. I decided for myself that the best thing for me, those left around me and the person who is now gone, is to honor their life with deep prayer and meditation in ways that hold the space for their transformation into what is next. We don't understand death, and don't want to understand it because we fear it. For me, anger and sadness just made it all worse.

In the US, I think we have lost our traditions of gathering and supporting a loved one in death. It has become a commercial enterprise that requires and insurance policy so that we can afford to ship them off and let others create the physical space for us to gather and grieve. Not that there's anything wrong with that - but I think it removes the intimacy and our connection to the process. The Puerto Rican culture requires a family member to be with the body of the deceased at all times, engaged in deep prayer, for 3 days after the death. The Jewish culture has strict traditions that require family to cleanse and pray over the body after death. The Tibetan Book of the Dead outlines the process of participation for loved ones while the deceased transverses the Bardo realm. But on the whole, I think that Western culture has lost a coherent, efficacious, participatory process for grief. So we find that the natural, emotional reactions fill in.

Edwin said...

I'd like to quibble a bit over the semantics of suicide being a right. If you mean political right, then no it is not because each human being is considered an asset of the state and that life is thus defended against the suicider.

If you mean a legal right, then again no because of the same principle that a person is an asset to the state so that person is thus banned by law from committing suicide.

However, if you mean right in the sense that no one can stop someone intent on committing suicide, then yes, that right exists and cannot be denied. It is a de facto right based on reality.

Francis said...

I've always liked Auden, even before "Four weddings and a funeral".

The poem is one of the most honest and beautiful expressions of mourning I know - including the hyperbole, which is a wonderful expression of the catharsis which real mourning brings:

W.H. Auden - Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Amanda said...

After a long and arduous ‘dark, tea-time of the soul’, I find the point at which I have decided, YES, I choose life, is around the same time when serotonin levels return to minimum operating system requirements. This is when after weeks or months of meaningless, desert-like numbness, I suddenly appreciate how beautiful that sunset really is. At that point I know it’s going to be ok. It has not been an experience I would describe as ‘having to recommit to life’ but more of a relief in coming back to life. More like the waiting is over.

To me it appears that Jung, Braden and the Egyptian Hermetic teachings seem to describe ‘the dark night of the soul’ as an event or process almost religious in nature, which has the specific purpose of mystically progressing psyche development through ego dissolution.

For once, I am more inclined to agree with Freud that “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.

Unfortunately from my purely personal point of view (so please no-one take offence), I am over the theoretical postulations that dark nights are purposeful, soul illuminating prerequisites to psyche transcendence. I find this a very romantic, fanciful and unfortunately inaccurate phenomenological description of something that is essentially a pretty stuffed up experience.

Closer to my truth, is the dark night of the soul has the side-effect of perhaps allowing me to think more deeply about what are the things of core importance to my own psyche’s nature, perhaps allowing me to have a deeper empathy for the limitations of the human condition and perhaps allowing me to question more fully how I understand the Divine. But this level of thinking is only as a side-effect of processing extreme experience and only takes place at any genuinely articulated depth long after the dark nights have passed. I also suspect that my psyche is prone to this sort of thinking anyway, and that any unique experience, regardless of the shade, is potential fodder for the machine.

Alice said...

Well, I've written an entire book about my dark night of the soul (unpublished as of yet), and don't want to repeat all of that here, but I can try to briefly describe the experience. The dark night of the senses was this whole scattered thing of getting caught (post medical school) in scientism as religion, which just really didn't suit me, caused me a fair amount of suffering, and then I finally wised up with some help from Carolyn Myss.

The dark night of the soul on the other hand ripped me apart right down to my core. I feel that it was driven in part by my deeply felt prayer to become a conduit for healing people. I wanted not to just be a doctor but to be a healer as well. The desire became so hot for me, it landed me right square in the crucible. I married my "soul mate" who was having problems psychiatrically within a year of our marriage (at least in part due to being a Viet Nam vet), and he became at times abusive, when he would enter one of the fragments of his personality. My father was severely ill from Alzheimer's, my mother had 3 surgeries for breast cancer, I had a malpractice suit filed against me, my pets were dying, my finances went down the tubes, and I began to significantly suffer from all the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome with some of the fibromyalgia like pain thrown in for good measure. I'll ask you to just fill in the blanks in that story to fully create how deconstructed my small self became in the face of all this. By 1996, I was alone and actually did not know where my husband had disappeared to, my father was dead, my primary spiritual teacher was dead (and I was his physician for the last 4-5 months of his life), I had no income because I couldn't work, my mother was in deep mourning and unable to aid me. I had sold my office building and quit my medical practice, sold my motorcycle (yes that was quite significant), and barely could afford food, let alone figure out how to put together a house payment each month. Furthermore all I could do was lie on the sofa and --- well, just lie there. I did meditate a lot, but also cogitated, probably way too much. I had lie down to rest an hour after brushing my teeth, and on the days I had to walk grain and water out to my chickens, I would have to rest two hours afterward. Often I was so fatigued that I had energy either to sit up, or to breath, but not both. I couldn't even read -- I didn't have the energy to comprehend anything.

So -- that's the outer story. Then I had a dream. I was a pelt -- still living, but shredded to the point that I was unrecognizeable, tied to the saddle of my husband's horse, shreds of my tissue dragging on the ground behind the horse. Fluids seeped from the shreds of my tissues. The horse was lame, and was purposely stepping on one strip of my shredded flesh, because it eased his hoof. And looking at the bleak landscape through which the horse trod, I noticed that everywhere my tissue fluids dripped, flowers and greenery came to bloom in the midst of desert.

That dream was a gift, because I could see that my pain was necessary to answer my burning desire. It's easier to walk through hot coals if you can see something cool on the other side. The rest of what I did was just hang on..... I prayed, and I meditated. I meditated a lot! Eventually I did a lot of shadow work (figured if I was taking a walk through hell, I might as well get the grand tour!). I also did simple things for my health, like freshly squeezed vegetable juice daily. I focused on a sense of a maternal, nurturing aspect of the Divine that was simply present, always present. And I thought about death. I also developed the simple practice of a joy journal. I would not let myself go to sleep at night until I had writtten down at least one thing that had given my joy during the day. It helped me change my focus. It had become way too easy to just say, "Well, there's another thing gone to hell. That's just my life now," and thus invite more hell. But mostly I just hung on.

I don't really know what one can do but just hang on. You aren't in charge of much of anything any more when you have been deconstructed to that degree.

Now, 12 years later, I have a nonprofit that I run, dedicated to educating people about health, and to holistic integrative medicine in its practical applications. I teach when I can get an audience. I'm working on a book tentatively titled Integrative Healthcare. I teach and dance Argentine Tango whenever I get a chance, and find that it has a deep spiritual element. It's a great left lower quadrant integrative life practice. I smile a lot. I do hands on healing. I follow that deep inner guidance wherever it takes me, off the edge of whatever flat world. So far it has worked. I'm living a life with heart. More heart than I ever dreamed possible. All just because I kept on hanging on.

I hope this helps. I truly do -- because these dark nights are just really something else!

Count Sneaky said...

There is nothing to say about "the dark night of the soul"... because it must be experienced. You can use all the books, all the writings, all the imagination you like,
you will know nothing until you experience it, that is if you do. Then you will probably have no desire to tell others.
Count Sneaky

Kerry said...

I've been there! ...could have written the book!
OMA (Omraam Mikhael Ivanhov) says that no one can really "get there" without such a severe life challenge!
The irony is that many who have been devastated by experiences leading to the dark night of the soul will say down track that they would not be without that experience for what they learnt from it!
What is learnt from it cannot be obtained through books, intellectualising, discussions (forums), teachers (masters) etc.
...."it is the experience"

This is what JC invited to himself three (maybe more times) when he went into the desert on his own and then again his battle with himself in the garden of bethsemaney (sp?), then again crying out in despair on the cross ...these were all darkest of hours

These are the experiences that I believe create one as "re-born".

This was at least the gift I received of a MASSIVE transformation. ...confirmed to me when I read OMA's statement (teachings) 10 years later!

Arvind said...

There is an interim stage between "the dark night of the soul" and "liberation". While "the dark night" was one of self-crucification, "the dawn" is painless persistent actions towards the goal. Somewhere between "the dark night" and "the dawn", there is a rekindling of the belief in the goodness of life brought about by the grace of God. What follows is a new vigorous determination. The bitter medicine that heals the soul is sugar-coated to numb any discomfiture towards the destination. All that remains to be done is to stay on course for a fairly long time. Once started, the process is self-sustaining, in that every inch of progress brings in fresh enthusiasm to take one further towards the goal.

Martin said...

Righton brother! That bitterness is called "Mara" or the Condition of Self in self. This "Mara" is the Teacher and school will be out forever when passing the Tests of Life!

When young apprentices had their final test in medieval times, they had to stay awake for 1 night and when passed they were knighted...however you cannot Night a Dark Knight!