My Descent Into Darkness; Or How the Pandemic Ignited a Meeting with My Unconscious
Written by: Johana Sand
I have always had an attraction to the transcendent and mystical as far back as my late teens. My youth was in the turbulent sixties and my world radically altered when I first tried LSD, which was sweeping the culture at that time. I had such an expansive experience it is hard to sum it up but suffice to say, there was a curiosity that was ignited to live in the freedom that I had glimpsed. Understanding or cultivating this expansion became a guiding force in the direction my life took. That expanded sense of universal consciousness and the falling away of the ego definition were far and away more REAL to me than the mind chatter that I had previously defined my identity by.
The LSD fueled revelations gradually went downhill after that initial first breakthrough. I was called to gradually leave these chemical-induced shifts behind and seek out understanding of what that sense of expansiveness was really pointing to. That came to me when I discovered the eastern enlightenment/non-dual teachings from India and other parts of Asia that were proliferating in New York where I was living at the time. Nonduality is a philosophy which says that there is just One Eternal Spirit in existence, and that everything in the Universe is an inseparable part of it. (Read more about it HERE).
The eastern understanding was far more sophisticated than the beliefs and dogma that my religion of origin provided. They claimed that one could directly “see” or realize the truth of our primary nature through inquiry, meditation, or just a breakthrough of Grace. This took it beyond belief into direct seeing or realization which made it far more effective. If you cultivated your openness to see it, the illusion of separateness could be seen through and the real essence of what you are could rise to the foreground to replace the patterned egoic framework of our thoughts. I started working with the plant medicines that the indigenous have been working with for many millennia such as Ayahausca and San Pedro after many years of exploring eastern thought and saw that the inner journey with these powerful medicines pointed to this non-dual state of consciousness.
These kinds of breakthroughs or transcendent experiences were and still are exceedingly liberating. The sense of being a separate self inside a body did not disappear, but seen from a different view, made the suffering of a limited self more endurable. Resting as the witness, even though not continuous, seemed enough to help navigate the waters of suffering that still claimed much of my existence. It seemed enough, that is, until it wasn’t.
A few years before the pandemic, I sensed a shift, or a premonition that some very intense times were coming. The collective shadow became a mirror for all the repressed darkness of humanity. It was as if our personal lives started reflecting the collective trauma and vice versa. Things that had previously worked for me stopped being effective, like my tendency to spiritually bypass and up level. The polarized collective narratives were reflecting our need to find blame outside ourselves and the mother of all fears–the fear of death–seemed to drive it all. There was evidence from many traditions and cultures that predicted this dark age humanity was heading for, but also many included a deep assurance it was also a catalyst for our evolution and integration.
When things began to escalate in the world and fear and paranoia started to engulf the collective it became more obvious to me that my unconscious beliefs, programs and traumas were rising to the surface and could no longer be pushed down and ignored. Patterns in how I operated and ways that I fed into deficiency stories, self-doubt and neurosis that stopped me from functioning, seemed to come out of the woodwork.
The author, wounded healer and Buddhist practitioner Paul Levy talks about the Wetiko Virus (which the north American indigenous people spoke about under many names) which takes over the human psyche. It is similar to how Carl Jung spoke of the shadow and the collective unconscious. Paul summarizes the views of Carl Jung below:
He was of the opinion that the fate of the world literally depended upon the recognition of the shadow elements within us and their assimilation into a more expanded sense of self that includes both our light and dark aspects.
What we don’t accept in ourselves, but rather, exclude from our self-image and push into the shadows of netherworld of the unconscious—thereby depriving it of light—becomes toxic. These repressed shadowy contents build up a charge in the unconscious, becoming contaminated with archaic archetypal energies from the collective unconscious….
We don’t deny that terrible things are happening, but since we regard ourselves as harmless, Jung points out, “it is always ‘the others’ who do them.” …In probing into our own depths, we can potentially come face to face with the vast and formidable forces of the archetypal, collective shadow within ourselves, as we are all, in the deepest recesses of our being, fundamentally connected to the transpersonal psyche, in both its light and dark aspects…Our lack of imagination for evil is the best way of making us, to use Jung’s words, “an instrument of evil.” …We need to be on intimate terms and know the darkness within ourselves if we want to have any hope of effectively dealing with the darkness in the world at large.
There is, however, no getting away from the fact that—as a way of finding and deepening our connection to the light—we are fated to come to terms with the darker side of ourselves and of the universe as a whole, which is only emerging into view because of the proximity and intensity of a great light.
Jung concludes, “Individual self-reflection, return of the individual to the ground of human nature, to his own deepest being … here is the beginning of a cure for that blindness which reigns at the present hour.” Whenever we reflect upon ourselves we are bound to encounter the living frontiers of the unconscious itself, which is where the very medicine that heals our blindness is to be found.
If this is where we find ourselves what does this mean? Most of us can reflect on times of our personal darkness and greatest suffering to be the catalyst for change and transformation. The origins of evil are always within the human psyche. The narratives that we are embroiled in now are polarizing and giving us fuel, once again, to be victims of the other, the controlling forces etc. This is not to say that these things are not appearing, or we stop doing our work of standing up and resisting tyranny and injustice. It is where are we operating from within ourselves that makes all the difference. We can play out our battles with dignity but also know simultaneously what we are projecting–as evil has seeds within ourselves. Reality is dream-like and ever shifting and how we navigate these times is more about how we can transmute our perception of things, rather than what we think is actually going on.
I am feeling like a beginner in navigating these shadows but I have no doubt that the light shone so far on my inner condition, that heretofore was unconscious to me, has clarified and released more creative energy. After drawing to me a few toxic relationships with people that had a strong narcissistic element, a pattern began to emerge. Where I had felt in the past that it was not necessary to go into these things, I was forced to take a deeper look. Trauma in my early life which was always difficult for me to face or even remember started coming more to the forefront and I could see the internalized judger and the judged that I had taken on from parental imprints. Patterns of behavior based on these beliefs that were undermining and sabotaging began to be seen. When seen through, the deficiency stories, trauma roots and strategies I took on and needed at one time to survive stopped having such a stranglehold on me.
I in no way denounce the non-dual understanding that supported me for so long. It is just that we need the combination of transcendence AND the ability to go into the dark and unconscious to unleash and free the energy that limits us and does not let our true essence come forth.
These shadows are portals for us to shine the light on and reveal more of our true nature which is always here if we can let go of what’s blocking it. Our shadow will either liberate or destroy us, depending on if we can integrate it or continue to project it externally. The light of our awareness, when it is turned to the repressed shadows, unleashes more power than we can imagine. When we are clear that we want to see through that powerful illusion, the universe seems to sends us our personalized curriculum that contains the keys for that transformation.
“It is always from our deepest wound, from the thing that breaks our heart the most, that our yearning, our calling, our purpose in life emerges.” ~Vera de Chalambert