Nigredo & Depression
THE GRAND EXPERIMENT:
The Nigredo: Working Through Depression with Alchemy
When we suffer we are left to search for meaning.
"Only that which has been properly separated can be rightfully joined.”
Working Through Depression with Alchemy
by Iona Miller, 2/2008
"Right at the beginning you meet the dragon, the chthonic spirit, the devil or, as the alchemists called it, the blackness, the nigredo, and this encounter produces suffering..." ~ Carl Jung
"I am an infirm and weak old man, surnamed the dragon; therefore am I shut up in a cave, that I may become ransomed by the kingly crown...A fiery sword inflicts great torments on me; death makes weak my flesh and bones...My soul and my spirit depart; a terrible poison, I am likened to the black raven, for that is the wages of sin; in dust and earth I lie, that out of Three may come One. O soul and spirit leave me not, that I may see again the light of day, and the hero of peace whom the whole world shall behold may arise from me..." ~ Aurelia Occulta Philosophorum
THE GREAT WORK
Alchemy is the Great Work. This alternative spiritual tradition is a process of separation, transformation and integration that cannot be reduced to recipes and axioms. This is just as true of the substances worked experimentally in the retort as it is of the personality undergoing the transformative process. This unique mode of perception is experientially validated. It affirms the sacred and recognizes the creative aspect of energy and the energy body in actualizing potential.
Alchemy delves into the mysteries of nature with an esoteric view -- that of the multi-level unification of microcosm with macrocosm to bridge the abyss between the body and the spirit. Everything is related through complex corresponding qualities. The alchemists claim that theosophical rebirth and transmutation of your essential being through imagination and meditation is possible. They developed individual conceptions of how to proceed, including psychic, scientific and aesthetic facets.
More than a school of thought, alchemy is a gnosis, a "way" of knowing. It is a deliberate attempt to grasp immortality in which the process is paramount. We all embody the archetypal journey of life, consciously or unconsciously. We are born in our essential nature but it quickly becomes covered with a hard-shelled core of the false ego. We long to return to our true nature. Alchemy amplifies and accelerates this process of self-actualization, connecting with a sacred sense of self.
Naturally, there is no absolute actualization, no final self-reflective insight. It is a recursive formula of returning, over and over on more subtle levels, to the sacred center where heaven and earth meet. You don't have to heroically "succeed" at alchemy.
Not succeeding will deepen you as you improvise the narrative that is your life up to that point. How many times do we make, then lose the Stone? How many times do we lose our hard-won happiness or wholeness? The trick is to not paralyze yourself with New Age guilt over it. If a scientist has a failed experiment he or she doesn't wallow in shame or analysis paralysis but starts over with new boundary conditions.
First, you must separate yourself from the herd mentality. When your comfort zone becomes constrictive, you have grown beyond it. Still, only a few adventurous souls will move beyond the cocoon of their self-imposed prison. If you suppress yourself too much, you become a stranger to yourself. Alienation is felt as chronic depression.
You have to change your level of game play, change your reality map. You die to one level to be reborn at a higher level. Disidentify from the social hologram, disidentify from rigid roles and soul-diminishing victimization to become open. To step up your game, you have to reconnect with your core, your deep presence and awareness. Reality speaks for itself if we listen closely enough to nature and our nature. But you have to retrain your eyes, ears, and heart to comprehend the intuitive language of alchemy.
The paradigm of control is based on domination. Our culture only operates as long as the POWER stays on, literally and metaphorically. This rigid system is the dragon you first confront. It is a depressive vision of reality which affects everyone. Some try to numb out through a variety of escapes but there is no escape from yourself.
Depression has an initiatory function. By diving into your deeper nature you can find relative peace. You can find and reclaim your own inspiration, creativity and Mystery. It takes self-care, self-regulation and self-mastery. You need to empower yourself based on your Purpose, Prospects, Power (Push) and Plan. You will slay many dragons before you become a dragon Adept yourself.
Alchemy, one of many repressed traditions, is the antidote to alienation, an accelerated pathway to self-realization. It is an alternative, pre-scientific spiritual and philosophical interpretation of life, encompassing its physical, emotional and mental aspects. It builds psychological resistance, allowing your old self image and worldview to go into flux. You confront chaos, darkness and depth.