DESCENT INTO DARKNESS
Mirror Supersensory Development
The entry into this stage is characterised by another profound existential crisis. It is not too difficult to appreciate why this is the case. Entering the circular level, requires a decisive shift from (conscious) rational to (unconscious) intuitive understanding. During the supersensory stage one's ego is restored in a more refined manner than before, mainly through strong identification with the (indirect) phenomenal products of intuitive consciousness.
However, one quickly reaches a point where this selfish ego identification can cause considerable conflict with one's deepening desire for further spiritual progress.
The transcendent journey is full of these crises. One has to decide whether to go forwards or backwards. The first option certainly involves more exposure to the unknown, more pain and suffering. Therefore, human nature being what it is, many adopt the easy option returning to conventional paths.
For some, the drive to proceed is very great. Also they have already gone too deeply into new levels of experience, to seriously consider turning back. So in the end they have no real choice. Salvation necessitates going forward.
The crisis at this stage is likely to be more profound for two reasons.
Firstly, as ones commitment is now deeper, self centred activity is seen as the key barrier to further growth. Also, one is now required to give up not only remaining linear attachments, but also the newer more subtle circular attachments.
This is what in the Christian ascetical tradition is referred to as purgation. Its purpose is to reform the self centred ego and its possessive identification with phenomena. It is an inevitable consequence of evolving to higher more spiritualised forms of understanding.
Ego attachments can be of a positive or negative form.
In basic terms, positive attachments seek pleasure, and negative attachments avoid pain. Pleasure in moderation is very desirable. However, it becomes an obstacle when it unduly conflicts with authentic spiritual growth. Ultimately, true goodness resides in the spirit which is unrestricted and universal. Deriving undue pleasure from some object always means in experiential terms a limiting of goodness and freedom, making one, in some measure, the slave of that object.
Avoiding pain, in the right context, is also very desirable. However once more, at some stage authentic development requires facing up to inappropriate negative attachments. Undue fear of some object, person or event, reduces freedom, again placing oneself in a position of enslavement.
Though individual circumstances vary considerably, listening sensitively to one's conscience, will involve numerous demands in terms of dealing with both positive and negative attachments. As a general rule, positive attachments may be more important for extroverts and negative attachments for introverts to control respectively, in terms of maintaining personality balance. Ultimately positive and negative poles are complementary. Therefore, separate positive or negative attachments indicate personality rigidity, which must be addressed.
Attachments of a conscious kind can also be voluntary and involuntary.
Voluntary attachments arise from direct conscious desire (positive and negative) and involuntary attachments arise from the indirect conscious desire (positive and negative) for phenomena. (We will see later at the point level that we can also have attachments of an unconscious kind both direct and indirect).
Again, in simple terms, when operating with freedom to choose at the linear level, attachments will be largely of the voluntary kind.
At the circular level of intuitive consciousness, involuntary attachments will be more important.
Developing the capacity in the will to exercise a significant level of control over voluntary attachments, requires - when exercised in a spiritual context - what is sometimes referred to as active purgation. This involves a conscious decision to move in the opposite direction of the attachment. Thus one deals with a positive attachment (e.g. a drinking habit) by learning to do without; one deals with a negative attachment (e.g. a tedious duty) by learning to do with. The purpose therefore of active purgation is to counterbalance an excessive (conscious) tendency towards one polarity, by the (conscious) effort to move towards the opposite polarity.
The main danger of active purgation is of undue rigidity in behaviour. From making a virtue of attachment to one pole, one can easily seek ego satisfaction by suddenly switching to the opposite pole. For example some people who are fanatically opposed to religion - on conversion - quickly go the other extreme becoming over zealous in favour of its practice. The real purpose of purgation should be to balance both poles.
Obviously, any worthwhile lifestyle requires a large level of discipline and control over ego attachments. What distinguishes the spiritual approach is the motive and level of commitment. Most people will be willing to make sacrifices to realise a worthwhile goal. The distinguishing mark of the spiritual perspective, is that one adopts a basically unselfish attitude and is not really motivated by prospect of worldly gain.
Developing the capacity in the will to exercise a significant level of control over involuntary attachments, requires what can be referred to as passive purgation. This requires a more selfless desire of the will, not involving directly any conscious action. Whereas active purgation often gives ample scope for feeding the ego in new ways, this is not the case with passive purgation. Here one is trying to act in line with one's cosmic (selfless) ego. Alternatively, from a religious perspective this amounts to allowing the spirit of God to directly inspire one's actions.
Now I have already dealt with active purgation - which if properly integrated with opposite poles - generates considerable mirror structure development.
Now at this stage, there is a need, as well as continued active purgation, also for significant passive purgation.
St. John of the Cross deals with this comprehensively in his "Dark Night". He talks of "The Night of Sense" dealing both with the "active night" and particularly with the "passive night". The "active night" involves purgation of the linear (conscious) kind. There will always be a need for this. Old habits die hard and tend to keep resurfacing, thus requiring continual active sense purgation.
The "passive night" involves also purgation of the circular (unconscious) kind. This is the only way in which subtle indirect attachment to phenomena can be counterbalanced.
It is this "passive night" of the (external) supersensory structures - developed during the previous stage - that now concerns us.
This also explains why one feels so helpless at this time. There is a growing feeling of dread, which one can do nothing to dispel. One has to simply watch while the structures of the old self slowly appear to disintegrate.
The root of all anxiety lies in the fear of loss, and ultimately in the fear of death itself. This fear is well based, and consequently all meaning in life is experienced in the shadow of the seeming non-meaning of death.
Ego attachments tend to serve an ambiguous function. From a conscious perspective, they act as temporary havens of security dispelling immediate fears of death. However, this simply diverts the primal fear to the unconscious, where it lurks as an unwanted enemy, always ready to sabotage our best efforts to avoid it.
This escape from primal existential anxiety is no longer possible in this stage, for the normal lines of defence in terms of conscious structures are stripped away. One is suddenly alone in the dark, without refuge, and unable to prevent the wild beasts of fear escaping from the unconscious.
This can be an extremely harrowing experience. Seemingly, for no apparent reason one finds oneself in great confusion living a waking nightmare. Because the dynamics of the change lie so deep in the unconscious, there is no specific action that can be taken to relieve the situation. Well meaning advice from friends and counsellors, invariably is of little value and indeed only contributes to one's distress.
Also, such transitions often take place when one, would normally be expected to be realising ambitions and carving out a niche for oneself in life. Instead, without explanation, one is condemned to a strange new underworld, where in desperation one attempts just to survive from day to day. Indeed in many ways, in the early part of the stage, one would be likely to display symptoms of nervous breakdown e.g. chronic anxiety and a severe loss in confidence.
Neurotic elements in the personality tend to surface in a particularly magnified form during this time. Because of the erosion of one's former structures, immunity to the psychological weaknesses of the psyche is at a very low level, with all hell seemingly breaking loose.
At bottom, neuroses display a basic unwillingness to properly face up to reality. The neurotic person insists on clinging on to a false view of the world, even when it clearly is unsatisfactory. We are all victims in so many ways, of role playing and of portraying a social image which hides our true identity. The trouble is that there is a certain familiarity and security in the repeated identification with established habits, even when in personality terms, this is unhealthy. The pain of attempting fundamental change, generally appears too great, and so considerable energy is invested in protecting the defences of the fearful inadequate ego. It is usually only in crisis situations when one is sufficiently humbled through pain and suffering that genuine change is possible.
Anxiety is one of the two most common psychological ills affecting modern society (the other being depression). Ultimately, it is always an existential problem where meaning is threatened by non-meaning, and life itself is threatened by death. Normally its full existential content is masked (and made more bearable) through a process of narrowing and localisation. Phobias - which often reach severe and crippling proportions - can be one extreme expression of this tendency. By over identifying anxiety with a specific fear (e.g. a fear of enclosed spaces as in claustrophobia), one unconsciously attempts to leave other areas of life free of anxiety. Obsessions and superstitions can also be examples of behaviour with a basic similarity. However, due to the severe self stripping of this stage there is no escape from anxiety in its root form.
One can also discover during this stage how closely related are the physiological and psychological aspects of certain illnesses. Psychological problems such as stress and anxiety are often considerably disguised by symptoms which appear purely physical. Due to the continual presence of flu like symptoms for example, one can be tempted to think for a time that one is suffering from a physical rather than a mental malady. Actually, this is often nature's way of trying to make the situation more bearable. Psychological problems, symptomatic of life style patterns that one is reluctant to face, are temporarily transferred into physical symptoms which are more tangible and manageable.
Indeed symptoms of "physical" illness are often to a considerable degree manifestations of deeper emotional problems. In this context many illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome (i.e. ME or "yuppie" flu), which are now so prevalent and associated with a breakdown of the immune system, are very interesting. It is my belief that these are often the physical counterpart to the psychological development I am portraying in this stage. During the development of mirror structures, usually triggered by some key psychological crisis, there is a breakdown in the psychological immune system, making one prey to so much human weakness. This problem is only resolved by a revolution in one's whole psychological perspective, developing a newer more resilient immunity.
Likewise, I consider that the cure for illnesses such as ME is more psychological than physical, calling one to come more deeply in contact with the basic assumptions on which one's life is built. With appropriate psychological change, there is genuine hope that the physical immune system in turn will be slowly renewed.
Because we are living in a society largely confined to the linear level of understanding, many problems really calling for psychological transformation find an outlet in serious physical illness. Most illness - to a greater or lesser degree - has a psycho-physiological explanation. This applies for example to the serious modern plague of cancer. Though it would be unwise to reduce all cancer in this fashion, psychological factors undoubtedly are an important component in the majority of cases. There is probably a strong genetic factor making some people especially vulnerable, resulting - especially in times of stress - to the transfer of unresolved emotional problems into severe symptoms of physical illness. The positive point is that there is considerable hope for recovery, given sufficient psychological transformation. It is very interesting that the administration of (physical) radiation is one of the standard treatments for cancer. What I am suggesting is that the administration of (psychic) radiation in deep spiritual renewal of the personality, in the long run is likely to be more valuable.
Returning to anxiety, its ultimate resolution involves a psychological willingness to fully face up to death.
Nowhere is this principle of the complementarity of opposites more important than in terms of the relationship between life and death. When one experiences reality from the linear perspective (where opposites are clearly separated) there will be an inevitable tendency to seek life and avoid death. Because this represents a basic distortion in understanding, it unwittingly increases fear of what one so desperately tries to avoid. The worldly approach - based on possession (physically and psychologically) of tangible phenomena - greatly reduces real freedom, for the more one possesses, the greater is the corresponding fear of loss.
The real answer to this basic existential problem is a spiritual one where life and death are seen as inseparable. All life - in psycho-spiritual terms - involves death; death in turn spiritually leads to life. The approach which reconciles both poles is based essentially on non-possession, with the remarkable paradox, that by striving to possess nothing (in material terms) one becomes free to possess all things (spiritually).
The positive aspect of anxiety is that it can be a catalyst for the very spiritual transformation that is required. Anyone who has lived with severe anxiety, will readily appreciate the severe discomfort that it can cause. Indeed, the experience of anxiety can best be interpreted as deep spiritual unease.
I have described the spiritual experience as a fusion of opposite charges bringing peace and harmony. With severe anxiety, one is aware of a sharply distressing sensation - like an electrical flow that is not grounded - that pulls one simultaneously in two opposite directions, giving no respite. Because of this continual conflicting experience, there is a terrible inner constriction as if the breath of life itself is being stifled. (Indeed the very word "anxiety" has close associations with the Latin word for "narrow"). This is why in severe panic attacks the feeling that one is about to die can seem so real.
However it is the severe nature of the affliction, that can greatly increase the desire for integration. Indeed, people with a high spiritual capacity, are often precisely the same people that are especially prone to anxiety, so it is the very management of this anxiety that greatly aids transformation.
From a religious perspective there is an extra moral dimension involved. One of the reasons that one can feel so wretched is because - despite appearances to the contrary - a pure form of interior spiritual illumination is involved.
This contrasts greatly with corresponding spiritual illumination during the positive supersensory stage which is exhilarating and life enhancing. This seems precisely the opposite, revealing in a new intense intimate fashion, the depth of misery within. In other words the pure interior light, highlights - by contrast - only human imperfections and the vanity of ego desires. Thus for someone going through this supersensory stage this knowledge of one's innate sinfulness is an even greater burden than other physiological and psychological problems.
It would be perhaps be instructive to explain why spiritual illumination operates so differently during the positive (external) and negative (internal) stages.
I have already mentioned the psychological (electromagnetic) spectrum as a valuable means of explaining the differing wave-bands of experience.
During the positive stages (of the circular level), experience becomes increasingly holistic and transcendent in quality. Starting from a given point in the natural wave band, one moves up the spectrum into radiation with wave bands of continually longer wavelength and lower frequency.
However during the negative stages, one moves from the same given point in the opposite direction to radiation with wavebands of (complementary) shorter wavelength and higher frequency.
Indeed physical analogies can be very useful here (as in the positive case).
X-rays are a form of physical radiation with short wavelength and high frequency.
As is well known, X-rays are widely used to obtain internal magnified images of the human body which are helpful in diagnosing physical problems.
It is exactly similar in this stage in complementary psychological terms, where one is exposed to a form of illumination (psychological radiation) which like physical X-rays is of short wavelength and high frequency providing an internal image of the human psyche, making it easier to diagnose moral problems. (Interestingly, sometimes in the mystical literature, contemplation is in fact referred to as a ray of darkness).
So the whole nature of experience during positive and negative stages is sharply contrasting.
During the positive stages, (spiritual) illumination is perceived as light which brings joy and an exhilarating expansive experience of transcendent wholeness.
During the negative stages, (spiritual) illumination is perceived as darkness which brings pain and suffering. This contracts one's vision to experience of the internal self where it focuses in detail on specific imperfections, creating a deep sense of sinfulness.
Western and Eastern Approaches
At this point I wish to address an interesting difference as between the Western and Eastern mystical traditions in terms of treatment of these "super" stages.
In the West, there is usually a sharp distinction drawn as between positive (illuminative) and negative (purgative) stages. This undoubtedly reflects the more important role of the rational approach in the West where the positive and negative directions of understanding inherently are considered separate.. There are therefore greater problems for one in this culture breaking through the linear level of understanding. To be successful in this, one has to swim strongly against the tide and become - at least temporarily - an outsider in terms of prevailing beliefs. The sharp shock experience of purgation in the negative stages forces one into radical reappraisal of all one's basic assumptions, enabling one to more easily break with convention.
In the East the cultural paradigm has traditionally favoured more intuitive forms of thought. Therefore greater innate appreciation of the complementarity of positive and negative directions, would naturally translate into a more continuous treatment of the corresponding stages.
However, it has to be said - that at least in some measure - the major psychological difficulties often encountered in terms of transition to these higher stages, is due to a faulty appreciation of the underlying emotional dynamics. I will return to this important point at a later stage.
Dynamics of Development
In more philosophical terms, this second stage involves entry into a non-linear internal world, where there is considerable mirror structure development. As we have seen during the positive (supersensory) stage there is the emergence of the affective (and related cognitive) supersensory structures, where perception develops in a holistically intuitive external direction. Here the specific natural identity of symbols tends to fade becoming spiritually charged with a transcendent archetypal meaning. Experience of movement, externally in space and time becomes increasingly relative. Eventually however, conflict as between growing spiritual desire and older ego centred habits creates a growing crisis which inevitably leads into this second (negative) stage.
What is involved is the development of the supersensory mirror or anti-structures in relation to the external senses (and related thought). It also means renewed development of the sensory anti-structures. In the terminology of St. John of the Cross, this stage corresponds to the night of sense (both active and passive).
The whole purpose of anti-structure activity is to cancel out one-sided possessive identification with phenomena. The (positive) sensory structures inevitably generate direct ego attachment to phenomena. The (positive) supersensory structures in turn generate a more subtle indirect ego attachment to phenomena, where one identifies the universal archetypal significance of all symbols, too rigidly with specific objects.
The anti-structure development of this stage brings about a profound change in the experience of reality. Previously one lived psychologically in a universe apparently capable of expansion without limit. Now, suddenly everything changes with the universe sharply contracting, seemingly to be contained within the internal psyche. It is an extremely constricted environment that one now inhabits with scarcely sufficient room to breathe.
What literally happens is that experience switches from the (positive) direction of events moving forward in space and time to the (negative) direction where - in relative terms - they move backwards. In normal experience - where mirror structure development is limited - one avoids this dilemma by switching from one conscious pole of experience to another which is also experienced as conscious. In other words one moves from conscious objective to conscious subjective experience where both poles are interpreted as positive. However when mirror structure development is at a high level - as in authentic spiritual transformation - the unconscious is considerably involved. This is the case with supersensory mirror development. Because ego consciousness here is undone, instead of switching from one conscious pole of experience to the other, there is rather a central fusion of opposites creating spiritual energy. (This - as I have already stated - complements the fusion of matter and anti-matter which creates physical energy).
However, instead of being a pleasant experience it is an extremely painful one.
This is due to the fact that the rapid generation of spiritual energy (in psychic X-ray format) greatly highlights remaining ego imperfections. The real paradox of development is that the negative stages - despite all appearances to the contrary - are more valuable in terms of actually generating spiritual energy. The positive stages, though they seem of greater meaning due to the release of this accumulated energy ultimately tend to fade out due to dissipation of this concentrated source.
After a period of intense experience in this new underworld, one gradually begins to adapt more successfully. One still remains enclosed and in the dark, enduring many afflictions, but now in a more resigned and peaceful manner.
There is now the emergence of new superstructures still largely relating to the internal senses (i.e. emotional feelings).
In striking contrast to the corresponding superstructures at the external level, which are holistic and expansive in quality, these are intensely experienced and sharply focused on specific detail.
Whereas at the external level, there is the appreciation of physical reality (in general) as relative, here there is the complementary appreciation of the relativity of every human (psychological) situation. This in effect is the essence of the existentialist dilemma which has been so ably portrayed by writers such as Kierkegaard.
Just as the Newtonian world-view in physics is the paradigm of the linear level, where the objective world is considered to be independent of the (observing) mind; the corresponding internal world-view is that of an objective moral order i.e. that certain acts are good or bad in themselves (independent of the subjective mind). Institutionalised religions, which have a vested interest in ensuring conformity, tend to promote this viewpoint. However, if followed this approach greatly reduces individual freedom, for the decisive dynamic choice of authentically deciding, in terms of one's personal experience, what is right or wrong, is taken away.
This is what one feels so intensely at this time. The scaffolding of conventional wisdom with its empty formulae, collapses around one. One is left alone and deeply isolated to find a way to survival. Paradoxically, there follows an intimate discovery of one's special uniqueness as an individual. Despite everything, one is left with the power to choose, to genuinely decide - free of second hand information - what constitutes true meaning for the self.
One's individual acts - though trivial from an external perspective - now take on a special significance, precisely because of this painful exercise of choice. In decisions one develops the freedom to choose - not out of conformity to some external rule - but rather in terms of a deeper innate sense of personal truth.
It is customary nowadays for churches and other bodies - in defence of absolute laws - to criticise the relative value system of modern society. However there can be considerable confusion here.
Now, it is certainly true that if flexibility of morals is solely in the exercise of self centred desires - as is so often the case in materialistic societies - that this criticism is valid.
However, if one is to maturely act in terms of more selfless cosmic centred desires then one's moral system must necessarily be relative.
This is because any decision always involves a dynamic interaction as between the internal subject and the objective event involved. Needless to say it is neither the internal response nor the external event in isolation that constitutes meaning, but rather the dynamic relationship involving both. Because the situation is always relative, absolute certainty can never apply to the phenomenal circumstances of any decision. However, from an existentialist viewpoint, far from diminishing the quality of an act, this very uncertainty above all is what gives it value. For it is only in the presence of doubt that a meaningful existential decision can be made. Indeed, It is this presence of the unknown in all life situations that is necessary to enable one to grow in faith.
Again we have the complementarity of opposites in the balancing of positive (objective) and negative (subjective) poles in experience. Where there is a high level of unconscious fusion - as would typify this stage - there will be a strong transcendent spiritual quality to subjective experience in the authentic expression of faith. This is sometimes described as a contemplative inflow or infusion of grace.
One clearly realises that it is this very exercise of faith itself which is really absolute, and that the particular situations involved in moral decisions are always relative.
Translation of Reality
Indeed, there is another important distinction as between the experience of this dark negative phase in contrast to the earlier positive phase of supersensory illumination. Both stages involve an indirect attempt to translate reality. The earlier stage starts with an outpouring of pure unconscious intuition which one then tries to interpret in reduced conscious terms. This involves the conversion of the unified two dimensional experience of intuition into one dimensional conscious terms involving phenomena which constitute complementary polar opposites. This reduced form of experience eventually erodes the quality of intuition leading to secondary ego involvement with phenomena.
This in turn necessitates the mirror stage of supersensory development (involving purgation) to correct this tendency. Here the complementary opposite form of translation takes place. One now starts with immediate phenomenal experience in terms of making concrete moral choices. However one quickly realises that there are always two conflicting poles (objective and subjective factors) inextricably involved in terms of decisions. In order to unify these two poles one attempts to translate the separate (one dimensional) phenomenal poles of the moral situation into the two dimensional unified experience of pure intuition. In other words one seeks to transcend immediate conflicting and necessarily uncertain concrete moral situations through the continual exercise of faith. Indeed existential faith is born out of uncertainty and represents this seeking of a higher unity through direct transcendence of phenomena. Pure faith therefore necessitates experience of the unknown and is simply intuition exercised in darkness. Also, this continual exercise of authentic faith is the very means of sharpening one's intuitive capacity and transcending secondary ego attachments.
Thus an act of faith as well as being - in experiential terms - an answer to the existential problem, is by the same token always a questioning of all rigid (i.e. absolute) phenomenal beliefs. The veracity of the faith act therefore inevitably implies the freedom to continually question such beliefs not in keeping with authentic experience.
This is why true existentialism will always raise serious problems for the institutionalised religions.
Whereas the attempt to impose absolute (objective) moral laws, may if successful ensure mass conformity of religious belief, it can also rob people of the exercise of true freedom, greatly diminishing real faith.
I am not questioning the need for institutionalised religion as there clearly is a community as well as an individual dimension to the exercise of faith. However, there is considerable need now for far greater subtlety in the interpretation of moral behaviour with greater emphasis on genuine spiritual development rather than the preservation of legalistic norms. There has to be more trust that with openness and the right encouragement, that people will voluntarily seek to do good. At best the absolutist programme of prohibition, in a self centred society may when observed, have some restraining effect on excessive indulgence. However, this kind of control should really be the preserve of the civil authorities.
There is a pressing need now for the major religions, though greater appreciation of rapidly changing modern culture to promote a more inspiring spiritual vision in place of this impoverished goal.
During the circular level, one is always trying to balance extremes. The iconoclastic position of the existentialist cannot be sustained indefinitely. Though feeling an outsider, one still remains a member of society. After a while it may be necessary to develop a more outward perspective, and through wider involvement with problems in society, discover the universality of human difficulties. This paradoxically is the very means to rediscover an - admittedly painful - sense of community involvement.
This would constitute development of negative sense structures i.e. facing up consciously to unpleasant situations (e.g. dealing with difficult people) which one would prefer to avoid. This active purgation still remains very important during the circular level. If one gets too immersed in the more unconscious passive purgation, there will be a distinct danger of losing touch with reality.
If one has successfully adapted during this stage, there is eventually an easing of purgation and a feeling of imminent release. This can bring a new crisis point. One is always faced towards the end of each stage of the spiritual journey with the decision whether to rest on one's laurels or to progress further into the unknown.
Because the transcendent development so far necessarily involves a level of repression of primitive desires, as soon as the emergency has passed, one is likely to be presented with very alluring temptation, surfacing from the unconscious, which tends to complement the "higher" spiritual direction. For example, for a time, one is likely to experience physically erotic fantasies as nature tries to compensate for so much prolonged deprivation. In its own way this phase is an integral part of development, reminding one that though physical needs may stay dormant for a while they always remain lurking under the surface of consciousness. So just as - for a man - in the previous stage an archetype of spiritual femininity was developed, this stage sees the likely development of a complementary archetype of physical femininity.
However, if one is destined to go forward, these fantasies are unlikely to take permanent hold. It is not till much later that they are properly assimilated. After dallying with them for a while one will reassert one's commitment to the spiritual in a renewed conversion experience.
Phases of Development
Once more, we will attempt to summarise this stage by outlining its critical phases.
One realises for some time before entry that serious trouble is looming but nothing one does seems to help the situation. When one eventually surrenders and submits to one's fate, one's worst fears are realised as one sinks into a dark alien underworld. This in fact is the psychological signal for mirror development of the supersensory structures to take place (passive night of sense). This is the defining characteristic of the stage, and is especially designed to eliminate the subtle form of intuitive attachment arising from the previous stage
Just as the entry into this previous positive stage was characterised by certain peak experiences of joy, entry into this negative stage is characterised by complementary "peak" experiences this time of a profoundly disturbing kind where one is exposed in a particularly intense fashion to the misery of self. Though one feels at the time deep failure, these experiences actually represent a strong form of spiritual illumination which - because they are received in darkness - can only indirectly manifest itself through exposing the imperfections of the inner self.
A very confused and distressing time follows. One's world seems to have suddenly collapsed with only negative feedback being experienced at every turn. Because of the sharp erosion of conscious structures taking place, one is left defenceless in the face of deep existential anxiety. Indeed, for a time one might display classic symptoms of nervous breakdown. One experiences the greatest difficulty in coping with normal duties, and personal relationships only serve to highlight one's dilemma. The best that one can hope for is to survive from day to day.
This is the inevitable consequence of mirror structure development. Because there is so little conscious effort involved, a high level of spiritual fusion takes place between the former positive structures and the now rapidly developing mirror structures (i.e. psychic matter and anti-matter). However this spiritual fusion inevitably wipes out memory contents. Also one will find that new information does not stick. It seems to get quickly washed away through the contemplative process.
Linear understanding involves the belief that events move one-way i.e. forward in space and time. Mirror structure development always involves the (complementary) reverse direction which tends to cancel out this (rigid) linearity. . Psychologically during this time, there is the strong experience of events - in relative terms - moving backwards in space and time literally undoing past achievements. Only after considerable erosion of sense and supersensory structures can any kind of stable equilibrium be achieved.
After some time - which depends both on the severity of the process, and one's capacity - to adjust, some degree of stability is achieved. One is still enclosed in the dark, in a very restricted environment, but better able to accept the situation.
There now is the emergence of (internal) supersensory structures mainly related to emotional experience. One realises clearly the dynamic nature of feeling involving the continual interaction between the external (i.e. objective) direction and the internal (i.e. subjective) direction of phenomena. When related to decision-making, this leads to a strong existentialist stance. Because, in dynamic terms, all decisions are relative, an element of uncertainty inevitably is always involved. From a transcendent point of view, this is precisely what gives personal decisions a value in that they must always be exercised, to some degree in the face of the unknown. It is this act of faith, which always represents a leap in the darkness, therefore that is the essential element in the existential decision. Just as one, in dynamic terms is a participant in the creation of the world of (external) physical phenomena, likewise one is a participant in the creation of the world of (internal) moral phenomena. In other words authentic subjective meaning is created in experience, through exercising one's unique capacity to take decisions.
By contrast all absolute codes of conduct, as they attempt to break this unique two-way dynamic, are seen to greatly reduce moral freedom, robbing decisions of their authentic value.
Not surprisingly, one is likely to feel considerably alienated from institutionalised religion during this time.
Gradually, one is able to achieve a more detached view of one's situation, enabling avoidance of excessive preoccupation with the concerns of self. This is related to a growth in the more impersonal cognitive mode. One now starts to adopt a more general philosophical stance which will involve clarification of the existentialist position, but not be exclusively tied to it.
This is an another example of the complementarity that so marks the whole circular level. As soon as one reaches one extreme pole, one starts to move in the direction of the other. Thus having reached the extreme personal affective pole, now one starts to move in the complementary impersonal cognitive direction. In other words the search for a rational clarification of experience has now begun. One appreciates that (linear) reason is not suitable for this task, but an alternative philosophical approach is not yet available.
After so much interior confinement, it may be necessary to try and now offset this state through more active social involvement. Because one is still operating out of a purgative mode, one will inevitably keep picking up on the problems of others. Invariably one's own state is reflected in the world outside. When one is personally joyful, the world likewise can seem full of joy. However, when one is suffering, as now, one can only meaningfully relate to the suffering of others.
As this stage nears completion, there is an easing in the purgative mode, so that one at least partially can emerge into the light. There can now be another crisis point. One has survived a very difficult period of deprivation. Natural instincts which were greatly subdued, resurface especially in the form of physically erotic desires. One may be still tempted with the notion of returning to a "normal" existence. If one has gone through a relatively mild purgative experience, this may well be the case with backward integration with previous structures taking place. However, in those destined to move forward, this will not be possible. Too much has already changed. Also a deep need for even greater spiritual involvement will remain. So, shortly after release from the dungeon, they are ready for even greater commitment in a renewed conversion experience.