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Observations placeholder

Custance, John - Wisdom, Madness and Folly - The Positive and negative powers



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

John Custance – Wisdom, Madness and Folly

There was a fundamental opposition in the universe, but it was not the opposition of good and evil. I seemed to see, like a flash, two vast lines of connection stretching right back into the evolutionary process, which I could not help calling the "Positive" and "Negative" Powers of God. The image was plainly of an electrical circuit with positive and negative poles, and I made many attempts to draw it. Sometimes it seemed as though two currents were involved, running in opposite directions. Whichever way I conceived it, the electrical analogy seemed the most appropriate.

Yet it was also associated with sex, and directly derived from the vision of the male and female organs which is always behind the ideas which come to me in a manic period.

Male was "positive" and female "negative"; in most of my drawings the "positive" and "negative" poles are given the appropriate sexual form. The power or energy involved was in fact sexual rather than electrical, though it sometimes seemed as though the physical force of electricity was in fact part of it. The analogy with the "libido" of Freud and Jung is of course obvious, but at the time it did not occur to me, as I had read practically no psychology. I was quite clear, however, that this was the basic power of creation.

These "Positive" and "Negative" Powers were also plainly identical with the forces dominating me in the depressive and manic states respectively; in my manic ecstasy I knew without any doubt that I was experiencing impulses through "contact" with the "Negative Power". This idea of "contact" impelled itself very forcibly and in many forms on my consciousness.

Here there may perhaps seem to be a contradiction between the electrical analogy of "positive" and "negative" and the idea of forces of "repulsion" and "attraction" associated, as I have explained above, with "dividing" and "uniting".

Why should the attracting, uniting, synthesising force of the manic state be regarded as "negative" and its opposite force of repulsion as "positive" ?

Certainly there was no doubt in my mind at the time. The association of the male and female principles with this opposition had a good deal to do with it; male would normally be regarded as "positive". But another and deeper reason was, I think, that in the dim, phantastic vision of the creative process as I seemed to see it, the initiative unquestionably lay with the Positive Power.

The source of the experience

Custance, John

Concepts, symbols and science items

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Manic depression