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Observations placeholder

Custance, John - Wisdom, Madness and Folly - On the depressive phase



Type of Spiritual Experience


The depressive phase of manic depression is equivalent to the shamanic 'dive' the difference being that it is involuntary.  In going 'down' the vibrational levels to find what is in memory and also in your hidden perceptions you inevitably come across 'demons' all of which are yours, but many of which could have been inflicted on you by others.

Shamanic cultures use the experience to purge themselves of any learnt functions and learnt facts [the demons] that inhibit their growth.  Thus as long as you believe that it is possible to expunge the demons, this can be turned from a terrible negative phase into a positive one from which one emerges 'cleansed'.

Shamanic 'diving' requires enormous courage and indeed those with manic depression require much the same.  By going down the vibrational levels one is in effect distancing oneself more and more from one's Higher spirit and the levels of love and Light, hence the complete sense of isolation one feels and lack of love for oneself.  The composer, however, carries on working to help, most of what you receive is in the form of visions.

Many of John's demons appeared to stem from his religious upbringing - he had a very over exaggerated sense of 'sin' not helped by the clergy in his mental ward, who took great delight in reinforcing these beliefs

A description of the experience

Wisdom, Madness and Folly - John Custance

The following  account of the deep caverns of the soul to which the depressive phase of manic depression leads is being written while I seem to be on the threshold of the phase.  My last manic attack ended about 4 months ago………..

I have had tendencies to depression on occasion, but I have succeeded in conquering them, mainly by hanging on like grim death to the consciousness of relationship with God which came to me in my manic phases. Now, however, that sense is becoming increasingly difficult to recapture. It is as though …. a great switch in my system [was turned], putting out the light, mad though it was, plunging me into what the mystics, notably St Theresa, call the Dark Night of the Soul, or rather, at the moment I am in a sort of twilight, more like what St Theresa calls a "State of Dryness", which may change into the night of horror that I know so well.

The features of the depressive state are precisely the reverse of those of the manic. Instead of the sense of well-being I feel miserable and ill; instead of a heightened sense of reality I seem 

" . . . to move among a world of ghosts
And feel myself the shadow of a-dream”
[Tennyson – the Princess]

This  feeling is closely linked with a sort of strengthening of the barriers of individuality, a hardening of the shell of the ego. I seem shut into myself, withdrawn from real contact with the outer world as also from contact with God; the sun does not really shine, the trees and fields are not really green; I am shut in with my thoughts, always of a depressing and melancholy nature.

This sense of isolation, of being cut off from God, one’s fellows and the world, seems to me to be the paramount feature underlying the whole …. It is a sense which appears at the root of several psychoses; Pierre Janet has called it the "Maladie de l'isolement”.  Just as its opposite, the breach in the barriers of individuality, seemed connected with the inhibition of the sense of repulsion, so this state involves a heightened sense of repulsion and horror of dirt and repulsive objects carried to absurd lengths. To give a homely if somewhat coarse instance, I have at times felt impelled to use up to twenty pieces of toilet-paper.

Moral tension returns in full force. I am haunted by a sense of guilt; my conscience gives me no rest, even when there do not seem to be any particularly grievous sins upon it. Whatever I am doing I feel I ought to be doing something else. I worry perpetually about my past sins and failures; not for a moment can I forget the mess I seem to have made of my life. However I may pray for and think of forgiveness, no forgiveness comes. Eventually the terrors of Hell approach.

….. Instead of the light of ineffable revelation I seem to be in perpetual fog and darkness.  I cannot get my mind to work; instead of associations "clicking into place" everything is an inextricable jumble; instead of seeming to grasp a whole, it seems to remain tied to the actual consciousness of the moment. The whole world of my thought is hopelessly divided into incomprehensible water tight compartments. I could not feel more ignorant, undecided, or inefficient. It is appallingly difficult to concentrate, and writing is pain and grief to me. 

As for wickedness, although my mind has not reached the stage of regarding myself as the most wicked person in the world and responsible for all the sin and evil afflicting mankind, I know too well that it can do so.  That appalling self-centredness is the reverse of the delusions of grandeur and power. It leads to the uttermost depths.

For the description on Expunging demons see the Common steps section

The source of the experience

Custance, John

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps





Manic depression


Expunging demons