Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Descending to the transcendent: Reversing the direction of an upside down life in a both/and world
by Curtis, Virginia Louise, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2016, 324; 10256470
Abstract (Summary)

The more we search for meaning and enlightenment, the stronger our pathologies and anxieties become. No rationale can explain that letting go of something guarantees finding it—or something better, and by accepting various levels of the soul’s descent, we find ourselves on the spiritual path of transcendence. Yet this is exactly the message of religion, mythology, art, and literature that emerge through humankind in states of both suffering and ecstasy.

This dissertation examines an overvaluing of transcendent states to the point of repressing and medicating normal emotional pathologies. The pursuit of perfection in health, beauty, status, and spiritual goals have unintentionally created a culture of addiction, and for many, an unexplained loss of meaning. As a result, addictions to food, alcohol, relationships, technology, street and pharmaceutical drugs are found in all age groups and socioeconomic levels. The search for “wholeness” and a belief in perfection are a source of anxiety, traced to the confusion between “soul” and “spirit,” labels for the unseen diverse and autonomous energies that need expression in the phenomenal world. To reverse the direction of an upside down life is to recognize how the soul’s descent into underworld experience is necessary for spiritual transcending, a dynamic that cannot be medicated out of existence.

Each chapter addresses three interconnected themes: enantiodromia—the extreme of one thing leading to its opposite, perception and interpretation, and Jung’s transcendent function—an individual’s state of tension between conflicting choices until a third state evolves to transcend the discomfort. Introduced here is the imaginal “descendent function” to honor the anxiety, depression, and suffering that occurs before transformation, and to compensate for current culture’s inflated perception of a transcendent ideal based on external influences.

The research explores certain underworld myths and symbols of descending to the transcendent including Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Vedic, and Platonic literature, as well as Eastern and Western traditions of alchemy seeking to bridge the gap between what is experienced in the perceptual world and the body’s signals of intuition as messages from a divine order.

Keywords: enantiodromia, descendent/transcendent function, labyrinth, imagination, participant/observer, compassion, underworld, illusion, faith

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Smith, Evans Lansing
Commitee: Moore, Thomas, Slattery, Dennis Patrick
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Mythological Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 78/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, Psychology, Spirituality
Keywords: Amduat, Axiom of Maria, Compassion, Descendent/transcendent function, Enantiodromia, Faith, Illusion, Imagination, Inanna and Ereshkigal, Labyrinth, Paradox, Participant/observer, Perception and projection, Spirit and south, Underworld
Publication Number: 10256470
ISBN: 978-1-369-55555-4
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