Mar 31, 2010

Wesley Crusher's Dark Night of the Soul

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

I just watched, for the umpteenth time, Star Trek Next Generation's "Journey's End." Despite some rather sappy, idealized attempts to depict Native American culture, it's a good episode. One of the things that strikes me, not for the first time, is its depiction of Wesley Crusher's spiritual growing pains. From the Wiki:

Meanwhile, Wesley has returned from Starfleet Academy for a vacation. He's out-of-character though, snappish and depressed and he appears even slightly ill, which really worries Dr. Crusher. He is rude to La Forge in the engine room. Dr. Crusher tries to talk to her son, but initially gets nowhere.

On the planet, Wesley comes in contact with Lakanta, an Indian holy man of sorts. He guides Wesley on a journey of self-discovery, in which he talks to his long-dead father, who tells Wesley that he is destined to go down a path different from his own.

It has me contemplating the stress associated with spiritual growth; probably because I was trying to explain this very issue to a client earlier today. One of the more painful lessons I've learned is that spiritual growth is not comfortable. This is something lightworkers have had to deal with for some years now, although the worst of what I call "lightworker syndrome" seems to be abating. Many "ascension symptom" lists have been presented by psychics and channelers over the years. For my money, the best and most comprehensive is Karen Bishop's, a version of which appears on the first page of her new site. Here are a handful of her observations:

* Have you felt in recent years and months, that you were stretching far beyond what you had the capacity to endure?

* Have you had many emotional ups and downs, strange physical aches and pains, many losses in the form of friends, jobs, family, finances, and much of anything else?

. . .

* Have you had anxiety, panic, or what feels like depression?

* Do you at times have strange and disturbing nightmares that are not normal for you?

. . .

* Are your emotions out of control from time to time (sudden weeping and sadness, or are you just plain over-emotional)? Do you ever feel lost and alone?

* Do you at times feel that there is nowhere left to go that remotely fits you anymore?

These emotional and physical disruptions are certainly not confined to those of us experiencing the lightworker phenomenon that started in the late nineties/early aughts. Similar experiences and worse have been recorded for millenia among spiritual seekers. From the "Dark Night of the Soul" of St. John of the Cross to the "divine madness" of Greek philosophers, it has long been known that spiritual breakthrough is not painless. Much of this has been well documented by Stan Grof in his books Spiritual Emergency and The Stormy Search for Self. It can involve the brutal ripping apart of the ego, to make way for the workings of spirit. This can make the spiritual seeker very, very cranky.

This is where I have been forced to part ways with the "love and light" yumminess of so much of the "new age" movement and why I shun The Secret. These movements present a very unrealistic presentation of spiritual growth. Worse, there is a lot of shaming of "negative" emotions and expressions, that can cause many spiritual seekers to go into denial and avoidance patterns. It can force us to be completely inauthentic.

I've always considered Star Trek: The Next Generation to be representative of the "new age" zeitgeist of the 80s and 90s. Though the mauve and seafoam green of the sets seems dated now, the show is like a little time capsule of what was for me a very heady time. But I was struck anew at how much I could relate to Wesley Crusher's agitation in this episode. A spiritual calling can make us really bitchy... Well, it can make me really bitchy. And while we sometimes need to apologize for inappropriate outbursts and behavior, it does not do for us to be told that those outbursts are somehow counter-spiritual. Quite the contrary. As with young Wesley, the irritability and agitation that can make us really unpleasant to be around can be indicative of a deeper spiritual calling and transformation process, and sometimes it just has to run its course.

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