All my life, since my childhood which otherwise was a happy one, I have been suffering from deep depressions. Alternating with these bouts of depression I have had what is called episodes of manic states. Doctors call this alternating bouts of depression and manic states a bipolar disorder. But what a bipolar disorder is nobody knows for sure. It is attributed to certain abnormalities in the chemical and circuit functioning in the brain. But environmental conditions are also blamed for the causes of this disorder. My own take is that bipolar disorder is due to very complex causes which involves complex phenomena including the soul of man. The purpose of this article is to share with others my own perspectives on this matter and how I have dealt with it.
We all have seen those TV ads showing miserable people asked to tell their doctors about a particular medication that supposedly alleviates depression. We all know that these are strategies from the people in Madison Avenue doing what Americans do the best: Selling. But the misery shown in the faces of people is real. This misery, is the manifestation of feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, self-pity, very low self-esteem, lifelessness, lack of purpose, and others miserable ones.
But depression goes deeper than all those feelings. Depression involves the soul. Man feels that his soul has been diminished and that he does not belong to any place. He is alone here and alone there. No matter how many people around, and no matter how close they are, the depressed person feels that it is all the same: The loneliness is here to stay and sometimes seems to be eternal. Man is isolated from life and from others. It is like the spirit has been hijacked. There is nothing to be done; man feels himself condemned.
It is this feeling of unbearable loneliness that makes many depressed people to look for the final solution and many find it. It is believed that in the Unites States alone over 30,000 people commit suicide every year because of depression. I can believe it. Many times I just wanted to end everything and I still vividly remember a period of about two months when I lived submerged in a world of wanting to put an end to my life. if it had not been by my passion for my search, the fact that I grew up as Catholic, and my responsibility to my family, I would have done it. Let us say it, depression is a serious business; depression can kill and depression does kill. And if it does not kill, it puts the person suffering it in bed for many of the hours of a whole day.
It has been during the last seven years that I have had to struggle with depression the most. Two years ago I was forced to take a semester off my teaching job because I could not drive to the University. During my younger years and my young adult life I somehow managed to deal with it through keeping myself busy with the affairs of life. But lately, as my children grew up and my job became less demanding I had more time to be depressed and I have been. And there is also the fact, as stated by doctors, that as we grow older we get more depressed. As it has been said: “ Old age is not for sissies.”
I now have serious doubts about the treatment of depression through medications, though I have been to four different psychiatrists to treat my bipolar disorder. What I mean is that medications not always work and that no matter what medications I have been taken, the fact is that I am depressed for entire months. And suddenly, like by an act of magic, the depression is gone and I am fine or switch into a manic state. Then, in the same way and while still taking the medications I am back into the depressive mood. It is like external forces and not the medications that are in charge of the situation. I cannot explain it but I am now experimenting with putting my medications aside and taking charge of the situation using other ways than medication.
My Manic States
If in depression we feel hopeless and like a total nullity when it comes to do things, in our manic states we feel like we own the world, that we can do anything. Manic states is the opposite of depression. It is during manic states that the great decisions, sometimes very great wrong decisions, are made. However, I have found from my own experience that all the great decisions I have made under manic control, have resulted to be correct. It is as if the decision made during manic states comes from a part of me that is always correct, a form of intuition or the subconscious mind let us say. When I look back at my life I see that I have been helped by my manic states. For example:
It was during a manic episode that I went to the American Embassy in Cuba, in 1960, and dared to ask a vice-consular member of the Embassy to give me a visa for the USA, when it was very difficult to get a visa. And he gave it to me.
It was during a manic episode that I left New York for California in 1961 to get a degree in electrical engineering, all by myself and with very little help from my father. And finally I succeeded to get my degree which was for me a great opportunity that open the door to become a professor and live a life that was possible and tolerable under my bipolar disorder.
It was under a manic state that the day after graduation I married my wife of more than 45 years, who has helped me to live through my condition and is still helping me.
It was during a manic state that in 1966 I left the USA to go to Venezuela, the country of my wife. Living in Venezuela was a blessing for me because life over there was not as competitive as life in the United State and I was able to deal with my bipolar disorder with greater possibilities.
It was during a manic state that in 1969 I left Venezuela back to the United State to get my Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering at the University of Florida in Gainesville, a small city which helped me to live with my bipolar situation.
But the greatest adventure of my life during a manic state was when I left Venezuela for Paris to find a Gurdjieff group and a Gurdjieff group leader who had worked with Mr. Gurdjieff. I remember I arrived in Paris in 1975 with my wife and three children and immediately went around searching for a disciple of Mr. Gurdjieff that I knew had to be living there after his death in 1949. In the passion of my manic state I went around like a possessed man looking for such a disciple and in matter of a month I have found one. I joined a group and for the next three years in Paris and seven in Venezuela, I was part of the so-called Gurdjieff Foundations, something that also helped me with my bipolar disorder.
But the part of my three years adventure in Paris that most influenced me was my encounter for the first time with the book Beelzebub’s Tales. Since the moment I began to read the book, I knew, maybe by intuition or again from the subconscious, that here was a “something” in the book that was going to help me to cope with my bipolar disorder for the rest of my life and it has been so. More on this later.
It was also during a manic attack that in 1985, ten years after I had gone to Paris to find a Gurjdjieff group and now living with my family in Venezuela, that I told my wife that we better pack up and leave Venezuela for the Unites States because conditions in Venezuela were beginning to look to conditions in Cuba when I had left almost 25 years before, and I knew from my own experience what was to follow. Many of my Venezuelan friends later told me that it was a smart move on my part. And it was also from the point of view of my bipolar disorder and my own search. I had time to study Beelzebub’s Tales deeper and in 2000 to publish my first paper with the title “A Personal Reading of Beelzebub’s Tales.” I had spent twenty-five years studying the book before I published my firs paper on the results of my study.
A psychosis is sort of a bipolar disorder with the mind running wild. There is at the same time depression and manic state during psychosis. But the main feature of a psychosis is the total loss of reality. Hallucinations take the place of a more or less normal life. One is in another world, one which is almost impossible to deal with within the frame of a rational take on the events surrounding oneself.
My greatest psychosis took place when I was 29 years old and was living in Gainesville attending the University of Florida to get a Ph. D. in electrical engineering. I ended up in the mental medical building for a whole week. What provoked the psychosis was my spending one whole week without sleeping working on my doctoral dissertation and studying the Bible, particularly the New Testament. I ended up believing I was Jesus Christ. However, one cannot believe one is Jesus without believing one is the Devil and my belief in both alternated from hour to hour. In the hospital there was another fellow who believed he was the antichrist after being obsessed reading Nietzsche’s The Antichrist. And to make the psychosis more interesting there was a woman who believed she was the Virgin Marry after having lost a son. It was a psychotic cosmic triangle that took place in that hospital in Gainesville for few days. Luckily for me, in a matter of one week I had recovered from my psychosis and after a good vacation with my wife in the Virgin Islands I was back in Gainesville and in due time finished my Ph. D.
That was my first great psychosis and I have to confess that I have no clue how it is started and how it ended. All I know for sure is that I lived through it.
Since then I have had to go through a number of more benign psychosis, particularly during the last four years. During these years I I have been convinced that I had committed the unforgivable sin, that I had been condemned to Hell for all eternity and, influenced for my readings of Beelzebub’s Tales, that I was the universal Hasnamuss Lentrohamsanin, all in that order. Now that I am feeling well and standing on my two feet, I look back and laugh about the content of my psychosis. But when I am submerged in them I am living them fully and suffering like all and everything associated with them were true. For instance, during the time I believed I was Lentrohamsanin I could not sleep and spent many night hours reading in Beelzebub about the particular “something” that made a man become a Hasnamunuss, just to check if these characteristics of this universal type were in me. Imagine for a moment that you feel you have been condemned to exist on the planet of Eternal Retribution where you will spend eternity alone
My Beloved Beelzebub
On my way from Caracas to Paris my family and I made a stop in New York to visit my parents. It was there that I bought my first copy of Beelzebub’s Tales, three books in one. I did not wait to get to Paris and join a group to start reading the book. And from the very first page I knew that it was the book I was waiting for all my life. Contrary to many other books I had been exposed to this one spoke to my feelings. I began to find sense to my life and to see how we three-brained had been damaged by outside forces as well as by us ourselves. In a moment of clarity I saw that my initial impulse of going to Paris in search of heirs to Mr. Gurdjieff, impulse coming from one of my manic state, this decision had been a very positive, although intuitive, one.
Reading the tales while being member of a group helped me to cope with my bipolar disorder and a little bit of psychosis as well. One day I walked up and down the well-known Boulevard de Capucines where both the Grand Café and Café de la Paix, places known as Gurdjieff’s offices, submerged in a little psychosis of thoughts. I remember that week I shared my experience with the group and Henri Tracol, the group leader, replied to me “More dreaming, Will, more dreaming.” I spent my three years in the city of light mostly enveloped by darkness. But there was always a ray of light in being with my friend Beelzebub. For me Beelzebub’s Tales has been the way of salvation for my soul, I would say.
But not only that, the book gave me answers to questions I was searching for that I could not find in Ouspensky’s book. In Search of the Miraculous, as we know, is a very intellectual book; it gives you a lot of information. But Beelzebub has the magic of touching you emotionally; your higher feeling center is touched directly. And since I’m a person who really likes to laugh, of course when I am not depressed and psychotic…the first time I read it I laughed so much … I really fell in love with the book.
Life with depression and psychosis leads to an unhappy life. However, as a well-known psychiatrist once said: “Our infirmities help us in unexpected ways.” My depression and my psychosis have helped me to embark in a journey of discovery and my soul has been fortified by this journey. As Carl Jung said, “out of brokenness arises liberation and there is no coming to consciousness without pain.”A friend of mine once told me that I should be thankful to God for my depression and all that because it was a way to avoid falling into the temptations of an easy life and/or the absurdity of being involved with fantastic endeavors. Or in the words of G. I. Gurdjieff, “the worse the conditions of life the more productive the work, always provided you remember the work.”
I repeat, I no longer look at my bipolar disorder and my psychosis as an illness I had to suffer but rather as an opportunity to work on myself. From this point of view I am very grateful for this gift from God and Mother Nature.
In this sense, I would like to give a concrete example of how I used the material in Beelzebub’s Tales to work on my illness.
It has been said that everything that has a beginning has an end. I now feel that my bipolar disorder has ended and this for me is a proof that it is not an illness caused by chemical imbalance in the brain. For me it is rather like the crystallization of substances we have inherited somehow, much like those babies who are born with a drug addiction caused by their mother being addicted. My disorder has served a purpose and now it is time to move ahead into new territory. I know this.
When I look back now that I am feeling much better and that my life is cleaned from my depression and my psychosis, I cannot but thank God for this gift from Mother Nature, that has made possible a life full of adventures of the spirit. I also look back wondering where I got the money from in order to move around like I did. Well, the fact is that when I needed money, money came to me, like a conjury. Sharing this with a friend, he told me that in a past life I had developed the will to make money and that now I was reaping the results of my past efforts.
If you want to know the truth of how I stand in my relationship with my beloved Beelzebub, I will tell you. I have found out that all I have to do is to read the book and that is all I have done for the past thirty-seven years. I have not needed the so-called morning sittings, the movements, or participating in group exchanges. Beelzebub’s Tales has the power of repairing the past and preparing tomorrow. Being in contact with the book is the closest to being in direct contact with Mr. Gurdjieff. The book has that magic power. However, as Mr. Gurdjieff himself advised, one has to treat Mr. Beelzebub with great love and great respect
I also know that I have lived in the company of many great men who have suffered from depression, manic states, and psychosis. The best example for me is Isaac Newton, the greatest scientist who ever lived. His bouts of depression and manic state (maybe even psychosis) are legendary. I can very well understand how he broke all contacts with relatives and friends during his times of depression. I know very well what this means because during my depressions I wanted nothing to do with my friends and kept as much away from my relatives as I could.
Even though I broke almost all contact with relatives and friends during times of depression, I kept a minimum contact with few relatives and few friends connected with me through the living teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff. I would like now to acknowledge their presence during my dark nights of the soul. My wife was always taking care of me, making sure I would take the medicines and encouraging me to go out and enjoy life. My best friend from Venezuela, Danilo Laya, was always sharing with me his own depression and his own search. A group of female friends I have known through the teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff, always kept in touch with me through the internet making sure that I would receive the gift of their subconscious mind. Among them, Mani Gerlach from Germany, Kristina Turner from England, Marcela Huepe from Chile, Angelica Sarkisyan from Russia-America, Tatiana Rovner from Russia, Geraldine Prem from Uruguay, and Mariyana Tavlieva from Bulgaria. I thank all of them for their warm encouragement and external considering and I thank the internet for being a modern place of gathering.