Emptiness, grief and sorrow are, as we are all too aware, significant aspects to personal loss and separation from anything in life that we nurture and cherish.
But what of those times in our lives when we feel inexplicably empty of spirit, devoid of life and drained of emotional energy—times during which there appears to be no particular reason or explanation for the way that we feel.
We live in a society in which it has become very easy for the medical or psychiatric profession to diagnose depression in patients at such difficult times in their lives and to medicate accordingly.
But might there possibly be another, much deeper psychospiritual origin to many of our experiences of sorrow?
Francis Weller is a psychotherapist, writer and soul activist. The core of his work is to help his patients avoid the use of chemical medication and instead to help them to discover their own inner healing process—a pathway that the psychologist C. G. Jung referred to as
the unforgettable wisdom that resides in the heart of our psyches.
The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief is Wellers’ intimate portrayal of his psychological work and in his book he includes real-life stories of many of the patients that come to him for help and guidance over the years.
In its preface Weller talks specifically about the sense of loss that we all feel following the passing over of a loved one but he then widens discussion of the subject to focus on the concept of loss as it is experienced in a wider context.
Today, the sources of loss are multiple, and the complexity of addressing this tangled web of grief can, at times, feel overwhelming.
But what exactly is the nature of the losses that he refers to?
Weller answers this question by explaining that:
We sense the presence of loss from places both personal and communal, intimate and shared.
Indeed, the author then openly states that during the time that he has spent in his own line of healing work he has come to see that
…much of the grief we carry is not personal; it doesn’t arise from our histories or experiences.
Through his work Weller has come to identify what he refers to as Five Gates of Grief. These are The Loss of Everything We Love, a sense of loss of The Places That Have Not Known Love, The Sorrows of the World, What We Expected and Did Not Receive and Ancestral Grief.
In his book he explains in some depth the conditions and circumstances that feature in each of these five gates, along with personal anecdotal stories of those caught up at each of these differing levels of sorrow, grief and loss.
Whilst it has indeed become common for us in our present culture to deal with these emotional conditions with medication the author explains that for many indigenous peoples tbe method best suited to help heal and resolve these types of maladies are actually expressed through community support and group ritual.
These are methods and techniques that Weller himself employs when approaching his own patients and the remarkable results that he has achieved using such methods speak for themselves.
Weller explains in greater depth what exactly ritual is and how he feels it can help an individual come to terms with their own deep sense of sorrow—whatever the source of that malaise.
As he explains,
There are many concerns that are addressed through ritual; these are universal themes: healing, gratitude, initiation, visionary or divination processes, grief, maintenance, renewing the earth, reconciliation, and peacemaking.
In contrast to this community form of grief engagement the author also explores the process by which we connect with sorrow at a purely personal level. Here he refers to it as ‘Entering the House of Our Ancestors’—a condition in which we can use silence and solitude as an opportunity to pause, slow down and to stop engaging in those activities designed to make us avoid the root causes of our inner pain.
Weller classes this sort of personal grief-work to form an essential part of Soul development and that through sorrow we can all learn to nurture ourselves as well as spiritually develop in ways that are not ordinarily possible under less pressurized circumstances.
In summing up his personal philosophy to the problem of sorrow Weller simply states that
…grief offers the chance for opening doors to deeper levels of who we are.
Clearly grief it is not a condition to be avoided but instead is one to be welcomed, engaged with and used as a leverage to understand our inner world along with its connection to the outer world in which we live.
Our Review of The Wild Edge of Sorrow’ by Francis Weller
Many of us within the spiritual community suffer continuously from the exact symptoms of loneliness, separation and isolation to which Weller refers in his book—a sort of deep malaise which we can neither explain nor resolve.
Indeed it is interesting to note just how many modern books on contemporary spirituality are based around personal healing and given the nature of the sort of humanitarian work we are challenged to perform this is perhaps not too surprising.
Reading this book lends one to strongly suspect that many of the dark feelings of grief, sorrow and depression that we all experience from time to time are not solely centered within ourselves but actually originate from our collective sense of loss of community, war, violence and conflict that surrounds us in the world and even from deep psychological issues held within our ancestral past.
These are still aspctes of life that we need to help resolve and if you are frightened by the prospect of having to walk directly into the world of your own inner sorrow, or that held within the racial unconscious, then I strongly suggest that this book offers an invaluable guide to the journey that you need to take.
At times The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief is brutal, at others it is heart-rending but mostly it is simply deeply-challenging of some highly cherished, but clearly erroneous, social and collective beliefs.
Weller proves throughout this wonderfully-crafted book that grief and sorrow, much like the velveteen sheen of blackness, can, and does, contain its own inherent beauty and glorious depth of vitality.
In The Wild Edge of Sorrow, he has written a truly outstanding book—one that resonates with exactly those very same deep and dark qualities but which also gives the reader a sense of hope that a new day will rise from which we can find strength and joy in our Souls.
Written with a great sense of compassion, honesty and humility this is a book that sheds light on the source of so much personal and collective grief. Not all of it is, by any means, resolvable at a personal, or even collective level but in those areas of grief over which we do have control through the use of ritual and self-examination the book offers a clear path through even the most emotionally difficutl and psychologically challenging terrain.
In The Wild Edge of Sorrow Francis Weller offers his readers a breath-taking and dramatic journey of inner discovery into personal pain resolution, planetary healing and Soul development. It is an essential publication—one that offers precious guidance and insight for those who are strong enough, as well as mature enough, to probe and challenge the darkness.
Book of the Month: August 2015