Authentic Suffering
(apparently by Rodin) CARD URL:

Card #141 – Authentic Suffering


Sometimes, there is a fine line between indulging self-pity, negative tape loops and their associated feelings, and necessary sorrow and authentic suffering. Chogyam Trungpa believed that the ideal state for the warrior is broken-heartedness. Sometimes, sorrow is what we need to feel or what someone else is feeling, and we or they need to feel the sorrow as deeply as possible. I’ve always preferred anguish and deep sorrow to depression. It’s much better to face the sorrow, feel it as deeply as possible, and move on rather than trying to mitigate or medicate it, which only encourages it to turn into lingering depression.

If your suffering is not related to a physical cause and you’re having an acute episode, see the card, Dark Night of the Soul If it’s more chronic than acute, see Awakening from Depression . If loneliness is the cause, and the present era seems to cause more loneliness than any other, read the Loneliness card and also look for “Eros, Love and Sexuality” in the
categories section of this site.

Something we usually don’t want to think about is the most authentic suffering, where there are objective, physical causes. If you are lucky enough to avoid natural disasters, accidents, and warzones and get to experience a normal lifespan, you will still have to deal with illness and old age.

I grew up in the Bronx with holocaust survivors and a dad who survived D-Day when everyone else he fought with died. These things didn’t happen to me, but they were in the psychic atmosphere, and they continue to haunt me.

Being the sort of person who has a lot of visions, intuitions, imagination, and paranormal perceptions is usually an interesting and entertaining aspect of my life, but one part of it is not. I am sometimes haunted by visions of people in states of acute suffering, and these can be stirred up by images on the news or in movies like the 2022 German version of All Quiet on the Western Front, or by even a mild hallucinogen like THC, or without any known outer cause. (see links below for examples of such dark visions) I think part of it may be ancestral memory, especially from my dad, Nathan Zap, who had PTSD symptoms from D-Day into his 90s.

Nathan Zap before D Day

Nathan Zap after the war. You could see in his eyes that he had seen terrible things.

He never talked about his experiences in the war, and if anything about D-Day came on television, he walked out of the room. For me, it’s as if a psychic cloud of what my dad experienced as a medic during D Day follows me around.

Dreams, as Jung pointed out, often compensate for defects/one-sidedness in the psyche. So do waking visions, and that compensation could be for what’s not integrated into the awareness of the individual psyche, the collective, or both.

I think my visions of people in states of suffering erupt in me sometimes because they’re expressions of the cloud of human suffering encircling the planet. I think there are agonizing death cries that continue to echo out into eternity and into the psyches of some, including me.

Even experiencing such things vicariously is horrifying and terrible, and I have to rouse whatever courage I have to do anything that might trigger such visions, such as powerful hallucinogens, which I’ve tried rarely and with increasing reluctance (not sure if I’ll ever open that door again, see linked trip reports below). I don’t seek such visions, let alone the events that give rise to them, but I can’t just look away because there are people dying such terrible deaths 24/7/365. Also, if I’m committed to consciousness, I must be willing to look into highly uncomfortable parts of my psyche and the world.

When the dark vision channel opens, I’m also overwhelmed by the need for compassion from all of us for those who suffer. When I’m online with the shadow dimension of suffering, anything hollow in my life is experienced as unbearably hollow.

This painful form of awareness is necessary to discourage us from thoughtlessly causing suffering and to give those who have never been in a war a visceral sense of the ontologically shattering horror of it.

Authentic suffering can happen without anyone being at fault through accidents, natural disasters, and biological realities. But the suffering inflicted by humans on people and animals is the very heart of darkness in this matrix.

I struggle with the problem of suffering and evil and have more questions than answers. During my most recent eruption of acute awareness of this shadow dimension, an experience that had no clear trigger and lasted only a few seconds (but they were a very long few seconds), I regretted not having a meditation practice. I felt like that left me poorly prepared for states of acute suffering I might experience. Now, I do have a daily practice, but it’s not very much. Should I do more? How much should I look toward the darkness? Am I justified, at least at times, to look away from it? If I could turn off those dark visions, would that be a good thing, or would it only make me more callous? In what circumstances are we justified in being part of a causal chain that generates suffering? For example, is it OK for sentient animals to suffer because of a taste preference? What if it’s beneficial for our heatlh? How much are we justified in buying things whose manufacture damages the environment, which can lead to causally distant suffering? Am I justified indulging in a treat that gives short-term pleasure to my present self but may contribute to the suffering of my future self?

I’m not here to supply answers to such questions. I struggle with them and feel conflicted about my choices. I’m just reminding you that these are important questions. On a daily basis we are making choices that have an impact, however indirect, on our suffering and the world’s suffering.

Given the kind of imagination I have, images of dark events in movies are more than enough for dark flowers to blossom in my mind’s eye that never go away. Some people consciously avoid such content, and in individual cases, they may be right to do so. In my opinion, the avoidant strategy goes too far when people tune out the news and important world events. It’s our responsibility as citizens of this world to know what’s going on and to do what we can to help.

I realize there are legitimate exceptions, children and adults who are too psychically frail to integrate the darkness. But I doubt anyone regularly using this oracle would be in that category because shadow integration is so central to its design.

We must grapple with the reality of authentic suffering and respond with moral courage and ethics. We should avoid glib formulas that seek to explain away the suffering — E.G.: “God only gives you the burdens you need to bear.” (Explain that to a baby dying of AIDS).

We need to make difficult choices between looking toward and looking away. We must allow uneasy open questions to remain open. And we need to double down on the two answers we can be sure of: compassion and service.

For examples of dark visions and how they catalyze compassion see:

Shred to Black — Salvia Blue Moon Apocalypse

The Agonizing Enlightenment of Ayahuasca

Andrew’s Ayahuasca Experience

And to see dark visions and events catalyzing compassion and metamorphosis: my sci-fi epic, Parallel Journeys, which can be read free on this site. If you prefer Audible, Kindle or physical versions, those are all available on Amazon.

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