It was a wintry night when I crossed that bridge in Koblenz thirty-four years ago. I stopped in the middle of the bridge and looked down into the dark. A part of my mind felt an almost irresistible urge to step over the ledge and dive. Luckily, another part of my mind panicked, turned my body around, and walked it off that bridge.
Did you ever stand on a ledge and felt a strong urge to jump? That urge is a thing. The French call it l’appel du vide, the call of the void.
If you stare too long into the abyss, the abyss will stare back at you. – Friedrich Nietzsche.
In 2012, psychologist Jennifer Hames led a study at the Department of Psychology at Florida State University on the call of the deep or high place phenomenon. Thirty percent of the participants confirmed that they experienced this phenomenon. Half of them said they weren’t suicidal. I didn’t feel suicidal at that time either, I experienced a fascinating attraction.
Where does the call of the void come from? What are the psychological technicalities?
The avatar/ego is a self-conscious point of awareness that hangs between superconsciousness and subconsciousness, an unlimited height and an immeasurable deep.
As it evolves and moves upward, the avatar turns self- and superconsciousness into subconsciousness. We came from what is now our subconsciousness and it took us many lifetimes to get where we are now – Homo sapiens.
Deluded by the sense of separation our avatar believes that he sustains himself. He struggles to maintain his level of mind and succeed in the external world. He is subject to unceasing pulls from above (higher self) and below (psychism).
Do you sometimes get drunk or stoned? That’s your avatar giving himself a break and sink a bit. Do angels, demons, and magic intrigue you? These are temptations of subconscious powers.
Is the call of the void the externalized pull of subconsciousness – our internal abyss?
“Ritual can trap our attention better than anything I can think of,” he said, “but it also demands a very high price. That high price is morbidity, and morbidity could have the heaviest liens and mortgages on our awareness.”
Don Juan said that human awareness was like an immense haunted house. The awareness of everyday life was like being sealed in one room of that immense house for life. We entered the room through a magical opening: birth. And we exited through another such magical opening: death.
Sorcerers, however, were capable of finding still another opening and could leave that sealed room while still alive. A superb attainment. But their astounding accomplishment was that when they escape from that sealed room they chose freedom. They chose to leave that immense, haunted house entirely instead of getting lost in other parts of it.
Morbidity was the antithesis of the surge of energy awareness needed to reach freedom. Morbidity made sorcerers lose their way and become trapped in the intricate, dark byways of the unknown.
– Carlos Castaneda, The Power of Silence, page 264
The call of the height feels different. It is a calm, quiet calling and you need to prick your ears to hear it. The call of enlightenment doesn’t feel like a temptation, rather like a bliss. It can manifest as a strong yearning in the heart as if you’re missing a loved one. Carlos experienced it as a surge.
I still feel the urge to jump and the call of my inner deep. I guess I will do so until I reach illumination – self-identification with the higher self. Until then, I avoid high places at night.
Stoop not down into the darkly splendid world. Therein lies, continually, a faithless depth, a sub world wrapped in clouds, delighting in unintelligible images, precipitous, winding, a black, ever-rolling abyss, ever espousing an unluminous body, formless and void. Stoop not down, for a precipice lies beneath the earth, reached by a descending ladder which hath seven steps, and therein is established an evil and fatal force. – The Chaldean Oracles
Here is an excellent and concise talk about the pull of subconsciousness (the shadow) and the patient calling of the higher self – what Jordan calls the watching, neutrally judging, truth-revealing part.
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Picture attribution: Alexas_Fotos @ Pixabay