5 Questions for Marianne Williamson

5 Questions for Marianne Williamson

Williamson on the roots of depression and suffering

Matthew Rolston

1. You encourage the journey into the darkness of suffering. What’s to keep you from getting stuck?

The psyche, just like the physical body, is imbued with a natural immune system. A bruise on the body might start out very deep purple and black, but over time it fades away as healing takes place. The same is true with the psyche. We need to work with our psychic immune system, not against it.

2. How do you reconcile your belief that the pharmaceutical companies are hijacking depression with the fact that medication has saved lives?

I challenge that assertion. For people aged 25 years and younger, the FDA has warned that antidepressants can increase, not decrease, the risk of suicide. Given that our suicide rates have continued to climb as our use of antidepressants has skyrocketed, I don’t see the factual evidence that our use of antidepressants is miraculously saving lives.

3. How is a lack of spirituality the root of depression?

The society in which we live has become inherently depressing, focusing far too often on external realities at the expense of our inner selves. A world that trivializes love, wisdom, compassion, and forgiveness is a breeding ground for psychological and emotional dysfunction. Psychic pain, like physical pain, is a symptom of a larger problem. The point is not just to numb the pain, but to deal with its cause.

4. What do you mean when you say relationships never end?

Enlightenment is a shift from body-identification to spirit-identification. On the level of the body, of course relationships end or at least change form. But the relationship itself is of the mind, and mind is eternal. “Whom God hath brought together cannot be put asunder,” even by death itself.

5. What is a common thread in spiritual traditions about suffering?

In my book, I deal with three: Buddha, Moses, and Jesus. All religious stories are coded messages, really. Buddha saw suffering for the first time and this led him on the path to enlightenment; Moses was sent to rescue the suffering Israelites from slavery; and Jesus suffered on the cross. But human suffering is just the beginning of the story. The point is what happens when Spirit then leads us beyond our suffering—to Nirvana, to the Promised Land, to Resurrection. Depression is first and foremost a spiritual disease, a dark night of the soul. The spiritual traditions give extraordinary insight into the true causes of human suffering, and how to transcend it.

In Tears to Triumph: The Spiritual Journey from Suffering to Enlightenment, Williamson digs into the roots of depression and offers a bold way forward.

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