Depression is considered as something so widespread that few can escape it.1 It may thus be useful to shed more light on this problem through this contemplation. And for this etymosphy and esoteric philosophy shall be applied.
In the psychological sense a depression is understood as "a sign of psychiatric disorder or a component of various psychoses, with symptoms of misery, anguish, or guilt".2 Academic psychology understands it under the name of a "depressive disorder" as the "presence" of a "sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes that significantly affect the individual's capacity to function".3 Literary a depression is understood as "the action of pressing down, or fact of being pressed down; usually more widely: The action of lowering, or process of sinking; the condition of being lowered in position."4 The word stems from the Latin 'depressio',5 meaning 'lowering'.6 This Latin word consists of the prefix 'de', denoting a movement away or down,7 and the word 'pressio', meaning 'pressure'8. A depression then can be basically understood as a decrease of pressure. Etymosophically this general meaning also applies to the psychological notion of depression. A depression in that context can be understood as a decrease of psychic pressure. And since pressure regards force a depression can also be understood as a decrease of psychic force.
The term 'psychic force' here should be understood in the line of esoteric psychology instead of that of academic psychology.9 In the esotericism of Alice Bailey man is thought to consist of spirit, soul and personality, whereby the latter consists of a mental body, an emotional body and a physical body, whereby that latter again consists of an etheric body and a dense physical body.10 Now it is stated that the soul, or pure consciousness, comes to being through the coming together of spirit and the physical body as matter and from that it can through analogy be induced that the concrete thought of the mental body and the emotions of the emotional (or astral) body come to being through the coming together of soul and the physical body. Now where academic psychology defines the psyche as man's mental and emotional faculties there does esoteric psychology define the psyche as the pure consciousness of the soul.11, 12 With regards to the aforementioned in esoteric psychology a distinction between the lower psychic nature and the higher psychic faculties is set.13 In figure 1 an overview of the above is given.
|Constituents of man||Psyche reference||Psychism type|
|Soul (pure consciousness)||Esoteric psychology||Higher psychic faculties|
|Mental body (concrete thought)||Personality||Academic psychology||Lower psychic nature|
|Astral body (emotions)|
|Etheric body||Physical body|
|Dense physical body|
Above the term 'psyche' in 'psychic force' was somewhat elucidated, leaving 'force' to be elucidated here. In esoteric philosophy (and the corresponding esoteric psychology) a force is understood as an energy which is confined within a form, whereby an energy is understood as that which is impacting such a force.14 An energy is that which impacts a lower form while a force affects forms that are not lower. When for instance from the consciousness level an impact is made upon the emotions of a person we speak of 'energy' while when the emotions of a person affect the emotions of another person we speak of 'force'.15 In general it is safe to say that force affects forms on the same or a higher plane than the form through which it works while energy impacts forms on a lower plane than that from which the energy emanates.
Thus psychic energy must be understood as that which impacts concrete thought and emotions from consciousness while psychic force must be understood as that which affects concrete thought and emotions through other thought and emotions or through the physical body.
Depression was defined as a 'decrease of psychic force'. Due to the two different levels of reference of the word 'psyche' such a decrease of psychic force could logically considered occur on both the levels of consciousness and thought-emotion. However since depression is considered to be accompanied by negative moods the first must be excluded since moods are found on the emotional level and not on that of pure consciousness. A depression then must be understood as a decrease of psychic force of thought-emotion. And since force was understood as affecting its own environment a depression can also be understood as a decrease of psychic thought-emotion affection on the environment.
Let us elucidate this situation a little. Every person is placed within an environment. The person and his environment interact with each other. The person affects the environment and the environment affects the person. This also goes for thoughts and emotions. Now three ratios between environments and persons are possible. The first is that of balance. In this ratio the psychic thought-emotion pressure of the environment on the person equals that of the person on the environment. In the second ratio the environmental psychic thought-emotion pressure on the person is decreased and in ratio the personal one on the environment is increased. And then in the third ratio the environmental psychic thought-emotion pressure on the person is increased and in ratio the personal one on the environment is decreased. This latter situation occurs with a depression. In a depression as a decrease of psychic thought-emotion force a personal psychic thought-emotion force has decreased in relation to its environmental psychic thought-emotion force. In such a case a person feels that his thought-emotion environment is too strong for him to cope with. This decrease can be caused by a personal decrease but also by an environmental increase of psychic thought-emotion force.
From what is written above it shall be clear that two primary causes can be mentioned. The first is environmental increase of psychic thought-emotion force and the second is its personal decrease. Environmental increase of psychic thought-emotion force simply occurs when more ideas and emotional situations are pressed upon a person than before. Most of us are experiencing such challenging forceful situations sometimes. Often it doesn't take long before a new balance is found, however when such situations are prolonged and the person in question is not able to establish a new balance then this situation may result in what we call here a 'depression'.16 This environmental increase of psychic thought-emotion force should be understood in its widest context, including the esoteric thought that thoughts and emotions are not only objectively pressed upon persons but also subjectively.17
The second to mention cause is a personal decrease of psychic thought-emotion force. A bit more attention shall be given to this cause, for the consideration of a decrease of psychic thought-emotion force as cause of depression may raise the question of where its own cause can be found. To answer this question it must be emphasized that we speak here of psychic thought-emotion force and not of psychic thought-emotion energy. The psyche under consideration regards the lower psyche of thought and emotion and not that of pure consciousness. At the same time however the consciousness is present in that lower psyche because the latter owes its existence to the coming together of consciousness (the higher and true psyche) and the physical body. Thus the lower psyche is so to speak being fed by the higher psyche.
Now it was mentioned that the physical body consists of the dense physical body and the etheric body. Of this twofold the etheric body is the one that is most immediately coming together with the consciousness, because on the vertical line it is placed the closest to consciousness, as figure 1 shows. Now this etheric body is also called 'vital body' and it consists entirely of streams of vital energy (with regards to the physical body) or vital force (with regards to the lower psychic body).18 And thus the psychic thought-emotion force is not only fed by consciousness but also by vital force. The psychic thought-emotion force is fed through the in its domain coming together of vital force and consciousness. A personal decrease of psychic thought-emotion force as cause of depression may thus on its turn be caused by a lack of etheric vitality or a lack of consciousness (or both).19
In the previous paragraph causes of depression were uncovered. This will make it possible to here mention possible solutions to the problem. Because depression is a problem of the lower psyche, that of thought-emotion, it shall be clear that a transcendence of the lower psyche will be the most certain solution. Because then the problem is transcended. When an individual becomes polarized in the higher psyche of pure consciousness instead of in the lower psyche of thought and emotions he will not experience depression.20 This solution is connected to evolutionary development. Such a development is prescribed for all but polarization in the higher psyche is the result of a long and initially slow process which cannot be forced.21
Depending upon the point in evolution however it may be possible to feed the force of the lower psyche with the energy of the higher psyche. The making receptive of the lower psyche for the higher psyche can be done through relaxation exercises after which proper spiritual practices may be applied to bring about an inflow of the energy of the higher psyche.22 At the centre of these practices are (spiritual) study, meditation and service,23 but they may contain also well known practices like prayer and affirmation.
Where the cause of depression is to be found in a lack of vitality of the etheric body this vitality can be build up through rest, exposure to sunlight and a nutritious diet.24 This needs no further explanation.
The above solutions are directed at the increase of personal psychic thought-emotion force. Solutions may however also be directed at the decrease of environmental psychic thought-emotion force. In this case the depressed person is shielded from mental and emotional impressions.
Most of the above offered solutions shall already be found in academic psychological practices. Overall benefits of a proper diet, rest and exposure to sunlight are acknowledged, as well as the benefits of being shielded against stress invoking impressions. Even relaxation exercises are often applied. However because academic psychology thinks of the psyche as consisting only of thought and emotion, excluding it as being pure transcendent consciousness, it misses the application of spiritual practices. Thus the academic treatment of depression may in many cases miss crucial elements. And this is where esoteric psychology can complement academic psychology. Through its conception of the psyche as pure consciousness this higher psyche may be drawn upon in the healing of depression by prescribing spiritual practices such as study, meditation and service.