I recently came across an online image/meme that said, “God gave me depression because if my ambitions went unchecked I would have bested him in hand to hand combat by age 16.” I don’t know the original source of this image or who created it. When I saw it, in addition to thinking, “Wow, this is so Gnostic,” I also immediately resonated with it because this topic is one that I have had on my mind lately: the feeling of depression resulting from suppressed or denied anger.
To begin, a bit of background: God, from a Gnostic perspective, is not one of the good guys. The Gnostics—originally 2nd and 3rd century Christian heretics though likely coming out of a stream that existed in pre-Christian traditions as well—saw this world as a “prison planet” of sorts. They viewed it as a “false” world in which the spark of divinity lay deep within us as human beings but was actively suppressed by ruling “archons” who sought to maintain power for the Demiurge, or creator god who mistakenly thought he was the God despite actually simply being one of many. Gnostic spirituality is centered around gnosis—direct experience of the primordial, the pleroma, as they called it. Gary Lachman describes this as “immediate, direct, non-discursive cognition of reality.” Gnosis is the key to thwarting the powers of the archons and the Demiurge who keep us imprisoned. Whether we wish to take this as an origin story or a symbolic myth, it holds a lot of power as a contemplation or worldview, particularly as one considers how to “wake up” from the slumber of cultural programming and familial conditioning to a more conscious way of being. And although Gnosticism is commonly co-opted by the “red pill” right as a tool of white supremacy, this wonderful, weird esoteric tradition deserves not to be thrown out with the bathwater.
On some level, one would expect that waking up would be a process of becoming more and more at peace and at home in the world. However, opening one’s eyes to the reality of the atrocities that exist within this world as well as to our deep wounds and the repressed shadow aspects of ourselves can be incredibly painful. It is hard to do this, fully and wholeheartedly, without becoming depressed or infuriated or both.
Over the past several years, as I have become increasingly aware of the horrors this world of ours beholds—endless war, unfathomable inequality, very deliberately orchestrated oppression—I have at times felt profoundly heavy. Defeated. A sense of impossibility. As the times grow increasingly dystopic, it can be easy to slide into a sense of hopelessness, to feel the archons have already won. But I think this is what they want us to feel. They wish for our fury to remain inaccessible because it is our fury which is the true threat.
I have never felt comfortable with my own anger. It is fiery, it feels claustrophobic, it makes me want to crawl out of my own skin. As a child it was discouraged in me—I learned from my parents and teachers that one should be nice and good and keep their anger under control. With this foundation already in place, my suppression was fortified further as I began my spiritual path in my late teens and took on the idea that being a “spiritual” person meant being peaceful, calm, at ease. Through some combination of the teachings I was exploring (primarily Buddhist) and my own interpretations of them, I developed an idea of what it looks like to be an “awake” person in the world. Anger was not part of the picture.
However, as I entered into the practice and study of Vajrayana Buddhism, one of the most valuable teachings I encountered was that of the five wisdom energies or five “Buddha Families.” The notion is that there are five core energies within ourselves and within the phenomenal world, and that these energies are neutral in and of themselves. They can manifest in a neurotic, ego-centered way, or a conscious, open, awake way—like two sides of the same coin. The neurotic manifestation of vajra energy—one of the five wisdom energies—is anger, based in self-centeredness. The awakened manifestation is clear seeing, a diamond-like quality of mind. Irini Rockwell, who has written several books on the five Buddha Families, writes, “Vajra energy reflects its surrounding like a calm, clear pool of water, without distortion or bias. Thus Vajra wisdom is mirrorlike: it sees things as they are.” There is tremendous wisdom and intelligence in this clarity, and the intensity of the energy can be a powerful motivating force to drive us forward.
If we are unable to stay present with that intensity, we tend to find ways to bury it, to suppress it. So part of my experience over the past few years has been noticing how I will often feel anger about our world, but then suppress it because I don’t know what to do with it. The result is a sense of hopelessness, heaviness, despair.
I will pause here for a necessary clarification of terms and perspective. I have never been formally diagnosed with clinical depression. I believe depression has a lot more social causes than we typically acknowledge today. Frankly, I don’t quite understand how someone could be alive today and not experience a frequent sense of depression. However, I am aware that there are biological causes for depression in many people, and that many people benefit from taking medication for it. I am not a psychologist and I am not claiming anything universal here, just trying to speak from my own experience. Furthermore, as you might anticipate where we’re heading here, I do not advocate violence nor do I believe that any form of violent expression of anger leads anyone to genuine liberation.
There is another important caveat here, which is to be clear about what to be angry about. There are a lot of angry white males out there today, desperately clinging to their dying worldview and evaporating privilege. I would implore these people to deeply examine the social and psychological causes of suffering and to recognize that while class oppression is something to be genuinely angry about, the erosion of white privilege is not. When you’ve been privileged your whole life—by being male, white, heterosexual, cisgender, neurotypical, able-bodied, in a financially stable situation, or any combination of these—equality can feel like oppression. But we need to learn and understand history better than this (not just the history we’re spoon-fed in school) understand socio-political power better than this (not just the picture portrayed by mainstream media), and work tirelessly for collective liberation—which is centered around supporting the empowerment of marginalized and oppressed peoples. This also means recognizing that identifying as a liberal in 2018 not only doesn’t go far enough, but also usually means you are part of the problem. So this is where our fury must be directed: at all the forces that create genuine oppression in this world. We must examine these systems, understand them, and then work to dismantle them.
In order to awaken our fury at the gnostic situation we somehow find ourselves in, in an effective way, we have to tap into the power of vajra energy—that icy cold, focused, sharp clear-seeing that can pierce through both the inner veil and the outer walls of society. It may mean allowing ourselves to feel the uncomfortableness of anger in order to lift ourselves out of hopelessness and despair. Then we can access the power and drive to begin to fight back against the archons and the Demiurge himself, in whatever unique, transgressive way our particular daimon calls upon us to.
Let us allow ourselves to feel what is a very appropriate response to the situation we have awoken to find ourselves in. The very mission of the archons of this world is to believe this situation is so impossible that we sink into our depression and give up hope. Sadness is okay to feel. In fact, sadness is very good to feel. Our hearts are tender because we know things could be otherwise, and sadness keeps us in touch with our longing for a better world. But instead of allowing that sadness to veer into despair, let us instead, with crystalline precision, unleash our gnostic fury and make it our life’s mission to dismantle the prison that keeps us enslaved. The Demiurge and his minions can be bested.
 Lachman, Gary (2015). Secret Teachers of the Western World. p. 105,
 Ibid, p. 109
 Ibid, p. 30
 Rockwell, Irini (2002). The Five Wisdom Energies. p. 33