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Blatantly lifted from Rhode's The Integral Enneagram, pages 153-155.

The nadir - the very bottom - of the circle is a highly significant point on the circle whose understanding helps us better understand why mid-life brings the arising of impulses which (if heeded) can help us shed unwanted conditioning and come into greater alignment with our true self - a process that Jung called individuation.

As discussed earlier, the nadir is where we make the switch in direction from involution to evolution. On the enneagram, it is positioned exactly opposite Point 9, symbolically at the midpoint between birth and death.

The great esoteric teacher and Qabalist Dion Fortune takes the same view set forth here - that the soul descends during the first part of life deeper into the material world. In answer to the question, "What ought a man want?" she says that the answer depends upon our stage of development:

"The soul has to complete its human experience before it is ready for Divine Union. It must pass the nadir of the descent into matter before it can come on to the Path of Return... to try to escape from the Wheel [of Birth and Death] prematurely is to evade our training."

However, this switch is not something that occurs overnight but as part of an ever-intensifying series of crises and resolutions, which - while inner in nature - can be accompanied by a significant shift in outer priorities. In Dark Wood to White Rose (1975), Helen Luke likens it to the beginnings of Dante's descent into the inferno:

"A man arrives there usually, but not by any means always, at the midpoint of life... it may come later; and often, especially nowadays, it comes much earlier - the moment when we awaken to know that we are lost - to realize, as Jung says, that we are not the master of the house" (p. 9).

Given the nature of the situation - i.e., the destabilizing realization that "we are not the master of the house" - it's not surprising that traversing the nadir is not an overnight process. On the enneagram, the influence of the energy experienced at this point in life is best captured by depicting a zone of instability around the nadir extending in both directions and thus creating a three-zoned process involving descent/involution, instability, and ascent/evolution (Fig 8.7).

The effects of the nadir begin to be felt about halfway between Points 3 and 4, which is why Threes with a Four wing tend to be more restless and introspective than Threes with a Two wing. Both Fours and Fives feel the effect of the nadir much more directly, although it is the types with wings towards the nadir (4w5 and 5w4) that are most affected.

This is what accounts for the need of those individuals for long periods of solitude: they are dealing with internal energies that are highly creative but destabilizing. Between Points 5 and 6, the influence of the nadir begins to taper off, although one of the reasons Points 6 and 7 are "fear" types is because they contain within them the archetypal memory of the nadir, which they instinctively dread.

If this "three zone" idea sounds familiar, it is another way to account for the nature of dramatic stories, a topic discussed in Chapter 7. You will recall that it's the middle part - the part that surrounds the nadir - which is defined by some sort of crisis, trouble, or descent into darkness. Juxtaposing the involution/evolution model and the three-part story model discussed in Chapter 6 (Fig. 8-8) allows us to better understand the inner dynamic underlying the crisis: to see that this crisis arises from the growing pressure to break out of personal conditioning and an overly-simplified view of life.

This is not a need that generally arises early in life (i.e., at Points 1-3), because during childhood and early adulthood, we are fully absorbed in the task of adapting to the values of our culture (Point 1), bonding with friends and family (Point 2), and developing the skills necessary to stand on our own two feet in the world (Point 3).

But once we've learned enough to make our way in the world, we begin to feel the restlessness that marks the transition from Point 3 to 4. Moving into Point 4 territory, we become more and more aware of impulses arising from some place deep within us, and these are what gives rise to "trouble", because they tend to put us into conflict with the conditioned self (hence, the concern with authenticity at Point 4): the more we are able to put the two into alignment, the less harrowing the transition from Point 4 to 5.

Although the resolution of trouble begins at the nadir, there can be no complete resolution until Point 6, where we encounter our deepest fears. But the instability created by the nadir is what kick-starts the process of deep-level change.

As mentioned above, the nadir is the point where, in Jungian terms, we have the opportunity to individuate (as opposed to simply individualizing). It is where, in holarchic terms, we see that we are never just wholes (individuals) but also parts within some larger whole (the Kosmos). And in dharmic terms, it is where we begin to understand that life is not just about us.

So it's a momentous point in development that brings both new opportunities and risks. While it liberates us from the limited, person-centered view of the involutionary cycle, it throws us into a brave new (evolutionary) world where we feel utterly ignorant and in need of knowledge about life from a more impersonal point of view. The danger, of course, is that we'll throw the baby out with the bath water - that in the interests of embracing a more impersonal perspective, we'll violently reject all that is personal and subjective in life.

This is always the challenge when transitioning to a new stage: making the transition in a way that does not involve rejecting the old - at least not permanently. In the initial shift, the focus obviously has to be on adopting a new point of view which, by definition, is different than what came before. So it requires our undivided attention. But focusing on the new is not the same as rejecting the old. However, it can sometimes accelerate the pace of change. But at what cost?

When effected in a non-integrative way, the crossing of the nadir results in a major split in consciousness, wherein the lessons learned during descent are rejected as inferior to ascent (or worse, as an actual impediment to it). This is how the masculine becomes divorced from the feminine, descent comes to be devalued, and transformation becomes associated solely with the process of ascent.

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this is why i love Jung so much. aside from the comfort of ideas like these (that everything is a process, and you must descend and break before you can reach towards something new/better), it's very interesting to see this same concept throughout many, many different beliefs throughout time (even ol' astrology in some facets, lol).

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