Through the Apocalypse, Into the Light

Part 1: An Invitation to Awaken

Will Franks
Published in
11 min readAug 13, 2021


Did you know: the word apocalypse stems from the Ancient Greek apokálypsis, which means “to lift the veil”. An apocalypse is a revelation, a dream, a vision; a revealing of truths which were previously obscured by the veil of delusion and ignorance.

So an apocalypse is actually not an inherently negative thing, as we commonly believe it to be. Rather, the apocalypse has been understood by many mystical traditions as an essential and unavoidable process in the journey of psychological transformation and awakening.

An apocalypse is a confrontation with the psyche in its wholeness, which necessarily involves a meeting with the shadow: the darkness, evil and despair that we systematically deny and ignore. That meeting will always be transformative. I want to trace the journey of an initial confrontation with darkness, death, and suffering all the way to its resolution in wisdom, light and vision, so that we can better understand it and launch out on this most terrifying of journeys, for the good of all beings.

In this article series I will be taking a deep dive into this lesser-known meaning of apocalypse in order to help us view our current world situation in a new and controversial light: as an unparalleled opportunity to awaken and find freedom.

We start at the only place we can: here and now — as a global civilisation teetering on a knife-edge between utopia and oblivion. The range of possible futures stretching out from this moment is both dizzying and extreme, ranging all the way from the bright and beautiful to the dark and desolate. But the sobering reality is that the most likely scenarios are catastrophic indeed. Apocalyptic, many are saying.

So let’s take stock: we are on track for a planet-wide system crash. 4C global warming by 2100 is, by all best predictions, going to decimate civilisation as we know it. It has already decimated Earth’s natural ecosystems, our life-support system, and indigineous human cultures.

The key fact: the survival prospects for the majority of humanity over the next century are not looking good; the latest IPCC (International Panel for Climate Change) report tells of impending catastrophe.

So we are clearly staring apocalypse in the face. For many it’s too much — the face is too ugly — and all we can do is run. But we can’t hide, because we’re part of the Earth, and our every single action ripples out to affect the whole.

So we all need to muster the courage to stand our ground and look the apocalypse in the eye without flinching. In the depths of that shining black pupil, we might just see our own reflection looking back at us — and in this mirroring we might just experience something we never, ever expected from something so seemingly dark and horrific.

First off, let’s look at some of the language people use to describe the global crisis situation, because it reveals a lot about our understanding of apocalypse. When people confront the climate science, they often start throwing around phrases like “we’re fucked”, “it’s the end of the world”, and most bluntly, “we’re all going to die”. I hear these phrases as ways of saying “I am hopeless”. I have said all of these myself, so I know what the emotional undercurrent is: they are very understandable expressions of despair and depression.

And we will continue to feel this despair as long as we see the apocalypse as something that occurs “out there” in the world; as a process or event that takes place outside of ourselves, and therefore is a threat to our personal existence.

We intuitively seem to view an apocalypse as something terrible that is “coming to get us” from the outside — something that we need, at all costs, to stop. This is why we get hopeless when the climate science tells us: “it’s too late to stop this; collapse is around the corner. In fact it is already happening.”.

We feel we are being personally sentenced to an unjust fate — a life of suffering — because of events outside of ourselves, and so we set about doing all we can to set those events in order, by changing the world. As a result, many millions of us are doing all we can to prevent the unfolding onslaught of destruction, to hold back this looming threat of mass genocide (via mass indifference) and tragic, unnecessary suffering.

The other, more common, option is to simply deny it all, to bury our head in the sand and embark on a lifetime of futile immortality projects. And fair enough — so long as we see apocalypse as something outside of us, there is no hope; we are powerless.

But the life-changing shift occurs when we begin to see apocalypse as a psychological process with a psychological resolution. This is the essential point of this article, and we’ll spend the rest of it exploring what it might mean.

What might happen if we chose to view apocalypse as a process that happens within us and through us? A psychological process that erupts, wreaks devastation, and then ends — leaving everything transformed.

The basic premise I am exploring here is that we can view the apocalypse as an internal or psychological process; a movement through the shadow: the realms of the unconscious psyche where we find everything within us that is repressed and unilluminated by our ignorance and lack of wisdom.

The light of awareness falls on the the veil of our delusion, ignorance and denial (the web of beliefs and perceptions which we are spinning every single moment) and casts a shadow. Thus we cannot know wholeness (unity, union, fullness) without lifting that veil and allowing the shadow regions to be met with the light of awareness — and love. To intentionally lift the veil is to embrace apocalypse: to honour and respect the fullness of the psyche in its totality; to acknowledge and feel, viscerally, in our own bodies, hearts and minds, the full extent of light and dark, good and evil, heaven and hell.

If we don’t confront the shadow psyche it will remain unconscious — and so will we. But unconscious does not mean inactive. The unconscious is very much alive. It’s the very reason for the senseless chaos of our civilisation. If we had full awareness of our actions and their impacts, we would not act in ways that harm ourselves, others, and the planet so deeply.

So without coming into conscious relation with the fullness of the unconscious psyche, we will unconsciously play out all the patterns of violence, oppression, and destruction that lurk there (and, just as tragically, we will fail to play out our highest potentials as beings of boundless love, and creativity). What’s more: we won’t (and don’t) even realise this is happening — allowing us to tell ourselves that we are “the good guys”, that we don’t need to change or face ourselves.

Now the really painful bit. The confrontation with the shadow tears us apart. Kills us. It shreds the brittle and weak husk of the ego which we take to be our true self, much to our own detriment. A psychological apocalypse is the lived experience of personal destruction — an agonising and incomprehensible process of everything falling apart, and disappearing into the void… it is the movement of the mind wrestling to understand its own arc of birth, life, suffering and inevitable death.

It is allowing your self to feel, in your heart, the horror of the world: of mass genocides, holocausts, animal torture, racism, sexism, ecological devastation, postmodern nihilism, corporate slavery… all of it…

When that happens, the heart breaks.


And in one sense, we die. In another, we are reborn — transformed — and freed.

This is because the immature ego in large part functions as a protection-mechanism against the death-threats of the shadow psyche. It keeps us locked into survival mode — and its associated unconscious patterns of destructive and violent behaviour.

So coming into relation with the fullness of the psyche demands that the ego undergoes a death — and rebirth — emerging as a balanced, compassionate and fundamentally creative mediator of the psyche’s infinite array of characters and archetypes. Experiencing apocalypse actually frees us from the prison of the small and brittle ego (the child who lives in fear of the monsters on the other side of the veil). We transition from survival mode, in which we are constantly running from death and suffering, into soul mode, in which we live in constant creative relationship to death and suffering. With a mature understanding of their psychological nature — an understanding that can only be arrived through lived experience of psychological apocalypse — we are no longer bound by denial and delusion.

Jung said, “you don’t really have a shadow — the shadow has you”. But on the other side of apocalypse, this is no longer true. We are no longer oppressed by the monsters behind the veil — we understand them, we respect them, and we relate to them with love and compassion. We no longer live in fear — despite the chaos and violence of the world all around us, even when it is as extreme as global planetary collapse. We are free — to help, to create, to serve. Something else can now be born through us — our body and mind become a vessel for the soul of the world, for the love that flows through everything.

This is a process that has been experienced, understood and communicated by countless mystics, prophets and teachers throughout history — our guides and friends, if we are willing to listen to them.

Perhaps counterintuitively, the world around us does not have to change one bit for us to experience psychological apocalypse. It can happen to someone — anyone! — while they are living what looks like, from the outside, the most ordinary and unremarkable existence. Inside, however, they are on fire, wrestling with the demons of the mind and coming face to face with the seemingly endless horrors and heartbreaks of life and loss on planet Earth. What has changed is how this person sees and relates to the world — it means that this person is coming into relation with the fullness of the psyche, integrating the full extent of its darkness into their being. This is sometimes called the dark night of the soul.

The unique thing about this historical moment, however, is that the world outside is changing, at an alarming and unprecedented rate. It is going through a period of intense destruction. And of course this is no coincidence: the apocalypse we observe around us is a symptom of our internal psychological state. It’s a direct reflection of the fact that we are collectively being pulled into an experience of psychological apocalypse — a confrontation with meaninglessness, nothingness, decay, destruction.

In Carl Jung’s words, “the chaotic unconscious is being brought to light”.

The vast majority of people are resisting this process with utter desperation, meaning that they remain locked into survival mode and continue to play out violent but unconscious shadow behaviours, perpetuating the global emergency. A courageous minority are taking the plunge into the depths of the psyche, understanding the psychological roots of the crisis and thus arriving at a new understanding of how to actually help.

One might argue that the very reason we have managed, so thoroughly, to destroy the living planet is that we have grown detached, in our dreamworld of rationality and reason, from the unavoidable natural processes of death and decay. This has allowed us to set about collectively self-destructing without even realising it — because we’ve blocked out suffering and destruction from our worldview — until the destruction is at our doorstep, the crops won’t grow, our hearts are broken, and we are confronted with apocalypse. When we recognise that this era of worldly destruction is a symptom of our psychological suffering, the boundary between the “internal” and “external” worlds begins to blur and dissolve, and we see that everything without exception is mediated, or at least influenced by, the psyche / mind / imagination.

In other words: death, decay, and destruction, are experienced in the mind, by the mind. So are violence, exploitation, and collapse. So long as we deny and repress these aspects of the psyche, we project them onto the world “out there” — we place them behind the veil and try to carry on as if they didn’t exist. This allows us to convince ourselves that “we will never experience this… we are immune from suffering, we are the good ones, we are the heroic saviours…” and that the source of the problem lies with others and their actions. Then we are filled with fear and despair when the violence we swept under the rug slithers out to bite us — and even, to kill us.

At this point, some people decide not to run away any more and to act, believing that “we can stop the apocalypse”! But of course, we cannot. We cannot stop or prevent the apocalypse precisely because it is a psychological process. Because sooner or later the unconscious shadow is going to find us, and we can sink in despair — or learn to face and move through it — to swim through the blood and oil of hell.

If we prepare and make the courageous intention to face the apocalypse, the hellish and torturous dimensions of the human psyche, and to learn from the encounter, we can begin move through the shadow and out the other side — into delicious, impossible, unfathomable freedom.

Classically this movement is known as a katabasis (Greek), and is a recurring theme in world mythology and religion. A descent into hell — into pain, violence, insanity, despair, destruction, decay and death. A confrontation with the demons and Gods of the the underworld.

Only by facing these internal realities through intense self-investigation, contemplation, reflection, integration and active imagination, can we arrive at a place of wisdom that is totally at peace with all dimensions of the psyche, light and dark. It becomes so clear that the apocalypse we so feared was within us all along — as was its resolution. It was the inevitable process of the veil being lifted: a confrontation with the psyche in its totality, which is the only way we can ever reach a state of harmony and with human suffering and violence.

The fuel of delusion and ignorance is burnt, driving the vehicle of awakening. We begin to taste the infinite, the eternal, the immortal, the divine, and this experience helps us to see that we are free and always have been. (This does not mean that we become immortal or eternal. The freedom we realise is beyond life and death, beyond description, beyond time or even timelessness. The Buddhist tradition refers to it as “the inconceivable liberation”. I am not going to explain this because it cannot be explained; any explanation butchers the truth. It must be tasted directly.).

Having tasted the freedom of awakening through psychological insight and self-understanding, when external apocalypse does come — when ecosystems fail, states turn fascist and social upheaval occurs — our internal peace, harmony and integrity will be unaffected. We will have already been through the internal process of apocalypse and collapse, and we thus are able to serve, with unwavering compassion, everyone who is now undergoing this process for themselves. We can come to live in a light that is unassailable by the events of the world, and from here we do all we can to help those who are still making their way through darkness.

As I have written before, we can have ecological collapse without social collapse. It’s possible. But that will only ever happen if we can arrive at a place of maturity and acceptance of destruction and death: if we go through psychological apocalypse before a material one brings all our worldly resources, comfort, security crashing down.

How we do that, and what it might look and feel like, will be the subject of upcoming posts! So stay tuned and follow for more — I plan this to be series of multiple articles.

With Love, Will



Will Franks

freedom artist. magical realist. metamodern beat.