Descent into Darkness
by Marija Petrovic

"As you already know, I was tired of the same old type of traditional psychiatry."

Author Petrovic took a trip, traveling from the US to South America for work purposes. It turned into a journey into the workings of her mind and heart. Having moved from Serbia to Germany and then to the US in the course of her life, the author sensed that this trek would unlock her trapped, true self. With fellow psychiatrists, she visited a remote site in Brazil where an old religion, spiritism, is used for healing, to determine whether such ancient practices can offer inroads into the modern treatment of mental disorders. In her explorations, the “descent” and “darkness” referenced in the title are not negative. They symbolize the wild freedom of the feminine nature that lies beneath of surface of what Petrovic calls the “matrix”—a superficial place of assumed normality where we often act out hypocritical, artificial roles. The result of the trip was a reconnection to her feminine, ecstatic energy and to God within.

Petrovic’s book, written in emotional, sometimes sensual language, is at its core an intimate memoir. While she expresses a motivation as a practicing psychiatrist to learn about healing methods of indigenous peoples, what she comes away with is self-healing for her own frustrated longings. Petrovic expresses vividly how the purpose of the journey was gradually split in two, both professional investigation and personal quest. She was able to examine her life and repurpose her exhausted spirit through the lens of exotic locales. This short, exuberant book has text on the right-hand pages and a repeated, decorative design on the left, revealing the author’s artistic leanings. In her afterword, Petrovic refers to her work, though presented entirely in narrative prose, as a “poem,” and perhaps that is the best definition of this unusual offering.

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