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By Dr. James V. Downton Jr.

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In this brief book, the author shares his personal seven-year journey of transformation, but misses the opportunity to more meaningfully connect with readers by providing context for his experiences.

Bridging the unconscious and conscious mind is the focus of the memoir NIGHT SEA JOURNEY: THE ORDEAL OF INDIVIDUATION.


Written as a memoir, this book describes a mid-life crisis in terms of Carl Jung’s individuation process, i.e., self-actualization created by combining the conscious and unconscious mind. However, when Jungian analysts failed to fully explain the author’s described symptoms of prolonged dizziness, confusion, and burning heat in his spine throughout a period of seven years, he called upon more metaphysical outlets for explanations.

His search led to numerous books and a self-proclaimed guru, but ultimately Downton (a retired university professor) found the answers he was seeking from Edward F. Edinger, a controversial post-Jungian analyst. Through Edinger’s published work, the author came to believe his symptoms were an alchemical process in which heat was released from the body as part of the purification process in which filth was burned from the psyche. Downton writes: “What dies is the evil in the psyche, which may be what we call ‘original sin’ today.”

Unfortunately the author’s entire ordeal is presented out of context. We are informed of his age, occupation, and marital status, but his past remains a mystery. Without knowledge of his religious background, childhood experiences, psychological development, and relevant relationships, readers will have a difficult time relating to the material and understanding what prompted the sudden changes in the author.  This concentration on the present without processing the past also is reflected in his newfound philosophy: “Following the rhythm of each moment, I no longer thought much about the past and I focused on the future only when planning was necessary.”

Readers also may find needless repetition of words (“playful,” for instance) and ideas (becoming a collective symbol where individuality is lost) an obstacle to enjoyment in a book barely over 100 pages. Other problems include inconsistency in the presentation of material, which can be confusing: dreams are sometimes indicated by merely a date and sometimes labeled as “Dream diary” with a date; personal diary entries are labeled as “Diary” with a date, “Diary entry” with a date, and “Diary entry” without a date.

The book’s final chapter abruptly transitions from a memoir to self-help by offering 15 commonplace daily practices the author endorses, such as “Try to forgive,” “It could be worse,” and “I’m good enough.”  Downton includes end notes following this final chapter for sources cited in the text.

NIGHT SEA JOURNEY offers one man’s dramatic story of the physical and emotional ordeal he survived when he underwent a drastic shift in consciousness.

~Carol Michaels for IndieReader.