What Is The Dark Night of The Soul?
The Guru says: “when you are born you enter the world crying while everyone else is rejoicing and when you die, hopefully, you have lived such a life that everyone will be crying while you are rejoicing”.
If you are not living such a life, it’s not too late to turn things around. In fact it takes only an instant. I’ve found that all it takes is ONE decision.
There is a current wisdom which says that “You only live once. This is it. You don’t get a second chance. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal”. Phrases like these are given out liberally at motivation seminars. It’s a fine exhortation to inspire the best in people.
But actually this tragically disempowering “wisdom” is wrong; perniciously wrong. And I am not talking about past lives.
There is a kind of logical snag in it. In truth you get two lives: the one you have had so far and the one that starts from now on. Think about this. Life so far has been made up of what you have been doing, thinking, what you have become, your attainments, your possessions, whether sparse or glamorous, are all part of this first installment of life.
But beginning in these next few seconds is your new and wonderful second life. At least it will be wonderful if you make it that way. You can effectively start again if you choose to. And if you are not too content with what your life has been so far, you’d be crazy not to want to change it, wouldn’t you?
You are actually poised at a very beautiful moment called NOW. It’s wonderful and exciting, because it represents the interface between the past and the future. This moment is the great engine house that builds your future. What you put into the NOW is what you will get back in years to come.
This is awesome.
But you get to keep your past! The past is not, as you thought, a dark vale of pain and suffering, with a few good times popped in, like plums in a pudding. It’s actually your learning store from which you can construct what it is you really want, what you need, what you always promised yourself. Just “spend” your past life credits wisely and you’ll have everything you need. With care, patience and love of yourself, you can build a near perfect life.
Even the most negative past is a store of what-not-to-do knowledge. In many ways it could be said that the worse things have been, the more knowledge, determination, wisdom and skill you have taken on board, if only you choose to see it that way.
Sounds like pap? Well, if this homely piece of philosophy was true, it could be predicted that people who have had a tough time are positioned strongly to build themselves the best future. And, hey, that’s what I observe in the main. People go through some frightful experiences and yet come out the other end better, stronger, more assured and with greater self-worth. There is a metaphor for this: it’s called “the dark night of the soul”. It refers to episodes of great anguish and almost insurmountable difficulties.
St.John of the Cross, a Christian mystic, coined the phrase and said of this experience, that it; “…puts the sensory spiritual appetites to sleep, deadens them, and deprives them of the ability to find pleasure in anything. It binds the imagination, and impedes it from doing any good discursive work. It makes the memory cease, the intellect become dark and unable to understand anything, and hence it causes the will to become arid and constrained, and all the faculties empty and useless. And over this hangs a dense and burdensome cloud, which afflicts the soul, and keeps it withdrawn from the good.”
This is a brilliant insight, given the constraints of the language of the day and crude mediaeval psychology (which was mostly Christian imperatives, rather than real understanding of the mind).
Implicit in this complex metaphor is the accompanying emergence, discovery and self-actualization which follows the profound depths. There seems to be a proportional relationship: the deeper, more searing the pain, the greater the ascension afterwards.