Please note: This information was prepared by an author who wishes to remain anonymous.
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The Dark Night of the Soul
What is the Dark Night of the Soul?
Some people believe that a fleeting feeling of depression or a period of confusion is a Dark Night of the Soul, but a Dark Night of the Soul is a very specific experience that some people encounter on their spiritual journeys. As Thomas Moore states: “Depression is a psychological sickness, a dark night is a spiritual trial.” It is intensely painful, and it is prolonged, lasting months at least, and often years.
The Dark Night is similar to a deep depression, but several factors and features differentiate it from normal depression:
- It happens only after a period of rapid spiritual growth and learning. For months or years you’ve experienced spiritual joy and fulfillment; your path has been one of joy and delight. You’ve grown accustomed to feeling the presence of the Divine and engaging in satisfying communication with the Divine.
- It lasts at least two or three months but can last many years, even the rest of a person’s life.
- You have profound feelings of being spiritually abandoned.
Some believe the Dark Night involves a change from one Guide to another, and a conviction that you’ve been completely abandoned by your guide for the duration of the Dark Night.
If you could live forever in the grace of God, knowing that all is well, you would have an easy time being spiritual. If you could be married to someone who never leaves you but is always there when you need them, you never have to doubt either your partner or yourself. But when you are married to someone whose work or other obligations calls them away, perhaps to far countries for long periods of time, you have to ask yourself, “How deep is your love?” Now is the time when you wait. And you search your soul. And you dig deep as if you were digging an artesian well. We are learning trust, acceptance, love, and surrender. This is our true nature.
Who Experiences a Dark Night?
A significant percentage of the seekers making good progress on the road to higher consciousness will pass through the Dark Night. It usually emerges after you have attained considerable spiritual knowledge, growth, and advancement toward higher consciousness. You are coming from a place of higher knowing, and you may have spent a lot of time and energy reaching toward the light of higher consciousness.
With great regularity, we find the experience in the life stories of those we think of as having been especially faithful witnesses to the faith: People such as C. S. Lewis. Mother Teresa. Martin Luther. Each of these suffered particularly intense episodes of “dark night of the soul.”
Other seekers, for various reasons, never have to pass through the Dark Night. Some reject the gift of the Dark Night repeatedly throughout their life as they follow their ego’s perception that spirituality should bring instant gratification and should feel good.
Does Something Trigger a Dark Night?
Although it can seem to come out of nowhere, a Dark Night can be triggered by some external event, like the death of someone close to you. It can occur if something happens that you can’t explain away anymore, some personal disaster that seems to invalidate the meaning that your life had before. You had built up your life, and your mind had given it meaning, and for whatever reason that meaning, the whole conceptual framework for your life, collapses. It starts with feeling distant from your life even as you continue to go through the motions.
We tend to define who we are, and our self-esteem in particular, in terms of our roles, and when such unfortunate events occur, we may feel as though the lid has been ripped off the false sense of security we carved out for ourselves… relationships hit the rocks, we begin to realize what a boss or colleague really thinks of us… At times, everything we have worked for seems to crumble to ruins under our feet, and we feel lost because we are not yet able to put it into perspective.
How Long Does It Last?
Most feel the Dark Night Lasts at least two or three months, and often much longer. Facing and embracing suffering for true transformation takes time. You might dig for months or even years before you finally reach the cool water you have been yearning for. And of course you might resent every minute of it. You might be guided by your Spirit to stay in this state for intense work the remainder of your life. You might die without ever feeling the presence of the One again. Or maybe not.
The duration of your Dark Night depends on your fears and allowances, and on the defiance and cunning of your ego, and on how willing you are to let go of your addictions. We are addicted to suffering and attaching to pain because we love to fight ourselves. We are in a constant battle with our ego. This battle is what keeps the ego alive. Without this battle, we don’t know what we would be. The tighter the ego’s grip, the longer it will take.
The one thing you want more than anything is to get out of the Dark Night, but your ego self is deathly afraid of finally coming out of the Dark Night because it knows that it won’t be the “ruler” anymore. The fear of losing control that you never truly had, plus fear of the unknown, can keep you stuck in a very uncomfortable spot for a very long time. You know your identification as the ego will drop… but what then?
C.S. Lewis “This is one of the things I’m afraid of. The agonies, the mad midnight moments, must, in the course of nature, die away. But what will follow?”
How Many Times Can It Happen?
Some will endure this process only once in their life. Others might have to go through it several times. Your ego can return and reestablish control if you let it. Sometimes when you’re fatigued or when you have special, new opportunities in life, you are vulnerable to the reestablishment of your ego and its opinion that it is in charge of doing everything. It will again eclipse the higher consciousness until you recognize what has happened. Then you must courageously and consciously reaffirm your true nature, and deal with the upstart, old ego. Otherwise, another Dark Night phase will develop.
You will no longer need to experience the Dark Night when you are finally consolidated in higher consciousness, and experience the profound joy of your true nature. You don’t need to go through a Dark Night again as long as you don’t insist on clinging to ideas, thoughts, feelings, images, rules, expectations etc. that have outlived their usefulness. Always be willing to trade up.
A few believe the Dark Night is always a one-time, profound shift.
What is the Purpose of the Dark Night?
To Be Transformed
The Dark Night is part of the awakening process. It is all about transformation. It is a process of breaking through to the dawn of higher consciousness. It is a journey through disintegration into reintegration. It’s been compared to a caterpillar dying to become a butterfly, and to one temple being torn down so another can have its foundation laid. It’s been described as a sort of a spiritual detoxification, a rite of passage for a remarkable rebirth, and an initiation before admission into regular relationship with higher consciousness.
C.S. Lewis: Spiritual darkness is a sort of divine shock treatment. “Nothing less will shake a man—or at any rate a man like me—out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.”
For the Ego to Die
During the Dark Night, the old, false ego sense of self ”dies” and you are born to your new, true self, which is light and love. Death is painful, but nothing real has actually died there – only an illusory identity. During the Dark night of the soul we mourn as the ego, this false notion of Self, is mourned.
Old perceptions and discordant emotions are dissolved and transmuted to harmonious ones. We endure a Dark Night to unravel the entanglements of ego within the self.
Through a painful de-conditioning, we begin to understand that reconnection to our true Self is not a singular process but a reconnection to Everyone, including our Self, and God.
“You never know how much you believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you… Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.”
To Mourn the Ego
To Be Reborn
To Be Freed From Illusion
When you realize the ego self is false and never really existed, you can be born to your true Self and be the LOVE that you are! LOVE will shine its light on ego and it will dissolve it, since ego never existed. We become capable of owning and embracing our true identity, which is light and love. It is learning our true nature of trust, acceptance, love, and surrender. False notions of a separate self are burned up by the fires of the mind. We begin to recognize that the feeling of abandonment by God, common to the experience of the Dark Night, is really abandoning the false sense of self and others we have developed. The Dark Night it is an illusion, like layers the ego draws over itself. The more layers there are, the more isolation and suffering for the soul. We have always been HOME and we have been the LIGHT the whole time that we were looking for it in the Dark Night. But for the one experiencing the Dark Night, it is very real and extremely painful.
Though we don’t realize it at the time, when habitual senses of God do disappear in the process of the dark night, it is surely because it is time for us to relinquish our attachment to them. We have made an idol of our images and feelings of God, giving them more importance than the true God that they represent.
Likening his former faith to a house of cards, Lewis concludes, “the sooner it was knocked down the better. And only suffering could do it.”
It is a path through darkness, a path of letting go, a path of abandoning oneself, losing oneself, and in so doing ultimately finding what is real. The following quotes reveal something of this journey:
- The darkness of the night implies nothing sinister, only that the liberation takes place in hidden ways, beneath our knowledge and understanding.
- The dark night helps us to become what we are created to be: lovers of God and one another.
- Liberation, whether experienced pleasurably or painfully, always involves relinquishment, some kind of loss.
- Sometimes the only way we can enter the deeper dimensions of the journey is by being unable to see where we are going.
- …in worldly matters it is good to have light so we know where to go without stumbling. But in spiritual matters it is precisely when we do think we know where to go that we are most likely to stumble.
- When we cannot chart our own course, we become vulnerable to God’s protection, and the darkness becomes a “guiding night,” a “night more kindly than the dawn.”
Finally, Lewis acknowledges the flimsy inadequacy of any sort of image—physical or mental—to capture the reality of God. “Images, I suppose, have their use. . . . To me, however, their danger is more obvious. Images of the Holy easily become holy images—sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast.” In the end, he says, “I must stretch out the arms and hands of love—its eyes cannot here be used—to the reality, through—across—all the changeful phantasmagoria of my thoughts, passions, and imaginings. I mustn’t sit down content with the phantasmagoria itself and worship that for Him, or love that for her.”
What about our own ideas of God? They must, like our incomplete, prejudiced, and generally inadequate ideas of others, be shattered in order for us to have any hope of contact with the real God: “Not my idea of God, but God. . . . And all this time I may, once more, be building with cards. And if I am He will once more knock the building flat. He will knock it down as often as proves necessary.” This is as succinct a summary as I’ve seen of the apophatic theology toward which any dark night of the soul pushes us.
The Ego Before the Dark Night
What the Ego Is
The ego is a false perception of yourself that you’ve built up since childhood. The raw material you use to build this delusory concept includes superficial, external inputs from your experiences in life, and conditioning and socialization. You come to believe that this artificial construct is who you really are. You are, and always have been, much more than this illusion. But you imbue this illusion with great power.
What the Ego Believes
Your ego believes it is the doer, choosing everything in your life, including what your mind thinks, and what your heart feels. It believes it selects all actions and activities you undertake, and that it is responsible for every accomplishment.
What the Ego Does
Due to your sufferings or limitations in life, your ego is fearful and wants to have more power over circumstances. The ego gains a progressively greater foothold on your entire life because your basic attitudes about your existence and essential nature are strongly linked with ego. You invest the ego with so much of your thought and feeling that it becomes a powerful illusion, and your attitudes of life become ego based.
How the Ego Reacts to Spiritual Progress
As you move down the road toward higher consciousness, the ego feels gratification and satisfaction in your spiritual progress. It is very interested in the process, and it wants to get in on the action. Sometimes it is even the ego sense that most eagerly pursues higher consciousness. Your ego may believe it will one day bring about enlightenment and awakening by its thought processes, feelings, and dramatic means. A highly developed ego might believe it is already causing the events of higher consciousness to unfold bit by bit.
The Dark Night Begins
The Ego Illusion Comes Under Stress
Unless your ego is humbling and daily transforming itself, a standoff is inevitable. The Dark Night of the Soul begins when the dissonance between the ego and higher consciousness reaches a critical mass. Your suffering intensifies when it becomes clear that as long as you allow this inaccurate sense of self to dominate, you cannot know or abide in your true nature. Your old sense of self is inadequate to your new hopes and proper state. Your ego is eclipsing higher consciousness and your true nature. The ego desperately wants to remain part of you as you enter mystical consciousness and enlightenment. But the whole ego system begins to crack as you recognize that the ego’s many strategies are from the ways of the world, not the love of God.
The Ego Realizes What It Is
Now the ego is being called out for what it is. It has finally found something it cannot do. It awakens to the profound fact it cannot cause or bring about higher consciousness. It cannot, by its will or any other skills whatever, create the wholeness of heart that will end your deep suffering. The ego now fully understands that it is hopelessly inadequate. It recognizes itself to be the disease. It recognizes that its foothold on your mind and heart, at an advanced stage on your path, stands against the fulfillment of your faith and the realization of your profoundest yearnings. All of the ego’s discordant noises, disharmonious rhythms, repertoire of illusions, and cacophony of prejudices, preconceptions, conditionings, socializations, false images of Self and Other Selves are being called to task by the higher consciousness. But the ego certainly doesn’t want to be granted fulfillment by a power outside of itself. It does not wish full spectrum higher consciousness to illuminate its illusions, denials, and projections.
What Do You Feel During The Dark Night?
Shocked and Confused
Your spiritual path has always been one of joy and delight. You’ve grown accustomed to feeling the presence of the Divine and engaging in satisfying prayer conversations. You are coming from a place of higher knowing, and you may have spent a lot of time and energy reaching toward the light of higher consciousness. You deeply want to have joy and fulfillment, to easily manifest prosperity, but something’s no longer working. You don’t know what it is, but something’s awry, and your meditations have lost their luster. Seekers who have experienced the rich silence of quiet prayer typically find themselves feeling strangely unsatisfied after praying this prayer for a while. The sense of God’s presence and love wanes and a growing sense of one’s being somehow off track increases.
But now, inexplicably, your life seems to be barren of joy and love for months, or even years. Where did that joy and zest go? Suddenly there is a huge gap between what you had come to expect and what you are now experiencing. Compared to the closeness you had felt, what remains during this transformation is far, far less than what you are used to. This is why the dark night has such a quality of despair: you are suddenly shut off from what you thought you had realized and the emotional pain is very real. Your light dance of life, which had gone on for some time, has become a trudging in what seems a devastated and alien land.
C.S. Lewis “into a vacuum”
Feeling and Healing Pain
Any transformation in life involves going through some pain beforehand. Birth is most painful right before the child is born. The pain you feel in the Dark Night is what you have tried to suppress for years, decades, and even lifetimes. All types of emotions you have tried to suppress for so long, now haunt you day in and day out: fear, guilt, shame, frustration, emptiness, abandonment, helplessness, anger, sadness, loneliness. It is now finally bubbling up to the surface to be healed with the love you give it. The Dark Night is a lonely and painful process in which consciousness is clouded by uncertainty, a lengthy and profound absence of light and hope. This de-conditioning is not easy and is a lonely and desolate place of suffering. You feel miserable to say the least and you don’t know why. Suffering seems unending. Even though it is very painful, you might find some small comfort in knowing that this pain is finally flowing out of you. You don’t even realize the heavy baggage that you have held onto for so long. And the pain can be the catalyst for a great transformation and rebirth.
“Though I have forgotten the reason, there is spread over everything a vague sense of wrongness, of something amiss. Like in those dreams where nothing horrible occurs—nothing that would sound even remarkable if you told it at breakfast time—but the atmosphere, the taste of the whole thing is deadly. Sp with this, I see the rowan berries reddening and don’t know for a moment why they, of all things, should be depressing. I hear a clock strike and some quality it always had before has gone out of the sound. What’s wrong with the world to make it it so flat, shabby, worn-out looking?”
This is one of the things I’m afraid of. The agonies, the mad midnight moments, must, in the course of nature, die away. But what will follow?
Every sound is torment, every thought is death. Every outlet out of reach, every glimmer dull and brief. Every goddamned thing I lived for pulls itself away from me. If anyone could help me, they don’t. Tender sadness, sweet despair, bullshit it’s all bad. I see you through dim eyes and you don’t give a damn. Leave me to this scorching sun, naked and alone. You have better things to do with your lover in your home. Guess I’ll stop writing now because I wouldn’t want to miss the fun of toss and turn and restless dream as night to day does come.
The Dark Night of the Soul is a spiritual and emotional drought. It is a subjective experience of the complete loss of God’s loving presence. You may feel that your own voice is unsupported by God and simultaneously unheard in the wilderness of the world. You feel totally, profoundly alone and abandoned. God and higher consciousness seem so far away and neither has done anything to ease or remove your agony. You wonder if God has abandoned you or maybe that it was all an illusion and that you are lost forever in this darkness.
- S. Lewis: Go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. Nothing is more devastating than Divine Absence, spiritual loneliness, the ceiling of brass meeting our every prayer. After that, silence… Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?”
What disturbs Lewis most at first is not the thought that God does not exist. Rather, it is the thought that he does, and that he may inflict pain from motives that we do not recognize as positive or even ethical:
You have a very real feeling that your guides have actually left you. Intellectually you might know you are never alone, but the knowledge provides no comfort because you absolutely feel alone. Some believe that when Jesus cried out in despair, “Father, why have you forsaken me!?” it is because a Dark Night convinced him that God had truly abandoned him. Some believe that you change spirit Guides during the Dark Night.
All Meaning Your Mind Has Built is Lost
The Dark Night of the Soul is a collapse of a perceived meaning in life… an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness. Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything. You are in the thick of the fog. It is called the Dark Night of the Soul, but it may feel like a dark century of the soul. It’s the collapse of a mind-made meaning, conceptual meaning, of life, the collapse of believing that you understand “what it’s all about.” You are meant to arrive at a place of conceptual meaninglessness. Or one could say a state of ignorance—where things lose the meaning that you had given them, which was all conditioned and cultural and concocted through experiences and emotional inputs during the process of life. Then you can look upon the world without imposing a mind-made framework of meaning. It looks of course as if you no longer understand anything. The dark night takes you away from the cultivation and persona you have developed in your education and from family learning. That’s why people don’t consciously embrace the Dark Night, and why it’s so scary when it happens to you. Ultimately,a journey into the dark night will reshape the very meaning of your life.
- S. Lewis:
“If H “is not” then she never was. I mistook a cloud of atoms for a person. There aren’t, and never were, any people. Death only reveals the vacuity that was always there. What we call the living are simply those who have not yet been unmasked. All equally bankrupt, but some not yet declared.”
“Sooner or later I must face the question in plain language. What reason have we, except our own desperate wishes, to believe that God is, by any standard we can conceive, ‘goo’? Doesn’t all the prima facie evidence suggest exactly the opposite? What have we to set against it? We set Christ against it. But how if He were mistaken? Almost His last words may have a perfectly clear meaning. He had found that the Being he called Father was horribly and infinitely different from what He had supposed. The trap, so long and carefully prepared and so subtly baited, was at last sprung, on the cross. The vile practical joke had succeeded.
Ashamed, Empty, and Cold
You wonder if you have somehow failed or weren’t good enough or were just horribly mistaken. You might think you have done something wrong, especially since you just went through so much spiritual growth.
This is a most painful emptying process. You feel like a hollow person doing the activities of life with no motivation except expediency. You feel you may have to stay this way forever, doing the regular day-to-day things, but in this mood of emptiness. Your heart is numb. You try to be loving but find at times your heart is hard like stone.
Lost and Trapped Between Two Fears
The Dark Night is so miserable because the ego is resisting so much. The ego’s fearful grip is so strong at this point because it wants to stay “alive.” The ego is deathly afraid of coming out of the Dark Night because it knows that it won’t be the “ruler” anymore. It fights intensely when it fears it’s going to be destroyed or that it will have to give in to something so much greater than it knows itself to be. It hangs on for dear life, tightening its grip on you to hide you from the light that you are. It provokes fear and terror in this state of uncertainty. It jolts and jabs the thoughts and emotions continuously with its daggers as it tries to cut and separate. The ego will make much noise telling you lies and trying to get you to worry and be fearful or to “control.” The process is painfully stressful to the body and agonizing to the mind as the ego interferes.
You may feel that you are caught between two worlds, between your old way of living, your old tendencies and associations, and the nebulous, unreachable realm of higher consciousness where Divine Love reigns. The ego keeps you perceiving a hopeless never-ending battle between these worlds. You feel an exile in both places. You don’t belong in the old pastimes, in the old empty way of life. You persist because you can’t conceive of going back to your old way of life. That seems impossible now. That would be like going to prison. Being caught between the old way of life and the new possibilities, your sense of alienation intensifies. The Dark Night of the Soul is entering a cloud of unknowing, and unknowing is antithetical to the ego.
This is one of the things I’m afraid of. The agonies, the mad midnight moments, must, in the course of nature, die away. But what will follow? Just this apathy, this dead flatness? Will there come a time when I no longer ask why the world is like a mean street, because I shall take the squalor as normal?”
The Dark Night is a very private matter. You already feel totally alone due to this process. Often your acquaintances never suspect that you are going through the Dark Night — they probably do not even know what it is. You don’t know many, if any, people that have gone through it, and spiritual texts barely mention the Dark Night. You have friends and you appreciate them, but you are keenly aware they are not capable of feeling what you are feeling or knowing what you are going through. They do not understand how much you are suffering. Sometimes they seem like clowns; sometimes they seem empty-headed, caught up in meaningless pursuits. You don’t feel like being bothered with loved ones and friends that don’t understand because they either think you are crazy and need help or their own fears arise about it and make matters even worse.
An Unworthy Outsider
You find yourself somehow painfully on the outside. You can’t feel at home in the fellowship of those who talk naturally of the higher consciousness and its reality. They are experiencing it, absorbed in it. They have manifestations and proofs on a regular basis. They are loving, giving people. But you are unable to live, with full heart and mind, the way they do. They’re able to apply the principles of higher consciousness easily, yet it’s a painful struggle for you. Your sense of inadequacy and not knowing what to do next becomes gnawingly constant.
Maybe people close to you—especially friends along the path of spiritual progress—can recognize your pain. Your fellow seekers look at you and show their concern. They try to cheer you up. Your friends love you and wish you well but your condition does not improve. You try their advice but it doesn’t seem to touch the heart of the matter. Nobody, not even your dearest friends and loved ones, can make you whole.
They invite you to dinner. You can generally perform fairly well, despite the suffering and emptiness you feel inside. What else is there to do? You try to appreciate their words of kindness but you feel you’re somehow incapable of responding well. You wonder if you have any right to be in their fellowship at all. You think of leaving town, but where would you go? What good would diversion be?
Angry at God and Yourself
You may be in denial about being angry and in fact you may not actually feel angry. You may protest that there is no reason to be angry. You might feel that it is wrong to be angry at God and maybe not rational to be angry at something less anthropomorphized. You may feel that anger is unworthy of you and that you are too spiritually advanced to be angry, and you may be right.
But it is natural to feel angry at God or your guardians or the Spirit or the Source or the Force for abandoning you. If you can’t cop to anger, maybe you can admit there is disappointment. But anyone who is disappointed in love is likely to experience anger whether it is directed at the object of love or at himself or at something apparently unrelated. You are a pilgrim and you need to consider what your anger is focused on.
You might turn your anger on yourself. Anger turned inward is a simplistic explanation of depression but it works pretty well in this situation. You might be angry at yourself for failing to live up to the standards you set for yourself or for not being as good as someone else you know who seems to be more diligent in his spiritual practices and filled with bliss all the time.
“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is coming to believe such dreadful things about him. The conclusion I dread is not, ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”
“When I try to pray for H. I halt. Bewilderment and amazement come over me. I have a ghastly sense of unreality, of speaking into a vacuum about a nonentity.”
No one, nothing, in the outer world has proven adequate to heal your condition, or enabled you to come out of this Dark Night. No material thing has been able to help you. No material means have worked. You eye your books and consider all the benefit you gained before from these wise vessels of truth. Yet not one book goes deep enough inside you to where the affliction abides. In your loneliness—in a seemingly random process—you next notice that none of your thoughts have proven adequate to your suffering. Not one—even repeated fifty thousand times—breaks the inner storm and lets in light.
You feel you would do anything to get out of this state. If you could snap out of it you would, but all your energy is going to the ego, resisting the inevitable and trying to protect the false self. But this insight is impossible to grasp in the middle of the Dark Night. You keep struggling and still you don’t break through. The more you try to get out of the Dark Night, the more it persists. You try everything to break yourself out of it and NOTHING works. Nothing works. For a while longer, you can persist in struggling against it. You can go about thinking, feeling, and doing other options that occur to you.
You Accept Defeat
Eventually you realize in the midnight of your soul that you have tried every option you know of. Clearly, there is nowhere to turn. There is nothing to be done. There is nothing to think, nothing to feel, nothing to do, nowhere to go. How have you gotten to this place? That’s insignificant. Suicide would be an absurd act of arrogance and vanity. You have grown far beyond such primitive responses to your private agony. No, nothing to do. Nothing remains in this lonely helplessness. There is, without question, nothing you can do. Helpless, totally helpless, and ever so alone, you abide in this condition. You begrudgingly admit that you have no choice but to accept your predicament.
You Find the Deepest Depths
You begin to enter the Dark Night in earnest when you feel completely stranded. Alone, and not wishing to be, unable even to express yourself to others, you enter midnight and the greatest intensity of the Dark Night. You have come to the time of sovereign solitude. In the fullness of the Dark Night, you don’t know where you are spiritually. You do not know where to turn. You’re separate from God and man. Everything is gray and joyless. You have no apparent prospects of love or happiness. You feel as if you are trapped in a grave or in a prison with no hope of ever seeing light or the outside. You feel like your soul is dead. You accept that there is really nothing else left, just a murmured prayer to a remote Lord and a tiny remnant of a shredded faith.
Getting Through and Learning from the Dark Night
The most important thing depression can teach you is that you are not in control. True spirituality is not just a matter of following rules or practices. You can do everything as right as you possibly can and feel that your effort is unrewarded.
Sometimes the external circumstances during the Dark Night can get so uncomfortable and overwhelming that it pins you into a spot where the only way to get out is to surrender. There is no way that the little personal self can “fix” these circumstances anymore and you need to allow life to work through you. At the time you are so frustrated with this situation, but try your best to you remember the big picture.
Finally, you will surrender to not knowing what to do, how to think, where to turn. When you accept the process as inevitable, you speed your passage through the Dark Night. Because you are no longer resisting it, you are embracing it. It is from this place of losing your sense of yourself as in control that the ego begins to crack or soften and the possibility of light entering becomes real. Know that you are helpless in this process and surrender to LOVE.
Realize What’s Going On
One of the most helpful activities for getting out of the Dark Night is to realize that this is a natural and inevitable process for you to go through. Once you realize you are in a Dark Night, you should also realize nothing is wrong with you. Then you can start to step out of the way and let this spiritual detox work through and for you.
You can’t make the journey more tolerable but you might be able to make it more meaningful. The idea is not that suffering per se is good for the soul, but that to regard such visitations merely as suffering is to miss their point and meaning.”Every human life is made up of the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the vital and the deadening. How you think about this rhythm of moods makes all the difference. Are you going to hide out in self-delusion and distracting entertainments? Are you going to become cynical or depressed? Or are you going to open your heart to a mystery that is as natural as the sun and the moon, day and night, and summer and winter?” Eventually you may even come to appreciate it as a learning or growth experience and cultivate a more cosmic, mystical view of his or her life. Make room for the dark and the depressive, not to promote it to stay but just to give it a voice, space and time, so that it does not have to destroy us to get our attention. Give yourself some compassion and some time to entertain the dark spaces,. being as conscious as one can be while doing it. Not just succumbing numbly to depression. Choose to experience these periods of our lives with grace
Simple meditation can help to soften and eventually evaporate some of the layers. Sometimes, during rare meditations, you might experience brief moments of peace. Your agonizing mind and heart rest from their turbulence and you do your best to be grateful for these fleeting times of calm. They might seem like paltry scraps from a miser, but you are grateful for them nonetheless.
Wait and Do Nothing
The next step is to do NOTHING. This may seem simple, but coming from an ego’s point of view this is impossible and symbolizes “death” for the ego. The ego will make so much noise telling you lies and trying to get you to worry and be fearful or to “control,” but you are not these thoughts or feelings. You are far greater since you are aware of these thoughts and feelings. You are LOVE and Awareness itself. So when these thoughts come up, simply watch them. If a feeling comes up, simply feel it. Love and embrace every thought, feeling, and situation you are trying to resist. Acknowledge when you are resisting something. Just be aware of it and feel how it feels tight in your body when you resist.
So doing NOTHING in this context means to simply BE. Be the LOVE and awareness that you naturally are.
We have forgotten that we are LOVE and if we are LOVE, we embrace everything because we realize the inevitability of doing so and because we know that nothing can harm us. Nothing can touch you. Nothing can shake you. The light that you are shines on anything so that it would turn it to its natural state of light also. We are all ONE.
- S. Lewis:
“It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.”
“Grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting, just hanging about waiting, for something to happen. It gives a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.”
Embrace the Pain and Love the Dark
When you are in the Dark Night, you desperately want to get out of it because you feel you cannot take the pain and suffering. You tell yourself to be happy, raise your vibration, look to the light, but none of this will be lasting until you have loved the dark. This is because we look for the light only and try to run away from the dark, not realizing that the dark will only grow larger the more you ignore it. The more you resist the Dark Night or the “stuck” place you are in, the more you keep repeating the lessons you need to learn. Accept and embrace where you are NOW. Embrace this pain and suffering.
These emotions are trying to get your attention, until you finally face them and accept them for what they are—emotions. They are not YOUR emotions, they are just feelings in the body that we tie a story to. Through this state of real being, you more fully realize that you can be in the world, not of the world. You can be in the suffering, not of suffering.
The key to getting out of it is… LOVING—the only reason we are on Earth. Take this time to finally face and embrace the dark by letting the light of LOVE shine on it and dissolve it. These emotions are trying to get your attention, but you keep ignoring and resisting them. Think of these emotions as a child that only wants your love. We each can know the deepest joy by embracing the greatest sadness consciously with love. Use your pain as the catalyst for a great transformation and rebirth.
Forgive, Let Go, and Love
The cure is forgiveness. And letting go. Forgive God, forgive yourself, forgive the universe, forgive your teachers.
Then let go. Let go of your expectations. Let go of your need to experience a certain brand of enlightenment. Let go of your sense of failure for not being the saint that you were working so hard to become. The most important thing you can learn from this experience is that you are not in control. The ego is unwilling to give up its control and fearfulness and this is perfectly normal because this is ego’s nature.
Then you must love. If you can’t love God or the All-there-is or the Infinite Possibilities love a bug. Or a rock. If you can’t love the creator, love a creature. If you can’t love ceaselessly, love for a few minutes. Gradually as you continue to forgive, and maybe find more people and things to forgive and more people and things to love and as you let go of your disappointment and your sense of how things should be, your dark veil may melt away and you may begin to feel like a human being again.
Be Brave and Hang On
You can enter the dark corridors of this purification of consciousness only if you accept the courage that comes from your Spirit. Courage sustains our mind and body on our journey through the deepest agony, suffering, and pain. While you are in a Dark Night, hang on and hold steady, knowing the light will appear once again. NOTHING lasts forever. This too shall pass, and you will come through the Dark Night, just as spring always comes after winter, as dawn always comes after the darkest hour, as the sun is always there behind the clouds. Trust in this process and know that it is just that—a process.
Within such a conversion process, you need to muster every ounce of your conscious energy to accept this deeply painful transmuting of ego energy back to meaning/purpose/service.
The true Self has never fully emerged independent of the ego, so even the Self fears this unknown territory and vulnerability. But this vulnerability and unknown territory is LOVE. This is our true nature. Take courage in this knowledge.
You just have to ride it out and hang on to whatever you can, until the dust settles when your mind has completed the process of constructing a framework for what is to come next.
The call is to wait patiently, trustingly, and faithfully, and know that in the dark mystery God is working to bring the soul closer to God.
After the Dark Night
Here, abiding with nothing more to do, your ego drops away. Your ignorant, arrogant, fearful sense of self falls away from you. Having fulfilled its part, now weak and incompetent, it is dissolved — transmuted. LOVE shines its light on the illusion that is ego, and the illusion dissolves. From a higher sense now awakening within you, you slough off your false sense of self. Your ego was merely experiencing some of the attributes and qualities, of your true nature, while at the same time obstructing others. You’ve been cleansed of the most deep-rooted sickness: your ignorance of your true nature and your inadequate, often totally wrong opinion of who you are. You now cease your inner conflict and abide serenely in your true nature. You have been delivered of the intolerable bondage to ego. The night is over.
The ego tries to bribe us by offering its illusion that the process of enlightenment and salvation “feels good.” But the Dark Night teaches us that our ego’s perception that spirituality should bring instant gratification is mistaken. Out of this lonely internal battle deep within, begins to flow the wisdom of living purely for virtue’s sake, free of the previous ego’s distortion that everything you do must be rewarded. True spirituality is not just a matter of following rules or practices. You can do everything as right as you possibly can and feel that your effort is unrewarded. In Dolores Cannon’s FIVE LIVES REMEMBERED, a PLR client talks about how we will keep doing this (life-incarnating) until we become good and kind but for the reason of WANTING to be – not for fear of retribution or punishment or hope of reward.
Mind and Body
As the ego interferes during the Dark Night, the process is agonizing to the mind and painfully stressful to the body. But as the mind is freed from the entrapments of the ego, it frees the body as well from “dis ease” and sickness that the mind had been receiving from the ego-influenced mind. Understanding takes form as the mind stabilizes and equalizes. And the body develops a visceral understanding as healthier biorhythms begin again. The enlightenment frees the mind to really see with illuminated perception. Your mind is filled with mellow or bright light. Your heart is permeated with peace, and this peace moves through your body like a cold spring of mountain water. It flows in your spine, your brain, and under your skin. Everywhere.
You feel a holy presence coming in and filling you. This presence, this comforter, moves like a breeze across your arid mind and numb heart. Soon the fire of joy begins to smolder. You start to come home.
You awaken out of your conceptual sense of reality, which has collapsed. You see the Universe as an innocent presence, without interpreting it compulsively. You are not trying to fit your experience into a conceptual framework anymore.
You walk the earth seeing others afresh, living a new life, and abiding in your true nature. You look upon events and people with a deep sense of aliveness, sensing their aliveness through your own sense of aliveness.
Eventually, you know yourself to be a different person than you thought you were before the Dark Night. You stand in light—a new, free being—transformed. You are born to your new, true self, capable of owning and embracing your true identity, which is light and love. You enter the dawn of a new life, consolidated in higher consciousness, and experience the profound joy of your true nature of love, trust, acceptance, and surrender. You can Be the LOVE that you are! You are liberated as the enlightened, illuminated, mystical consciousness replaces the ego’s distorted perceptions with clear flowing light.
Your words and actions are now attuned with your true self. Now you express inspiration and comfort.
You will, because of the pain of your experience, always feel profound compassion for those whom you one day see going through a similar night.
Relationship to Self/Others/God
You awaken to a deeper sense of purpose and connectedness with a greater life that is no longer dependent on explanations or anything conceptual. This state opens us to understanding the interdependence and interconnectedness to everyone and everything as we lucidly begin to witness the timeless flow of Divine Consciousness in the Eternal Now.
The deepest understandings of our true Self unfold. Awareness slowly surfaces that we are a uniquely tuned instrument of service and compassion to true Self and this attunes us to the true Self in others. In this liberation of consciousness, we become free to know the multiplicity and unity of the One, the Divine, the Self that encompasses all Selves. You begin to understand that reconnection to your true Self is not a singular process but a reconnection to Everyone, including your Self, and God.
The heartbeat of love is freed to express its many rhythms of service to Others, God, and Self, one and the same. A lucid illumination begins that all compassion and service are for the same Self, your relative self, Universal Comprehensive Self (God) and every One. A realization unfolds that service to Self, Others and God are all the same. An understanding emerges that you are an ever-changing relative Self within One Self and Other selves in the continuum of consciousness.
You realize “I am a free Self and still connected to the world.” We each have the heart of Self that beats freely in the infinite space of Self and that Self is connected and alive in the world.
Do you remember how bereft you felt when someone told you there is no Santa Claus? Do you remember how you felt when you discovered you are Santa Claus?
The pain feels completely personal during the Dark Night, but it’s actually collective, and felt throughout the world. This consciousness reflects and reminds us of the poverty of Spirit that remains collectively among all human beings. As one of us participates, it may be shared in consciousness for all. When you accept and heal this pain, you heal the world’s suffering automatically! The person passing through the Dark Night receives lessons that reverberate with everyone as the experience resounds through the collective consciousness of our species. The anguish and suffering within the self and the world can be transformed to profound understanding and joy.
Soul/Self Explained (Nature)
Purpose (Lessons, Ego Changes)
You may die without ever feeling the presence of the One again. Or maybe not. There is the possibility that you emerge into a transformed state of consciousness. Life has meaning again, but it’s no longer a conceptual meaning that you can necessarily explain. Quite often, it’s from there that people awaken out of their conceptual sense of reality, which has collapsed. They awaken into something deeper, which is no longer based on concepts in your mind. A deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life that is not dependent on explanations or anything conceptual any longer. It’s a kind of re-birth.
Profound illumination in consciousness may emerge. By entering and accepting the intense pain and emptiness that accompany this state, liberation, enlightenment, and participation in Mystical Consciousness replace the ego’s distorted clouded perceptions with clear flowing light. The anguish and suffering within the self and the world can be transformed to profound understanding and joy.
You can go around the Universe without any longer interpreting it compulsively, as an innocent presence. You look upon events, people, and so on with a deep sense of aliveness. Your sense the aliveness through your own sense of aliveness, but you are not trying to fit your experience into a conceptual framework anymore.
During the Dark Night, the deepest understandings of our true Self unfold. Awareness slowly surfaces that we are a uniquely tuned instrument of service and compassion to true Self and this attunes us to the true Self in others. In this liberation of consciousness, we become free to know the multiplicity and unity of the One, the Divine, the Self that encompasses all Selves. This state opens us to understanding the interdependence and interconnectedness to everyone and everything as we lucidly begin to witness the timeless flow of Divine Consciousness in the Eternal Now. Through realization and acceptance, Divine Consciousness may begin again to fully resonate in the empty spaces and places within the self.
A realization unfolds that service to Self, Others and God are all the same. An understanding emerges that you are an ever-changing relative Self within One Self and Other selves in the continuum of consciousness.
Out of this lonely internal battle deep within, begins to flow the wisdom of living purely for virtue’s sake, free of the previous ego’s distortion that everything you do must be rewarded. Eventually the feelings of alienation and rejection by the world subside and you are no longer between two worlds, but start to come home. A lucid illumination begins that all compassion and service are for the same Self, your relative self, Universal Comprehensive Self (God) and every One. Through this state of real being, you more fully realize that you can be in the world, not of the world. You can be in the suffering, not of suffering.
When we pass through the Dark Night, we realize “I am a free Self and still connected to the world.” We each have the heart of Self that beats freely in the infinite space of Self and that Self is connected and alive in the world. This is the liberation, the enlightened, mystical consciousness that comes through enduring the painful transformation of the Dark Night. The enlightenment frees the mind to really see with illuminated perception. As the mind is free from the entrapments and cages of the ego, it frees the body as well from “dis ease” and sickness that was previously being passed onto it by the ego-influenced mind.
Others may one day envy you for the marvelous growth you experienced in such a short, intensified period, you will, because of the pain of your experience, always feel profound compassion for those whom you one day see going through a similar night.
A holy presence comes into your room — sweetly, softly. You feel it filling you. Your mind is filled with mellow or bright light. Your heart, your still heart, is permeated with peace. This peace moves through your body like a cold spring of mountain water. It flows in your spine, your brain, and under your skin. Everywhere.
This presence, this comforter, moves like a breeze across your arid mind and numb heart. Then, or a few days later, the fire of joy begins to smolder. Here, abiding with nothing more to do, your ego drops away! Your ignorant, arrogant, fearful sense of self falls away from you. You stand in light — a new being, a free being — transformed.
Here in this Dark Night, the lifelong ego sense dies: impotent. Having fulfilled its part, now weak and incompetent, it is dissolved — transmuted. From a higher sense now awakening within you, you slough off your false sense of self. You now know yourself to be a different person than you thought you were. Your ego was merely experiencing some of the attributes, some of the qualities, of your true nature, while at the same time obstructing others.
You, in passing successfully through the Dark Night, enter the realms of higher consciousness. You’ve been cleansed of the most deep-rooted sickness: your ignorance of your true nature and your inadequate, often totally wrong opinion of who you are. You now cease your inner conflict and abide serenely in your true nature. The night is over. The dawn of a new life in higher consciousness transforms your bleak life of the past few months into one with a heavenly nature. You have been delivered of the intolerable bondage to ego.
Henceforth, you will walk the earth seeing others afresh, living a new life, and abiding in your true nature. You have become a son or daughter of higher consciousness. Now your words and actions will be attuned with your true self. Now you express inspiration and comfort.
The Dark Night has passed. It is over.
It seems unbelievable, but you remain stuck in a Dark Night because you prefer being there to the alternative. Yes, you are miserable and suffering, but to let go of this suffering, you need to allow a change to occur.
One source believes that when the great master of Love (Jesus) thought he was near death, he called out to the “family” and thought they had forsaken him (“Father, why have you forsaken me!?”). But he was instead experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul. Even the master was upset with this shift. In his case, it lasted 90 minutes. This source says the “9” (90 days, 90 minutes) is completion, and is significant in energy.
Some say a Dark Night is self-induced, when a person seeking higher consciousness is, in effect, intensively seeking the transformation of his own ego. You seeking to end the tyranny of the ego and abide in your true nature.
The ego tries to bribe and trick us by offering its illusion that the process of enlightenment and salvation always feels wonderful.
The ego knows nothing of “let go, let God,”
Of course we have been the LIGHT, how else would we have been aware of the dark? If we were dark too, we wouldn’t be able to observe the dark.
If you keep it up and do not quit you will succeed. If you quit you will be a self-reject and will return to the old life, forever a foreigner, being neither at home with it nor at home anywhere else.
But on some level, you are in it because your soul truly wants to be in it. You realize that you can let go at any time, and accept this process as inevitable.
You feel like a hollow person doing the activities of life with no motivation except expediency.
All duality perpetrated by the ego is being dissolved and disintegrated, and intellectually, you may have the insight that the ego never was your true Self, but this provides no emotional relief from the feelings of emptiness during the process.
You are profoundly aware of the suffering of humanity and the cruelty of one person to another. You feel that cruelty and negativity far outweigh love and constructive action.
We feel this due to our belief that we are separate entities, cut off from Source.
Because our ego selves don’t really exist, this pain is only a feeling we attach stories to.
Return to Again & Again Show video on the Dark Night of the Soul, click here.