Dealing with the Dark Night of the Soul

I did not grow up in the Christian church or any church for that
matter. The first time I ever heard of the Psalms was while attending
a field service in Vietnam for a friend who had died two days earlier.
He was a friend who had taken my place on the night crew, for I was going out on a mission the following day. If he hadn’t, things might
have been different in both our lives. I was feeling very
disconnected, confused, and holding a little guilt.

The Psalm read that day during the service was called the 23rd Psalm.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down
in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He
restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his
name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy
staff they comfort me.”



As I listened to the words, I found myself crying and Marines NEVER
cry. Suddenly I found myself lifted and all my fear, anger, and
sadness, the turbulent waters of my mind and heart “stilled.” For a
moment, I knew that as I walked through this “valley” with death all
around me, I was not alone. This gave me the strength to carry on.
 
It wasn’t until years later that I realized the grace given to me on
that day, even though I was experiencing the dark night of the soul
(aka depression) and felt I wasn’t worthy of anything good. That day
was the beginning of my journey toward spiritual maturity, and that
day was the day I awakened to something that I later called soul.
Spiritual awakenings can happen at any moment in life. They can be
spontaneous, triggered by major life changes, illnesses, tragedies,
and traumas such as life-threatening illnesses, accidents, divorces,
midlife crises, war, and so much more. They can happen during
meditation or while taking a walk around the neighborhood.

There are also those times when all seems hopeless and emotionally
overwhelming, what some call The Dark Night of the Soul. If you’re highly sensitive to the suffering of others and are a deep thinker by
nature, it is possible that you have gone through, or are currently
going through, this dark night.
 
The Dark Night of the Soul is a period in life when you feel
completely cut off from the Divine. The more _aware_ you become of
your disconnection from the Divine, the more chances you have of
experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul.
 
In my experience, going through this encounter with the dark night is
profoundly entwined with the process of spiritual awakening, i.e.,
before spiritually awakening, we often “walk through the valley of the
shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4); that prepares our minds and hearts for
it.

From the perspective of an Alchemist and Jungian analyst the Dark Night could represent the nigredo which means ‘blackness’ or putrefaction or decomposition. Many alchemists believed the nigredo was a first step in the pathway to the philosopher’s stone or wholeness.

Death in Dreams

Tarot: The death card, a sign of spiritual transformation and great change and even fresh starts.

“Without death, life would be meaningless…limitation enables you to fulfill your being.”
C. Jung

Basically he’s saying that death is a condition for the meaning of life.  

Death in Dreams (The symbolic meaning) Death often relates to the ending of something.
But it can also suggest our relationship, or attitude towards death e.g. how do we feel about it? As an archetype it can show up as a sunset, crossing a river, twilight, a skeleton, gravestones, a cemetery, blackness, the grim reaper, an old man, or woman, a fallen mirror, a stopped clock, or an empty abyss.

Death often shows up in our dreams during times of transition
Dead animals can also be metaphors for our own demise.  

“These are the woods you love where the secret name of every death is life again”  Associated with death is also rebirth and resurrection. 
-Mary Oliver (Skunk cabbage)

Shiva, Hindu god of untamed passion also known as the “destroyer.”

Such things as a cave, or an egg, Spring, dawn, the cross, a snake, a seed, a bird taking flight (though if it were to fly off into the sunset it might suggest death), a Phoenix, flame, a pearl, or the womb.The body itself is in a constant birth, death and renewal cycle in that individual cells need to die in order to be replaced and renewed without constant injury to the body’s cells, fresh cells could not revitalize. This is the idea of creating by destroying. The Hindu god Shiva is the destroyer of the world (actually the ego—the false identification with form, and the letting go of habits and attachments). Brahma then recreates what has been destroyed. In short, all that has a beginning must also have an end. The only thing that dies according to this concept is the illusion of individuality and separateness. In this way Shiva is the great purifier. 

Caduceus Medical Icon/ also known
as the staff of Asclepius

The ancient Greeks believed that a person’s well-being depended on the opposing forces of dissolution and creation. The Caduceus with its entwined snakes and being the symbol of the healer can be symbolically linked with Psyche interacting with matter and transforming both. This idea of the snake representing both death and renewal sheds its old skin to reveal something new and revitalized, thus dying so as to be reborn.                                       

Dead people in Dreams:In most cases this is about the dreamer trying to deal with the passing of someone close. It’s all a process of letting go and of resurrecting the one you interacted with on a physical level into the memory of that same person. For some the deceased become eternally living within the memory of those left behind. 

To see a dead person in a dream:This can represent some area in ones life that has “died” such as a feeling, a relationship, or situation. Sometimes anger repressed in your waking life can kill ones vitality and satisfaction. It can also represent a part of yourself that you would like to leave behind (to see that part, look at what aspect the dead person may represent). 

To see your own death in a dream:This can suggest a transformation in the way you have been, in thought, in feeling, or in attitude. It can also suggest the transition of one phase of your life into a new one. 

“Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear?Who made the grasshopper?This grasshopper, I mean-the one who has flung herself out of the grass,the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.I do know how to pay attention, how to fall downinto the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,which is what I have been doing all day.Tell me, what else should I have done?Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” –Mary Oliver (the Summer Day)

For more on death and resurrection in dreams go to the Dreaming Wizard website.http://thedreamingwizard.com/death-and-resurrection-in-dreams_295.html

See also Darkknightofthesoul.blog Dec 20, 2019

Insight from a disturbing dream

A scene from the movie, Matrix, we are all a digitally coded reality.

The night before’s dream centered around a vision of a “heart,” more an experience than a physical image. It is a life-altering experience that appears to have a physical form but is not material in essence. The heart experience seems real, but it is not; it appears present, but it is not. I can get it for someone but can’t guarantee that it will work for them. There’s a sense that it brings profound connection and dispels the feeling of separation. I reach into the ether to pull one into existence.

My interpretation of this dream appears to be as cryptic as the dream but reflects something I’ve been psycho-emotionally wrestling with for quite some time. As time has moved on, I’ve developed more and more clarity regarding the thoughts and feelings that have plagued me.

Are we but avatars of One being? Not actual, not separate, with the experience of separateness being illusory born of a system designed to create the illusion built over time.

I wonder if stories of Jesus being sent to earth so that God can experience the human condition are but a human projection or metaphor that reveals a much deeper reality of life?

The creation stories of many cultures also seem to suggest that the “we” we see ourselves as is, but an illusion created by the One.

The reality of death may be part of that illusion because if we are only avatars or expressions, then we were never really born. We are not separate because we were never apart. We are only the illusion of individual beings. As avatars, we may be “experiencers,” aka the “heart of God” or the One. We are both black and white, illumined and dark, gold and lead, wise and foolish, believers or non-believers, loving and hateful, holograms of the One’s expression into the world.

With this view that everything, including what we call “we,” are but God expressions, I seem to have moved from a monotheistic view of God to a pantheistic one. In this view, God, whatever it is, acts as a prism diffracting itself into a myriad of colors (The “we” I’m referring to) but, in essence, is only the One all-encompassing color. The “heart” of my dream is the One we call God.

Shades of the movie Matrix!

Once seen, it changes my relationship with everything I’ve been calling and believing to be “other.”

The strange thing for me is that if this were a true reflection of reality, what would I do with it? In other words, so what? I don’t have an answer for that, yet I somehow feel more at ease with these thoughts than with the belief in separateness. Separateness brings with it fear, helplessness, and vulnerability.

This point of view also seems to answer in part my age-old question of what is my purpose? My purpose in this scenario is just to be, do what I do, experience what I experience, strive for what I strive, feel what I feel, change when I think I need to, and think what I think whenever I think it. That may seem too easy to some, but for me, it’s always been a struggle and probably, to some extent, will remain the same. So, to my list, I’ll add “struggle” with what I struggle with.

It’s the season of change, endings, and the harvesting of what you’ve sowed. 

During this time of year our dreams can be the portal to other realms of knowledge and awareness. Wakeup!

These images from our deeper psyches are often found in the the mythologies of many cultures and represent pretty much what they do to all societies. After all, where do our myths come from if not from the dark caves of our hidden selves?

Dreams of…

Jack-o-lanterns: childhood dreams and memories. A reminder of a changing of something or the end of something.

Witches: The negative feminine or one’s fear of being manipulated (bewitched). Old feelings associated with one’s mother. If a witch of the west she could symbolize endings and dark events or feelings. They can represent unlikeable parts of ourselves or others. Has someone cast a ‘spell’ on you? She may also symbolize something magic in your life, something positive and yet unexplainable. Note that witches in a dream can be either nurturing or overpowering or both if reflecting a conflicted state or relationship.

Magic: Don’t believe everything that you see or hear. Are you trying to solve a problem through wishes and hopes i.e., through magical thinking? Are you being influenced or perhaps controlled by something that you can’t see? If a magician (or wizard) shows up, he or she may represent your inner wisdom or your desire to control and dominate. They can also represent illusion. Are you or is someone trying to fool someone or yourself? Are you hoping to change something or looking for transformation? Do you need to transcend something in your life? 

Ghosts: Is something from your past haunting you? Is your subconscious trying to make you aware of something? Do you have guilty feelings about someone or some event? Perhaps you are feeling insubstantial, like you don’t belong. Have you “ghosted” someone i.e., where you have cut off communication with someone without explanation or are being ignored? A violent ghost (or poltergeist) could reflect an inner conflict or some violent part of your own nature.

Is someone or you being too transparent or not transparent enough? Is there some unfinished business from the past?

Phantoms: These can represent fears and/or repressed memories e.g., things that go bump in the night. Do you need to face your fears? They can also represent illusions, delusions, and self-deception. Are you misapprehending something or someone? Are you or is someone misrepresenting something?

Graveyards: This is a place of endings, a place where memories or fears are buried and hopefully put to rest. Traditionally this is a place where the dead and the living come together especially during Samhain (Halloween) when the division between the dead and living thins and becomes more porous. Ancient Celtics and modern pagans celebrate this time of year with feasts and bonfires. The souls of dead relatives are thought to revisit and seek hospitality. They could be appeased by special food and drink, but watch out if ignored (Trick or treat).

Zombies: Where the dead rise from their graves. Where memories refuse to stay buried or refuse to die. They can also represent aspects of the self that refuse to go away. A zombie can represent yourself when you feel controlled by some basal emotion such as fear, envy, haste, or greed or jealousy. Has something died in you e.g., an emotion, ambition, hope, dream, or idea?

Death: This can symbolize and end to something or a killing off some part of you or the death of a relationship.

Werewolves (or any dark creature): This could represent repressed instincts or your animal nature rising and overwhelming you. It could be your ‘shadow self’ a part of you that you’ve tried to reject but that still influences your feelings, thoughts, or actions from time to time.

The Angel of Death or Grim Reaper: This can be a messenger from your unconscious mind where all your dreams come from. The image can symbolize an end to something (see also death above). Something or someone may be attacking you or may represent impending change. They can symbolize criticism, but the reaper may also represent self-criticism i.e., self-attack.

Skeleton or skulls: Something dead to you or skeletons in your closet where memories of events are hidden. They can also represent aspects of yourself that you are trying to kill off or thought you killed off but still haunt you. Note what your dream skeleton is doing and what you are feeling when observing or interacting with them. Skeletons can represent and end to something e.g., some idea, or relationship, hope, ability, behavior, or memory. If just a skull it can symbolize your state of mental health. They can also represent something that is not fully developed or in the beginning stages. If the skeleton represents you, are you just a a skeleton of your old self?

Mad Scientist: Don you feel like you are going crazy or somebody is acting crazy or irrationally? Are you or is someone having trouble controlling behavior? Is something or someone threatening you? Are you feeling a loss of control?

All the above dream images can come under the rubric of phantasmagoria and may reflect your unconscious biases. Are you having illusions of reality that may be affecting your ability to see what is real and right in front of you? All these images can have nightmarish qualities and be a wake up call from your unconscious trying to prod you into awareness.

*These possible image interpretations come from Morpheus Speaks: The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting.

Your death in dreams: Premonition?

In our darkest dreams we encounter tunnels to transformation, fall down holes into an inner world of the unconscious mind, step into a bright light, walk through open doors, observe a sunset, or a skeleton, or a gravestone, or cemetery and all are pathways to the hidden self. Most of these inner adventures when brought into the light can lead to changes in the way one perceives and lives their life. But deep down in the darkened cellars and caves of our soulful existence there are buried daemons of the rejected upper world–dragons, monsters, devils, and the Grim Reaper itself. 

They who venture into this world must be ready, not to do battle, for these creatures cannot be slain or conquered, but to learn their ways so as to harness their power.

For change to happen in one’s life they need to let go of that which needs change; one cannot hold onto the past while reaching for their future.

This is when death shows up in your dreams for it is the harbinger of change, that which heralds the end to one way of being to make room for something new.  And sometimes death in a dream is an invitation to go deeper into ones self to find the energy and power to go after a waking world dream, goal, or achievement. Sometimes, in order to engage life one must let go of it.

One can resist the need for change, but be warned that if you do, the images of death can become increasingly fearsome. Death makes itself known when there is an urgent psychological matter or problem that needs to be attended to.

In nearly every philosophy, or religion, some sort of resurrection follows death. Life, whether animal or plant appears to be in continuous birth, death, and renewal. All cultures have various rituals to acknowledge and celebrate the connection between life and death and all self-development programs require the letting go of one way of being in order to manifest another.

The dead in dreams not only refer to something having died in us, in our lives, or represent the need to let go of something, but also help us through times of transition. Sometimes something in our life is threatening our emotional survival and dreams of our death will come to shock us into awareness.

Aspects of the dead reflect aspects of ourselves that we need to pay some attention to or to let go of. Our own deaths in a dream can speak to transitional phases of our lives such as from adolescence to adulthood, singleness to marriage, or parenthood, or youth to old age. Worries about impending transitions such as from being in school to graduating, or moving from job to job can often conjure images of death, or threats to ones life.

In short, though it may seem contrary, death in dreams may actually be about healing; embracing the death can lead to this healing.

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”

–Isaac Asimov (S.F. writer)