The Dark Night of the Soul revisited (yet again)

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I was listening to NPR recently and heard someone during an interview use a phrase that stopped me in my tracks. It went something like this: “Sometimes people use violence to revitalize their souls.”

“Is that true? I thought. Can violence revitalize the soul? I know that love, art, music and dance can bring the soul to life, but anger and hate? Up to this moment I’ve always imagined hate, anger, and fear as emotions that bury the soul. Though it’s true that they are emotions that energize, I usually think of their energy as negative and that they produce more negative. Then I remembered the phrase, “The dark night of the soul” that refers to a deep sense of meaninglessness, when nothing makes sense and there’s no purpose in life– when all the activity, dreams, and achievements just aren’t important anymore.

I can remember being there after my Dad unexpectedly died and I recall hurting so much that I became numb and wishing I could get some feeling, any feeling, back. I found myself doing risky things to just charge up my life, I became quick to anger and started to entertain dark thoughts, my dreams became full of darkness and nightmares, that I hadn’t had in ages. It was as though the soul were trying to crawl out from under a heavy damp blanket of meaninglessness that had covered my world. But instead it seemed to only bury its self ever deeper.

So, perhaps violence at least is an attempt to bring meaning back although it’s a short-lived and unsatisfying way of doing it.

As people close to me age and die and as the country that seemed so stable and united in purpose appears to be crumbling I’m finding that I’ve fallen into that dark night once again and all the meaning appears to be draining from me and my carefully engineered life seems to wobble once again. It’s as though the darkness is crying out for more light.

But for now I think I’ll treat this as a time of rebooting, so to speak, because as all the made up meaning that I’ve added to my life washes away hopefully it will allow for something different, or something new instead of the compulsive, conditioned meaning I’ve always given things over the years. Perhaps what will show up will be even deeper– and hopefully there will be some aliveness in that. Perhaps the darkness itself speaks to a need for more light and makes room for it where there had been little before.

The dark night

 

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Sadness, depression, anguish, anger, chaos, nightmare, disillusionment are all aspects of the dark night of the soul.

One can see them as aspects to avoid, supplant with loving thoughts or religious practice, or distracting regimens

OR

One can see these aspects as the dark side of the soul that brings to light its more positive aspects.

The soul represents all the spiritual aspects of our being, those that we like and those that we don’t. But regardless of our ego’s point-of-view about the soul’s values the soul will express itself, it will insist upon full participation in the world.

Our response to its activity will either enable its participation or hinder it and to hinder it is to limit our own growth and spiritual evolution.

To the believer who imagines that only love can bring spirit into being and thus pastes over or varnishes their darker aspects with thoughts of only loving gesture I say you will fail for even the power of love knows that it needs to make room for its darker cousin.

One must face the issues of life and death and the values existent within that life regardless of whether approved of in order to bring true love to their own being and the being of all else.

We are all tried in the crucible of the soul’s dark night. To seek consolation from without through religion, or rituals designed to eradicate the darkness often results in less than success. Facing the darkness and wrestling with it can be liberating from the constant struggle to eliminate it that is fruitless.

Many see the full expression of love as being divine in and a reflection of our true nature. This is true but the operative phrase here is, “full expression” not partial expression or only those expressions that we deem acceptable.

There is an inner wisdom being offered to the dreamer who dreams images of being threatened, attacked, killed, killing, or chased and hunted down by dark figures. All are shadows of the hidden self, the dark hidden soul wanting to be expressed and dealt with openly and honestly instead of suppressed and reviled.

Contrary to many so-called wisdom teachers the dark night is not necessarily something to be overcome but acknowledged and brought into the light and dealt with openly. Remember the old folk sayings that darkness comes before the light or the storm before the dawn? This is partly true in that it is often through personal struggle that ones true nature and purpose is revealed.

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But even with the best of intentions to integrate and thus grow oneself one can find themselves so immersed in the darkness that they cannot find themselves. For those who find they are thus trapped they may need the guidance, partnership, and counseling of one who knows how to work with the darkness and its integration with the light. I have found these guides in dream groups, spiritual teachers, psychologists,  and psychotherapists. All have helped in this journey to full expression of the soul.