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
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.