How Do You Walk Through the Dark Night of the Soul?

Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul… artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption.” - John Paul II, Letter to Artists

The spiritual path starts out full of bliss, visions of beauty, healing, and grace. After twenty years, when one has mastered the mind, stilled the ego, has cleared the energy bodies, and is still engaged in life, things can turn very dark indeed. Complete disillusionment is perhaps the most painful experience that a  spiritually oriented person oriented  can have. It is a destroyer whose ways are many, eroding one’s faith in oneself, creating an existential despair so deep that  the heavy, dull mundane world presses around with the blackness of the Void — taking your breath away,  spinning in your solar plexus, emptying you out until all that remains is burn out.

When this was happening to me, I sought advice in books. I found very little. Most bookstores are filled with an endless selection of rehashed, regurgitated texts aimed at attracting beginners on the spiritual path with watered down, bliss bunny promises. Not much help when you are desperate to understand why you landed in Hell.

St. John of the Cross

So I found a very old text : The Dark Night of the Soul by St.  John of the Cross.

“Thus it is fitting that, if the understanding is to be united with that light and become Divine, in the state of perfection, it should first of all be purged and annihilated as to its natural light, and, by means of this dark contemplation, be brought actually into darkness. This darkness should continue for as long as is needful in order to expel and annihilate the habit which the soul has long since formed in its manner of understanding, and the Divine light and illumination will then take its place. And thus….it follows that the darkness which it suffers is profound and horrible and most painful, for this darkness, being felt in the deepest substance of the spirit, seems to be substantial darkness. Similarly, the love which is to be given to it is Divine love…”

And so on.

The Alchemy of Disillusionment

Disillusionment is a fire in which the soul must burn, for without the loss of comforting illusions, the character is forever unformed, immature, and shallow. What is burned away is error, crusts of fixed emotions and thoughts, ideas, and perceptions that obscure the  radiance of the Divine Light within.
Disillusionment is darkness,  and the bliss of sweetness and light is dissolved in in the dark. But the darkness has its own tale to tell, its own truth to deliver, its own integrity.

The light needs the darkness to shine. When one is an artist, this merging of shadow and brilliance is required to create work that will move others because it is aligned with deep truths. Without knowledge of the totality of life’s possibilities, artistic work lacks depth, and wisdom. When an aspiring artist  only entertains ‘positive’ thoughts and energies, the results are banal, mediocre, bland.

I was born to complete the Great Work.I don’t know if I am doing a very good job of it. It is not a choice in terms of my ego mind. My deepest soul led my into this fire and I had no choice. Others who are in the same condition, may find some resonance and solace within my words. I have come through my Dark Night intact and, though I do not want to fill this blog with such a painful, transforming subject, I want to reach out to those who, like myself, could not find answers, comfort, or guidance, and offer reassurance.

But then, maybe being lost is part of it too?

Loreena McKennitt sings The Dark Night of the Soul

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