Dark Night of the Soul
– A Misnomer and Friend –
The Dark Night of the Soul (DNS) is an experience that spiritually minded people know well. We all have had periods when we feel spiritually bereft of God’s countenance and grace. As a notion first put forward in the 16th century by St. John of the Cross, the DNS causes us to feel abandoned by the Greater Life that has previously given us inspiration and guidance. Essentially, the cause of the DNS stems from the inherent battle waged between the demands of the personality and the higher prompting of the soul. Given this understanding, there are only two conditions where freedom from the DNS can occur—either when one is a young soul and not yet on the Path, or someone who has reached true enlightenment. Indeed, it is part and parcel of life consciously evolving through the human domain.
It is interesting to realize that the common view of the DNS is a bit of a misnomer. With one exception (the fourth initiation), it is actually not something experienced by the soul. The soul isn’t feeling spiritually forsaken, but instead it is the lower self, the personality that suffers in this way. Indeed, most often it is the soul that imposes the blindness upon the personality, not as punishment, but as a test. It is a burning ground of uncertainty and adjustment. The DNS frequently comes forth in order to arrest the hastening personality. Every step upon the Path must be earned through the crucible of personality crisis and consequential change. The DNS forces the personality to face an aspect of itself in need of transformation. Given this, it is more appropriate to called it a dark night of the personality experience.
When walking the Path, it is wise to view the DNS as a developmental friend, rather than foe. It facilitates an unfolding of consciousness through an undoing, and is built into the fabric of the journey itself. Whether considering the crisis period experienced by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Prometheus chained to a rock, or the isolative and brooding experience of the Buddha under the Bodhi Tree, all of us will experience the DNS, many times over. As such, when those moments of spiritual darkness and doubt seem to invade the mind, remember that you are in good company, and that “this too shall pass.”