May 31, 2006
It was St. John of the Cross, one of the early Christian mystics, who first coined the term, "dark night of the soul". In my early twenties, when I was going through bouts of tremendous depression, I came across his book and found myself fascinated. It seemed that every word was written just for me, and it helped me understand what was going on from a different perspective. I would like to share a few reflections here on what this might mean for us now at this point in our journey. St. John referred to two distinct processes, which have surface similarities but are actually quite different from each other. The first process is what he called the "dark night of the senses".
Later on in the book, he describes the "dark night of the soul". I would like to distinguish here between these two events. Most of us have experienced feelings of great loneliness, emotional dryness, and depression. Sometimes these states come and go; other times they remain for weeks or months, or even years, at a time. Much of this is a psychological process. We feel unworthy, small, unloved, and insecure. The universe feels too big and too frightening for us to handle, and we find ourselves retreating from it into an increasingly tiny box in order to feel secure. We feel lost and cut off from other people. We feel too inadequate to live out our dreams. We have been hurt by life and by other people, and we retreat into a cave of our own making, alternating between feelings of anger, betrayal, loneliness, sadness, and grief. Dealing with our unhealed psychological issues is often painful, and the deeksha can accelerate this process as it pushes us towards wholeness. All this is part of the "dark night of the senses". Often we find that the stronger the light that shines upon us, the stronger also the darkness that gets stirred up.
When I lived in Mt. Shasta, California, there was a lake I used to frequently visit. It was a very shallow lake, and the bottom half of it was soft squishy mud. I used to love walking through it, stirring up all the bubbles of methane gas from the muck at the bottom, watching as they made their way up to the surface to be released. Our psychological process can be similar to this. We see for the first time some of our shadow aspects that have been buried under the mud for so long. We have tried to deny, change, project, or suppress these things for a long time, but they are still there. What do we do with these bubbles of subconscious material that get stirred up?
It pushes us towards wholeness.
Very often we try to suppress or deny these feelings, memories, or sensations once again. They are uncomfortable, and don't fit with our ideas of wanting to be spiritually enlightened beings. Or else we go into depression or contraction, and then feel guilty or ashamed for what we perceive as failure or unworthiness. A third thing we might do is to project these feelings onto other people or circumstances, actively or passively blaming them for our own feelings of darkness and discomfort. This becomes especially evident for those who have experienced significant hurt or abuse in their early childhood. The need to blame oneself or somebody else can get intensely strong to compensate for all the shadows that the deeksha begins to push towards the surface. If we no longer want to get into old patterns of suppression, denial, or projection, there is a fourth option. We can simply watch and observe this process. We don't need to try and change anything. If we are willing to hold still and stay with the feelings, the bubbles from the mud will naturally come up to the surface of the lake, and get released. However, when we actively go into blame or judgment, we halt the process and become stuck in this dark night of the senses. This is where many people have felt lost or betrayed, feeling like somehow the deeksha hasn't worked for them, or that they are worse off than ever before. If we can allow ourselves to go through the dark night of the senses, simply experiencing the reality of the mind as it is, it soon passes. More light can then come in, and deeper experiences of oneness begin to happen. We discover a stronger connection with our inner divinity, the "antaryamin", and a greater sense of our unique destiny as a soul on earth. At some point of this journey, another transformative crisis begins. This is the deeper "dark night of the soul". Whereas the dark night of the senses is a psychological crisis, the dark night of the soul is an existential crisis. Whereas the purpose of the dark night of the senses is to dissolve the sense of a separate 'self', leading to enlightenment, the purpose of the dark night of the soul is to discover the divine 'Self', and enter into God-realization. The inner experience may be similar. There is again the sense of emotional dryness, loss of vitality or enthusiasm, and a sense of desolation and darkness. But this time it is the experience of the inner soul, not the outer personality. Often we feel that our very connection with the divine is broken, there is no more joy in our hearts, and everything that had been so smooth and easy on our spiritual path now becomes burdensome and difficult. Why is this happening? This is where the last and subtlest shreds of our personal ego are being confronted. Our deepest certainties and sense of ultimate purpose is being challenged. We are being pushed into the void where everything that has to do with our last remaining ideas and concepts about divinity, truth, and ultimate reality dissolves. Even our ideas about the 'big picture' get eaten up in the void. It feels like a dismemberment of our very being, a journey through the valley of death. The journey feels endless, and just when we finally surrender to this death, we emerge reborn as a christed being. This is the stage Jesus went through in his 'forty days in the wilderness'. As he struggled with the last remnants of his inner demons, he was able to dissolve the last illusions of a separate self, and merge with the 'Father', his inner divinity. This is when he became the Christ. This is when his mission as an avatar could truly begin.
We can simply watch and observe this process.
We are on this same journey. Bhagavan makes it very clear that we are all an aspect of the Collective Avatar which is descending on Earth. He emphasizes the need to go through our own dark night of the soul, and challenges us to step into our mastery. This is what it takes to become one of the 64,000, he says.
Let us not confuse the dark night of the senses with the dark night of the soul. Just because we are feeling miserable does not mean we are automatically moving into mastery. The journey has begun, however. The way through both of these dark nights is the same. We must simply become awareness of our inner process without judgment or blame. And we must trust that this divine intelligence is equally with us in the darkness as in the light. When we can finally surrender fully to the perfection of God within the darkness, we mysteriously discover that we have emerged once again into the light! When we emerge from the dark night of the senses, we step more fully into oneness. When we emerge from the dark night of the soul, we step more fully into mastery. We become God-realized, and can serve humanity as part of the Collective Avatar on Earth, one cell in a Planetary Body as it slowly builds the critical mass necessary to achieve the collective planetary awakening!
In the words of an ancient Indian prayer, "Lead us from untruth into truth. Lead us from darkness into light. Lead us from death into immortality!"
- taken from www.onenessforall.com