Part 2: Dark Night of the Soul
St. John of the Cross, a Christian mystic, wrote of this experience as “(it)…puts the sensory spiritual appetites to sleep, deadens them, and deprives them of the ability to find pleasure in anything. It binds the imagination, and impedes it from doing any good discursive work. It makes the memory cease, the intellect become dark and unable to understand anything, and hence it causes the will to become arid and constrained, and all the faculties empty and useless. And over this hangs a dense and burdensome cloud, which afflicts the soul, and keeps it withdrawn from God”.
When entering the ‘Dark Night’ one is overcome by the sense of spiritual dryness and depression. The idea, expressed in some quarters, that all such experiences are to be avoided in favour of a peaceful life, shows up the superficiality of so much of contemporary living. The Dark Night is a way of bringing the soul to stillness, so that a deep psychic transformation may take place. In the Western Esoteric Tradition, this experience is reflected in the Tarot card ‘The Moon’ and is the ‘hump’ in an individual’s spiritual development where any early benefits of meditation, pathworking or disciplines appear to cease, and there is an urge to abandon such practices and return to ‘everyday’ life. This kind of ‘hump’ which must be passed through can be discerned in different areas of experience, and is often experienced by students on degree courses and anybody who is undergoing a new learning process which involves marked life changes as well. In this respect, it is important to remember Ramsey Dukes’ observation in Thundersqueak, that much of our future magical work is laid down during periods of depression or the “Dark Night.”
— Kalkinath & Vishvanath
I hold no reservations about the future, but a certain Zen proverb comes to mind:
Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.
It does not matter where or when. Love your fellow human being and leave things better than you found them. Whatever may come, life will go on in some manner or form. Appreciate the moment and live now, as the sages have always done.
The sad reality of spirituality is that we are not immortal to its aims, and time will force mysteries to continue elsewhere, or lose connection. Life is not about unity with the unknown, but realizing we must fulfill discovery in untapped fragments.
Well put. I think there is merit to both sides in what you present, and in what the spiritually-minded perceive or hope for. There is a certain psychological pragmatism that becomes necessary along the way. I sometimes feel like I was born more spiritually connected and slowly lost that sense of union as tragedy and trauma jaded me. There is a cautionary truth there, but I think for those born with their souls still dreaming of home — the source, wherever we feel that inner tug coming from — many of our life experiences and challenges will force us to confront and acknowledge the undeniable uncertainty and pain that comes with the territory of corporeal existence. Only then could we possibly fully know the joy that can come with it as well.
That is, if we survive. For those caught in the struggle, life is very much like an hourglass of sand, time looming with an unknown destination. The question, of course, being whether or not we can save ourselves from the madness and make peace with whatever may or may not follow the final curtain.
I am not blind to the wonder, I marvel at it all around me, but when my inner reality is not reflecting its beauty, the dissonance in the flow of life throws me into existential free fall. If I were to paint this emotional terrain, only desert and quicksand would greet my plummet into the inexorable abyss. This state of emergency circles around brilliant moments of epiphany illuminating from every depth. I am torn between two vast gulfs of being, an imminent struggle crashing in and out with the tide, becoming part of the ever-present ocean surrounding the human condition.
We awoke one morning to the dark realization that humanity is being dragged into a black hole of ecological, financial and spiritual catastrophe … that our democracy has been seized by a corporatocracy … that every day two hundred species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become forever extinct … that a deluge of advertising is sleepwalking our civilization to the brink of insanity … and that unless we fight back in the most visceral and creative way possible all will be lost.
And yet, what sets our struggle apart in 2012 is that we are not fighting to save a distant future. We are not trying to prevent some terrible event that is still to come. This is not about our unborn grandchildren. Instead, many of us sense that the threshold has already been crossed; the tipping point has already happened and what we are fighting for is our present. We are living in that tragic moment of eerie stillness where the fatal damage has been done, widening cracks can be seen, yet the edifice still stands and business as usual continues … but for how much longer?
Our days may be shadowed by this dark realization, but there is reason to be deeply optimistic for “where danger is, grows the saving power also.” Never before has the tantalizing possibility of a Global Spring, a worldwide people’s insurgency for democracy, seemed as close. For perhaps the first time in human history, we just might be on the edge of an everywhere-at-once revolution against the financial fraudsters, corporate lackeys and the ideology of consumerism that has brought the Earth to the precipice of collapse.
In this, the era of the total and transcendent indignato swarm, we look to each other, not to the masters above, to find out what it will take to pull off the ultimate culture jam: spiritual insurrection.
for the wild,
Culture Jammers HQ
Animism (from Latin anima ”soul, life”) refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle.
Animism encompasses the beliefs that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical (or material) worlds, and souls or spirits exist, not only in humans, but also in all other animals, plants, rocks, natural phenomena such as thunder, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment. Animism may further attribute souls to abstract concepts such as words, true names, or metaphors in mythology. Animism is particularly widely found in the religions of indigenous peoples, including Shinto, and some forms of Hinduism, Buddhism, Pantheism, and Neopaganism.
Throughout European history, philosophers such as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, among others, contemplated the possibility that souls exist in animals, plants, and people; however, the currently accepted definition of animism was only developed in the 19th century by Sir Edward Tylor, who created it as “one of anthropology’s earliest concepts, if not the first”.
What is your most consistent, nagging fear?
Robert Anton Wilson conveyed this unapologetically honest but humorously poignant principle throughout his life in his work. I will let the man speak for himself on this:
“The search for certitude - like the pretense of moral righteousness - appears to me as a medieval habit that should have vanished long ago. None of us knows enough to be certain about anything, usually, and none of us are nearly as ‘moral’ as we feel obliged to pretend we are in order to be acceptable to ‘Decent’ Society.
If we are not totally stupid and blindly selfish on all possible occasions, we are about as bright and ethical as anyone in history has ever been. The greatest batters in the history of baseball all had batting averages well below 0.500, which means they missed more than half the time they swung. Medieval morality and theology have left us with the hypocritical habit of pretending batting averages close to 0.999 in both knowledge and ethics. (The Absolutists go around talking and acting as if their averages were actually 1.000 or sheer perfection.) On average, I think I score under Babe Ruth and I suspect you do, too.
There thus appears to be a great deal of conceit and self-deception in the habitual poses of intellectual certitude and ethical perfection among the educated classes. It would appear more in keeping with honesty, I think, to recognize, as analogous to Murphy’s Law, the unscientific but useful generalization I call the Cosmic Schmuck Principle.
The Cosmic Schmuck Principle holds that if you don’t wake up, once a month at least, and realize that you have been acting like a Cosmic Schmuck again then you will probably go on acting like a cosmic schmuck forever; but if you do, occasionally, recognize your Cosmic Schmuckiness, then you might begin to become a little less Schmucky than the general human average at this primitive stage of terrestrial evolution.”
A wise woman knows she may know nothing at all.
I tend to carry a not-quite-certainty about myself and the nature of reality, humanity, and the ultimate meaning of life. At its best it keeps me humble and curious, at its worst it has cost me opportunity when confidence was most needed.
As research has shown, most of the mind’s inner workings behind our thoughts and actions are actually unconscious. We like to assume we can discern why we feel or think a certain way but the truth is we cannot clearly know why our stream of consciousness proceeds as it does. Our memory of things past is itself a mess. How and where we store information is dubious and prone to error. A fascinating article about an amnesiac cellist who can neither remember the past, his training nor plan for the future has been found to have the remarkable ability to recognize old music and learn new pieces. This may offer some additional insight.
Interesting stuff, no? Nothing is certain. ;)
“Tell me more about the spiritual aspect of human sexuality.”
Why is sex so attractive to us? Is it, as some scientific views preach, merely animal instinct? According to Tantric views, sex is magnetic because we want the sweet taste of samadhi (higher consciousness), of light-love-bliss, of the transcendental, even if it is at first but a flash during sex. Meditation accepts that flash for what it is—a message about the nature of reality—and cultivates it into a transformed life.
The key that makes Tantric sex real Tantra and not, as one of our Buddhist meditation teachers put it, just “souped up nookie,” is whether the person is really sincere about making an effort to go beyond the self or not. Getting a little loose, a little open feels good. And it’s certainly healthy. But real Tantric sex blows your mind completely because it takes you beyond all of your conception of everyday reality—you taste the transcendental unity. Your life can never be the same.
— David and Ellen Ramsdale, Sexual Energy Ecstasy
Hang on tight while we grab the next page