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 And over this hangs a dense and burdensome cloud, which afflicts the soul, and keeps it withdrawn from God”.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
Every bone in my body is aching but I keep on smiling. Finally returning to the languid abyss of real slumber after a long lesson in restoring faith through music. There will be a solid round (the third, actually) of protein shakes, essential vitamins and amino acids. I will be reaching for painless foods like chicken noodle soup and will probably be limping like a recovering invalid for the next few days but it will have been well worth it.
I transformed a difficult reckoning by witnessing and contributing to a sacred moment. There are times, however fleeting, that we move in harmony with each other, effortlessly. Ego and baggage fade away when the music overtakes you. There is no way to argue against it, music that resonates through a crowd can feel like a concentrated paradigm shift. If you are genuinely present the mirrored feedback of body and sound will forcefully empty you of yourself. You become a conduit to the primal energies that gave us that spark of life. And when you embody this underlying essence of the universe you do truly tap into The Way, as the Daoists have always been drawn to. You realize yourself beyond the flesh, not simply as one island entity but as an integral part of the fractal that transcends from the microcosm to the macrocosm.
When we lose faith in day to day humanity between beings, the soul slowly rots despite our best intentions to stay positive. One might stay sane and relatively balanced against the raving masses, but the price is steep. We must all find ways to keep the faith at regular intervals. The older we get the harder the return process becomes when we completely let go to a welcomed but detrimentally rare rerooting into our interconnected reality. Just as we pay a penalty for surviving only by cerebral efforts, we must battle the urge to be as a moth to the flame of unconscious ecstasy. It feels only natural to completely dissolve into the fire, the source, but we became aware for good reason. There is a fine art to letting go, it’s knowing when to come back. As the first sentient collective of our ancestors were illuminated by the catalyst of elemental knowledge, our struggle was sealed between the divine and mundane, oblivion and infinity. We must ride this fine line to have any hope of evolving beyond mortal chains — to rise up as a universe that can know itself beyond the chain reaction of matter colliding with matter.
Liminality is a psychological, neurological, or metaphysical subjective state, conscious or unconscious, of being on the “threshold” of or between two different existential planes, as defined in neurological psychology (a “liminal state”) and in the anthropological theories of ritual by such writers as Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner.
As developed by van Gennep (and later Turner), the term is used to “refer to in-between situations and conditions that are characterized by the dislocation of established structures, the reversal of hierarchies, and uncertainty regarding the continuity of tradition and future outcomes”. Although initially developed as a means to analyze the middle stage in ritual passages, it is “now considered by some to be a master concept in the social and political sciences writ large”. In this sense, it is very useful when studying “events or situations that involve the dissolution of order, but which are also formative of institutions and structures.”
Van Gennep placed a particular emphasis on rites of passage, and claimed that “such rituals marking, helping, or celebrating individual or collective passages through the cycle of life or of nature exist in every culture, and share a specific three-fold sequential structure”.
This three-fold structure, as established by van Gennep, is made up of the following components:
Learn more at Wikipedia.
Ram Dass (via eternalconsciousness)
Pat Barker, Regeneration
The hero aims to balance Ego, Self, and Soul, but many people at different times and places have determined to develop the Soul at the expense of the Ego and the Self. What this has often meant is the renunciation of worldly goods and relationships in the service of a monastic spiritual life.
For most of us, however, renunciation is not so complete. We want a balanced life, including success in the world as well as spiritual or soul development. Even so, we can benefit from the meditative techniques, perfected by mystics and ascetics, that help us empty out and open up without having to experience loss. Emptying out frees us from regrets about the past or ambitions or fears for the future.
Here the Destroyer becomes our ally. We learn to give up and let go of everything that no longer serves our journey. As Stephen Levine explains in Who Dies?, all losses of life, large and small, are rehearsals for death. In other times and other places, the mark of a well-lived life was the ability to die with grace. Meditation and other such spiritual practices help us prepare for death by helping us to let go of desire and experience the moment for its own sake.
We learn to die well by acquiring the ability to accept all of life’s losses and disappointments and to recognize the loss inherent in all change. Every change we experience in life is practice for the ultimate transition of death. The Destroyer begins to become our ally when we recognize the need to change or give something up without denying the pain or grief involved. The Destroyer can also become our advisor, for we learn in making every major decision to consult our deaths. If we allow death—rather than our fears or ambitions—to guide us, we make fewer frivolous decisions. If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you choose to do today?
The Destroyer is also the transformer. The sacred mysteries of the nature religions always remind us that rebirth follows death. This is literally true of the seasons. However cold and dark the winter might be, the spring does come. Such religions have always taught that the god who was crucified or dismembered in winter, for example, is born again in the spring. Although different religions have defined the details of this rebirth differently, the ultimate reassurance is the same: death always lead to new life.
Our encounters with the mysteries tend to strip away layers until the essential within us is revealed, just as they strip away pretense and illusion so we can see into the essence of the cosmos. This element of truth includes the whole range of experiences, from the most sublime, to the most depraved. All are, of course, part of each person’s Soul—at least in potential form—and in the world around us.
— Carol S. Pearson, Awakening The Heroes Within