Jan 6, 2011

The Dark Night of the Soul

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

I stumbled upon this very insightful post on the dark night of the soul. (It can also be found here.) Here's an excerpt but I think the whole thing is a must-read for anyone who is going through this painful  process of alignment.

The dark night of the soul is a process many spiritual seekers go through at some point in their lives, I being one of them. The dark night is not mentioned that much in spiritual texts and teachings. A lot of the times, we are being told to be happy, raise your vibration, look to the light, but none of this will be lasting until you have loved the dark.

The dark night of the soul is an overall beautiful experience where a person’s ego/false self is “dying” to their true Self which is LOVE or in other words one is realizing the ego self is false and never really existed. This process can occur at any point in one’s life, but it usually emerges after a spiritual seeker has attained a lot of spiritual knowledge or growth. This is because the ego is now being called out for what it is and it tightens its grips on you to hide you from the light that you are.

Even though this is a very beautiful and sacred process, it can be perceived at the time as very difficult. Especially when you are in the thick of the fog. This is why it is called the dark night of the soul (it may feel like a dark century of the soul to some lol). You feel as if you are stuck in the dark with no hope of seeing the light again. You already feel totally alone due to this process, and ontop of that it is not talked about often in spiritual texts. This is because a lot of us look for the light only and try to run away from the dark, not realizing that the dark will only grow larger the more you ignore it.

Many think they have done something wrong when the symptoms of the Dark Night appear. Especially if they just went through so much perceived spiritual growth. This is furthest from the truth! When you find yourself in the Dark Night show gratitude because you are going through a sort of rites of passage or a spiritual detox. The pain you feel is the pain you have tried to suppress for years, decades, and even lifetimes. It is now finally bubbling up to the surface to be healed with the love you give it. Even though it seems painful to face this pain, you should feel honored that this pain is finally flowing out of you. We don’t even realize the heavy baggage that we have held onto for so long.

It seems to me that the dark night of the soul, experienced by so many lightworkers and spiritual seekers, is tumbling out of the new age closet. As I've discussed ad nauseum, there has long been active suppression of "negative" states in new age circles. This is one reason that, as 11orangeankh11 says, people think they've "done something wrong" when they find themselves in a process like the dark night of the soul; just as, tragically, they do when they experience illness or adversity. These states don't accord with the "positive attitude" and "staying in the light" that so many new age ideologies insist are important for manifesting what we want. But "want" is an ego function and the dark night of the soul is about dissolution of the ego. Here is one explanation of how the ego comes into conflict with our spiritual expansion, resulting in the dark night of the soul.

Your ego, your limited sense of self, your inadequate complex of ideas about who you are had to be dissolved. Your ego was, you begin to see, eclipsing higher consciousness and your true nature. Your old sense of self was inadequate to your new hopes and proper state. Your suffering intensified because of a major misapprehension. You were too used to thinking of yourself based on inputs from your previous experiences in life. On and on through life, you gathered information and responses from the world which indicated to you what kind of person you were and are. These superficial units of related inputs became integrated in what is called the ego — your sense of self, your sense of who you are. As long as you allowed this inaccurate or only partial sense of who you are to dominate, you could not know or abide in your true nature.

Your ego sense is so powerful — you invest it with so much of your thought and feeling — that your attitudes of life become based on an egocentric perspective. The ego gains a progressively greater foothold on your entire life because your basic attitudes about your existence and essential nature are strongly linked with ego.

Then, your ego sense, due to your suffering or your limitations in life, wants to have more power over circumstances and a more pleasant life. The ego sense often becomes motivated to seek higher consciousness and, thus, greater ability to dominate in life. Not always, but often, it is the ego sense which most eagerly pursues higher consciousness. It wants to be in charge; it wants to manipulate events and make life come out more to its satisfaction. [emphasis added] But, as long as your ego dominates, it is on a collision course with your true nature and your higher consciousness. There’s going to be a showdown. There has to be a confrontation sometime if your higher consciousness is ever to emerge, if you are ever to know truly who you are and what your human capabilities are.

I bolded the passage above because, in my opinion, this is where our spiritual growth gets derailed by the new age obsession with "positive thinking." The Secret and other "law of attraction" vehicles flatter the ego by promising that we can control our environment and get everything we want if we just learn how to think the "right" way. We won't get sick, we'll own multiple properties and cars, and have oodles of time to soak up the rays on our yachts... but only if we stay positive. The grandiosity of this notion can actually put us on a collision course with spirit and plunge us into the dark night. Our shadow self can only be willfully suppressed for so long before it erupts into conscious awareness. And we can't fully come into the wholeness, or oneness, we seek if we are cleaving to the dualism of that positive vs negative world view.

The dark night of the soul comes into the vernacular by way of a poem by the Carmelite priest St. John of the Cross who cataloged his experience of this painful journey of transformation. I first became familiar with this work while listening to Celtic artist Loreena McKennitt who adapted the poem and set it to music.

But the experience of the the dark night of the soul is not confined to this Christian tradition and is recognized in many wisdom traditions. Like the divine madness it has long been recognized as a sacred state and spiritual gift. Colleen O'Connor gives a little background in her interview with spiritual teacher Andrew Harvey who shared his experience of the dark night in his book The Sun At Midnight.

The Sun at Midnight, a new book by mystical scholar Andrew Harvey, describes how he rebuilt his life, his faith, and his marriage after the split from his guru, Mother Meera. It's centered on the Christian concept of the "dark night of the soul," in which the false self must die so that the true self can be born. This mystery of annihilation is found in many religions throughout history, from the shamanism to Sufism. Often there is anger, despair, and a sense of abandonment by God. But, as Harvey relates, the dark night of the soul is the true passage to Christ-consciousness. [aka, unity consciousness] You think that you are at your furthest from God, "but you are actually so close that you are blinded by His Glory and think it night."

Like the many people who have been plunged into the dark night after crashing headlong into the limitations of "new thought" paradigms, Harvey came to his experience after a brutal disillusionment with his spiritual path. For those unfamiliar with his story, here is a brief recap: Harvey, who had always been openly gay, fell in love with a young man named Eryk. He was shocked and horrified to learn that the support he had expected from his guru Mother Meera was not forthcoming. Her acceptance of his homosexuality was conditioned upon his never acting on it. He was given the choice of celibacy or marriage to a woman. In particular, she wanted him to marry and write a book about how she had healed him and made him "normal." Instead he wrote a book about his shattered faith in Mother Meera and his descent into and resurrection from the abyss.

I wonder how many people come to their dark night because of disillusionment with spiritual teachers and teachings. I experienced a number of such disappointments before I was brought to the inward, teacherless process of the dark night. Disillusionment is painful but, given the option, how many of us would knowingly choose delusion? The dark night is an eruption of the true self, tearing brutally through that which is inauthentic in our belief systems. This can include spiritual teachings we've followed for years.

In the video player above is a series of short lectures by Chrism on the dark night of the soul and the potential for suicide during kundalini awakening. I include them not because I think everyone in a dark night is going through a kundalini crisis but because I think much of what he's saying can be more broadly applied. One thing I'd add to his discussion of suicidal ideation, the third video in the player, is my own theory on why this happens so frequently during the dark night, lightworker syndrome, and other manifestations of spiritual emergency. I think we can become focused on death, not just because of the pain and sense of isolation, but because we are going through the process of ego death. As Karen Bishop says, of the lightworker phenomenon, we are dying while we're alive. On some level we know we're dying but much of that awareness is buried in the unconscious. The way the conscious mind interprets it is in a kind of death fixation that results in -- sometimes simultaneous -- terror of (hypochondria) and longing for death (suicidal ideation).

In the video on suicide, Chrism describes the frustration of the dark night as being like the butterfly inside the chrysalis. It feels its new wings but wonders what to do with them because it's still in an enclosed space. This is one of the most apt analogies I've ever heard to describe what it's like to be simultaneously so expanded and new and yet so maddeningly stuck in a confining reality.

But there is more to the symbol of the butterfly that makes it one of the primary archetypes of transformation. To fully appreciate butterfly as symbol, you have to understand what really happens to the caterpillar when it's in the chrysalis. A butterfly is not a caterpillar with wings. It doesn't just sprout them and then emerge. A butterfly is a completely remade caterpillar. While it's in the chrysalis, the butterfly secretes a digestive enzyme which dissolves its body all the way down into a gelatinous state. It reforms from that raw material into a wholly new creature; one that can fly. This, in a sense, is what is happening during the dark night of the soul. The ego, that which defines your body and mind, and holds you together as you, is being broken down into its rawest state. Not surprisingly, many of us find this process of dissolution uncomfortable. But it is a passage between a shallow, ego-centered centered faith and a mature experience of the divine.


  1. Wow!! That's exactly what happened to me and it was terrible! Unfortunately I had never heard of " the dark night" and I didn't emerge as a butterfly but oh well at least now I know what to me. It also came through disappointment of spiritual teachings. New age crap lol do you have any other articles related to do this? Any advice when going through this process? Thank you, I love your blogs BTW don't stop ;)

  2. Correction *What Happened to me*

  3. Hi Anna. Glad you found it helpful. I can't think of any other articles on the topic that I can recommend. I am noticing though that I didn't recommend here the Stan Grof material which I think is very helpful. He coined the term Spiritual Emergency. It's a great book, as is Stormy Search for Self.

  4. Seriously this should be written about more or maybe it has been but it never occurred to me that it was process I just thought I flipped out lol and felt the " abandonment from god" but I think it was a good lesson to never fall again for BS Teachings and question everything. Thanks for the links I will look into it :)

  5. I agree. It should be written about more. All shadow work should get a lot more attention than it does.

    "One does not become enlightened by envisioning figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular." ~ Carl Jung

  6. Exactly lol have you ever written about Abraham channeled by Esther Hicks? Or bashar? I am not a fan of "channelings" but I would like to hear your perspective on that. And what do you believe about ETs that many people seem crazy about like Pleaidians ( don't know if I spelled that right lol ) arcturians, lyrans etc

  7. I haven't written a whole lot on channeled material. I think it's hit and miss and I hate to see people ascribe something a greater significance, more than their own inner truth, because they think it comes from a "higher vibration." I think we do better by cultivating our own relationship with spirit, whatever that means for the individual, than getting invested in someone else's interaction with the spirit realm. Whatever it is, we need to check it against our own inner knowing, I think. And I'm concerned that some channelers argue from authority on the basis that their information comes from some "higher intelligence." Like I've been rather focused on Teal Bosworth Scott Swan, of late, and one of the things that really bothers me is that she'll very often assert that she's speaking from "universal" consciousness, as if the rest of us aren't, because she's really "Arcturian." I think that can get really dangerous when it's used to override someone else's sense of inner knowing and their connection to spirit. I'm also not a fan of Abraham/Hicks but I haven't written a lot regarding that teaching. I did post something here, though on him/her. http://celestial-reflections.blogspot.com/2011/06/does-james-ray-disprove-law-of.html

  8. Yes I agree, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear channelers is oh god what BS and I feel they just make it up as the go along, also I feel that sometimes its connected to some mental illness. Like why do you have to make up an altered persona? And if they are actually channeling do you even know who your are channeling and why are these beings so interested in us? Why are we taking their word for what they say as truth? As far as Teal I have many thoughts lol I feel she is NOT mentally sound how can you be mentally sound after all that she says shes been through and i do feel she went through some abuse not sure if all of it its true but i do feel for her in that regard i think she means well BUT she is twisting many teachings, copying them taking them and giving them a spin of her own not to mention claiming she's Arcturian, talking about all the dimensions i guess its very alluring to people eager to hear all the ET stuff and like you said saying she has a higher perspective lol but we can't prove it or I should say she can't prove it and the scary thing is people buy it especially the younger people its like seriously? You're believing all this?of course if you're told by Teal that you're also a soul fork or soul braid etc you're going to feel special and a long time supporter of her, Its scary. That's why I said on my first comment don't stop with your blogs. Its like she is trying to heal in her own delusion and she is taking everyone that follows her on that roller coaster and its not nice to do that to people then again maybe they need it lol get ready for some hardcore Dark night of the soul when this ride is over lol

  9. Well, I have mixed feelings on the channeling. I think some of it's valuable. Some of it isn't. Some channelers are really cool people in integrity, and I've known some, and some are out of their minds. I also think that when you do any kind of psychic work, and I do, it's important to stay grounded and in touch with your core. As far as teal goes, I think I've made myself as clear as I can and I share your concerns.

  10. Yes i ment channeling ETs sounds sketchy to me i just dont like it but to each its own. I know there's Psychics and those who Channel Spirits. I feel all psychics are channelers in a way, Correct me if i am wrong, since they come in contact with Spirit guides, Angels, spirit animals passed away loved ones etc I admire anyone who can be in touch with the spirit realm and be grounded at the same time since I can't seem to do it lol I have dreams of passed away loved ones sometimes and I give the message to people and they end up pissed at me and crying. I also don't want to lose my sense of reality and go nuts lol so I don't know how you guys do it. It takes a strong psyche I imagine. Do you reccomend any books by any chance? And I am looking forward to your review of the last vid teal made. That one was uh...upsetting.

  11. I can't think of any books on psychic development, per se. Personally, I think our focus should be on our connection to spirit. What we call psychic development is really more of a byproduct of that I think.

    I should be posting the noncast on the latest not-podcast soon. I agree. It was upsetting.

  12. LV, you said:

    "I can't think of any books on psychic development, per se. Personally, I think our focus should be on our connection to spirit. What we call psychic development is really more of a byproduct of that I think. "

    YES. OK so I was brought up to have no trust....lets call it no validation for a "personal" relationship with "spirit". This is what I desire MOST in this life. I desire a working partnership ith "all that is" to make a new heavenly trusting and fulfilling world.

    Lately I have been focusing on a demand for this attention from the kingdom within that provides intuition, that has knowledge. But ALSO, if I read the mystical words correctly...birds are cared for, so humans are too? I have been testing this out and also DO feel LOVE growing within and it is energetic.

    So, honestly and sincerely I seek the communion with the request for demonstration in tangible evidence. I believe in the last 48 hours, I had more PROOF than ever that "manifestation" of the needed "earth stuff" does come from the relationship.

    Status from Thursday into Friday

    1. Thursday AM...No inspiration for what I could participate in that would be inspiring to me). Nursing NO (even on a good day). But I agreed I must have something "tangible to do".

    Friday evening: I AM INSPIRED to create a service of helping as a personal assisstant. I am honest and dependable and know I am smart and capable. I can use this as a service business. Before I never put the thought together. Where did this ENTHUSIASM (notice enthu relates to spirit) come from???

    2. No money for the renegotiated mortgage that needed to moneygrammed on Friday to keep the agreement for the reduced mortgage payment.

    Needed to make the electricity payment by Monday to avoid service cut off.

    On Thursday a small check came in the mail. Also, I found that I can withdraw money from an annuity I thought was closed till "65". That will be coming in 10 days.

    I had barely enough for the electric bill on Friday AM but had no money for the mortgage. In conversation with the electric company, I realized that there were two different "deposits" for my service. One was at my late husband's bank. Customers took out a CD as a deposit in "the old days". Later apparently a "real" deposit was put down.

    Friday AM inspiration said...take the death certificate and executor papers to the bank. At the bank a REAL MIRACLE. Yes there was a CD for the electric company. There was also ANOTHER small CD from some time with me as beneficiary. It was the amount for the mortgage payment!!! I had the paperwork necessary to get cash in hand that moment. I paid the mortgage and also will get the other CD as the electric company has a deposit.

    My Inner insistance is that I refuse to plead poverty, pitiful and that I want demonstration and not to be "deserving". This is not "positive thinking". It is claiming something. I don't ever feel victiized...mystified, yes. I feel "disconnected" sometimes. I feel that THIS connection is like plugging in a cord to the toaster.

    I will carry on with my insistance.

    I was in a dark place where I wondered if I was delusional (but yet I feel the presence when I get quiet?). I became angry with the "spokes people" for the new age because THEY demonstrate by getting ME to buy their stuff.

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  14. Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
    To mould me man? Did I solicit thee
    From Darkness to promote me?--
    Paradise Lost


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