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The Dark Night of the Soul- Part II

The Dark Night of the Soul, says  Dr. Gerald May, sounds different in his patients when they speak. There may be (felt) discouragement, and silence from God. There may be a confusion, and a lack of spiritual “experience” or lack of sensation of the spiritual as there had been before. But, compared to his patients who have symptoms of depression, these folks do not have despair like those who are depressed do. They do not have the same cynicism, even though they may feel alone.

In the dark night times one knows transformation is underway. During times of depression, one hopes to return to normal.

Because God is not a “thing” but rather Spirit-all places at once-as we progress spiritually, invitations come to rebirth and journey closer to union with him as Spirit. What I speak of here is not a journey to a physical spot, but to an awareness of God, in a deeper, richer way. One that involves faith, not sight, or even the crutch of sensation, which may confused for God, but also cannot be God, in actuality.

We can leave behind the old methods of tapping into the spiritual that are like outgrown child’s clothing–too small for us. Ultimately, we move toward union with God in this way.

Some dark nights take years to move through. We must not fear them because they involve a greater revelation of God’s amazing grace and love. The end always results in greater insights of God’s love, and greater union with the Divine, in a brighter day.

In Part III, I will talk about the “Dawn” from the Dark Night.

Some information taken from my reading: Gerald G. May, M.D. The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth. Harper San Francisco, 2004.

 DID you read PART I ?

Dark Night of the Soul- Part 1

Q: Where did the term “dark night of the soul” come from?

R: The phrase first turned up in the poetry of Spanish Carmelite monk John of the Cross in the 16th Century. He composed many poems while in torment in prison.

Q: “Dark” seems awfully negative, is it?

R: In Spanish the term is closer to the word “obscure”. Though the process may be confusing and painful, “dark” is not implying a negative state. It is a description, especially once one is aware of the progression of growth involved, and knows how the dawn will approach.

Q: Is the “dark night of the soul” the same as depression?

R: No. It’s also not a “spiritual term” for the suffering of someone who needs help for trauma/abuse, medical treatment for illness (mental and otherwise), and/or therapy. Sometimes the two states are seen hand-in-hand, and many times they are not.

Q: Are there different kinds of “dark nights” of the soul?

R: Yes. John of the Cross spoke of a “dark night” involving the senses, and one involving the spirit. One may have numerous dark nights of the senses. (I will go into more detail in future posts.)

Q: What is a good way to recognize a “dark night”.

R: A dark night of the senses may “feel” as though modes of prayer, experiencing the spiritual, or spiritual practices don’t “work” or satisfy. God may “feel” out of reach, distant, unavailable, or gone. It may feel like a dry period, or a time of being in a spiritual dessert. (This is not cause for discouragement or alarm, but for stamina. It is a Divine invitation for growth, and greater spiritual depth beyond what one knows. I will elaborate on what is taking place more in future posts.)

Next time I will post about the “dark night and ‘union with God’,” the process of the “dark night,” any questions/responses that come in from this post, and more. Come back soon.

Information taken from my reading: Gerald G. May, M.D. The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth. Harper San Francisco, 2004.

My (upcoming) book Life as Prayer: A New Paradigm for contemporary Spirituality Inspired by Ancient Piety dedicates a whole chapter to this topic. I will update this blog with details as this work continues. Thanks for your interest. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Now, Read PART II

how to: enjoy life

So, I recommend the enjoyment of life. The best thing a person can do in this life is to eat and drink and be joyful. Let joy accompany him in his work all the days of life that God has given him to live in this world. – Solomon, King of Israel

(from Ecclesiastes 8:15- translated by David Dorsey, PhD.)

seasons and the spiritual

bike path-river trailIt was an uncharacteristically mild day, and I took a long bike ride. The recent inclement weather left the roads with gravel and debris in many spots–quite a danger for a cyclist. My riding buddy commented that a good rain would wash away the problem, and make it right again to ride more safely. It made me think of the cyclical system of nature–the rains that clean and restore. And also the approach of springtime. Rebirth. The theme of regeneration (and seasons/cycles) is ever present with us. It’s ingrained into the fabric of our experience, and I think our human nature. We want to start over. We crave rejuvenation. though change can be frightening, it also means liberation–and we know it deep down in the marrow. It is a reminder–all around–that the spiritual, and the Divine, is as close as one allows it to be.


I blogged at about the British Secretary getting smacked with custard pie. Maybe he’s the one who has something to confess. (?)

Each friday I’m opening up a “confession booth” – It’s good for the soul.

There is something deeply freeing about casting your secrets or your burdens away through the act of confession. It is a practice sometimes scorned, perhaps because it has been misunderstood, made trite, or undervalued. But, with the right reflection, it may be a powerful way to gain perspective, and renewal, or just blow off some steam.

Feel free to be anonymous, (or reveal yourself) and leave a confession of any sort.

I’ll start: Today, I purposefully listened to my van stereo (close to) full blast for quite a while. It was enough to frighten people.

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