Esp 22: Why The Dark Night of the Soul is like Fight Club

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Doug Jackson, Returning Guest and All-Star, Explains the 3 Stages of Spiritual Development and Dispels the Biggest Myths.

Do you know St John of the Cross?

What you don’t know could hurt you…but good news, you are now in for a treat!

Listen and get a fascinating perspective of the darkest places on the spiritual journey with your guide Professor Doug Jackson. See the show notes below!



Historic context of 16th Century Catholic Revival-Era Spanish Mystic, St John of the Cross


3 stages of spiritual development 

How do we know if we are making progress and what can we expect?

St John (1542-1591) provides a roadmap for night

The Beginner Stage
(The beginner loves God for the self’s sake. The beginners thinks, “What’s good for me.”)

John H Coe

Doug explains the Dark Night of the Soul, the important next stage of spiritual development, in keen and helpful detail.


God starts at the first stage (in a place of joy and thrill in God) and allows us delight in spiritual things and feed on “mother’s milk” spiritually.

Next, God helps us get used to our baby teeth by moving us to love God for God’s sake.

John of the Cross takes the 7 deadly sins and show how they can happen to us in a spiritual sense.


God is weening us away from nursing and from spiritual milk. Like a baby, we may misunderstand and feel unloved or unnoticed, at first.


Commodified is the Dark Night of the Soul in Amercian Evangelicalism. The phrase itself is often used inexactly.

It’s not feeling sad or a string of bad things have happened for which we feel upset and confused.

BUT—It is that without cause we feel God has abandon us.

It is not a loss of faith, nor not depression, nor a felt distance because of sin.

It was also an analysis of depression 400 years before Freud! 


God withdraws sensible (sensory, felt) affects. The dark night of the senses. (first phase).


Maybe it feels like prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. Maybe it feels that songs or sermons that had made an affect no longer do. This sense of loss will be different for each person.


Essentially, the delight in God disappears.


Mistakenly, we often may try to shock people back into spiritual infancy with a method, tactic, or suggestion that seems like it might cause feeling once again. (like a book, a conference, a service, etc)


The spiritual advice from John is to not abandon your spiritual practices (like prayer, fellowship, meditation, service, etc) continue to obey God and carry on until you pass through the night. They won’t be fun, but you continue for God’s sake, not your own.

Then you can come out on the other side to the stage of the Proficient. (Though the stages are actually more porous.)


The 2nd stage is where John says most of us get and hardly proceed from.

2nd dark night, is rare, and is horrible and includes a bewilderment and even a loss of faith in God and one comes out with a much richer deeper faith and far more settled and fuller understanding of God.

John Coe using 1 John 2:12-14 explains the stages as well.


John of the Cross found this understanding through terrible suffering and imprisonment and he saw the spiritual connection.


In the Dark Night of the Soul, spiritual answers are obscured and things are hidden from view.

Walking by faith and not sight.


If you can’t find the answers it doesn’t mean that something went wrong, it’s just that you can see right now. There will be a lack of certainty.


Stick with the basics in the dark night.


In the dark night we aren’t doubting our Faith, or God, but but we are doubting our understanding of God and our Faith.

The call is to obey God and persist in our ways as before. Eventually a dawn will come.


In this stage, we jettison things that are not core, central and true and come to understand God in a better way.

BE WARNED: Others may feel anxious to get you back in to where you were.


Backsliding is not the same thing as a Dark Night experience. The Dark Night is progression.


Prophets in the OT go through the dark night times.


Using a different lens to see what is already there.



Elijah after Mt Carmel

Apostle Paul


Jesus (wilderness and Gethsemane)

Jesus “learned obedience” and the the will of God was not pleasant

We all go through these types of dark nights



John of the Cross’s work was (and is) written for [spiritual] guides (leaders) so they can recognize what is happening and to know what not to do.


Some mystical-style theologians have been hijacked and grafted into a different (sometimes New Age) model of how the reality is ( i.e. “divided self”.)


The Devil – So what about the Devil which is a prominent feature in the writings?


John takes the readers’ Christian theology for already granted. The basic Christian theology was assumed because that was the background and beliefs of his audience.


Doug answers…Devil with a Big “D” questions. How do we come to understand John and what he is saying, if it is different than our understanding of The Devil and the spiritual world?

Don’t rehabilitate [John], or superimpose our ideas on his work.

Don’t judge or put parts on trial for the embarrassing and difficult sections of St John of the Cross.


Approach the text thus: “Eat the meat of the fish not the bones”


If the language bothers you, then let it lie fallow and see what is going on in your own heart as you read.


We can learn from old text.


On intellectual honesty and intellectual humility


On why the devotional classics become that way.


On the reading of old books (C.S. Lewis) (click to read)

We have different blind spots now. Different mistakes in different times.


Our cultural and worldview will effect our beliefs.


How do we get through the Dark Night?

It is up to God as a Grace. Our only job is to remain faithful.

Father Francis Kelly Nemeck


The promise is (found in Scripture and from those who’ve gone ahead of us in the Faith) that we come out (into dawn) and see the value of what we went through.

God says to Job: I’m God and you are not.

Job says, “Now I have seen you. I spoke out of turn.”


A word of hope for those in the dark night.

1. Those in the dark night bless those around them and their pride does not effect this because of the Night itself. We are spiritual protected.


In the Dark Night we don’t get to be proud of our humility.

Be faithful know that God is using you and wait it out.


Modern example Mother Teresa. She lived most of her life with a sense of abandonment by God.

“If I ever become a Saint I will be a Saint of Darkness, facing the dark to guide souls to the light.”


People were drawn to her service and work for God even though she felt God’s silence.


On her critics who say she stopped believing in God.

Christopher Hitchens wrote slanderously about her and others in his book “The Missionary Position”. He said she did have the courage to admit publicly that she didn’t believe in God and never had.


Mother Teresa–her fruit shows otherwise (it’s sow belief and faithfulness).

Apostasy is a deliberate walking away from God which is a danger of misunderstanding the Dark Night. This is why trained and wise spiritual guides are essential.


C.S. Lewis character Screwtape urges: “Use the word “phase” to tell him he had it all wrong”

In a genuine Dark Night, we may think we have abandon God or want to and then find ourselves incapable of it.


Doubt in God is like holding a volleyball underwater with just one hand and senses all the force and then thinking there is no volleyball because it cannot be seen.

“We aren’t working without a net and we won’t fall out of the arms of God.”


If you are in the Dark Night…(it helps) remembering “it’s a thing, a documented thing”.


Walking in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before.


What to do if you are in the throes of it all. best advice.

Richard Foster’s advice in the Celebration of Discipline. The chapter on solitude.

Don’t try to explain this to people when you are in it.

(It’s like Fight Club) “The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about fight club”

Most people will not get it. It can hurt our spiritual reputation. God is drawing us into obedience and faith in the absence of feeling. We carry on

Spiritual Director or guide is very important.

“The Dark Night of the Soul” (click to get it free)

“The Way of Spiritual Direction”

“The Spiritual Journey: Crucial Thinking and Stages of Adult Spiritual Genesis”

Henri Nouwen “The Way of the Heart”


Protestantism running thin in certain areas.

Psychology tainted some spiritual experience as pathology and than co-opted with modern Christianity.


Baptists were not systematic theologians early on because of the persecution from the Mother Church (in Rome).


Puritan writers like Jonathan Edwards take God as Physician of the Soul very seriously.


The one sermon that did in Jonathan Edwards in our time.

“The Religious Affections” To teach that the Great Awakening was just an emotional experience or demonic experience. He writes on how to understand what is of God.


On taking your time understanding the Dark Night. God is trying to bring us into greater maturity and Christ likeness.

Have you ever gone through a Dark Night of the Soul?
If you’ve reached the dawn, what was strengthen or changed in you?

Blessings in your night travels. If you aren’t in a Dark Night, it’s coming. Stay Calm and Carry on.

If you have any questions or you would like to drop me a line about what you are going through, please use the contact page. A helpful (worldwide) listing to find qualified guides is here.


How-To: start any YEAR (or DAY) right: Do a Sharpening Ritual

I wanted to be more intensional about my mindset in 2015 and I created something for myself to do each morning and evening to super charge that. It’s a simple worksheet that takes only 3-7 minutes in the morning and in the evening. And you see results and improvement after just a few days.

It’s free, so you why not give it a try and see for yourself.

You can download it, distribute it, use it in groups, or for yourself.

Just print out a copy for each day, or keep a journal and use the worksheet as your guide.

Habits and rituals for re-centering on what matters are a huge boost to personal improvement on all levels (career, relational, emotional, physical, spiritual, etc). A format (or roadmap) makes it easy to start and execute, but most of all, easier to stick with it until it can transform your thoughts and actions.

If you think that you’d like the new year to get off to a great start or if you feel like you need a guide to get back on track, this is a great resource, I promise you. Simply, download it free, print it, and try it.  If you like it, let me know, or tell me what would improve it.

In a goodwill gesture and love and warm fuzzies, I am releasing these to you and the world under a Limited Creative Commons license. (CC). They are free to reproduce, use, and distribute with author attribution to me (Lisa DeLay).



• The SHARPENING Ritual 
Learn more HERE


Learn more HERE



20 Case Studies

This is all very exciting!

Several people who tried the Marketing Jump-Starter Kit asked for real-life examples to make the learning easier.

The updated version of the Kit has more of that, but I just created a special resource that gives you 20 Case Studies to learn from.


These are stories from regular people who used simple methods to boost awareness or grow their ministry or business.

Click the image to download a sample.



Check out Marketing Jump-Starter Kit!

(there’s a surprise you won’t expect)

The “Don’t Do This” Phenomenon

“Don’t kick elephants!”

If you are like most people you are thinking of elephants right now, and you weren’t 30 seconds ago.

You might even be wondering what would happen if you did kick an elephant.


There is a certain psychology around how things get to the top of the mind.

We get the wrong results when we don’t understand it.

As a marketing consultant I’ve learned to adjust for it, but it’s still a challenge to remember.

We all can bear it in mind.

For instance, as parents we can learn that…

When we call direct attention to something that is not “top of the mind” we make it “top of the mind” unintentionally and can get the worst results imagined.

Not true if we allow the person to come to a conclusion through their own mental process.

One of the best ways to do that is by asking a (literally) thought-provoking question instead of giving an edict.

So for the child who kicks things…
to the situation we can ask…

What sorts of things happen if we kick someone hard?

It may help boost empathy too.


Here are other 5 lessons about “top of the mind”:

  1. Being blatant can be a barrier to being effective.
  2. You can mention what you don’t want, sometimes, to incite certain thoughts.
  3. The uniqueness of the statement sometimes carries more weight than the call-to-action.
  4. Hidden influences can steer us the wrong way. 
  5. Emotion can often trump directness.


You won’t learn more tactics if you don’t click here.

(You catch that?) :)

Tactics Kit is FREE for just 9 more days.

(with discount code “BETA”)


Be an “elephant and never forget” the good stuff you learned here today.
Sign up for the next post (through Feedburner) in the right side bar and think about peanut butter.


Huge Creativity Booster: Don’t Read Cranky Bloggers

So, I have this story to tell you…

I enjoy reading blogs. I read dozens regularly, and this summer I stumbled on a discovery that has really changed how my day goes.

I stopped reading cranky bloggers. It sounds simple, right?

Hang in here with me for a moment, because there’s more.

I didn’t set out to read cranky bloggers, but since I’ve subtracted them from my reading diet things have improved in amazing ways.

• For one, I  feel more hopeful on many levels.

• I have more creative energy.

• I can think more clearly about my goals.

• And, best of all I don’t feel so dragged down, overall, you know in that way that’s hard to pinpoint what exactly what could be wrong. You just feel restless or bothered on an emotional subterranean level. 

Granted, lots of cranky bloggers can be interesting, entertaining, or provocative, and I have enjoyed reading them … but I also discovered that more is at stake as I write, create, and interact.

Grouchy people (bloggers or whoever) stifle my creative energy flow:
The fall out comes in terms of…

• problem solving,

• idea generation,

• interpersonal interaction,

• and the resolve to finish ideas all the way through.

It’s all become the higher priority for me rather than staying with the latest controversy or who-done-it tongue wagging.

A captive no more!

So, I unsubscribed to a bunch of writers who were routinely griping or negative. Sadly, I’ve found a number of Christian bloggers had to be cut from my list. They’re just not the cheery bunch you’d expect really. Some of them are quite popular, but oh well. It was a tough decision actually, but a good one…for me. Life-giving really.

I realize that maybe you’re different. Maybe the tit-for-tat cranky bloggers complete with their fiery commenters spark and enthuse your creative Muse. Do they? Maybe it’s their passion gives you a boost that you need to problem solve or unearth new ideas and projects, and carry them out.

But, does it? Really think about it:
After you read a rant post, or someone’s beef or complaint, and the string of ensuing comments, do you feel energized for your own work or creating your own unique art, or do you feel drained?

See, my creative Muse gets peeved. She distances herself from me, it seems. She finds a huff and leaves in it. Maybe out of embarrassment? Maybe out of frustration frustration? Maybe because it’s all so empty to be even a small part of what is ultimately fleeting and hallow. It’s beneath her. “She”…yeah sure…I suppose that might seem silly to personify my creativity… (and pull a classic Steven Pressfield).

Nevertheless, I just know full well now that a diet of reading that includes grouchiness creates a dead weight I’m not willing to drag along anymore.

Incidentally, I’ve found the same thing holds true regarding viewing cable news shows (humorous, provocative, or otherwise), political pundits, or too many advertisements. Again, that’s my experience. The return on investment (of my time) doesn’t warrant a close tie.

Cynicism puts a machete to the roots of your creative Source. 


Here’s the surprise ending:

Originally, I thought to myself,

“Okay. I’ll just unsubscribe to this and that, and then in the mornings when I read my email I won’t see the latest and I won’t get sucked in to read them. Sure, that’s the ticket. Then I won’t creatively derail. Yeah! I’ll just find them later, or check after a week, and see what I missed, if anything.”

You know what happened?

I didn’t even miss it. I stopped caring about the hype. I hardly ever went back. I stopped wondering if I was missing a controversy or some buzz about the interwebs. It didn’t matter. It was chaff. I just felt better and had more to give. Perhaps I felt “cured” of that honey trap.

Try a diet of without cranky bloggers for just one week. Don’t open the email, or unsubscribe for just a week, and see if it makes a difference in your life. See if it increases your ability to be creative and amazing.

I think it will, and I wish you all the best!

Thanks for reading.

I’d love to hear from you on the topic.