Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘night of the senses’

re-posted from Dr. Taylor Marshall’s blog Canterbury Tales
_______________________________________________________________________________________

The Dark Night of the Soul

According to Saint Paul and Saint John of the Cross and the masters of Mystical Theology, such as John Tauler, the spiritual life consists in three ages:

Beginners (Purgative Way)
Proficients (Illuminative Way)
Perfect (Unitive Way)

Incidentally, by Perfect we mean not absolute perfection (like the saints in Heaven) but relative perfection. These three ages mirror natural human life: Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood.

Just as these three stages are transitioned by a crisis, so also progress in the spiritual life is marked by crisis.

St. Jean de la Croix

Saint John of the Cross, the Doctor of the Church with regard to Mystical Theology, teaches that the transition from the Purgative to the Illuminative is occasioned by the “Dark Night of the Senses” and the transition from the Illuminative to the Unitive is occasioned by the Dark Night of the Spirit.

Beginners (Purgative Way) Dark Night – Senses
Proficients (Illuminative Way) Dark Night – Spirit
Perfect (Unitive Way)

The Dark Night of the Senses is the crisis in which God purposefully withdraws consolations of the senses. Warm fuzzies in prayer. Discursive pictorial visions in the imagination, physical comfort, lack of external distraction.

This is very difficult because the Christian begins to worry that he is regressing or has done something to lose God’s favor. Instead, God is preparing him to enter more deeply in the love of God. The soul learns to seek the God of consolation, but not merely the consolations of God. Perhaps this Dark Night of the Senses is one of the most misunderstood elements of daily Christian living.

Padre Pio with stigmata

The Dark Night of the Soul is a crushing desolation where the soul learns to love the cross of Christ. With a desire to be more like Christ and to share in His life, the perfect learn to love persecution, humiliations, disgrace, and other problems in life since they see in them a perfect conformity to God. Two well known modern examples are Saint Pio and Saint Therese.

We also see this is a state of perfection in the Apostles:

“And calling in the apostles, after they had scourged them, they charged them that they should not speak at all in the name of Jesus. And they dismissed them. And they indeed went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5:40–41, D-R)

Saints Peter and John rejoiced in their sufferings. This is not something naturally, but something utterly supernatural – it is a sign of the unitive way. The Apostles, we might say, went through the Dark Night of the Senses from Good Friday till Easter, [during which their Master Jesus was still with them in physical person, even though scourged and lying dead] and the Dark Night of the Spirit from the Ascension to Pentecost [after which Jesus physically left this earthly plane and only the Holy Spirit communicated through the disciples hearts and faith]. This, at least, is the position of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

I encourage anyone interested in learning more about these subjects, to check out the informative blog of Catholic author Dr. Taylor Marshall Canterbury Tales.

However, sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the dialectical polemics, and to lose sight of the original heart of the issue, which is that deep pit of despair, which is often one of the experiences of the human condition.

Tour guide Mara Vaughan in Luxor, Egypt has shared her discovery of Eckhart Tolle’s words on “The Dark Night of the Soul”. Let me repeat them:

Eckhart Tolle on the Dark Night of the Soul

Q: Have you ever experienced the dark night of the soul?

A: The “dark night of the soul” is a term that goes back a long time. Yes, I have also experienced it. It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness. The inner state in some cases is very close to what is conventionally called depression. Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything. Sometimes it’s triggered by some external event, some disaster perhaps, on an external level. The death of someone close to you could trigger it, especially premature death, for example if your child dies. Or you had built up your life, and given it meaning – and the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for some reason collapses.

It can happen if something happens that you can’t explain away anymore, some disaster which seems to invalidate the meaning that your life had before. Really what has collapsed then is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning that your mind had given it. So that results in a dark place. But people have gone into that, and then there is the possibility that you emerge out of that into a transformed state of consciousness. Life has meaning again, but it’s no longer a conceptual meaning that you can necessarily explain. Quite often it’s from there that people awaken out of their conceptual sense of reality, which has collapsed.

They awaken into something deeper, which is no longer based on concepts in your mind. A deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life that is not dependent on explanations or anything conceptual any longer. It’s a kind of re-birth. The dark night of the soul is a kind of death that you die. What dies is the egoic sense of self. Of course, death is always painful, but nothing real has actually died there – only an illusory identity. Now it is probably the case that some people who have gone through this transformation realized that they had to go through that, in order to bring about a spiritual awakening. Often it is part of the awakening process, the death of the old self and the birth of the true self.

Theology can be exciting, eh?! lol.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »